Society's ChildS


Former executioner now campaigns to end capital punishment

execution cot
© Eric Risberg/AP'When I accepted the job, I never told my wife or kids or anybody.'
Jerry Givens worked for 25 years for Virginia's department of corrections. He was the state's executioner from 1982 to 1999 and administered the death penalty to 62 inmates, some by lethal injection and some by electrocution. For many years, even his own family did not know the truth about his job. Now Jerry campaigns to end capital punishment. He is the author of Another Day Not Promised and is on the board of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Today he opens up on Comment is free about his old job, what caused him to change his mind and the realities of America's criminal justice system.

1. Can you describe what the day was like when you had to perform an execution?

On the day before, we begin what we call a 24-hour "death watch". Normally I would be there starting at 9pm during the death watch and spend the night at the institution in case something would occur during that period. Everything is reported that happens. We have security guys for the "death team", a special group of people who simply maintain security for the death chamber. Inmates arrive at Greensville, the institution with the death chamber, 15 days prior to the execution date. For those days, we have to provide security around the clock.

We would test the equipment frequently, whether we had an execution or not. But on the day of an execution or during that week, we would have all sorts of training. We train for the worst. We train for the man to put up resistance. Most would not, but sometimes it would get rough.

On the day of the execution, I could almost tell if the condemned had already accepted that this was it for them or not. Some folks resigned themselves to it. I would try to see if the inmate is at that level and if he's ready or not. If there's tension in the building, you could sense it. He would prepare and get things together for last meal and who he wanted to see.

Most of the time, during the actual execution, I'm back behind the partition, behind a curtain with my equipment. I'm alone as the executioner, but we had a crew that would go and escort the inmate and place him on the gurney or in the chair and strap him down and a doctor who would confirm the heart had stopped after.


Fox News calls people who give to the homeless 'enablers'

homeless woman
© APAccording to Fox News, this woman is likely a scammer, alcoholic, or addict who doesn’t deserve your help.
I don't throw around the term "hero" lightly, but it takes a special kind of person to look at a homeless man on the street - with no home to stay warm in, little access to a shower or clean clothes, and few possessions - and decide that he's got it too good. But Fox Business host John Stossel bravely took up that mantle Thursday morning during a guest appearance on Fox & Friends, warning viewers about the perniciousness of giving money to the poor.

Donning a fake beard, Stossel sat on a New York City sidewalk with a cardboard sign asking people for help. "I just begged for an hour but I did well," he said. "If I did this for an eight-hour day I would've made 90 bucks. Twenty-three thou for a year. Tax-free."

Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who recently purchased a $4 million home in Greenwich, gasped in horror at the prospect of poor people earning $23,000 a year. Some people asking for money "are actually scammers," Hasselbeck warned, seemingly unaware of the irony that the only panhandling "scammer" Fox News identified was Stossel.

Because he was able to successfully convince good-hearted pedestrians that he was poor, Stossel went on to chastise people who gave the homeless money because, in his view, "most are not...for real."

He implored viewers to stop giving money to poor people because if you do, "you're an enabler."


"Ag-Gag" in effect: Undercover investigator charged with animal cruelty for videotaping farm abuse

calf abuse
© greenisthenewred
An undercover investigator for the animal protection nonprofit Compassion Over Killing is being charged with animal cruelty for filming animal abuse of newborn calves in Colorado.

Taylor Radig worked at Quanah Cattle Co. in Kersey, Colorado, and covertly filmed calves, some so young they still had umbilical cords attached, being kicked, thrown, and slammed onto trucks. Video footage was released by the group on November 13th, and on November 15th criminal charges were filed against three men shown abusing the animals.

At the time, Sherriff John Cooke said "We still have work to do. We want to make sure we have identified all the suspects and all the parties to determine if we need to make other arrests."

Today the Sherriff's department announced additional charges were filed against the young woman who filmed the abuse and turned over the footage to the police.

In a press release, the police admit as much: "The video footage was eventually provided to law enforcement by representatives of Compassion Over Killing approximately 2 months after Radig's employment ended with Quanah Cattle Company... Radig's failure to report the alleged abuse of the animals in a timely manner adheres to the definition of acting with negligence and substantiates the charge Animal Cruelty." Radig is also accused of participating in the abuse.

Compassion Over Killing said in a statement that the prosecution is retaliatory: "The charge against our investigator is unsupported by the law and it reeks of political motivation fueled by an agribusiness industry that is once again lashing out in desperation to stop undercover investigators from exposing the truth."

The prosecution of a whistleblower who exposed animal cruelty in this way is unprecedented.

Alarm Clock

Why poor people's bad decisions make perfect sense

What we know about poverty is often academic. It's rare to have a poor person actually explain it on their own behalf. So this is me doing that.

