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This is America: 9 out of 10 public schools now hold mass shooting drills for students

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How "active shooter" drills became normal for a generation of American schoolchildren.
"Are you kids good at running and screaming?" a police officer asks a class of elementary school kids in Akron, Ohio.
His friendly tone then turns serious.
“What I don’t want you to do is hide in the corner if a bad guy comes in the room,” he says. "You gotta get moving."
This training session — shared online by the ALICE Training Institute, a civilian safety training company — reflects the new normal at American public schools. As armed shooters continue their deadly rampages, and while Washington remains stuck on gun control, a new generation of American students have learned to lock and barricade their classroom doors the same way they learn to drop and roll in case of a fire.
The training session is a stark reminder of how American schools have changed since the 1999 Columbine school shooting. School administrators and state lawmakers have realized that a mass shoot…

EU calls on Japan to abolish death penalty

Gallows trap door, Tokyo Detention Center
Gallows trap door, Tokyo Detention Center
TOKYO — The European Union has called on Japan to abolish the death penalty, saying “it is a key priority of our external human rights policy” to work towards its universal elimination to protect human dignity.

“As friends, we have an obligation to speak up. Application of the death penalty in Japan, in the 21st century, is running against the global trend,” said Francesco Fini, EU Delegation minister to Japan. “We hope that Japan will finally join the big and growing family of countries without the death penalty.”

He made the comments in a speech at a Tokyo symposium on capital punishment sponsored by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

The federation is seeking the abolition of the death penalty by 2020, when the U.N. Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice will be held in Japan.

Fini said governments are obliged under international law “not to impose cruel and unusual punishment even on the worst criminals” in view of the fundamental human dignity of every person, “even on someone who has committed the most atrocious crime.”

He said it has not been proved that the “death penalty has a direct correlation with reducing serious crime, or that abolishing it increases serious crime.”

Fini also noted that while no court system is perfect, the death penalty is irreversible. “If a mistake is made, and then discovered, a person who was wrongfully executed can never be brought back.”

Commenting on a government survey that shows more than 80 percent of people in Japan support the death penalty, Fini said “public opinion can change, and depends on information, courage and leadership.” The history of the abolition of the death penalty in Europe “was driven by brave women and men that exercised leadership to inform the public.”

Legal experts and lawmakers also joined the symposium. Maiko Tagusari, a Tokyo-based lawyer, said, “We cannot avoid miscarriages of justice, as our legal system is operated by human beings. And it is impossible to make a distinction between those who should be executed and those who should not.”

Tagusari also said that support for the death penalty in Japan may change as a result of the introduction of the lay judge system in 2009, in which six citizens join three professional judges to deliberate serious crimes, including capital cases.

People are “now obliged to directly face the worst criminals in court as lay judges,” she said, adding that those with criminal justice knowledge need to help educate the public.

Sayaka Sasaki, an upper house member from the Komeito party, a coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told the symposium that many people believe judges never make mistakes and that prosecutors only indict the guilty.

EU: "A strong position against the death penalty"
“But we need to have a common recognition that they also make mistakes” in thinking about how to deal with the capital punishment system, Sasaki said.

In Japan, anti-death penalty campaigners sometimes come into collision with crime victims or their bereaved families.

Referring to victims and their families, EU’s Fini said, “We should do everything we can to alleviate” their emotional burden.

He also said, however, that “using the victims’ families’ legitimate grief to justify executions, and taking a life as a response to crime is just fulfilling a cycle of misery.”

Japan has faced international criticism over capital punishment, with the U.N. Human Rights Committee in 2014 urging Japan to “give due consideration to the abolition of the death penalty.”

Tokyo most recently hanged an inmate on Nov. 11—the 17th execution in almost four years during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s current term as Japanese leader.

The move prompted the EU Delegation to issue a statement together with the heads of mission of EU member states and the heads of mission of Norway and Switzerland saying, “We hold a strong and principled position against the death penalty and we are opposed to the use of capital punishment under any circumstances.”

At the symposium, Shinji Oguma, a lower house member from the main opposition Democratic Party, said “maintaining the death penalty has ruined the image of Japan, as the international community thinks Japan does not share the same values” at a time when more than two-thirds of nations have abolished the death penalty by law or in practice.

“It calls into question how Japan should be when we think about how to deal with the death penalty,” he said.

Source: Japan Today, December 21, 2016

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