Posts tagged ‘News’

I have often been accused of being fatally optimistic.  I can’t help it.  I truly believe that, for the most part, people are good, kind, honest, and hard-working.  I also believe that many of the societal problems that plague our world could be solved with education, compassion and patience.  It was, therefore, with a very heavy heart, that I read an item in this morning’s local paper about a child in Spain.  More to the point, two children in Spain.  As modern, civilized nations, there is no way something like this should ever happen, but it does.

The headline itself is enough to grab your attention, and on several fronts: Mom in Spain happy that her 10-year-old gave birth.  Let’s look at this for just a minute.  The first thing that really bothered me was the part about a 10-year-old girl giving birth.  I have done this.  It is not easy, even for a woman with a couple of decades under her belt.  But a 10-year-old?  At 10, I was still playing with my Barbies and coloring with crayons (I was not allowed to have markers until later, as they did not have washable markers back in the dark ages).  At 10, I was in 5th and 6th grade.  I knew that the stork did not bring the babies, and they came out of the mother’s tummy, but I was still unclear about how they got there.  I don’t even think we had the “girls only” class at school where they taught us big words like “menstruation” and “chocolate” until 7th grade.  Not knowing exactly how old this girl is, she may have been as young as 9 when she got pregnant.  This, also, is doubly disturbing.  First, I am still trying to wrap my head around a 9-year-old who is physically mature enough to become pregnant.  When did that start happening?  Secondly, any time a 9-year-old engages in sexual intercourse someone should be going to jail, whether it is the abuser who committed the sex act (in this case, the “abuser” is the girl’s 13-year-old ex?) or the parents who allowed the sex to take place.  There will never be any circumstances or evidence that will convince me a 9-year-old is mentally mature enough to handle sex and all that comes with it.  Case in point, did you hear about the 10-year-old who gave birth in Spain this week?

Now, let’s go back to our original headline.  “Mom in Spain happy . . . “ Happy?  Really?  Happy that her daughter has had a child of her own?  Either this mother is completely delusional or she is terribly uneducated (For clarification purposes, from hereon out, I will be referring to this woman as the Grandmother.).  I believe that she may be both an uneducated and delusional woman who just doesn’t know that certain things should never be done.  The story details how this Grandma is a Romanian Gypsy and how these things are commonplace in their culture.  Now, none of the people in this story are actually identified, but the reporter does mention that the Grandmother appears to be in her 30’s.  If this sort of behavior is so common in her culture, shouldn’t she appear to be about 19 or 20?  After all, if she was only 10 when her daughter was born, that would put her at about 20 now.  But she’s not.  She’s in her 30’s, which means that she was at least old enough to know what she was doing when she got pregnant with the new mother.  Or, maybe Grandma was a horrible disappointment to her own parents, having waited so long to have children.  In any case, apparently the 10-year-old had been “married” to the 13-year-old Romanian father, but the couple is now “separated” and Mother and Grandmother moved to Spain about two weeks before the birth of the new baby.  Grandma has indicated that the family is planning on staying in Spain, so it is unlikely that Daddy will have anything to do with his new daughter, not that he would really know what to do with his new daughter.

Which brings us back to the part about someone going to jail.  Spanish authorities are at a bit of a loss regarding how to proceed with this situation.  There are several aspects that have them stymied: 1) The criminal behavior in this case, i.e. the sex act, took place in Romania, not Spain; 2) the “perpetrator” is himself a minor, and therefore also not legally able to engage in sexual behaviors; and 3) the “perpetrator” is still in Romania, not Spain, and with all of the above noted, Spain may not have any jurisdiction over him.  OK, so let’s shift focus to the Grandmother.  Obviously, she became aware sometime in the past 6 months that something unusual was going on with her daughter.  Based upon the body types of your typical tweenager, Mom probably began developing her “baby bump” roughly 15 or 20 minutes after having sex, so Grandma had to know something was up.  For all we know, Grandma was the one who arranged the “marriage” of her daughter to the young Casanova, in which case an argument could be made for her part in child trafficking offenses.  However, again, the offending behavior occurred outside Spanish jurisdiction 8 – 9 months ago, and, even more frightening, situations similar to this are somewhat common in Romania.  The Romanian government seems to have let the cultural “norms” of its Roma Gypsy population drop way down on its priority list, so laws like making sure all children attend school until age 16 are largely left unenforced.  Too bad, because if Romania was keeping a better eye on its children, situations like these could be dealt with much sooner than after one child gives birth to another child.

