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Edge on Autism

Autistic Children and The Military

December 29th 2008

Science - Autistic child

According to Pentagon data, there are 13,243 autistic children among the 1.2 million dependents of active duty personnel. This incidence, just over one in ninety, is vastly higher than the conventional wisdom that only one in every 150 children is affected. This apparent increase is almost certainly due to rigorous military record keeping rather than any difference in environment. Many critics say it is unfortunate that the military does such a poor job of providing long term care after identifying so many in need.

While every military family has access to health care via the TRICARE system, only one in ten of the identified autistic children in the system are served with applied behavioral analysis therapy. Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA, a long term, intensive approach to handling the needs of autistic children, can fill nearly all of a school day in the beginning years of treatment. Most experts feel it is well worth the time spent, as it can result in a child becoming functional enough to complete high school, attend college, and have a chance at a successful career. While this doesn't work for everyone, for many it means freedom from a lifetime of complete dependence on others.


The Way We Are

A Holiday Story Worth Reading

December 22nd 2008

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

This has been a holiday season filled with negative news. From the problems on Wall Street to those on Main Street, all we've heard these past months is that people are losing their money, their homes, and their jobs. Families are forced to cut back as their paychecks are stretched to their limits and beyond. In times like these, heartwarming stories are hard to find, but I found one recently from a friend whom I ran into while he was walking his dog.

His wife had given birth to their first child over the Thanksgiving weekend, and the little girl's arrival was as early as it was cherished. I asked him how he was balancing work with his new bundle of joy, and he told me something which absolutely astounded me and warmed my heart. His employer, a law firm here in the city, was giving him four weeks paid vacation purely because he was a new father! This was on top of the normal paid vacation he accrues throughout the year. Now, we've heard of maternity leave, and more often than not, such leave is unpaid, but what this man's business was offering, four weeks of paid paternity leave, is something special that should be celebrated.

Instead of slogging off to work during the holiday season, this husband is able to spend his days with his wife, taking a break from their normally hectic schedules to be together as they raise their child. Rather than having to toil away for nine or ten hours at his desk, this father can spend these precious moments feeding, diapering, changing, and loving his new daughter. With this time off, this young man can support his home by doing all those little tasks that come with a new baby and give his wife the rest she deserves.


Great Gatherings

Mass Movement for Energy Freedom To Emerge from Florida Conference

December 15th 2008

Event Logos - Citizens for Energy Freedom

A new mass movement is expected to emerge when Citizens for Energy Freedom—the grassroots organization of the Set America Free Coalition—convenies its “Energy Independence in 2009” conference in Jupiter, Florida on January 17–18, 2009.

The nation's premier energy independence advocacy leadership group will be widening into a "citizen's campaign" to correct America's energy policy mistakes. More than just another conclave of experts, Energy Independence is 2009 is envisioned as an ignition switch for average people to shape the country's future energy survival.

The conference kicks off with a gala banquet at the West Palm Beach Marriott Hotel, featuring a keynote address by Edwin Black, bestselling author of The Plan. Conferees reconvene the next day at Florida Atlantic University’s Jupiter campus, and will feature a keynote address by Robert Zubrin, bestselling author Energy Victory, followed by two expert panels—the first on liquid fuel choice in the transportation sector, and the second on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.


Mumbai Massacre

Unholy Muslim Terrorists Denied Holy Burial In Mumbai Cemetery By Muslim Council

December 8th 2008

Islamic Topics - Mumbai Muslims
Members of Mumbai Muslim Council

We have come face to face with the terror of the future and it is ugly, heinous, and barbaricwell planned and executed with verve and precision.

The enormity of the terror attacks perpetrated by relatively unknown but flawlessly trained terrorists upon the city of Mumbai has left the world shaken and speechless. The legacy of the perpetrators of this terror speaks volumes.

Shariah, Muslim tradition, clearly commands that all Muslims receive a proper Muslim burial regardless of whether they lived as "drunkard, rapist or criminal." The obligation to bury the nine men who shattered the social, cultural, and economic bubble of India fell to the Jama Masjid Trust, the group responsible for the Muslim cemetery in Mumbai. They declined. The Jama Masjid Trust refused to bury the dead Muslim terrorists.

It is an act unprecedented in the modern timesMuslims refusing to bury Muslims. The highly respected and accepted Muslim leaders of the Trust would not accept these men in their cemetery. Why? "[T]he people who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslims," they said, "Islam does not permit this sort of barbaric crime." Read more ..

Mumbai Massacre

Taking Aim At The Evil In The Hearts Of Mumbai Mass Murderers

December 1st 2008

India Topics - Mumbai terror2

India is certainly no stranger to terrorist attacks, and has seen repeated attacks of disparate severity since 1993. Indeed, Indian experts on domestic terrorism have repeatedly warned that absent a solution that resolves "the Kashmir problem," Indians cannot expect this situation to improve anytime soon. Lashkar-e-Taiba is known to harbor close affiliations with Al Qaeda, and it did not escape the notice of Indian intelligence when on August 27, 2002, Osama bin Laden was quoted as saying, "Fighting Jihad against India is a duty of the entire Muslim world. Kashmir cannot be resolved by means other than Jihad."

Today, in the great city of Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), the financial capitol and hub of much of India’s commerce, the city and the country’s security forces struggle to understand what has just happened to them. The only thing that is unequivocally clear is that evil did lurk in the hearts of the young men who stormed this beautiful city and wreaked havoc for three days.

In a series of coordinated attacks in at least nine locations across the center of Mumbai, teams of terrorists fanned out and targeted random victims, foreign and domestic, as they made their way to specific locations where they had planned larger scale attacks. Specifically, five targets of apparently great importance to them were the Oberoi Hotel, The old Victoria Terminus train station, the Cama and Albless Hospital, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, and the Nariman House, also known as the Chabad House, run by orthodox Lubavich Rabbi Gavriel and his wife, Rivkah Holtzberg.


Religious Freedom

Horrid Hindu Atrocities Against Christians in Orissa Challenge India's Pluralism

November 24th 2008

Asia Topics - Orissa Violence

The violence which ravaged the Christian community in Orissa, India, for two months from late August to October was brutal and bitterly partisan and would hardly have been out of place in the Rwanda of 1994. In one of the private relief camps in the Orissa state capital, a displaced lady told me the story of her pastor who had been targeted by a mob which came into his home. The members of the mob tried to force him to renounce his faith and when he refused to do so, protesting that he had been a leader and preacher for many years, they cut off his lips, poured kerosene over his head and burned him alive. They also burned down his house and threw his deaf and mute elderly mother onto the fire, where she died.

