Archive for Aunt Agatha

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Topeka High School students petition NOT to allow Michelle Obama to speak at their graduation

And you can only read about this in the British press…

High school senior forms petition with over ONE THOUSAND signatures against Michele Obama speaking at their high school graduation ‘because it would overshadow the students’ big day’
Taylor Gifford, 18, started an online petition on Thursday with over 1,200 signatures asking that Michelle Obama not speak at Topeka High School graduation
Obama’s speech is tied to the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in schools
Some students feel that the speech would overshadow student accomplishments and others feel limited seating will be a problem

One mother’s take:

‘I’m a single mother who has raised him for 18 years by myself,’ said Tina Hernandez, parent of Topeka High School senior Dauby Knight. ‘I’ve told him education is the only way out. This is one of the biggest days of their lives. They’ve taken the glory and shine from the children and put on Mrs. Obama. She doesn’t know our kids.’

So those are the bullet points; read the full article at the link. But I’ll go out on a limb here: If every single student, and every parent and every grandparent all wrote and phoned the school board to request that Michelle Obama not appear, they would still bring her in. No matter what. Those poor kids are going to have to listen to a stupid lecture about exercise, and their families will only receive limited seating. I feel for them.

- Aggie

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ObamaCare Continues To Hurt Health Care

Doctors must consider cost/benefit analysis, rather than just benefit

Saying they can no longer ignore the rising prices of health care, some of the most influential medical groups in the nation are recommending that doctors weigh the costs, not just the effectiveness of treatments, as they make decisions about patient care.

The shift, little noticed outside the medical establishment but already controversial inside it, suggests that doctors are starting to redefine their roles, from being concerned exclusively about individual patients to exerting influence on how health care dollars are spent.

“We understand that we doctors should be and are stewards of the larger society as well as of the patient in our examination room,” said Dr. Lowell E. Schnipper, the chairman of a task force on value in cancer care at the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Can you say Death Panel? Do you really want your cancer doc to be more concerned about the benefits to society at large than about you? Do you think that well-connected “folks” will be perceived as offering more benefit to society than you? Count on it.

Think I’m exaggerating about death panels and rationing?

In practical terms, new guidelines being developed by the medical groups could result in doctors choosing one drug over another for cost reasons or even deciding that a particular treatment — at the end of life, for example — is too expensive. In the extreme, some critics have said that making treatment decisions based on cost is a form of rationing.

They don’t even need panels! Your doc is your panel. Better be nice to him. :)

Give this guy the coveted ‘Ya Think™ Award:

Some doctors see a potential conflict in trying to be both providers of patient care and financial overseers.

“There should be forces in society who should be concerned about the budget, about how many M.R.I.s we do, but they shouldn’t be functioning simultaneously as doctors,” said Dr. Martin A. Samuels, the chairman of the neurology department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He said doctors risked losing the trust of patients if they told patients, “I’m not going to do what I think is best for you because I think it’s bad for the health care budget in Massachusetts.”

You’re getting the British system, folks:

Still, it is unclear if medical societies are the best ones to make cost assessments. Doctors can have financial conflicts of interest and lack economic expertise.

They plan to rate the value of treatments based on the cost per quality-adjusted life-year, or QALY — a method used in Britain and by many health economists.

The societies say that treatments costing less than about $50,000 a QALY would be rated as high value, while those costing more than $150,000 a QALY would be low value.

“We couldn’t go on just ignoring costs,” Dr. Heidenreich said.

We voted for this, and in doing so we voted for a bunch of useless social programs that cost us a boatload – Cash for Clunkers, anyone? We have to pay for our excesses somewhere, I suppose.

- Aggie

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Good To Know

Putin probably won’t invade Alaska

But what would Obama do if he did?

