Monday Reads: Continued Focus on America’s Refugee Children

Good Morning!

RefugeeChildrenI’d like to continue to focus on the crisis of Central American children from three countries who are looking for refuge in the United States.  This story continues to be a source of misinformation and misunderstanding of U.S. policy.  Most countries rise to the occasion of humanitarian crisis and act progressively to help the victims and to try to determine why the countries are in such crisis. Not so with our country.   A primary misunderstanding comes from a 2008 law that stipulates children from places other than Canada and Mexico be treated differently. 

A 2008 anti-trafficking law that passed Congress nearly unanimously and was signed by President George W. Bush gave new protections to children who were not from neighboring Canada or Mexico, stipulating that their asylum requests be fully adjudicated if they were picked up for being in the country illegally.

Administration officials say smugglers have exploited that statute and the long judicial processes that resulted from it, persuading Central American parents to risk sending their children on a dangerous journey to the United States in hopes that they would be able to stay permanently.

Republicans argue that Obama himself sent a signal that the borders were open to younger immigrants when he issued his 2012 executive order.

There is also the question of whether the Obama administration ignored the signs as the emergency was developing.

As far back as May 2012, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) warned Obama in a letter that “there is a surge of unaccompanied illegal minors entering the United States. Apart from being part of an obvious humanitarian crisis, these unaccompanied illegal minors have left the federal government scrambling to triage the results of its failed border security and immigration policies.”

Clearly, there were signs that the numbers of children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador was increasing phenomenally since 2009 as calls-in-us-congress-for-refugee-status-for-central-american-kids-1403949284-6551Friday’s post uncovered.  What was the rationale for this 2008 Act and what role has it played in this influx?

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008, so named in honour of the great British abolitionist, was among the last pieces of legislation of the George W Bush presidency, passed unanimously by the then Democrat-controlled Congress. The measure provided sanctuary for children from countries such as Guatemala and Honduras (though not Mexico) who might have been victims of sex slave trafficking.

Then, a couple of years ago, President Obama issued an order deferring deportation for children who arrived in the country aged under 16, and who had permanently lived in the US since 2007. The aim was to allow two million people who were, to all intents and purposes, Americans, to live a semi-normal life. But for millions of wretched souls in Central America yearning for a foothold in the US, and the gangs that demand an extortionate price to enable them to get it, the two presidents might have posted signs on the bridges across the Rio Grande, saying: “Come in”.

In terms of numbers, the crisis is nothing compared with the tidal waves of refugees forced from first Iraq and now Syria by sectarian conflict. Even so, some 57,000 children, some of them aged as young as four, and many of them unaccompanied, have made their way across the US border since last October, most of them from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, far overwhelming the capacity of immigration services to process them.

The intentions on the part of the US authorities might have been noble. But the result has been a 21st-century nightmare, exposing the children to journeys of danger and suffering, and the US to accusations of incompetence at best, heartlessness at worst, and charges that the country’s politics have reached a nadir of selfish partisanship.

You might have thought that, faced with a crisis of such poignancy and immediacy, Republicans and Democrats would put aside their differences. After all, the root of the problem lies not in the US but in the children’s lawless but not-too-distant homelands.

Honduras may be the most dangerous place on earth, with a murder rate of 90 per 100,000 (compared to five in the US and one in Britain), and Guatemala and El Salvador are in the top six. Along with the violence, there is desperate need: across swathes of Central America, Mexico apart, half the population lives below the poverty line.

True, America contributes to the problem, as the main buyer of the drugs sold by the traffickers, and the main seller of the guns with which they enforce their rule. But the only lasting solution to the crisis lies in ensuring the populations of Central America have a better life in their own countries. On this, at least, you might expect the parties to agree. But you’d be wrong.

Border Patrol Riverine Unit Rescues Child Stranded on Rio GrandeThe incredibly hateful response by many Americans towards the children and the crisis itself have made odd bedfellows of several activists.  First, this example from the left is from Bill Moyers’group as written by Joshua Holland.

Those seething with so much rage and xenophobia that they’d hurl ugly epithets in the faces of children fleeing bloody violence in Central America bring shame to the whole nation. But the response of mainstream America hasn’t been much better.

The media’s characterization of what’s going on at our southern border as a “crisis,” politicians pointing fingers at one another and Washington’s refusal to provide the resources necessary to care for a small wave of refugees — not to mention the bipartisan push to send them back home — is just as shameful when one considers the context.

In June, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)reported that in 2013, the global population of refugees from war and persecution hit 51.2 million — exceeding 50 million for the first time since World War II.

Half of them were children.

The vast majority were “internally displaced persons,” homeless people within their home countries. Many live in fetid refugee camps run by underfunded NGOs, where they face continuing privation and abuse.

The most surprising response to me has come from Glenn Beck, who appears to be living his faith more than his financial and media interests.AmericasResponsetoChildRefugeeatBorder071314

Glenn Beck says he has come under fierce attack from some of his fellow conservatives for a grave transgression.

His crime? He announced plans to bring food, water, teddy bears and soccer balls to at least some of the tens of thousands of Central American children who have crossed the border into the United States.

“Through no fault of their own, they are caught in political crossfire,” Beck said. “Anyone, left or right, seeking political gain at the expense of these desperate, vulnerable, poor and suffering people are reprehensible.”

Beck, not averse to a certain grandiosity, let us know that “I’ve never taken a position more deadly to my career than this.” But assume he’s right — and he may well be. It’s one more sign of how the crisis at our border has brought out the very worst in our political system and a degree of plain nastiness that we should not be proud of as a nation.

There are many children whose stories can be found in media.  It’s difficult to read about the violence, the crime, and the horrible conditions in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Children still leave Honduras to reunite with a parent, or for better educational and economic opportunities. But, as I learned when I returned to Nueva Suyapa last month, a vast majority of child migrants are fleeing not poverty, but violence. As a result, what the United States is seeing on its borders now is not an immigration crisis. It is a refugee crisis.

Gangs arrived in force in Honduras in the 1990s, as 18th Street and Mara Salvatrucha members were deported in large numbers from Los Angeles to Central America, joining homegrown groups like Los Puchos. But the dominance in the past few years of foreign drug cartels in Honduras, especially ones from Mexico, has increased the reach and viciousness of the violence. As the United States and Colombia spent billions of dollars to disrupt the movement of drugs up the Caribbean corridor, traffickers rerouted inland through Honduras, and 79 percent of cocaine-smuggling flights bound for the United States now pass through there.

Narco groups and gangs are vying for control over this turf, neighborhood by neighborhood, to gain more foot soldiers for drug sales and distribution, expand their customer base, and make money through extortion in a country left with an especially weak, corrupt government following a 2009 coup.

