Society's ChildS


After 500 Years in Family, Rice Farmers Forced Off Land by Fukushima

One year after an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, the country is still trying to recover and decontaminate land and buildings from partial meltdowns of three Fukushima nuclear reactors. In his second report from the region, science correspondent Miles O'Brien explores the challenges and possibilities of radiation cleanup.

Transcript follows:

2 + 2 = 4

Education Commissioner: 'No Way' to School Closures

Is confident Woonsocket will find solution

US - Rhode Island's education commissioner did not mince words when asked about the possibility that Woonsocket will close all of its schools for the year several months early - she says it's illegal and isn't an option.

The Woonsocket School Committee on Wednesday night is poised to discuss and possibly vote on a measure that would end the school year April 5, when the district is expected to run out of money.

State law requires schools to remain in session for 180 days a year. Woonsocket's 180th day would be June 13.

Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said the premature end to the school year can't happen.

"Honestly, [180 days is] really the bare minimum," Gist said. "It's not just the minimum we have by statute. It is the minimum that we have to offer our students."


Government Gridlock Leads To Toilet Paper Shortage In Trenton

US: Trenton, New Jersey - Trenton's Health Department could shut down some city buildings if a toilet paper shortage isn't resolved soon.

"It could be an inconvenience for anybody, young, old, male, female," said Maryann Wooten of Hamilton Township.

The toilet paper and paper towel supply for at least 11 buildings, including City Hall, are dangerously low.

"We have one box with about 15 rolls of toilet paper and that's it," acting Public Works Director Harold Hall said.

Hall says a City Council resolution to order more paper supplies, including paper cups, was voted down. Some council members didn't think the cash-strapped city needed to buy the cups.


5 Mortgage Relief Programs That Fell Short

For Sale/ Foreclosure
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Real-Time Advice: The government's five mortgage relief programs set out to help 13.4 million homeowners. They actually helped 1.9 million.

US - In the next few months lenders will take new steps to help one million struggling homeowners pay their mortgages. But experts say if recent history is any guide, relief won't make it to that many doorsteps.

Over the past few years, the federal government's major mortgage relief programs helped just a fraction of the homeowners they initially set out to reach. The so-called Home Affordable Modification Program and the Home Affordable Refinance Program, both introduced in 2009, have so far assisted just 20% of the homeowners government officials projected. Other programs shuttered altogether after not gathering enough borrower or lender participation. In fact, the U.S. government's five major programs, which were projected to assist 13.4 million homeowners, only reached 1.9 million.

This week, the government filed the settlements it reached in its $25 billion agreement with banks over alleged foreclosure abuses. The five banks involved -- Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo -- will spend much of that money providing aid to homeowners by reducing mortgage principal, refinancing more mortgages and making payments to those they foreclosed on.

But while the settlement is legally binding, some housing experts predict the efforts may not have the impact government officials expect. For one, borrowers who owe more on their home than it's worth stand to receive a principal reduction of about $20,000 on average -- although those same borrowers are underwater by $51,000 on average, according to CoreLogic. And those who were foreclosed on between 2008 and 2011 stand to receive a meager $1,500 to $2,000. "Potential participants should temper their expectations," says Stuart Gabriel, director of the Ziman Center for Real Estate at the University of California, Los Angeles.

For their part, the lenders say they're committed to helping as many homeowners as possible. (Bank of America says it will even extend benefits to its customers that go beyond the requirements laid out in the settlement).

So far, big government mortgage programs haven't delivered nearly as much relief as they expected for homeowners. In each instance, a much smaller number of homeowners received the help than what was projected. To understand why homeowner assistance so often falls short, here's a look at what experts say went wrong with five of the major government relief efforts.

Heart - Black

Moroccan girl commits suicide after being forced to marry her rapist

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A 16-year-old Moroccan girl has committed suicide after a judge ordered her to marry her rapist, according to Moroccan media reports.

Last year Amina's parents filed charges against their daughter's rapist, a man 10 years older than her but it was only recently that a judge in the northern city of Tangier decided that instead of punishing him, the two must be married.

The court's decision to forcibly marry Amina to her rapist was supposed to "resolve" the damage of sexual violation against her, but it led to more suffering in the unwelcoming home of her rapist/husband's family.

Traumatized by the painful experience of rape, Amina decided to end her life by consuming rat poison in the house of her husband's family, according to the Moroccan daily al-Massae.


Major Airport Ousts TSA Screeners Opting for Private Ones

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US , Florida - The Orlando Sanford International airport, one of the busiest in the nation, has announced that it will be opting out of using the Transportation Security Administration workers to screen passengers. The announcement is significant as it could lead the charge for other airports in the nation to reduce the more unpleasant aspects of the unpopular federal agency.

"The president of the airport said Tuesday that he would apply again to use private operators to screen passengers, using federal standards and oversight," reports the Miami Herald.

It was Sanford International airport that originally wanted to opt out of the TSA in 2010 when the TSA prevented airports from being able to use their own private screeners.

However, the United States Senate passed a law last month that forces the TSA to reconsider applications. "Security companies would have an easier time winning contracts to operate airport checkpoints," reports Businessweek.

The TSA has been slow to respond to the call for new guidelines prompted by the new law. Republican Representatives John Mica (R.-Fla., pictured above), Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.), and Jason Chaffetz (R.-Utah) have called on TSA head John Pistole to quickly implement the new mandate.

