Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Examining The Laws Surrounding Cyber-Assault

At 13-years old, Megan Meier had her whole life in front of her. Although she had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and was on the antidepressant Zoloft since the third grade due to suicidal thoughts, Megan was harassed into an early grave.

Megan had been conversing via with a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans. But as the world-wide-web can be a vehicle for people to create false identities and mislead others, six weeks after Megan’s suicide, her parents learned that Josh Evans was an online pseudo-persona created by Lori Drew, 47, who lived four houses down the street.

In Lori Drew’s final message to Megan, she writes, “The world would be a better place without you.” Claiming to create the profile of 'Josh Evans' to win Megan’s trust and learn how Megan felt about her daughter, to whom she had a 'falling-out' with, no charges have been filed against Ms. Drew. St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson, Lt. Craig McGuire, said that what Ms. Drew did “might’ve been rude, it might’ve been immature, but it wasn’t illegal.”

Knowingly harassing and cajoling a minor by an adult via the Internet, is not currently punishable. However, in response to this innocent loss of life, the local Board of Aldermen in Missouri unanimously passed a measure making Internet harassment a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail. Questions arise as to how this measure will be enforced. What if Ms. Drew did not live in the same town as Megan? What if Ms. Drew did not even reside in the United States? Would these laws be applicable to her still?

The first initiative to regulate cyberspace was taken by the federal government in the Communications Decency Act of 1995. The purpose of this bill was to make illegal the circulation of indecent materials through interactive media, placing it under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission. The act criminalized anything indecent or obscene but it was struck down as unconstitutional for being a violation of the First Amendment.

The Child Online Protection Act passed in 1998 with the purpose of protecting minors from harmful sexual material on the Internet. But once again, the federal courts have ruled that the law violates the constitutional protection of free speech, and therefore have blocked it from taking effect. Another issue plaguing the regulation of online content is that cyberspace is a world that exists without regard for physical location. Web users are free to move from web page to web page and server to server, without obstructions. So how do you regulate and enforce laws in cyberspace? And should there be involvement by a governing body?

Extraterritoriality is when a nation’s legal authority extends past its territorial borders. The Supreme Court’s decision in the Hartford Fire case held that the concerted refusal by London re-insurers to sell certain types of reinsurance to insurers in the United States violated the Sherman Act. The re-insurer’s actions in England were legal under English law. But the Court determined that the re-insurers were nonetheless subject to US regulation because their actions “produced substantial effect[s]” in the United States. U.S. law thus regulated the activities of English companies in England at the expense of the non-application of English law. Similarly, had an English court applied English law to adjudge the re-insurer’s acts to be legal, it would have produced ‘spillover effects’ on consumers in the United States . This makes the enforcement of laws extraterritorial.

In Cyberspace, since information flows simultaneously in all territorial jurisdictions, unilateral regulation of the local effects of cyberspace transmissions become near impossible. Information is like air; we cannot just draw a line in the air and stop it from moving and being used by people elsewhere. In this case, however, Ms. Drew was a ‘supposed’ friend and neighbor, residing within the same jurisdiction as the victim of this appalling hoax.

Assault is an attempt to menace; although not directly threatening her, Ms. Drew assaulted Megan through false impersonation. First Amendments right are the cornerstone of this country, but not all speech is protected under the law and online laws to protect children need to be revisited. Not just against sexual predators but all predators looking to harm a child.

Topic 9: Sovereignty, Advisor Mitch Kapor
Topic 10: Democratic Structures, Advisor Mike Fischer
Child Protection Act:
A Hoax Turned Fatal Draws Anger but No Charges:

A Taser For Christmas? Marketing Assault With A Deadly Weapon

"It is light, it’s small, it comes in colors…” beams Lynne Rigberg, the host of a Taser party in Scottsdale, Arizona. Show your loved one's how much you care this holiday season with this 50,000-volt gift of false safety. Taser International is marketing these weapons for everyone after only a brief demonstration of its use. You too can render the slightest harasser immobile - “You cut me in line at the supermarket, now you’re going down!”

Tasers deliver a 50,000-volt shock designed to override the subject’s central nervous system, causing uncontrollable contraction of the muscle tissue and instant collapse. Taser International has stressed that Tasers are not designed to stop a target through infliction of pain but work by causing instant immobilization through muscle contraction. However, even officers subjected to a fraction of the normal Taser discharge during training have reported feelings of acute pain.

There are two types of Taser guns, “touch” stun guns for close range and dart projectile mode that has two fish-hook like darts designed to penetrate up to two inches of the target’s clothing or skin. Many ‘victims’ of Tasers have reported burn marks from the guns. Pointing out an obvious question, what is the sanitation of these hooks? They can penetrate two inches of skin, does the amount of voltage prevent disease transfer?

Considering our bodies are 70% water and transfer electricity through all parts of the nervous system, one might believe that 50,000 volts may have long-term effects, especially brain damage, at the slightest exposure. While a Taser gun would be less damaging to an assailant than a bullet-driven gun, both are supposed to be used with extreme caution and as a "last resort".

However, even law enforcement officers are not using Tasers as a last resort. On October 14th 2007, Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, 40, was traveling to join his mother, who lives in British Columbia, when he ended up spending approximately 10 hours in the airport's arrivals area, The Canadian Press said. Needing an interpreter, 4 Canadian Mounties approached the man, at which time he raised his hands and calmed down. With the absence of any threatening gestures, Mr. Dziekanski was Tasered by one of the mounties within moments. Falling to the floor, screaming, Mr. Dziekanski was tasered once again. Unarmed, confused and frightened were his final moments alive in the Vancouver International Airport.

