Society's ChildS


Higher energy, food prices are hurting most Americans

Ouch! Crude oil prices and prices at the pump are inching close to record heights, while food prices are blazing an upward trail.

Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed in a recent Gallup Economy poll said high energy/gas prices are hurting their household.

Soaring food prices are hurting 76 percent of the folks interviewed by Gallup.

Other costs of living that have hurt the average family include taxes (69 percent indicate high taxes are causing additional hardship), 68 percent say higher healthcare costs are a problem and the federal debt ceiling is adding to the woes of those persons surveyed.

Bizarro Earth

School bus driver shot and killed, child taken hostage in Alabama

© Dothan Eagle/DothanEagle.comStudents were escorted to safety from the school bus after the driver was shot and killed on Tuesday
On January 30, the Dale County Sheriffs Department confirmed the identity of the school bus driver as 66-year-old Charles Albert Poland, Jr, who has been with the Dale County Board of Education as a bus driver since 2009. Mr. Poland was acting in his official duties when he was fatally shot.

A south Alabama child remains the victim of a hostage situation, having spent hours in an underground bunker with a man who took him from a school bus Tuesday afternoon after fatally wounding the driver.

The situation started around 3:40pm near the Destiny Church at the intersection of U.S. Highway 231 and Private Road 1539 in the small town of Midland City in Dale County.

The Dale County Sheriff's Department and a multitude of other law enforcement, including surrounding police departments, Alabama State Troopers, a SWAT team, and FBI agents converged on the community in the aftermath of the shooting and kidnapping.


Miner who reported unsafe working conditions fired and sued by Armstrong Coal

© Ethan Miller / Getty Images / AFP
After a Kentucky miner blew the whistle about what he considered unsafe working conditions, he was fired from his welding job and subsequently sued by his former employer for filing the complaint.

"I've been representing miners in safety discrimination cases for more than 30 years, and this is the first time I know of anywhere in the country where a company has sued a miner for filing a discrimination complaint," said defense attorney Tony Oppegard in an interview with the Huffington Post. "We think the reason they filed [the suit] was to intimidate him and to intimidate other miners."

For Reuben Shemwell, a 32-year-old miner at the Parkway Mine Surface Facilities, the troubles began when he complained about the need for respirator protection from fumes generated during the welding process. Shemwell did not feel comfortable working in small, confined spaces overcome with fumes. Shortly after submitting his complaint with the Secretary of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) in late 2011, he was fired from his job for "excessive cell phone use" at work - an accusation that Shemwell claims is not true. Instead, the miner believes he was dismissed for blowing the whistle on the company's unsafe practices.

Arrow Down

Poverty 'rampant' in quake hit Christchurch, predatory landlords take advantage while government polishes reports and does nothing

© FairfaxThe housing crisis in Christchurch has left mother-of-two Amber Breiter with no choice but to live in a single garage
Horror stories of Christchurch families living in garages and tents continue to surface almost two years on from the February 2011 earthquake.

Some families are still stranded in sheds or illegally overcrowding friends' and relatives' houses.

Meanwhile, rental housing prices show no sign of abating and welfare agencies believe this year could be worse than the last.

Demand on Christchurch's social services continues to increase: people who have never needed help before are queuing up at food banks and many families still face impoverished living conditions.

City Missioner Michael Gorman said the unprecedented demand on the mission's alcohol and drug services, foodbank and night shelters "has not eased at all".

"There is a lot more money going into rent and a lot less money going into living."

The number of people approaching the mission suffering from poverty or mental health issues was rampant, he said.

One of his social workers had a week-long waiting list of families needing assistance with school uniform grants. Another had recently been supporting a young family living in a tent, and a couple renting a washhouse.

Book 2

Schools are black-holes and robot factories

Never let school interfere with your education.

~ Mark Twain

There is an old joke about how knowledge accumulates in universities: students enter college, knowing everything, and graduate knowing nothing. In this way does knowledge continue to grow within universities. My years of experience in what is referred to as "higher education" inform me that there is more than sophomoric humor in this description.

As I have recently written, my all-time favorite teacher and professor of anything was Malcolm Sharp, with whom I studied at the University of Chicago Law School. Malcolm was straight out of central-casting as a loving grandfather type, he was also a master of the Socratic method of learning. It was through the processes of continued inquiry, the refinement of one's questions, that his students began to experience the understanding that answers do not provide. Only discovering how to go deeper and deeper into the asking of questions does understanding arise. This is why learning how to think has far greater significance for one's life than learning what to think.

Ask yourself whether, at any stage in your formalized education, you were encouraged to think outside the boundaries of the assigned curriculum. Were the institutional keepers of the questions you were expected to pursue tolerant of any independent inquiries you might undertake? Might continued efforts to pursue your own agenda of discovery land you in the principal's office or, worse, subject you to behavior-modifying drugs or other treatment? At what point - if at all - did it become evident to you that the system of formal education to which you had been sentenced had, as its purpose, the turning of you and your fellow inmates into well-conditioned servo-mechanisms whose energies were to be devoted to fostering institutional interests?


