Society's ChildS


Prison debate team triumphs again -- this time against West Point

© Lucas B. Frank/Bard Prison InitiativeMembers of the debate team at the Bard Prison Initiative go up against the U. S. Military Academy at West Point Friday at Eastern New York Correctional Facility.
The Bard Prison Initiative debate team who famously defeated Harvard College students last October put another notch in their belt. This time, in poetic fashion, the prison inmates bested students at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Members of the Bard team, all inmates at a maximum security prison, are enrolled in a college program at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility. They go through a competitive screening process to get there, joining about 1,000 others who made the cut.

Their winning streak in debate demonstrates the cognitive potential that exists in the massive U.S. prison system. This is what motivates the Bard Prison Initiative, which is funded mostly through private donations. Graduates of their college program have an astonishingly low 2 percent rate of recidivism.

Stock Down

Deja vu all over again: Companies are defaulting on their debts just like in 2008

The Dow closed above 18,000 on Monday for the first time since July. Isn't that great news? I truly wish that it was. If the Dow actually reflected economic reality, I could stop writing about "economic collapse" and start blogging about cats or football. Unfortunately, the stock market and the economy are moving in two completely different directions right now. Even as stock prices soar, big corporations are defaulting on their debts at a level that we have not seen since the last financial crisis. In fact, this wave of debt defaults have become so dramatic that even USA Today is reporting on it...

Comment: What happens when corporations default on their debts? Rewards. When private individuals default? Harassment, shaming and debtor's prisons.


Student loans are a scam: Why the government needs to give blanket student debt amnesty right now

student debt
A couple weeks ago the Wall Street Journal confirmed our worst fears about the student loan program, that is, that it was going to blow up in the government's face just like all the other gigantic debt-bubbles that preceded it. For the sake of background, here's a brief excerpt from the article that will bring readers up-to-date:
"More than 40% of Americans who borrowed from the government's main student-loan program aren't making payments or are behind on more than $200 billion owed, raising worries that millions of them may never repay.

The new figures represent the fallout of a decadelong borrowing boom as record numbers of students enrolled in trade schools, universities and graduate schools.

While most have since left school and joined the workforce, 43% of the roughly 22 million Americans with federal student loans weren't making payments as of Jan. 1, according to a quarterly snapshot of the Education Department's $1.2 trillion student-loan portfolio." (More Than 40% of Student Borrowers Aren't Making Payments, Wall Street Journal)
While it all sounds very shocking, the real eye-popper was buried deep in the text where it was most likely to be ignored. Here it is:
"Carlo Salerno, an economist who studies higher education and has consulted for the private student-lending industry, noted that the government imposes virtually no credit checks on borrowers, requires no cosigners and doesn't screen people for their preparedness for college-level course work. "On what planet does a financing vehicle with those kinds of terms and those kinds of performance metrics make sense," he said." (WSJ)


Police state on steroids: Couple faces 3 months in jail for overdue library books

handcuff books
Like a dystopic nightmare, a couple from Michigan faces not only large fines, but jail time over failing to return two library books — one of which is a classic by Dr. Seuss — despite their attempts to resolve the matter.

Catherine Duren allowed her son to use her library card to check out the Hatful of Seuss collection for his daughter in 2014.

Catherine's husband, Melvin, also faces charges after keeping the thriller, The Rome Prophecy, for eight months — though he returned it in January after receiving a letter about the missing book.

Now, the couple faces up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine for late library books.

Comment: See also:


Survey says: Only 6% of Americans trust the media

© Peter Morgan/Reuters

Comment: Your average American is more interested in trust-worthy, objective reporting in the media, not just government mouthpieces and liars.

As accusations of bias fly during an election year, a new report shows that Americans have serious misgivings about the media, with only six percent saying they have "a great deal of confidence" in the press.

A survey of more than 2,000 adults released on Sunday showed that trust in the media has dipped to dramatically low levels. About 52 percent of respondents said they have "some confidence" in the press, while 41 percent said they have "hardly any confidence."

"Over the last two decades, research shows the public has grown increasingly skeptical of the news industry," the report from the American Press Institute reads. "The study reaffirms that consumers do value broad concepts of trust like fairness, balance, accuracy, and completeness. At least two-thirds of Americans cite each of these four general principles as very important to them."

According to the study, most people couldn't name a specific instance that damaged their confidence in the media, but about 40 percent could remember a case, generally involving a report that turned out to be inaccurate or was perceived as biased, which caused them to lose their trust.