There's no way to structure this coherently. They are random observations that might help explain the mental processes. But often, I think that we look at the academic problems of poverty and have no idea of the why. We know the what and the how, and we can see systemic problems, but it's rare to have a poor person actually explain it on their own behalf. So this is me doing that, sort of.

Rest is a luxury for the rich. I get up at 6AM, go to school (I have a full courseload, but I only have to go to two in-person classes) then work, then I get the kids, then I pick up my husband, then I have half an hour to change and go to Job 2. I get home from that at around 1230AM, then I have the rest of my classes and work to tend to. I'm in bed by 3. This isn't every day, I have two days off a week from each of my obligations. I use that time to clean the house and soothe Mr. Martini and see the kids for longer than an hour and catch up on schoolwork. Those nights I'm in bed by midnight, but if I go to bed too early I won't be able to stay up the other nights because I'll fuck my pattern up, and I drive an hour home from Job 2 so I can't afford to be sleepy. I never get a day off from work unless I am fairly sick. It doesn't leave you much room to think about what you are doing, only to attend to the next thing and the next. Planning isn't in the mix.

When I was pregnant the first time, I was living in a weekly motel for some time. I had a minifridge with no freezer and a microwave. I was on WIC. I ate peanut butter from the jar and frozen burritos because they were 12/$2. Had I had a stove, I couldn't have made beef burritos that cheaply. And I needed the meat, I was pregnant. I might not have had any prenatal care, but I am intelligent enough to eat protein and iron whilst knocked up.

I know how to cook. I had to take Home Ec to graduate high school. Most people on my level didn't. Broccoli is intimidating. You have to have a working stove, and pots, and spices, and you'll have to do the dishes no matter how tired you are or they'll attract bugs. It is a huge new skill for a lot of people. That's not great, but it's true. And if you fuck it up, you could make your family sick. We have learned not to try too hard to be middle-class. It never works out well and always makes you feel worse for having tried and failed yet again. Better not to try. It makes more sense to get food that you know will be palatable and cheap and that keeps well. Junk food is a pleasure that we are allowed to have; why would we give that up? We have very few of them.

Comment: Coping with the daily consequences of poverty is an all-consuming activity, with long-term negative effects on cognitive ability. Rather convenient for an elite class who wished to hold power indefinitely. One might even think it's a deliberately contrived situation.This is your brain on poverty: Sanders and Warren probe insidious consequences of being poor
Poverty Goes Straight to the Brain
Growing up poor and stressed impacts brain function as an adult
Poverty as a childhood disease
America's Descent into Poverty


Fears grow of clash as Japanese and Chinese ships and planes patrol disputed islands

China has established an " Air Defence Identification Zone" over a group of islands subject to a territorial dispute with Japan that has strained relations between the two powers for months.

China's defence ministry has threatened "defensive emergency measures" against aircrafts flying over the area in the East China Sea who do not comply with the new rules, in a move that is likely to greatly anger Japan.

The defence zone, which came into effect on Saturday morning, means any aircraft entering the airspace must report flight plans to Chinese authorities, maintain radio contact and reply promptly to identification inquiries.

Although the islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are uninhabited, they are believed to be surrounded by energy-rich waters. The long standing dispute, tensions over which have recently been raised, is also seen as a subject of national pride.


Death toll at 52 in Latvian mall collapse

© RIA Novosti. Oksana DzhadanThe grocery store collapse in Riga
The number of victims in the collapse of a superstore in Latvia's capital Riga rose to 52, the European country's state rescue service said Saturday.

The search for bodies was put on hold Saturday because the still unexamined 300 square meters of rubble were unstable and posed danger for rescuers, a police spokeswoman said.

Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs tweeted late Friday that at least five more people could still be under the ruins. He put the figure at 30 earlier the same day.

© RIA Novosti. Oksana Dzhadan
Usakovs dismissed reports about 13 survivors pending rescue one of whom, according to rumors on Latvian social media, managed to place a call to police from under the rubble.

Eye 2

Snake wriggles on windscreen as car travels down highway

The red-bellied black snake managed to get onto the car's windscreen while it was doing 70km/h

Forget I'm a Celebrity and the controlled creepy crawlies contestants come up against in the jungle, here is a video of a snake on the windscreen a car driving along a three-lane road in Australia.

The excited Ben Lehmann posted on his Facebook page: "So went for a game of golf at Carbrook today. Twenty minutes into the drive home, this happens. You wont believe it. Excuse the swearing!"

He posted the video on Youtube with the description: "Driving down a 3 lane road at 70 km/hr, when this little fella pops his head up and says G'day. Excuse the swearing. I got a little excited."

Then uploaded a second video "PART 2 of the video where the snake tries to get into the ute.

