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A Russian beverage company said on Thursday that it was acquiring the Pabst Brewing Company, which makes the Pabst Blue Ribbon beer popular with barflies and hipsters alike and other brands like Colt 45 and Old Milwaukee.

The company did not disclose terms of the transaction, but people briefed on the matter said the price was more than $700 million in cash.

The buyer is Oasis Beverages, a Russian brewer and beverages distributor. Backing Oasis is TSG Consumer Partners, an American private equity firm focused on consumer goods, which will take a minority stake.

“Pabst Blue Ribbon is the quintessential American brand – it represents individualism, egalitarianism and freedom of expression – all the things that make this country great,” Eugene Kashper, the chairman of Oasis Beverages, said in a statement. “The opportunity to work with the company’s treasure trove of iconic brands, some of which I started my career selling, is a dream come true. It will be an honor to work with Pabst’s dedicated employees and partner distributors as we continue to build the business.”

Pabst has been owned by Dean Metropoulos, the consumer products magnate who recently took over the Twinkie line of products from Hostess Brands with private equity firm Apollo.


After 8 days of work, historically unproductive, unpopular Congress goes home to campaign

After voting to fund military action against Islamic State, Congress just couldn’t take anymore. The US House announced Thursday an early end to an already shortened fall session so lawmakers could do what they value most: campaign for reelection.

This week, the House and Senate both approved President Barack Obama’s request to arm so-called "moderate" rebel groups in Syria as part of a plan to step up the US military campaign against Islamic State militants. That was about all Congress could muster. 

While a national debate roils about professional athletes whacking kids, it seems useful to remember that 19 states still allow children to be hit in public school, sometimes to the point of bruising. A federal data analysis found that on average, one child is hit in public school every 30 seconds somewhere in the United States.

While 31 states have now banned corporal punishment, these states still allow it: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. In many places, parental permission is required — and often given. It is more prevalent in Texas; least prevalent in Wyoming. The last state to abolish it was New Mexico, in 2011.

The practice persists because some educators and parents believe it helps modify disruptive behavior despite no conclusive evidence that it actually does. Some students are hit for severe infractions of school rules, and others for minor ones, like being tardy.

How many kids get hit? According to an analysis of federal data from 2009-2010, the Children’s Defense Fund reported in 2014 that 838 children were hit on average each day in public school, based on a 180-day school year, which would be 150,840 instances of corporal punishment a year — less than just a few years earlier but still a rather stunning number. African-American students and students with disabilities are disproportionately subject to corporal punishment in school, data shows.

American high school students are more concerned about freedom of speech and the first amendment than adults, including their teachers, a new poll has found.

The national study of 10,463 high school students and 588 teachers was released Wednesday to coincide with the celebration of Constitution Day and was funded by the John S and James L Knight Foundation.

The first amendment, adopted in 1791, states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

According the poll:

Some 24% of students agreed with the statement that the first amendment right to free speech goes too far in guaranteeing the rights of religion, speech, press assembly and petition (55% disagree).
In comparison, a Newseum Institute survey tracking adult opinions on the first amendment showed that 38% of adults feel the amendment goes too far.
This was the first time in the poll’s history that students were more in favour of the first amendment than adults. Ten years ago when the poll began 35% of students said the amendment went too far compared with 30% of adults.

The poll also found that students who consumed the most news online were the most supportive of free expression. And those who had been taught about the first amendment were more supportive still:

Some 65% of the students who see digital news on a daily basis agreed strongly that people should be able to express unpopular opinions.
Among those who had had a first amendment-related class, support for free speech rose to 69%.
The survey follows a fierce public debates on freedom of speech, surveillance and privacy in the wake of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about widespread spying on the American public, first reported by the Guardian and Washington Post.
But the poll found nearly half (47%) of students had read or heard little or nothing about the story, and 10% did not know enough about it to even answer the question. Just 3% said freedom of the press was the most important protection under the amendment while 65% said freedom of speech and 25% freedom of religion.

Students with higher awareness of the NSA affair were, however, much more likely to approve of the actions of someone who exposed government secret programs. Some 56% of those with a lot of awareness approved of this conduct, compared with 44% of those with some awareness, 30% of those with a little awareness, and only 26% of those with no awareness.