Attacks on the minority Christian community began in a remote rural district of the eastern state of Orissa in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of the controversial Hindu leader, Swami Lakhmananda Saraswati, by Maoist insurgents on August 23. The attacks were widespread, clearly targeted and extremely violent. Read more ..

Great Gatherings

Legislators and Opinion Makers from Around the World Discuss Human Rights in “Real American” Venue

November 17th 2008

Event Logos - IRPP Scranton Meeting

The First Lady of Ethiopia and a top member of the National Security Council are among dozens of world leaders and legislators who will converge on Scranton, Pennsylvania to attend an important annual conference on human rights from November 23–25, 2008

For the first time in its five-year history, the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom (IPC) will convene outside a national capital. The IPC is a program of the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Public Policy designed to foster initiatives and training on human rights around the world at the most democratic level—national legislatures.

Past sessions have taken place in Rome, Brussels and Washington, but bringing the IPC to Scranton—the hometown of Vice President-Elect Joe Biden—is a chance for foreign leaders to see the "real America," explains Institute President Joseph K. Grieboski. The State of Pennsylvania, City of Scranton and Lackawanna County are all sponsors of the event.


The Obama Transition

You've Come a Long Way, Barack Obama

November 10th 2008

Presidential - Barack Obama

When I was a young boy we were briefly in South Africa. It was 1969 and the country was still very much in the grip of Apartheid politics. I remember being on top of Capetown’s Table Mountain and there were segregated toilets, with a prominent sign posted above the doors, Nie – Blankes! and Blankes!--the Afrikaans for Non – Whites and Whites. My recollection was also that the sidewalks had a line painted down the middle where whites and non-whites walked on different sides of the pavement. Being from San Francisco, the absurdity of this was staggering, yet it wasn’t only South Africa that had such policies.

As a young child from California, I did not experience the racial turmoil of the South, and certainly wasn’t aware during those years that the experience blacks in Mississippi had was rather different than that of blacks living in New York or San Francisco. When my family moved to Europe, it was in Germany that we first personally experienced racial prejudice. When looking for an apartment in 1970, and even as late as 1972, we had doors slammed in our faces with an emphatic ‘Ausländer Raus!” or “Wir vermieten nicht an Ausländer!” Respectively "Foreigners Out!" and "We don’t rent to foreigners!"

Living in Europe for over a decade and having mastered most of the western European languages, it eventually became easy for me and my ‘foreignness’ to become somewhat transparent. But I remained painfully aware that racism, bigotry, and xenophobia were not something that would disappear quickly or painlessly. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Yorba Linda City Council Candidate Advocates Both Hydrogen and Horseback

November 3rd 2008

Energy / Environment - Mark Abramowitz
Mark Abramowitz

California has proven it is the wellspring of alternative transportation. You can find it all: the Hydrogen Highway, charging stations for EVs, an emerging CNG auto movement, a bouquet of biofuels, and personal transportation modalities from mopeds to motorcycles. There is even a hotly contested state proposition arguing that a measure to encourage alternative fuels is too slanted toward CNG cars without giving equal oomph to electric vehicles. In California, every advocate has a favorite alternative fuel ready to be crowned king.

But in conservative Yorba Linda, in the heart of Orange County, one local candidate has distinguished himself by backing not only the most advanced forms of alternative mobility, but also the most nostalgic. His name is Mark Abramowitz, one of the state’s brightest minds, president of the Association of Energy Engineers, Southern California Chapter, and now a candidate for Yorba Linda City Council. Abramowitz backs clean, green means of transportation such as hydrogen, EVs and CNG; but he also backs one brown one. He wants to preserve the equestrian traditions of the historic town, famous for its horse trails, arenas, and its general love of the animal.

Yorba Linda is one of California’s historic cities. The earliest residents came during the first years of the 20th century to establish a close-knit network of small farms, citrus groves and quaint ranch houses. The Pacific Electric Railroad linked Yorba Linda to bustling Los Angeles, thereby bringing the rural locale into direct contact with the big city. Although the railroad’s dominant function was to bring Yorba Linda’s produce to LA, it did not stop Orange County’s urbanization and suburbanization from slowly sprawling toward Yorba Linda. Yet even during the Roaring 20s and the depressed 30s, Yorba Linda’s citizenry clung to their traditions, which included a love of horses. Today the area is filled with about 100 miles of horse trails, a horse arena and equine habitats. Read more ..

The Edge of Infrastructure

Bridge to Somewhere Needs Money

October 27th 2008

Economy - I-35 Bridge
I-35W Bridge

In the months since the fatal collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, concern for the safety of the nation’s 600,000 bridges has become a leading symbol of what many contend is America’s crumbling infrastructure. And while a federal report noted that design flaws—not a lack of money—may have been the chief cause of that collapse, many have used the tragedy to justify more government spending on the nation’s infrastructure.

We may ask, "Where did the money Go?" Congress, under the impression that a lack of money is the main problem, appropriated an additional $1 billion for bridge repair for FY 2008, and is attempting to add another $1 billion with H.R. 3999 for FY 2009.


Election Edge

Obama vs. Economics 101

October 20th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

Every four years or so, American voters go to the polls to choose political leaders who enact public policies that shape and direct our nation’s economy.  Yet, the vast majority of Americans lack an analytical framework required to adequately evaluate the true impact these policy decisions will have.  While Americans may understand how much money they will get up front from tax relief or government assistance, the broader impact of the policies come from the way they influence certain types of economic behavior in the future. 
These secondary effects will have a much more fundamental impact on jobs, income and wealth creation than the immediate impact of the policies promised by politicians.  To clarify things, perhaps we should look at a few of these proposed policies from the prospective of a student in Economics 101.
Senator Obama has promised voters that the government can raise money for social programs by increasing taxes on the rich.  He defines rich as anyone making over $250,000 per year.  While a person earning that amount does make more than 95 percent of other income earners, taxing them disproportionately might not necessarily create a larger government pot.  Consider, for example, that most of the people in the top income class own businesses and derive their income from the sale of goods and services at a profit.  If the Government decides to tax their profits at a higher rate, they will earn less income, and there will be less incentive for them to go into business.  Read more ..

Edge on Immigration

Killing Fields of California’s Sanctuary Cities

October 13th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

“Sanctuary Cities” are replicating throughout the country. These make-shift communities serve as safe havens for illegal immigrants, with sometimes tragic results. Just ask Jamiel Shaw, a 17-year-old Los Angeles resident, who was allegedly gunned down by a 19-year-old "Sanctuary City" resident named Pedro Espinoza. Espinoza, an illegal immigrant and member of the 18th Street gang, allegedly murdered Shaw without reason. Even worse, Espinoza was allowed to seek cover for his murder by hiding out in "Sanctuary Cities."

