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safety

KN, p. 178 “Is the builder dead yet?”

 

“What? Is somebody trying to kill the builder?” you ask.

They’ might be thinking about it. As in, more than one person is annoyed.

EmptyLotTreesDSC_1481

Here’s what is happening. When we moved in, the neighborhood was full of wooded lots. Even the properties with houses already there, had plenty of trees at the edges, along the fences, or next to the houses. Some were mature trees that had been left on the otherwise cleared lots before construction had begun. Property owners added flowering trees as time passed. Wildlife flourishes in this residential neighborhood of 1/4 and 1/3 acre lots. We’re not out in the country, but these are not zero-lot homes either.

 

Phases 1 and 2 of the larger housing development have long been completed. Phase 3 was finished three years ago, the original trees are beautiful, and the owners are adding new fruit/flowering trees each year.

 

Enter Phase 4. The original developer had a few lots left and found a builder to buy them. That builder wanted the lots cleared before finalizing the deal. That’s when we, the neighbors, discovered that some of the grassy/lightly-wooded areas between existing homes were actually unsold lots.

 

EmptyLotBulldozerDSC_1474

ALL of the trees from those lots are being cleared, lots of red dirt remains, and now mudslides into neighboring backyards are expected with the next heavy rain.

 

The developer in charge of the work told me on the phone that the lots are not wide enough to have left the trees in place. The one in the photos is 60 feet wide. Years ago, I lived in a house surrounded by maples and evergreens. That lot was 50×100. IMO, this guy simply did not want to take the time to leave a couple of trees to shade the house and protect the wildlife on the lot.

 

The neighbors to the left and right of the bulldozer photo were concerned enough to have the City Inspector come out to assess the situation. Note the dirt to the left appears to be in a pile that crosses the property line and would be the most likely to slide into the neighbor’s yard in the rain.

 

EmptyLotSandFenceDSC_1503

The builder’s solution was to place sand barrier ‘fencing’ on the property line. The bulldozer operator moved the dirt up against it.

 

Other lots have similar problems with soil grading and tree removal.

 

Heated conversations have been held. The neighborhood grapevine is operating at peak efficiency. Town council meetings are scheduled on the topic.

 

In case you doubt that neighbors and builders would actually get angry over something like this, read on.

 

Existing homeowners in Colorado were upset with new builders in the neighborhood who appeared to be putting in homes that did not conform to the look of the development, thereby lowering everyone’s property values. Building was delayed while plans were reviewed. Board members who were in charge of approving the designs (but didn’t) were removed from their positions and new people replaced them.

 

http://www.reporterherald.com/ci_20492538/homeowners-builder-bank-at-odds-lovelands-taft-farms

 

When developers with big money at stake and disgruntled homeowners with possible deflated property values are at odds, tempers can flare, injunctions can occur, and nothing good happens. If the builder complies with city ordinances, there is little recourse for the neighbors who don’t care for the look of the newer houses, or how the new homes will affect them.

 

City codes exist for a reason. Check yours out. You might be surprised at what is NOT included in some communities, such as: building setbacks, curbing pets, rules about garbage, home swimming pool regulations, livestock allowed in the city limits, etc.

 

We haven’t seen any bodies in the remaining woods yet, but it is still early in the process. Kidding. Tempers are high, but so far, everybody is at the yelling stage. Let’s hope that reason prevails and the builder corrects the problems he has created, and doesn’t produce any new ones.

 

2020 Update:

The two houses built on the properties in the photos have flooding issues. One has a perpetual pond in the backyard from the water cascading down the slope, requiring special drains to keep the water away from the house. The builder was within city code requirements and took no responsibility for the flooding caused by his bulldozing method. Buyer beware.

 

*Photos by Patti Phillips

 

 

 

 

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KN, p. 265 “Election Integrity 2020”

Almost every time the USA has had a Presidential election in the last few cycles, there have been concerns about voter fraud mentioned before, during, and after the elections. From both sides of the aisle. It’s important to note that after appropriate investigations by duly selected or elected officials, it has been determined that any discrepancies in the vote are rarely actual fraud, but rather caused by human error or mechanical malfunction. Despite the court cases that drag on after the elections, widespread voter fraud rarely happens. Frustrating to the opposition, but investigations show otherwise. Read this article to explain past occurrences.

