Society's ChildS


US - Houston, Texas: Mysteries deepen in case of Iranian activist shot to death outside Memorial-area townhome

© ABC13HPD investigators at the scene of the murder of Gelareh Bagherzadeh, found in her car in the Memorial area early Monday morning.
Houston - What originally seemed like a neighborhood tragedy in an upscale community near Memorial has now taken on international overtones with the identification of a murder victim as an Iranian women's advocate.

Gelareh Bagherzadeh, 30, was shot to death around midnight Monday in the parking area behind the townhome at 894 Augusta Drive where she lived with her parents. She was a student in molecular genetics technology at MD Anderson Cancer Center and was an organizer of Sabz-Houston, an organization calling for political change in Iran.

Born in Mashhad, Iran, she was prominent for her activism in demanding a regime change in Iran in 2010 and rights for women in her native country. Websites devoted to that cause ran accounts of her death Monday and Tuesday.

The mystery of Bagherzadeh's death deepened Tuesday, when Houston police revealed they first responded to a shots-fired call in that block about 11:45 p.m. Sunday but found no evidence of a shooting and left the scene.


India's Black Hole: A Bleak Fate for Delhi's Vanishing Children

Frightening statistics from Delhi's police have revealed that 13 children go missing in the city each day. Many end up as slaves or are forced to work in the sex industry in a city which is now India's undisputed kidnapping capital.

­With almost 17 million people packed into its crowded city streets, New Delhi is the perfect place for people to get lost. But some are never found again. They simply disappear.

That is what happened to Rao Kumar's 12 year old son, Ravi. He went missing one year ago when he left the house to get his bicycle, and never returned.

"I don't know who took my son away. I looked for him everywhere but did not find him," says Rao Kumar, the father of the missing child.

And Ravi is far from the only one.

In Delhi alone, anywhere from 2-5,000 children go missing every year, while in India as a whole, a staggering 800,000 disappear.

Having a loved one disappear takes a dreadful toll on families. Kumar has not been able to hold down a steady job or stay healthy. His only focus is finding out what happened to his son. But the answer is likely a grim one - most children who disappear in Delhi end up as sex workers or slaves.

"The kids are kept in places where no one will be able to find them. They're also kidnapped for the organ trade business, adoption and also for begging," says R.S. Chaurasia, chairperson of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), a non-governmental organization in India which campaigns against child labor, child trafficking and child servitude.

Bad Guys

US Poll: 84 Percent of Americans Disapprove of the Job Congress is Doing

© Andrew Harrer / BloombergAccording to a recent Gallup poll, Congress's approval rating has reached an all-time low of 11 percent. Here are some surprising things from recent history that were more popular than the current Congress.
Lawmakers will return to Washington on Tuesday to begin an election-year work session with low expectations for any significant legislative action, while also receiving low approval ratings for themselves.

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows a new high - 84 percent of Americans - disapproving of the job Congress is doing, with almost two-thirds saying they "disapprove strongly." Just 13 percent of Americans approve of how things are going after the 112th Congress's first year of action, solidifying an unprecedented level of public disgust that has both sides worried about their positions less than 10 months before voters decide their fates.

It has been nearly four years since even 30 percent expressed approval of Congress, according to the Post/ABC survey, and support hasn't recovered from the historic low it reached last fall.


France: Sarkozy Mocks S&P Credit Downgrade

On Monday French President Nicolas Sarkozy openly stated the Standard & Poor's of France's downgrade "changes nothing." Eight other countries in the Eurozone, which is the world's second largest economy, received the same fate and many feel the downgrade could stump Sarkozy's effort to lead the Eurozone out of its economic crisis. Jim Rogers, investor and author, joins us to discuss the credit downgrade and what this means for the Eurozone.


Poland slaps fine on singer for bashing Bible

© GettyDoda of Poland arrives for the MTV Europe Music Awards.
Warsaw - A Polish court slapped a fine on a popular singer who bad-mouthed the Bible -- the latest episode in which authorities grapple with religious defamation in a traditionally Catholic country that is growing increasingly secular.

Dorota Rabczewska, a singer who uses the stage name Doda, said in a 2009 interview that she doubted the Bible "because it's hard to believe in something that was written by someone drunk on wine and smoking some herbs."

A Warsaw court ordered her Monday to pay a fine of 5,000 zlotys ($1,450) for offending religious feelings.

The case comes months after another Polish court let off a death metal performer, Adam Darski, who tore a Bible during a 2007 performance. It deemed his act artistic expression.


US: Hundreds Mark MLK Holiday Outside South Carolina Capitol

© AP Photo/Evan VucciPeople arrive at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, Monday, Jan. 16, 2012, for a ceremony honoring his legacy.
Hundreds of people rallied Monday outside the South Carolina capitol to honor the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and protest the state's voter identification law.

While rallies in previous years have often been focused on protesting the Confederate flag that flies outside the Statehouse near a memorial for Confederate soldiers, the attention this year has turned to the voter ID law.