Espinoza’s motive for killing Shaw, prosecutors say, was imprinted on the two-letter tattoo that stretched across his neck: "BK." The letters are an acronym for “Black Killer.” In Espinoza’s case, the “B” was crossed out. The crossed out “B” means that he has killed black people. For assassins like Espinoza, part of their gang initiation is to go out and randomly gun down someone who is black. This and similar incidents should never happen, but obviously they do. Espinoza, who was also raised in the American Juvenile system, should have been deported early on due to his run-ins with the law. Instead, he was allowed to seek refuge in a "Sanctuary City."

In many ways, Sanctuary Cities are a threat to our national security. Illegal immigrants should not have a right to stay in America illegally. They should be fined, given a reasonable time to earn citizenship, and monitored or deported. Many legal immigrants will tell you the same. After going through the hard work of earning their citizenship, they recoil at the notion of being associated with such activities. Indeed, legal immigrants consider the “Sanctuary City” phenomenon as a threat not only to their reputations, but also to their communities. They will tell you that illegal immigrants who commit crimes should not be given sanctuary; they should be jailed or deported. Read more ..

Great Gatherings

Set America Free Holds Energy Freedom Summit

October 6th 2008

Energy / Environment - Set America Free vertical

Set America Free, the left-to-right coalition seeking to get the nation on the path to energy independence, will be holding a major “Energy Freedom Summit” in Chicago’s northwest suburbs October 24 and 25, 2008 to coalesce battle strategies in the continuing effort to get the country off oil.

Clinton-administration CIA director R. James Woolsey, Reagan-administration National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane and other leading energy experts from the Set America Free coalition will speak to national and local alt fuel figures on solutions to the energy crisis. More of “a training camp” than a lunch-and-learn experience, the Energy Freedom Summit is considered de rigueur for those seeking to mobilize communities and governments.

“The United States depends on foreign countries for its energy supply,” asserts summit organizer Gal Luft, director of Set America Free. He adds, “In recent years, this dependence has taken a toll on our pocketbooks, the environment and our national security.”
Summit organizers promise that attendees will “leave equipped with media training, event organizing skills, and the tools to engage your government officials.”

In addition to Woolsey and McFarlane, other panelists, speakers and moderators include: Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, on national security implications; Anne Korin and Luft, co-directors of The Institute for Analysis of Global Security, along with Paul Werbos of the National Science Foundation on fuel choices and achieveing 500 miles per gallon; Chicago Sun-Times columnist Steve Huntley on alcohol fuels, including methanol and Brazilian sugar cane ethanol; and EV World editor Bill Moore; and Edwin Black, author of The Plan on the electric car. Read more ..

Inside Africa

Poor But Willing to Be Taxed in Sierra Leone

September 29th 2008

Sierra Leone men

Sierra Leone is the most underdeveloped country in the world, according to the United Nations. Following a decade-long civil war which killed over 50,000, unpredictable energy supplies, deteriorated infrastructure, inadequate health facilities, and an intolerable educational system are now the norm—not the exception.

An estimated two-thirds of Sierra Leone’s youth are under or unemployed. At nearly 31 percent, Sierra Leone’s adult literacy rate is amongst the worst in the world. Maternal death and infant mortality rates are the highest any where on earth. Amidst the stagnant smell of garbage and marijuana, 70 percent of the current population lives in poverty. Most reside between crumbling graffiti-ridden walls described as shanties at best.

It’s a typical ghetto scene with an atypical state of mind. "We have no work; nothing to do, no sleeping place," said Salu Koroma, "but I want to make my country develop. I paid the tax." Echoing that sentiment, Mohamed Bangura said, "I don't have a job, but I have paid my tax.” Read more ..

Edge on Economics

Do Libertarians Believe in God?

September 22nd 2008

Christian Topics - Last Judgement

Libertarian (free-market) economists, if they believe in God, are certain that He is one of them. This attitude is far from new. In 1835, American economist Henry Carey complained (before his conversion to protectionism) that Britain and France, in restricting trade between themselves, were “doing all in their power to frustrate the designs of the Deity.” In the 1840s, English politician Richard Cobden claimed that “free trade is the international law of God.”

Today, many American Christians, including Catholics such as Michael Novak, Thomas Woods and Rev. Robert Sirico, proclaim similar ideas. Novak quarrels with orthodox Catholic teaching on social justice, disparages its traditional emphasis on distributive justice, and holds that the state should have only a “last resort” role in promoting the just society.

However, modern free-marketeers owe much to the ‘Austrian school’ of economists, many of whose tenets clearly contradict Catholic teachings. Given their huge worldwide influence in recent decades, it is worth examining in some detail the views of a leader of that school, Friedrich von Hayek (1899 – 1992).

Hayek, a seminal free-marketeer

Professor at the University of Chicago between 1950 and 1962, Hayek was one of the chief instigators of the wave of libertarian economics that has swept the world since the 1970s. The late Milton Friedman frequently acknowledged his influence. Michael Novak, of the American Enterprise Institute, celebrated his 1999 birth-centenary with a fervent eulogy. Hayek’s theories underlie the economic policies that have allowed inequalities in the U.S. to revert to the levels of the 1920s and whose consequences in Latin America have provoked widespread leftward reactions. The same theories inspired the ‘shock therapy’ of Boris Yeltsin’s economic strategists Yegor Gaïdar  and Anatoly Chubais, which brought chaos, paving the way for a return to authoritarian rule in Russia under Vladimir Putin.   Read more ..

The Way We Are

Laugh Until You Cry

September 15th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Micah Halpern headshot
Micah Halpern

One of the best ways to evaluate a society is by examining the humor of that society.

Freud asserted that in every joke there is a kernel of truth. I would assert that there is much, much more than simply a kernel. There is profound expression in humor. Societies use humor as a way of calling out, of crying for help, of pleading for law and order, a way to save their victims from untenable situations. The twist is that the call, the cry, and the plea are accompanied not by tears, but by laughter.

In many circumstances the joke, humor, is the only way to actually raise essential societal questions while also allowing people to live through a situation that should be viewed as crazy and out of the ordinary, but that has become their everyday norm.

Jewish jokes have set the standard for gentle but honest self-deprecation. Jewish jokes were also the first to tackle indelicate situations in a digestible way. The jokes, written by Jews and about Jews are a window into the pain and pathos of the Jewish people during specific times in history. Originally intended for Jewish audiences, the genre has now become familiar to all ethnic groups and is a staple of many comedic performances.

