Society's ChildS

Heart - Black

Canada: Quebec Town 'Heartbroken' After Killing of Woman, Sisters

© Radio-CanadaJuliette Fillion, 8, and her sister, Laurence, 11, died in Saint-Romain, Que., on Friday.
A small Quebec town is in mourning Sunday after a Quebec man was charged with killing his nieces and his mother, who were found dead in their family home.

Pascal Morin, 35, was arrested Friday night after authorities found the bodies of two girls and his 70-year-old mother in a rural house in Saint-Romain, a small community between Lac-Mégantic and Thetford Mines. He has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

Morin was in his mother's house when police arrived at the crime scene around supper time Friday, after receiving an emergency phone call.

The victims have been identified as Ginette Morin, 70, and her two granddaughters, Juliette and Laurence Fillion.

Ginette Morin was a retired school teacher who taught in the region for several years, and her students included many residents of the town of 600.

Green Light

Canada: How Old is Too Old to Drive?

© unknown
A new Statistics Canada study has raised some alarming statistics about the physical and cognitive abilities of our driving seniors.

According to the report, 19 per cent of the 3.25 million people aged 65 and over that had a driver's licence could not see well enough to read a newspaper or recognize a friend on the other side of the street - even with glasses.

Moreover, one-quarter of seniors with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia still had a valid driver's licence.

It's a sensitive question but it's one that needs to be addressed by governments across the country: how old is too old to drive?

Unfortunately, as people age they tend to suffer from decreased vision, slower reflexes, and their ability to attend to multiple stimuli (e.g. pedestrians, signs, and traffic) is compromised.

Additionally, seniors are more susceptible to illnesses such as heart disease, arthritis and dementia which can lead to tragic consequences on our roads.

It's a problem that is only going to get worse.


US: Arizona Bill Would Likely Prohibit Teachers And Professors From Teaching Any Book With 'Profanity'

A new bill in Arizona is seeking to impose harsh restrictions on teachers' conduct, even in their own homes. The bill, SB 1467, states that educators at the state's public schools and universities can be fined, suspended and ultimately fired if they "engage in speech or conduct that would violate the standards adopted by the Federal Communications Commission concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity if that speech or conduct were broadcast on television or radio."

That does a great deal to limit what can be taught in classrooms. Banning books is certainly not a new practice, but this law would cover far more than controversial books. Here's a look at some of the key books that would be outlawed in Arizona classrooms:
© unk
Worse, as Angus Johnston notes, the bill is so ineptly drafted that it could intrude deeply into teacher's private lives. SB 1467 doesn't just ban public speech or conduct, but all speech and conduct. That means public school teachers in Arizona will be forbidden from engaging in any FCC-regulated activities no matter where they are. That means no sex, no going to the bathroom, no cursing and no showering. Ever.


US: Whitney Houston was Found Underwater, Unconscious: police

Whitney Houston
© Reuters//Gary Hershorn
Pop star Whitney Houston was "underwater and apparently unconscious" when she was discovered in a Beverly Hills hotel room bathtub, police said on Monday, as her body was reported to be heading home to New Jersey.

Beverly Hills Police, in a written statement released to address "many rumors" circulating in the media, also said they could not yet speculate on the cause of Houston's death at 48.

"She was underwater and apparently unconscious," Beverly Hills police said. "Ms. Houston was pulled from the tub by members of her staff and hotel security was promptly notified."

The entertainer, who battled drug addiction during her life, was found dead in the bathtub of her Beverly Hills hotel room on Saturday on the eve of music's Grammy Awards, stunning friends, family and fans.

Some media reports, citing unnamed sources, have mentioned a possible accidental drowning. Others have highlighted her past drug and alcohol use.

Coroner department officials have declined to provide much detail pending toxicology tests that could take weeks to complete.

"As can be expected in a high profile incident such as this there have been many rumors circulating and much speculation by the media and the public," Beverly Hills Police said in the statement.

"In order to minimize such speculation, the Beverly Hills Police Department has asked the Coroner's office to place a security hold on their findings until they have a complete and final report prepared."


U.S green lights two new reactors

Peter Lyons Bill Borchardt
© UPI/Roger L.Acting Assistant Energy Secretary Peter Lyons of the Office of Nuclear Energy, (L) and Nuclear Regulatory Commission Executive Director for Operations Bill Borchardt testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the construction of two new nuclear reactors, the first to be built in the United States since 1978.

The commission voted 4-1 in favor of the construction and operating license Thursday for Atlanta-based utility giant Southern Co.'s Alvin W. Vogtle plant in Waynesboro, Ga., which already has two reactors dating to the 1980s.

With the new reactors, units 3 and 4, it will be the largest nuclear facility in the country.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko voted against the approval.

"I simply cannot authorize issuance of these licenses without any binding obligation that these plants will have implemented the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident before they operate," Jaczko said in a written statement explaining his dissent.


US, California: Mortgage problems? Turn your house into a billboard

When they saw the house on El Dorado Drive in this Los Angeles suburb being painted a startling orange and green and giant billboards hung on the outside, Scott and Beth Hostetler's neighbors were initially angry and confused. Some even considered calling the police.
© ReutersAn ad you can live in: Beth and Scott Hostetler pose with their daughter Sarah in front of their Buena Park, California, home that has been changed into a giant billboard

But what they witnessed on Friday was not an offensive redecoration decision by the Hostetlers, but rather the debut of one of the more unusual schemes to arise from the housing crisis. In return for allowing the front of their four-bedroom house to become a garish advertisement, the Hostetlers are getting their nearly $2,000 monthly mortgage paid by the marketing company behind the project, Brainiacs From Mars.