Touting Tasers as a deterrent and not a weapon, people can and will feel compelled to use tasers whenever they want. With no legal limitations on when a person can and cannot use these deadly weapons, we have opened the floodgates for people to Taser each other at whim.


“Excessive and Lethal Force?” Amnesty International,,

This article is featured at A Taser for Christmas? Marketing Assault With a Deadly Weapon

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Beyond Repair: Part 2-Redefining the 8th Amendment

Nixzmary Brown…Noah, Mary, Luke, Paul and John Yates…Clyde Bondurant…Kira Walden…An ever-growing list of children who have died by the hands of family members.

Today’s Rant will focus on the newest little casualty, 2-year-old Riley Ann Sawyers. Dubbed “Baby Grace” by police, she was a “fun-loving girl…with a big imagination,” explains Riley Ann’s father, Robert Sawyers. She would play “with a water hose…spraying the whole patio soaking wet.”

Relocated to Galveston with her mother, Kimberly Dawn Trenor; the body of the then-unidentified toddler was found by a fisherman on October 29, 2007. Her body was stuffed inside a blue storage container that washed up on an uninhabited island in Galveston’s West Bay.

Police arrested Trenor and her husband, Royce Zeigler after Trenor gave a voluntary statement describing her involvement, with Zeigler, in the physical abuse, death and disposal of the remains of her daughter.

According to her statement, both ‘pieces of garbage’ beat the child with leather belts and held her head under water in the bathtub. Zeigler then picked the girl up by her hair and threw her across the room, slamming her head into the tile floor. After her daughter died, Trenor and Zeigler went to a Wal-Mart and bought a Sterilite container which became Riley’s coffin, hidden in a storage shed for “one to two months” before the two carried it to the Galveston Causeway and tossed it in.

A beautiful toddler with wispy blond curls is gone forever. Though nothing the judicial system can do will bring her back, this is my vote to redefine “cruel and unusual punishment” in the Eighth Amendment.

At the time the Eighth Amendment was written, capital punishment was in common use. There also existed punishments that were generally considered cruel and unusual, such as hanging, burning at the stake, and impalement. But now, even lethal injection is under scrutiny. Debating that the convicted might actually feel pain during the procedure and therefore, certain groups and lawmakers arguing that this method is not humane.

What is humane is to do exactly to Trenor and Zeigler as they did to Riley. That would be justice! Unfortunately, that scenerio will never happen with the laws and enforcment of our current judicial system. I can not even hope that these two ‘sickos’ might be ‘neutured’ so that they can never reproduce again. Instead they will clog our courts, use tax payer money for their stay in jail (whatever ridicilously short sentence they get) for two people obviously beyond repair. My only relief is that this happened in Texas…the state with the Death Penalty Express Lane!

Police: Mother describes beating of 2-year-old, hiding her body

Monday, October 08, 2007

Necessary Force?

“What Did I Do?”

What did a University of Florida student do that resulted in him being Tasered and arrested after trying to ask U.S. Senator John Kerry about the 2004 election and other subjects during a campus forum?

“He apparently asked several questions—he went on for quite awhile—then he was asked to stop,” university spokesman Steve Orlando noted. “He has used his allotted time. His microphone was cut off, then he became upset.”

What I saw from the video was a 21-year-old cocky college student asking obnoxious questions of the former Presidential candidate. Holding a book in one hand and the microphone in his other, posing no physical threat to anyone. Still standing in front of his cut off microphone, within moments the officers were grabbing him and moving him towards the aisle. That is the point at which Andrew Meyer became upset, and rightfully so.

I have the utmost respect for any law enforcement officer. Everyday, they put their life on the line; unsure of what ‘evildoer’ they might run into. But when did we start to fear a person asking questions of our leaders?

Many have commented that once the officers attempted to restrain and remove him from the auditorium, any failure to comply was ‘resisting arrest.’ Not true! “An illegal arrest is an assault and battery. The person so attempted to be restrained of his liberty has the same right to use force in defending himself as he would in repelling any other assault and battery.” (Stave v. Robinson, 145 ME. 77, 72 ATL. 260). Not only did Andrew Meyer have the right to resist his unlawful arrest, he also had the right to use force in return. But Andrew Meyer wasn’t there to cause physical harm to anyone…

…Instead he was Tasered while lying on the ground with six officers surrounding him. The United Nations (UN) Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, outline that force should be used as a LAST RESORT and that officers must apply only the minimum amount of force necessary to obtain a lawful objective. Here’s the kicker, they also provide that all use of force must be proportionate to the threat posed as well as designed to avoid unwarranted pain or injury. A 21-year-old, unarmed college student with his arms outstretched, trying to finish his questioning…six officers using a Taser was obviously a proportionate amount of force considering this young man’s capabilities.

Tasers deliver a 50,000-volt shock designed to override the subject’s central nervous system, causing uncontrollable contraction of the muscle tissue and instant collapse. Taser International has stressed that Tasers are not designed to stop a target through infliction of pain but work by causing instant immobilization through muscle contraction. However, even officers subjected to even a fraction of the normal Taser discharge during training have reported feeling acute pain.