The U.S. Justice Department has rejected the law. The Obama administration said it didn't pass muster under the 1965 voting rights act, which outlawed discriminatory practices that prevented blacks from voting. On Monday, marchers carried signs that read: "Voter ID(equals)Poll Tax."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was among those slated to speak.


More US Catholics Take Complaints to Church Court

© The Associated Press/M. Spencer GreenIn this Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 photo, Rev. Patrick Lagges stands in front of a statue of Saint Francis in Chicago.
Parents upset by the admission policy at a parochial school. Clergy and parishioners at odds over use of their building. A priest resisting a transfer to another parish.

It was once assumed that disagreements like these in the Roman Catholic Church would end one way: with the highest-ranking cleric getting the last word.

But that outcome is no longer a given as Catholics, emboldened following the clergy abuse scandals that erupted a decade ago this month, have sought another avenue of redress.

In recent years, clergy and lay people in the United States have increasingly turned to the church's internal legal system to challenge a bishop's or pastor's decision about even the most workaday issues in Catholic life, according to canon lawyers in academia, dioceses and in private practice. Sometimes, the challengers even win.

In one example cited by veteran canon lawyers, parishioners wanted to bar musical performances in their church that weren't liturgical. Their priest had been renting space to a local band. In another case, a nun filed a petition after a religious superior disclosed the nun's medical information to others - a potential violation of privacy. Regarding bishops' often contentious decisions to close parishes, the liberal reform group FutureChurch posts a guide on its website called "Canonical Appeals for Dummies" on seeking Vatican intervention to stay open.


US: Imprisoned Jeffs Imposes Change on Polygamous Sect

Warren Jeffs
© unknownWarren Jeffs
Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs may be serving a life-plus-20-year sentence in a Texas prison, but his grip on most of his 10,000 followers doesn't appear to be lessening and some former insiders say he's imposing even more rigid requirements that are roiling the church and splitting its members.

The edicts from Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, form the basis for what he's called the "Holy United Order." An estimated 1,500 men, women and children church members failed to meet the stringent standards by a Jan. 1 deadline, said Willie Jessop, a former FLDS spokesman who no longer reveres Jeffs.

Whether those members were excommunicated outright or have been put on probationary status until they can prove they meet the standards remains unclear, Jessop and others said. Some marriages have been dissolved and families split up as Jeffs works from his prison cell to reshape his church.

Since about mid-November, Jeffs' brother, Lyle Jeffs, has been conducting personal interviews with members to determine their worthiness under the new order, the former church members say.

Mr. Potato

US: Republican Sponsor Of Bill To Require Drug Testing For Georgia Welfare Recipients Arrested For DUI

kipp smith
© Unknown

A Georgia Republican who wants all welfare reciepients subject to drug tests failed one himself after he ran a red light on Friday morning. The Atlanta Journal Constiution has the story on State Rep. Kip Smith (R):
Smith, whose given name is John Andrew Smith, first told the officer he had not consumed any alcoholic beverages.

"I asked him again, and he stated he had consumed a single beer at Hal's. I noticed also that Mr. Smith's eyes were watery, and I asked him to exit the vehicle, which he did," Kramer said in the report.

Smith told the officer he'd had the beer 45 minutes earlier, and the officer asked him to blow into a hand-held "intoximeter". The officer said the lawmaker refused, stating he would prefer to go to a clinic or the hospital to get tested.

The officer said Smith finally agreed to blow into the device. The report stated that Smith blew a .091., which is above the legal limit of .08.


America's Dangerously Removed Elite

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel
© AP/ReutersNew Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel
It's easy to cut public education funding when your kids go to private school. Just ask Christie and Emanuel.

Last week, my local Twittersphere momentarily erupted with allegations that Denver's public school superintendent, Tom Boasberg, is sending his kids to a private school that eschews high-stakes testing. Boasberg, an icon of the national movement pushing high-stakes testing and undermining traditional public education, eventually defended himself by insisting that his kids attended that special school only during preschool and that they now attend a public school. Yet his spokesman admitted that the school is not in Denver but in Boulder, Colo., one of America's wealthiest enclaves.

Boasberg, you see, refuses to live in the district that he governs. Though having no background in education administration, this longtime telecom executive used his connections to get appointed Denver superintendent, and he now acts like a king. From the confines of his distant castle in Boulder, he issues edicts to his low-income fiefdom - decrees demonizing teachers, shutting down neighborhood schools over community objections and promoting privately administered charter schools. Meanwhile, he makes sure his own royal family is insulated in a wealthy district that doesn't experience his destructive policies.

No doubt this is but a microcosmic story in a country whose patrician overlords are regularly conjuring the feudalism of Europe circa the Middle Ages. Today, our mayors deploy police against homeless people and protesters; our governors demand crushing budget cuts from the confines of their taxpayer-funded mansions; our Congress exempts itself from insider-trading laws and provides itself healthcare benefits denied to others; and our nation's capital has become one of the world's wealthiest cities, despite the recession.