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Greece on the breadline: the children of Athens too hungry to do PE

© KeystoneUSA-ZUMA / Rex Features
Residents in Athens carry bags of cheap potatoes bought directly from Greek farmers at cost price, one of the burgeoning ways to cope in the worsening financial crisis.
Jon Henley is in Athens finding out how ordinary Greeks are pulling together to cope amid the financial meltdown

Dozens of readers have sent me suggestions about places to go and people to meet in my search for stories behind the headlines in Athens, and I'm following up as many as I can. Others have sent me their own contributions.

Tales of solidarity come from Victoria Prekate, an Athens secondary school teacher and psychologist, who relates how her colleagues in schools in the capital have been responding:
It has been a common secret among PE teachers for some time now that they don't expect pupils to do PE any more, because many of them are underfed and get dizzy.

They need to be discreet, as these underprivileged children don't wish to be exposed to their peers. In my previous school, the teachers arranged among themselves to give the school canteen some money, so that the canteen could give the child a snack, without embarrassing the child.

However, this was not enough. In many schools today, it is the parents' associations who come together, gather food and discreetly arrange to allocate it to those families of the school who are suffering. In co-operation with the teachers, they know which children in the school are hungry and in need of help. Again, they try to do it as discreetly as possible.

"Many families, suddenly left without work, are in shock and there is nowhere to turn. Social services are collapsing. They are not professional beggars. They are ordinary people like you and me, suddenly left with nothing. I know one area, where schools have specialised in what they gather: 1st primary school gather rice and legumes, 2nd vegetables, 3rd meat and chicken etc.


Bank of America: Too Crooked to Fail

© Victor Juhasz
The bank has defrauded everyone from investors and insurers to homeowners and the unemployed. So why does the government keep bailing it out?

At least Bank of America got its name right. The ultimate Too Big to Fail bank really is America, a hypergluttonous ward of the state whose limitless fraud and criminal conspiracies we'll all be paying for until the end of time. Did you hear about the plot to rig global interest rates? The $137 million fine for bilking needy schools and cities? The ingenious plan to suck multiple fees out of the unemployment checks of jobless workers? Take your eyes off them for 10 seconds and guaranteed, they'll be into some shit again: This bank is like the world's worst-behaved teenager, taking your car and running over kittens and fire hydrants on the way to Vegas for the weekend, maxing out your credit cards in the three days you spend at your aunt's funeral. They're out of control, yet they'll never do time or go out of business, because the government remains creepily committed to their survival, like overindulgent parents who refuse to believe their 40-year-old live-at-home son could possibly be responsible for those dead hookers in the backyard.

It's been four years since the government, in the name of preventing a depression, saved this megabank from ruin by pumping $45 billion of taxpayer money into its arm. Since then, the Obama administration has looked the other way as the bank committed an astonishing variety of crimes - some elaborate and brilliant in their conception, some so crude that they'd be beneath your average street thug. Bank of America has systematically ripped off almost everyone with whom it has a significant business relationship, cheating investors, insurers, depositors, homeowners, shareholders, pensioners and taxpayers. It brought tens of thousands of Americans to foreclosure court using bogus, "robo-signed" evidence - a type of mass perjury that it helped pioneer. It hawked worthless mortgages to dozens of unions and state pension funds, draining them of hundreds of millions in value. And when it wasn't ripping off workers and pensioners, it was helping to push insurance giants like AMBAC into bankruptcy by fraudulently inducing them to spend hundreds of millions insuring those same worthless mortgages.

Heart - Black

Philadelphia Bans Outdoor Feeding of Homeless

homeless person

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has just announced enacted a ban on the feeding of homeless people around the Benjamin Franklin Parkway area. This includes Love Park, where outreach groups commonly offer free food to large numbers of the indigent. Nutter states that the feedings are both unsanitary and undignified, adding that "providing to those who are hungry must not be about opening the car trunk, handing out a bunch of sandwiches, and then driving off into the dark and rainy night."

Project Home's leading homeless advocate, Sister Mary Scullion, supports the measure, stating that the mayor is "between a rock and a hard place" concerning the issue of outdoor feeding. Scullion adds, "I really want to thank the mayor for this courageous... this is not an easy position. But I do think it's a great opportunity."

Though, Brian Jenkins of Chosen 300 Ministries, a homeless outreach group that does both indoor and outdoor feedings opposes the ban, and states "the fact that city of Philadelphia is saying now that the homeless don't have the right to eat on the Ben Franklin Parkway or eat around Center City is a clear violation of civil rights. It says that people that have... can eat in a certain place. But people that have not, can't."

Cell Phone

Vancouver Deputy Chief Caught Driving and Using Cellphone

© CBC News
Deputy police chief Warren Lemcke admiited he'd used his phone while driving and has urged other drivers not to follow his example.
Canada, British Columbia - Vancouver's deputy police chief was ticketed earlier this year for distracted driving after getting involved in a traffic accident while making a "work-related phone call," a police spokeswoman said this week.

Warren Lemcke was involved in the accident Jan. 4, but it wasn't made public until Wednesday, "in response to a number of inquiries," said Const. Jana McGuinness in a release late Wednesday.

