Society's ChildS


UK Police are using high-voltage Tasers on children as young as 11 almost every day, new figures reveal

  • New figures have been released under Freedom of Information laws
  • They show that 323 under-18s were fired on in 2011
  • It was also revealed that in 2010, 74 children were threatened by having the Taser's sights trained on them without firing the weapon
Widespread: In 2011 Tasers were used 323 times against under-18s

Tasers are being used by police against children as young as 11 almost every day, figures have revealed.

Armed officers discharged, targeted or threatened to use the 50,000-volt weapons against youngsters more than 320 times a year - an 11-fold increase from the first year they were cleared for use against under-18s in 2007.

It emerged earlier this year that a girl aged just 12 had been shot by police with a Taser device in St Helens. Other children aged 11 have been threatened by officers with the weapons, forced have admitted.


Based in England, one man feeds Western media on Syrian clashes

Rami Abdurrahman syria
© Raphael Satter / Associated PressIn this photo taken on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2013, Rami Abdurrahman, gestures during an interview with The Associated Press in Coventry, England. He's practically a one man band, but Rami Abdurrahman's influence extends far beyond his modest home in this small English city. The bald, bespectacled 42-year-old operates the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights from his house in the cathedral city of Coventry — and a review of recent media coverage suggests its running tally of killings and clashes is the most frequently cited individual source of information on Syria's civil war for the world's leading news organizations.
He's practically a one man band, but Rami Abdurrahman's influence extends far beyond his modest home in this small English city.

The bald, bespectacled 42-year-old operates the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights from his house in the cathedral city of Coventry - and a review of recent media coverage suggests its running tally of killings and clashes is the most frequently cited individual source of information on Syria's civil war for the world's leading news organizations.

"He's just everywhere," said Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. "He's the go-to guy for figures. ... I can't think of anybody who comes close."

Abdurrahman, who says he makes his living from a local clothing shop, says the Observatory relies on four unnamed activists in Syria and a wider network of monitors across the country to document and verify clashes and killings. But as the Observatory has increasingly found itself at the center of Western reporting on Syria's civil, some say his figures - and his sources - need more scrutiny.

Opponents say Abdurrahman is in cahoots with the opposition forces bankrolled by Gulf Arab states, skewing casualty figures to keep the spotlight off rebel atrocities. Others contend that Abdurrahman is in league with the Syrian regime. They accuse him of overplaying incidents of sectarian violence to blacken the reputation of those trying to topple President Bashar Assad.

Abdurrahman sees the competing allegations as evidence that's he's being fair; "You know you're doing a good job when all the sides start to attack you," he said in a recent interview.

Still, one prominent critic says it boggles the mind that a man living in Coventry is somehow able to count and categorize the dead in Syria hour by hour, every day of the week.

"Something is going on which is quite fishy," said As'ad AbuKhalil, a professor of Middle Eastern politics at California State University Stanislaus.

Brick Wall

Sikh student who won landmark kirpan case now considers leaving Quebec

sikh religious discrimination
© Christinne Muschi / The Globe and MailGurbaj Singh Multani wears his kirpan as he poses in his home in the Montreal suburb of Lasalle, September 18, 2013.
Gurbaj Multani walked into his Montreal school when he was 11 years old and found 300 adults shouting at him.

There was a time in his teens when virtually the whole province was united against him. But through it all, he still liked Quebec. Only now, at age 23, is Mr. Multani contemplating leaving it.

The soft-spoken Sikh, an accounting student at Concordia University, has his name on a 2006 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that broke new ground for religious freedom throughout the country. The entire court supported his right to wear a kirpan - a ceremonial dagger - to school, as long as it was sewn into his clothing.

Mr. Multani may be a harbinger for Quebec's religious minorities, if the proposed Charter of Values that would ban the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols in the public-sector workforce becomes law. He thought he had won his fight for good, thought he would live on happily in the province, his right to wear his religious symbols guaranteed. But Mr. Multani also wears a turban, which would run afoul of the charter's provisions if he were to work in the public sector. In effect, the powerful emotions he helped touch off in Quebec have rebounded on him, and may drive him out.

"It's a friendly province," he says, and he doesn't wish to leave. "But when the government doesn't give you a choice, what can I do? Why would I have to choose between my religion and a job?" He fears the private sector would copy the constraints.

The kirpan he wears was once the ultimate symbol of overt religious garb in the province. As a boy, he was kept from school for five months over his wearing of it. Then he won the right at Quebec Superior Court. That's when he returned to his public school and got shouted at - some told him "Go home, Paki," he says.

"That was a little bit discouraging. They don't even know who I am."

Heart - Black

Utah doc and mistress texted one another the day his wife died: Prosecutors

© Rick Bowmer/AP PhotoGypsy Willis, the 37-year-old mistress of Martin MacNeill, arrives at court, Oct. 25, 2013, in Provo, Utah, to take a much-anticipated turn on the witness stand.
The mistress of a Utah doctor accused of killing his wife testified today that their affair was "casual," despite the fact that prosecutors allege she and the doctor exchanged 15 text messages on the day his wife was found lifeless in a bathtub.

Gypsy Willis said she met Dr. Martin MacNeill, a married father of eight children, online around November 2005, however their relationship did not turn sexual until January 2006, she said.

"We would see each other about a couple times a month. There were months when we didn't see each other. It was a very casual thing," said Willis, who wore a tight blazer over a low-cut camisole while on the stand in the Provo, Utah, courtroom.