Enrique’s 33-year-old sister, Belky, who still lives in Nueva Suyapa, says children began leaving en masse for the United States three years ago. That was around the time that the narcos started putting serious pressure on kids to work for them. At Cristian’s school, older students working with the cartels push drugs on the younger ones — some as young as 6. If they agree, children are recruited to serve as lookouts, make deliveries in backpacks, rob people and extort businesses. They are given food, shoes and money in return. Later, they might work as traffickers or hit men.

Teachers at Cristian’s school described a 12-year-old who demanded that the school release three students one day to help him distribute crack cocaine; he brandished a pistol and threatened to kill a teacher when she tried to question him.

At Nueva Suyapa’s only public high school, narcos “recruit inside the school,” says Yadira Sauceda, a counselor there. Until he was killed a few weeks ago, a 23-year-old “student” controlled the school. Each day, he was checked by security at the door, then had someone sneak his gun to him over the school wall. Five students, mostly 12- and 13-year-olds, tearfully told Ms. Sauceda that the man had ordered them to use and distribute drugs or he would kill their parents. By March, one month into the new school year, 67 of 450 students had left the school.

Teachers must pay a “war tax” to teach in certain neighborhoods, and students must pay to attend.

I urge you to read their stories and decide for yourself.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday: Cassini, Depression, Age, and Outrage

Painting by Elena Drobychevskaja Found on Pinterest...

Painting by Elena Drobychevskaja
Found on Pinterest…

Good morning.

I want to start this post off with a note of warning. It is being written by a woman with a migraine, so excuse any mistakes or typos…or lack of coherent commentary.  Honestly, my mind feels like a light bulb that is not getting the full required amount of juice to keep it lit at full brightness…right now it is kind of sparking in and out.

Sometimes it makes a connection, other times it just becomes a dull pathetic glow or ember of unfocused ideas and thoughts.

Or like a dirty spark plug that just won’t fire an engine…well, you know what I mean. No need to go on with these overused literary metaphors, that is what they are right? Uh, I’ll just refer you back to that dim light bulb.

So as I wander through this morning’s post, bear with me…

I don’t know if you have seen this horrible case of abuse that happened here in Georgia.  A little girl was abused by her father and step-mother for all of her life, they killed her in a slow and painful way, and now the DA is looking into possible Death Penalty prosecution. But what is even more disgusting, is that this girl was repeatedly seen by DFCS all of her 10 years of life, from the first year until 3 months before her death.  Here are two local news station reports:

Death penalty may be sought against parents of Emani Moss | www.wsbtv.com

>Emani Moss

We’re learning more about the death of Emani Moss, a 10-year-old Gwinnett girl, who police said was abused by her father and stepmother.

The parents accused of starving their 10-year-old daughter to death, then trying to burn her body may face the death penalty.

Danny Porter said in 20 years as the district attorney, he’s only asked for the death penalty 10 times, but he said as he looks at the evidence in this case, he may be asking for it twice in a matter of weeks.

“In 30 years of doing this, this is probably the worst case I’ve seen,” Porter said.

As he goes through the mounting evidence, Porter said the cases against Emani Moss’ parents appear eligible for the death penalty.

“I think once we learn more about the mechanism of starvation and the suffering that is involved, it may qualify as torture,” Porter said.

Investigators said the girl’s father Eman, and stepmother Tiffany, starved the 10-year-old. In late October, they allegedly left her in bed for a week, convulsing and otherwise unable to move. Police said her dad confessed to trying to burn her body in a trash can after she died.

This next link has more info about the DFCS case reports: DFCS summary of the life and death of Emani Moss | 11alive.com

When DFCS case workers were called to the scene of a gruesome crime at a Gwinnett County apartment complex last Saturday, it was not the first time they’d been sent to check on the welfare of 10-year-old Emani Moss.When they arrived, police told them the child’s partially burned body had been found in a trash can, three days after they believe she probably starved to death.

VIDEO | The life and death of Emani Moss

A case summary of her DFCS file, obtained by 11Alive Thursday under Georgia’s Open Records Act, shows DFCS checked out allegations of abuse on at least six occasions in her life, but only felt it was true on one occasion.

You have to go to that 11alive link and read the number of times this girl could have been saved…if only someone from DFCS either gave a damn or (if it turns out that it was due to lack of funding) had enough personnel to keep better track of the situation and not continue to return this girl to her abusers. She even tried to run away, only to be brought back…it is heartbreaking…tragic and fucking unacceptable…especially considering this shit, in the same city, Atlanta. A baseball team is leaving a fully paid for, perfectly good stadium for a new, taxpayer one a few miles away:

Turner Field to be torn down when Braves leave

It was the Olympics’ gift to Atlanta, a stadium free and clear of debt. The taxpayers did not pay a dime for it, neither did the Atlanta Braves. The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games built an 85,000-seat stadium for the 1996 Olympics with private money and gifted it to the city.

Perhaps that is why Turner Field seems so disposable. It was free.

Mayor Kasim Reed announced Tuesday that in the wake of the news the Braves will move to Cobb County following the 2016 season, the city will tear down the 50,000-seat ballpark, which will be just 20 years old in 2017. He declared in the press conference that there would be no vacant, rotting structure on the south side of the town, but rather a vibrant middle class neighborhood.

It was not what William J. Moss envisioned. Moss supervised the $550 million in construction of venues for the Olympics and told the Orlando Sentinel in 1991, “The idea is not to have any white elephants and for each of these things to have a use after the Olympics is over.”

It is ridiculous. And don’t tell me that Mayor Reed had no idea this shit wasn’t in the works…you know he just won re-election last week.

Have Fun Paying Off that $450 Million – Lawyers, Guns & Money

Turner Field is 17 years old:

The Atlanta Braves announced Monday they will leave Turner Field for a new 42,000-seat, $672 million stadium about 10 miles from downtown Atlanta in 2017. It’s not clear how much the proposed ballpark will cost taxpayers.

Braves executives John Schuerholz, Mike Plant and Derek Schiller said the team decided not to seek another lease at 17-year-old Turner Field and began talks with the Cobb Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority in July.

Looks like $450 million in public funds:

(Although Schiller initially declined to say how much the county would be paying, this story says that Cobb County will be on the hook for $450 million, with the Braves paying roughly $200 million.)

In case you’re wondering, Cobb County falls mostly in Newt Gingrich’s old district, which consists of people who hate big government except when it transfers extraordinary amounts of money to incredibly wealthy people. I wonder how they’ll manage to shift the burden from the county to the state and federal government; I don’t doubt that the effort will involve some altogether ingenious accounting, combined with a concerted effort to screw over the poor.

