Society's Child


High school band gets crop-dusted with toxic pesticides

crop dusting
© Teo/Flickr
More than 350 members of a Texas high school's marching band were sent home and told to thoroughly shower and sanitize their instruments after a plane flying overhead doused them with pesticides. Reports indicate that the students, who attend Pearland High School near Houston, were outside practicing when a city plane flew by, dumping chemicals meant for mosquito extermination.

According to reports, the incident happened around 8 a.m. on August 7, when a plane from the Brazoria County Mosquito Control District (BCMCD) flew over a parking lot next to the school's football stadium. When administrators figured out what was going on, they told band members to go inside. But it was too late, as the toxins had already been released.

Police use rubber bullets and tear gas in attempt to quell Ferguson riots - New witness says Michael Brown was shot while 'backing away with hands up'

ferguson riots
© Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
A protester throws back a smoke bomb while clashing with police in Ferguson
As anger over black teenager's death escalates, Barack Obama has been criticised for staying away on holiday

Police have begun using tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets on those protesting the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, as another witness said Michael Brown was backing away with his hands up as an officer repeatedly fired at him.

The situation in the suburb of St Louis has rapidly deteriorated following largely peaceful vigils on Tuesday night, and has led to calls for Barack Obama to cut short his golfing holiday to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.

Last night some protesters were seen hurling rocks at the heavily-armed and camouflage-wearing police units, while there were reports of young men preparing what appeared to be petrol bombs in a bus shelter.

Angry protests have taken place in Ferguson every night since Saturday, when the 18-year-old was shot to death in what police say was a struggle over a gun in a police car.

A new witness, Tiffany Mitchell, told CNN she was watching when Mr Brown and an officer, who has not been named, were "tussling through the window".

Ms Mitchell said the officer was pulling the teen in as he struggled to get away, and then "a shot was fired through the window".

"The kid finally gets away and he starts running. As he runs, the police get out of his vehicle and he follows behind him shooting," Mitchell said, adding that Brown turned around and put his hands in the air.

"The cop continued to fire until he just dropped down to the ground and his face just smacks the concrete."

Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery gives harrowing account of his Ferguson arrest

Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery was detained by police on Wednesday while reporting on the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., following the fatal shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown by police over the weekend.

For the past week in Ferguson, reporters have been using the McDonald's a few blocks from the scene of Michael Brown's shooting as a staging area. Demonstrations have blown up each night nearby. But inside there's WiFi and outlets, so it's common for reporters to gather there.

That was the case Wednesday. My phone was just about to die, so as I charged it, I used the time to respond to people on Twitter and do a little bit of a Q&A since I wasn't out there covering the protests.

As I sat there, many armed officers came in - some who were dressed as normal officers, others who were dressed with more gear.

Initially, both Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post and I were asked for identification. I was wearing my lanyard, but Ryan asked why he had to show his ID. They didn't press the point, but one added that if we called 911, no one would answer.

Then they walked away. Moments later, the police reemerged, telling us that we had to leave. I pulled my phone out and began recording video.

An officer with a large weapon came up to me and said, "Stop recording."

I said, "Officer, do I not have the right to record you?"

He backed off but told me to hurry up. So I gathered my notebook and pens with one hand while recording him with the other hand.
Bizarro Earth

What world peace? There are only 11 countries in the world that are actually free from conflict

As new wars and civil unrests seem to be flaring up every week, we look for the only countries in the world that could be considered 'conflict-free'

With the crisis in Gaza, the rise of Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria and the international stand-off ongoing in Ukraine, it can sometimes feel like the whole world is at war.

But experts believe this is actually almost universally the case, according to a think-tank which produces one of the world's leading measures of "global peacefulness" - and things are only going to get worse.

It may make for bleak reading, but of the 162 countries covered by the Institute for Economics and Peace's (IEP's) latest study, just 11 were not involved in conflict of one kind or another.

Worse still, the world as a whole has been getting incrementally less peaceful every year since 2007 - sharply bucking a trend that had seen a global move away from conflict since the end of the Second World War.

The UK, as an example, is relatively free from internal conflict, making it easy to fall to thinking it exists in a state of peace. But recent involvement in foreign fighting in the likes of Afghanistan, as well as a fairly high state of militarisation, means Britain actually scores quite poorly on the 2014 Global Peace Index, coming 47th overall.
global peace index internal
The Global Peace Index chart for internal conflicts, showing the countries defined as having 'no conflict' in dark green
Then there are countries which are involved in no actual foreign wars involving deaths whatsoever - like North Korea - but which are fraught by the most divisive and entrenched internal conflicts.
Light Saber

In protest of Gaza genocide, 150 people squeeze into tiny boxes opposite Parliament

© Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
More than 150 men, women and children squeezed into tiny wooden boxes opposite Parliament this morning to put pressure on the Government to help lift the blockade on Gaza.

