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Tue, 07 Feb 2023
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Living without money

Former teacher Heidemarie Schwermer has lived without money in Germany for 13 years. Our writer finds out how she does it

Twenty-two years ago Heidemarie Schwermer, a middle-aged secondary school teacher just emerging from a difficult marriage, moved with her two children from the village of Lueneburg to the city of Dortmund, in the Ruhr area of Germany, whose homeless population, she immediately noticed, was above average and striking in its intransigent hopelessness.

Her immediate reaction was shock. "This isn't right, this can't go on," she said to herself. After careful reflection she set up what in Germany is called a Tauschring - a sort of swap shop - a place where people can exchange their skills or possessions for other skills and possessions, a money-free zone where a haircut could be rendered in return for car maintenance; a still-functioning but never-used toaster be exchanged for a couple of second-hand cardigans. She called it Gib und Nimm, Give and Take.

It was always Schwermer's belief that the homeless didn't need money to re-enter society: instead they should be able to empower themselves by making themselves useful, despite debts, destitution or joblessness. "I've always believed that even if you have nothing, you are worth a lot. Everyone has a place in this world."


IMF, warning of war, says ready to help Egypt

© unk
The International Monetary Fund "Headquarters 1" in Washington, D.C.
The International Monetary Fund stands ready to help riot-torn Egypt rebuild its economy, the IMF chief said Tuesday as he warned governments to tackle unemployment and income inequality or risk war.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn also said rising food prices could have "potentially devastating consequences" for poorer nations, and warned that Asia's fast-growing economies faced a risk of a "hard landing".

Overall, according to the IMF managing director, widening imbalances across and within countries were sparking tensions that threaten to derail the fragile global economic recovery -- and could even spark armed conflict.

As Egyptian protesters gathered in their thousands demanding the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, Strauss-Kahn said: "The IMF is ready to help in defining the kind of economic policy that could be put in place."


Obama presses Mubarak to move 'now'


Happier days
President Obama, clearly frustrated by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's intention to retain his hold on power until elections later this year, said Tuesday evening that he has told Mubarak that a transition to representative government "must begin now."

In brief remarks at the White House, Obama made no mention of Mubarak's announcement that he had decided not to stand for reelection. Instead, Obama said he had told the Egyptian president in a telephone call that this was a "moment of transformation" in Egypt and that "the status quo is not sustainable."

Obama's message appeared carefully calibrated to avoid publicly calling for Mubarak to stand down, while making clear he should stand aside. Administration officials say they are seeking a transitional government, with or without Mubarak as its titular head, formed by representative reform leaders and backed by the Egyptian army that will address legitimate grievances, restore stability and plan for a free election.


Egyptian army tells protesters to 'go home'; vocal crowds confront Mubarak supporters

© Mohammed Abed / Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
A mother carries her daughter on her shoulders with the word "Masr" or "Egypt" written on her forehead.
Cairo - The Egyptian army called Wednesday for an end to the massive demonstrations that have rocked this city and shaken President Hosni Mubarak's decades-old grip on power, but the sea of protesters showed no sign of dispersing.

With Mubarak promising to step down after elections this fall, military spokesman Ismail Etman said in a state television address that the protesters should focus on "returning normal life to Egypt."

"Your message has arrived, your demands became known," Etman said Wednesday morning. The television station then broadcast a printed message that read: "The armed forces call on the protesters to go home for the sake of bringing back stability."

But large crowds continued to gather in downtown's vast Tahrir Square, and--despite a surge of support for Mubarak at several counter-demonstrations--it seemed unlikely that the army's message would prompt the anti-Mubarak masses to disband.


UK: Mysterious tunnel opens up beneath Plymouth school playground

© unknown
A mysterious tunnel has been found under a Plymouth primary school's playground.

Engineers unearthed part of the tunnel under Weston Mill Primary School's playground after 'dips' appeared on the surface.

The school is next to Devonport Dockyard so there are already guesses from children and staff at the school as to where it might lead.

An investigation is being launched by Plymouth City Council to find out if the playground is subsiding. Officers are planning to send an expert underground to find out the cause of the dips.

Headteacher Alison Nettleship said the school discovered a dip before Christmas and called out structural engineers who reassured staff that the problem was not widespread.

She said the playground was scanned using 3D imaging before a five feet by eight feet wide hole was opened up by engineers over Christmas and a camera was sent down.

She said: "There are now steps going down the hole into a small open area and a tunnel.

"There is excitement about where the tunnel might lead. Nobody seems to know.


US: Teen 'Wolf Pack' Arrested in Videotaped Assault on Pennsylvania Boy

A 13-year-old boy who was attacked while walking home from school earlier this month in a Philadelphia suburb said Tuesday that he had been bullied since the beginning of classes.

Seven teenagers were in custody Tuesday in connection with the videotaped beating of the teen, authorities said.

Nadin Khoury told HLN's Vinnie Politan said he was glad about the arrests but is concerned about other possible victims.

"Some day they are going to do the same thing to somebody else," the youth said. The group picked on students who were smaller than them, Nadin said.

Six of the youths were arrested Monday at an alternative program at Upper Darby High School, Upper Darby police Lt. Thomas Sharp said. A seventh, who was absent Monday, was arrested Tuesday, he said. Khoury and all seven suspects attended the alternative program, called the Opportunity Center.

The attack took place January 11, Sharp said. The school district's security force heard chatter about the incident among students and notified police, he said.

A video taken on the cell phone of one of the suspects shows the boy being kicked, dragged through the snow and stuffed into a tree, then hung from his jacket on a tall wrought-iron fence. On the video, the boy can be heard screaming as his attackers laugh.

