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         Permits Soar to Allow More Concealed Guns Proponents Say Practice Cuts Crime; Police Raise Concern

A growing number of Americans are getting permission to carry firearms in public—and under their clothes—a development that has sparked concern among some law-enforcement authorities.
Applications for "concealed-carry" permits are soaring in many states, some of which recently eased permit requirements. The numbers are driven in part by concern that renewed gun-control efforts soon could constrain access to weapons, along with heightened interest in self-defense in the wake of mass killings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.
Since July 1 of last year, Florida has granted more than 173,000 new concealed-carry permits, up 17% from the year before and twice as many as five years ago, for a total of about 1.09 million permits in the state.
Ohio, meanwhile, is on pace to nearly double last year's total of 65,000 new permits, which would be nearly three times as many as in 2007. And Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wyoming and Nebraska all have nearly matched or surpassed last year's totals with half of 2013 still to go.
A dozen states surveyed for this article, including Texas, Utah and Wisconsin, issued 537,000 permits last year, an 18% increase compared with a year prior and more than double the number issued in 2007. Early figures for 2013 show many states are on pace for their biggest year ever.
About eight million Americans had concealed-carry permits as of last year, the Government Accountability Office said in what it called a conservative estimate.
"I suppose it's the same reason people are reporting gun sales are up and ammunition sales are up," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, referring to concern among gun owners about the recent push for gun control. "It's nothing unique in Ohio.…It seems to be a consistent trend across the board."
States across the U.S. have loosened restrictions amid a spate of mass shootings in public spaces, making it easier to get concealed-carry permits and allowing concealed weapons in more places, including schools, churches and bars.
Some leaders in law enforcement call the increasing requests for concealed-carry permits unwelcome, citing safety concerns. Thomas Dart, sheriff of Illinois's Cook County, which encompasses Chicago, said that although the effect on crime is disputed, more people carrying guns "makes our job more difficult."
"Without the gun, it's a fistfight. With the gun, it's a shooting," he said.
Craig Steckler, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said he could remember only "one instance in which someone effectively defended himself" with a firearm during his 21 years as police chief in Fremont, Calif. Otherwise, "it's a whole lot of cases of guns being used not in ways they're designed: kids shooting themselves, gun-cleaning accidents, crimes of passion, that sort of thing."
Research is split on whether more armed citizens deter or exacerbate gun violence. Economist John Lott, a conservative commentator and author of "More Guns, Less Crime," said data show concealed-carry laws reduce violent crime.
But the National Research Council, part of the congressionally chartered National Academies, has disputed links between concealed-carry laws and drops in crime. And the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit group that advocates for gun control, said that since 2007, concealed-carry permit holders have fatally shot about 500 people, that 128 of them have been convicted of manslaughter or homicide, and 36 have committed murder-suicides.
In 2008 and 2010 rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the Second Amendment to the Constitution grants broad license to keep and bear arms in the home. But the court left unclear whether and to what degree the right to carry a weapon extends outside the home, leaving states largely free to set up their own rules.
In 2002, seven states banned concealed-carry, according to the GAO. By later this year, every state will allow it.
Ten states require applicants to show "good cause" to get a permit. But 39 states—10 more than in 2002—grant permits to anyone who meets a few basic requirements, such as a clean criminal record and proof of residency.
Residents of Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming and Vermont don't need permits to carry a concealed weapon. In 2002, that was the case only in Vermont.
The surge in applications in recent months is linked at least in part to the Newtown tragedy, which rekindled a national gun-control debate at state and federal levels. Many permit holders say they feel safer carrying a gun, or knowing they could bring one into a potentially dangerous situation.
"Everyone has the right to be responsible for his or her own personal safety," said Bob McGinty, a small-business owner in Golden Valley, Minn., who obtained a concealed-carry permit earlier this year, after Minnesota made them cheaper and easier to get.
While Connecticut, Colorado, California, New York, Delaware and Maryland have tightened gun restrictions this year, at least 20 states have loosened laws on concealed-carry, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which tracks and advocates for gun-control laws. States have streamlined the permit process, made concealed-carry records confidential or lifted bans on carrying concealed firearms in many public places.
Texas stopped requiring concealed-carry permit holders to undergo training to renew their licenses, West Virginia stopped requiring background checks for permit renewals, and Louisiana introduced lifetime permits.
Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, said: "Crime can happen anywhere, and it's reasonable for people to have an effective means of defending themselves and their loved ones."

               Obamacare Law Neglects What Drives Healthcare Costs

After months of research and detailed study of what hospitals charge, Brill determined that the real problem of accelerating healthcare costs lies in the providers, and specifically with the hospitals - an area the Obamacare law mostly ignores.
What Brill found was shocking. Comparing the line items on the bills of numerous individuals to what each actually cost the hospital revealed huge markups - often 100%, 400% and even 1,000% and higher -- on everything from gauze pads to lab tests.
In one case a patient was charged $199.50 for a test that Medicare had determined should cost just $13.94
. Another patient was charged $49,237 for a specialized neurostimulator that cost the hospital about $19,000 and probably cost the company that sold it about $4,500 to produce.
Hospitals essentially invent inflated arbitrary charges for everything because they can.
Patients usually don't ask much about cost when they have a medical problem, and assume that their insurance will cover most of it anyway. Competitive market forces that drive prices lower are virtually non-existent in healthcare.
Another problem is the "fee-for-service" nature of the system. The more a hospital does for you, the more it can charge you.
That leads to such games as duplicated testing (at those highly inflated prices), and visits from doctors only barely connected to a case so they, too, can bill the hapless patient.
Of course the insurers negotiate fees about 50% to 60% lower than the hospital's "official" list prices ("the chargemaster"), but even those reduced payments are far higher than the cost to the hospital.
Hospitals historically have tried to justify their crazy-high charges by pointing to the rock-bottom reimbursements they get from Medicare and the fact that they don't get paid for treating some impoverished patients. They claim they need to charge everyone else more accordingly.
But Brill found that charity cases made up less than half of 1% of U.S. hospitals' annual revenue. And while Medicare only pays a bit more than what it determines the service or item costs the hospital, most hospitals make concerted efforts to attract more Medicare patients. It doesn't make sense that they'd advertise for patients that cost them money.
Unfortunately, the Obamacare law addresses none of these issues.