"Again, excuse the swearing. Not as much excitement in this one though. Enjoy"


This is your brain on poverty: Sanders and Warren probe insidious consequences of being poor

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcmte.
© Unknown
While most Americans think of poverty in material terms, said the senate's lone independent, its effects were more insidious and long-lasting.

The U.S. Senate subcommittee on primary health and aging met Wednesday morning to discuss the effects of poverty and stress on children, communities and health in America.

"Stress and poverty, wondering how I'm going to feed my family tomorrow, pay my bills get the income I need to survive, takes a toll on human life," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Recent studies have shown that stress caused by poverty can influence brain development in children and lay the groundwork for physical health problems that show up later in life.

"Lack of choice and the increased stress that low-income people experience increases their level of cortisol (the primary stress hormone), and we know that higher levels of cortisol are correlated with cardiovascular disorders and other chronic illnesses, including diabetes," said Michael Reisch, a professor of social justice at the University of Maryland.

Comment: "Poverty is the worst form of violence." Mahatma Gandhi

No Entry

Don't want to help support Israeli brutality? 6 things you can stop buying right now

Sabra hummus
© Tanya Patrice/FlickrSabra hummus
Buying products like SodaStream machines helps fuel Israel's control over Palestinians.

When tax time rolls around each year, every American citizen gives $21.59 in military aid to Israel, according to the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation. But that's not the only way American citizens contribute to the Israeli military, which has occupied Palestinian land for 46 years, and the West Bank settlement project that accompanies the occupation.

Consumers may not know it, but buying products like Sabra hummus and Sodastream helps fuel Israel's military control over Palestinians. Some companies have factories located in one of the 125 officially recognized settlements in occupied Palestine, which are illegal under international law. Other companies contribute to the maintenance of an occupation through cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), whose main goal is to protect illegal settlements and exercise dominion over the lives of millions of Palestinians. Buying these products gives profits to companies who exploit Palestinian land and resources.

Here are six consumer products and companies that help keep the Israeli occupation rolling along. All of them have been targeted by the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, a Palestinian-led international campaign to isolate Israel for its violations of international law. BDS groups have called on consumers to boycott these products as a way of sending an economic signal to Israel.

1. Sodastream

This soda-making company is ubiquitous nowadays. Sodastream products, which turn water into sparkling water and other flavored drinks, have been incredibly successful in the U.S. According to CNN, sales of their products have skyrocketed, with the company bringing in $436 million in 2012, a 51% increase from the previous year. The company, which was bought by an Israeli company that eventually sold it to a private equity firm, has touted itself an environmentally friendly company

But the less-progressive side of Sodastream lies in the location of its factory. The main facility where Sodastream products are made is in the industrial settlement area of Mishor Adumim, which is right outside Jerusalem and even closer to the mega-settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. Mishor Adumim serves Ma'ale Adumim by providing the settlement with employment for Israelis and business for nearby Israeli companies.

Sodastream claims it's not violating international law by operating in a settlement because its factory benefits the local population of Palestinians. It's true that Sodastream employs Palestinian laborers. But according to Who Profits?, an Israeli-based organization that tracks occupation profiteers, "the workers in the SodaStream factory suffer from harsh working conditions." Palestinian workers are seen as a cheap labor force to be exploited, and have complained that when they protest for better wages, they are fired.

By bolstering Ma'ale Adumin, Sodastream's factory in Mishor Adumim contributes to the death of any chance for a viable and contiguous Palestinian state. Ma'ale Adumim was strategically built as a settlement that cuts off easy access between Ramallah and Bethlehem, two important cities in the West Bank.

For those who love Sodastream but are looking for an alternative, have no fear. A number of similar products allow consumers to make their own bubbly water without giving money to a company operating on occupied land. The alternatives include Cuisinart's beverage maker and a company named SodaSparkle.


Police State: Store video camera catches repeated police harassment against employee

© C.W. Griffin/Miami Herald StaffEarl Sampson, who has been stopped by police more than 250 times in the past five years, stands near one of the coolers he was stocking at 207 QuickStop in July 2012 when the Miami Gardens police walked in and arrested him for trespassing.
Earl Sampson has been stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens police 258 times in four years. He's been searched more than 100 times. And arrested and jailed 56 times.

Despite his long rap sheet, Sampson, 28, has never been convicted of anything more serious than possession of marijuana. Miami Gardens police have arrested Sampson 62 times for one offense: trespassing.

Almost every citation was issued at the same place: the 207 Quickstop, a convenience store on 207th Street in Miami Gardens. But Sampson isn't loitering. He works as a clerk at the Quickstop.

So how can he be trespassing when he works there?

It's a question the store's owner, Alex Saleh, 36, has been asking for more than a year as he watched Sampson, his other employees and his customers, day after day, being stopped and frisked by Miami Gardens police. Most of them, like Sampson, are poor and black.