SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- More shootings in Arizona and Alabama on Wednesday exposed what National Rifle Association (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called a "horrific lack of good guys with guns." On December 21, LaPierre issued an impassioned plea to arm more Americans, ascribing the recent rash of mass shootings to an under-equipped population. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he said. Thorn Havershabe, head of the San Narciso County NRA chapter, called LaPierre "the only hero in America that day. The only man who cared deeply enough to offer honest assessments and real, final solutions." LaPierre, a self-described humanitarian who is deeply concerned about the welfare of the nation's embattled citizens, doesn't believe the country is suffering from a deficit of good guys -- the problem, he states, is that the government hasn't done enough to make firearms and automatic weapons available to those peace-seeking heroes. In fact, the NRA argues, lawmakers must make guns mandatory.
SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Apple evangelists and devoted investors have long worried about the fate of their beloved technology innovator since the death of visionary founder Steve Jobs. Tim Cook, the company's current CEO, has done little to live up to the reputation of his predecessor. In the minds of many, he has instead raised the specter of market stagnation and waning shares. Apple's stock tanked 35 percent last week from its all-time high. With shares languishing around $450, Apple appears almost cheap. And on January 25, Exxon again surpassed Apple as the world's most valuable company, with analysts citing a lack of truly new, groundbreaking products -- once the hallmarks of the company. If things continue along this lackluster path, shares could fall even farther over the coming years. Hoping to reassure investors, rattle the competition, and reassert its dominance in the field, Apple uncharacteristically introduced a 128GB iPad on Tuesday in what Wired called a "savvy" response to Microsoft's Surface Pro. But in a stunning double-down, CEO Cook also announced a "revolutionary" new member of the iPad family, the next generation Homonym. Both are slated for a February 5 release.
SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- In 1977 George Lucas changed the face of cinema, the lives of an entire generation, and pop culture itself when he released the first film in his "Star Wars" franchise. The epic space opera remains as popular with young people today as it was with kids 36 years ago. But after reaching such impressive heights so quickly, Lucas wondered where he could go from there. The visionary filmmaker then decided "once you get to the top, the only logical place to go is down...all the way to the bottom." Lucas not only toiled for years to create plot-hole pocked, ill-conceived, and ridiculously tedious prequels, he also relentlessly re-edited the films in the beloved original trilogy (Episodes IV through VI) until they too became unwatchable. But to his shock and dismay, the public's loyalty was unshakable. "They continued to watch. I couldn't believe it. But it's too hard to keep tinkering with perfection -- to transform the diamond back into coal," he lamented. Lucas needed to find a director so contrived, so loose, and so self-indulgent that the films would be "horrific from day one, not after decades of expensive reworking." Disney, which now owns the rights to "Star Wars," agreed with Lucas. On Thursday, executives with the studio announced the hiring of director J.J. Abrams to helm Episode VII in much the same manner as Captain Edward Smith helmed his equally famous vehicle.
SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- It's the penal system, Charlie Brown! Peter Robbins, the 56-year-old actor who provided the iconic voice of Charlie Brown in many of the animated TV specials based on Charles M. Schulz's "Peanuts" comic strip, was arrested this weekend, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol office. Authorities have not disclosed the specific crimes Robbins allegedly committed, but he was wanted by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department on a felony warrant. Border Patrol agents detained Robbins when he crossed the border into the United States from Tijuana, Mexico on Sunday night. They took him into custody after verifying the warrant. Information posted online by the San Diego County Jail lists Robbins as charged with five felony counts -- stalking and threatening to cause death or bodily injury being chief among them. Bail has been set in excess of half a million dollars. But in a surprise development Wednesday, attorneys for Robbins claimed the actor's purported target was an unlicensed psychiatrist who had abused him many years back. They are arguing for clemency under extenuating circumstances.
SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre ruffled the feathers of many Americans in his now infamous December 21 press conference, including those belonging to NRA members. Not to be outdone by other conservatives who advocate for unfettered weapons ownership, LaPierre confidently asserted that "guns don't kill people. Video games, the media and Obama's budget kill people." Mr. LaPierre cited statistics from the International Federation of Journalists that tallied over 120 journalists being summarily executed in 2012 while covering conflicts and insurgencies in hot zones such as Syria, Somalia, Mexico, Pakistan, Iraq and the Philippines. He also reminded the public of President Obama's proposed Death Panels included in the healthcare reform -- a contentious budgetary item. But LaPierre wasn't willing to stop with simply taking shots at video games, reporters and Obama. The National Rifle Association fired a second volley across the bows of electronic game manufacturers this week to back up claims that their products kill people -- by releasing an NRA-licensed game that doesn't kill people.
SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- After failing to persuade the federal government to place armed security forces at schools or weaponize the teaching staff, the National Rifle Association (NRA) announced its funding of specialized security training initiatives for the nation's hall monitors -- those student volunteers who are in charge of maintaining order in school corridors. "The position of hall monitor is itself an American institution -- but one that has historically been underutilized to the point of gross impotence," said NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. "That changes today."
SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's foremost conservative business lobby, announced on Thursday its annual ranking of the eight worst companies in America -- those organizations that consistently fail to embrace the true spirit of bottom-line capitalism. Why eight? Chamber leaders explained that rating ten employers is more expensive, wasteful, and inefficient. To make the prestigious list, a company must demonstrate its failure to seize opportunities for maximizing profit potential by refusing to cut corners, reduce overhead, eliminate employer-sponsored benefits and perks, replace full-time workers with temps or automation, and outsource jobs to foreign nations with cheap labor pools and abysmal records of human rights. "These are big name companies with big chips on their shoulders," said Len Waybill, head economist for the conservative Peter Pinguid Society. "The role of business is to keep growing, to keep making money, by any legal means necessary. Frankly, every company on the list is an embarrassment -- a monument to shame and anti-American values. I always find it strange that these same businesses end up on Fortune's 'Best Companies to Work For' list."
SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- In October, a three-judge panel of the Federal Court of Appeals unanimously rejected Apple's request for an injunction against Samsung's Galaxy Nexus smartphones, citing a lack of evidence. Apple had won a $1.5 billion suit against Samsung last year for patent violations. Many analysts see the longstanding feud as a proxy war between Apple and Google. Samsung's popular devices use Google's Android operating system, which Steve Jobs once derided as a "stolen product." Despite the billion-dollar settlement, Apple requested the full court to revisit the October decision and impose a sales ban on Samsung's products. And in a surprise follow up, Apple then requested the panel of judges to ban the sale of any competitor's product.
SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- French prosecutors said Friday that British supermodel Naomi Campbell had been mugged in Paris by two assailants who tried to steal her purse on the evening of November 21. U.S. media initially reported that Campbell had suffered a knee injury during the attack, which could require surgery. Because Campbell had refused medical attention at the time of the incident, and because her publicists declined to comment on the assault, details have been sketchy. Today, however, representatives from the prosecutor's office made more information available, with some startling revelations. "There was an attempted robbery with violence," an official said. "Two men on motorcycles tried to steal Ms. Campbell's handbag from inside the car she occupied, just outside the upscale Marais neighborhood. Ms. Campbell, who herself has a storied history of violence, defended her person and property in a most unusual but aggressive manner. The would-be thieves have remained hospitalized with serious injuries since November."
SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Over three years ago, a well-intentioned, 46-year-old race car mechanic in Kansas donated his sperm to a lesbian couple seeking to conceive a child. A written agreement that waived the donor's parental rights and financial obligations was executed between the parties at the time of delivery. However in October, Kansas filed a petition to have the donor legally declared the father of the three-year-old child and held responsible for support payments under state law. Citing a 2007 case before the Kansas Supreme Court, lawyers for the donor argued that their client bore no parental responsibilities because of his agreement with the couple. The case attracted national attention this week with the announcement of a January 8 hearing. As an unexpected result, thousands of unmarried men with illegitimate children and mounting child support debt filed motions Thursday to have their statuses changed to "donor," and their financial obligations overturned.
SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Bitterly disappointed that God did not destroy the world at the close of 2012 because of the permissive gay equality laws passed by several U.S. states, Catholic leaders renewed their attacks on homosexuals and those who support them by distributing letters urging parishioners to oppose same-sex marriages, saying these spurious unions "create a legal fiction...the state has no power to create something that nature itself tells us is impossible." Opponents referenced research from 1999 onward that documents homosexual behavior in nearly 1,500 animal species, which includes sex, courtship, pair bonding and parenting. The Church responded by defining "nature" as only those elements of creation endowed with a soul, referring to everything else as "resources and backdrop scenery." Catholic leaders consequently proposed a ban on all academic and scientific studies that attempt to elevate these resources to anything beyond tools, amenities or curious amusements for the planet's heterosexual human masters. On Wednesday, Vatican officials also announced publication of a definitive handbook on marriage as outlined in the Bible.