It's okay to laugh at a Jewish joke, even if you're not Jewish. It's acceptable. In many cases, it's expected. That is not the case in all societies. Read more ..

Edge on Immigration

Comprehensive Solution Needed for Immigration

September 8th 2008

Social Topics - Construction Site Workers

The national immigration debate has generated tremendous, often emotional, discussion about the impact of the growing number of undocumented immigrants on our communities. Heated talk about the economic, social, and enforcement aspects of the issue predominates. We should understand, however, that above all, immigration is a humanitarian, and, ultimately, a moral issue.

Each day in parishes, social service programs, hospitals, and schools the human consequences of an inadequate immigration system are apparent. Families are separated; migrant workers are exploited by smugglers and unscrupulous employers; and human beings, desperate to survive, perish in the American desert. As our nation benefits from the hard work of undocumented workers, we fail to extend to them basic workplace and legal protections. Worse, some scapegoat immigrants for our social ills. The U.S. bishops’ statement Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship urges Catholics to study issues such as immigration before going to the polls. Read more ..

Election Edge

Crossing the Line with Hitler Comparisons--Madonna and McCain

September 1st 2008

Entertainment - Madonna strutting

Here we go again. The iconic face of evil, Adolf Hitler, is once again being used as shorthand to disparage with massive overkill things we don’t like – in this case, pop star Madonna doesn’t like Republican Presidential candidate John McCain. So while she sang a song titled “Get Stupid” during the launch of her latest world tour in Cardiff, Wales, a projected photo montage appeared that included pictures of destruction and global warming, followed by video images of  Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe and Hitler, ending with John McCain. Apparently in Madonna’s mind, the last three comprise a rogue’s gallery of equivalent offenders to humanity. As she is a student of the Kabala who, on meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, declared herself an “ambassador for Judaism,” we might have hoped Madonna would know better.

It is inappropriate and offensive to make comparisons to the man ultimately responsible for the death of six million Jews and the death and suffering of countless others during the Holocaust. It trivializes the Holocaust and is an insult to the memories of the victims, their families and those who fought Nazism.

But such are not always the calculations of pop stars, media pundits, political officials, and political operatives with axes to grind. An image of Hitler is easy visual short hand – equivalent to the 10 words or less sound-bite – whose symbolic function is to declare a categorical position:  we recognize evil and we associate anyone whose positions with which we disagree with that worst of the worst, that world menace, the Nazi Fuhrer.

This rush to make easy moral comparisons out of one’s personal political or ethical biases has been going on for a long time, and as Jews, we are rightly affronted by the Arab media’s loose and self-justifying use of Nazi imagery – swastikas, Hitler’s mustache, storm trooper caricatures – to defame the state of Israel, its leaders, and the United States’ unswerving support for Israel’s continued existence as a modern democracy in the midst of authoritarian Arab states. Read more ..

Significant Lives

Zambia's Loss is Africa's Loss

August 25th 2008

Unknown - Mwananasa
Zambia President Levy Mwanawasa

His death has barely registered in the news, but the loss of Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa days ago, two months after he suffered a stroke, is a bad blow to Africa. Much of what the West knows about Africa comes in a numbing train of reports on famine, genocide, hacked limbs and political crackdowns a la Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe or Sudan's Omar al-Bashir. But there's another Africa that's enjoying renewal, thanks to the responsible leadership of men like Mwanawasa.

When Mwanawasa first ran for presidential office, having served as vice president in the 1990s, his opponents derided him as a mindless "cabbage" following his narrow survival in a 1991 car accident that slurred his speech. The determined lawyer proved his critics wrong: in his seven years in office, the cabbage presided over renewed economic growth (now about 6 percent a year); became one of the first and most cutting critics of Robert Mugabe's dictatorship; and began an anti-corruption drive that included prosecuting his former boss and president, Frederick Chiluba. The latter two moves are particularly significant on continent which rarely holds its leaders accountable, especially if they are former freedom fighters against colonialism, as was Mugabe. Read more ..

Inside Europe

Europe Takes Another Look At Divorced Fathers

August 11th 2008

Europe Topics - Man With Ring

The stereotypical image of downtrodden mothers battling to make ends meet after "deadbeat dads" vanish from their children's lives is being trampled by a growing group of dads rallying for quality time with their youngsters in the age of divorce. Media attention on this group has been ample since the creation of the Society for Male and Paternal Dignity (SYGAPA) in 2005.

The society's existence has somewhat rehabilitated the image of divorced fathers, but little else has changed. In most divorce cases, custody typically goes to the mother. "No other European country gives 95 percent of custody to mothers," guesstimates SYGAPA member and divorced father Dimitris Pahoumas, speaking about Greece's custody laws. "Ideally, custody should be 50-50, with fathers able to have input in their children's lives."

Pahoumas believes that "social policies" are to blame for the bad relations between parents after divorce. "The government appears scared of women's organizations when chartering fathers' entitlements," he says, pointing to the fact that the general secretariat for equality has not yet met with SYGAPA. Read more ..

Election Edge

Illegal Immigrants Are Voting in American Elections

August 4th 2008

Products - Voting

In 2005, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that up to 3 percent of the 30,000 individuals called for jury duty from voter registration rolls over a two-year period in just one U.S. district court were not U.S. citizens. While that may not seem like many, just 3 percent of registered voters would have been more than enough to provide the winning presiden­tial vote margin in Florida in 2000. Indeed, the Cen­sus Bureau estimates that there are over a million illegal aliens in Florida, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has prosecuted more non-citizen voting cases in Florida than in any other state.

Florida is not unique. Thousands of non-citizens are registered to vote in some states, and tens if not hundreds of thousands in total may be present on the voter rolls nationwide. These numbers are significant: Local elections are often decided by only a handful of votes, and even national elections have likely been within the margin of the number of non-citizens ille­gally registered to vote.

Yet there is no reliable method to determine the number of non-citizens registered or actually voting because most laws to ensure that only citizens vote are ignored, are inadequate, or are systematically undermined by government officials. Those who ignore the implications of non-citizen registration and voting either are willfully blind to the problem or may actually favor this form of illegal voting.

Americans may disagree on many areas of immi­gration policy, but not on the basic principle that only citizens—and not non-citizens, whether legally present or not—should be able to vote in elections. Unless and until immigrants become citizens, they must respect the laws that bar non-citizen voting. To keep non-citizens from diluting citizens' votes, immigration and election officials must cooperate far more effectively than they have to date, and state and federal officials must increase their efforts to enforce the laws against non-citizen voting that are already on the books.

