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Mass Shootings Exceed 900 In Seven Years

More than 900 people died in mass shootings during the past seven years, and a majority of them were killed by people they knew, according to a USA TODAY analysis of gun-related slayings. The 934 deaths account for less than 1% of all gun-related homicides, and nearly half involve a suspect slaying his or her family members, the detailed examination shows. USA TODAY combed through FBI records and news accounts to identify 146 mass shootings since 2006 that matched the FBI definition of mass shooting, where four or more people were killed. The new data come as federal and local policymakers attempt to address gun violence in the wake of the Dec. 14 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 schoolchildren and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Public revulsion over the massacre has spurred Congress to weigh a renewal of the federal assault-weapons ban and consider other gun-control measures, including a ban on magazines that exceed 10 rounds.

Nevada Legalizes Online Gambling

Gov. Brian Sandoval signed legislation Thursday legalizing online gambling in Nevada, capping a dizzying day at the Legislature as lawmakers passed the bill through the Assembly and Senate as an emergency measure. Nevada wanted to beat New Jersey, its East Coast casino rival, to the online gambling punch. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie previously vetoed an online wagering bill but has indicated he may sign an amended version next week. The measure makes Nevada the first state in the country to approve interstate online gaming, notes CBS Las Vegas affiliate KLAS-TV, adding that it was put on the fast track Thursday. Senate and Assembly judiciary committees approved it, sending it to the Assembly where it passed unanimously. The Senate passed it at midday and sent it to the governor’s desk for signature. Sandoval and Nevada legislative leaders said it was important for Nevada to remain at the forefront of gambling regulation.

Texas Tightens Rules On Shooting From Helicopters

Nearly four months after a Texas state trooper in a helicopter fired on a pickup truck speeding along the U.S.-Mexico border, killing two Guatemalan immigrants, state officials said Thursday that troopers are now forbidden from aerial shooting unless they’re under fire. Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw announced the policy change while facing questions from lawmakers about the deadly high-speed pursuit near La Joya in October. The truck was mistakenly thought to be carrying a drug load, and DPS says a trooper opened fire to disable the vehicle because it was barreling toward a school zone. According to the revised policy later released by DPS, “a firearms discharge from an aircraft is authorized only when an officer reasonably believes that the suspect has used or is about to use deadly force by use of a deadly weapon against the air crew, ground officers or innocent third parties.” A suspect driving aggressively or recklessly does not constitute use of a deadly weapon, the new policy states.

Judge Stops N.Y. From Cutting $260 Millions in NYC School Funds

A judge temporarily blocked New York state from cutting approximately $260 million in New York city school funding on Thursday after education and union officials could not come to an agreement on the use of teacher evaluations. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Manuel Mendez issued a preliminary injunction at the request of a group of parents and students, who earlier this month filed a lawsuit claiming that the funding cuts violate students’ constitutional right to meaningful educational opportunities. The injunction will last until a final determination in the lawsuit is reached, Mendez said. The New York City school budget for 2012/2013 was approximately $24 billion, according to the city’s website. The state’s school funding aid to New York city for the current fiscal year is approximately $7.9 billion, according to the lawsuit. The city’s education department lost the money for the current school year after it failed to strike a deal with the United Federation of Teachers by a Jan. 17 deadline on a new system for evaluating teacher performance.The state had made such systems a condition for receiving millions of dollars in aid, and Governor Andrew Cuomo refused to alter the deadline.Teacher evaluations are a contentious issue throughout the country, prompting disputes between cities and teachers unions, including last year’s seven-day strike in Chicago.

California Parents Sue Over Grade School Yoga

The parents of two California grade school students have sued to block the teaching of yoga classes they complain promote eastern religions, saying children who exercise their choice to opt out of the popular program face bullying and teasing. The Encinitas Unified School District, near San Diego, began the program in September to teach Ashtanga yoga as part of the district’s physical education program – and school officials insist the program does not teach any religion. The lawsuit is the latest twist in a broader national clash over the separation of religion from public education that has seen spirited debate on issues ranging from the permissibility of student-led prayer to whether science instructors can teach alternatives to evolution. The lawsuit, which does not seek any monetary damages, objects to eight-limbed tree posters they say are derived from Hindu beliefs, the Namaste greeting and several of the yoga poses that they say represent the worship of Hindu deities. According to the suit, a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, which supports yoga in schools, allowed the school district to assign 60 minutes of the 100 minutes of physical education required each week to Ashtanga yoga, taught in the schools by Jois-certified teachers.

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