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“We still have a gun problem in this country,” said Paul Helmke at the National Press Club Newsmaker event on Friday. Helmke, former CEO & President of the Brady Campaign/Center to Prevent Gun Violence and former Republican mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, emphasized that even if the numbers are decreasing, there is still a serious problem.
He indicated that 32 people are murdered with guns every day, 80 daily gun deaths if self-inflicted incidences are included. Helmke stated there are three to four times as many gun injuries as deaths.
The decrease in deaths reported may be the result of better medical care and not a result of decreased gun violence, Helmke said, adding that healthcare professionals indicate gunshot incidences today are equal to those 10-to-20 years ago.
Helmke believes the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case, Heller v. District of Columbia, opens a door of opportunity to find common ground between gun control and gun rights advocates because it defines Second Amendment rights. “The Supreme Court ruled that an individual may own a gun for defensive purposes, at least in your home,” he said.
Helmke pointed out Justice Scalia’s court opinion that stated, “These rights, like other rights, are not unlimited.” Helmke also mentioned the restrictions enumerated by the court, which includes who may own a gun, how it is sold, stored and carried, and even what kind of guns may be owned.
He believes the court’s defined rights and limitations allow discussions on where to draw the lines within those categories. He emphasized a need to address what he and others believe to be a “broken” background check system. There also needs to be a review of states’ registration and permitting procedures with an attempt to find at least a minimum national standard to facilitate reciprocity between states on conceal carry permits, Helmke said.
Issues where he thinks the parties may agree, include limiting the types of guns and number of bullets that may be used without registration and limiting those who may own guns, such felons and those with established mental illness. “We should be able to draw some lines,” Helmke said.
While he wants to pursue finding common ground among interested parties, Helmke said negotiations must begin with groups like the National Rifleman’s Association (NRA) and similar organizations because gun violence issues are blocked in Congress. He noted that members of Congress think gun control is “radioactive” and fear criticism against those who address it.
Helmke emphasized that with the Second Amendment better defined by the Supreme Court, there is now an opportunity to work together to fix a major gun problem that has gone unchecked by political leaders.
It looks like Myanmar (also known as Burma) is poised for growth and reform that may bolster the country’s economy, said Asian Development Bank’s Vice President for Southeast/East Asia Steven Groff at a National Press Club Newsmaker event on Tuesday, June 25th. “There are many challenges that the country faces, but our analysis suggests that if the government continues on the path that it is on, Myanmar’s economy could triple by 2030,” he explained as he spoke of changes occurring in the country.
Myanmar has recently undergone a governmental reform from a military junta towards democratic government. The reform is being championed by Myanmar’s current president, Thein Seing, who is widely regarded as a reformer despite ties with the former regime. “The international community was surprised by the change that happened and how quickly it happened,” the VP said. “I think it’s fair to say the people in the country themselves were surprised by the speed with which this reform process began and the speed with which it has continued,” he added.
Groff indicated that Myanmar’s economy has already seen a rise in its Gross Domestic Product, stating they had a 6.3% growth last year, expect 6.5% this year and 6.7% next year. He projects that there will ultimately be an average growth in GDP of approximately 7-8% per annum.
Groff noted that Myanmar is rich in mineral resources but emphasized that a major part of the growth is expected to occur in rural areas. He also mentioned that China and India have established trade routes that will be helpful to Myanmar as they expand their international trade.
Growth won’t be cheap or easy, as the infrastructure is not in place. Groff said that ADB is assisting in a wide range of Myanmar’s development, such as energy, transport, agriculture-related issues, education, the financial sector and possible tourism initiatives.
Myanmar has other significant challenges and obstacles to overcome, Groff warned. He said they will need to develop economic mechanisms, such as a banking sector and capital markets, which will need to include policy and rules. Groff also indicated that the country lacked a judicial sector.
He mentioned that a Myanmar official announced at the President World Economic Forum last year that they were considering a federal system and talked about some of the nation’s struggles as leaders work towards fleshing out the details of the inner workings of the new government. Groff cited corruption and the need for transparency among other problems that need to be addressed.
It is possible that Myanmar’s GDP may grow to match that of Thailand today, he explained. It appears that the global community is willing to make the investment, including businesses such as ADB, who re-established their relationship with the Myanmar government this year after a 25 year haitus due to millions of dollars owed to the bank by the Myanmar government.
Groff recognizes that there is a lot of work ahead and the risks are great, but believes that Myanmar has great potential.
The UFO spotted approaching the nation’s capital early Sunday morning was actually HB-SIA, a prototype aircraft created by the Solar Impulse team and partners. The single seat solar plane requires no fuel, has the wingspan of a 747, the weight of a mid-size car and the operating power of a small scooter, according to a panel of chemistry experts who spoke at the National Press Club’s Newsmaker on Tuesday.
“Turning a dream into a project, things become really difficult,” said Claude Michel, Ph.D., Solvay’s Solar Impulse project manager. The goal of the Solar Impulse project is to produce an airplane that will fly around the world using only solar power, the dream of Swiss aeronaut Bertrand Piccard.
Developing a 24-hour solar plane is not the only goal. Promoting greater energy efficiency is also a major focus. The two initiatives go hand-in-hand, as the first goal cannot be achieved without the second. To accomplish these objectives, design and weight are crucial, said Michel.
The plane looks like a huge glider, with a wingspan of more than 60 meters (roughly 200 feet), 400 kilograms of high-energy lithium batteries, a total weight of only 1,600 kilograms (3,000 lbs.) and travels 40-60 kilometers an hour, according to Michel. The HB-SIA has one more stop to successfully complete its journey across the United States.
The trip has had problems, mainly weather, an issue that will have to be addressed before embarking on a world tour across the oceans. Michel said humidity will be the greatest challenge for the next plane.
It is not the aviation industry, but the chemical industry that is meeting the seemingly insurmountable hurdles. “The success of the Solar Impulse was enabled by advance materials in chemistry,” said George Corbin, Ph.D., head of RD&T at Solvay Specialty Polymers. Solvay has more than 20 applications and over 6,000 parts on the plane, he added.
The panel agreed Solvay’s chemical applications helped solve problems in energy capture, storage and utilization. A special polymer forms a thin film providing longtime protection and mechanical benefits to fragile solar cells and an adhesive polymer supplies the wings with a strong mechanical bond and great performance in the environment, Corbin explained. He said innovations in electrolytes and electrodes made significant improvements in the original battery system.
“It is needless to say that this plane doesn’t fly without chemistry,” agreed Darcy Gentlemen, Ph.D., manager of public policy communications at the American Chemical Society (ACS).
“Chemists have always been consumer driven, very pragmatic . . . they want to make things that are useful,” he said. Pursuits of unexpected results have started many industries, such as the pharmaceutical industry, textile and plastics, Gentleman explained.
He said Solar Impulse may someday lead to a 24/7 flight around the world with no fossil fuel, help produce better electric cars and home energy savings.
Though serious challenges lie ahead, look how far they’ve come. Gentleman said that the plane is a symbol of hope that it may happen.