The poll found students are the most supportive of first amendment freedoms when they relate to them personally. Some 61% of students agreed that they should be allowed to express their opinions about teachers and school administrators on Facebook without worrying about being punished by school authorities. More than six in 10 also agreed that high school students should be allowed to report on controversial issues in their school newspaper without the approval of school authorities.

Teachers, not so much. Two-thirds of teachers disagreed that students should not be held accountable for what they say about teachers and administrators on Facebook. And 57% disagreed that students should be allowed to report on controversial issues in their school newspaper without approval from school authorities.

But while students feel they should be free online, they do not believe other people, companies or the government should be able to do what they want with what they share.

• 72% would disapprove of others using and distributing a picture they had posted online.

• 71% mildly or strongly disagree with the statement: “businesses should be allowed to track your searches online to personalize your search results and sell you products.”

• 80% said it was important that the content they post online is private and available only to those whom you want it to be available.

• 60% disagreed with the statement: “the government should be allowed to spy on anyone’s online messages and phone calls as a way of identifying possible terrorists.”

Jon Sotsky, director of strategy and assessment for the Knight Foundation, said high school students might be more supportive of freedom of speech because they see themselves as the creators of content and not just the consumers.

He said there was a clear trend for young people to be more supportive of first amendment rights, especially online, but that major questions remained unanswered.

“Public opinion about the first amendment can be very fickle and is swayed by current events,” he said. “Fourteen to 18-year-olds were still in diapers on 9/11. The big question is how they will respond over the passage of time,” he said.

SOUTHINGTON, Conn. – A “suspicious” looking middle school student with a “green military-type jacket” sent a Connecticut school into lockdown for two hours Tuesday.

A school staff member alerted school authorities to a suspicious man roaming the school hallway, describing the person as roughly 5 feet 7 inches and wearing a green military-type jacket. School officials relayed the possible threat to police, who issued a lockdown around 11 a.m., NBC reports.

“Officers searched the John F. Kennedy Middle School and its surrounding grounds, but police said the initial search ‘revealed nothing of a suspicious nature,’” reports.

The school district alerted parents of the lockdown, which of course made them very worried. Several nervous parents waited outside of the school during the search, but those who approached were told to go back and wait in their cars, according to WFSB.

“We got a phone call 15 to 20 minutes ago saying a teacher saw a suspicious person in the area and that’s all they said,” parent Courtney Peluso told the news site.

“It bothers me a little bit, it makes me wonder who is walking around, but they’re safe like the officer said, they are safe,” parent Andrea Smith said.

Meanwhile, school staff secured the school’s 800 students in classrooms and the cafeteria, superintendent Tim Connellan said.

At some point, police and school officials found a student fitting the description, and he was deemed not a threat. Police then conducted a second search, just in case, before giving the “all-clear” around 1 p.m., NBC reports.

Connellan told WFSB the student was walking in the hallway, while other students were in class, so that’s why the staff member who reported him was so suspicious, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Don’t students walk the hallway to go to the restroom all the time when other students are in class?

Perhaps it was the green jacket that make him look like a terrorist threat.

Regardless, the superintendent said neither the student nor the staffer who reported him will face disciplinary action.

NBC reports the lockdown at JFK Middle School is the second in recent weeks, after issued a lockdown a few weeks ago while investigating a nearby back robbery.

Several who posted to the news sites had some harsh criticisms for how school officials handled the suspicious person complaint.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Students statewide may soon be required to pass the U.S. citizenship test. It’s all part of an initiative by the Missouri Civics Education Initiative to ensure future generations understand American Government and U.S. History.

This initiative would require a passing score in order for students to get their high school degree or G.E.D equivalent.

Current state law requires students to pass some sort of test on the U.S. and Missouri Constitution— but this initiative would standardize the exam statewide.

Most students taking the course Law and Liberty at Parkview High School can name all three branches of government. But more difficult questions like how many justices make up the Supreme Court can stump to students.

These are the kinds of questions immigrants must answer correctly in order to earn U.S. citizenship— questions students in Missouri may soon also have to answer.

"When our citizens don’t understand basic American civics, they’re not likely to vote or take part in policy decision," said Sam Stone, Campaign Manager for the Missouri Civics Education Initiative.

Stone said the test would be made up of 100 questions from the U.S. citizenship and immigration exam. Stone said by using the existing citizenship test, there would be no cost for test development, administration, nor study materials which are available online.

"This state legislative initiative allows schools to administer the test any way they deem fit," said Stone.