The protest sought to show the conditions Palestinians were currently living in, and kicked off a national campaign of action by the charity.

Oxfam released a statement saying: "Under the blockade, the entirety of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility.

"This constitutes collective punishment and is illegal under international law."

It, along with other members of the Disasters and Emergency Committee, is delivering urgent humanitarian aid to the area after weeks of conflict in the region, with rocket fire and air strikes destroying towns and killing more than 1,000 people.

Oxfam said now more than ever the seven-year blockade should be lifted, with a huge reconstruction effort needed.
No Entry

Albania: Five illegal immigrants detained with Ebola symptoms

Albanian police have detained 40 illegal immigrants from Africa today, five of whom are currently under quarantine after exhibiting symptoms of Ebola, Macedonian newspaper Vecer has reported. Police suspect the five are of Eritrean origin, having arrived illegally in Europe via Greece.

They are currently being tested for carrying the Ebola virus in hospital in the Albanian city of Vlore, less than 86 miles from Italy's closest port. The news comes after one person was quarantined in Montenegro earlier today under suspicion they may be infected with Ebola.

The possible victim entered Montenegro from a West African country with an epidemic of the disease, according to the public health institute. In an attempt to prevent the spread of Ebola, Serbian authorities have currently put 14 people under medical surveillance, each hailing from either Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea or Nigeria, Bulgarian newspaper Standart reported. They will remain under watch for the 21-day incubation period of the Ebola virus.

If confirmed, the cases would constitute the first uncontrolled instances of Ebola in Europe. A Spanish priest became the first European victim of the disease on Tuesday after contracting the disease in Liberia after being flown to a hospital in Madrid.
Arrow Down

Indiana grandmother suffers violent SWAT raid after a neighbor uses her wireless internet

Indiana House
© YouTube
The armored men surround the home and prepare to breach.
Evansville - An innocent elderly woman's home was raided by SWAT when she was suspected of using the internet to trash-talk and post threats toward the local police. In response, gun-wielding assailants breached her doors and windows in a violent search for electronic evidence.

The hair-raising incident took place at the household of Louise Milan on Powell Street. It was the place where she and her husband had raised their six children, and had lived for three decades.

On June 21, 2012, the solitude of the familial home was shattered - along with numerous doors and window panes. Louise Milan, 68, was home with her adopted daughter, 18-year-old Stephanie Milan. Around midday, Louise had been straightening her bedroom when she heard a terrifying sound from downstairs.

"I hear this noise, and I'm thinking something's hit the house," Louise recalled in her deposition. "Then I think the world has come to and end," she added, when she heard "the second bang."

100,000-petition urges U.S. to drop legal action against Pulitzer-winning journalist James Risen

© AFP/Brendan Smialowski
New York Times investigative reporter James Risen, who has been threatened with prison for his reporting, speaks during an event at the National Press Club August 14, 2014 in Washington, DC.
A petition with over 100,000 signatures backing Pulitzer-winning journalist James Risen was handed to the Department of Justice in Washington, urging an end to legal action against him for refusing to reveal a source about a CIA operation in Iran.

The petition demands that the US government not pursue an "illegal case" against Risen, an author and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter, as his supporters believe that it will be in violation of his First Amendment freedom of speech rights. The appeal was put together by Roots Action. The petition handed in to the DoJ contained 4,000 pages of signatures and was decked out in red, white and blue ribbons.

Risen has been subpoenaed to give evidence about who gave him the information, but refuses to reveal his source, saying that it would be a breach of his civil liberties.

Speaking to RT, Risen said: "I don't want to get into any details about the case but I can just say this is all about the issue of press freedom in America and about whether we are going to have the continued regression of investigative reporting in America."

Risen's book "State of War," published in 2006, addressed how the CIA tried to project a negative image of Iran's nuclear program under the presidency of George W. Bush. He was allegedly given the information by Jeffrey Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency employee who was later charged under the Espionage Act for allegedly disclosing CIA secrets to the New York Times reporter.