There are two types of Taser guns, “touch” stun guns for close range and dart projectile mode that has two fish-hook like darts designed to penetrate up to two inches of the target’s clothing or skin. Many ‘victims’ of Tasers have reported burn marks from the guns. Pointing out an obvious question, what is the sanitation of these hooks? They can penetrate two inches of skin…does the amount of voltage prevent disease transfer?

Considering our bodies are 70% water and transfer electricity through all parts of the nervous system, I can’t help but believe that 50,000 volts may have long-term effects, especially brain damage, at the slightest exposure. While I agree that a Taser gun would be less damaging to an assailant then a bullet-driven gun, both should be used with extreme caution and as a LAST RESORT.

In July 2004, it was announced that eleven police agencies in Orange County, Florida, had agreed to restrict their use of Tasers following a yearlong review, which suggested that some officers were too quick to resort to their weapons. Indianapolis police told Amnesty International that the entry level at which Tasers could be used was “at any point force is needed.” Any person, at anytime, for any reason then can be Tasered. Like 20-year old Dontae Marks, whom was a bystander protesting when the police tried to arrest a friend for being drunk outside a nightclub. Police reportedly pointed a Taser at Marks’ chest when he refused an order to leave, then Tasered him in the back as he walked away shouting an obscenity. Granted, we should show officers respect but under these guidelines, you can therefore be Tasered for hurting an officer’s feelings. We’ve taken the freedom to speak ones mind and put power in the sole hands of 5,000 US law enforcement agencies.

“Why are they arresting me? Can someone do something here?” In a room full of peers, why did everyone just watch? Some cried out but the truth is that this has become a nation living in fear. Terrorized from within! If posing a threat is having a book in one hand and a microphone in another, then it is time we all bore arms.

“Obedience is not enough…there will be no curiosity, no employment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed…always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing…Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face-forever.” (1984 by George Orwell, p. 267)

“Excessive and Lethal Force?” Amnesty International,

“Student Arrested, Tasered at Kerry Event,” AP, 9/18/2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Jaded Jenny

Modern dating has become a crazier maze of short interludes than ever before. With technology creating faster ways of interacting and various social outlets, in 29 years I have met a slew of people. My friends are the best I could ask for but it is not without meeting a lot unpleasant people as well. Dating is the same process but can be even more difficult because from dating, a relationship may be born...a relationship that has both a mental and physical aspect to it. Finding a great partner can be a tumultuous and heartbreaking ride.

Came across a brief article entitled “Retired From Dating.” At 26-years-old, Nicole Brown was throwing in the towel. She had spent so much time dating and felt that she has gone no where in her quest to find someone that she is compatible with. Exclaiming, “I leave it to fate to unite me and my kindred soulmate...and if it doesn’t, well, then, Fate, you can suck it.” Understanding her plight, I reflect on my own ridiculous experiences. I can laugh looking back at them now, but especially at the time, they were disheartening.

Unlike Nicole, I cannot claim that I had a date pee in his pants, but I can claim one threw-up on only our second date at which time we were at the movies. Little did I know before we got to the movies, exactly how many alcoholic beverages he consumed earlier in the evening. Ah, yes, love! There it is in all its glory. It might be safe to say that was not a “keeper” for me but he might be for someone else in the future.

Finding compatibility is more than answering a few questions on E-Harmony. Even when two people have all the same outlooks and goals, they still might be missing that ‘spark’ and likewise, there could be more of a connection between two people than meets the eye. But this is under the assumption that the feelings are mutual.

Getting past “What is your favorite color?” and developing a relationship can prove to be the most frustrating task of all. A relationship might be moving too fast for one and too slow for the other. The timing might be wrong - one just got a promotion at their job while the other is looking to relocate. Or to quote the revelation made in an episode of Sex In The City, “Maybe he is just not that into you?”

Whatever the scenario, it is important to keep in mind a few important points.

1. Never loss site of yourself and your goals. It is true that a relationship can open your eyes to a different life than you originally planned. Compromise is almost always necessary and in particular, marriage is a full-time job. With that in mind, it also needs to be a two-way street. If you always find yourself giving up activities and wants that make you happy to appease the other, you will resent them...and resent yourself.
2. Always be sure to make yourself happy. While this does not entail at the expense of making another miserable, I have found that you can never make someone else happy or enjoy someone else’s will to make you happy, unless you have found the comfort in yourself, first. Only you can stop yourself from taking the Prozac.
3. Never go into a relationship with the notion that you will change those things that annoy you about the other person. We all have our faults but you must realize that people very rarely change. Many times if they do, it may be for the worse. So if your significant other has a trait that sends you steaming, ask yourself if it is something you can live with. Because if you stay with that person, you will have to do exactly that.
4. The Little Things! Roses, diamonds, various gifts...these are nice but sometimes it is the simply text messages saying they are thinking about you or calling you just to say “hello”, because speaking with you makes them happy. Holding hands or taking a late night bike ride. Maybe it is because I have never been one for material things, but these are the ‘gifts’ that bring a smile to my face.
5. While opposites may attract, it is the belief in one another that bonds. Life can change in an instant and your belief in someone to stick by them and the knowledge that they would do the same for you in the face of adversity, is key. When the going gets tough, the tough should not be walking out the door. Discovery Channel had a show about a man in his forties that was struck quickly with a flesh-eating bacteria which took his entire face. No eyes..a small opening left for his nostrils and mouth. He looked hideous! His wife of twenty-years’, stuck by him every step of the way. Finding it hard to take care of himself, she did everything she could and with tears in her eyes, cried out that she loved him as much today and she ever did. This man had no face! People bolt at the slightest hangnail, and this woman would not budge from her husband’s side. That my friends, is love!