An Enduring Problem

Costas Bakouris, head of the Greek chapter of Transparency International, says in an interview that ending corruption is easy: enforce the law. Illegal voting by immigrants in America is noth­ing new. Almost as long as there have been elec­tions, there have been Tammany Halls trying to game the ballot box. Well into the 20th century, the political machines asserted their ascendancy on Election Day, stealing elections in the boroughs of New York and the wards of Chicago. Quite regu­larly, Irish immigrants were lined up and counted in canvasses long before the term "citizen" ever applied to them—and today it is little different. Read more ..

China’s Embattled Olympics

China Bans Olympic Visits from Protests

July 28th 2008

Asia Topics - SF Olympic Protest

The Beijing Organizing Committee (BOCOG) recently announced that all foreigner visitors and non-resident Chinese attending the upcoming Olympic Games are banned from both watching and participating in any protests or public gatherings during the games. These rules apply even to protests authorized by the Chinese Government. Chinese citizens have a legal right to protest, but they must first apply for permission from their local Public Security Bureau. Such requests are rarely granted, and most demonstrations in China don't have official sanction.

BOCOG security director Liu Shaowu announced this week they have established three protest zones in Beijing parks. However, there are no zones near the Olympic venues. Instead, they are at the World Park in the southwest, 3 miles from the softball venue; the Purple Bamboo Park in the west, south of the volleyball arena; and Chaoyang Park in the east where beach volleyball will be played.

It was not clear how easy access would be to enter the zones. Liu and Beijing police would not say if special permission would be needed, but Beijing has already refused visa requests for known foreign activists.


After the Holocaust

Accused Nazi To Be Stripped Of US Citizenship

July 21st 2008

Contributors / Staff - Martin Barillas
Martin Barillas

The Department of Justice requested on July 15, 2008 that a federal court in Seattle, Washington revoke the U.S. citizenship of Peter Egner. The resident of Bellevue, Washington, faces loss of citizenship based on evidence of his role in a Nazi unit that participated in the mass murder of more than 17,000 Serbian civilians during World War II. Most of the victims of this mass murder were Jewish men, women and children.

A complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington alleges that Peter Egner, 86, who was born in Yugoslavia, joined the Nazi-controlled Security Police and Security Service in German-occupied Belgrade, Serbia, in April 1941 and served through September 1943.

The complaint alleges that during the first nine months of Egner's service in this organization, it operated as an Einsatzgruppe, a Nazi mobile killing unit. Captured Nazi documents reflect that in the fall of 1941, Egner’s unit participated in executing 11,164 people, most of them Serbian Jewish men, as well as some communists, suspected communists, and Roma and Sinti (Gypsies).

In early 1942, the Nazi Security Police and Security Service Belgrade carried out the murder of 6,280 Serbian Jewish women and children. Prior to their deaths, these victims were confined in a concentration camp at Semlin, outside of Belgrade.

In a process that continued daily for a period of approximately two months, the women and children were taken from the camp and forced into a specially equipped van where they were asphyxiated with carbon monoxide gas while being transported to Avala, an execution and mass burial site near Belgrade. Read more ..

Great Museums

Newseum Highlights Mysteries of J. Edgar Hoover

July 21st 2008

World Citizens - J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover

After 9/11, security concerns shut down the FBI tour in Washington's Newseum, which was a popular destination for school groups and out-of-town visitors. The highlight was a deadeye shooting demonstration by a real live agent.

Now the Newseum, two blocks away in its new digs on Pennsylvania Avenue, has revived and updated the essence of the old tour with its new exhibit "G-Men and Journalists: Top News Stories of the FBI's First Century." And while there's no bang-bang, shoot 'em up, the thrills and chills are of a subtler nature.

On display in the 250,000-square-foot museum are the Unabomber's cabin, John Dillinger's death mask, and the electric chair in which convicted Lindbergh baby kidnapper Bruno Hauptmann was executed.

But because the mysteries surrounding former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover are endlessly fascinating, the exhibit's Hoover artifacts may prove to be the biggest draw. Read more ..

The Coping Edge

Sunshine on My Shoulders

July 14th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Liz Black headshot
Elizabeth Black

After fearing the sun for decades, listening to the dire warnings of dermatologists, and slathering on sunscreen to protect against skin cancer, it turns out most people are probably getting too little sun. Apparently the majority of American women are deficient in vitamin D-3—the form that is derived from sunlight’s interaction with bare skin.

Two recent studies suggest that women who get lots of Vitamin D are less likely to develop breast cancer. This adds to the already strong mounting evidence that the “sunshine vitamin” helps prevent many types of cancer, as well as improve survival rates among those already afflicted. What’s more, Vitamin D may also lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

In one study, high levels of Vitamin D translated to a 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer. Even modestly higher levels resulted in 10 percent less risk. A second study, this one by Canadian researchers, found that women who spent time outdoors, especially in their teen years, were 25 to 45 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than women with less of the vitamin. Only 24 percent of women in the Canadian study had sufficient blood levels of Vitamin D at the time their breast cancer was diagnosed. Those who were deficient were nearly twice as likely to have their cancer recur or spread over the next 10 years, and 73 percent more likely to die of the disease. Read more ..

Inside Central Asia

New Kazakhstan Draft Religion Rules Still Violate International Human Rights Laws

July 7th 2008

Islamic Topics - Kazak Mosque

A Kazakhstan parliamentary working group has proposed amendments to some of the more onerous sections of that country’s Religion Law. But the evolving draft law still contains numerous provisions that violate international human rights law, Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and United Nations standards, diplomatic critics say. The draft law still discriminates against minority religious groups, the critics say.

Kazakhstan’s religious fabric is rich and diverse. The country has a slight Islamic majority while serving as home to many other religious groups, including Pentecostals, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baha’i, and Jews. Religious pluralism has long been an aspiration of the nation. But the draft law is making that goal hard to realize.

Leaders of many religious communities in Kazakhstan have expressed serious concerns to international religious news services. Lutheran Bishop Yuri Novgorodov complained that “If adopted, this would be a Law on Non-Freedom of Conscience.”

 A report by Forum 18 News Service, which covers minority religious affairs, notes that religious communities and human rights activists are especially alarmed about:

  • restrictions on “missionary activity” by any individual;
  • the necessity of a state review of religious beliefs of registered communities;
  • a ban and increased penalties on unregistered activity;
  • compulsory re-registration of all communities;
  • the impossibility of registering communities that only work in some of the nation’s many regions, such as the Russian Orthodox and Catholic dioceses;
  • severe restrictions on smaller religious groups;
  • the requirement of state permission to build places of worship;
  • strictures requiring children show written permission before taking part in any religious youth event;
  • a requirement that sharing religious beliefs in public places will be illegal without the consent of all citizens present;
  • and compulsory censorship of all imported religious literature.

