Society's ChildS


Store shelves stripped bare: Georgia ice storm could take out electric grid

If you're an Atlantan making a last-minute grocery run, here's hoping you love corn and asparagus. Because that's all that left on most shelves as residents stocked up and hunkered down for what forecasters say will be a massive ice storm. Gone are the loaves of bread. The quintessential gallons of milk. The cans of beans and the beer. Just two weeks after a few inches of snow paralyzed Atlanta and embarrassed the state, both residents and government officials say they aren't taking any chances.

"I think we're certainly ahead of the game this time and that's important," Gov. Nathan Deal told reporters Monday. "We're trying to be ready and prepared and react as quickly as possible." Deal declared a weather-related state of emergency for 45 counties in the state, well before snow, sleet and rain were expected to hit. The Atlanta Public Schools and a host of other systems across north Georgia announced they would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Even before the first raindrops fell, Jagannathan Santhanam had decided to throw in the towel.


Oakland tells Google to get lost‏

© Stephen MclarenAwaken cafe in Oakland, California.
If pushing your enemy into the sea signifies success, then Google's decision to start ferrying workers to its campus by boat suggests the revolt against big technology companies is going well. Standing on the docks of Oakland, on the east side of San Francisco Bay, last week, you could watch the Googlers board the ferry, one by one, and swoosh through the chill, grey waters of the bay towards the company's Mountain View headquarters, 30 or so miles to the south.

Not exactly Dunkirk, but from afar you might have detected a whiff of evacuation, if not retreat. The ferry from Oakland - a week-long pilot programme - joined a similar catamaran service for Google workers in San Francisco launched last month. The search engine giant is not doing it for the bracing sea air. It is a response to blockades and assaults against buses that shuttle employees to work.


Lack of justice for victims of U.S. military sex-crimes

After a night of partying in Hiroshima City, the woman agreed to share a room at the Tokyo Inn Hotel with the U.S. Marine.

As soon as the door closed, the tryst turned violent, she told investigators. He tore her clothes off, forced her to perform oral sex on him and then raped her, she said.

The Marine claimed the sex was consensual. But he also acknowledged that she "might have perceived it as a rape," an October 2011 investigative report said.

There would be no prison sentence, though. At a summary court-martial, a forum for adjudicating minor offenses, he was found guilty of adultery and failure to obey an order. He was fined $978 and busted to E-1, the military's lowest rank.

People 2

Flashback Putin signs bill banning Americans from adopting Russian children

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a controversial bill that forbids adoption of Russian foster children by American citizens. The law comes into force on January 1, 2013.

The legislation was earlier adopted by an overwhelming majority of lawmakers in the Russian parliament. Putin voiced his support for the ban while the bill was still being debated by the lawmakers.

The law, which is viewed by many as retaliation for a US law targeting alleged Russian violators of human rights, will lead to the revocation of a Russian-American agreement on the issues.

Sponsors of the law justify it with several cases of abuse of Russian children by their American adoptive parents. They complained that the punishment for the offences issued by the US justice system was disproportionately mild, while Russian diplomats were prevented from giving enough input in the prosecution of such cases.


Homosexuality is illegal in 14 U.S. states - It's legal in Russia

A surprising number of states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, nearly a decade after the Supreme Court ruled such laws unconstitutional.

Up until March, Virginia was the 14th state to maintain the federally unconstitutional legislation. The state's "Crimes Against Nature" statute, which outlaws sodomy between consenting adults, was struck down last month after judges found it contradicted the 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas.

Now the state of Virginia, led by Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, has appealed to the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, asking the court to allow the statute to stand so he can prosecute a 47-year-old man who solicited a 17-year-old for oral sex.

Comment: Meanwhile, in Russia:
On May 27, 1993, homosexual acts between consenting males were decriminalized.
There you have it: legal in Russia, illegal in the USA.

Any questions?


UK 13-year-old defies 'big brother' and refuses to be fingerprinted

© KristieMelody, 13, protesting the United Kingdom's policy of obtaining biometric data from minors at school.

Cardiff - Since 2012, over 800,000 children have had their biometric data taken by the government in the United Kingdom via the school system. One 13-year-old girl is refusing to comply with the demands.

In 31% of cases, the programs obtaining fingerprints or other biometric data from minors across the UK have done so without parental consent, according to Big Brother Watch. The civil liberties watchdog filed Freedom of Information Requests with over 3,000 schools. Less than half of those schools responded as required by law.

The watchdog's report states:
As we are now one term into the 2013-14 academic year, and expect the number of schools using the technology to have increased over the summer, and the secondary school population now above 3.2 million, if the number of secondary schools using biometric technology increased from 25% to 30%, more than one million children would be fingerprinted
A 13-year-old student at a school in Wales refused to submit to the data collection. Melody, whose last name is being withheld due to her age, doubted the school's good intentions when it was declared that fingerprints were going to be collected from students in order to shorten lines in the cafeteria.

