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Today at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, you have to look closely for evidence that one of the worse school shootings in U.S. history happened here 20 years ago.
The building looks like any of the thousands of American high schools across the country. The students hanging out in front of the school or practicing on the football field weren’t even born on April 20, 1999, when two student gunmen opened fire on their classmates, killing 12 students and a teacher.
But the markers are there — if you look closely enough.
Just over the hill from the school at an adjacent park is the Columbine memorial, which pays tribute to the people murdered in the massacre. The football stadium is named for Frank DeAngelis, the principal who led the school through the crisis and stayed on for another 15 years.
The softball field honors teacher Dave Sanders, who bled to death in a classroom while waiting hours for medical help.
Protocol at the time called for sheriff’s deputies to wait outside and secure the perimeter until the specialized SWAT team could arrive. Columbine was one of the first mass shootings at a U.S. school, and it changed how schools and law enforcement prepare to confront an active shooter.
“In 1999, that’s what deputies did. They ran toward danger, and then they contained it. Now, the training is different,” says Jeff Shrader, sheriff of Jefferson County, Colorado, whose deputies responded to the incident at Columbine two decades ago. “They’re going to go to the shooter. They’re going to do everything they can to neutralize the threat. To identify it and to neutralize it so that hopefully more lives would be saved.”
At Columbine, first responders were also hampered by poor communication and uncertainty about the school’s layout.
“One of the things we were able to do shortly after that was to put maps of schools in command vehicles so that they were readily accessible,” the sheriff says. “In our command operations center, we maintain those, but they were things that just weren’t thought of in that point in time.”
Responding quickly to a school shooter is not the only thing that’s changed since Columbine.
Visitors used to be able to walk right into most American schools. Now, exterior doors are locked, and many schools use an intercom buzz-in security system. Interior classroom doors often lock now, allowing students and teachers to lock themselves inside. There is a film that can be put on windows to effectively render them bulletproof.
The U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) finds that school shooters often experience some sort of stressor — a setback, challenge or loss — leading up to an attack.
“They had difficulty coping with perceived injustice or bullying that was happening to them at the school, whether it was real or perceived,” says Dr. Lina Alathari, chief of the NTAC. “They had a sense that they were being bullied, and in a majority of incidents, these students were being bullied.”
FBI investigators concluded the Columbine killers were not bullied.
Today, the Secret Service recommends that all schools establish a threat assessment team, made up of teachers, counselors and others, to identify students in distress or who might exhibit concerning behavior with the aim of stopping violence before it happens.
“There is no specific type of student who would carry out an attack,” Alathari says. “In a majority of cases, these were mainstream students. The most common performance, they were As and Bs. They came from different types of families, intact families, single family homes. They were popular. Some were loners. So, there really is no single profile that you can point to and say that is the type of student that would carry out an attack.”
Markers that threat assessment teams should look for include students whose grades decline, are experiencing suicidal thoughts or becoming more isolative, as well as other changes in behavior.
“This is when we need to be intervening as a community to offer that student assistance before it escalates to the point where they view violence as an option,” Alathari says.
To date, the NTAC has trained more than 100,000 school personnel, law enforcement and others with a stake in school safety on how to identify and assess and intervene with students of concern.
About 90% of U.S. schools have a plan for what to do in the event of a school shooting. Seventy percent of schools drill students using that plan, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Columbine survivor Samantha Haviland was a 16-year-old junior when the shootings happened at her high school. Two decades later, she is director of counseling for Denver Public Schools, and she has concerns about how lock down drills impact students.
“To remind our students over and over again that you are not safe, you are not safe, you are not safe, is causing a lot of anxiety,” Haviland says. “And we have students who are jumping out of windows during drills because they think it’s real because someone dropped a book at the wrong time.”
She says there is a part of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder called hyper-vigilance, where a person is always looking for exits, places to hide or how to escape, and keeping an eye out for who might try to hurt you.
“That hyper-vigilance takes up a lot of brain capacity and really decreases our students’ ability to focus on education when they’re in school. So, they’re not learning at the same rate that maybe you or I did when we went to school,” Haviland says.
In 81% of the school shooting incidents the NTAC studied, other students knew that the potential perpetrator was about to carry out an attack or was interested in doing so.
More schools are adopting procedures that teach students how to safely report suspicious behavior.
“It’s important for kids to see something, say something, hear something, say something,” DeAngelis says, “but then we need to do something as adults, and we need to follow up, and that is a key component.” (VOA)
The Centre will launch a pilot project on the use of indigenously manufactured drones for delivering medicines in the undulating landscape of Jammu and surrounding areas from Saturday with a focus on vaccines delivery initially. "This is going to be a pilot project for the area. The drone is developed and manufactured entirely by our scientists," Union Minister for Science & Technology, Dr Jitendra Singh told mediapersons. Singh said he himself will be launching the project at Jammu.
The drone is developed by the scientists at Bengaluru's National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a constituent of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an autonomous Society that is headed by the Prime Minister. For now, the delivery would be limited to Covid vaccines and once successful, it would be expanded to be used for regular delivery of medicines in the remote, hilly areas.