Significant Lives

Remembering Harriet McBryde Johnson—A Woman With All The Spine And Muscle Anyone Could Hope For

June 30th 2008

Obits - Harriet McBryde Johnson
Harriet McBryde Johnson

On June 4, 2008, we lost a great American civil rights leader, Harriet McBryde Johnson. Harriet died at the age of 50 and was a well-known disability and civil rights attorney who fought for the right for life over death for Americans with disabilities.

I could easily write an obituary of Harriet's life as her accomplishments are many. But instead I will do what she would have done—what she always did—and take this opportunity to educate and to further her cause.

Harriet McBryde Johnson, a brilliant attorney, was a woman with spinal muscular atrophy. Her power came from her words, spoken and written, for those who she felt were being denied the choice of living.

In February 2003, Harriet graced the cover of the New York Times Magazine. The article, Unspeakable Conversations, discussed her meeting with Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University, who made the inflammatory statement, “It does not seem quite wise to increase any further draining of limited resources by increasing the number of children with disabilities.”

What Singer was advocating was what Harriet railed against. She said, “Singer believes that it should be lawful under some circumstances to kill, at any age, individuals with cognitive impairments [as he considers their condition] so severe that he doesn’t consider them persons.”

“He simply thinks it would have been better, all things considered, to have given my parents the option of killing the baby I once was, and to let other parents kill similar babies as they come along and thereby avoid the suffering that comes with lives like mine, and satisfy the reasonable preferences of parents for a different kind of child.”

Not one to miss an opportunity, Harriet went to meet with Singer in person to debate the issue of the choice of aborting children with significant disabilities. Read more ..

Inside Human Trafficking

800,000 Suffering in Human Trafficking Create Modern Day World of Sex Slaves and Labor Servitude

June 23rd 2008

Politics - Mark Lagon
Amb. Mark P. Lagon

Earlier this month Secretary Rice released the eighth annual Trafficking in Persons Report—the flagship publication of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons which I direct. 

In virtually every country around the world, including the United States, men, women and children are held in involuntary servitude, exploited for commercial sex, coerced into work in factories and sweatshops. In some, children are forcibly recruited as soldiers.  These are forms of human trafficking. They are, in fact, forms of modern-day slavery. Estimates of the number of victims vary widely. According to the U.S. intelligence community, approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. About 80 percent of them are female. Up to half are minors. These figures do not include millions who are trafficked for purposes of labor and sexual exploitation within national borders as well.

As a function of the information collected in compiling this document, we know far more today than we did eight years ago with the first edition, or even three years ago, when, for example, we started taking a closer look at forced labor practices.  Some key trends emerged this year which are best exemplified by an individual tragedy because it is truly these personal stories of anguish that motivate modern day abolitionists.

Last summer, I met a young Burmese woman, Aye Aye Win. She had been recruited to work in a shrimp processing sector of a neighboring country to Burma, together with 800 other Burmese men, women and children. Desperate to leave her country, Aye Aye Win described her horror to me at finding herself locked in a factory compound in the middle of a jungle, prevented from leaving or calling family by phone, or even eating decently. She and her Burmese brethren weren’t even paid. Read more ..

Inside the Military

Military Suicides Cause an Entire Battalion To Vanish

June 16th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

Alarming statistics show suicides by active duty soldiers, National Guard, and Reserve troops rose to 115 in 2007, which is a nearly 13 percent increase over the 102 military suicides in 2006 and double the 2001 figure since the War on Terror began. Moreover, the number of troops with new cases of post-traumatic stress disorder almost doubled in 2007. Clearly, America’s men and women in military service are crying out for desperate help and counseling.

Though the conflict in Iraq has shown a remarkable reduction in casualties and injuries during the past year, the trauma of the conflict still imposes a lingering toll on our military forces at home and abroad. An unspeakable number of lives have already been lost with an equally distressing number of horrific injuries. Now it is clear that the problems of the war are not confined to the battlefield, but visit young veterans at home.

"Since the beginning of the global war on terror, the Army has lost over 580 soldiers to suicide, an equivalent of an entire infantry battalion task force," the Army said in a suicide prevention guide to installations and units that was recently posted on the army’s website. "This ranks as the fourth leading manner of death for soldiers, exceeded only by hostile fire, accidents and illnesses," it said. "Even more startling is that during this same period, 10 to 20 times as many soldiers have thought to harm themselves or attempted suicide." Read more ..

Edge of Justice

Mistrial Declared in Seattle Hate Shooting

June 9th 2008

Jewish Topics - Seattle Gunman Naveed Haq
Accused Gunman Naveed Haq
Photo: Joel Magalnick

A judge declared a mistrial in the case of the gunman who shot up the offices of this city's Jewish federation.

The King County prosecutor vowed to retry Naveed Haq, 32, who claimed he was not guilty by reason of insanity.

The jury said it could not agree on all but one of the 15 counts of murder and attempted murder against Haq, whose July 2006 shooting spree at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle left one woman dead and seriously injured five.

Jurors deliberated for eight days after a six-week trial that featured testimony from 32 prosecution witnesses and 16 for the defense.

“Substantial justice cannot be done,” Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas told a packed Seattle courtroom Wednesday. "There is no reasonable probability of the jury reaching an agreement. I declare a mistrial.”

Prosecutor Daniel Satterberg said he hopes to try the case again in six months. A hearing to select a new trial date is scheduled for June 12.



Clinton, Obama and McCain All Appear at AIPAC Conference

June 2nd 2008

World Leaders - Three 2008 Candidates

What rally will Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain all attend? Answer: the annual AIPAC Policy Conference being held June 2 to June 4 in Washington, D.C.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) Annual Policy Conference is the most important event of the year for America’s mainstream pro-Israel community, observers and Mideast media watchers. This year’s AIPAC
Policy Conference will be the largest ever, with more than 7,000 people participating and some 5,000 going
to Capitol Hill on the final day of the conference to lobby Congress in support of the U.S.-Israel relationship. The event is unparalleled in Washington policy circles.

Not only will all three remaining presidential candidates appear, so will all four leaders of Congress -- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV),
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Rounding out the political headliners will be Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The Policy Conference events will include major speeches, panels and forums covering a wide range of issues concerning the U.S.-Israel relationship, America’s support for Israel in her search for peace, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the future of the Middle East. Many of the events are off the record allowing experts to express themselves frankly. Read more ..