  • Blow to investigative journalism! Reporters have no rights to safeguard confidentiality of sources, James Risen ordered to testify in CIA leaker trial


Prominent Israeli rights group blacklisted from national service program

B'Tselem protest
Members of B'Tselem protesting Israeli atrocities.
Israel has banned young people from serving in one of its most prominent human rights groups as an alternative to military service because of its campaigns against the war in Gaza and Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
B'Tselem is an Israeli non-governmental organization (NGO), which was founded in 1989; one of its aims is to document human right's abuses in the occupied territories.
Sar-Shalom Djerbi, the director of the Sherut Leumi, the national civilian service administration, which is responsible for the non-military options available to Israelis who don't won't to serve in the IDF said that B'Tselem had gone too far in its recent campaigning.

Israeli soldiers indicted
B'Tselem's investigation leads to indictment of soldiers who abused Palestinians.
B'Tselem has "crossed the line in wartime [by] campaigning and inciting against the state of Israel and the Israeli Defense Force, which is the most moral of armies," he told Channel 2 TV.

Djerbi set out his position in a letter to Hagai el-Ad, the executive director of B'Tselem.

"This is especially relevant now, when the State of Israel is dealing with the threat of thousands of rockets and missiles on millions of its citizens and is in the middle of a comprehensive campaign to remove the threat on its citizens," he wrote.

Palestinian w camera
© unknown
In January 2007, B'Tselem launched its camera distribution project, a video advocacy project. We provide Palestinians living in high-conflict areas with video cameras, with the goal of bringing the reality of their lives under occupation to the attention of the Israeli and international public.
He added that the activities of B'Tselem encourage "extreme anti-Semitic expressions against the State of Israel, as well as violent acts of anti-Semitism around the world."

But Hagai el-Ad said the blacklisting was the latest in a campaign by the Israeli state of intimidation and threats against the rights group over the past three weeks, because of its vocal anti Gaza campaign.

Comment: B'Tselem endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomena of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights advocacy culture in Israel. (

B'Tselem is independent and is funded by contributions from foundations in Europe and N. America that support human rights activity worldwide and by private individuals in Israel and abroad.

They have gained a reputation for accuracy and do their own fieldwork, research and cross checking to ensure reliability. B'T publishes scores of reports covering rights violations, torture, fatal shootings by security forces, restriction on movement, expropriation of land, discrimination, detention and settler violence. They regularly provide Knesset members with information, assisting in placing human rights matters on the agenda.

They advocate for accountability, prosecuting Israeli land-grabs, and Palestinian rights to their land, free movement and self-determination. Their list of press releases attests to the integrity of this organization and the "threat" they pose on the Israeli empirical agenda and status-quo.

Perhaps there is a ray of hope, conscience and sanity out there...but for how long?

Heart - Black

Sparing none: Israel mercilessly targeted and murdered people with special needs in Gaza

gaza disabled bombeed
© Robert Tait
Mubaret Phiilistine care home for Orphans and Handicapped in Gaza's Beit Lahiya district. A damaged wheelchair next to the crater caused by the missile that crashed through the building.
During its war on the Gaza Strip, the Israeli occupation has worsened the plight of those whom life has already wronged. Its random and intentional targeting of civilians did not spare the mentally handicapped.

Mohammed Matar, 38, was one such person. He used to make daily visits to the cemetery where his brother had been laid to rest, until he finally joined him in the afterlife after being hit by an Israeli drone missile. It was the 16th day of the war when Mohammed washed his brother's grave with his own blood instead of water.

Mohammed frequently washed and laid flowers on the grave of his older brother Majed, who was shot and killed in the summer of 2007 by occupation forces in the east of Gaza. Majed's martyrdom had struck Mohammed hard, because he was the one who paid him the most attention and care.

A few weeks have already passed since Mohammed, nicknamed "the wild one" was martyred, yet his older brother, Abu Awad, still cannot grasp the idea of losing him.

"He was peaceful and everyone loved him...he went as usual to visit his brother but they killed him," Abu Awad, 45, sighed.

He said that he tried to stop his brother from going to the graveyard in Beit Lahiya, in the north of Gaza, because he was worried about him. But Mohammed kept repeating, "Majed is waiting, he wants water, I must go, I do not want him to be upset with me." He then snuck out of the house without anyone noticing.

A few minutes later, an explosion was heard at a place close by and the media declared that a man was targeted at Beit Lahiya's graveyard. Abu Awad felt at once that his brother was the target; he cried "Mohammed is there.... they killed him."