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SFW: Starbursts, Media and Tortured Afghan Teen Speaks on Attackers

Short Features of the Week [SFW]: Starbursts, Media and Tortured Afghan Teen Speaks on Attackers

Michigan Teen Makes A Starburst Wrapper Prom Dress
A high school student from Ishpeming, Michigan, Diane MeNease, fashioned eighteen thousand Starburst wrappers into a bodice for a homemade dress and wore it to prom on May 5th. it took her a year-and-a-half to collect all the wrappers and five months to create the dress which also features a black satin “ball gown” skirt layered with tulle. [Link to Yahoo! article]

Be Careful of What You Read
During the last week of April, several media outlets such as Yahoo News, The New York Daily News, Fox News, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Huffington Post and MSN, ran articles about a female, Polish dentist who ‘pulled all of the teeth of her ex-boyfriend.’ As it turns out, some of the bigger media distributors aren’t always sure of the facts and in some cases, tend to tilt the facts to their favor. In regards to this situation, Polish television news channel TVN4 published an article mocking foreign media’s coverage of the story, which it speculates began as a prank. [Link to first article on the Huffington Post] [Link to corrected article on MSN]

Tortured Afghan Teen Speaks on Attackers: ‘The same should be done to them.’
Last year, people around the world were outraged when they heard the story of Sahar Gul. Married at 13, Sahar Gul states that her husband raped her and various in-laws tortured her. Three of her attackers were recently sentenced for 10 years. “Ten years is not enough. They should have been given 50 years,” she told CNN. (Please note: CNN does not usually reveal the identities of women and girls who allege they have been raped, but this young woman wanted to be seen and tell her story. [Link to article on CNN]


A Kindergartner Was Charged With Battery, Are You Serious?

Warning: If you are not particularly fond of overly opinionated news articles, then this might not be the article for you.

“When a six-year-old boy kicked his school principal last week, the school called in police, not the parents.

The student had already been suspended for kicking and biting another official, when he allegedly threatened a teacher and kicked Principal Pat Lumbley. This time, the child was placed in police custody and charged with battery and intimidation.

“In the big picture … I have to look at school safety and have to look at student safety,” Lumbley, an Indiana elementary school administrator, told a local Fox affiliate. The county’s police lieutenant defended the decision, adding “putting him into the system can open up avenues perhaps the parents don’t have.” “

Alright, “looking at student safety” is a good response from a school administrator, at least, from my perspective; however, what about the safety of the child charged with battery and intimidation? Using scare tactics and intimidating a six-year-old child into obedience can have adverse affects to their psyche, when the child more than likely doesn’t fully understand the whole situation or even the meaning of having charges against him.

What I don’t understand is when I was in kindergarten and a child misbehaved, the teacher or their assistant would put the child in timeout and tell the parents at the end of the day. Then, the parents would handle the child by either further punishing them by taking away toys or ‘rights,’ or discussing the situation with the child, discussing how the child was in the wrong and should therefore, apologize. Why isn’t this happening anymore?

In the future, if I  have a child and I send them to kindergarten, I want my future child’s teachers to handle any situation involving children appropriately and not resort to extremes because the adult is too scared to put a child in a corner.

Personally, I am very confused as to how the penal system will be able to help a bratty child.

Apparently, many school officials feel that law enforcement is the only place to turn to help manage unsafe or disrespectful behavior. For instance: in Texas, an estimated 300,000 kids were give misdemeanors in 2010 (this number includes children as young as six, in Georgia, a 6-year-old was carted out of her kindergarten classroom in handcuffs after allegedly throwing a caustic tantrum, and over the past year, kids under the age of 13 have been arrested, or threatened with arrest, for giving wedgies, having a food fight and spraying perfume. In more serious circumstances, children are facing real prison time over hockey game fouls and threatening classroom notes. One 6-year-old was accused of sexual assault by school officials during a recess game of tag. In order to have the sexual battery charge wiped from his school record, the child’s parents had to hire a lawyer to prove that the charges had no legal basis.

“Everyone suffers when adults don’t have the skills and support to manage unsafe or respectful behavior such as kicking and tantrums effectively,” Irene van der Zande, executive director and founder of Kidpower, tells Shine. Her California-based non-profit program helps schools and parents teach kids safety, respect and tolerance independent of police intervention.