Forgive me for copying that in full, but it is the truth…and then you have this blog post written by Will Bunch from the Philadelphia Daily News that I agree with completely: Atlanta’s Turner Field is dying — and American sanity is dying with it

I’m know I’m going to sound like an old man again, but I can remember 1997 like it was yesterday. I can almost taste it, smell it — the time when a couple of Yankee kids named Jeter and Rivera ruled the baseball world, when Hillary Clinton was strolling the corridors of the White House, and when the Dow hit the Olympian heights of 8,000. It seemed like those times would never end, but now it’s 16 long years later (that’s not a typo…1-6!) and time continues to march inexorably forward.

I felt a pang of nostalgia when I read today that another relic of that bygone era is biting the dust, that the Atlanta Braves are finally (finally!) saying goodbye to historic Turner Field, ending its more than decade-and-a-half run and heading for the greener pastures of suburban Cobb County. Goodbye to the ballpark where the ghosts of John Rocker and David Justice still lurk, its old-timey giant “Eat Mor Chickin'” Chick-fil-A cow, the “Tomahawk Chop” (yes, people weren’t as advanced on matters of race back then, unfortunately), and the quaint aroma of jalapeno nachos in the sultry Georgia air.

When I saw the news — on Twitter, which didn’t even exist way back in 1997! — this morning that the Braves will be saying good-bye to Turner Field in 2017, after the expiration of their original 20-year lease, I really only had one reaction.

What the hell, Atlanta Braves? Or maybe it was, what the hell, Atlanta…(and Cobb County.) OK, I guess it was actually, what the hell. America?

Yup, Turner Field is the same age as my son Jake, but this is where the man gets to the point:

The news that the Braves plan to abandon it is simply stunning. What happened? The Braves say they want to be closer to their real fan base in the affluent northern suburbs, and hey, that’s capitalism, I guess. Except here’s the thing….it’s not capitalism. The Braves say it would have cost $200 million to “fix” Turner Field (apparently for things like new seats and new lights…hard to believe that the old ones only lasted 16 years and that it costs that much to fix them, but that’s what they claim.) In Cobb County, they’re spending the same amount for a whole new stadium — because the taxpayers of Cobb County are promising to pay the rest, a whopping $450 million. They’ve promised the money to the Braves even though there’s been no public hearings and no vote. I have no idea how that even works.

So this is not real capitalism at all — it’s corrupted crony capitalism. Now it seems that Cobb County is one of the 100th wealthiest counties in America, and the 12th most educated. So $450 million must be chump change — it’s not like they’re Philadelphia, slashing public school teachers in the face of massive budget cuts. Oh wait…actually they are sort of like that:

Cobb County’s school board approved a 2013-14 budget Thursday night that will result in five furlough days for all employees, the loss of 182 teachers through attrition and a slimmer central administration staff.

The cuts are the result of reduced state aid and lower property tax revenues — although apparently the lower property tax revenues that are low enough to mean fewer teachers aren’t so low that they can’t BUILD A NEW BASEBALL STADIUM! For a team that already has what you and I might, sanely, consider a pretty new baseball stadium.

There’s so much else that it’s hard to know where to begin . There’s the fact that the Braves are leaving a ballpark served by mass transit for one that would be located at one of the most traffic-congested intersections (I-75 and I-285) in America, pumping tons of unnecessary carbon pollution into the air….

Had to break that paragraph to insert this cartoon: 10/12 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Take me out to the crowd | Mike Luckovich

luckovich-cartoon-for-111213

Now back to that  Will Bunch post already in progress…

…The fact that this is just slightly less egregious than what’s happening with Atlanta’s also pretty new, also fully functional football stadium the Georgia Done (which opened way back in…wait for it, 1992) that’s being replaced with a $1.2 billion palace with a retractable roof, because…??? And there’s the “white flight” of the Braves leaving the majority black city where Aaron heroically endured death threats to break Babe Ruth’s record.

Which maybe wouldn’t be so terrible…if they weren’t doing it with other people’s money. But here’s the thing that really galls me — that this is happening in Georgia, the hotbed of the Tea Party, the state that gave us Cobb County’s own Newt Gingrich and now sends right-wing crackpots like Rep. Paul Broun to Washington so that they can rail against “the moochers,” “the takers,” who don’t think twice about slashing food stamps and who won’t — on principle…principle! — take Washington’s Medicaid money so that their own working-poor constituents can get good health coverage. And now they’re writing the (corporate) welfare check of a lifetime, to one of the most historically lucrative sports franchises in American history, and their only question is how many zeroes there are in $450 million. How dare they?!

Yeah, they also are building a new stadium for their NFL Falcons too…fucking Georgia assholes.

And by the way, what about “those people” you know the “ones” I am talking about: Cobb GOP chairman concerned about (those) people coming to… | Jay Bookman | www.ajc.com

I just got back from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s press conference on the Braves’ move to a transportation-challenged site in Cobb County, and will have a lot more to say on that later. But I can’t let this pass without notice:

Joe Dendy, chairman of the Cobb County Republican Party, says that he has two conditions for supporting the Braves’ proposed move (h/t Jim Galloway):

1.) That Cobb County citizens won’t have to pay higher taxes as a result, and

2.) “It is absolutely necessary the (transportation) solution is all about moving cars in and around Cobb and surrounding counties from our north and east where most Braves fans travel from, and not moving people into Cobb by rail from Atlanta.”

Again, that’s from the chairman of the Republican Party in the state’s wealthiest, most sophisticated GOP stronghold. If you want to know why the Atlanta region has trouble acting and thinking like a region, why we have abandoned mass transit options that every other major urban area in the country is pursuing, and why we have forfeited the economic dynamism that once made this city/region the envy of much of the nation, there you have it.

Not to mention what it says about the “inclusive” attitude of a certain number of Georgia Republicans.

Yeah, they don’t want any Braves fans from South Atlanta, that need to travel via MARTA…or, because as Axel Foley would say…

Oh, wait a moment, that quote from Joe Dendy isn’t racist at all…my guess is that Richard Cohen would feel at home going to a Braves game in Cobb County.

Fucking Georgia Republicans.

All this going on while kids like Emani Moss are being ignored by DFCS, starved to death and then burned like rubbish inside a trash can by their parents. Once again the PLUB mentality is overwhelmingly disgusting. Too bad Emani did not show a knack for throwing a football or baseball. (Okay that may be pushing it too far, but I am so angry about this. And with my headache, I can’t find a good/better argument.)

More disgusting shit? here you go:

40 Gunmen Armed with Assault Rifles Terrorize Gun Control Group at a Texas Restaurant | BobCesca.com | Liberal Politics Blog and Podcast | We Cover the World 

That is a story about three women being harassed by a shitload of gun totting gun nuts.