But even with all the love in your heart and the best intentions, the relationship still may not work out. Whatever the reason and however much it hurts, you must brush yourself off and keep going. Take the experience as that. Myself, I have enough “chalked up to experience” but that hasn’t jaded me enough to retire from dating. It is just made me more aware of my wants and desires and traits I find important in myself...and in others.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dating Faux Pas Part Duex

11. Do Not Invite Your Friends On The Date To “APPROVE” Of The Date. If you cannot decide for yourself if you like someone then you have deeper issues than finding a date. This also means you do not have any character judgment so inviting a friend, who shouldn’t be a friend then since you do not have the ability to judge someone yourself, is not going to help.

12. Lecturing and Giving Advice! It is great to have viewpoints and opinions, but sometimes people need to learn when keep those points to themselves. For example, criticizing what they order or telling them their diet habits are “awful”, is not the way to ‘win friends and influence people’. In fact, it is the quickest way to end a date. People need to understand that different viewpoints and opinions are what make people unique.

13. Ladies and Gentlemen...May I Have Your Attention! On a date, women should act like ladies and men should act like gentlemen. Sounds easy enough, right?

  1. Gentlemen-Open doors! Chivalry is not dead unless by some chance you are dating Susan B. Anthony.

  2. Ladies-Do not take longer than 5 minutes in the bathroom. Save the text message critiques to your friends for after the date. Even then, make up your own mind about how the date went and what YOU thought.

  3. Gentlemen-Do not order for the Lady. Women do have brains and should be able to decide for themselves what they want to eat. Likewise…

  4. Ladies-do not order through your date. You do not need to look to him for approval as to what you are ordering.

  5. Don’t bash the opposite sex. If you are on a date with someone OF the opposite sex…there might be a slight conflict of interest if you exclaim comments like, “all men are assholes.” Just a guess though.

  6. Don’t feed each other unless you want the people around you to throw up. Pass the plate, pass the fork but this is not the time for a scene from 9 ½ Weeks.

  7. Don’t have a drinking contest (Yes, I need to take heed to this one!) Exclaiming to your date that you can ‘out-drink’ them is not a sure-fire way to a second date.

14. First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage...NO! First comes the first date and don’t blow it by talking about wanting to get married and/or having kids. Maybe not even by the fifth date! Look, getting married and having kids can be a goal but it is not a way to start off a relationship. Why you ask? Because at the get-go people are just getting to know each other. The love and trust that needs to (or at least should) be present when you are considering marriage, you will not find on the first date. You are not the Montague’s and Capulet’s.

15. The X Factor. You’d be surprised how many people start talking about their past relationships right away. Maybe at some point during a long term relationship, two people can briefly discuss their past relationships, as this does help someone to learn about a person and what they have gone through. But leave out all the intimate details! If you explain how Dick cheated on Jane with Jane’s best friend when she was at work trying to support his ‘broke ass’ and then he ran up a $10,000 credit card bill gambling, drinking and going to strip clubs and now Jane’s best friend is pregnant with Dick’s baby…obviously you are still unresolved about the relationship. Relationships, any kind, are still experiences and you should learn from them. The focus should not be on who did what to whom but about what you learned and took away from the experience to try to make yourself a better person and spouse.

16. Be on time!!! Ladies, I know this mostly pertains to you but please do not leave your date waiting more than 5 minutes for you. No, he does not enjoy having your cats crawl over him while he sits uncomfortably on your couch with your parents/roommates/etc. giving him the Spanish Inquisition.

17. Common Places-do not go to a place you are a regular at. Most likely you will run into someone you know and many people then become distracted from their date. Also, do not sit at the bar on a date. Watching the television at a pub ‘n grub is not the environment for getting to know someone.

18. No Flirting With Someone Else! Bar and wait staff are the most accessible but no, they do not want your number. And if they do flirt back, they probably just want a bigger tip.

19. Don’t Talk About Yourself The Whole Date. “I…I…I…” Your date might start to think that is the only vowel you know in the English language. Having a conversation, whether on a date or not, is an exchange of ideas and experiences. Share with one another!

20. Don’t Ask Stupid Questions… “What do you find attractive about me?”… “Do my boobs look even?” Yes, people actually ask these questions. For what reason, I assume to bring attention to a particular feature or for a self-esteem boost. For more examples, see The Ten Date-Killing Questions.

The Ten Date-Killing Questions!
1. How many people have you slept with? As much as you might want to know…don’t ask.
2. Where was the most interesting place you had sex? Again, as much as you might want to know…don’t ask!
3. Do I have something in my teeth? Just go to the bathroom and look for yourself. And if you say this as a ploy to get someone up close to your mouth, than that is just, well, pathetic!
4. Have you ever cheated on someone? “Yes, in fact I am cheating right now by dating you.”
5. Where do you see yourself in five years? This is a question for a job interview…not a date.
6. Are you a member of the mile-high club? And if you live in Denver, you already know the answer to this.
7. What was your last girlfriend/boyfriend like and/or have you ever been in love? These are not questions to ask until much later in the relationship. Bringing up past relationships early on is a “no-no”.
8. What is the craziest thing you have ever done? Don’t ask a question you might not want to know the answer to!
9. What’s your bra size? Real or Fake? This one is pretty self explanatory as to why it is inappropriate. Worse off, if you actually respond to the question…
10. Have you ever thought the Taliban was correct in their actions against the U.S? Avoid riot-inciting questions and commentary.