Asked if police know what prompted the attack, Sharp told CNN, "bullying ... just picking on somebody."


Plastic Pellet Incident at Virginia School Ends in Expulsion, Assault Charges

© unknown
Spotsylvania High School student Andrew Mikel II, 14, blew these pellets at students.
Andrew Mikel II admits it was a stupid thing to do. In December, bored and craving attention, the 14-year-old used a plastic tube to blow small plastic pellets at fellow students in Spotsylvania High School. In one lunch period, he scored three hits.

"They flinched. They looked annoyed," Mikel said.

The school district saw it as more than a childish prank. School officials expelled him for possession and use of a weapon, and they called a deputy sheriff to the scene, said Mikel and his father, Andrew Mikel Sr.

The younger Mikel, a freshman, said he was charged with three counts of misdemeanor assault. The case was first reported by the Web site WorldNetDaily.

Spotsylvania school officials declined to comment on the incident, citing student confidentiality rules. But documents that the school produced when Mikel's father filed a Freedom of Information Act request show internal division over the matter.

The federal Gun-Free Schools Act mandates that schools expel students who take weapons, including hand guns, explosive devices and projectile weapons, to school. E-mail traffic among school officials showed they ruled that Mikel's plastic tube, which was fashioned from a pen casing, met the definition of a projectile weapon because it was "used to intimidate, threaten or harm others."

School officials in some e-mails referred to the plastic casing as a "metal tube." The plastic pellets were called "B-Bs."

"We have an obligation to protect the students in our building from others who pose a threat to the over-all safe learning environment," Russell Davis, principal of Spotsylvania High, wrote to other school officials in one e-mail.

Heart - Black

US: Mom Admits Strangling Daughter at New York College

© myfoxny.com
Charged: Stacy Pagli, 38, (left) pleaded guilty today of strangling her 18-year-old daughter Marissa because she 'pushed my last button'
A woman who said she strangled her 18-year-old daughter because she "pushed my last button" pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree manslaughter.

Her husband, who discovered the body, wept during the court session.

Stacy Pagli, 38, had been charged with murder in the Feb. 22 killing of her daughter Marissa at Manhattanville College in Purchase.

But her lawyer, Allan Focarile, claimed Pagli was under "extreme emotional duress" at the time of the killing. Her mental state was the focus of pretrial hearings, and psychiatrists for both sides eventually agreed.

In exchange for her guilty plea, Pagli is to be sentenced to 20 years in prison. Sentencing was set for April 5.

Marissa Pagli, a Manhattanville freshman, was found dead in the family's on-campus apartment. Her father, John Pagli, was a maintenance supervisor at the college.

He found his daughter's body - and his wife lying nearby. The Westchester district attorney's office said that after the killing, Stacy Pagli tried to commit suicide by cutting her left wrist and hanging herself on a doorknob.

While in jail, she tried killing herself by tying socks around her neck, prosecutors said.

Arrow Down

US: Police: Man who commited suicide with shotgun in car buried under snow for nearly a week

© Nicastro for News
Snow covered car where man was found inside in Flushing after an apparent suicide.
The body of a Long Island man who shot himself to death was found entombed in a snow-covered car on a residential block in Queens Tuesday, police said.

Kevin Roman, 36, of Bay Shore, L.I., was discovered slumped over the wheel of a sedan at about 12:30 a.m., police said.

He died from a self-inflicted shotgun blast to the head and may have been dead since last Wednesday, according to authorities.

Police did not say who discovered Roman's body. But his anguished relatives raced to the block at 3 a.m. Tuesday, demanding to see him.

"That's my son," shouted one man, who said he was the father. "I want to see him. I want to see him! That's his brother. Let us see him!"

Investigators said Roman battled drug and alcohol addictions and previously threatened to take his life.

Heart - Black

US: Superbowl a Magnet for Under-age Sex Trade

© Brian Snyder / Reuters
Flight attendants deliver educational materials about spotting sex-trafficking to a gate at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in Dallas, Texas, on Monday ahead of NFL football's Super Bowl XLV to be played Sunday.
Pimps will traffic thousands of under-age prostitutes to Texas for Sunday's Super Bowl, hoping to do business with men arriving for the big game with money to burn, child rights advocates said.

As the country's largest sporting event, the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers will make the Dallas-Fort Worth area a magnet for business of all kinds.

That includes the multimillion dollar, under-age sex industry, said activists and law enforcement officials working to combat what they say is an annual spike in trafficking of under-age girls ahead of the Super Bowl.

"The Super Bowl is one of the biggest human trafficking events in the United States," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told a trafficking prevention meeting in January.

Girls who enter the grim trade face a life of harsh treatment and danger, according to a Dallas police report in 2010. Few who emerge are willing to speak about it. Tina Frundt, 36, is an exception.

Now married and living in Washington D.C., Frundt was lured into sex work at 14 after she fell for a 24-year-old who invited her to leave home in 1989 and join his "family" in Cleveland, Ohio.

That family consisted of the man and three girls living in a motel. When Frundt declined on the first night to have sex with her boyfriend's friends they raped her.

"I was angry with myself for not listening to him, so the next night when he sent me out on the street and told me ... (to earn $500) I listened," she said in a telephone interview.

Frundt paced the streets for hours and finally got into a client's car.

When she came home in the morning with just $50, her pimp beat her in front of the other girls to teach them all a lesson and sent her back onto the street the next night with the warning not to return until she had reached the quota.

The scenario was repeated night after night as Frundt's pimp moved his stable across the Midwest. Any sign of rebellion led to further beatings. Escape seemed out of the question.

"I was a teen-ager in a strange town with no money and no place to go," she said. She finally escaped by getting arrested.