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Holiday crowds to increase security

With just three weeks to go before the busiest U.S. shopping day of the year – the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday – government security officials are ramping up security efforts.

NEW YORK - When a suicidal gunman entered a New Jersey mall on Monday night and opened fire, store manager Daisy Rodriguez locked the doors and hid in the back of her shop, Preserver Series nothing guiding her but instinct.

"I was panicked. I was scared. I was just shaking," said Rodriguez, 21, a manager at Soma Intimates in the Westfield Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus. "They never trained us."

The 20-year old gunman fired six shots before retreating to a basement to kill himself. No one else was hurt, but the incident renewed attention on security at shopping malls ahead of the holiday season.

Related: Tips and tricks for surviving holiday travel

With just three weeks to go before the busiest U.S. shopping day of the year - the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday -- government security officials are ramping up efforts to better protect the nation's approximately 109,500 malls and shopping centers.

"There has been a significant outreach to major retail outlets and other so-called soft targets to improve security," said a Department of Homeland Security official, who was not authorized to discuss the outreach and requested anonymity.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has spent billions to improve security at federal buildings, airports and other potential targets.

Then, in 2007, when a teen gunman with an AK-47 assault rifle killed nine people, including himself, in an Omaha, Nebraska, shopping mall, attention turned to security at so-called soft targets - places where civilians gather without intensive security. Active shooter incidents at such places have tripled since 2010, law enforcement authorities say.

Last December, a gunman entered a shopping center outside of Portland, Oregon, and opened fire on shoppers, killing two before killing himself.

Overseas, the threat was dramatically emphasized in September, when gunmen entered a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and opened fire on shoppers. A hostage crisis ensued and when the smoke cleared, 72 were dead.

New Jersey mall store manager Rodriguez told Reuters that during five years on the job she has never received workplace violence training -- only fire drills.

"They need to basically train everyone who works here on the safest exit Casing Otterbox Commuter, the safest thing to do if this happens again," she said.

Westfield Group general manager Bryan Gaus said all of Westfield's 47 U.S. malls undergo emergency drills every year and that retailers are offered a chance to participate in drills, which a spokesperson declined to specify. A Soma Intimates spokeswoman did not return a call for comment.

LOCK-DOWN DRILLS

In recent weeks, federal law enforcement agencies have been quietly urging private mall security firms to strengthen and reinforce security measures, including lock-down drills and employee crisis training, according to one federal law enforcement source.

Each of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's 56 field offices around the nation is meeting local police and security personnel at area malls and shopping this month, said FBI spokesman Paul Bresson.

Retailers say the measures include putting plainclothes security staff in uniform and malls paying municipal police salaries during the holidays.

"You want to have a very visible presence to act as a deterrent," said Malachy Kavanagh, spokesman for the International Council on Shopping Centers.

Later this month in Sacramento, California, DHS officials will hold expanded security exercises with all the area malls and shopping centers to reinforce training for active shooter and other emergencies, said Steve Reed, head of security at the 77-acre Arden Fair Mall.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder raised an alarm last month at the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia by saying active shooter incidents have increased 150 percent over the past four years.

Between 2000 and 2008, the U.S. experienced an average of about five "active shooter" incidents a year, but starting in 2009, that figure has tripled OtterBox Defender, Holder said.

"It's become clear that new strategies - and aggressive national response protocols - must be employed to stop shooters in their tracks," Holder told the conference.

Training store merchants in what to do in a crisis is a vital part of such a protocol, said Dan Murphy, a former police officer who helped develop security protocols for Minnesota's Mall of America, one of the nation's largest shopping centers.

"In a state of panic, everything changes," Murphy said. "If you do not practice for a crisis, how you're going to react is unpredictable."
PR

Missouri adolescent sexual assault

A rally organized over the Internet for Daisy Coleman drew mostly locals and college students who gathered on Maryville's courthouse square.

MARYVILLE, Mo. — A day after a special prosecutor was named to re-investigate a northwest Missouri teen sexual abuse case g-suite cardinal manchester, a modest crowd of a few hundred people braved chilly conditions Tuesday night to show support for a girl whose story has drawn worldwide attention.

The rally on Maryville's courthouse square was organized over the Internet by a women's rights activist from the Kansas City area who used social media to garner support for Daisy Coleman, who said she was 14 when a 17-year-old boy gave her alcohol and sexually assaulted her in 2012.

Daisy's story generated new attention and an outpouring of responses on social media following a Kansas City Star investigation. The family also spoke out earlier this summer to Kansas City radio station KCUR.

