Society's ChildS


Squatter lived under 73-year-old woman's home

© Image Credit: KOMO/ABC News
Velma Kellen thought her furnace was broken, and got the shock of her life when a repairman told her a squatter had been living under her house and stealing her heat.

"I said, 'You've got to be kidding me!'" Kellen, 73, told

For months, there were mysterious signs - an unlatched gate and the inexplicable odor of smoke inside Kellen's three-bedroom home in Yelm, Wash., about an hour's drive south of Seattle.

"It was worse than cigarettes," Kellen said.

Kellen, a retired caregiver, said her home was cold before Christmas, so she bought a new furnace, but still had the problem.


Study: Even wealthy Americans in worse health than western Europeans

Americans are in worse health, die earlier and suffer from more disease than residents of other wealthy nations, according to a new study out Wednesday.

The disadvantage spans all ages from birth to 75, said the report, conducted jointly by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine.

Some details were surprising: even wealthier Americans and those with health insurance were not as healthy as counterparts in other prosperous nations, it found.

"We were struck by the gravity of these findings," said Steven Woolf, professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and chair of the panel that wrote the report.

"Americans are dying and suffering at rates that we know are unnecessary because people in other high-income countries are living longer lives and enjoying better health. What concerns our panel is why, for decades, we have been slipping behind," Woolf stressed.


U.S. infant mortality rate higher than developed world's

A new report from the Institute of Medicine took a long, hard look at the American healthcare system and found that we lead on healthcare spending but lag on patient outcomes.

But we knew this already. Many other reports have found the exact same thing.

There is, however, some striking - and troubling - new research in the report: Our infant mortality rate is nearly double the rate in countries like Japan and Sweden.


High hay prices encourage more thefts from farms

© Matthew Staver for The New York TimesConrad Swanson has had bales of hay stolen from his field in Wellington, Colo.
Across the heartland, ranchers, farmers and county sheriffs are grappling with a new scourge: hay rustling.

Months of punishing drought and grass fires have pushed the price of hay, grain and other animal feed to near records, making the golden bales an increasingly irresistible target for thieves. Some steal them for profit. Others are fellow farmers acting out of desperation, their fields too brown to graze animals and their finances too wrecked to afford enough feed for their cattle.

"It's the economics of the times," said Jack McGrath, the undersheriff in Colorado's Weld County, where hay thefts rose to 15 last year from 7 in 2011.

At Mark Reifenrath's farm in northern Colorado, the thieves struck at night. Two men driving a stolen pickup opened an unguarded farm gate by the side of the road, rolled into Mr. Reifenrath's alfalfa field and headed toward their quarry: 800-pound square bundles of freshly cut hay.

Apple Green

Insanity: Seven million tons of food thrown away every year

© AlamyWaste: Seven million tons of food, worth more than £10billion, is wasted in the UK every year, according to a report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  • Seven million tons of food worth £10billion is thrown away every year
  • Of the wasted food £1billion is still within sell-by date and good to eat
  • Three quarters of vegetables grown in Britain never get eaten
  • Report by Institution of Mechanical Engineers blames supermarkets
  • Says average household wastes £24,000 worth of food in lifetime
  • Up to half the food we buy from supermarkets goes in the bin despite much of it being perfectly edible, a report reveals today.

    Experts say a throwaway consumer culture that undervalues food is behind the colossal waste.

    They blame confusion over sell-by dates and retailers' 'buy one, get one free' offers that tempt shoppers into buying more than they need.

    Across the country seven million tons of food, worth more than £10billion, is thrown away annually - costing the average household £480 each year.

    Of the food binned by families, from fresh fruit and veg to tinned and packet produce, £1billion worth is still within its sell-by date and good to eat.

    The report, by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, says that up to three quarters of vegetables grown in Britain ends up never being eaten, with large amounts being left in the field or rejected by supermarkets for being too ugly.

    Comment: This is particularly concerning given the global rise in food prices and the potential for a global food crisis:
    British food store chain tycoon: Food prices are going to rocket in 2013
    World food prices near crisis levels
    Fear of food scarcity hits U.S. capital in Washington DC's outlying suburbs
    Why China's explosive economic growth could trigger a global food crisis

    Eye 1

    Drone-proof anti-surveillance garments in design by New York artist

    Some fashonistas strive for sexy when it comes to clothes, but one artist from New York is taking a rather utilitarian approach with outfits - he's about to unveil a whole line of garments designed to make the wearer nearly invisible to drones.

    Brooklyn-based artist Adam Harvey used to work primarily with photography, but he undertakes an entirely different medium with his newest project. He says that in the years since the United States post-9/11 PATRIOT Act has been in place, cameras have stopped becoming "art making tools" and have instead become "enablers of surveillance societies."