"Lemcke was driving home around 5 p.m. southbound on Highway 99 just north of the 32nd Avenue exit," McGuinness said. "Traffic came to an abrupt stop ahead of him at the same time as he was looking down making a work-related phone call."

Lemcke rear-ended the vehicle in front of him, and later, "he was issued a violation ticket for driving without due care and attention," the release said.

McGuinness said there were no injuries and the couple in the car ahead drove off once the incident was resolved.


Entire Town of Buford, Wyoming for Sale by Sole Resident

© The Associated Press/Michael Smith
Lone Buford, Wyo., resident Don Sammons
US - If you've got a spare $100,000, you could potentially become the owner of a small Wyoming town that's set to be auctioned off next month by its sole resident.

After more than 30 years of residing in the unincorporated community, town "mayor" Don Sammons says it's finally time to move on.

"Don, 'The Mayor', is retiring after 20 wonderful years in his town," Sammons writes on the website for his business, the Buford Trading Post, a gas station and store. "This entire, income producing, town is for sale; the house, the Trading Post, the former school house, along with all the history of this very unique place."

Buford, located between Cheyenne and Laramie, was first founded in the 1860s and was once home to an estimated 2,000 residents before the Transcontinental Railroad was rerouted.

Sammons moved to Buford with his family in 1980. In 1992, he bought the Buford Trading Post and has continued to preside as Buford's unofficial "mayor." Over the years, members of Sammons' family gradually moved away until he was finally left as the only resident.

Heart - Black

Alberta Father Says Ex-Wife Drowned Sons in Tub for Revenge

© The Canadian Press/HO
Connor McConnell (right), 10 months, and Jayden, 3, are shown in a an undated photo.
Canada - Allyson McConnell was a loving mother who grew depressed and angry in the months before her two young sons were drowned in a bathtub, her neighbours have testified.

"I thought she was a very good mother," said Marless Litzenberger. "Very happy to be a mom, very loving."

But by late 2009, McConnell's outlook had deteriorated, said Litzenberger.

McConnell was "very sad, very angry at what was happening" and was worried about the children, she said.

"She appeared mad at the time," and "seemed depressed" at Christmas in 2009, said another neighbour, Tracy Malloy.

Allyson McConnell is on trial for second-degree murder in the deaths on Feb.1, 2010, of her sons, 10-month-old Jayden and two-year-old Connor.

The boys' father, Curtis McConnell, found their bodies floating in the bathtub in their Millet home, 40 kilometres south of Edmonton.

Eye 1

Arizona Law Would Allow Employers to Fire Women for Using Birth Control [updated]

birth control
© Unknown
A proposed new law in Arizona would give employers the power to request that women being prescribed birth control pills provide proof that they're using it for non-sexual reasons.
Dude naw.

Some nutbag in Arizona - a woman, no less - authored a bill that would allow employers to interrogate their female employees about their sexual practices.

No seriously.

You might want to sit down for this one, actually.


You see, if a female employee seeks a medical prescription for contraception, an employer will be permitted to ask that employee for proof that she doesn't plan to use the contraception for slutty f***-making. Using it for medical reasons is ok - that's medicine.

So, if you're one of those women who uses slutpills for non-slutty reasons, then you're ok. You'll get to keep your job. Enjoy your ovarian cancer or your acne or whatever, but make sure you put that red cover on your TPS reports or the boss'll have your head.

But if you're running around like some sort of whore-nympho, then you better keep that shit on the down-low, because if The Man finds out you might-could get fired:


After 500 Years in Family, Rice Farmers Forced Off Land by Fukushima

One year after an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, the country is still trying to recover and decontaminate land and buildings from partial meltdowns of three Fukushima nuclear reactors. In his second report from the region, science correspondent Miles O'Brien explores the challenges and possibilities of radiation cleanup.

Transcript follows:

2 + 2 = 4

Education Commissioner: 'No Way' to School Closures

Is confident Woonsocket will find solution

US - Rhode Island's education commissioner did not mince words when asked about the possibility that Woonsocket will close all of its schools for the year several months early - she says it's illegal and isn't an option.

The Woonsocket School Committee on Wednesday night is poised to discuss and possibly vote on a measure that would end the school year April 5, when the district is expected to run out of money.

State law requires schools to remain in session for 180 days a year. Woonsocket's 180th day would be June 13.

Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said the premature end to the school year can't happen.

"Honestly, [180 days is] really the bare minimum," Gist said. "It's not just the minimum we have by statute. It is the minimum that we have to offer our students."


Government Gridlock Leads To Toilet Paper Shortage In Trenton

US: Trenton, New Jersey - Trenton's Health Department could shut down some city buildings if a toilet paper shortage isn't resolved soon.

"It could be an inconvenience for anybody, young, old, male, female," said Maryann Wooten of Hamilton Township.

The toilet paper and paper towel supply for at least 11 buildings, including City Hall, are dangerously low.

"We have one box with about 15 rolls of toilet paper and that's it," acting Public Works Director Harold Hall said.

Hall says a City Council resolution to order more paper supplies, including paper cups, was voted down. Some council members didn't think the cash-strapped city needed to buy the cups.