Samantha Power's high-speed motorcade kills 7-year-old boy in Cameroon village

Refugees awaiting Power
© AP/Andrew HarnickRefugees gather to see U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power as she visits Minawao Refugee Camp in northern Cameroon, Monday, April 18, 2016.
Samantha Power's motorcade was moving at high speed, exceeding 60 mph, when the boy was run over. The boy died in hospital

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power's motorcade in Cameroon on Monday ran over a seven-year old boy killing him, AP reported.

Power had just arrived in Cameroon to visit the front lines in the war against Boko Haram and was driving through the northern city of Moloko, where Power was scheduled to meet refugees and other people displaced by years of violence across West Africa, AP added. The high-level diplomat later returned to the scene of the tragic incident and met with the boy's mother and father.

Associated Press said that Power's motorcade was driving at high speeds—exceeding 60 mph—in spite of villagers standing along the road to watch her pass by. But, after the accident, the ambassador's motorcade slowed down significantly. "The vehicle that hit the boy initially stopped, but was ordered by American security forces to continue traveling through the unsecured area.

An ambulance in the U.S. caravan immediately attended to him," AP said. The boy was rushed to a local hospital in critical condition. He died at the hospital.

AP said officials did not immediately identify the boy, and U.S officials wouldn't comment immediately on any plans for compensation to the boy's family.


Georgia school forces mother to watch 5-year-old get spanked by principal

Georgia principal spanking child
© Via Facebook/Shana Marie Perez
The internet is in an uproar after the mother of a 5-year-old posted a video online of his principal paddling him. The mother claims she was forced into approving the corporal punishment or else she would have risked jail time.

When Shana Perez was told that her son Thomas had been misbehaving in school, she was given two options: he could be suspended for a day or receive a paddling. Perez chose paddling after, "[the school administration] said there was nothing else, no other way possible that anything that they could do or that could be done for him was going to help him but to be paddled," as she told WAGA.

Perez explained that the situation began when Thomas "tried to hit another child and they said he, I guess, he missed, but he tried to run around the bus lot and they were all trying to stop him, and he spit on somebody."

Although Perez did not upload footage of the actual paddling, she did film the administrators attempting to get him to assume the position. The boy screams and cries for his mother, who tells him, "I'm not listening to you, I'm texting."

After Thomas squirms away from the administrators, one woman says, "Mama can't help you, mama might have to go wait outside the door."

Perez said that she acquiesced out of concern that she would end up in jail for truancy if she chose to have him suspended. Although she cannot confirm that the school told her she faced truancy charges if she chose the alternative to physical punishment, she claims to have been arrested previously after Thomas missed 18 days of school for a cancer scare.

Comment: Warning: The below video is difficult to watch.

Comment: How sickening that children are subjected to child abuse in the name of discipline. Research shows that spanking doesn't change behavior any more than other forms of correction like 'time-outs' or taking away privileges. Spanking does however, create more aggressive adults with mental and emotional problems, undermines positive human qualities and teaches these children that learning occurs through punishment.

Георгиевская ленточка

Effective leadership: Five rapid results from Putin's 2016 call-in marathon

Putin marathon call-in 2016
© Kremlin Press Service
For hapless officials across Russia, President Putin's annual call-in marathon is a wake-up call like no other.

This year, the president received more than 5 million questions, many asking for his assistance. The show lasted for 3 hours 40 minutes, with Putin answering 80 questions from across the nation. After presenting their concerns to the great leader himself, Russians all over the country are now seeing their problems being solved.

Here is just a small selection of things that have already changed for ordinary Russian citizens, less than 24 hours after Putin's television phone-in with the nation.


Bus explosion in Jerusalem; at least 15 injured (UPDATED)

Jerusalem bus explosion
© Thomas Coex / AFPIsraeli security forces and emergency services gather around a burnt-out bus following an attack in Jerusalem on April 18, 2016.
A bus has exploded in Jerusalem, leaving around 15 casualties, Israeli media report, citing emergency medical services.

The massive explosion occurred in Hebron Way, west Jerusalem, with police citing "a militant attack" as the probable cause of the blast.

Multiple social media posts show smoke coming out of the burned-out bus, which is standing in the middle of the road.

Comment: UPDATE: After initially saying it was "too early to tell" if the attack was terrorism-related, the Israeli police have now confirmed it. As if there was any chance they'd say it wasn't! From Sputnik: "An explosive device was found. It was a terrorist attack," local police spokesman Michael Zingerman told RIA Novosti. The question now is this: who placed the bomb? Forgive us for predicting that Israeli police will not even consider the possibility of an Israeli suspect...


New York City cracks down on 'upskirting" crimes against women, potentially being registered as a sex offender

New York City police are on the lookout for illegal "upskirters" who take voyeuristic photographs of unsuspecting women in crowded train stations and subways, officials have said.

Five arrests of so-called "upskirters" who targeted women in public places were made during a spate of warm weather in March, according to the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.