In a residential neighborhood without heavy traffic, cars passing by the house slowed and drivers gawked at the vivid colors and a giant Brainiacs From Mars billboard.

Romeo Mendoza, the company's founder and CEO, told Reuters that his ultimate goal is to turn 1,000 homes across the United States into giant advertisements for his marketing firm.

And in each case struggling homeowners will get their mortgage paid, for up to a year.

"If we roll it out to scale and impact the foreclosure crisis, that would be amazing," Mendoza, 42, said.

Mendoza said he chose the Hostetlers because they are nice people and he wants to choose the most deserving cases rather than homes on the busiest streets.


UK: Sex Change British Man Gives Birth to Son

© unknownWorld's first male mum Thomas Beatie
A man who used to be a woman has become Britain's first "male mother" by giving birth to a son.

The man, who is believed to be in his 30s, was able to carry a child after taking female hormones to reverse the effects of his female-to-male sex change treatment.

The Daily Telegraph understands that the man, whose identity has not been diclosed, is from the West Midlands and is in a long-term relationship. It is not clear whether his partner is male or female.

Last night medical ethics experts called for a full inquiry into the issues surrounding transgender births, saying the interests of the child should not be risked to "fulfil the rights of an adult".

Although he has legally changed his gender to male, the man in question was able to give birth last year because his womb was not removed during the original sex change procedure.

It is possible for transgender men who were born women, who still have functioning ovaries and a uterus, to become pregnant while still identifying and living as men.

Bizarro Earth

Canada, British Columbia: The Office Prank as Evidence of RCMP Dysfunction

© unknownDirty Bertie doll
Hijinx in a bomb squad led to injuries, lawsuit

Dirty Bertie - yours for about $25, batteries not included - is about as rude as a plastic mechanical doll can get. "He's disgusting, revolting and perverted!!!" promises the box. "See and hear him moan and groan until he reaches his final pant-shaking climax!" Bertie is so over the top, it gained something of a cult following after an appearance as a desktop novelty on the determinedly politically incorrect U.K. version of the TV show The Office. Now Bertie is gaining more infamy with news that two members of the RCMP explosives disposal unit in British Columbia are being sued for injuring a bomb-squad colleague with a booby-trapped Bertie.

On its surface this is a case of a prank gone awry, but the larger implications for an embattled national police force are no laughing matter, nor are the injuries suffered by bomb expert Cpl. Tyrone Hempston when, on Jan. 4, 2010, he turned on the doll only to have it blow up in his hands. The lingering damage, both mental and physical, to 44-year-old Hempston has impaired his ability to do his job, curtailed his chances for promotion and limited future career prospects outside the Mounties, according to his lawyer, Walter Kosteckyj. "You know, it's harder to get a job when you're damaged goods." Kosteckyj, a former Mountie who represented the mother of Robert Dziekanski, who died at Vancouver International Airport after being tasered by Mounties in 2007, said Hempston is paying a heavy price for suing the force. "He feels some pressure both from the organization and the people involved over how this is going forward, but I think he felt that he had no other avenue to go down."

Bad Guys

Greek Lawmakers Approve Austerity Bill as Athens Burns

cyclist rides past a burning building
© Reuters/Yannis BehrakisA cyclist rides past a burning building during violent protests in central Athens, February 12, 2012.
The Greek parliament approved a deeply unpopular austerity bill to secure a second EU/IMF bailout and avoid national bankruptcy, as buildings burned across central Athens and violence spread around the country.

Cinemas, cafes, shops and banks were set ablaze in central Athens as black-masked protesters fought riot police outside parliament.

State television reported the violence spread to the tourist islands of Corfu and Crete, the northern city of Thessaloniki and towns in central Greece. Shops were looted in the capital where police said 34 buildings were ablaze.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos denounced the worst breakdown of order since 2008 when violence gripped Greece for weeks after police shot a 15-year-old schoolboy.

"Vandalism, violence and destruction have no place in a democratic country and won't be tolerated," he told parliament as it prepared to vote on the new 130 billion euro bailout to save Greece from a chaotic bankruptcy.

Star of David

Israel: Unknown Chemicals Sprayed in Palestinian Cars at Checkpoints

Jenin checkpoint contraption 1
© Abir Kopty
Lately I've been going to Jenin every two or three weeks with family members. We usually do our vegetable shopping in the city market.

Last Saturday, on our way back from Jenin to Nazareth, we were surprised to find a new technology to check "suspicious" cars at the Israeli checkpoint.

The checkpoint examination usually goes like this: There are about six lines of cars going out through the checkpoint. At each line, there are one or two "security" officers that ask for IDs, and decide whether the car and its riders do or do not constitute a major threat to Israel's "security" and "existence." If they do not, the officer gives the car a white ticket, which means they are done with the "security" check. If they do, then the car gets a green ticket. Once you get the green one, you have to go to the far right line for a special check. You are asked to open all doors, take out all your belongings and go through a physical check while the car is separately searched.

You can't ever understand the logic and the considerations of any of the checkpoint's officers. Sometimes our car gets the green ticket, sometimes the white.