Bonus question and my personal favorite: Did you vote for Bush?
…the second time?

In an effort to be more “positive”, here is a list of Do’s!!!

1. Do ask questions and be generally interested in their answers.
2. Do have a plan! Decide what you both would like to do ahead of time this way you and your date are not asking each other what you want to do all night. Look to establish at least 3 points of the date ahead of time and don’t let the last one be “your place or mine?”
3. Do wear underwear…I know, I know…I am being cheeky.
4. Intros are essential! If you do end up bumping into someone you know, be sure to introduce your date right away. You want to make the person you are with feel comfortable and appreciated.

So I can only think of 4 Do’s for now…give me time, I might come around with a few more eventually. Now get out there and have some fun!!!

Written In Collaboration With Timothy Price

“Love is stronger than any other emotion. When you do have that feeling, it should be cherished and protected with trust, respect and honesty.” Mike Kales Jr.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Trading Down: “Made In China”

Our most popular export is our nearly 3 million manufacturing jobs lost since mid-2000, as U.S. companies have moved production overseas to lower-waged nations. Yet the Bush administration is still not heeding the advice from economists warning that the United States cannot sustain its current $800 billion annual trade deficit, which has led to trillions in dollar-denominated reserves being held by China and other Asian countries, and by Saudi Arabia and the other major oil producers. Such large reserves give these countries that possess them undue leverage over the United States, which could lead to a sell-off of dollars that would send the value of the currency skidding. This in turn might force the U.S. to raise interest rates, choking off future economic recovery.

The U.S reported trade deficit with China alone for 2006 is a mind-blowing $232.5 BILLION dollars. Recently closing 180 food plants due to inspectors uncovering more than 23,000 food safety violations, the country’s exports of contaminated vegetable protein earlier this year triggered one of the largest pet food recalls in American history. Industrial chemicals including dyes, mineral oil, paraffin wax and formaldehyde have been found in everything from candy, pickles and biscuits to seafood. One suspected cause is a lack of cold storage and logistics systems but these chemical additions into their products were not by accident.

Cutting corners in manufacturing is not strictly a food industry predicament for China. Four hundred and fifty thousand radial tires are being recalled due to the tires missing a necessary gum strip that prevents tire separation. To add insult to injury, the company importing the tires, Foreign Tire Sales, had originally sought the U.S. federal government’s help with the recall, saying it did not have enough money to recall all the tires itself. This New Jersey company wanted to import inexpensive tires to save a few ‘pennies’ but then wanted the taxpayers to pay for what is readily their product and their responsibility.

In more uplifting new, bargain toothpaste now contains diethylene glycol, a known poison commonly used in antifreeze. It has been profitable to substitute this chemical for its cousin, glycerin, which is usually more expensive. Glycerin is used as a thickening agent in toothpaste and is also commonly found in food, drugs and household products.

But not everyone is China is profiting from these the high export rate. There is a widening income gap and threats of social unrest. “Under China’s “iron rice bowl” system of the 1950’s and 60’s, all workers were protected by the government or by state-owned companies, which often supplied housing and local health coverage. But by the 1980’s, when the Maoist model had given way to economic restructuring and the beginning of an emphasis on market forces, China began eliminating many of those protections-giving rise to mass layoffs, unemployment, huge gaps in income and pervasive labor abuse.” *

With much of the international spotlight now focusing on these issues, where the Chinese government is not lacking is in the severity and punishment of corrupt executives. Unlike the U.S’ mockery of a judicial system in handling Enron, Tyco, etc., the Supreme People’s Court approved the death sentence against Zheng Xiaoyu, who was convicted of taking bribes worth some 6.5 million yuan ($850,000) from eight companies. He was executed earlier this month. “Zheng Xiaoyu’s grave irresponsibility in pharmaceutical safety inspection and failure to conscientiously carry out his duties seriously damaged the interests of the state and people,” reported Xinhua news agency citing the high court.

Investigators found Zheng and his subordinates abused new rules in renewing drug production licenses to squeeze kickbacks from companies. “We must ensure that those who have power fulfill their duties and responsibilities, and if anyone abuses their power they will be punished,” proclaimed Yan Jiangying, spokeswoman for the State Food and Drug Administration. Perfectly stated…should not those leaders allowing the U.S. economy to be held hostage to foreign nations be held responsible?

* “China Drafts Law to Boost Unions and End Labor Abuse”, New York Times, 10/13/2006
“China’s Trade Surplus Surges 73 Percent”, New York Times, 6/11/2007
“Trade Deficit Soars To Record”, Associated Press-The News Journal, 2/11/2006
“In Food Safety Crackdown, China Closes 180 Plants”, New York Times, 6/27/2007
“Chinese Tires Are Ordered Recalled,” New York Times, 6/26/2007
“U.S Trade Deficit Is Called a Threat to Global Growth”, New York Times, 9/5/2006
“Toxic Toothpaste Made in China Is Found in U.S.”, New York Times, 6/2/2007
“China Executes Ex-Drug Chief for Graft”,, 7/11/2007

Saturday, July 07, 2007

What Are We Doing To Each Other?