Missouri law already requires students to take some form of an exam. Currently, Springfield Public Schools students are required to take a course in American government and pass U.S. and Missouri constitution test in order to graduate. The test was developed from national assessments and teacher input.

"When you look at the test we’ve developed, we’re not asking students to just memorize information about government, we’re asking them to read excerpts from the preamble of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights," said Nancy Schneider, SPS Coordinator of Curriculum and Materials Design.

Schneider said the district is open to change.

"As long as they’re asking the information the students are learning so the student have the adequate learning to pass, I think that’s fine," said Schneider.

Those who support the initiative point out that a heavy national focus on science, technology, engineering, and math has put civics in the backburner— something former Missouri governor Bob Holden worries will affect the future of Missouri.

"This initiative incorporated into our educational system at the high school level, is the right place, at the right time to educate America’s youth on civic education before they become fully-fledged citizens with responsibility that voting entails," said Holden.

Six other states are pursuing similar legislation, including Oklahoma and Utah.

There is no one yet sponsoring a bill for the legislation.

Grand Jury Process Raises Questions About a Ferguson Indictment

(Reuters) - The failed Scottish vote to pull out from the United Kingdom stirred secessionist hopes for some in the United States, where almost a quarter of people are open to their states leaving the union, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found.

Some 23.9 percent of Americans polled from Aug. 23 through Sept. 16 said they strongly supported or tended to support the idea of their state breaking away, while 53.3 percent of the 8,952 respondents strongly opposed or tended to oppose the notion.

The urge to sever ties with Washington cuts across party lines and regions, though Republicans and residents of rural Western states are generally warmer to the idea than Democrats and Northeasterners, according to the poll.

Anger with President Barack Obama’s handling of issues ranging from healthcare reform to the rise of Islamic State militants drives some of the feeling, with Republican respondents citing dissatisfaction with his administration as coloring their thinking.

But others said long-running Washington gridlock had prompted them to wonder if their states would be better off striking out on their own, a move no U.S. state has tried in the 150 years since the bloody Civil War that led to the end of slavery in the South.

"I don’t think it makes a whole lot of difference anymore which political party is running things. Nothing gets done," said Roy Gustafson, 61, of Camden, South Carolina, who lives on disability payments. "The state would be better off handling things on its own."

Scottish unionists won by a wider-than-expected 10-percentage-point margin.

Falling public approval of the Obama administration, attention to the Scottish vote and the success of activists who accuse the U.S. government of overstepping its authority - such as the self-proclaimed militia members who flocked to Nevada’s Bundy ranch earlier this year during a standoff over grazing rights - is driving up interest in secession, experts said.

"It seems to have heated up, especially since the election of President Obama," said Mordecai Lee, a professor of governmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, who has studied secessionist movements.


Republicans were more inclined to support the idea, with 29.7 percent favoring it compared with 21 percent of Democrats.

Brittany Royal, a 31-year-old nurse from Wilkesboro, North Carolina, said anger over the “Obamacare” healthcare reform law made her wonder if her state would be better off on its own.

"That has really hurt a lot of people here, myself included. My insurance went from $40 a week for a family of four up to over $600 a month for a family of four," said Royal, a Republican. "The North Carolina government itself is sustainable. Governor (Pat) McCrory, I think he has a better healthcare plan than President Obama."

By region, the idea was least popular in New England, the cradle of the Revolutionary War, with just 17.4 percent of respondents open to pulling their state out.

It was most popular in the Southwest, where 34.1 percent of respondents back the idea.

That region includes Texas, where an activist group is calling the state’s legislature to put the secession question on a statewide ballot. One Texan respondent said he was confident his state could get by without the rest of the country.

"Texas has everything we need. We have the manufacturing, we have the oil, and we don’t need them," said Mark Denny, a 59-year-old retiree living outside Dallas on disability payments.

Denny, a Republican, had cheered on the Scottish independence movement.

"I have totally, completely lost faith in the federal government, the people running it, whether Republican, Democrat, independent, whatever," he said.

Even in Texas, some respondents said talk about breaking away was more of a sign of their anger with Washington than evidence of a real desire to go it alone. Democrat Lila Guzman, of Round Rock, said the threat could persuade Washington lawmakers and the White House to listen more closely to average people’s concerns.