Would Vladimir Putin invade Alaska? That’s what one questioner asked the Russian president during a nationally televised question-and-answer session in Moscow.
“What would you need Alaska for?” Putin responded via a translator, reminding the audience that Alaska was sold to the United States in the 19th century for a relatively small amount of money.
Putin suggested that there would be no interest in acquiring more northern territory.
“We are a northern country, 70 percent of our territory is in the north and the high north. Alaska, is it in the south? It’s quite cold up there, let’s not be overenthusiastic about it,” Putin said.
Putin added that he did not want to have to pay Russian citizens to live in the state.

Again, what would Obama do… WWOD?

- Aggie

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Open Your Wallets, Gentle Readers

Obama is in talks to bail out Detroit

Chicago and LA are in line right behind Detroit.

The Obama administration and state officials are in discussions on a deal that would free up an additional $100 million to soften the blow to Detroit pensioners, two people familiar with the talks told the Free Press late Tuesday.

The two sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to disclose the information, confirmed that there have been talks about the federal government supporting a move by the state to give Detroit $100 million in federal money for blight remediation. That, in turn, would free up $100 million of the more than $500 million that emergency manager Kevyn Orr planned to spend for blight removal over the next 10 years. Orr could then use that money to reduce pension cuts.

Libs win, you lose.

Question: What would you say to a young adult who is torn between having fun – lots of vacations, parties clothes – vs. saving aggressively for the future. I always advise a lot of savings, but I wonder if there is any point?

- Aggie

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More On Obama Administration Cooking The Health Care Books

BTL already covered this, but economist Megan McArdle’s take on our feckless administration is a good read.

For several months now, whenever the topic of enrollment in the Affordable Care Act came up, I’ve been saying that it was too soon to tell its ultimate effects. We don’t know how many people have paid for their new insurance policies, or how many of those who bought policies were previously uninsured. For that, I said, we will have to wait for Census Bureau data, which offer the best assessment of the insurance status of the whole population. Other surveys are available, but the samples are smaller, so they’re not as good; the census is the gold standard. Unfortunately, as I invariably noted, these data won’t be available until 2015.

I stand corrected: These data won’t be available at all. Ever.

No, I’m not kidding. I wish I was. The New York Times reports that the Barack Obama administration has changed the survey so that we cannot directly compare the numbers on the uninsured over time.

The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said.

An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a “total revision to health insurance questions” and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the uninsured. Thus, officials said, it will be difficult to say how much of any change is attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how much to the use of a new survey instrument.

“We are expecting much lower numbers just because of the questions and how they are asked,” said Brett J. O’Hara, chief of the health statistics branch at the Census Bureau.
I’m speechless. Shocked. Stunned. Horrified. Befuddled. Aghast, appalled, thunderstruck, perplexed, baffled, bewildered and dumbfounded. It’s not that I am opposed to the changes: Everyone understands that the census reports probably overstate the true number of the uninsured, because the number they report is supposed to be “people who lacked insurance for the entire previous year,” but people tend to answer with their insurance status right now.

But why, dear God, oh, why, would you change it in the one year in the entire history of the republic that it is most important for policy makers, researchers and voters to be able to compare the number of uninsured to those in prior years? The answers would seem to range from “total incompetence on the part of every level of this administration” to something worse.

Yes, that’s right, I said “every level.” Because guess who was involved in this decision, besides the wonks at Census?

The White House is always looking for evidence to show the benefits of the health law, which is an issue in many of this year’s midterm elections. The Department of Health and Human Services and the White House Council of Economic Advisers requested several of the new questions, and the White House Office of Management and Budget approved the new questionnaire. But the decision to make fundamental changes in the survey was driven by technical experts at the Census Bureau, and members of Congress have not focused on it or suggested political motives.

Now, admittedly it is always entertaining to read someone who at some level gave the administration the benefit of the doubt, and now must face up to the fact that they are as corrupt as Bernie Madoff (sorry Bernie!), but there is also something a bit sickening about the realization that things must be absolutely terrible for McArdle to react like this. Why? Because McArdle has carved out a career in the public space along the lines of “reasonable reporter of economic events”. She is not Jonah Goldberg or Mark Steyn. Or even Charles Krauthammer. She is not Rachel Maddow either. She is a centrist. Rock solid. And she is acknowledging the cynicism of this move on the part of the White House.