Melinda Coleman, Daisy's mother, claims justice was denied when Nodaway County prosecutor Robert Rice dropped felony charges against the 17-year-old boy in March 2012, two months after Coleman found her daughter passed out on the family's front porch in below-freezing temperatures. The mother also has said the family had to move from the small town of Maryville because of harassment over the allegations.

The Associated Press generally does not name alleged victims of sexual assault but is naming Daisy because she and her mother have been granting public interviews about the case. The AP is not naming the two who had been accused in the case because there are no active charges against them.

The case has drawn comparisons to one in Steubenville, Ohio, where two 17-year-old high school football players were convicted of raping a West Virginia girl after an alcohol-fueled party in 2012. The case was furiously debated online and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the city's celebrated football team.

The incident in Maryville happened in January 2012, after Daisy and a 13-year-old friend left the Colemans' house in the middle of the night to meet some boys. Daisy's 13-year-old friend also said she was forced to have sex with a 15-year-old. The 15-year-old was charged in the juvenile system.

Supporters of Justice for Daisy pass out flowers before a rally outside the Nodaway County Court House in Maryville, Mo., Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013.
The county sheriff and Rice have insisted their investigation collapsed after the Colemans became uncooperative with investigators and refused to answer questions. Coleman says she and her daughter did cooperate and that investigators didn't do enough to push the case forward g-suite in oldham.

Rice stood behind his earlier statements but said last week that he was asking a court to appoint a special prosecutor because of publicity surrounding the case and recent media stories questioning the integrity of the justice system in the county.

On Monday, Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker on Monday was given that assignment.

More than 2,300 people indicated on the Facebook page for the "Justice for Daisy" rally that they were attending. But 10 minutes before the scheduled 6 p.m. Monday start, there appeared to be as many media members and law enforcement officers as there were rally participants.

Courtney Cole, who organized the event over social networks and got a boost from the Internet hacker group Anonymous, said she wasn't bothered by the modest turnout and pointed to the dozens of reporters scattered around the gathering conducting interviews.

"Even a small turnout is OK," she said. "Just moving the case along makes it a success."

Cole and three other speakers stood at a podium on the northeast corner of the square and used a bullhorn to get their message out that sexual abuse of women is not acceptable.

A second podium set up on the southeast corner of the courthouse for a possible counter-rally to show support for the accused boys stood unused g-suite cardinal.

Melinda Coleman, Daisy's mother, issued a statement Monday night praising Maryville, the school district and even coaches of the two people who had been accused in case for supporting her family.

Neither Coleman nor her daughter attended the rally.

The Serious Fraud Office fraud charges raft

Colin Mark Simpson, 52, faced Gisborne High Court on Friday, entering guilty pleas for nine charges he faced, including theft by a person in a special relationship, false accounting, g-suite manchester obtaining by deception, and false statement by promoter.

The charges carry maximum sentences of between seven and 10 years' imprisonment.

He initially faced 34 counts when charged in January 2012, but the remainder were dropped due to insufficient evidence, or rolled together into the remaining charges.

Two other directors he was jointly charged with g-suite, Nigel Brent O'Leary and John Patrick Gardner, have entered not guilty pleas and will face trial later this month.

Rockforte went into receivership in 2010 after seven years offering consumer and commercial financial services to businesses, mostly in the Poverty Bay area.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) alleges investors lost $3.86 million.

It believes most of investors' money was used as a source of funding for the directors' personal business interests in two companies - Gisborne Haulage and Michael Ward 1969 Ltd, which operated the Jean Jones clothing label.

Graham Gill of the SFO said Simpson's actions had triggered the failure of several businesses.

"This has had a significant impact on the Gisborne community and resulted in the loss of financial investments and jobs," Mr Gill said g-suite cardinal manchester.

Simpson was remanded on bail for sentencing on September 26. His two co-accused, who face 53 charges between them, face trial on September 30.

The first same-sex marriage ceremony

Former Football Ferns player Melissa Ray and Natasha Vitalia were the first couple to be married, with a ceremony starting at 8am at Auckland's Unitarian Church.

Ms Vitalia wore a white shirt and pants, while her wife wore in a strapless gown, nu skin product carrying a bouquet of white roses.

About 100 guests - including vibrantly dressed drag queens in colourful wigs and hats, and Labour MP Louisa Wall, who sponsored the same-sex marriage law - attended the ceremony, with the brides signing their marriage certificate shortly before 9am.

Ms Wall delivered a reading at the service, and says she is immensely proud to see New Zealand leading the world in the way of human rights.

"Today is the day the rights we have been fighting for are realised, with full recognition by the state of our equal citizenship nuskin group," she said.

