Week of 3/11/13
Share of Homes With Guns Shows 4-Decade Decline
(The New York Times, March 9, 2013)
The share of American households with guns has declined over the past four decades, a national survey shows, with some of the most surprising drops in the South and the Western mountain states, where guns are deeply embedded in the culture.
The gun ownership rate has fallen across a broad cross section of households since the early 1970s, according to data from the General Social Survey, a public opinion survey conducted every two years that asks a sample of American adults if they have guns at home, among other questions.
The rate has dropped in cities large and small, in suburbs and rural areas and in all regions of the country. It has fallen among households with children, and among those without. It has declined for households that say they are very happy, and for those that say they are not. It is down among churchgoers and those who never sit in pews.
The household gun ownership rate has fallen from an average of 50 percent in the 1970s to 49 percent in the 1980s, 43 percent in the 1990s and 35 percent in the 2000s, according to the survey data, analyzed by The New York Times. ...
The survey does not ask about the legality of guns in the home. Illegal guns are a factor in some areas but represent a very small fraction of ownership in the country, said Aaron Karp, an expert on gun policy at the Small Arms Survey in Geneva and at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. He said estimates of the total number of guns in the United States ranged from 280 million to 320 million.
The geographic patterns were some of the most surprising in the General Social Survey, researchers said. Gun ownership in both the South and the mountain region, which includes states like Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming, dropped to less than 40 percent of households this decade, down from 65 percent in the 1970s. The Northeast, where the household ownership rate is lowest, changed the least, at 22 percent this decade, compared with 29 percent in the 1970s. (More)
Weighing Norfolk's plans for hotel conference center
(Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot, March 10, 2013)
For more than a decade, Norfolk officials have dreamed of and saved for a hotel conference center.
In 2002, the city hiked its room and meals taxes to create a fund dedicated to building a hotel conference center or an arena, with an eye toward bringing more visitors to Norfolk. In the decade since, the city bought and razed three historic buildings and spent $16.1 million on those properties and other development costs. And then Norfolk officials pined away as developers ditched plans, the economy curdled, financing shriveled and the vacant lot where a gleaming tower would have been instead hosted dust devils and trash.
Now Norfolk hopes the project will come to fruition through Virginia Beach developer Bruce Thompson. Parameters of the deal resemble previous attempts: The city would provide more than $70 million to pay for building the conference center and parking garage, along with grants to subsidize hotel construction costs and attract a high-end restaurant. Thompson would pay $64 million to build the hotel.
Norfolk officials say studies confirm the city's need for such a facility. The city prudently identified a revenue source and set money aside for the day the project could rise. Norfolk has landed a respected, successful local developer who promises a facility worthy of the city's lofty aspirations - 300 rooms, 23 stories, three restaurants and a rooftop garden and bar. At the least, such a tower creates an edifice much nicer to behold than the current gaping hole in the city's streetscape, only partially filled by a temporary park. ...
Among the projects adding to the debt load: Norfolk spent $36 million to build a cruise ship terminal at Nauticus, only to see cruise ship business go to Baltimore.
And while national trends for hotels and conference centers show modest improvements since the depths of the recession, Old Dominion University's 2012 State of the Region report compared revenue per available hotel room from 2011 to pre-recession 2007 numbers. Virginia Beach saw a gain of 0.9 percent. Norfolk/Portsmouth hotels lost 15.5 percent. Norfolk tourism officials say the city's room revenue improved in 2012, but additional hotel rooms could lower it. So could a recession. (More)
Give port stability, not new operator
(Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot, March 9, 2013)
The Virginia Port Authority's governing board is set to announce this month whether to restructure its arrangement with Virginia International Terminals Inc., the port's private, nonprofit operator, or pursue a new relationship with a for-profit company.
Board members already should have concluded that the better option is to retain VIT. The company was formed about 30 years ago to take control of Virginia's fledgling port and promote economic development, and by nearly every measure it has been successful.
VIT has built the port into the third busiest on the East Coast, upgraded its facilities and prepared it to handle the next generation of massive ships expected to pass through the widened Panama Canal in 2015. And it supports close to 340,000 jobs while posting an annual economic impact of about $41 billion. ...
Public outcry, including from shipping lines, persuaded state officials to revise the timeline. An analysis of the deal by Old Dominion University economist James Koch suggested the APM offer undervalued the port. An opinion from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who said the fate of operations at the port should be determined by the port authority's board, rather than Connaughton, led to further delays.
In the meantime, a recent preliminary report on the port's operations concluded that claims of VIT having an unsustainable business model were overstated. The report highlighted areas where VIT could be more efficient, and the company is undertaking efforts to reorganize. (More)
Virginia Schools Honored For Community Service Work
(WRIC-TV/The Associated Press, March 10, 2013)
Several Virginia colleges and universities are getting federal recognition for their community service.