An injured Lebanese boy seeks comfort from his mother in the picture on my wall above my computer. He leans over his mother; both of them covered in blood. Her hands reaching up trying to comfort the boy’s cries. An Israeli rocket hit their van as they fled through the coastal city of Tyre in southern Lebanon.

As a currently childless woman, I can not help but fear ever being in position of fright and helplessness at the actions of other people and their effect on my future children. Should I dare ever bring another human being into this hurtful world?

-A 3-year-old boy died in Chinese hospital after ingesting pesticides and was denied medical care until his grandfather could pay for the treatment. The boy died after the grandfather left to raise money.

-Mukhtar Mai, 4 years ago, was gang-raped by four men in her village in Pakistan to punish her brother for an offense they believed he committed. Her honor destroyed, she was expected by her community and even her own family to kill herself in shame.

-Formerly ChevronTexaco dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into the soil and water of a previously pristine section of the Amazon rain forest. Too poor to move, parents have watched their children play and their livestock feed in areas contaminated with these hazard wastes. Rene Arevalo who lived near a separation plant that was once operated by a Texaco subsidiary and lives with his five children drink contaminated water… “What else can we do?”

-Ayaan Hirsi Ali had her genitals cut out when she was 5-years-old. Her clitoris and labia were carved out and the whole area was sewn up so that a thick band of tissue forms a chastity belt made of her own scarred-flesh. “What were we being kept pure from? Somebody owned us. What was between our legs was not mine to give. I was branded.” (Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali)

-Kazakhstan, Sept 2006, a government official confirmed that 55 children had contracted the H.I.V. virus through contaminated blood or used needles at a hospital.

-On an icy February morning 19 years ago on a Bronx street, Alison Dolan was left in a Bud Light box in a filthy alley. The plight of babies who are abandoned in the U.S.-left in dumpsters or gas station bathrooms or vacant lots.

-171 million children throughout the world work in hazardous conditions or with dangerous machinery.

-In less than a decade, an estimated four million people have died in the Congo, mostly of hunger and disease caused by fighting. It has been the deadliest conflict since World War II, with more than 1,000 people still dying each day. (“In Congo, Hunger and Disease Erode Democracy”, New York Times, 6/30/2006)

-88,345 homeless people live in Los Angeles and the surrounding communities. Close your eyes, and they disappear. Better yet, tell them to get a job!

-Rebecca Riley, 4-years-old dies of a drug overdose after being prescribed medication for ADHD and bipolar disorder since age 2 ½. She was 2 ½…yes, it is called ‘terrible twos’ for a reason. Nothing new but hey, pharmaceutical companies can make money and doctors kickbacks from such diagnosis’s.

-After bouts of hypertension and diabetes, Mary Rose Derks, a 65-year-old widow, scrimped money out of her grocery fund for an insurance policy that promised to pay eventually for a room in an assistant living home. After paying for the insurance, now 81, has yet to receive a penny from the Conseco Insurance while her family has paid around $70,000 in care.

All blips in the morning newspaper…if you even get one that covers such events. Wash down that bagel with your Starbucks, put your head back in the game and remember, who makes the most money wins!

Where has our compassion for one another gone?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sovereign Anatomy

Who makes decisions about your body? New laws give physicians and hospitals the right to deny the best care…even in emergencies. A recent poll conducted by resulted in nearly 1 in 20 respondents noting an incident in which their doctor had refused to treat them for moral, ethical, or religious reasons.

“Doctors swear an oath to serve their patients. But instead, they are allowing their religious beliefs to compromise patient care,” says Jamie D. Brooks, a former staff attorney for the National Health Law Program. At the forefront of this controversy is woman’s health care.

Lori Boyer was trembling after being sexually assaulted by an acquaintance. Bruised and shaken, she drove straight to Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. After speaking to a rape counselor, she met with Martin Gish, M.D. for a pelvic exam and inquired to the doctor about the morning-after pill, which the counselor had mentioned earlier. She was mid-cycle, putting her in danger of getting pregnant. “No,” replied Dr. Gish. “It’s against my religion.” Emergency contraception is most effective within ideally 72 hours. She now had to look for another doctor who was willing to put religious beliefs aside in order to prevent a forced pregnancy. “I was so vulnerable,” laments Lori. “I felt victimized all over again. First the rape and then the doctor making me feel powerless.” Luckily Boyer was able to find a physician in enough time to prescribe her EC.

“What person who has been raped would really welcome a pregnancy from that?” asks James Trussell, Ph.D., director of the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. “Even if you oppose abortion, what could be better than preventing the pregnancy in the first place?”

In the absence of any local laws, it is up to individual hospitals to decide whether a rape victim will be given – or even told about – emergency contraception. (Glamour, May 2006) In The New England Journal of Medicine survey, 8 percent of physicians said they felt no obligation to present all options to their patients. Eight percent might not seem to be a high percentage but imagine you being one of the numerous patients to a doctor that falls in that 8%. “Especially in a crisis situation, like a rape, you often don’t think to question your care. But unfortunately, now we can’t even trust doctors to tell us what we need to know,” Jill Morrison, senior counsel for health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center points out.

There have been highly publicized articles and discussions about pharmacists who have refused to dispense birth control and emergency contraception. But more and more incidents like Lori Boyer’s are being noticed.

