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Sat, 24 Oct 2020
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Europe mulls banning 'boxes' for abandoned babies

Baby Box
© AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
German pastor Gabriele Stangl says she will never forget the harrowing confession she heard in 1999. A woman said she had been brutally raped, got pregnant and had a baby. Then she killed it and buried it in the woods near Berlin.

Stangl wanted to do something to help women in such desperate situations. So the following year, she convinced Berlin's Waldfriede Hospital to create the city's first so-called "baby box." The box is actually a warm incubator that can be opened from an outside wall of a hospital where a desperate parent can anonymously leave an unwanted infant.

A small flap opens into the box, equipped with a motion detector. An alarm goes off in the hospital to alert staff two minutes after a baby is left.

"The mother has enough time to leave without anyone seeing her," Stangl said. "The important thing is that her baby is now in a safe place."

Baby boxes are a revival of the medieval "foundling wheels," where unwanted infants were left in revolving church doors. In recent years, there has been an increase in these contraptions - also called hatches, windows or slots in some countries - and at least 11 European nations now have them, according to United Nations figures. They are technically illegal, but mostly operate in a gray zone as authorities turn a blind eye.

But they have drawn the attention of human rights advocates who think they are bad for the children and merely avoid dealing with the problems that lead to child abandonment. At a meeting last month, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child said baby boxes should be banned and is pushing that agenda to the European Parliament.

There are nearly 100 baby boxes in Germany. Poland and the Czech Republic each have more than 40 while Italy, Lithuania, Russia and Slovakia have about 10 each. There are two in Switzerland, one in Belgium and one being planned in the Netherlands.

In the last decade, hundreds of babies have been abandoned this way; it's estimated one or two infants are typically left at each location every year, though exact figures aren't available.

"They are a bad message for society," said Maria Herczog, a Hungarian child psychologist on the U.N. committee. "These boxes violate children's rights and also the rights of parents to get help from the state to raise their families," she said.

"Instead of providing help and addressing some of the social problems and poverty behind these situations, we're telling people they can just leave their baby and run away."

Arrow Down

Victims of Sandy discovered homes were burglarized

Burglarized Homes
And if the devastation from Superstorm Sandy wasn't bad enough, now victims are dealing with thieves.

Some residents in queens, New York returned home after Thanksgiving to find their homes ransacked and burglarized.

Police say the bandits didn't go after big items like TV's but instead jewelry and cash.

Burglary victim Dorenda Bainbridge says, "How dare you kick us when we're down? Ya know, that's what you feel in your gut, you feel it deep inside you, it's such a wound."

In the immediate aftermath of Sandy there were reports of looting in hard hit areas from Staten Island to the Jersey Shore.

Some storm victims are warning would-be burglars they have guns and will use them if necessary.


"Honor Labor": Black Friday labor protests could help unions make a comeback

Honor Labor
© Unknown
America is a country of two minds, and we're not talking about the election anymore. When it comes to unions, we feel strongly. Depending on the situation however, we have a tendency to flip flop.

We're pro union when it comes to sports - sometimes. When millionaire players are brattily asking for more millions, like the current NHL lockout, they don't get much sympathy. But when the pro football referees went on strike for more reasonable pay, fans everywhere almost unanimously backed their demands, especially after the Seahawk replacement ref disaster.

The recent Chicago teacher's strike pitting Mayor Rahm Emanuel against the unions was a case study in American's ambivalence toward unions. Everyone wanted the best for the city's kids, but whether or not the teachers were being selfish, or an instrumental part of their welfare was a matter of fiery debate.

Most recently, on Black Friday, thousands of Walmart employees collectively protested low wages, alleged unsafe working conditions, and unreasonable hours. This map from the Corporate Action Network shows that strikes occurred across the country. According to The Nation's Josh Eidelson's liveblog of the strikes, as of 2:00pm on Friday "there [were] Black Friday strikers in at least 100 cities and protests in forty-six states."


Bangladesh clothes factory fire kills 112 slaves in Dhaka

A firefighter tries to control a fire at a garment factory in Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka
Blaze broke out at the seven-storey factory on Saturday and firefighters recovered more than 100 bodies on Sunday morning

At least 112 people have been killed in a fire that raced through a multi-storey garment factory just outside of Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka.

The blaze broke out at the seven-storey factory operated by Tazreen Fashions late on Saturday. By Sunday morning, firefighters had recovered 100 bodies, fire department operations director major Mohammad Mahbub said.

He said another 12 people who had suffered injuries after jumping from the building to escape the fire later died at hospitals.

The death toll could rise as the search for victims was continuing, he said.


Blaming the victim: RCMP issues latest denial in string of harassment lawsuits

RCMP, Royal Canadian Mountain Police
Vancouver, British Columbia - The RCMP has issued its latest denial in a series of harassment lawsuits filed by female Mounties.