I find it completely and totally impossible to believe that this problem didn’t occur to anyone at Census, or in the White House. It would be like arguing that the George W. Bush administration might have inadvertently overlooked the possibility that when the U.S. invaded Iraq, there would be shooting. This is the biggest policy debate of the last 10 years, and these data are at the heart of that debate. It is implausible that everyone involved somehow failed to notice that they were making it much harder to know the effect of this law on the population it was supposed to serve. Especially because the administration seems to have had a ready excuse as soon as people reacted to the news.

I have to admit that I feel for her. Economists pride themselves on being rational and viewing the world through a rational prism… :) The Obama administration is more corrupt than previous administrations. But Obama sold a lot of people (I’m betting McArdle at least once) on his intelligence, sincerity, honesty and hipness. This must sting a bit.

- Aggie

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Obama Shouldn’t Embrace Racist Al Sharpton

I feel a ‘Ya Think? Award™ coming on…

It was disappointing the other day to see President Barack Obama embracing the vulgar race hustler Al Sharpton.

And that’s all we’ll bother to cover. But I do want to award the writer at the Chicago Trib, John Kass, our coveted ‘Ya Think Award™ for this brilliant observation.

The President of the United States stood on a podium (and more than once!) with a guy who helped to set off two antisemitic race attacks which resulted in the deaths of eight human beings. The Tawana Brawley affair should have been enough to distance Sharpton from decent people, without the race murders. And maybe it was enough. Decent people avoid Al Sharpton.

- Aggie

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Is Obama Administration Blocking Mergers Of Republican CEO’s?

Looks like it

Like all mergers, the proposed $45.2 billion Comcast CMCSA +1.28% merger with Time Warner Cable TWC +0.97%—the largest and second largest cable providers in the nation—has its advocates and critics. There are certainly important questions about what impact the merger would have on consumers—but there are equally significant issues associated with the highly politicized approval process.

The Obama Department of Justice, led by Eric Holder, must review the merger and decide whether to approve or block it. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration and Justice Department have a long track record of pushing the rule of law aside and making decisions based on politics. Will the proposed Comcast merger with Time Warner TWX +0.81% Cable receive the scrutiny it deserves, or simply be fast-tracked for approval based on politics?

Let’s look at some history—which is detailed in a new Frontiers of Freedom report. In 2009, the Obama Administration gave Solyndra, a failing California solar panel firm, a $536 million “loan.” Shortly thereafter, Solyndra was fully bankrupt. Prior to the loan, Solyndra executives and board members gave generously to Barack Obama, including Tulsa oil billionaire and Obama bundler George Kaiser, one of Solyndra’s main investors.

United Health Group is expecting higher earnings thanks to ObamaCare. After United supported passing the plan, one of its subsidiaries, Quality Software Services, Inc. won a contract of $90 million for the rollout of Healthcare.gov. United Health’s Executive Vice President Anthony Welters and his wife are significant Obama donors and bundlers. The Administration did not perceive any conflict of interest in providing the nation’s largest health insurer with the keys to Healthcare.gov.

If money buys favors from the Obama Administration, a lack of it produces the opposite.

In 2011, AT&T announced it would seek permission from the government for a $39 billion merger with T-Mobile. Processing the application was expected to take at least twelve months. But within five months, the Department of Justice announced it had filed a lawsuit blocking the friendly merger.

Enter AT&T CEO Randall L. Stephenson, well known to be a free market Republican favoring pro-growth tax reform and opposing Obama-style redistributing income from the working class. Mr. Stephenson has a long history of Republican giving, and averaging the three election cycles between 2006–2010, AT&T employees supported Republican candidates by 60%.

Key government players during merger talks were Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and Renata Hesse, now Deputy Attorney General for Anti Trust at DOJ, and of course, Attorney General Eric Holder, who runs the most blatantly politicized DOJ in history.