Here is a cartoon to go with it:

OnlyInSomalia

Artist – David Horsey

Then you have this tweet about pro-life nuts…

Another case of disease brought on by anti-vaccine nuts:

Another Victim of (Jenny) McCarthyism  : Lawyers, Guns & Money

A cartoon to go with that post.  Anti vaccine Reunion Tour by Political Cartoonist Pat Bagley

140051 600 Anti vaccine Reunion Tour cartoons

Oooo, check it out. A map of depression: A stunning map of depression rates around the world

(Max Fisher/Washington Post)

Update on shooting death of woman in Detroit: Autopsy reveals Michigan shooting victim McBride shot in face | Al Jazeera America

A dog in Washington State brings home a human leg, and the 93-year-old old man who owns the dog…well, just look at this link: Deputies find more human remains after dog brings home leg | Local & Regional | Seattle News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News | KOMO News

Reason why we hate the dentist: Scared of the dentist? This is why, say neuroscientists | The Raw Story

From the “no shit” department: BBC News – Depression ‘makes us biologically older’

(Yup, no wonder people with down syndrome never age.)

A link to a book about women in the early church: Mothers Of The Church « The Dish

And did you see these pictures from Cassini?

The Day the Earth Smiled (NASA Cassini Saturn Mission Images)

On July 19, 2013, in an event celebrated the world over, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft slipped into Saturn’s shadow and turned to image the planet, seven of its moons, its inner rings — and, in the background, our home planet, Earth.

With the sun’s powerful and potentially damaging rays eclipsed by Saturn itself, Cassini’s onboard cameras were able to take advantage of this unique viewing geometry. They acquired a panoramic mosaic of the Saturn system that allows scientists to see details in the rings and throughout the system as they are backlit by the sun. This mosaic is special as it marks the third time our home planet was imaged from the outer solar system; the second time it was imaged by Cassini from Saturn’s orbit; and the first time ever that inhabitants of Earth were made aware in advance that their photo would be taken from such a great distance.

The Day the Earth Smiled (NASA Cassini Saturn Mission Images) big, big, big ass picture…

Catalog Page for PIA17172- gives information on picture

Cassini Solstice Mission: The Day the Earth Smiled (with planets annotated) shows where the planets are located…and gives information on mission

PIA17172_fig2.jpg (JPEG Image, 9000 × 3500 pixels) – Scaled (15%) with planets only

PIA17172_fig3.jpg (JPEG Image, 4500 × 1750 pixels) – Scaled (30%) with rings and moons noted

I will end with a picture of a baby sloth sticking her tongue out. It is something I found while helping Bebe with her science project this weekend.

Sloth got your tongue? – PhotoBlog

Eight months old baby sloth Camillo yawns at the zoo in Halle, eastern Germany, on Thursday, May 17. In the wild, sloths live mainly in tropical rainforests of Central and South America.

Y’all have a good day, if you can…stop and comment.


Sunday Reads: GOP and Agnotology

This vintage ad about sums it up...look at the symbolic GOP elephant and his poison can...

This vintage ad about sums it up…look at the symbolic GOP elephant and his poison spray can of DDT …

Good Morning

Agnotology. New word, for me at least…read this explanation and tell me if it strikes a chord with you. (Emphasis mine.)

Agnotology is the study of culturally induced ignorance.

Agnotology refocuses questions about “how we know” to include questions about what we do not know, and why not.

Londa Schiebinger, in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 1 Sep. 2005.

Historians of science have tended to focus on the processes by which scientific knowledge gets accepted. In recent decades, some scholars have come to see that processes that impede or prevent acceptance of scientific findings are also important. Such processes include the very human desire to ignore unpleasant facts, media neglect of topics, corporate or government secrecy, and misrepresentation for a commercial or political end. They often generate controversy, much of it ill-informed. Examples include the health implications of tobacco and of genetically modified plants, the safety of nuclear power, the environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and the existence or extent of man-made climate change.

Seriously, by that definition alone, and with those examples…you could just say that Agnotology is the study of Republicans.

While we are going through a GOP induced hell here in the states, some parts of India are living a real hell…being hit by one of the strongest typhoons in years. Cyclone Phailin makes landfall in India

A huge cyclone that has forced as many as 500,000 people to flee their homes has made landfall in eastern India.

Map of India

Winds were measured at 200 km/h (125mph) as Cyclone Phailin hit the coast near Gopalpur, Orissa state, at about 21:15 (15:45 GMT).

Authorities had predicted a storm surge of at least 3m (10ft) that was expected to cause extensive damage.

Officials say they are better prepared than in 1999 when a cyclone killed thousands of people in Orissa.

Cyclone Phailin has been classed as “very severe”, and the head of India’s Meteorological Office, LS Rathore, said it would remain in that category for six hours before losing strength.

An hour before Phailin made landfall, winds were over 150 mph.  New York Times is reporting that over 800,00 people have been evacuated…We will learn more as the morning progresses, I will post updates in the comments below.

Heading toward Russia, there was some violence at St Petersburg when a Russian gay rally ends in fights and arrests.

The clashes began after a protester had her rainbow flag ripped from her hands [Reuters]

Sixty-seven people were arrested after fightes broke out between gay rights activists and opponents at a rally in the Russian city of St Petersburg, according to local news sources.

Several dozen activists for  lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual rights had gathered in the centre of the city for a sanctioned LGBT rally, which was held on what activists termed as “international coming out day”.

They were far outnumbered by the anti-gay demonstrators, including several dressed as Cossacks and Orthodox priests, who had occupied the site of the planned demo.

Fights broke out after anti-gay protesters tore a rainbow flag from a woman’s hands, and police then moved in to arrest those involved. They eventually detained 67 people from both sides, Russian news agencies reported.

The Winter Games are going to be one shitty scary mess.

Back here in the states, there was an arrest yesterday in a famous unsolved murder case out of New York City. New York police arrest man in 1991 ‘Baby Hope’ killing

New York City police have arrested a cousin in the killing of a 4-year-old girl dubbed “Baby Hope,” whose body was found crammed in a picnic cooler in 1991, police said on Saturday.

Conrado Juarez, 52, early on Saturday confessed to sexually assaulting and then smothering the girl, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told a news conference.

Police detained him at a Manhattan restaurant on Friday, more than 22 years after the girl’s death, he said.

The girl, dubbed “Baby Hope” by investigators, was never reported missing and was only recently identified.

Kelly named her as 4-year-old Anjelica Castillo.

Her bound, asphyxiated body was discovered stuffed underneath cans of soda inside a blue-and-white cooler alongside the Henry Hudson Highway in northern Manhattan in July of 1991. She had been starved and sexually abused, police said.

New York police announced on Tuesday they had identified the girl’s mother after following through on a tip they received over the summer. Her identity was confirmed through DNA testing and she was cooperating with the investigation, they said.