But many school officials feel law enforcement is the only place to turn for help. The rapid increase in school shootings since the Columbine tragedy has left administrators scrambling for better safety measures. Overcrowding, financial cutbacks and access to weapons in the information age are all conditions of new generation and a system struggling to adapt to it. As a result a higher percentage of students between the ages of 12 and 18, say they’re more afraid of attack or harm at school than away from school, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 2010, 85 percent of public schools cited incidents of violence, theft, and other criminal activity. That same year, 60 percent of schools called in police for backup.

“Advocates of school policing believe crackdowns send a message to the student body, and help keep large underage populations in check and safe. Principal Lumbley feels he protected the rest of his elementary school’s student body by having a 6-year-old student arrested. But critics say those punitive measures are really designed to protect teachers.

“Teachers rely on the police to enforce discipline,” Kady Simpkins, a juvenile defense lawyer, told The Guardian. “Part of it is that they’re not accountable. They’re not going to get into trouble for it. The parent can’t come in and yell at them. They say: it’s not us, it’s the police.”

As for the Indiana 6-year-old student charged with battery and intimidation, it’s hard to believe he’s any wiser.

“I can’t imagine the prosecution being able to sustain a battery charge against a six-year-old,” a New York Family Law Attorney, who chose to remain anonymous, tells Shine. “There is a ‘mens rea’ or ‘state of mind’ element to all crimes and I can’t imagine a prosecutor being able to successfully argue that a six-year-old could meet the state of mind requirement for battery or any crime for that matter.”

That’s not to say that kids with severe behavioral problems should be dealt with the same way as other students, but child advocates believe that criminalizing their actions doesn’t solve any problems.

“Kids who have trouble behaving well in school can almost always be turned around with preparation, firm, respectful interventions, and a plan of action that gets school officials and parents working together as a team,” Kidpower’s van der Zande tells Shine. “When adults overreact, the harm done is not only to the child involved but also to other children who witness this.” ”

It is incredibly unfortunate that parents, teachers, assistants, and school officials are unable to control a single six-year-old child, who is only just being to develop.


Kindergartener Charged With Battery. Why Are We Criminalizing Children? (Yahoo!)

Kindergartener, 6, Arrested and Charged with Battery for Kicking Principal (CBS News)

Sergeant is Discharged for Facebook Posts

The photo featured above is Sergeant Gary Stein of the Marine Corps. As of Wednesday, April 25, the decision has been made to discharge the Sergeant for criticizing President Barack Obama on Facebook in a case that called into question the Pentagon’s policies about social media and its limits on the speech of active duty military personnel.

In short, the Marines acted after saying Stein stated March 1 on a Facebook page used by Marine meteorologists, “Screw Obama and I will not follow all orders from him.” Stein later clarified that statement, saying he would not follow unlawful orders.

Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo, the commanding general of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, said in a brief statement Wednesday that evidence supported an administrative board’s recommendation to discharge Stein.

Tom Umberg, a former Army colonel and military prosecutor, said Stein persisted even after being warned.

“The Marine Corps gave him the opportunity to think about his actions, yet Sgt. Stein continued to undermine the chain of command,” said Umberg, who was not involved in Stein’s case. “I think his purpose was to leave the Marine Corps in a dramatic fashion in order to begin a career in talk radio or what have you.”

Umberg believes the decision to discharge Stein will have limited impact because the vast majority of Marines would never consider such postings.

“I think 99 percent of the soldiers and Marines currently on duty understand the duties of supporting the chain of command and understand their rights of free speech are limited,” he said. “To that 1 percent who don’t know their rights to free speech are limited once they take the oath, this is a loud and clear message.”

During a hearing, a military prosecutor submitted screen grabs of Stein’s postings on one Facebook page he created called Armed Forces Tea Party, which the prosecutor said included the image of Obama on a “Jackass” movie poster. Stein also superimposed Obama’s image on a poster for “The Incredibles” movie that he changed to “The Horribles,” military prosecutor Capt. John Torresala said.

At the hearing this month at Camp Pendleton, Torresala argued that Stein’s behavior repeatedly violated Pentagon policy and he should be dismissed after ignoring warnings from his superiors about his postings.

The military has had a policy since the Civil War limiting the free speech of service members, including criticism of the commander in chief.

Pentagon directives say military personnel in uniform cannot sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement.

Commissioned officers also may not use contemptuous words against senior officials.


Marines discharge sergeant for Facebook posts (Yahoo!)

Marines discharge sergeant for Facebook posts (Time U.S.)

Stuart Chaifetz Secretly Tapes His Autistic Son at School; Discovers He is Being Bullied by Teachers

When his 10-year-old son, Akian, started getting into trouble at school, Stuart Chaifetz was stunned. The notes from Horace Mann Elementary School in Cherry Hill, N.J., said that Akian, who has autism, was having violent outbursts and hitting his teacher and his aide — behavior that the boy had never exhibited before.