Inside Islam

Rescue of Christian Girls from Muslim Kidnappers Triggers Destructive Tempest in Nigeria

May 26th 2008

Islamic - Nigerian Christian Church Destroyed

Police in Nigeria on May 12 rescued two kidnapped Christian teenage girls – Mary Chikwodi Okoye, 15, and Uche Edward, 14. The girls were kidnapped in the Islamic enclave of Ningi three weeks ago in an attempt to force them to marry Muslim men. Police transported the two rescued girls to safety in southeastern Nigeria where their biological parents live.

Kidnapping of teenage Christian girls by Muslims has become a regular practice in Ningi. Muslims have kidnapped at least 13 Christian girls in the town, Christian sources said.

But after the two most recent girls were rescued, the Hisbah Command, a paramilitary arm of Kano state’s Sharia Commission, went on a rampage, attacking Christians and setting fire to churches. Damaged churches include the Deeper Life Bible Church, St Mary's Catholic Church, All Souls Anglican Church, Church of Christ in Nigeria, Redeemed Christian Church of God, and the Redeemed Peoples Mission.

Islamic stalwarts argue that forced marriages of young Christian girls to older Muslim men in Africa are a legitimate attempt to regain demographic growth of Islam in Africa. Islam is now waning on the continent. According to Sheikh Ahmad Al Katani, President of The Companions Lighthouse for the Science of Islamic Law in Libya – an institution specializing in graduating imams and Islamic preachers, “There are now 1.5 million churches [in Africa] whose congregations account for 46 million people. In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every day, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Ever year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity.” Read more ..

The Way We Are

What We Love vs. What We 'Use'

May 19th 2008

Headshot - Liz Black headshot
Elizabeth Black

I usually hit delete even before reading sappy e-mail forwards. The older you get, the more of them come your way. They come from friends who’ve lost husbands through death or divorce, or newly retired women who sit at their computer early in the morning — as you get older you start waking up ridiculously early. As they sip their coffee, they begin reading and passing on the forwards that have come in from other friends who are also up way too early.

I wonder what women alone did in those early morning hours before computers? Men alone with too much time on their hands seem to pass on raunchy jokes. Well, actually, quite a few of my women friends also forward raunchy jokes. The butt of their jokes are usually men — the same kind of men passing on their brand of raunch. God bless them all.

Anyway, I was deleting a nice little sentimental forward from someone I’m very fond of, but happened to read the last two lines just before I hit delete.

“People are made to be loved, and things are made to be used — there is so much confusion in this world because people are being used and things are being loved.”

That line cut through my morning haze, and stayed with me throughout the day.

I’m at that crossroads with “things” again as I’m packing up to move from one house to another. I just did this a year ago prior to my cross-country move from Washington, D.C., to Lawrence. I thought I had stripped my “things” down to the bare minimum but now am discovering I kept a lot of things I don’t need. But this time it’s easier. Anything I haven’t used or haven’t worn in the year since moving to Lawrence is going out — that is unless it carries sentimental/historical significance that outweighs the usefulness factor. Therein lies the rub. I’m pretty sentimental ... and obsessed with family history. Read more ..

What Society Has Come To

Austria’s Painful Soul-Searching: The Frizl Incest Scandal

May 12th 2008

Headshot - Ken Bobu headshot
Ken Bobu

In the wake of the Josef Frizl incest scandal that has rocked Austria, the public has been drawn into a veritable vortex of self-recrimination, denial, defensiveness, utter helplessness, and anger at way in which the spectacle has unfolded—shocking even the most callous observers of criminal endeavors.

To summarize the case: Mr. Frizl began raping his daughter, Elizabeth (now 42), when she was eleven. When she was 18 and had already attempted to run away, he incarcerated her in the basement, tied with a leash, and occasionally gave her the option of starvation or sex. He later built a windowless nuclear fallout shelter-like bunker in his back yard, and designed the interior so as to have a secret dungeon hidden behind heavy key-coded doors that were locked electrically. Into this dungeon he secreted his daughter, while telling his wife that she had run away to join a cult. For the first number of years she was kept in her new dungeon alone. Then, as a result of repeated rapes, she became pregnant with the first of what were to become seven children—born of criminal incest.

Of the seven children, one, which was a twin, died at birth and was swiftly discarded in the furnace. The other six children were split up over time, with the babies "showing up" at the Frizl doorstep with "a note from the daughter" indicating her inability to care for them and requesting the parents to take care of their grandchildren. Three of the six children were thus reared "normally" in the grandparents’ household with the state agreeing to the grandparents’ assumption of custody and care, while the other three remained in the dungeon with their mother. After 24 years in her cell, one of the children in the dungeon, Kerstin, 19, became extremely ill, and Elizabeth persuaded her father to release the child to be treated at a hospital.


American Rituals

Dragging Fire

May 5th 2008

Headshot - Liz Black headshot
Elizabeth Black

Each spring in the Flint Hills they burn off the grasslands. This is to mimic the lightning-ignited prairie fires of ancient times, which kept trees and underbrush off the plains and somehow reinvigorated the grasslands. But I don’t like it one bit. I don’t care if it is somehow ecologically beneficial—although I don’t see how, given all the carbon it’s throwing up into the atmosphere and into my lungs.

Yes, I love the tall grass prairie—and the short grass prairie too. Yes, I’m enthralled by the vistas of rolling hills with nothing but grass as far as the eye can see. No, I don’t like prairie burning season.

This morning, a gray haze hovers in the air. I can’t see across Wakarusa Valley. My throat burns, I woke up coughing. I called off my morning walk. Up the road to the mailbox to figure out where my paper had been tossed—always an adventure—was enough for me. This morning my mood matches the sodden air. I feel phlegmatic, unable to focus. The haze has invaded my mind. Why am I here, I ask myself. How did I end up here on the northern edge of the Flint Hills? Here, where the range fires stop and the trees begin. Here straddling the borderline between pragmatism and introspection. Or to focus my malcontent more clearly, what’s with the prairie fires, anyway?
Skip ahead two weeks. Given the above, why would I accept a neighbor’s invitation to participate in a prairie burning? Curiosity? To prove that I am able to rise above my prejudices? To fuel my secret desire to punish myself? All of the above. Read more ..

What Society Has Come To

Bullycide: The Only Escape for Some Brutalized Children with Disabilities

April 28th 2008

Joyce Bender
Joyce Bender

Suicide is a leading cause of death for teenagers 10 to 19 years old. The number one cause is still depression. Depression can be triggered by events in a child’s life – but one of the leading causes has now emerged as “bullying.”