"When I say secede, I’m not like (former National Rifle Association president) Charlton Heston with my gun up in the air, ‘my cold dead hands.’ It’s more like – we could do it if we had to," said Guzman, 62. "But the first option is, golly, get it back on the right track. Not all is lost. But there might come a point that we say, ‘Hey, y’all, we’re dusting our hands and we’re moving on.’"

Did Edward Snowden’s revelations on NSA surveillance compromise the ability of intelligence agencies to monitor terrorist groups? Contrary to lurid claims made by U.S. officials, a new independent analysis of the subject says no. As reported by NBC:

“.…Flashpoint Global Partners, a private security firm, examined the frequency of releases and updates of encryption software by jihadi groups….. It found no correlation in either measure to Snowden’s leaks about the NSA’s surveillance techniques, which became public beginning June 5, 2013.”

The report itself goes on to make the point that, “Well prior to Edward Snowden, online jihadists were already aware that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were attempting to monitor them.” This point would seem obvious in light of the fact that terrorist groups have been employing tactics to evade digital surveillance for years. Indeed, such concerns about their use of sophisticated encryption technology predate even 9/11. Contrary to claims that such groups have fundamentally altered their practices due to information gleaned from these revelations, the report concludes. “The underlying public encryption methods employed by online jihadists do not appear to have significantly changed since the emergence of Edward Snowden.”

These findings are notable both for empirical rigor through which they ascertained, as well as their contradiction of apparently baseless statements made by high-ranking U.S. officials regarding the impact of the leaks on U.S. national security. This is particularly important as it pertains to the ongoing public debate over the alleged threat of ISIS. In making his case that the danger from ISIS to the United States is “imminent”, Marco Rubio recently claimed that the group has: “…learned a lot about our intelligence-gathering capabilities through a series of disclosures and other sorts of things, and they have become increasingly capable of evading detection.”

Earlier this month former NSA head Michael Hayden also stated, “The changed communications practices and patterns of terrorist groups following the Snowden revelations have impacted our ability to track and monitor these groups”, while Matthew Olsen of the National Counterterrorism Centre would add “Following the disclosure of the stolen NSA documents, terrorists are changing how they communicate to avoid surveillance.”

Olsen went on to say that terrorist groups are, “….moving to more secure communications platforms, using encryption and avoiding electronic communications altogether.” In fact, it’s well known that terrorist groups have employed such tactics as a means to protect their data and communications for years. Correspondingly, it’s difficult to imagine how statements suggesting that such tactics are new developments prompted by Snowden could be made in good faith.

Contrary to official statements and farcical attempts to launder information through pliant media outlets, no substantive case has ever been made that the Snowden revelations have harmed the ability of intelligence agencies to monitor terrorist organizations. The source of this most recent study is notable as it comes from a private security firm whose analysts actually have in past been accused of threat inflation; and yet who nevertheless conclude that the danger from extremist groups has not been materially impacted by the Snowden leaks.

Snowden’s critics have accused his actions of contributing from everything from the rise of ISIS to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. Seemingly every possible failure of the U.S. intelligence community has been attributed back to his disclosures, yet upon further analysis these allegations have always been revealed to be unfounded. Now, in an attempt to both build consensus for a new conflict in Iraq and distract from the ongoing erosion of domestic civil liberties, it is again being insinuated that his revelations have aided terrorists and made the United States less secure.

This most recent study is the most comprehensive repudiation of these charges to date. Contrary to lurid claims to the contrary, the facts demonstrate that terrorist organizations have not benefited from the NSA revelations, nor have they substantially altered their behavior in response to them. Despite this, don’t expect to hear any change in the rhetoric of those who have been baselessly insisting otherwise.

When Apple published its first Transparency Report on government activity in late 2013, the document contained an important footnote that stated:

“Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.”

Writer and cyber-activist Cory Doctorow at the time recognized that language as a so-called “warrant canary,” which Apple was using to thwart the secrecy imposed by the Patriot Act.

Warrant canaries are a tool used by companies and publishers to signify to their users that, so far, they have not been subject to a given type of law enforcement request such as a secret subpoena. If the canary disappears, then it is likely the situation has changed — and the company has been subject to such request.

Now, Apple’s warrant canary has disappeared. A review of the company’s last two Transparency Reports, covering the second half of 2013 and the first six months of 2014, shows that the “canary” language is no longer there.

The warrant canary’s disappearance is significant because Section 215 of the Patriot Act permits the National Security Agency to demand companies to hand over their business records in secret.