Ms Ray and Ms Vitalia - who won a radio station competition for their all-expenses-paid wedding and reception - were among 31 same-sex couples intending to marry on Monday - 14 of whom planned to wed in Auckland, with other weddings in Wellington, Christchurch and Rotorua.

Australian couple Trent Kandler and Paul McCarthy tied the knot at Te Papa in Wellington after winning a Tourism New Zealand competition, while at least two other Australian-based couples also wed.

Meanwhile, 30,000 feet above New Zealand, Lynley Bendall and Ally Wanikau said "I do" on a flight from Queenstown to Auckland as part of an Air New Zealand promotion nu skin hong kong.

The Auckland couple wed in front of their four children, family and friends, IP camera manufacturer with Modern Family actor and marriage equality campaigner Jesse Tyler Ferguson acting as MC.

They were serenaded by Kiwi songstresses Anika Moa, Hollie Smith and Boh Runga upon their arrival at Auckland Airport.

A number of other couples tied the knot more casually at registry offices.

The registrar-general of births, deaths and marriages, Jeff Montgomery, says 977 marriage forms have been downloaded from the Department of Internal Affairs' website in the past week - three times as many as usual - including more than 150 couples from overseas.

A further 125 couples have downloaded forms to change a civil union to a marriage.

People with intellectual disabilities, romantic and sexual feelings

Talking about the romantic and sexual feelings of people with intellectual disabilities is taboo – but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, says the Blue Teapot Theatre Company creative director Petal Pilley. The company’s new play, Sanctuary, nu skin product attempts to take an honest and sensitive look at the issues so often swept under the carpet…

SUMMER IN GALWAY: the city is infused with the carnival of arts and sporting festivals. Yet, behind closed doors on Munster Avenue, the work continues for the ensemble at Blue Teapot Theatre Company who graft hard in preparation for the Dublin premiere of the theatre show Sanctuary this September running as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival.

Aiming to be a production which challenges conventional theatre practice, it tackles the subjects of relationships, nuskin sexuality and disability. It is undoubtedly Blue Teapot Theatre Company’s artistic highpoint of 2013, which comes off the back of a sold out run in Galway Arts Festival.

Effecting positive change in public interpretation of ‘disability’
Long an integral part of Galway’s arts community, Blue Teapot has a clear mission: to effect positive change in public consciousness concerning people with intellectual disabilities (ID) thought the medium of theatre, allowing the members inherent talent and creativity to speak for itself.

In the seven years I have spent with this wonderful group of people, I have often been struck by the fact that most adults with ID have extremely limited access to time alone or privacy in an intimate relationship. The nature of being dependent means that many live at home with family or in a group home where they receive care and support.

However, these living arrangements mean that it is almost impossible to have romantic or sexual fulfilment. Couple that with a law which makes it illegal to have sex unless you are married if you are intellectually disabled. The odds are stacked against you.

How to navigate this territory?
This subject is not easy. Many parties are aware and supportive but don’t know how to navigate this territory. This is living tragedy that demands discussion, nuskin group awareness and a more enlightened response from our society to adults with ID.

Christian O’Reilly, the playwright, didn’t simply go away and write a play. It was important that he became familiar with the actors as people and getting involved in the workshop process.

He said of his experience:

Writing ‘Sanctuary’ felt like a collaborative process. I was invited me to meet the company of actors, all of whom have an intellectual disability, and we had a series of conversations over a number of weeks, in which they talked openly, touchingly and often hilariously about sex, relationships and the challenge of meeting someone you might fall in love with in a world that makes this extremely difficult.
I would go off, generate fresh ideas, questions and characters and come back in and run all my ideas by the group and Petal, the Creative Director. Their feedback has helped me discover and shape the play into something that felt authentic to their experiences. The play comes from them, is a reflection of them and is performed by them. The play only exists because of them and nu skin hk, if it’s any good, this is also due to this remarkable group of people.
Sanctuary features Blue Teapot’s permanent acting ensemble, but the lead roles in this production go to Kieran Coppinger and Charlene Kelly, who play Larry and Sophie. The play examines the relationship between both characters, who have ID, and what happens on a visit to the cinema when, desperate to be alone, they steal away from the group and into the privacy of a hotel room.

For anyone visiting Blue Teapot Theatre, it is unquestionable that everybody involved are all fiercely proud of the company’s many achievements. For all that the company does for the community at large, it does tenfold for its participants. All are empowered by their professional relationship with Blue Teapot and gain confidence to participate more fully in the life of their community.

Being invited to perform ‘Sanctuary’ in Dublin for the Dublin Fringe Festival is a very exciting first for Blue Teapot. We are thrilled to be a part of such a dynamic and innovative festival.

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