Finally some closure for the people who have worked this case for all these years, because it is obvious the family didn’t give a damn about this little girl at all.  Police say Juarez’s sister, who is dead, helped him dispose of Anjelica’s body. More information at this CNN link: NYPD arrests man in killing of ‘Baby Hope’

Update on Dartmouth: Dartmouth Suspends Wholesome Frat Over Hazing Emails

Meanwhile, Georgia’s Governor Deal may be under investigation. Read this AP report from North Georgia Access…it is a long article. I wonder if anything will come of it.: Attorney who raised questions about ethics complaints against Deal contacted by FBI  

I saw this next link via Google News from my hometown of Tampa: 10 News Investigators find memo warning about terrorist “dry-runs” on airplanes | wtsp.com Strange…and again not a lot of news on this in other media outlets.

Of course, if you want to see what is up with the shutdown: Senate leaders take over government shutdown talks – The Washington Post

Hey, I mentioned yesterday that I was having some problems with my gmail account, well…here are two links that you need to read if you use Facebook or Google:

Facebook Removing Option To Be Unsearchable By Name, Highlighting Lack Of Universal Privacy Controls | TechCrunch

“Who can look up your Timeline by name?” Anyone you haven’t blocked. Facebook is removing this privacy setting, notifying those who had hidden themselves that they’ll be searchable. It deleted the option from those who hadn’t used it in December, and is starting to push everyone to use privacy controls on each type of content they share. But there’s no one-click opt out of Facebook search.

Your Face May Appear in a Google Ad Soon- Mashable

If you’ve ever been appalled to see yourself or your friends used in a Facebook ad, then you’re not going to like Google‘s new terms of service.

The company updated its TOS on Friday to allow an adult user’s profile name and photo to appear in reviews and advertising starting Nov. 11.

And let me tell you, it is a bitch to find the dashboard on Google where you can fix this shit!

We have a personal connection to the PBS Frontline “League of Denial” that aired this past week, Boston Boomer’s brother created the trailer that angered the NFL so much they pressured ESPN to drop out of the project….well here’s a round-up of responses to the show via The Dish: The Football Fan’s Dilemma « The Dish

I think you will find this infographic from Huffpo interesting: The Geographic Inequality Of Death Row (INFOGRAPHIC)

October 10 marks the 11th World Day Against the Death Penalty, and the United States remains one of the top five countries in the world for executing its citizens — along with China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, according to Amnesty International. The 43 executions we carried out last year happened in just nine states; 15 of them were in Texas.

I am going to move on to the better part of today’s post…nothing depressing or disturbing.

There was this article at The New York Times which touched a personal side for me. Growing Up With a Disabled Sibling

Some research suggests that growing up with a disabled sibling can also infuse a person with a greater sense of responsibility, patience and compassion for others. Some siblings may be inspired to go into a helping profession, like medicine, teaching or public interest law. Others translate their early experience with disability into a greater appreciation for, and understanding of, the wide spectrum of human differences. I confess to keeping my own list of successful and accomplished people who have a sibling with Down syndrome, which includes the Olympic snowboarder Kevin Pearce (now himself disabled by a traumatic brain injury), the actor and singer Jamie Foxx, the actress Eva Longoria, and Amy Chua of “Tiger Mom” fame (and a Yale Law School professor).

That is just one paragraph I want to point out, you have to read the whole op/ed. It is great.I guess it is for me because I know the outcome of growing up with a disabled sibling…in my situation, Denny and I were always a package deal. So I see the hope in that piece.

There are some cool pictures at this link: We Could Stare At These Defaced Bills All Day

And hey…check it out: [VIDEO] ‘Remington Steele’ Reboot — NBC Plans Sequel I used to love that show, Pierce Brosnan was so damn hot.

Oh, and since this is October, two links on horror movies:

Future Recall: 10 Cage-Free Horror Films on the Web (Netflix, AMC, youtube) that span time… – Bright Lights After Dark

A Very Brief History of a Very Famous Mask – She Blogged By Night

And one on Classic Movies from the 50’s:

moviemorlocks.com – Biting the Hand That Feeds You: Movies About the Movies In the 1950s

Finally, this last article…which proves that an animal without a backbone is more intelligent than one of those Republicans, or at least the octopus can assist in the Agnotological study of the Republican Brain:  How the Freaky Octopus Can Help us Understand the Human Brain – Wired Science

If you were to measure octopus smarts by the number of neurons the creatures have (500 million to our almost 100 billion), they’d come up pretty dull. But forget that metric. The octopus’s neurons aren’t even concentrated in its head; about two-thirds of its “brains” are distributed in its arms, dedicated to the fine operation of these limbs and each of their hundreds of suckers. The rest of the neurons are split between a central brain—surrounding the esophagus—and large optic lobes behind the eyes. Like we said: alien.

But somehow octopuses do things that suggest they’re brainier than plenty of animals with backbones and more familiar nervous systems. Here’s an easy one: Lots of octopods have learned to twist off standard jar lids. But in 2003, biologists at the Seattle Aquarium challenged Billye, a female Enteroctopus dofleini—a giant Pacific octopus—with a childproof bottle, the kind that can baffle even the smartest Homo sapiens. Billye figured out the push-and-twist trick in a little less than an hour. And in subsequent attempts, she popped those tricky tops in a mere five minutes.

Is the vertebrate brain optimized for intelligence? Ask the octopus. | Robert Eikelpoth/Corbis

This is just the beginning of their abilities. Octopuses in the wild may be using tools—a feat that, not so long ago, was considered the exclusive domain of humans (though now we know it’s the province of other species too, like dolphins and some birds). Researchers have observed octopuses off the coast of Indonesia collecting—and awkwardly carrying—coconut shell halves along the sandy seafloor. For a shelter on the go, they whip out the two pieces of shell, swoop inside, and snap the pair shut. “That’s a spectacular example, because it really does suggest foresight,” says Jennifer Mather, who studies animal behavior at Canada’s University of Lethbridge. “In terms of cognition, that’s pretty good.”

Have a great Sunday!

Stop by and share what you are reading and blogging about today.


Sunday Reads: Byzantine Werewolves, Engraved Roman Penises, and Walter White’s Obit

e53014b786ae1ed609b6c661ac9dc99eGood Morning

Who needs strange headlines when the news of the past week has been crazy enough?

This morning I want to stay away from links about the Shutdown and stick with things that don’t deal with DC assholes. It does not mean I will not post an article about rich misogynistic, anti-Semitic assholes…have you seen the latest crap out of Hobby Lobby? Hobby Lobby Boycotts Jewish Hanukkah And Passover (UPDATE)

Hanukkah comes early this year. But it apparently never comes to Hobby Lobby.

The national craft store owned by conservative billionaire Steve Green seemingly refuses to carry merchandise related to Hanukkah because of Green’s “Christian values,” and some Jews are taking offense.

“I will never set foot in a Hobby Lobby. Ever.” wrote Ken Berwitz, the New Jersey blogger who brought the Hobby Lobby Hanukkah flap to light in a Friday (Sept. 27) blog post.