 

In 2020, the voices of doom and gloom seem more strident. Is the Pandemic causing us to panic where no panic is warranted? We are, after all, in the middle of one of the most challenging periods in our recent history and want to make sure our wishes are known at the polls. Whether by paper ballot marked on the day of the election, or a mail-in ballot sent before the deadline, or early voting by machine/paper, or absentee ballots received after the actual Election Day, the American people must be able to exercise our inalienable right to vote.

 

Mail-in ballots have been attacked as problematic. In actual fact, some States have used mail-in ballots in previous elections without difficulty. Signatures are checked against those on file, bar codes on the envelopes are assigned to one person, checked, recorded, and votes are counted and verified.

 

The following nine States (and the District of Columbia) have already mailed ballots to all the registered voters:

California
Colorado
District of Columbia
Hawaii
Nevada
New Jersey
Oregon
Utah
Vermont
Washington

 

34 of the rest of the States will allow the registered voters to do mail-in voting because of Covid19, or no stated reason at all. Some States require people to request the mail-in ballot; some people automatically receive the application in the mail.

 

These seven States require some reason besides Covid19 in order to qualify for mail-in ballots:

Indiana
Louisiana
Mississippi
New York
South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas

 

If you don’t like the method your State employs to conduct elections, vote for changes in your election laws, or for a change in the people that make those decisions. Proposed changes to the election procedures are often contained in the Public Questions sections of the ballot.

 

According to opponents of the mail-in process, one of the biggest issues is the mail itself. We have endured attacks on the efficacy of our postal system to deliver absentee ballots in the time needed, but millions of ballots have already been delivered via the Post Office throughout the country without problem. Any errors can be corrected via the stated methods on the individual State election site. Most States are providing drop-in boxes for the ballots in strategic spots for those people choosing not to vote in person. For some reason, Texas has decided to limit the drop-off sites to one per county. I hope that changes, as it creates a hardship for many voters that don’t need yet another challenge in 2020.

 

There have been questions raised about ballot rejection, so remember to sign your ballot and fill in the boxes correctly. There are tracking systems in place to make sure that the ballot is received.

 

Does voter fraud ever happen? Rarely, but yes, and the incidents are investigated. In a famous case in the North Carolina Ninth Congressional District 2018 election, a professional campaign worker and his hired group allegedly illegally collected registered voters’ absentee ballots and tampered with them in various ways. There was enough of a disparity in the vote distribution that questions were raised and the vote was determined not to be valid. The election was overturned and a new vote held months later. A related case is still in the courts.

https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article242174111.html

 

What about interference from foreign governments or other ‘bad actors?’ On October 6th, there was a joint video delivered to social media by the heads of four United States security agencies: the FBI, the NSA (National Security Administration), CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency), and NCSC (National Counterintelligence and Security Center). During the video they sought to reassure the public that they are basically pulling out all the stops to make sure that our national election is safe and secure from all attacks, domestic and foreign.

The video can be seen at fbi.org.
https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/election-crimes-and-security


In the meantime, CISA director, Christopher Krebs, advises us as voters to:

Prepare (Choose our voting venue or method and follow Covid protocols)
Participate (VOTE, and perhaps even volunteer to help with the process)
Patience (be ready to wait a few days for the elections to be verified, since some entities have extended deadlines for receipt of mail-in ballots. In other words, if the winner of the Presidential race can’t be declared on Election Night, we should be patient. It may take an extra few days this year to get all the votes counted.)

 

Bottom line? Exercise your right to vote.

Every vote counts, at every single level of government.

 

 

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KN, p. 252 “Tasers and Stun Guns”

 

TASER devices and stun guns each have slightly different functions, but the common purpose is to shock the aggressor and allow time to move strategically for improved control over the situation, without using lethal force. A TASER can be shot from a distance, and a stun gun requires direct contact with the attacker.

 

Stun Gun

 

 

This stun gun has sharp points which might pierce clothing and will even set off an electric charge if somebody tries to grab it.