Willis testified that MacNeill, 57, helped her financially during nursing school around February 2007.

Prosecutors allege MacNeill drugged and drowned his wife, Michele MacNeill, 50, on April 11, 2007, so he could pursue a relationship with Willis.

Bad Guys

New York City DJ Dave Herman arrested for arranging drunken tryst with 7-year-old

© YouTube/Creative Commons
Dave Herman, the legendary New York morning radio host, was charged on Thursday with trying to lure a 7-year-old girl to the U.S. Virgin Islands for sex.

He was arrested at the St. Croix airport, where he was expecting to meet the girl and her mother after their flight from New York and take them to his vacation home.

The longtime host of "The Dave Herman Rock and Roll Morning Show" on WNEW-FM who had once interviewed John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and considered George Harrison a personal friend, is charged with having chatted online with a woman, "Kris," he believed to be the mother of a 6-year-old named "Lexi." "Kris" was actually a Homeland Security officer.

Bad Guys

Hermain Cain, Republican candidate for president, claims sex harassment charges were sent from the Devil

© Unknown
Erstwhile Republican candidate for president Herman Cain claims that allegations of sexual harassment that torpedoed his campaign in 2012 were the work of Satan, who wanted to block Cain from the White House. Cain made the statements in an interview with RealClearReligion published on Wednesday.

The former Godfather's Pizza CEO and ex-head of the National Restaurant Association told RealClearReligion that running a political campaign is like "drinking from a fire hose." Taking the time to rebut the accusations by four women who accused Cain of sexual harassment, he said, "would have been a huge distraction."

Besides, a greater force was trying to keep him from the Oval Office, he said.


California cops shoot and kill 13-year-old carrying toy rifle

© well photo/
Then they handcuffed him before seeking medical attention.

Officers in Sonoma County, Calif., shot dead 13-year-old Andy Lopez Tuesday as he walked home from school carrying a toy rifle.

Just days after a 12-year-old boy in Nevada shot dead his math teacher and himself with an all-too-real handgun, the Sonoma incident reflects not only a troubling epidemic of trigger-happy policing, but a context wherein a young boy carrying a toy rifle is assumed to be carrying a real weapon. Rania Khalek, who highlighted the incident on her blog, questioned "whether or not race played a factor in the decision to shoot."

Arrow Up

Indian women take aim at prejudice with 'Dark Is Beautiful' ad campaign

Nandita Das
© Agence France-PresseNandita Das.
Looking to find a husband, make friends, and get ahead at work? Then you need to have lighter skin. That's the all-pervasive message in India, and it's something that one actress is fighting to overturn.

The new poster girl of the "Dark is Beautiful" campaign, Nandita Das, has called out India's obsession with fair skin - a prejudice she says has driven some young women to the brink of suicide.

"Magazines, TV, cinema - everywhere being fair is synonymous with being beautiful," Das told AFP.

Described as having "dusky" skin as opposed to a fair complexion, the 43-year-old is well used to Indian preoccupations with color, and not just in the film industry, where she has refused requests to lighten her skin for roles.

"How can you be so confident despite being so dark?" is a question regularly asked of Das, who has preferred to star in unconventional, issue-based films but says she would struggle to get ahead in mainstream Bollywood movies.

In May, Das became the face of the Dark is Beautiful campaign, launched in 2009 by activist group Women of Worth to celebrate "beauty beyond color".

Her backing has helped to generate increasing debate in the media, but the response has underlined just how ingrained the preference is for fairer skin, which has long been associated with higher social classes and castes.


Greece's mystery girl's mother found: DNA tests confirm Bulgarian Roma woman is blond child's biological parent

Mystery girl
© AP/Greek Police
Sofia, Bulgaria -- DNA tests have confirmed that a 35-year-old Bulgarian Roma woman is the mother of a mysterious girl in Greece known as Maria, authorities said Friday.

Genetic profile of Sasha Ruseva matched that of the girl, said Svetlozar Lazarov, an Interior Ministry official.

Ruseva has said she gave birth to a baby girl four years ago in Greece while working as an olive picker, and gave the child away because she was too poor to care for her.

Maria has been placed in temporary care since last week after authorities raided a Roma settlement in central Greece and later discovered that girl was not the child of the couple she was living were not her parents.

Costas Yannopoulos, director of the Greek children's charity "Smile of the Child" which has been looking after the girl said he had no comment on her fate.

Arrow Down

Hundreds of thousands lose insurance due to 'Affordable' Care Act

Affordable Care Act
© AFP Photo / Joe RaedleAffordable Care Act navigator Nini Hadwen speaks with clients as they shop for health insurance.
The ongoing issues with President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act don't end with the insurance mandate's awful website: new reports suggest Obamacare is driving the cost of coverage up for some, and eliminating it entirely for others.

Almost one month after launch, the websites for the president's hallmark health care plan continue to be riddled with issues that have opened up entirely new opportunities for opponents of so-called "Obamacare" to pounce upon. Perhaps more damaging to the reputation of the administration, however, are preliminary reports suggesting that the insurance program is failing to meet the promises made by the president.

Specifically, investigative journalists say the Affordable Care Act is already causing long-time policy holders to be kicked off of their insurance plans, and in some areas others only the have the option of one or two providers - and not at a pretty price.

Anna Gorman and Julie Appleby write for Kaiser Health News that hundreds of thousands of United States citizens who had purchased policies already are having their plans cancelled by health insurance companies because the Affordable Care Act mandates that providers offer customers specific policies that some groups currently don't offer.