Gas Prices Forecast to Soar During Peak Summer Vacation Period
By Brad Tuttle @bradrtuttle   July 12, 2013

Analysts are saying that it will soon cost nearly 10% more to fill up your gas tank. And wouldn’t you know it: The predicted spike in gas prices will coincide with the vacations of millions of Americans. The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline, which has been hovering around $3.50, is expected to spike by 25¢ to 30¢ over the next few weeks, according to analysts cited by CNN Money and NBC News. Wholesale prices of oil have surged over the past month, and these increases are inevitably passed along to consumers in the form of steeper prices at the pump. There’s some indication the price hikes have already begun, and it’s anticipated that per-gallon rates will keep rising by 1¢ or 2¢ daily, perhaps more.
“Short-term, we’re going to see the average go into the $3.60, $3.70 range,” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at “You’re looking at some markets that were closer to $3 a gallon, like the upper Great Lakes, and they’re going to go back up and be closer to $4.”
According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, one year ago at this time, the national average was $3.38 per gallon, 14¢ less than the average as of Thursday of this week. If prices rise in July and August as experts anticipate, it’ll basically be a repeat of 2012, when prices dipped in early summer before soaring from mid-summer on. During one week in early August of last year, the national average rose from $3.53 to $3.66, apparently due to inclement weather and refinery issues.
Let’s at least hope this September doesn’t follow the pattern set last year. Prices at the pump were expected to decline once Labor Day had passed, and yet the opposite happened, with the national average topping $3.80 toward the end of September of last year. The 2012 end-of-summer surge, combined with previous pricing spasms, made it the most expensive year ever for gasoline.
Earlier this year, most analysts forecast that 2013 wouldn’t beat out 2012 for that dubious title. And yet thus far gas prices in 2013 have proven to be exceptionally volatile and unpredictable. So perhaps it’s time to cross your fingers, and hope that the latest prediction — that gas prices will increase sharply now and into August — winds up being wrong.

Ashton to review shooting during FBI interrogation
State Attorney Jeff Ashton will conduct 'independent review' of Ibragim Todashev shooting, his office says.

By Jeff Weiner, Orlando Sentinel 5:08 p.m. EDT, August 8, 2013
Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton confirmed his office is reviewing the death of Ibragim Todashev, a friend of one of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers who was killed during an interrogation in a condo in Orlando.
Todashev, 27, was killed May 22 while he was being questioned by a Boston-based FBI agent, Massachusetts state troopers and other law-enforcement officers. The FBI has released little information about the shooting.
In a statement Thursday, the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's office said it "is in receipt of the preliminary investigation from the Department of Justice in regards to the death of Ibragim Todashev."
"Mr. Ashton will conduct an independent review of the circumstances surrounding the use of deadly force in this case, as he does in all cases involving use of force by a law enforcement officer resulting in death," the statement said.
There is "no timetable" for the review to be completed, and the agency will not comment again until it is done, Ashton's statement said. Initially, the FBI said Todashev initiated a "violent confrontation" during the questioning.
"During the confrontation, the individual was killed and the agent sustained non-life threatening injuries," the FBI said then. The federal agency has not said whether Todashev was armed.
The agency also blocked the Orange-Osceola Medical Examiner's Office from releasing the autopsy report. The ACLU had asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to review the case, but that agency declined last month.
Todashev is a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev who, with his brother, set off pressure-cooker bombs that exploded near the finish line of the marathon April 15, authorities say. Three people were killed and more than 250 injured.

Miami man pleads guilty to theft in $90 million prescription drug heist
Posted on July 3, 2013 by Intervention Services
A man who was charged with stealing over $90 million in prescription drugs from a Connecticut warehouse owned by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly in 2010 pled guilty in federal court on July 1.
Amed Villa, a Cuban citizen who was living in Miami at the time of his arrest, along with his brother Amaury, was accused of breaking into an Enfield, Connecticut warehouse by scaling an exterior wall and cutting a hole in the roof. Then, the two lowered themselves to the floor and disabled alarms before using a forklift to load pallets of drugs into a waiting truck.
The men are thought by authorities to be members of an even larger larger ring of warehouse burglars who have stolen from several facilities on the East Coast.
The stolen drugs, which included antidepressants, antipsychotics and chemotherapy medications, were uncovered in a storage facility last year. Villa was tracked down through DNA on a water bottle that was found in the hiding place.
"The Eli Lilly theft is reportedly the largest in Connecticut history," said acting U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly in a statement. "I commend the FBI in New Haven and the Enfield Police Department, as well as our counterparts in [...] other jurisdictions, for their cooperative investigative efforts in dismantling a prolific cargo theft ring."
Law enforcement officials are concerned that the number of major drug thefts will continue to grow criminals try to feed an ever-increasing demand for high-priced prescription medications. There have been recent thefts similar to the one in Connecticut in Virginia, Tennessee and Mississippi.
If someone you love is engaging in risky and desperate behavior to feed a prescription drug addiction, now is the time to act. Intervention Services can connect you with a professional interventionist who can help you get your friend or relative into an effective treatment program.

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