 

Other stun guns resemble cellphones, while another type looks just like a mag light. Neither has great power, so in order to get close enough to use it effectively, an attacker may be able to get the upper hand against an untrained civilian. Some stun guns are in the shape and length of a baton (12-19 inches) allowing the user to be a step or two away, rather than just at arm’s length.

 

In many states, law enforcement groups have been using stun guns to subdue targets for years. Pepper spray occasionally blows back at the user, so private citizens sometimes opt for using a stun gun as a self-defense tool.

 

Designed in the 1960s for use in tight spaces (inside airplanes) when firing a gun would be especially dangerous, a Taser is considered a safer (non-lethal) alternative to a handgun if used correctly. Concerned about a rise in gun-related injuries during arrests or captures, some law enforcement jurisdictions around the country have required that Tasers and/or stun guns be added to their officers’ equipment belts, giving the officer a choice in tense or escalating situations.

 

Taser and cartridge

 

How does a Taser work? The cartridge contains 15-20 foot wires with probes attached at the end. The wires shoot out when the weapon is used. When the probes reach the target, they deliver a shock as well as pain, but this will only happen if both probes insert into the person’s body. In general, the person loses muscle control when hit with the probes, making an arrest easier or allowing the officer to stop an ongoing attack.

 

There are a variety of Tasers on the market, some of which guarantee contact even through clothing. Some recent Taser models also include the stun gun feature so that the prongs don’t have to be fired during every use.

 

One criticism of some Tasers is that they can misfire, causing real problems for the officer during an attack. The LATimes ran an article about the issue, comparing effective use in successive years:

 

https://www.latimes.com/local/crime/la-me-lapd-tasers-20160401-story.html?utm_campaign=meetedgar&utm_medium=social&utm_source=meetedgar.com&fbclid=IwAR17l2SVeCW7idV6PJVIm3nzh-U-jkmIh0bqVSfcFi_UoZlIp7xFXTwtaKs

 

Less critical, but potentially disturbing to a civilian Taser owner, is that storage in the home might become an issue. A curious friend or neighbor happening upon the Taser might fire it ‘just to see what it does.’ If it happens to misfire accidentally, somebody could get hurt. Burn marks on floors and ceilings from mis-firing have been reported by Kerrian followers, even when the Tasers have been handled properly. (True story)

 

Expense is a factor. Stun guns usually cost between $10 and $30. TASER devices have a lot more power and are a lot pricier because of that – running anywhere between $450 to $1,100. If the department in a town of 100,00 people has 180 officers working in the field and the units cost a minimum of $450 each – do the math. That’s an initial hit to the city budget of $81,000 and that’s before the replacement cartridges, etc. Each time the Taser is fired, it needs to be recharged and in some cases, a new cartridge must be inserted – at a cost of between $25 to $35 each.

 

Need to replace the Kevlar vests this year (a necessity every five years) or get that new million dollar fire truck the city needs so badly? Even if the Taser (or stun gun) is a great idea, the budget may not be able to handle it. So, if your town’s officers would like to have that option available to them, grants and donations from local law enforcement supporters may need to be sought out.

 

Legality

As of 2018, four states required background checks for Taser ownership.

  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota


Two (2) states where Tasers and stun guns are completely banned for use for anyone other than law enforcement:

  • Hawaii
  • Rhode Island


But, most states do not regulate the purchase of Tasers or stun guns. That means no training requirements, background checks, or paperwork. Anyone in those states can buy and use them for self-defense. In many states, it is illegal to carry a concealed stun gun outside of your own home, and specifically illegal to carry it on school property. In some jurisdictions, stun guns are considered dangerous or deadly weapons, and as such, fall under those laws. Deadly weapons are generally banned from:

  • parades
  • funerals
  • public demonstrations
  • government buildings


It’s important to note about ownership of either a stun gun or a Taser or a combo of the two:

 

If someone falls and suffers a heart attack or other injury during the commission of a crime after being shocked with a stun gun or Taser, there are serious consequences. Instead of seeing its non-lethal purpose, the court may conclude that the tragic result came from the use, not the intent. i.e. the person might not have had the heart attack if not for being Tasered. If that happens, we now have a deadly weapon, and the legal concerns change under the law.

 


What are your thoughts about the use of Tasers and/or stun guns? Let us know in the comments below.

 

*Photos from Amazon

 

 

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