“I could not understand why this was happening,” Chaifetz, a 44-year-old animal rights activist in New Jersey, wrote on his website. “I had never witnessed Akian hit anyone, nor could I dream of him lashing out as had been described to me.”

In October 2011, he met with Akian’s teachers and school therapists. A behaviorist was called in, but during several classroom visits he didn’t see Akian become violent. “He tried to create a scenario that would push Akian so far that he would lash out,” Chaifetz explained. “And Akian did not.”

“If Akian was pushed and didn’t do anything, what was setting him off?” his dad wondered. After six months of meetings yielded no answers, he decided that he needed to know what was happening in his son’s class. Like Akian, all of the other kids in his class also have autism, and complications from the disorder prevent them from being able to communicate to their parents about what goes on in the classroom.

“The morning of February 17, I put a wire on my son, and I sent him to school,” Chaifetz says in a video he created to showcase the audio clips. “What I heard on that audio was so disgusting, vile, and just an absolute disrespect and bullying of my son, that happened not by other children, but by his teacher, and the aides — the people who were supposed to protect him. They were literally making my son’s life a living hell.”

The recordings are raw and intense. Angry adults yell at kids to “shut up,” “shut your mouth,” and “knock it off.” Adults have inappropriate personal conversations in front of the children, discussing how drunk they were the night before, complaining about their husbands, and talking in detail about adult issues. More than once, an adult goads Akian to the point of tears — and then laughs at him.

“Go ahead and scream,” one adult hisses menacingly at Akian. “Because guess what? You’re going to get nothing… until your mouth is shut.”

And later: “Oh, Akian, you are a bastard.”

“The six and a half hours of audio I had proved that my son wasn’t hitting the teacher because there was something wrong with him — he was lashing out because he was being mocked, mistreated and humiliated,” Chaifetz writes on his website, No More Teacher/Bully. “His outbursts were his way of expressing that he was being emotionally hurt at school.”

Chaifetz gave the entire six-and-a-half-hour recording to the Cherry Hill School district (you can hear more of the clips here). One aide, Jodi Sgouros, was fired. Another aide and the teacher, whom the Collingswood Patch identifies as Kelly Altenburg, were reassigned but not fired.

“I don’t know why the teacher wasn’t fired,” Chaifetz writes on his blog. “Maybe the District had no choice; perhaps tenure or HR regulations did not permit them to do so. I know that they were sincere and shocked when they found out what happened. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in this.”

On Tuesday, officials at the Horace Mann School in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, directed calls from Yahoo! Shine to the Cherry Hill School District’s offices; a call to a spokesperson there was not immediately returned. Cherry Hill Public School District spokesperson Susan Bastnagel told the Collingswood Patch on Tuesday only that the incident is “an internal personnel matter that the district took seriously and handled appropriately.”

Chaifetz disagrees, and has started a Facebook page and launched a petition at calling for the teacher’s dismissal. He’s already gathered nearly 18,500 signatures. “No one who treats children like that, who calls them vicious names, who humiliates them, who batters them verbally, deserves to be a teacher,” Chaifetz says in the video.

“How is it possible that teachers and staff can do these things, and you have evidence — not just accusations, but evidence — and they’re still teaching?” he said in an interview with To me, that’s the bigger outrage here. How many times has this happened before? How many times will it happen again if I remain quiet?”

For his part, Chaifetz says that what he really wants from the teacher and aides involved is a public apology and a willingness to take responsibility for their actions.

“I want an apology, not for me, but so one day I can play this video back for my son and say Akian, you didn’t deserve anything that happened to you,” he says in the video. “I’m not going to sue anybody. I’m not going to file a lawsuit. It’s not about money. It’s about dignity. This is to reclaim my son’s dignity.”

Source: “Stuart Chaifetz Secretly Tapes His Autistic Son at School, Discovers He’s Being Bullied by Teachers” (Yahoo!)