The 19 schools were among 690 across the country named this week to the 2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
Those recognized were: Blue Ridge Community College, Bluefield College, Bridgewater College, the College of William and Mary, Hollins University, Lynchburg College, Mary Baldwin College, Marymount University, Old Dominion, Radford, Randolph-Macon, Roanoke College, Shenandoah University, The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, University of Mary Washington, University of Richmond, Virginia Tech, Virginia State and Virginia Union.
The honor roll launched in 2006 is overseen by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Officials say it highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community problems and placing more students on a path of civic engagement. (More)
What does transportation bill mean for Hampton Roads?
(WDBJ7.com/The Daily Press, March 10, 2013)
Lawmakers, transportation planners and business experts agree the funding bill the General Assembly passed last month provides much needed money to revitalize Hampton Roads interstates. But that money won't be enough to fund the most expensive transportation needs, the experts say.
A mammoth project such as expanding the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel or building a third crossing would likely cost as much money as the size of the entire transportation package passed for the entire state, officials said.
Aubrey Layne, a regional representative to the Commonwealth Transportation Board ,which allocates money for state projects, said the funds provided will hopefully lead to widening of I-64 on the Peninsula and repairing I-264 and I-64 on the Southside.
"Those are good things. In terms of the regional projects like expansion of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, it can be used as seed money, but it will not be enough to do those projects," Layne said.
Layne said any future expansion of the bridge-tunnels or third crossing construction would involve the private sector. "That will probably mean tolls," Layne said. ...
Gary Wagner, an economist at Old Dominion University, said it will be difficult to measure the short-term economic effect of the new revenues generated for roads.
"The impact over the next few years depends largely on how the funds will be spent. The economic impact of a new road or transportation project is typically much larger than repairing an existing road."
Wagner said the new sales taxes used to fund the road may slow consumer spending in the region.
"Since the overall tax burden for most consumers will increase under the new law...consumer spending on other goods and services should slow as a result, assuming household income growth remains unchanged," Wagner said. "If household income growth returns to pre-recession norms, then I wouldn't expect any reduction in spending because the higher taxes would be largely unnoticeable." (More)
Local winner getting a shot at international festival
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 8, 2013)
Jay Gates sits in a doctor's office biting his nails. The doctor enters to deliver the results of an exam.
"Herpes?" Gates asks.
The doctor confirms, but that isn't the bad news. Gates' pacemaker has a glitch and will automatically stop in 10 minutes. There's nothing the doctor can do.
"You have 10 minutes to live," he says with a shrug. "Sorry."
Gates punches the doctor and dashes out of the office. In half the time he has to live, Gates steals a minivan with two kids inside and shoots a police officer.
And so begins "Worst... Day... EVER!!!," an eight-minute dark comedy that won the Hampton Roads 48 Hour Film contest last summer. This weekend, Gates, a Virginia Beach actor/comedian, and the three other cast members will attend the Filmapalooza Film Festival at the historic Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood (now called the TCL Chinese Theatre) where "Worst... Day... EVER!!!" will compete against films from 115 countries. The top 12 chosen will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival in France this May. ...
"Worst... Day... EVER!!!" also won for best writer, director, editing, actress and the audience choice award. A graduate of Old Dominion University where he earned a degree in business, Gates said the trip to Hollywood may open up many opportunities. (More)
ODU Meeting Need by Offering For-Credit Graduate Procurement Programs
(National Contract Management Association, March 6, 2013)
In a time of ever-tightening budgets for business, government and the military, cost savings are being sought in every aspect of operations. The field of procurement, or purchasing and contracting for goods, services and construction, represents an area where organizations will be tested to find efficiencies in a difficult financial climate.
Old Dominion University is filling the gap, offering one of the country's first for-credit, graduate-level procurement programs.
The program is headed by Stephen Gordon, a faculty member in the Department of Urban Studies and Public Administration of ODU's College of Business and Public Administration (CBPA), who joined the university in 2011 after more than 35 years as one of the country's leading experts in public procurement. He came to ODU from the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing, where he was a visiting research fellow and served as president and member of the board of directors . Previously, Gordon had been director of procurement for the city of Alexandria. (More)
Virginia's Liberty transforms into evangelical mega-university
(The Washington Post, March 6, 2013)
The small Baptist college that television preacher Jerry Falwell founded here in 1971 has capitalized on the online education boom to become an evangelical mega-university with global reach.
In the almost six years since Falwell's death, Liberty University has doubled its student head count - twice.
Total enrollment now exceeds 74,000, with nearly 62,000 working toward degrees online in fields such as psychology, business, education, criminal justice and, of course, religion. That makes Liberty the largest university in Virginia - with more than double the number of students at No. 2 George Mason - and the largest private, nonprofit university in the country. With a slogan of "training champions for Christ," Liberty also is the nation's largest university with a religious affiliation.
