Society's ChildS


Saudi Arabia to Punish Officials for Damage After Jeddah Floods

Saudi Arabia will punish officials for negligence after flooding due to heavy rains damaged infrastructure and displaced people in Jeddah, the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing Prince Nayef, the kingdom's interior minister.

A committee was set up to investigate the response to last month's floods, which damaged 25,000 buildings, 2,500 shops and 90 percent of the city's roads, the Riyadh-based news service reported late yesterday. The government had to provide shelter for about 18,000 people, according to the news service.

At least 10 people were killed and 114 injured, Mohammed al-Qarni, General Major in the Civil Defense Department in Jeddah, said in an interview on Jan. 29.

Heavy rains raised water levels in Jeddah to 111 millimeters (4.4 inches) on Jan. 26, according to Mansour al- Mazroui, head of the meteorology department at King Abdulaziz University. That compares with a peak of 90 millimeters in November 2009 when flooding left at least 123 people dead in the city.

Comment: Isn't Jeddah supposed to be situated in a desert?! From Wiki:
Rainfall in Jeddah is generally sparse, and usually occurs in small amounts in December. There have also been several notable incidents of hail. Heavy thunderstorms are common in winter. The thunderstorm of December 2008 was the largest in recent memory, with rain reaching around 3 inches (7.6 cm)
3 inches?! It looks like that two-year-old record has been soundly beaten!


Egypt: Chaos in Cairo as Mubarak backers, opponents clash

© Ben Curtis/APPro-government demonstrators clash with anti-government demonstrators under the watchful eye of a single soldier on the roof of the Egyptian Museum
Thousands of supporters and opponents of President Hosni Mubarak battled in Cairo's main square Wednesday, raining stones, bottles and firebombs on each other in scenes of uncontrolled violence chaos as soldiers stood by without intervening. Government backers galloped in on horses and camels, only to be dragged to the ground and beaten bloody.

At the fighting's main front line, next to the famed Egyptian Museum at the edge of Tahrir Square, pro-government rioters blanketed the rooftops of nearby buildings, dumping bricks and firebombs onto the crowd below - in the process setting a tree ablaze inside the museum grounds. Below on the street, the two sides, crouched behind abandoned trucks, hurled chunks of concrete and bottles at each other, and some government supporters waved machetes.

Bloodied anti-government protesters were taken to makeshift clinics in mosques and alleyways, and some pleaded for protection from soldiers stationed at the square, who refused. Soldiers did nothing to stop the violence beyond firing an occasional shot in the air.

"Hosni has opened the door for these thugs to attack us," one man with a loudspeaker shouted to the crowds during the fighting.


Flashback Children With Home Computers Likely to Have Lower Test Scores

Duke study analyzed responses on North Carolina's mandated End-of-Grade tests

Around the country and throughout the world, politicians and education activists have sought to eliminate the "digital divide" by guaranteeing universal access to home computers, and in some cases to high-speed Internet service.

However, according to a new study by scholars at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy, these efforts would actually widen the achievement gap in math and reading scores. Students in grades five through eight, particularly those from disadvantaged families, tend to post lower scores once these technologies arrive in their home.

Mr. Potato

US: Woman Tries To Mail Puppy In Box

Minneapolis, Minnesota - They're calling it the parcel puppy. A Minneapolis woman is charged with animal cruelty after police say she tried to send a puppy through the mail.

The poodle-mixed pup is being held temporarily at the animal control office in Minneapolis but still belongs to the woman who allegedly tried to mail it - 39-year-old Stacey Champion.

"Clearly there wasn't a whole lot of thought that went into this," said Sgt. Angela Dodge with the Minneapolis Police Department.

Dodge said last Tuesday Champion took the puppy to the Loring Post Office. The puppy was in a box with a priority sticker on it.

Life Preserver

US: Free pizza for the unemployed

Orange County, Florida - The unemployment rates in Central Florida are hovering in the double-digits and there hasn't been a lot of good news lately for job seekers. In honor of those who are working hard to get back to work, Pie-Fection, a new fresh-ingredient, made-while-you-watch pizza restaurant in Orlando, offered free pizzas to Central Floridians Tuesday who have lost their jobs.

"We're in a position now to give back to the community and that's what we like to do," said co-owner Jon Diaz.

Diaz and his business partner, Luke Fernbach, are recent college grads who grew up here in Central Florida, and today they teamed up with Workforce Central Florida to help folks like Isaac Crumpton find a job.

"I've got a lot of experience and a great attitude, but just haven't been fortunate enough to find something that just fits me," said Crumpton.


Best of the Web: What Corruption and Force Have Wrought in Egypt

© AP/Ben Curtis
The uprising in Egypt, although united around the nearly universal desire to rid the country of the military dictator Hosni Mubarak, also presages the inevitable shift within the Arab world away from secular regimes toward an embrace of Islamic rule. Don't be fooled by the glib sloganeering about democracy or the facile reporting by Western reporters - few of whom speak Arabic or have experience in the region. Egyptians are not Americans. They have their own culture, their own sets of grievances and their own history. And it is not ours. They want, as we do, to have a say in their own governance, but that say will include widespread support - especially among Egypt's poor, who make up more than half the country and live on about two dollars a day - for the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic parties. Any real opening of the political system in the Arab world's most populated nation will see an empowering of these Islamic movements. And any attempt to close the system further - say a replacement of Mubarak with another military dictator - will ensure a deeper radicalization in Egypt and the wider Arab world.

The only way opposition to the U.S.-backed regime of Mubarak could be expressed for the past three decades was through Islamic movements, from the Muslim Brotherhood to more radical Islamic groups, some of which embrace violence. And any replacement of Mubarak (which now seems almost certain) while it may initially be dominated by moderate, secular leaders will, once elections are held and popular will is expressed, have an Islamic coloring. A new government, to maintain credibility with the Egyptian population, will have to more actively defy demands from Washington and be more openly antagonistic to Israel. What is happening in Egypt, like what happened in Tunisia, tightens the noose that will - unless Israel and Washington radically change their policies toward the Palestinians and the Muslim world - threaten to strangle the Jewish state as well as dramatically curtail American influence in the Middle East.


Plastic pellet incident at Virginia school ends in expulsion, assault charges

© unkAndrew Mikel II was a freshman honor student and member of the Junior ROTC until he was expelled Dec. 21 for blowing plastic pellets through a dissembled pen tube at three classmates.
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.


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

© unkThe 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.