FCC Chairman Genachowski is a longtime technology advisor for Barack Obama, serving on his transition team. Obama appointed him FCC Chairman in 2009. He and his wife, another Obama appointee, are long time Obama donors. Ms. Hesse, then in charge of the AT&T merger at FCC, has donated more than $6K to Obama for America. In a policy forum last year, Ms. Hesse stated the Obama Administration’s approach to antitrust was “vigorous enforcement.” But does that apply evenly across all merger applications?

On February 14, 2014, Comcast announced intent to acquire Time Warner Cable in a deal worth $45.2 billion—$6 billion more than the AT&T/T-Mobile deal. This merger would also result in an approximate 40% market share. Overseeing this application at DOJ will be vigorous enforcer Deputy AG Hesse. As with AT&T, will the FCC and Department of Justice deny the Comcast merger, and in record time?

If AT&T is “red,” Comcast and Time Warner Cable are deep “blue.” In 2012, Comcast employees donated $465K to the Democrat National Committee vs. $114K to the Republican National Committee and supported Obama over Republican Mitt Romney by nearly four to one. Time Warner donations were $442K Obama and $28K Romney.

You get the drift. They’re so slimy.

- Aggie

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More On The Slayings In Kansas City

Police have arrested a 73 year old racist. He allegedly murdered a grandfather, grandson and one other unidentified woman. Here is an article about the boy who was killed.

Reat Griffin Underwood loved life. A freshman at Blue Valley High School, he participated in debate and theater and had already attained the rank of Eagle Scout.

There is a great photo of Reat, auditioning for a part somewhere else. Go to the link to read more about this wonderful family.

And this is Reat’s mom at the prayer vigil that evening:

Once upon a time, I had the good fortune to have lived in Kansas City, and this woman personifies the grace and dignity that I associate with the area. She is a Christian woman who lost her father, a physician, and her son, in an attack intended to kill Jews. She dwells on her family and her relationship with g-d. There is evil in the world for sure, but that is not her focus. Her focus is on life and on her family, community and religious connections. I wish her peace moving forward.

- Aggie

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3 Dead In Attack On Jewish Community Center, Assisted Living Facility In Kansas City

A lot of children were there when it happened.

Three people were reported dead on Sunday in a possible anti-Semitic shooting attacks at two building serving the Jewish community in Kansas.

A gunman opened fired in the parking lot of the Overland Park Jewish Community Center and the nearby Village Shalom retirement home, both in the Kansas City suburb.

A spokeswoman for Overland Park Regional Medical Center said the hospital was treating a 14-year-old male who suffered a gunshot wound and who was in critical condition.

“At around 1 p.m. today, Overland Park police received multiple calls regarding a shooting on the campus of the Jewish Community Center, 5801 W. 115th Street. Additional calls were received by police of another shooting at the Village Shalom Retirement Community, 5500 W. 123rd,” according to the Overland Park Police Department.

“Three victims are confirmed deceased. A person of interest has been taken into custody at this time,” the police spokesman said.

Overland Park, the second biggest city in Kansas, is a short drive away from the state’s main Jewish concentration in Kansas City.

According to Kansas’s KSHB 41 Action News, police were holding one suspect in custody, who was reported as yelling “heil Hitler” as he was being detained.

The entire JCC campus was locked down.

The greater Kansas City Jewish community built a private day school (K-12) a JCC and a Senior Center in the same area so that the full range of Jewish life could be together. The elderly could read to little kids, after school people could go swimming, etc. So in this day and age, they are apparently sitting ducks for the various lunatics out there.

- Aggie

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Spanish Village Named “Kill Jews” Considering Name Change

You can’t make this stuff up.

A Spanish village is considering removing the phrase “kill Jews” from its name.

The village of Castrillo Matajudios near Leon in northern Spain will convene its 60 resident families at a town hall meeting next week to discuss and vote on the first formal proposal to change the village’s name, the regional daily Diario de Burgos reported Friday.