The surging enrollment for a bastion of Christian conservatism in the central Virginia foothills highlights the school as a market leader at the crossroads of religion and higher education. Liberty figured out how to recruit masses of students via the Internet years before elite universities began ballyhooed experiments with free online courses. ...
Liberty had about 3,800 online students in fall 2005. Since then, its online head count has grown an average of about 8,000 students a year. The university became Virginia's largest in the fall of 2008. Last fall, it had 74,369 students.
"That's a remarkable statistic," said John R. Broderick, president of the public Old Dominion University in Norfolk, which has about 25,000 students. "To scale up to that level, the resources that you would need to do it would make a real interesting business model." (More)
Growing educators for math, science
(Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot, March 7, 2013)
Recruiting more math and science teachers has long been a critical need in Virginia - the state needs more than the 10 fully licensed physics teachers it produced in 2011 to keep kids learning.
Old Dominion University has become the first college in Virginia to use state grant money and a program started in Texas to induce more math and science majors to take their skills to Virginia's classrooms. That's a smart, scientific approach to growing our own educators, better teaching our kids and preparing them for college or careers.
MonarchTeach will receive nearly $700,000 over two years from money set aside by the General Assembly in 2012 to recruit students for the Math and Science Teacher Education Reform Initiative.
ODU hopes to enroll up to 20 students in the program beginning in August, with incentives that include free tuition for two of the required teaching courses. Those who graduate from the four-year MonarchTeach program beginning in the spring of 2017 will leave the university with degrees in math and science along with Virginia teaching licenses.
In Texas, the UTeach program founded at the University of Texas at Austin in 1997 saw tremendous success over the course of a decade in training more of its graduates to teach in math and science fields - 746 educators since the program began. According to UTeach, 88 percent of the Austin program's graduates become teachers. After five years, about 80 percent remain in schools. (More)
Gun culture, tragic mishaps go arm-in-arm
(The Daily Star (Lebanon), March 7, 2013)
Almost everyone has a story, but the one Khodor tells is among the saddest. Almost two years ago, 27-year-old Imad, Khodor's neighbor and friend in Beirut's southern suburbs, accidentally shot and killed his teenage brother.
Imad had been sitting on the main staircase of his building, casually toying with a 9mm pistol - not an unusual possession for a young man in his neighborhood. Somehow, as his brother Suhail (then 18 or 19, Khodor says) approached the building's entrance gate, Imad's pistol discharged, the runaway bullet devastatingly finding Suhail's head.
With estimates for the number of privately held arms in Lebanon ranging from 500,000 to 2 million, and in the absence of stringent oversight of the issuance and terms of personal weapons permits, Lebanon's gun culture not only represents an oft discussed security threat to the nation but also puts lives at risk every day in Lebanese homes and recreational spaces. Yet, the issue remains far from the top of the agenda of Lebanon's civil society. ...
Held perhaps originally for protection, weapons have become integral to the expression of emotion in Lebanon.
"If we are happy or sad, in both situations we use shooting to express [ourselves]," says Fadi Abi Allam, president of local NGO Permanent Peace Movement.
Yet, while its gun culture is certainly in some ways distinctive, in others it is typical of the region, says Aaron Karp, a senior consultant with the Small Arms Survey in Switzerland and lecturer in political science at Old Dominion University in the United States.
"For a lot of men ownership of a firearm is an important sign of personal completeness," Karp told The Daily Star by telephone. (More)
Showing some love to small businesses
(Opinion, The Virginian-Pilot, March 6, 2013)
"Small business" means jobs.
Last year, a Norfolk task force devised a plan to gin up more of them.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses generate as much as 65 percent of new jobs created across the country. For Norfolk, one of many cities in Hampton Roads struggling to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on defense spending, small businesses play a crucial role.
Despite encouraging numbers in job growth throughout the region, Old Dominion University economics professor James Koch said last year he wished research at local universities and at Eastern Virginia Medical School had led to more start-ups.
The task force found the city needed to change a few things about how it does business in order to make Norfolk more attractive to entrepreneurs considering a location here, and to retain and grow the small businesses already in the city.
Councilwoman Theresa Whibley said the group met three or four times to come up with a set of recommendations.
"It was the most energetic and most directed group," she said. "We talked about problems getting and keeping businesses and solutions we felt would help."
When the group met with City Manager Marcus Jones in December, it made two specific recommendations.
First: "Create a user-friendly website that is specific to attracting, growing, and retaining small businesses in Norfolk." (More)
ODU program aimed at adding math, science teachers
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 6, 2013)
Old Dominion University will be the first school in Virginia to implement a new program geared toward increasing the number of high-quality math and science teachers in Virginia's middle and high schools.