Berwitz’s outrage has spread to other bloggers who are taking Hobby Lobby to task as a store that courts the general public, but refuses to stock anything related to Judaism — even in communities with significant Jewish populations.

It really should not come as a surprise, I mean if Hobby Lobby won’t provide birth control for its women employees, of course it goes without saying they would have a “fuck the Jews” attitude.

Green owns more than 550 Hobby Lobby stores nationwide, all of which are closed on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. He is also known for his lawsuit against President Obama’s health care law, which he says tramples on his religious liberty by forcing him to insure employees for medical services he objects to on religious grounds. Many legal experts agree the case has a good chance of landing at the Supreme Court.He’s also known for holding one of the country’s largest collections of ancient biblical artifacts, including what’s believed to be the oldest known copy of a Hebrew prayer book. In unveiling the book on Thursday, Green dated the item to 840 C.E., declining to use the more Christian-sounding 840 A.D. so as not to offend Jews.

The Hobby Lobby Hanukkah controversy began when Berwitz learned that on a recent shopping trip his wife’s friends could not find anything related to Hanukkah at their local Hobby Lobby store in Marlboro, N.J., though it was stocked with Christmas items.

According to Berwitz, one of the women asked about bar mitzvah cards, and a Hobby Lobby salesperson replied: “We don’t cater to you people.”

That story prompted Berwitz, who own a market research company and writes the “Hopelessly Partisan” blog, to call the Marlboro store and ask why it seemed to be ignoring Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights, which begins on Nov. 27 this year. He wrote that he received the following response:

“Because Mr. Green is the owner of the company, he’s a Christian, and those are his values.”

Berwitz told Religion News Service that he then called Hobby Lobby’s corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City, and the company confirmed that it does not stock items for Hanukkah, and did not give a reason. When he asked whether the company carries Passover merchandise, he was again told no.

2afca07234dcfc5ff98375052fd3e448Well, I guess the backlash from this bad anti-Jewish PR made Mr. Green reconsider his “fuck the Jews” stance on carrying Hanukkah items in his stores:

UPDATE: 10/4 6:20pm

Hobby Lobby has promised to begin to sell Jewish holiday items in areas near large Jewish populations.

UPDATE 10/4/13 10:15am: Hobby Lobby President Steve Green has issued the following statement on behalf of the company:

We sincerely apologize for any employee comments that may have offended anyone, especially our Jewish customers and friends. Comments like these do not reflect the feelings of our family or Hobby Lobby. Our family has a deep respect for the Jewish faith and those who hold its traditions dear. We’re proud contributors to Yad Vashem, as well as to other museums and synagogues in Israel and the United States. We are investigating this matter and absolutely do not tolerate discrimination at our company or our stores. We do not have any policies that discriminate; in fact, we have policies that specifically prohibit discrimination. We have previously carried merchandise in our stores related to Jewish holidays. We select the items we sell in our stores based on customer demand. We are working with our buyers to re-evaluate our holiday items and what we will carry in the future.

So the only group of people getting discriminated against at Hobby Lobby now is Women! Yeah, lets say it loud…

at Hobby Lobby, we value our customers and employees and are committed to:

  • Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles.
  • Offering our customers exceptional selection and value in the crafts and home decor market.
  • Serving our employees and their families by establishing a work environment and company policies that build character, strengthen individuals and nurture families.
  • Providing a return on the owner’s investment, sharing the Lord’s blessings with our employees, and investing in our community.

8538805e764801a5f5be01865ea46371Unless you are a woman…than…fuck you!

Alright, enough with that Hobby Lobby dick.

I am going to stick articles about with women….and add the all important subject of poverty and domestic violence for just a moment.

You are well aware that the Shutdown pretty much is the GOP giving the “fuck you” to poor women and children on the WIC program: Colbert on the Government Slimdown | BobCesca.com | Liberal Politics Blog and Podcast | We Cover the World

Fox News is calling it a slimdown, which is a great name ’cause you know who’s really going to slim down? The 9 million women and children who will lose supplemental nutrition from the government.

Put that quote from Colbert into perspective: Women and Poverty, State by State | National Women’s Law Center

More than one in seven women, nearly 17.8 million, lived in poverty last year. Poverty rates were particularly high for families headed by single mothers – more than four in ten (40.9 percent) were poor. More than half (56.1 percent) of poor children lived in female-headed families in 2012.

With women as primary breadwinners in more than 40 percent of families today, women and their families simply cannot afford to make do with less.

Click on a state below to see how many female-headed families are living in poverty, plus:

  • The share of all women living in poverty
  • The share of Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American women living in poverty
  • The share of children and of women 65 and older living in poverty

You can also download the data for every state, and see more of NWLC’s analyses of the latest data on women and poverty.

Map

Go to the link to see all the info from each state. Mississippi has the highest poverty levels across the board.

Here is another map for you, States With The Most Natives – Business Insider

Are the people who live in your state predominantly people who were born in that state, or did they come from somewhere else?

Seth Kadish at the brilliant Vizual Statistix Tumblr has come up with this great visualization which answers just this question, using Census data.

The redder an area is, the more likely it is that residents of that county were born in that state. The whiter an area is, the more likely it is that residents came from somewhere else.

Not surprisingly, parts of Florida, Nevada, Arizona and around DC are filled with people who came from somewhere else. Parts of Texas, Louisiana, and the upper-Midwest are among those places inhabited by original residents.

residents born in a state

Click the image to see it larger!

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month: AAEC – Political Cartoon by Terry Wise, Ratland Ink Press – 10/02/2013

Cartoon by Terry Wise -

How to Tell if Someone You Love is in an Abusive Relationship – and What to do About It | Care2 Causes

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so today we wanted to do our part to spread a little information about a topic that, despite being incredibly common, too often ends up getting swept under the rug. While most of us want to help victims of domestic violence (Republican politicians notwithstanding), one of the major reasons this important issue often goes ignored is that friends and family simply may not know how to spot an abusive relationship. Even if you have doubts about your loved one’s home life, you may not know how to bring up the issue or the best way to help out.

Remember, while most domestic violence situations involve women being abused by men, it can happen to anyone, gay or straight. Don’t assume that just because your friend doesn’t fit the “typical” mold of an abuse victim that nothing is wrong.

Be sure to read the rest of that article at the link above and forward it to some of your friends.

Now for some fun links.

Hey, the twin panda cubs are getting ready to be named! Check it out:

http://www.zooatlanta.org/media/image/TW_Sept-25_panda_cubs2013_130924_cub_b_a_table_ZA_6738_600.jpg

Voting begins soon to name the giant panda twins

Zoo Atlanta has partnered with Good Morning America on an official voting contest to name the twin male giant pandas born to Lun Lun on July 15, 2013.  The contenders for the five sets of names for the 2-month-old duo were announced by Good Morning America on October 3, 2013. Voting will begin online through Good Morning America  on Wednesday, October 9, 2013.  The winning names will be revealed during the cubs’ 100 Day Naming Celebration on October 23, 2013.