Attempting suicide because of being bullied in school is a shocking and sometimes inexplicable choice that many young people are making today in middle schools and high schools across America. This tragic form of death, known as Bullycide, is triggered by relentless bullying and depression. Neil Marr and the late Tim Field first coined the term in their book, Bullycide: Death at Playtime.

Even more tragically, researchers have discovered that almost 40 percent of bullied students are students with disabilities. Psychologists and social concern groups here and in the UK have finally discovered this hidden epidemic. Children with disabilities are not just being harassed, and made the brunt of cruel jokes, they are physically assaulted. Sadly, not enough is being done in our society and in our school systems to prevent these atrocities.

Children with disabilities are often assaulted as a form of entertainment for other children. At town hall meetings, college students with disabilities have told personal stories of years of bullying when they attended high school. One young woman told the story of bullies in high school stealing the joy stick from her wheelchair and directing the chair over and over again into the wall. This young woman spoke about attempting suicide to avoid the bullies. She said she was treated so poorly for so many years of school that she assumed she was a person of no value. In one case, a boy with an intellectual disability was hit after school by other children nearly every day for an extended period of time. Read more ..

What Society Has Come To

Teens Charged as Adults in Video Beating--The Charged: April Cooper, Brittini Hardcastle, Kayla Hassell, Britney Mayes, Cara Murphy, Mercades Nichols, Zachary Ashley, and Stephen Schumaker

April 14th 2008

Cheerleader Beating Suspects

(Top row, from left) April Cooper, Brittini Hardcastle, Kayla Hassell,
Britney Mayes, (Borrom row, from left) Cara Murphy, Mercades Nichols,
Zachary Ashley and Stephen Schumaker

For many, there are still so many unanswered questions about the shocking video of violence broadcast by television networks and across the Internet.

Six teenage girls and two boys have been charged as adults in the March 30 beating in Lakeland, Fla. of a 16-year-old acquaintance.

The teens videotaped the assault and allegedly threatened to post the film on the Internet at MySpace and YouTube. The incident has received worldwide media attention and commentary.

According to reports published late last week in the Lakeland-area newspaper The Ledger, and to Polk County Sheriff's Office affidavits, Mulberry High School cheerleader and honor student Victoria Lindsay had fought with her mother and was temporarily staying with her friend Mercades Nichols, 17, at Nichols' grandmother's house. On the evening of March 30, Lindsay entered the house, and Nichols and 17-year-old Brittini Hardcastle began to threaten her. Fourteen-year-old April Cooper struck Lindsay in the face and slammed her head into a bedroom wall, knocking her unconscious. Lindsay awoke on the living room couch, surrounded by Nichols, Hardcastle, Cooper, and three other girls, 17-year-old Britney Mayes, 16-year-old Cara Murphy and 15-year-old Kayla Hassell. Lindsay's complaint also alleges that she was held down and prevented from escaping as the girls took turns beating her while they videotaped the incident, statements supported in the video obtained by law enforcement.

Two male neighbors of Nichols, 17-year-old Zachary Ashley and 18-year-old Stephen Schumaker, are accused of acting as lookouts during the 30-minute assault. Read more ..

Enabling the Disabled

Casting Off the Stigma of Epilepsy

April 7th 2008

Joyce Bender headshot
Joyce Bender

I have a great way to quiet a room – start talking about my epilepsy to a group of strangers. There is always a look of surprise and shock when they discover that I am a person with epilepsy. I can read the “balloon” above the heads of those who suddenly look like deer caught in headlights. In cartoons, the “balloons” above the characters tell us what they are really thinking. I know the words in their “balloons” include: “I thought you were fine” or “I never knew she had this terrible problem” or “Oh, no, epilepsy, I do not want to talk to you about it.”

Most people with hidden disabilities do not discuss their disabilities, due to the stigma attached. In the United States today, approximately three million Americans are people with epilepsy and many do not disclose it. The reason they do not is their fear of being treated differently. With epilepsy comes this automatic fear of reprisal and discrimination not only in the workplace, but also in the family and in relationships. People with other hidden disabilities such as depression, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis face the same trauma associated with stigma.  Read more ..

Staying Competitive

Avoiding Math and Science like The Plague

March 31st 2008

Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

Take a minute to think about the following: When was the last time you made a mathematical calculation in your head or by hand (yes, which means not using a calculator)?  Surely, some of you avoid math like the plague – especially when your teenage child comes around looking for help on their math homework – but you must admit that even in this compalculator era it comes in handy to be able to tally your bills in your head or figure out the miles per gallon you’re getting while driving along in traffic.

It seems reasonable to expect that people with high school diplomas and college degrees shouldn’t be afraid of a little algebra. We all took math in school, and although most of us struggled with the subject, and many of us hated every second of it, we did it and we got by. We got by, and it has helped us in some way or another while at college, work, or home. But if you thought math was hard for you, consider how hard your kids have it.

It shouldn’t be hard to understand why most American teenagers struggle with math and other basic subjects like science and English. Schools are overcrowded and rundown, teachers are underpaid and overworked, kids are over-stimulated and cannot focus, and administrators are forced to push testing over learning. The fact is that kids are left behind, and sadly, even when they’re not, they don’t always grasp what we think they do. Read more ..

Genetic Edge

Genomes of the Rich and Famous

March 17th 2008

Jesse Reynolds
Jesse Reynolds

The prospect of biotechnology companies capitalizing on genetic information in order to develop profitable products without properly compensating the studied populations brings to mind biocolonialism, in which politically and economically vulnerable indigenous groups are exploited. But a growing convergence of genomics and information technology may lead, ironically, to the genetic "exploitation" of society's most elite.

A new brief by the ETC Group on the rapidly growing direct-to-consumer genetic testing industry asserts that the genomic data - which clients pay handsomely to have taken from them - will likely be correlated with health data in order to develop new products:

The information gleaned from most genetic tests has very limited use for patients, but it is extremely valuable to companies and researchers trying to establish links between medical conditions and genetic variations, enabling - they hope - the development of drugs targeted to people with specific genetic profiles. In the shorter term, drugs that have been taken off the market due to unexpected adverse reactions in a small percentage of the population could be re-marketed as personalized drugs, intended only for those with the appropriate genetic profile. Through clever (and often misleading) marketing, some companies are persuading consumers to pay for storage of genetic data and health information, which the companies intend to use (e.g., sell) for research and drug development.   Read more ..

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