A simple act of defiance was not enough for Melody, who discussed her idea for a one-person protest with her mother, Kirstie, over dinner. Her mother signed a form stating that she did not give consent for her daughter to be fingerprinted.


UK citizens fed up: Environment Agency boss heckled, attacked by MP

© SWNSLord Smith visiting flooded areas of Somerset today
Environment agency head Lord Smith was branded a "little git" today by a Tory MP as he visited flood-stricken Somerset Levels - but has vowed not to step down.

Lord Smith was given a hostile reception as he made his first trip to the area since it was hit by floodwaters.

One victim of the floods said he was "bloody mad" that Lord Smith had refused to apologise for the Environment Agency's decision not to dredge the rivers on the Levels - an action which it has been agued may have reduced flooding.

Tory MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, who represents Bridgwater and West Somerset, branded Lord Smith a "coward" for not notifying him of his visit.


North Carolina DOT preparing roads for winter storm

© WSOCDOT prepares for winter storm.
North Carolina Department of Transportation crews were back on the roads early Monday morning, preparing them for the snow that is expected to fall in the coming days. They already treated some of the major roads Sunday.

Crews will be gassing up trucks and heading out on the roads all morning to pour more brine.

An NCDOT spokesperson said they have replenished their salt supply and are ready to go. Meanwhile, as people are re-stocking ahead of the winter storm, they said supplies are hard to find.

"If it gets bad, I'm just going to stay indoors because the traffic will be horrible," LaToya Patterson said.

Patterson spent her Sunday getting supplies for the storm.

"Last time I was out without a shovel, and now I have a shovel," Patterson said. "So now the only problem is finding salt."

At the Lowe's on Perimeter Parkway, shovels, generators, and gloves were laid out for customers, but salt was nowhere to be found. The store ran out after the last winter storm, and since this storm is happening so soon after, Lowe's hasn't been able to restock.


Give parents power to oust teachers?

© Thomas Trutschel/Getty ImagesEd Miliband wants to create a schools improvement team that will work separately from Ofsted.
Proposed public service overhaul includes education hit squads to boost performance of failing schools or teachers

Parents are to be given a new power to call in a specialist team to boost the performance of failing schools or teachers, under a set of wide-ranging public service reform plans to be laid out on Monday by the Labour leader, Ed Miliband.

The improvement team, working separately from Ofsted, will have powers to set out school improvement plans, order greater collaboration between schools or even remove failing headteachers. The body would have powers to intervene with academies, free schools and community schools.

Miliband has been relatively quiet on reform of schools, hospitals and local government, but will say on Monday he wants to usher in "a new culture of people-powered public services".

Writing in the Guardian, before delivering the annual Hugo Young lecture on Monday night, Miliband concedes: "I meet as many people coming to me frustrated by the unresponsive state as the untamed market. And the causes of the frustrations are often the same in the private and public sector: unaccountable power with the individual left powerless to act."

He will claim he is just as determined to tackle unaccountable power in the public sector as he has already shown himself to be in relation to the private sector.

Heart - Black

Barbarians! Shameful! Marius the giraffe killed and dissected at Copenhagen zoo despite worldwide protests

Young giraffe unsuitable for breeding was shot, dissected in public and then fed to lions despite offers of a new home

In the chilly dawn of Sunday morning a healthy young giraffe in a Danish zoo was given its favourite meal of rye bread by a keeper - and then shot in the head by a vet.

The death of Marius, an 18-month-old giraffe considered useless for breeding because his genes were too common, was followed by his dissection in front of a large crowd, including fascinated-looking children, prompting outrage and protests around the world.

Copenhagen zoo carried out the killing despite a small group of protesters at the gates and an international petition which garnered more than 27,000 signatures, as well as offers from several zoos to rehouse the creature. Yorkshire Wildlife Park, near Doncaster, which offered to take Marius, said it was saddened to learn of his fate.

The zoo's decision to conduct the public dissection, and the disclosure that the animal was shot rather than being killed by lethal injection so that it could be fed to the carnivores, fanned the protests and provoked some calls for the zoo to be boycotted or closed. The controversy was fed further by startling images and video of the process, including a picture of a large chunk of meat with an unmistakably spotty hide being fed to the lions.

Bengt Holst, the zoo's scientific director, said he had never considered cancelling the killing, despite the protests. "We have been very steadfast because we know we've made this decision on a factual and proper basis. We can't all of a sudden change to something we know is worse because of some emotional events happening around us.