"It was the intent of Congress that the Screening Partnership Program be a viable option for airports wishing to opt-out of the all-federal screening model," wrote Mica in a letter to Pistole. "Airport operators have expressed tremendous interest in the SPP and that expansion beyond the small fraction of the U.S. airports that currently participate in the SPP will allow the TSA to focus on security and oversight activities. It is important that TSA take steps to immediately reopen the SPP, reissue guidelaines in compliance with the law, and begin the process of converting the screening program from its current model of the SPP operations under federal supervision as directed by H.R. 658."

Alarm Clock

Republican Congressman Wants to 'Sell Off Some of US National Parks'

Mount St. Nicholas in Glacier National Park
© National Park ServiceMount St. Nicholas in Glacier National Park. Rep. Cliff Stearns recently expressed the view that the United States should sell some of its national parks.

A video showing Rep. Cliff Stearns (R, Florida) announcing his desire to "sell off some of our national parks" was recently filmed and released on the Internet by the Florida Political Action Cooperative.

In a speech given at a town hall meeting in Belleview Florida, Stearns explained his position.
I got attacked in a previous town meeting for not supporting another national park in this country, a 200-mile trailway. And I told the man that we don't need more national parks in this country, we need to actually sell off some of our national parks, and try and do what a normal family would do is - they wouldn't ask Uncle Joe for a loan, they would sell their Cadillac, or they would take their kids out of private schools and put them into public schools to save to money instead of asking for their credit card to increase their debt ceiling.

Arrow Down

Veteran's Gulf War Syndrome Struggle

Shaun Cole, 47, from Stowmarket, is a veteran of the 1990/91 Gulf War. He is suffering from various health problems as a result of his time there. He feels he has been forgotten by the government and that illness among Gulf War veterans is largely disbelieved.
UK - A Gulf War veteran twice turned down by the MoD for a war veterans pension has spoken out about his experience of living with Gulf War Syndrome.

Shaun Cole, 47, of Stowmarket, braved the Middle East warzone while a corporal in the Grenadier Guards in the 1990/91 conflict.

He left the Army in 1993 and started working as a self-employed builder.

But 10 years ago, Shaun was rushed to hospital after he suddenly developed a full body rash and became paralysed for four days.

Since then he has relied on crutches and a wheelchair and, due to depression, lost his business, his three-bedroom home and his family.

But Shaun says the Ministry of Defence has twice turned down his requests for a war pension as it does not officially recognise Gulf War Syndrome as a condition.

Shaun said: "I have been ill for about 10 years now.


Double Standards on 'Terrorism': Don't Terrorists Ever 'Go Berserk'?

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Mental State Appears to be Only Relevant to Great White Men of the West

I was sipping my first morning coffee while staring at the headlines on the latest massacre committed by our military in Afghanistan. The phrase of the day to describe this latest massacre which resulted in more than a dozen innocent people - sleeping children and women - being viciously murdered and set on fire is 'Man Gone Berserk.' That's right.

Unfortunately Oprah is not around any longer, otherwise she'd have a session on this: bring in the Berserk Man's parents and grandparents to talk about his less than perfect childhood; showcase dozens of PhD psychologists to talk about his 'tough' experiences in Iraq; introduce his buddies from the 'fields' to talk about his 'rough' encounters ... But no worries. The Pentagon, their tentacles in the networks, their pet puppets and madams like Huffington are doing their best to compensate for Oprah's absence. The crafty stories are coming out: PTSD, depression, isolation, brain damage, head injuries, concussions, not enough candy or lollipops in childhood, too early start in potty training, chronic constipation, severe allergies, recent hernia operation ... or for the common men and women of America, 'A Man Gone Berserk,' and that, justifiably so:
The U.S. soldier who allegedly attacked and killed 16 Afghan civilians Sunday may have experienced a relatively rare state of mental derangement characterized by a blind killing rage, a disregard of pain and danger, and a total disconnection from his fellow troops, military mental health specialists said.

It's not clear what might have ignited his rage, said Dr. Jonathan Shay, a clinical psychiatrist who for decades has treated combat veterans with mental trauma. But he said what is known of the incident fits a pattern in which someone literally goes berserk.

"It's a painful and destructive thing and usually fatal for the soldier. And it's fairly rare - in 20 years I had only two patients who unmistakably had episodes of berserkness," Shay said. The term "berserk" is an Old Norse word describing the frenzied trance in which some warriors fought.


Body parts found in University of Cologne's cellars

Hundreds of human body parts have been found in the cellars of the institute of anatomy, apparently abandoned for years
© Stefano Paterna/AlamyHundreds of body parts have been found in the cellars of the University of Cologne's anatomy department.

The University of Cologne is investigating after hundreds of human body parts were found in the cellars of its institute of anatomy, apparently abandoned there for years.

The scandal has shaken the German academic world, especially as last month the former head of the anatomy department was found dead, apparently having taken his life when rumours began to circulate.

According to a first report made available to Spiegel Online, university staff discovered a room full of human adult corpses and animal cadavers, as well as a large number of plastic buckets, labelled "noses", "newborns" and "shark head". Evidence gathered by hygiene experts and fire safety officers accompanying the staff indicated that the room might have been left unused for a decade or more.

About 100 corpses of people who had donated their bodies to medical research, but who should by then have long been buried, were among the macabre discoveries. The institute has been trying to identify them using a highly muddled donor archive.