Two workers missing after landslide at Quebec quarry

Third worker managed to escape at Maskimo sand and gravel quarry in the Laurentians.
© Graham Hughes/The Canadian PressA rescue worker checks out a buried vehicle at a quarry in L’Epiphanie in the Laurentians on Tuesday, January 29, 2013.
Canada - A dramatic rescue attempt is underway seeking two workers who are believed to have been buried in a landslide in a gravel quarry in L'Épiphanie, the Sûreté du Québec said Tuesday.

A large crane has been ordered for the site, the SQ tweeted about 1:30 p.m. - as rescue efforts continued.

At 12:45 p.m., a special Spiderman team trained to rescue people from great heights went down approximately 90 metres to the base of the quarry.

Firefighters from Repentigny, roped together for safety, went down with shovels to try to establish contact with the missing workers.

The rescue team are armed with thermal imagery machines to detect signs of life.


Water main break floods downtown Montreal, McGill University

A broken water main in Montreal yesterday turned part of the downtown core into a river, sweeping at least one resident off her feet and down the street in the flood.

The city told CTV News the water main broke because of erosion over time. Pipes in the area are more than 100 years old.

Montreal residents raced to their cameras and cell phones to record the incident and its watery aftermath on Monday afternoon. The resulting videos tell the story.

YouTube user Nicolas Westgate posted a video yesterday of a water pipe gushing water on campus at McGill University. The description says he was walking to class, minding his business, when he saw water leaking out of a nearby pipe. Then suddenly, the pipe burst.

Another video captures the flooding from three locations, showing water gushing down the street, people shoveling slush and a car crash scene on Sherbrooke St. W. and McGill College St.


Torso found in Kitchener, Ontario, garbage bin identified as 24-year-old woman

Police say a torso found in a garbage bin in Kitchener, Ont., last Saturday has been identified as that of a 24-year-old woman.

Waterloo regional police say an autopsy to determine how Kelsey Louise Felker of Kitchener died is continuing.

Homicide investigators say tips from the public regarding a black T-shirt bearing the words "Forget princess I want to be a vampire" worn by the victim were an important factor leading to the identification.

A command post has been set up at the apartment building where the torso was found and anyone finding suspicious articles is asked to call police.

Investigators say they are still actively seeking information from the community relating to the homicide.

Police have not said if any other body parts have been recovered.

Source: The Canadian Press

Heart - Black

Poisoning feared in mysterious deaths of 10 Borneo pygmy elephants in Malaysian forest reserve

© The Associated Press/The Canadian Press/Sabah Wildlife DepartmentIn this Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 photo released by Sabah Wildlife Department, a 3-month-old elephant calf tries to awake its dead mother at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve in Sabah, Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Ten endangered Borneo pygmy elephants have been found dead in a Malaysian forest under mysterious circumstances, and wildlife officials said Tuesday that they probably were poisoned.

Carcasses of the baby-faced elephants were found near each other over the past three weeks at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, said Laurentius Ambu, director of the wildlife department in Malaysia's Sabah state on Borneo island.

In one case, officers rescued a 3-month-old calf that was trying to wake its dead mother.

Poisoning appeared to be the likely cause, but officials have not determined whether it was intentional, said Sabah environmental minister Masidi Manjun. Though some elephants have been killed for their tusks on Sabah in past years, there was no sign that these animals had been poached.

"This is a very sad day for conservation and Sabah. The death of these majestic and severely endangered Bornean elephants is a great loss to the state," Masidi said in a statement. "If indeed these poor elephants were maliciously poisoned, I would personally make sure that the culprits would be brought to justice and pay for their crime."


Investing in real estate today exceptionally smart or insanely stupid?

Real Estate shell game
© Unknown
As a graduate student and construction worker in San Diego from 2003-2005, I was afforded an up-close view of the inflation of the last real estate bubble. It was a truly exciting time to work in the building industry in Southern California because there was so much money sloshing around. I literally couldn't even walk into Home Depot without being accosted by hordes of greedy homeowners and slippery contractors offering to pay cash to anyone willing to do construction work.

Everyone I knew was making piles of easy money buying and flipping homes, and I often heard that I was just plain stupid to not be buying and flipping some of my own. I was content to just be able to finance graduate school without debt, however. I decided to move back to Colorado to finish graduate school at almost precisely the moment that my friends started making really big money in real estate. They all thought that I was insanely stupid to leave.

A year later, I wrote an article predicting the collapse of the real estate bubble. A year after that, my friends in Southern California started losing their jobs, and a year after that many of my old friends started losing big money. My decision to avoid real estate investment looked a lot less stupid at that point.

Only six years have passed since the largest housing bubble in world history imploded, and I am once again receiving investment advice from my friends involving real estate. Instead of buying and flipping homes, they are now promising me piles of easy money if I purchase "investment homes" to rent out. My friends are not quite as exuberant as Californians were in 2006, but the pitch of their excitement is definitely rising.

I am not sold on the idea at all, however. In fact, I think my friends who are piling into "investment properties" right now are setting themselves up for losses on a scale only surpassed by the losses suffered in the last real estate crash. Real estate is still extremely dangerous, and only people with a solid financial cushion and who are willing to take gargantuan risk should be moving into it.