Arden’s Garden Essentially takes on Coca Cola, and Wins

In 2003, Arden’s Garden was shocked when its largest customer, Publix, pulled the juice from its shelves in favor of a national brand, Odwalla, which Is owned by the Coca Cola industry.” But Leslie Zinn, the owner of the company, who had just made a big investment to expand Arden’s Garden, wasn’t going down without a fight. “I took the weekend and I gathered myself but when I came back on Monday I had a plan,” she says. “I didn’t know if the plan was gonna work but at least I was taking action.” She stared down the big boys the by writing an email to her 35 closest friends, customers, suppliers and media contacts, asking for their help. That one email sparked a 3000-strong letter-writing campaign to demand Arden’s Garden products be put back on the shelves. Overwhelmed by the show of support and passion of Arden’s Garden loyalist, Publix reversed course and ended up putting the products in 200 more stores than before.” And now, Arden’s Garden is thriving and plans to expand beyond its Atlanta roots.

Questions for our viewers:

  • Some people believe that in this economy, buying at local, small business venues, rather than big box stores is best for most towns, cities, etc., we want to know what you think. Leave us a comment below; let us know what you believe and tell us why.
  • Was it too outlandish for Zinn to fight for her company or should every small business owner fight for their company to be included in retailer distributions?

Source: Arden’s Garden: Atlanta Juice Maker Takes on National Brand and Wins (Yahoo!)

Criminalization of Internet Trolling in Arizona

“After spending years targeting illegal aliens, the Grand Canyon State is turning its sights on obnoxious Internet users (commonly called ‘trolls’). A new update to the state’s telecommunications harassment bill could make the practice of harassing people online illegal.

Arizona House Bill 2549 has already passed both of the state’s legislative bodies and is currently sitting on the desk of Governor Jan Brewer. While there’s a lot in there that doesn’t concern trolling, here’s the line that has people worried:

It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use ANY ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL DEVICE and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person.

Violators could be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor and face up to 6 months in jail. If electronic devices are used to stalk someone, the charges then become a Class 3 felony, with penalties ranging from a minimum sentence of two and a half years in jail for non-dangerous offenders with no prior record to 25 years.

At the heart of the bill is an anti-bullying agenda. Cyber-bullying has been on the rise in recent years and has been in the news lately. A 2010 report in The New York Times found that one of out five middle-school students said they had been victims of cyberbullying.

Despite its good intentions, the Arizona law is already being called “overly broad” by critics. By using vague terms like “annoy” and “offend,” it could easily encompass Internet forums or even comments like the ones found at the end of this story.

Free speech groups say they don’t believe the law would ever stand up to court scrutiny if Gov. Brewer does, in fact, sign it. And many have pointed out the flaws in the bill to the governor herself.

“Government may criminalize speech that rises to the level of harassment and many states have laws that do so, but this legislation takes a law meant to address irritating phone calls and applies it to communication on web sites, blogs, listserves and other Internet communication,” Media Coalition wrote in a letter last week.” [Source: Arizona Bill Could Criminalize Internet Trolling (Yahoo!)]

Questions for our viewers:

  • Aren’t you curious as to what happened to the ‘so-called’ Freedom of Speech? In Section 1 of the 14th Amendment it states, “….No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws…” Additionally, the first amendment states, “….Congress shall make no law…. abridging the freedom of speech….”
  • How would Arizona’s government enforce this law? People or servers could be located in other states.

Our conclusions:

  • Whether the intentions are good or not, the wording is too vague and will and as is, will cause unnecessary harm. Furthermore, there is some sort of control on everything else in the world and as humans, we all need an unrestricted way to allow us to express ourselves.

Well, you got this far, right? Tell us what you think of the article! What do you think of the questions we proposed? Do you agree or disagree with our conclusions? Go to the end of this post, click “Leave a Comment” and let us know.

How Will the Affordable Health Care Act Affect You?

Monday the Supreme Court began hearing three days of arguments as to the constitutionality of several  provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), passed two years ago this month.

Here are the four key issues the hearing will address:

  • The Anti-Injunction Act: Should the legality of the individual mandate — which requires nearly all Americans without coverage to buy individual health insurance policies or pay a fine – even be considered now? Or must the case be deferred until 2015 because of the 1867 Anti-Injunction Act, which says taxpayers can’t challenge a levy’s legality before they actually pay the tax?
  • Next come arguments about what many consider the central issue: Does Congress have the authority to require people to buy health insurance?
  • If the Court declares the individual mandate unconstitutional, what happens to the law’s hundreds of other provisions? Do they all become invalid, or are some of them “severable”?
  • Does the law’s expansion of Medicaid (which would cover many more poor people) violate states’ sovereignty by requiring them to spend more of their own money or forfeit all of the federal Medicaid money they now get?

Assuming the Court allows the law to stand as it is now, here’s a review of how a variety of people could be (and, in some cases, already are) affected by the health-care overhaul. (Information is courtesy of the Kaiser Family Foundation):

Sources: How Will the Affordable Health Care Act Affect You? (Yahoo!)