Cheryl Bray, a single 41-year-old, had decided to adopt a baby from Mexico. Where woman are dying because they are poor and having unsafe abortions since it is illegal. Those that do go through with a pregnancy often cannot afford to raise the child and put he/she up for adoption. Being a well-respected realtor in California, Cheryl decided to open her home and her heart to one of these children. She had already gone through a long and arduous application process along with various inspections, background checks, etc. One of the last requirements was to undergo a routine physical. “So, your husband is in agreement with your decision to adopt?” inquires Fred Salley, M.D. “I’m not married,” Bray told him. “You’re not?” He calmly put down his pen Bray recalls. “Then I’m not comfortable continuing this exam.” He later stated that his “decision to refer Ms. Bray was not because she was unmarried; rather, it was based on my moral belief that a child should have two parental units. Such religious beliefs are a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.”

So by Dr. Salley’s statement and belief that a child should have two parental units, then widows should never be allowed to raise their own children unless they immediately get remarried. Interesting! As for the second part of his statement about religious rights, Bray has a right to her beliefs just as much as Salley. “Apparently it is ok to discriminate against somebody, as long as it’s for religious reasons,” Bray surmises.

Besides the doctor’s beliefs to content with, nearly one in five hospital beds is in a religiously owned institution, according to the nonprofit group MergerWatch. Often times, mergers take place at hospitals. As a result, the name of the hospital might not change but its philosophy does. Every Catholic hospital is bound by the ethical directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which forbid abortion and sterilization (unless they are lifesaving), in vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood, some prenatal genetic testing, all artificial forms of birth control and the use of condoms for HIV prevention. (“Is Your Doctor Playing Judge?” Self, June 2007)

At just 14 weeks pregnant, Kathleen Hutchins had her water break. Because there wasn’t enough amniotic fluid left and it was too early for the fetus to survive, the pregnancy was hopeless. Hutchins would miscarry in a matter of weeks but in the meanwhile, she stood at risk for serious infection, which could lead to infertility or death. Hutchins chose to go to local Elliot Hospital but Elliot had recently merged with nearby Catholic Medical Center – and as a result, the hospital forbade abortions. “I was told I could not admit her unless there was a risk to her life,” Dr. Goldner remembers. “They said, ‘Why don’t you wait until she has an infection, or she gets a fever?’ They were asking me to do something other than the standard of care. They wanted me to put her health in jeopardy.” (Self, June 2007)

South Dakota Governor Michael Rounds, signed into law the nation’s most sweeping state abortion ban in March 2006. The law makes it a felony to perform any abortion except in a case of a pregnant woman’s life being in jeopardy. (“South Dakota Bans Abortion, Setting Up A Battle”, The New York Times, 3/7/2006) But who decides when a woman’s life is in jeopardy? For Kathleen Hutchins, it was the local hospital. Isn’t it her body? Shouldn’t she ultimately make that decision? Not when doctors and hospitals are given the right to refuse care. They are making your decisions.

Since 2005, 27 states introduced bills to widen refusal clauses. Four states are considering granting carte blanche refusal rights – much like the law adopted by Mississippi in 2004, which allows any health care provider to refuse practically anything on moral grounds. (Self, June 2007) “It’s written so broadly, there’s virtually no protection for patients,” says Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate for the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health research group.

The relationship between patient and his/her doctor should be ‘sacrosanct’, and the moral condemnation of a doctor’s faith on a patient has caused patients to retreat from seeing and vocalizing their health in fear of being judged. As upsetting and discouraging as these changes might be, we must always be in control of our own body and health.

In 2002, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a hereditary autoimmune disease. After years of arguing with doctor’s that I knew something was not right, it was a gastroenterologist that finally looked into it. Blood tests confirmed my assumptions and he referred me to an endocrinologist for further medical attention.

After being under the endocrinologist’s care for a year and taking the prescribed Levoxyl, I still did not feel any better. Being concerned about my health care, I read articles and studies on various medications and treatments. When I confronted my doctor, he responded “You shouldn’t read so much!” Needless to say, that was my last visit with him. I found a new endocrinologist who listened to my concerns and wound up changing the brand of medication. Although the main difference is just the fillers in the medication, sometimes it is even something that small that can make a difference. Luckily I had enough gumption to not accept substandard care but many people do not.

Doctor’s seem to forget that EVERYONE is different. We can all have a different reaction to the same treatment and as a doctor, you should always look to finding what is best for your patient.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Beyond Repair

Beyond repair...two words you dread hearing from your mechanic. You take it in for an oil change and lo-and-behold; the engine is about to fall out. Everything seemed fine…and yet sometimes the damage was done a long time ago and just grew beyond control. Other times, it was a specific incident that led to its place in the junkyard.

But this rant is not going to be about car maintenance rather it is about personal maintenance. You hear it all the time…throughout life you will have your “ups-and-downs”, “good times and bad”. You might have a “bad time” now, but if you keep trying your best, you will move past it and lead into a “good time”. Like most normal human beings, you and I understand this concept. A leak in your roof, your car breaking down or even losing a big client might upset you…you might have a few drinks, smokes, go for a long run…whatever mechanism you have for dealing with negative situations, you allow yourself to move past it. Whether it is a multitude of smaller aspects that fester, a larger incident that breaks them, or being a lemon from the beginning, some people are beyond repair.

