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Guards become first Sands casino workers with union contract

Security officers at a Pennsylvania casino have become the first to ratify a union contract under billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Security personnel at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem on Wednesday agreed to a three-year deal with Las Vegas Sands Corp., The (Allentown) Morning Call reported. The officers are the only union members at Las Vegas Sands, which has more than 50,000 employees worldwide at casinos in Las Vegas, Singapore and Macau. They are part of the International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America.

The 146-member local approved a deal that gives security guards immediate raises of 8 percent, a seniority structure and a greater say in work rules at the casino in Bethlehem, according to International Union President David Hickey. The vote was 70-6.

“These guys are making history today,” Hickey said. “They’ve hung in there through some hard times to get here. They have a right to be proud.”

Sands guards first voted to unionize in 2011, but the casino company founded by Adelson fought the decision. Negotiations on an initial contract began nearly a year ago.

“The first contract is always the hardest, but we’re pretty happy with what we got,” said George Bonser, a recently retired Sands guard who helped lead the unionization effort. Sands has remained largely free of unions by offering competitive wages and benefits to its workers, and by fighting attempts to organize, the newspaper reported. Sands officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Should atheists deliver opening prayer in Pa. House of Representatives?

HARRISBURG For decades, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, like most governmental bodies, has opened each session with a prayer. But does it have to be delivered by someone who believes in a higher power? That question is at the heart of a battle unfolding in a courtroom across the street from the Capitol. There, members of the House are trying to shut down a legal challenge over who can deliver the invocation at public sessions, placing Pennsylvania in the middle of a debate over the rights of atheists and nonbelievers.

On Wednesday, lawyers for House Speaker Mike Turzai (R. Allegheny), as well as the chamber s parliamentarian and other lawmakers, asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit[1] by a group of atheists, humanists, and nonbelievers claiming discrimination because they have been blocked from giving the invocation at the start of legislative sessions. House members told Judge Christopher C. Conner that their prayer policy is constitutional, stating clearly that members of a regularly established church or religious institution can deliver the invocation. Over the years, representatives from different faiths have been selected for the task, they said.

If you hear from prayer-givers, must you hear from people who don t want to pray but will be respectful and solemnize your occasion? The Constitution says that you don t have to, said Philadelphia lawyer Mark E. Chopko of Stradley Ronon, who is representing House officials. But five Pennsylvania residents and three organizations of atheists, humanists, and free-thinkers counter that the House has treated them like a disfavored minority because they do not believe in God.

They have applied to give the invocation, they said in the suit, but have been turned down. They also contend that once, two of their members who declined to stand during the session s opening prayer were pressured by Turzai and a House security guard to do so.

Discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, disability, and sexual orientation has become prohibited or disfavored, states the lawsuit. Nevertheless, in the House s eyes, people who do not believe in God remain a disfavored minority against whom it is acceptable to discriminate. They are arguing the House s policy violates the free speech, equal protection, and establishment clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Like people who believe in God, the plaintiffs have strong belief systems about what is right and wrong and how they should live their lives, the lawsuit states. Like theists, the plaintiffs are capable of giving inspiring and moving invocations. Conner did not immediately rule on the House s attempt to dismiss the suit.

The debate over legislative prayer and the rights of nonbelievers to give invocations at government meetings has gained attention and headlines in the wake of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. In a divided decision, the justices upheld the longstanding tradition of opening government meetings with prayer, even when a specific religion is favored. The case grew out of a lawsuit by two residents in Greece, N.Y., who argued the town s government regularly opened its meetings with Christian prayer. Most legislatures open their sessions with prayer, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Though the policies vary, the general guidelines are that they be nonsectarian, inclusive of all beliefs, and nonpolitical, said Brenda Erickson, a senior research analyst at the group.

The conference does not track how many legislative chambers allow atheists or nonbelievers to deliver legislative invocations. The Pennsylvania Senate would make such a list. It allowed one of the plaintiffs in the federal legal challenge, Deana Weaver, to deliver an opening invocation.

In my invocation, my appeal was to them as a higher authority to tolerate differences, to welcome diversity, Weaver said. I invoked compassion and tolerance for LGBT, for clean air, clean water, for our military and police and fire and ambulance. I thought it was very motivating and something that is very akin to any other sort of religious prayer, no matter who your entity is. Other governments have decided to do away with prayer. Last year, the City Council in Phoenix voted in a highly controversial move to replace the opening prayer with silent prayer after a group of Satanists signed up to deliver the invocation.

Published: February 22, 2017 6:54 PM EST

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Metamaterial Technologies Inc. partners with Airbus to co-develop and Commercialize metaAIR

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – Metamaterial Technologies Inc. (MTI) and its optical filters division, Lamda Guard, announced that it has entered into a new agreement with leading aircraft manufacturer Airbus to validate, certify, and commercialize its laser protection product metaAIR, for aviation. In 2014, MTI signed its first agreement with Airbus to test and tailor metaAIR, which is a flexible metamaterial optical filter, engineered to protect vision against harmful laser beams aimed at aircraft.

Laser strikes on commercial aircraft are rising globally and laser pointers are increasing in power and decreasing in price. Lasers can distract pilots during critical phases of flight and can cause temporary visual impairment. In 2015, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the number of reported laser incidents nearly doubled to 7,703 in commercial aviation. In 2015, there were 1,439 laser incidents reported to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK and there were almost 600 reported by Transport Canada.

“We know from facts and conversations with clients that cockpit illuminations are real, immediate and increasing in frequency, and metaAIR will benefit our customers,” said Pascal Andrei, Vice President, Chief Product Security Officer at Airbus. “We also see an increasing number of possible applications for metaAIR, beyond the commercial aircraft division.”

MTI is a great example of Airbus “start-up 2 partner” program led by Elsa Keita from Airbus Corporate Innovation. This program aims at building mutually beneficial partnerships with disruptive innovators and Airbus has been working in a successful and collaborative approach with MTI to accelerate their laser protection solution for the benefit of its customers.

“Our objective is to place Canada and its citizens on innovation’s leading edge. The presence of Airbus here today demonstrates that highly skilled Canadian researchers and entrepreneurs, like those at MTI, are creating innovative solutions to global problems,” said the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Canadian Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

“We look forward to continuing our relationship with Airbus as we move to commercialize metaAIR. Together we will be able to make a positive impact on the aviation industry around the world,” said Maurice Guitton, MTI Board Chairman.

“Today marks another milestone in our strategic partnership with Airbus. We are given the opportunity to propel our platform technology and learn from some of the top aerospace engineers while understanding the rigours of developing a product for the aerospace industry,” said George Palikaras, MTI Founder and CEO. “metaAIR will provide vision protection to pilots in the aviation industry and can offer solutions in other industries including the military, transportation and glass manufacturers.”

MTI has also developed a partnership with Covestro, one of the world’s leading companies for high-tech polymers. Covestro supplies a custom Bayfol HX photopolymer film for the manufacturing of metaAIR.

“MTI is at the cutting edge of optical applications. They have developed a unique optical filter that is different from anything currently available on the market, and we have been working with them for the last two years to provide a speciality photopolymer material film and support the required volume,” said Thomas Facke, responsible for marketing and business development of photopolymer films at Covestro. “Safety is very important to our company, and we are excited to be a part of this solution.”