Society's ChildS

Apple Red

School forces 25 hungry students to throw away lunches when they couldn't pay

A group Massachusetts parents are outraged and at least one worker has been placed on administrative leave after about 25 students Robert J. Coelho Middle School in Attleboro were forced to throw away their lunches over concerns that they could not pay for the food.

Parents said that some students cried and went home hungry.

School officials told The Sun Chronicle that Whitson's, the contractor responsible for providing lunches, made the decision to stop students from eating their lunch if there was not enough credit in the student's pre-paid account or they were not able to provide cash for the meal.

Superintendent Pia Durkin on Wednesday said that the on-site director had been placed on administrative leave and Whitson's had been instructed not to deny lunch to any student in the future.

Bizarro Earth

Louisiana smells 'burning tires and oil' as Exxon refinery spills unknown amount of chemicals

© Mark Wilson / Getty Images / AFP
As ExxonMobil's week from hell continues after a spill of Canadian crude oil and questions on why the energy giant is exempt from contributing to a federal cleanup fund, it is now dealing with a fresh chemical leak at a refinery in Chalmette, Louisiana.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, residents of the New Orleans suburb began reporting strong odor of "burning tires and oil" to the local Coast Guard on Wednesday.

The claims were soon connected to a report issued by the ExxonMobil refinery the same day.

Confusion remained, though, over the amounts and types of chemicals dumped as a result of a break in a pipeline connecting a drum used to store "liquid flare condensate" with a flare. At oil refineries, flares are gas combustion devices generally used to burn off flammable gas released by pressure relief valves. In this case, the spill itself was of the condensate water.

Once the refinery's leak reached the threshold that would require it to be reported, ExxonMobil announced that it had released 100 pounds of hydrogen sulfide and 10 pounds of benzene, a volatile compound known to cause cancer.

People 2

Nearly 30% of U.S. African-Americans with children suffer poverty, food insecurity

world vision international
© UnknownFour young members of World Vision International, which seeks to provide resources and aid to girls struggling with education and poverty, attend the 10x10 campaign gala in New York City, New York on October 10.
Alarming statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this month revealed that hunger and poverty rates in the country remain high, particularly among African-American children.

The U.S. Census Bureau determined that 25.1 percent of African-American households and 29.2 percent of households with children are food insecure.

"While there are indicators that the economy is recovering, children and ethnic minorities that were disproportionately impacted during the recession continue to struggle and lag behind in the recovery," explained Leonetta Elaiho, director of Youth and Community Engagement, U.S. Programs at World Vision, in an email statement to The Christian Post.

The U.S. average of households with children who are food insecure is lower, but still high - up to 20.6 percent.

Comment: To put the above U.S. poverty statistics into perspective: Wealth inequality in America

Arrow Down

Body of North Carolina missing woman found in wrecked car days after it was towed

Dead Body In Car
© ABC NewsCarolyn Ann Watkins body was found in her car days after it was towed from an accident scene, Johnson County, North Carolina.
The family of a North Carolina grandmother whose body was found inside her wrecked car three days after it was towed said today they believe she would still be alive if a state trooper had noticed her.

Carolyn Ann Watkins, 62, was found dead inside her 2000 Pontiac at a towing lot on Monday.

"There was not much swelling and stuff like that, so we think she was living in that vehicle," Patricia Parker, Watkins' daughter-in-law, told

State Trooper M.D. Williams found Watkins' car Friday morning in a ditch near Smithfield, a town 30 miles southeast of Raleigh.

"Note: No driver at the scene of this collision," Williams wrote in a copy of the accident report obtained by

Bad Guys

A billion go hungry because of GMO farming: Vandana Shiva

According to Vandana Shiva, seeds are the original renewable resource, until multinational corporations like Monsanto gain seed patents.

Bizarro Earth

Charity programs can't keep up with rising poverty due to gov't cuts

US poverty spikes but help from Washington shrinks as government struggles with debt

© AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyIn this April 1, 2013 photo, Antonio Hammond stands outside of his apartment in Baltimore. Hammond arrived in Baltimore three years ago, addicted to crack cocaine and snorting heroin, living in abandoned buildings where “the rats were fierce,” and financing his addiction by breaking into cars and stealing copper pipes out of crumbing structures. Eighteen months after finding his way to Catholic Charities via a rehabilitation center, the 49-year-old Philadelphia native is clean of drugs, earning $13 an hour and paying taxes. But such success stories are in danger as $85 billion in federal government spending cuts that began last month begin squeezing services for the poor nationwide.
Antonio Hammond is the $18,000 man.

He's a success story for Catholic Charities of Baltimore, one of a multitude of organizations trying to haul people out of poverty in this Maryland port city where one of four residents is considered poor by U.S. government standards.