A 101-year old woman using a walker was on her way to church, when a man, caught on tape, hit her in the face and then took her purse. He then proceeded to rifle through her pockets, stunned, the victim tried to keep her balance from the hits to the head. The mugger had a clear exit and no threat around him. Purse in hand, this vicious monster then knocked the victim to the floor. Maybe he thought the walker was an act and she would try to run after him. At this point, he allegedly hoped on a pink bike and shortly thereafter, mugged an 84-year old woman who was also using a walker.

I cannot fathom any valid argument or excuse for this individual’s behavior. Maybe his grandmother abused him with her walker, and seeing those steal rods sent years of torture surging through his veins? Maybe an old lady ran over his prized blue bike, now reducing him to the pink one? No matter what trials and tribulations you might have personally gone through, to commit an act such as this, you must not have a soul or any cylinders working for that matter, and are therefore, beyond repair.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Of Taunts and Torture

It is not often a story in the news makes me chuckle. But just recently I came across a New York Times headline: Iraq To Review Hussein's Execution. Hmm...ok. I read on: "Iraq’s Shiite-led government said Tuesday that it had ordered an investigation into the abusive behavior at the execution of Saddam Hussein, who was subject to a battery of taunts by official Shiite witnesses and guards as he awaited his hanging." (NYT, 1/3/07) Insert giggle here.

It goes on to say, "In an unofficial cell phone video recording that was broadcast around the world and posted on countless Web sites, Mr. Hussein is shown standing on the gallows platform with the noose around his neck at dawn on Saturday, facing a barrage of mockery and derision from unseen tormentors below the gallows." I love the word "tormentors" here because that is certainly one of many horrible nouns to which Mr. Hussein holds.

I couldn't believe what I just read. Are people serious? Have they not read any news on Iraq for the past quarter century? Let’s recap:

Saddam Hussein seized power in 1979. The list of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Saddam Hussein and his regime is a long one. It includes:

• The use of poison gas and other war crimes against Iran and the Iranian people during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Iraq summarily executed thousands of Iranian prisoners of war as a matter of policy.

• The "Anfal" campaign in the late 1980's against the Iraqi Kurds, including the use of poison gas on cities. In one of the worst single mass killings in recent history, Iraq dropped chemical weapons on the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988, in which as many as 5,000 people -- mostly civilians -- were killed. Another 10,000 were injured. The attack is part of the government's campaign to suppress rebellious Kurds across northern Iraq. The campaign leaves 180,000 Kurds missing and presumed dead.

• Crimes against humanity and war crimes arising out of Iraq's 1990-91 invasion and occupation of Kuwait.

• Crimes against humanity and possibly genocide against Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq. This includes the destruction of over 3,000 villages. The Iraqi government's campaign of forced deportations of Kurdish and Turkomen families to southern Iraq has created approximately 900,000 internally displaced citizens throughout the country.

• Crimes against humanity and possibly genocide against Marsh Arabs and Shi'a Arabs in southern Iraq. Entire populations of villages have been forcibly expelled. Government forces have burned their houses and fields, demolished houses with bulldozers, and undertaken a deliberate campaign to drain and poison the marshes. Thousands of civilians have been summarily executed.

• Possible crimes against humanity for killings, ostensibly against political opponents, within Iraq.

Even at Hussein's trial, more atrocities were demonstrated. Ahmed Hassan Mohammed detailed the killing of 148 people in the village of Dujail, north of Baghdad, in 1982. The Iraqi forces' torture equipment included a mincing machine sometimes fed with living human bodies, he said. But heck, he could be making it all up! Maybe he watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre one too many times.

And with that thought, Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases on the grounds that it is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. "Saddam Hussein and his aides should certainly have been held to account for the horrific human rights crimes committed by his government but this should have been through a fair trial process and without recourse to the death penalty. Reports that Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti had his head severed during the hanging only emphasis the brutality of this already cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme. Nothing wrong with a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment for cruel, inhuman and degrading men.

Even 'our fearless leader' Bush chimed in on the execution: "It basically says to people, "Look, you conducted a trial and gave Saddam justice that he didn’t give to others." But then when it came to execute him, it looked like it was kind of a revenge killing." No, Mr. Bush, a proper ‘revenge killing’ would be if we could kill him 20,000 times...for starters.

If you still share a similar viewpoint to that of Amnesty International, then let me leave with a little bedtime story…

Once upon a time in 1988, a 12 year-old boy named Taimour was taken prisoner by the big back Iraqi forces that burned down his village of more than 4500 villagers. Separated from his family, he was thrown in jail with other children. Many of who died because they were hungry. After surviving there for 30 days, he was whisked away on a bus with no windows, struggling to breath the entire ride to the majestic border of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. After they arrived, they were allowed to have some of the 'magic' water that turned his body numb. Surrounded with 30 other busloads of people, the Iraqi forces had them climb down in over a hundred holes dug specially for them.

Waiting there till it got dark out, the Iraqi forces then starting shooting at the people. All men, women and children. Goodness, was little Taimour frightened. There was one woman Taimour noticed that was pregnant and about to give birth. They threw into the hole too and shot her so many times her stomach got ripped and the baby fell out. Taimour was then shot multiple times in the back and shoulder but survived and played dead until the soldiers eventually left. And then he woke up! What a horrible nightmare.

Kids certainly have a vivid imagination, wouldn’t you say?!

Note: I would gladly 'pull the trigger', 'secure the noose', 'flip the switch', 'inject the needle' kill Saddam Hussein…one less psychopathic scumbag to worry about!

-Bush Widens Iraq Criticism Over Handling of Executions
-Saddam Hussein's Iraq