The drone is developed by the scientists at Bengaluru's National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL). | Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash
Jammu and surrounding areas are sensitive in terms of the strategic importance. Some months ago, there was an attack on an Army installation using drones. Will the 'drones for vaccines' be permitted in such a case? Allaying fears, a top official from the Ministry of S&T said, "The drones would be deployed by authorised agencies such as hospitals, not anybody can use it, nor would any random person be permitted to use it."
NAL has called the drone as 'Octacopter' and it can fly at an operational altitude of 500 m AGL and at maximum flying speed of 36 kmph. It can be used for a variety of BVLOS applications for last mile delivery like medicines, vaccines, food, postal packets, Human organs (such as heart for heart transplantation) etc. NAL Octacopter is integrated with a powerful on-board embedded computer and latest generation sensors for versatile applications like agricultural pesticide spraying, crop monitoring, mining survey, magnetic geo survey mapping etc., S&T officials had said. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Jammu, Vaccines, Medicines, Deliver, Drones, Centre
Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan shares how he feels when people compare him with his father Amitabh Bachchan on the singing reality show 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa'. He also requests contestant Rajshree Bag to sing a track 'Bahon Mein Chale Aao' featuring his mother Jaya Bachchan.
Abhishek said after looking at the performance of Rajshree, who is often compared with Lata Mangeshkar on the show, that she reminds him of being compared with his father. "Rajshree, whenever I have got the chance to watch the show, I've seen people compare you to Lata didi. It actually reminded me about how people compare me with my father and ask me how I feel about it."
According to him Amitabh Bachchan is a great actor in the industry and this is what he says to everyone making these comparisons. "My answer to them is that there's no greater actor in this film industry than Amitabh Bachchan and if I'm being compared to him, I am sure I must have done something good."
"Similarly, your voice has a different kind of magic like Lata ji and that's why people are comparing your voice with her. I feel you should always take this as a compliment," he concluded. 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa' airs on Saturday and Sunday on Zee TV. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Abhishek Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan, reality show, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Rajshree Bag
Winters in India have always beckoned for that hot, steaming bowl of tomato and pepper rasam or the mellow, millet based Raab. Certain dishes like sarson ka saag, undhiyu, nimona pulao are winter specialites in the country. Seasonal food has always been an Indian speciality -- we switch our choice in fruits, vegetables, sometimes even grains with the onset of different season. The preference of using specific ingredients during certain climates is visible in our sweets as well. It's common to find local and traditional delicacies made of jaggery, instead of sugar during the winters. Case in point -- the Nolen Gur Rasgulla, a speciality made in Odisha and West Bengal between November to February.
Celebrity chef, Sanjeev Kapoor, strongly advocates this need of eating seasonal produce. He says, "The beauty of our food is in our seasonal usage of fruits and vegetables. If you realise, Gajar ka halwa is made aplenty during winters as this is the season when beautiful red carrots hit the market or mango pickle is made during summer, thanks to its availability. Despite people and sometimes, even me, suggesting that we should eat fresh as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables, we do not know what chemicals are sprayed on them to keep them safe while they are growing. When this produce hits the market, there isn't a certifying agency like the FSSAI that will help people understand what vegetables and fruits are free of pesticides and germs and which ones don't. Hence, the onus lies on us to make them safe for consumption. ITC's Nimwash is a good solution."
When it comes to winters, the Chef recommends eating these fruit and vegetables:
* Purple Mogri -- Mogri or Radish pods are not a common sight throughout the country. But you can spot them during the winters in local markets in northern India where women pick them up to make raitas, curries and stir fries. Rich in magnesium, calcium and copper, the vegetable is known to aid people from digestive problems.
Mogri or Radish pods are not a common sight throughout the country, but you can spot them during the winters | Pixabay
* Sweet Potato -- A re-discovered favourite, Sweet potatoes have created a space for itself in the millennial kitchen. With its diverse addition in burgers, chips and even chat, the root vegetable is filled with nutrients such as fibres and vitamins.
Sweet potatoes have created a space for itself in the millennial kitchen. | Wikimedia Commons
* Avarekalu -- Called Hyacinth beans in English, Avarekalu is a winter speciality in the south that is added to sambhar, saagu, rotis, etc. Bangalore is famed for its Averakalu mela during the winter months, where you can find these beans in dosas, Pani puri and even Jalebis! Thronged by crowds from all over the city, the food fest is a gourmand's delight.
Called Hyacinth beans in English, Avarekalu is a winter speciality in the south that is added to sambhar, saagu, rotis, etc. | Wikimedia Commons
* Amla -- The Indian gooseberry is a common winter fruit found through the country. High in Vitamin C, it is known to be immunity building and extremely beneficial for the skin and hair. There are multiple ways to eat Amla -- it is pickled, made into a fruit preserve called as Murraba or even eaten by sprinkling salt over it.
The Indian gooseberry is a common winter fruit found through the country. | Pixabay
(Article originally published on IANSlife) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: winter, Sanjeev Kapoor, chef, Indian gooseberry, Sweet Potato, Radish pods