The Patriot Act tool is also controversial because the NSA gains permission to use it by applying to the FISA Court, a body where only the government can speak and whose records are kept almost entirely secret. The tech industry has been battling to disclose the existence of so-called “FISA requests” and only won the right to do so this year; however, companies must wait six months to disclose the number of requests they receive, and can only do so as a range (such as “0-999″).

The disappearance of Apple’s warrant canary thus suggests that the company too is affected by FISA proceedings. Apple did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Update: As the ACLU’s Christopher Soghoian has noted, Apple’s latest report says it has not received any orders for “bulk data.” That language, however, appears in the National Security Letter section of the document (NSL letters concern domestic FBI requests, not FISA requests) and, in any event, not all FISA requests concern bulk data.

Meanwhile, as stated above, Apple is newly silent in regard to Section 215, the law that covers the FISA requests whose existence is subject to temporary non-disclosure rules. The upshot is that it is unclear if Apple has not received any FISA requests, or if it is under a gag order not to disclose such requests.

Update 2: Ars Technica suggests that the disappearance of the warrant canary is a result of Apple following new Justice Department guidelines that permit companies to immediately publish ranges of surveillance requests — so long as the figure reflects a combined number of FISA requests and NSL requests. In other words, Apple may have received NSL requests, but not FISA ones (that does not necessarily explain, however, its decision to remove the section 215 language).

An eighth grade student from Weaverville Elementary School got a detention slip for sharing his school prepared lunch Tuesday.

Kyle Bradford, 13, shared his chicken burrito with a friend who didn’t like the cheese sandwich he was given by the cafeteria.

Bradford didn’t see any problem with sharing his food.

"It seemed like he couldn’t get a normal lunch so I just wanted to give mine to him because I wasn’t really that hungry and it was just going to go in the garbage if I didn’t eat it," said Bradford.

But the Trinity Alps Unified School District has regulations that prohibit students from sharing their meals.

The policies set by the district say that students can have allergies that another student may not be aware of.

Tom Barnett, the Superintendent of the Trinity Alps Unified School District says that hygiene issues also come into play when banning students from sharing meals.

"We have a policy that prohibits students from exchanging meals. Of course if students are concerned about other students not having enough to eat we would definitely want to consider that, but because of safety and liability we cannot allow students to actually exchange meals," said Barnett.

Bradford’s mother Sandy Bradford thinks that her son did the right thing by sharing his lunch. She also believes that it isn’t up to the school to discipline her son for good manners.

“By all means the school can teach them math and the arithmetic and physical education, but when it comes to morals and manners and compassion, I believe it needs to start at home with the parent,” Sandy said.

Bradford says that he would definitely share his lunch again if a friend wanted a portion of his meal.

A man suspected of raping a woman at knife point after hours on the El Molino High School campus was to be released from jail Thursday after prosecutors said they found evidence that may clear him of the assault.

Sheriff’s officials initially said a masked David J. Kocalis, 24, of Guerneville sneaked up behind the woman Aug. 30, held a knife to her and raped her near the Forestville school’s tennis courts.

He was arrested the next day on charges carrying a possible life sentence after the woman identified a prominent tattoo, and the car he was driving was captured on videotape.

But prosecutor Brian Staebell said Thursday investigators have since uncovered evidence that may point to his innocence. A judge allowed Kocalis, who had been held on $1.2 million bail, to be released on his own recognizance.

His lawyer, Evan Zelig, said a review of cellphone records showed Kocalis and the 18-year-old woman knew each other. Earlier in the day, she sent him a text message inviting Kocalis for sex, Zelig said.

Their tryst began inside his borrowed Porsche SUV but moved to a spot near the tennis courts because the car’s alarm kept going off, Zelig said.

After it was over, Kocalis drove the woman home, the lawyer said. She fabricated a story about being raped because she missed her curfew and Kocalis refused to lend her $20, Zelig said.

“It was determined her story was not credible whatsoever,” Zelig said outside court. “It was completely made up.”

Zelig said he brought the new information to sheriff’s investigators who analyzed both cellphones. They confirmed the messages as well as attempts by the woman to delete her own texts, Zelig said.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is planning to train veterans to become solar panel installers in the next six years, the White House said Thursday.
The jobs training program is among a host of initiatives the White House says will cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 300 million tons through 2030, plus save billions of dollars on energy bills for homeowners and businesses. It will launch this fall at one or more military bases and train a total of at least 50,000, including veterans.

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