The latest case involves Const. Karen Katz, who has launched two lawsuits - the first alleging harassment by one of her colleagues, and a second alleging widespread harassment and abuse throughout her career on the force.

The RCMP already issued a statement of defence earlier this year denying the allegations in Katz's first lawsuit, which targeted Corp. Baldev (David) Singh Bamra, an officer who Katz worked with in the Vancouver area. Bamra has also denied all of her allegations.

The Mounties filed a statement of defence last week in Katz's second lawsuit. In that suit, filed in July, Katz alleged she was harassed, bullied and sexually harassed by various colleagues and superiors from when she joined the force in 1988 until she went on medical leave for post-traumatic stress in 2009.

The RCMP's statement of defence denies all of Katz's allegations and says the officer should have launched a formal grievance if she had concerns that needed to be addressed.

"Many of the alleged acts of harassment, conflict and intimidation alleged (by Katz) were first brought to the RCMP's attention with the filing of this notice of claim," said the statement of defence, filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

Cowboy Hat

Alabama lawmaker pushing for allowing guns at work

bible gun
An Alabama lawmaker is again pushing legislation that would let employees take handguns to work.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported Friday that state Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said the bill is aimed at increasing personal safety.

"I think it's necessary so people will have peace of mind when they're traveling to and from work," he said.

A similar bill has been introduced twice before, but it failed despite support from the National Rifle Association.

The Business Council of Alabama opposes the measure, said President Bill Canary.


Treetop tents, tear gas: French protest turns ugly

© The Associated Press/Laetitia Notarianni
An anti-airport protester looks down at police from a makeshift shelter in the trees during the evacuation of protestors on land that will become the new airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, western France Saturday Nov. 24, 2012.
Paris - Protesters squatting in treetop tents and makeshift shelters are battling French riot police trying to expel them from the site of a planned airport in western France.

Officers hurled tear gas projectiles and protesters responded with gas bombs and stones, as the two sides went head to head for a second day over a project that critics say will destroy woodland and cause pollution.

Eight people were arrested Saturday and three were hurt in the fighting, according to the Sipa news agency.

The issue has split the Socialist-led government of Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, which includes some Green Party members. Ayrault is the longtime mayor of the nearby city of Nantes and has championed the airport plan.

Bad Guys

Seaside Heights gives victims 15 day notice on demolitions; threatens fines

demolition notice
© Unknown
This weekend, Vice President Joe Biden visited Seaside Heights, a Jersey Shore community hit hard, not only by Hurricane Sandy. After the storm hit, many borough residents found their cars missing and had to deal with price gouging from the the town's only authorized towing service, APK Towing of Toms River.

This weekend, Joe Biden visited this oceanfront community in Ocean County, but local residents, some who saw their homes for the first time, were also greeted by demolition notices.

Dated November 13th, one noticed by a resident who wishes to remain anonymous, stated "Your structure has possible structural of footing failures."

It went on to say the structure would be demolished by November 30, 2012, just 17 days from the notice. The order allowed the residents to request a hearing, but also threatened by fines of up to $2,000 per week if they did not comply with the order and fix their homes before the 30th.


Four injured in fire at U.S. State Department in Washington

A fire broke out during routine maintenance at the U.S. State Department on Saturday, injuring four maintenance workers, officials said.

The fire began inside ductwork on the building's eighth floor at about 11 a.m. (1600 GMT) as workers were replacing insulation, State Department and fire officials said.

Workers doused the fire with hand-held extinguishers before fire department personnel arrived, District of Columbia Battalion Chief Edward Mills said.

Mills, who was one of the first responders to the scene, told Reuters TV the cause of the fire remained under investigation but did not immediately appear suspicious.

As firefighters tackled the fire, State Department personnel were evacuated to a nearby facility, where around-the-clock operations continued, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

"The fire was quickly extinguished and the main building has been reopened for normal weekend operations," Nuland said in a statement.

The firefighters' association Facebook page said three of the injured were taken to Medstar Georgetown University Hospital. A hospital spokeswoman could not immediately provide details about the conditions of the injured.

Washington Fire and EMS spokesman Lon Walls said the injured were all maintenance workers, and that one suffered serious injuries, according to the Washington Post. Walls did not immediately return a call for comment.

Light Sabers

Florida Palm Beach student and teacher get into fight

Student Teacher fight
© Unknown
A fight between a student and a substitute teacher at Palm Beach Lakes High School in Palm Beach, Florida has gone viral on the web, reports WPTV-TV (video below).

On the video, an unidentified student and the substitute teacher, who is called Mr. Smith or "Smitty" by students, stand face-to-face when the student shoves and punches the teacher. The teacher chases the student around the classroom until the teen runs out.

Darrel Phillip told WPTV-TV: "A teacher should, you know, stand up for himself, but not to go on ahead and you know. I'm speechless right now."

School officials say that the substitute teacher has been fired and the student was expelled.