    That was Harvey's explanation last year when he discussed his projects with the website Rhizome. At the time, Harvey was experimenting with how household make-up could render it harder for computers to use facial recognition programs to pluck people out of crowds. And while the practice of examining facial features using biometrics and sophisticated surveillance cameras has certainly intensified in the months since, Harvey has found another type of evasive practice that is a bit harder to avoid: the drone.

    The United States currently has a modest arsenal of unmanned aerial vehicles - UAVS, or drones - that it uses in surveillance missions on its border with Mexico and in war zones overseas. By the year 2020, however, the Federal Aviation Administration expects the number of domestic drones in American airspace to be as large as 30,000.

    People 2

    Child population in California in unprecedented decline

    © ALAMYThe report says that 90 per cent of children under the age of 10 living in California today were born in the state
    California is in the midst of an unprecedented decline in its child population. Falling birth rates, a decrease in migration and the retirement of the 'baby boom' generation are threatening the future prosperity of America's most populous state, a new report has revealed.

    The report, by the University of Southern California (USC), shows that in 1970 children made up one third of the state's population. By 2030 that number is expected to have declined to one fifth.

    "After decades of burgeoning population and economic growth the state now faces a very different prospect," the report, titled California's Diminishing Resource: Children, said.

    Its author Dowell Myers, a USC demographer, said: "We have a massive replacement problem statewide." He added: "These trends are not yet widely recognised, but they should be a wake-up call for policymakers.

    "We will be increasingly dependent economically and socially on a smaller number of children. They are more important to the state's future success than ever before."

    The report, which analyses census data, shows that the percentage of children making up the population in the state, which is home to 38 million people, has steadily decreased since the baby boomer years of the 1960s.

    Comment: The health and well-being of children and their quality of life issues will need to be addressed before they can thrive anywhere:
    One in five American children now living in poverty according to new report
    Are Seattle-area babies dying because of Fukushima radiation?
    Flu Shot Coverage, Vaccine-Related Miscarriage Rates Rise Exponentially
    Child abuse hospitalizations increased 5% over 12-year period


    Flashback San Antonio deputy police chief wants to establish permanent DWI checkpoints

    Citing a troubled culture that fuels drunken driving, a San Antonio Police Department deputy chief urged legislators Monday to consider establishing permanent sobriety checkpoints across Texas.

    "We really do need to make a cultural change in the state of Texas when it comes to driving under the influence of alcohol," Deputy Chief Anthony Treviño told the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.

    In asking that law enforcement agencies be able to stop drivers and conduct routine sobriety tests near drinking-and-driving "hot spots," Treviño said local data could be used to identify areas where such behavior is prevalent.

    About two dozen people have been charged with intoxication manslaughter in alcohol-related wrecks over the past two years. And, Treviño said, more than 7,000 arrests for driving while intoxicated were made in San Antonio this year, through November.


    Georgia man sentenced to four years in jail for handcuffing himself to a Taco Bell employee who refused his advances

    Jason Earl Dean
    A man who handcuffed himself to a woman in an attempt to get a date was sentenced Monday, Jan. 7, in Catoosa County Superior Court to 10 years, including four years in jail.

    Jason Earl Dean, 25, of Dalton, made national headlines in August 2011 after he handcuffed himself to an 18-year-old woman, a co-worker at the Taco Bell in Ringgold, in an attempt to convince her to go on a date with him.

    Judge Ralph Van Pelt on Jan. 7 sentenced Dean to four years in jail, followed by six years on probation, said Lookout Mountain assistant district attorney Alan Norton.

    "It's a split sentence," Norton said. "Four years is to be served in the department of corrections, while the remainder is to be served on probation with specific conditions."

    Red Flag

    UK most unequal country in the West

    Huge gap between rich and poor in Britain is the same as Nigeria and worse than Ethiopia, UN report reveals.

    Britain is now the most unequal country in the Western world, an authoritative new United Nations report reveals. The gap between rich and poor is as great as in Nigeria.

    Detailed statistics in the Human Development Report published last week also demonstrate that inequality has grown sharply during Conservative rule and that the poor in Britain now have to live on much the same incomes as their equivalents in Hungary and Korea.

    While growing inequality might once have been a cause for congratulation - Margaret Thatcher called on us to "glory" in it - the consensus among experts in such bodies as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the rich nations' club, and even the World Bank is now moving against.

    Lady Thatcher, like Ronald Reagan, believed that if the rich got richer, everybody would benefit. Now many economists believe that inequality hinders growth. In an unpublished paper Michael Bruno, chief economist of the World Bank, says: "Reducing inequality not only benefits the poor immediately but will benefit all through higher growth."

    Comment: For a look at why the UK has achieved this ignominious title, see Eleanor Brockel's Sott Focus Skipton Castle and the case for neo-feudalism