Mayor Lorenzo Rodriguez, who submitted the proposal, suggested changing the village’s name to Castrillo Mota de Judios, which means “Castrillo Jews’ Hill.” He said this was the village’s original name, but it was changed during the Spanish Inquisition.

In parts of Spain, and especially in the north, locals use the term “killing Jews” (matar Judios) to describe the traditional drinking of lemonade spiked with alcohol at festivals held in city squares at Easter, or drinking in general.

Leon will hold its “matar Judios” fiesta on Good Friday, April 18, where organizers estimate 40,000 gallons of lemonade will be sold.

The name originates from medieval times, when converted Jews would sometimes be publicly executed in show trials at around Easter, Maria Royo, a spokesperson for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain told JTA.

“Regrettably, this type of expression exists in Spain in ceremonies and parties,” she said, but added that “the people saying it are mostly unaware of the history. It is a complicated issue that is ingrained in local culture.”

The federation is in contact on this issue with authorities, but given the popularity of the expression, “it is impossible to forbid this language” in that context, she added.

Aren’t Spaniards adorable?

Last month, Ramon Benavides, the president of a local associations of hoteliers, told the news agency EFE: “When ‘killing Jews,’ it’s best to take it slow and keep track of how much you drink to avoid excesses and its consequences the next day.”

I’m renaming my house from Villa Aggie to Kill Spaniards.

- Aggie

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Obama Administration Desperate For Money, Stealing Tax Refunds From Children If Parents Failed To Pay Up Back In The 1970s

Yes, folks, an authoritarian, lawless regime can do stuff like this. If you like your tax refund, you can keep your tax refund.

I am alerting you to this, because who reads the Washington Post? :) Readers of BTL will make it go viral.

A few weeks ago, with no notice, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. Grice had no idea that Uncle Sam had seized her money until some days later, when she got a letter saying that her refund had gone to satisfy an old debt to the government — a very old debt.

When Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them.

Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. Why the feds chose to take Mary’s money, rather than her surviving siblings’, is a mystery.

Across the nation, hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds this month are instead getting letters like the one Grice got, informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often a debt incurred by their parents — the government has confiscated their check.

Mary Grice
Mary Grice

The Treasury Department has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year — $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years, said Jeffrey Schramek, assistant commissioner of the department’s debt management service. The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam.

No one seems eager to take credit for reopening all these long-closed cases. A Social Security spokeswoman says the agency didn’t seek the change; ask Treasury. Treasury says it wasn’t us; try Congress. Congressional staffers say the request probably came from the bureaucracy.

The only explanation the government provides for suddenly going after decades-old debts comes from Social Security spokeswoman Dorothy Clark: “We have an obligation to current and future Social Security beneficiaries to attempt to recoup money that people received when it was not due.”

Since the drive to collect on very old debts began in 2011, the Treasury Department has collected $424 million in debts that were more than 10 years old. Those debts were owed to many federal agencies, but the one that has many Americans howling this tax season is the Social Security Administration, which has found 400,000 taxpayers who collectively owe $714 million on debts more than 10 years old. The agency expects to have begun proceedings against all of those people by this summer.

“It was a shock,” said Grice, 58. “What incenses me is the way they went about this. They gave me no notice, they can’t prove that I received any overpayment, and they use intimidation tactics, threatening to report this to the credit bureaus.”

CAN YOU IMAGINE THE HOWLS IF THE G. W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION HAD DONE THIS????? The accusations of racism? Lawlessness?

Hey O-Bots, what if Granny didn’t pay? Do you suppose the government can come after you?

Grice filed suit against the Social Security Administration in federal court in Greenbelt this week, alleging that the government violated her right to due process by holding her responsible for a $2,996 debt supposedly incurred under her father’s Social Security number.

Social Security officials told Grice that six people — Grice, her four siblings and her father’s first wife, whom she never knew — had received benefits under her father’s account. The government doesn’t look into exactly who got the overpayment; the policy is to seek compensation from the oldest sibling and work down through the family until the debt is paid.