Known as MonarchTeach, the initiative is modeled on the University of Texas' UTeach program, which is offered by 35 colleges and universities nationwide. Funded by a $700,000 state grant, it is part of Gov. Bob McDonnell's "Opportunity to Learn" education agenda.
The objective is to address a critical shortage of qualified teachers in the so-called STEM subject areas: science, technology, engineering and math.
The Virginia Department of Education says school divisions increasingly look to other states to fill teaching vacancies in math and science because of a dearth of in-state candidates. For example, Virginia's teacher-preparation programs produced only 10 fully licensed physics teachers in 2011.
The key component of MonarchTeach is a retooling of the education courses taken by math and science majors who plan to become teachers. Those courses will be more heavily focused on math and science than traditional education classes, said Mary Enderson, an associate professor of education who is directing the program.
"What's different about UTeach is, the core of the professional education courses is designed strictly for math and science teachers," Enderson said. (More)
Governor McDonnell Applauds ODU for Effort to Get More Mathematics & Science Teachers Into Virginia Classrooms
(Virginia.gov, March 4, 2013)
Governor Bob McDonnell today announced that Old Dominion University (ODU) will be the first post-secondary institution in Virginia to implement an innovative program pioneered in Texas to increase the number of high quality mathematics and science teachers in the Commonwealth's middle and high schools. The program, known as "MonarchTeach", will integrate requirements for majors in mathematics and science with specially designed teacher-preparation courses.
MonarchTeach is part of Governor McDonnell's 'Opportunity to Learn' education reform agenda and is part of the overall effort to provide a high-quality education to all students in Virginia to best prepare them for the top jobs of the 21st Century. The Mathematics and Science Teacher Education Initiative was approved by the 2012 General Assembly along with $700,000 in funding. The initiative is one of several Governor McDonnell measures focused on improving instruction and creating new learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics - subjects known collectively as STEM.
"The pace of innovation around the world is breathtaking and for Virginia to remain competitive in the global economy, our young people must possess the STEM skills employers demand," McDonnell said. "This means the Commonwealth's public schools must have a reliable supply of excellent mathematics and science teachers. This initiative is another step towards ensuring that every student graduates high school either college or career ready, and has the opportunity to learn from the very best."
Implementation will begin in August with the enrollment of up to 20 students. Participants completing the four-year MonarchTeach program will graduate in spring 2017 with undergraduate degrees in their disciplines as well as Virginia teaching licenses with corresponding endorsements.
ODU will offer two of the required courses in pedagogy tuition free as an incentive for mathematics and science majors to enter the MonarchTeach program. The university is also creating a menu of scholarship and internship opportunities for participants.
"This initiative is designed to make teaching a more attractive option for mathematics and science majors by removing barriers and providing incentives while maintaining undergraduate rigor in the disciplines studied," Secretary of Education Laura Fornash said.
MonarchTeach is modeled after the University of Texas at Austin's successful UTeach program. UTeach - which is now offered by 35 colleges and universities nationwide - has produced more than 1,100 mathematics and science teachers since 1997.
"At Old Dominion University, our commitment to improving K-12 STEM education will be greatly enhanced by offering high-quality, evidence-based educator preparation programs like MonarchTeach," said ODU President John R. Broderick. "This program will rely on the collaboration of outstanding faculty members from our College of Sciences and College of Education in preparing students for careers as highly effective STEM teachers." (More)
No dinner plans? There's (almost) an app for that
(Suffolk News-Herald, March 4, 2013)
Suffolk software developer Doug Pillsbury and his wife are no strangers to the "what's for dinner" conundrum.
Like busy couples everywhere, the end of the day often finds them sans plans for a home-cooked meal and perusing options for a budget-wise dining experience beyond the nest.
"My wife and I can't tell you how many times we come home from work and neither of us have taken out something to thaw," Pillsbury said.
After successfully launching a mobile app for deer hunters in 2012, Mealteca, a "time-sensitive advertisement" app for restaurants, is one of several new projects under development by Pillsbury's DJP Limited, after it relocated from Chesapeake to ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center in North Suffolk.
For a monthly fee, Mealteca, which Pillsbury plans to launch in April, will allow restaurants to advertise special offers in real time to potential customers who have downloaded the app for free. ...
The ODU alumnus said admission into VMASC's incubator, which was recently approved by the Board of Advisors, has opened new horizons for his company.
Other new DJP projects, he said, dovetail with one of VMASC's focuses - medical efficiency.
"We have a lot of software technology we are working on that fits right in with what VMASC is doing," Pillsbury said. "Being here is critical for us at this point in our life."
Thomas Reese, director of business development at VMASC, said the incubator seeks out research-focused companies in modeling and simulation.
Federal Economic Development Administration funding, through the Hampton Roads Partnership, partly supports the incubator, he said.
"We only have about three companies in there currently," he said, adding that others have circulated through since the incubator's 2007 opening. (More)