Hammond says he ended up in Baltimore three years ago, addicted to crack cocaine and snorting heroin, living in abandoned buildings where "the rats were fierce," and financing his addiction by breaking into cars and stealing copper pipes out of crumbing structures. Eighteen months after finding his way to Catholic Charities via a rehabilitation center, the 49-year-old Philadelphia native is back in the work force, clean of drugs, earning $13 an hour cleaning laboratories for the Biotech Institute of Maryland and paying taxes.

Catholic Charities, which runs a number of federally funded programs, spent $18,000 from privately donated funds to turn around Hammond's life through the organization's Christopher's Place program which provides housing and support services to recovering addicts and former prisoners.

Such success stories are in danger as $85 billion in federal government spending cuts begin squeezing services for the poor nationwide. The cuts started kicking in automatically on March 1 after feuding Democrats and Republicans failed to agree on a better plan for addressing the national deficit. They are hitting at a time of spiking poverty as the U.S. slowly climbs out of the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"All I wanted to do was get high," Hammond said. "I didn't even know any more how to eat or clean myself."

Eye 1

Conspiracy theory poll results

Poll Results
© Reuters/Atlantic Wire
About 90 million Americans believe aliens exist. Some 66 million of us think aliens landed at Roswell in 1948. These are the things you learn when there's a lull in political news and pollsters get to ask whatever questions they want.

Public Policy Polling has raised weird polls to an art form. During last year's presidential campaign, the firm earned a bit of a reputation for its unorthodox questions; for example, "If God exists, do you approve of its handling of natural disasters?"

Today PPP released the results of a national survey looking at common conspiracy theories. Broken down by topic and cross-referenced by political preference, the results will not inspire a lot of patriotism. If you need to defend your fellow countrymen, be sure to note that the margin of error is 2.8 percent.

We took the findings and arranged them from most- to least-believed. And, just to inspire additional shame, figured out how many actual Americans that meant must believe in things like the danger of fluoride in water. (28 million, if you're wondering.)


China plots more sea burials; Faces grave space limitation

© Getty Images/ChinaFotoPressPeople gather to pay their respects at the gravestones of deceased friends and relatives two days before Tomb-Sweeping Day at Sanshan cemetery on April 3, 2011 in Fuzhou, Fujian Province of China.
On April 4 Chinese everywhere will honor their deceased loved ones by packing up bags of gifts, flowers and fare to take to their graves as part of Qingming festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day, a national holiday of adulation for Chinese ancestors. But the more than 2,500-year-old ancient tradition underscores a crippling theme in much of the now-urbanized China: there's no room.

As Quartz reports, city officials are ramping up efforts to change the perceived importance of grave burials by also offering mass burials at sea for the recently departed on Tomb Sweeping Day. Cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou and Jiaxing in Zhejiang province are covering costs for transportation, the sea burial and even offering subsidies ranging from $60 to an upwards of $800. This year Shanghai increased its sea burial subsidy five times more, subsequently leading government officials to add another ship to its sea burial fleet to meet a growing demand.

Gold Coins

Bitcoin versus government: Is Bitcoin the new gun rights battle?

Google trends shows an explosive growth in the Bitcoin meme. Like a tsunami, it started as a ripple and didn't look like much, traveling for miles on the digital sea, and then Cyprus hit and the ripple became a roar.

Nearly all financial news outlets and blogs have weighed in with their opinion on Bitcoin; the majority indicating they either like or love the idea with a few dissenters. The dissenters keep coming back to the argument that Bitcoin's success is capped by how far the government will allow it to succeed before stepping in and calling time.

Comment: For more background information on Bitcoin, read:
What Bitcoin Is, and Why It Matters
Bitcoin: A New Kind of Money That's Beyond the Reach of Bankers, Wall St. and Regulators?

Stock Down

California's net worth at negative $127.2 billion

© Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee file. 2009A new medical facility under construction at San Quentin State Prison in California.
Were California's state government a business, it would be a candidate for insolvency with a negative net worth of $127.2 billion, according to an annual financial report issued by State Auditor Elaine Howle and the Bureau of State Audits.

The report, which covers the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, says that the state's negative status -- all of its assets minus all of its liabilities -- increased that year, largely because it spent more than it received in revenue.

During the 2011-12 fiscal year, the state's general fund spent $1.7 billion more than it received in revenues and wound up with an accumulated deficit of just under $23 billion from several years of red ink. Gov. Jerry Brown has referred to that and other budget gaps, mostly money owed to schools, as a "wall of debt" totaling more than $30 billion.

Last November, voters passed an increase in sales and income taxes that Brown says will balance the state's operating budget and allow the debt wall to be gradually dismantled.