The Federal Trade Commission, on its Web site, advises Americans that “family members typically are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets.” But Social Security officials say that if children indirectly received assistance from public dollars paid to a parent, the children’s money can be taken, no matter how long ago any overpayment occurred.

They are doing this because they can.

Grice, who works for the Food and Drug Administration and lives in Takoma Park, in the same apartment she’s resided in since 1984, never got any notice about a debt.

Social Security officials told her they had sent their notice to her post office box in Roxboro, N.C. Grice rented that box from 1977 to 1979 and never since. And Social Security has Grice’s current address: Every year, it sends her a statement about her benefits.

“Their record-keeping seems to be very spotty,” she said.

Ya’ Think???? Are you suggesting that the government is maybe a touch incompetent? Hey, here’s a thought. Let’s given them an additional 1/6th of our economy to manage – our health care system – and see how it goes. Maybe if they can’t raise enough dough there, they can come after saps like you and me.

Treasury officials say that before they will take someone’s refund, the agency owed the money must certify the debt, meaning there must be evidence of the overpayment. But Social Security officials told Grice they had no records explaining the debt.

“The craziest part of this whole thing is the way the government seizes a child’s money to satisfy a debt that child never even knew about,” says Robert Vogel, Grice’s attorney. “They’ll say that somebody got paid for that child’s benefit, but the child had no control over the money and there’s no way to know if the parent ever used the money for the benefit of that kid.”

Grice, the middle of five children, said neither of her surviving siblings — one older, one younger — has had any money taken by the government. When Grice asked why she had been selected to pay the debt, she was told it was because she had an income and her address popped up — the correct one this time.

You see? They took it because they could. Plain and simple. They wanted, they took.

Think Ms. Grice’s case is a fluke?

In Glenarm, Ill., Brenda and Mike Samonds have spent the past year trying to figure out how to get back the $189.10 tax refund the government seized, claiming that Mike’s mother, who died 33 years ago, had been overpaid on survivor’s benefits after Mike’s father died in 1969.

“It was never Mike’s money, it was his mother’s,” Brenda Samonds said. “The government took the money first and then they sent us the letter. We could never get one sentence from them explaining why the money was taken.” The government mailed its notice about the debt to the house Mike’s mother lived in 40 years ago.

And for all you math whizzes out there, cogitate on this for a moment: How much employee time was spent stealing $189.10 from Brenda and Mike Samonds of Glenarm, Illinois? Because I will bet you a nickel that they spend more, for more, finding and collecting that money than they acquired in stealing it. If we really want to add to the Treasury, perhaps we should fire 10% of all IRS staffers?

Here’s a nice quote:

“I’ll put in the request,” a Social Security clerk told Verbich, “but in reality, you’ll never get anything.”

In other words: We take because we can.

Grice was also told there was little point in seeking a waiver of her debt. Collections can only be halted if the person passes two tests, Clark said: The taxpayer must prove that he “is without fault, and [that] repayment of the overpayment would deprive the person of income needed for ordinary living expenses.”

In other words: We are an authoritarian regime and you have no recourse.

The Moral of the Story? Never, ever overpay your taxes. Pay what you owe, fair and square, when it is due. They cannot confiscate your refund because your father happened to die in 1960, and your mother may or may not have received too much money in benefits, if there is no refund due.

- Aggie

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Mass Stabbing At Pennsylvania High School

Near Pittsburgh

Is there an anti-knife lobby out there somewhere?

As many as 20 students have been injured in stabbing at a high school in the US state of Pennsylvania, authorities have said.

One suspect believed to be a student is in custody at Franklin Regional High School in a suburb of Pittsburgh, a local affiliate of ABC News reports.

The wounded, at least four with significant injuries, range in age from 14-17 and have been taken to hospital.

Sorry for the Britishisms… of course they mean that four students were taken to THE hospital. But let that go. One almost wishes that Piers Morgan were still at CNN so we could learn from his words of wisdom. What should we do about the scourge of knife violence?

- Aggie

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