Name options for Zoo Atlanta panda cubs announced | www.wsbtv.com

The twin giant panda cubs at Zoo Atlanta, the only twins ever to survive in the U.S., are hitting all of their developmental milestones as they approach 100 days since their birth.

Like all giant pandas, they were born nearly hairless, pink, blind and not much larger than a cell phone. Now, they have developed their characteristic black-and-white coats and weigh nearly 30 times their birth weights, tipping the scales at around 7 pounds. Their eyes have opened and they are responding more to their environment and to one another, the zoo said. Plus, the cubs are slowly starting to show off their personalities to keepers.

Channel 2’s Wendy Corona visited the cubs at Zoo Atlanta to see how they’re developing.

The pandas are affectionately known as “Cub A” and “Cub B” until their 100-day birthday, a milestone date in the Chinese tradition, when pandas are named.

“Cub A has been kind of the more vocal cub,” said Zoo Atlanta’s Curator of Mammals Dr. Rebecca Snyder.  “Especially when he’s with Lun Lun.”

During our visit, he was sound asleep.  Then there was his brother, the more awake Cub “B”.

“I think he’s momma’s boy.  He just wants to be with Mom,” said Dr. Snyder.  The calmer, more quiet one.  Knowing this about their personalities might help you help Zoo Atlanta in deciding their names.

Since their July 15 birth, the adorable duo has charmed zoo staffers, who have been nursing the pandas around the clock when they are not with their mother, 15-year-old Lun Lun. In the wild, a giant panda mother would typically rear only one offspring at a time, which is why the zoo staff has been swapping the cubs between Lun Lun and a specially designed box.

Five sets of names were provided by the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China’s Sichuan province, and Zoo Atlanta is teaming up with Good Morning America” to put it to a public vote, which kicks off Oct. 9.

Watch “GMA” for more panda news and check back here to vote for your names on Oct. 9 on GoodMorningAmerica.com.

There is video at the wbtv link, here are the names, I like number 5 the best:

1. Mei Lun and Mei Hua
(Pronounced May Loon and May Hwaa)

In English, the names mean Lun Lun’s twin cubs born in the USA.

2. Mei Lun and Mei Huan
(Pronounced May Loon and May Hwaan)

These names stem from an ancient Chinese idiom, “Mei Lun Mei Huan,” which was used to describe constructed buildings that are tall and magnificent. It has come to mean something indescribably beautiful and magnificent.

3. Tian Lun and Tian Le
(Pronounced Tee-an loon and Tee-an luh)

These names come from the Chinese idiom, “Tian Lun Zhi Le,” which means the joy of family life or family happiness. In this context, the cubs’ names would mean, “Lun Lun and her twin cubs are enjoying heavenly gifted family happiness,” according to the staff at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

4. Lan Tian and Bi Shui
(Pronounced Lan tee-an and Bee Shway)
The names, meaning blue sky and clear water, are derived from another the Chinese idiom, “Lan Tian Bi Shui,” which is used to describe beautiful scenery.

5. Da Lan and Xiao Lan
(Pronounced Dah Lan and Sheow Lan)

The literal meaning of these names is bigger one (“Cub B”) and smaller one (“Cub A”) of the Atlanta-born twins.

Sting is putting together a Broadway show: Sting’s ‘The Last Ship’ Concert Series at the Public Theater

[image]
Andrew Spear for The Wall Street JournalAt the Public Theater, Sting aims to stir interest in ‘The Last Ship’ with a series of 10 concerts featuring songs and characters from the show.

With a run of concerts at the Public Theater, Sting is putting more pieces in place for the launch of a Broadway musical called “The Last Ship.” To compose the score, the former Police frontman drew on characters and imagery from the doomed shipyard in his hometown of Wallsend, England. The musical, which Sting is developing with a squad of theater elite, starts a tryout run this summer in Chicago before opening on Broadway next fall.

Sting is hoping to prime interest in the musical with his 10-concert series at the Public, which ends on Wednesday. During the intimate show, which also features vocalists such as cast member Jimmy Nail, Sting plays acoustic guitar and sings in a thick brogue, voicing various characters. He is accompanied by a small band that includes fiddle and accordion players. Between songs that blend Broadway anthems with folk sounds from the British Isles, he tells anecdotes from his childhood and the process of creating a musical.

This week, after the release of the companion album “The Last Ship,” Sting’s first set of original material in eight years, the singer paused to discuss songwriting, his accent and the spotty track record of rock stars on Broadway.

Read the interview at the link.

Oh, now for some cool pictures…real old pictures. Photographs Taken With Kodak’s First Commercial Camera Are Now 125 Years Old

Remember when Kodak created its first commercial camera, a nifty invention that boasted the slogan “You Press the Button, We Do the Rest“?

kodak

Woman in a rowing boat, about 1890. Collection of National Media Museum/Kodak MuseumYou probably don’t, because this feat happened 125 years ago when George Eastman introduced the second Kodak camera ever made. The contraption looked almost nothing like the devices we’re used to, but it brought photography into the homes of everyday people with, well, the press of a button. And a fairly reasonable price of $25 — a cost that amounts to around $600 today, according to Design Taxi.

Thanks to a little UK-based institution known as the National Media Museum, we’re able to look back on history and peruse some of the very first amateur photographs ever taken. Snapped with the Kodak No. 1 (the first Kodak camera was simply named “Kodak”), the images provide a striking, black-and-white glimpse into life in the 1890s.

There are some amazing pictures in that Huffpo link…look at them and enjoy them.

Now for the last few articles of this morning’s post.  Halloween is later this month, with the crazy things going on this week, it seems like it has come early. Anyway, this first link is a bit on werewolves.

How the Byzantines dealt with Werewolves

A new article explores how Byzantine doctors treated people those suffering from lycanthropy, a mental disorder where a patient believes he or she is, or has transformed into, a wolf and behaves like one. This disease is the basis for the legendary werewolves.

In “Lycanthropy in Byzantine times (AD 330–1453),” four scholars from the University of Athens examine the writings of six Byzantine physicians to see what they believed lycanthropy was and how it should be treated.

More at the link, go and read it.

Engraved Penises Reveal Birth of Italian City : Discovery News

Two penises engraved on a 2,000 year old stone may shed light on the foundation of the city of Aosta in northern Italy, revealing its deep connection with the Roman emperor Augustus.

Named Augusta Praetoria Salassorum by the Romans — who captured it from the local Salassi people in 25 B.C. to control strategic mountain passes — Aosta boasts several monuments dedicated to Augustus.

“But the newly discovered stone tells even more about Aosta’s connection with the Roman emperor. It reveals the city was built under Augustus’ sign during the winter solstice,” Giulio Magli, professor of archaeoastronomy at Milan’s Polytechnic University, told Discovery News.