Racist Tweets Over Characters in the ‘The Hunger Games’

Any adaptation from book to movie is bound to rile up fans. The casting of black actors in “The Hunger Games” has spurred some negative tweets — even though at least two are true to Suzanne Collins’s 2008 book.

Turns out some people just really, really didn’t want brown-skinned characters from the book to have brown skin on screen.

Of course, this is the internet, and one thing about the internet is that at times it can really show off our societal demons in garish detail. A small minority of angry bigots can make a lot of noise and fury even if they don’t represent the majority of viewers.

When it came to the casting of Rue, Thresh, and Cinna, many audience members did not understand why there were black actors playing those parts. Cinna’s skin is not discussed in the book, so truthfully, though Lenny Kravitz was cast, a white, Asian or Latino actor could have played the part.

But, on page 45 of Suzanne Collins’s book, Katniss sees Rue for the first time:

“…And most hauntingly, a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that’s she’s very like Prim in size and demeanor…”

Later, she sees Thresh:

“The boy tribute from District 11, Thresh, has the same dark skin as Rue, but the resemblance stops there. He’s one of the giants, probably six and half feet tall and built like an ox.”

Dark skin. That is what the novelist, the creator of the series, specified. But there were plenty of audience members who were “shocked,” confused, or just plain angry.

The tumblr Hunger Games Tweets has collected a smattering of Twitter postings, with the goal of exposing “Hunger Games fans on Twitter who dare to call themselves fans yet don’t know a damn thing about the books.” What people are saying is disappointing, sad, stomach-churning, and just plain racist.


Hunger Games Racists Tweets: Fans Upset Because of Rue’s Race (HuffingtonPost)

Race Controversy Over the Hunger Games (Yahoo!)

Racist Hunger Games Fans Are Very Disappointed (

Is there a REAL zombie outbreak going on right now in Africa?

A weird disease spreading in Africa has health officials baffled—and the symptoms may sound a little too familiar to fans of George Romero’s work, or of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

Called nodding disease, the zombie-like disorder has spread to more than 3,000 children in Northern Uganda, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) are scrambling to figure it out.

The disease causes the affected children to sit and nod—hence the name—but also has some much weirder, and creepier, effects. The disorder causes severe seizures, amnesiac behavior, stunted development and extreme pyromania (seriously). Affected children often start fires or wander off, and more than 200 deaths have been reported from incidences caused by the infected, i.e. fires.

One parent, Grace Lagat, said several villagers have taken to tying infected children up to keep them from wandering off. She says her son, Thomas, often bites and gnashes at the rope to try and get free.

“When I am going to the garden, I tie them with cloth,” Lagat told CNN. “If I don’t tie them I come back and find that they have disappeared.”

The disease has been popping up in smaller outbreaks the past four years, though it is now bordering on a regional epidemic.

With everyone from WHO to the CDC on the case, scientists have still not figured out the cause, or a cure. But, they do know that more than 90 percent of cases occur in areas that are home to the parasitic Onchocerca Volvulus worm, which is carried by insects, and vitamin B6 deficiency could be a factor.

“At first we cast the net wide,” CDC disease detection director Dr. Scott Dowell said. “We ruled out three dozen potential causes and we are working on a handful of probabilities.”

Though experts don’t expect a worldwide epidemic—the disorder doesn’t appear to be contagious at this point—they are taking some precautions to ensure it (hopefully) doesn’t spread beyond the affected regions.

“We know from past experience an unknown disease could end up having more global implications,” Dr. Dowell said.

Sound off: Should we be worried? Should we head for Hershel’s farm now just in case? Oh, wait, never mind …

(via CNN)

Speed Through the Airport with an Extra $100

For an extra $100, you can bypass the hassle of the slow TSA airport security screening check points.

The Transportation Security Administration is rolling out expedited  screening at big airports called “Precheck.” It has special lanes for  background-checked travelers, who can keep their shoes, belt and jacket  on, leave laptops and liquids in carry-on bags and walk through a metal  detector rather than a full-body scan. The process, now at two airlines  and nine airports, is much like how screenings worked before the Sept.  11 attacks.

To qualify, frequent fliers must meet  undisclosed TSA criteria and get invited in by the airlines. There is  also a backdoor in. Approved travelers who are in the U.S. Customs and  Border Protection’s “Global Entry” program can transfer into Precheck  using their Global Entry number.

Information source: $100 to Fly Through the Airport Security (Yahoo!)

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