[...]

Carved on both sides, the block features two very clear figures on one side — a phallus and, over it, a spade — and some partly damaged reliefs on the other. There, a phallus is again represented. Over it, a plough and a partly eroded character which appears to be a Capricorn.

The plough and the spade openly hint to the sulcus primigenius, the original trench plowed to mark the perimeter of a new city in the Roman foundation ceremony. Related to the god Priapus, the phallic effigies most likely had an “apotropaic” function, evoking some sort of protection from evil forces.

“The chunk of mud has certainly preserved the stone from damage and censorship,” Bertarione said. “In medieval times the evident phallic figures would have been erased since they were regarded as obscene pagan symbols.”

And finally, ‘Breaking Bad’ anti-hero Walter White gets spoiler-filled obituary in Albuquerque newspaper

A group of die-hard “Breaking Bad” fans have posted an obituary notice for the show’s anti-hero Walter White in a local paper in New Mexico, made famous by the cult series.

David Layman, coincidentally a science teacher like White, was among 10.3 million viewers who tuned in to last weekend’s final episode of the series about the central character’s transformation into a drug lord, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“I’ve been a humongous ‘Breaking Bad’ fan since the beginning,” Layman told the Albuquerque Journal, which published the obituary on page 4, with a small photo.

“I was actually in the pilot, and putting the obit in the paper was fitting, because the series was based in Albuquerque and it provides some of us some closure.”

[...]

The short obituary reads:

“White, Walter, aka ‘Heisenberg,’ 52, of Albuquerque, died Sunday after a long battle with lung cancer, and a gunshot wound.

“A co-founder of Gray Matter, White was a research chemist, who taught high school chemistry, and later founded a meth manufacturing empire.

“He is survived by his wife, Skyler Lambert; son Walter ‘Flynn’ Jr; and daughter Holly. A private memorial was held by his family. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to a drug abuse prevention charity of your choice. He will be greatly missed.”

Innit great?

Well, that is it for this Sunday’s reads. Y’all have a good day and take it easy…see you in the comments later on, until then…ciao!


Thursday Reads: 9/11 Memories, Adoption Horror Stories, and Other News

morning news and tea

Good Morning!!

It’s been cool here in the Boston area for the past few weeks, and then suddenly yesterday on the anniversary of 9/11/2001, the temperature shot up to 97 degrees.Today it’s only supposed to get up to the high 80s. And then we’re back to fall over the weekend. Very strange. You just never know what to expect from the weather these days.

On that day 12 years ago, my parents had rented a house on the beach in Rhode Island for a week. My sister from Indiana and my brother and sister-in-law from Cambridge were there too. This was before my two nephews were born. It was a beautiful New England day, and I recall it was pretty warm–but not hot.

I was out sight-seeing with my parents and sister when we got the first hints that something was terribly wrong. My sister heard someone say that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. We rushed back to the beach house to horrible scenes of carnage on TV. We spent the rest of our vacation reading newspapers and watching TV for updates. A couple of days later, I had to drive back to Boston where school was starting and I had to teach at Boston University.

Driving up I-95 alone, I felt irrationally frightened, and I kept looking up in the sky for planes, even though I knew all air traffic had been grounded (except for the bin Laden relatives whom the Bush administration allowed to fly out of Boston–creepy!). The fact that the planes that hit the twin towers had flown out of Boston felt like a terrible violation. So even though nothing had happened to me and I was safe, I still had some post-traumatic stress. I guess we all did. For the first time, Americans learned what it feels like to be attacked in our own country. It was a loss of innocence.

Anyway, that’s my 9/11 memory–not very dramatic, but impossible to forget.

President Obama chose to mark the anniversary with a moment of silence on the White House lawn. From The New York Daily News:

Under a perfect blue sky, President Obama stood stock still on the neatly-manicured White House South Lawn and said not a thing.

moment of silence

In a capital where words are weapons, the silence was disarming.

The President, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden and Jill Biden had quietly walked out of the glistening white residence to observe a moment of silence on Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

They were flanked by a military honor guard and White House staff. If you looked toward the South Portico of the nation’s most famous home, a flag was at half-staff.

The two couples held hands as a bell tolled at 8:46 a.m., exactly the moment when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center. The poignant simplicity was inescapable.

Afterwards, Obama attended a memorial service in front of the Pentagon, at the site where one of the planes had been flown into the building that symbolized America’s military might.

In the news…

I hope you’ll find time to read this important investigative article by Reuters reporter Megan Twohey about Americans who adopt children from foreign countries, then have regrets, and then give their children away to total strangers they meet on the internet. Many of these children end up being abused emotionally, physically and/or sexually. It’s one of the most shocking stories I’ve ever read. Here’s Part One and Part Two. I really can’t do this story justice with excerpts, but here’s the introduction:

KIEL, Wisconsin – Todd and Melissa Puchalla struggled for more than two years to raise Quita, the troubled teenager they’d adopted from Liberia. When they decided to give her up, they found new parents to take her in less than two days – by posting an ad on the Internet.

Nicole and Calvin Eason, an Illinois couple in their 30s, saw the ad and a picture of the smiling 16-year-old. They were eager to take Quita, even though the ad warned that she had been diagnosed with severe health and behavioral problems. In emails, Nicole Eason assured Melissa Puchalla that she could handle the girl….

A few weeks later, on Oct. 4, 2008, the Puchallas drove six hours from their Wisconsin home to Westville, Illinois. The handoff took place at the Country Aire Mobile Home Park, where the Easons lived in a trailer.

No attorneys or child welfare officials came with them. The Puchallas simply signed a notarized statement declaring these virtual strangers to be Quita’s guardians. The visit lasted just a few hours. It was the first and the last time the couples would meet.

I can’t believe such a thing is possible in the U.S., but it turns out most states don’t really regulate what adoptive parents do with their children. Within a few weeks, Melissa Puchalla learned that Quita and her new parents were missing and that Nicole Eason had a troubling history as a mother:

 • Child welfare authorities had taken away both of Nicole Eason’s biological children years earlier. After a sheriff’s deputy helped remove the Easons’ second child, a newborn baby boy, the deputy wrote in his report that the “parents have severe psychiatric problems as well with violent tendencies.”

• The Easons each had been accused by children they were babysitting of sexual abuse, police reports show. They say they did nothing wrong, and neither was charged.

• The only official document attesting to their parenting skills – one purportedly drafted by a social worker who had inspected the Easons’ home – was fake, created by the Easons themselves.

On Quita’s first night with the Easons, her new guardians told her to join them in their bed, Quita says today. Nicole slept naked, she says.

In Part Two of the report, Twohey writes about another man whom Melissa Eason partnered with to get access to unwanted adoptive children.
Read the rest of this entry »