I want to believe that people are good, kind, honest, and hard-working, but when I hear about things like this, it is like a sucker punch to the gut.  I imagine my niece sitting in a hospital room somewhere clutching a baby and listening to the nurse try and explain the complexities of breast feeding, and it sends chills down my spine.  Global warming and nuclear war are not what will bring an end to civilization as we know it.  It will be a systemic rotting from the inside unless we wake up, smell the coffee, and begin a global campaign to bring human rights and education to every person on the planet.  Only by educating the world population and bringing the awareness of human rights and behavioral expectations to those outside modern society will we be able to end tragedies like this.

I read with interest a story in today’s local paper.  It was all about the latest computer technology advance out of India.  International demand for the Apple iPad has hardly slowed since its initial introduction, despite its hefty price tag.  Unfortunately, the Apple price point is simply out of reach for the vast majority of the Indian population, so the demand for less expensive computers is incredibly high.  When the under-$300 PC was introduced, it was a solid hit, but the Indian tech gurus may have knocked it out the ballpark this time.

If you have read any of my previous blog entries, you know that I am often referring to the TED conferences and the innovations that stem from them.  In 2005, Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab, proposed a $100 laptop that would be distributed in developing countries like China and India.  The laptops would be distributed in schools to students as a way to aid the learning process and give them more connectivity to the rest of the world.  He called the program One Laptop Per Child.  Ironically, India rejected OLPC as being “too expensive” and set out to create their own computers that would be even cheaper.

Which brings us to the $35 tablet PC unveiled earlier this week.  Of course, $35 is the high end of the price range.  The development team is hoping that they can get the cost down to $10 per unit once they go into full-steam production next year.  It will have connectivity similar to that of the iPad, but it runs the Linux system and operates with a USB-type storage device instead of an installed hard drive.  All of these factors help with the price reduction, but the developers have also shopped the globe looking for companies willing to produce a portion of the system for a low cost.  By farming out the components and using open-source software, India seems to have done the impossible.  And if that were not enough, the Indian government has also said that they will be willing to help subsidize the cost of the tablet computers for students, so they will run around $20 each.  Functionality might be limited on these machines, but if there was a device that could surf the web, bounce out to YouTube, check email and do basic word processing for 20 bucks, wouldn’t you jump on it?

People in the United States used to joke when India first started “stealing” phone support jobs, but with the advent of a variety of modern technologies being produced at a much lower cost that the rest of the world, India is a player to watch.  I know I could swing $20 for a new computer.  I just have to come up with the money to move to India . . .

To view the entire Associated Press article, click here.

I was recently going through “memorabilia” I had set aside to scrapbook, and found several newspapers my husband brought home from a business trip to Ottawa, Canada.  Looking at it, I was struck by the differences between American media and Canadian media.  Now, assuming it was not just a slow news day, the cover stories on the paper I picked up included coverage of a memorial for the 20th anniversary of the bombing of Air-India flight 182, a gathering of dragon boat crews in Vancouver (all of whom were breast cancer survivors), and a controversial museum display to be exhibited in Toronto.  No murders.  No robberies.  No “bad” news.  The closest they got to bad news was coverage of a US Supreme Court decision that ruled against the “little guy” in favor of the government and that the Canadian government had issued a travel visa to relatives of a hard-line Syrian general so that the general’s grandchildren could be born in Canada, and thus being able to claim joint citizenship.  Amazing.

I thought maybe it was a fluke.  A slow news day.  So I looked at the other papers my husband had brought home.  A new artistic director for the National Ballet of Canada.  Breast cancer survivors fighting for a new drug.  The Conservative party in the government fighting a bill in Parliament.  A former immigration minister accused of “misdeeds” by handing out travel visas to friends and relatives of staff members.  This was, by Canadian standards, shocking.  But, by far, the most intriguing story – on the front page, no less – “Don’t ostracize convicted killer, criminologist warns”:

Convicted killer [name excluded] risks falling into the wrong hands at the “margins” of society unless Canadians help her rebuild her life when she leaves prison, says a group helping ease her re-entry to society.  Attempts to ostracize [her] when she completes her jail sentence in less than 12 days could backfire.  “Someone who’s banished is more vulnerable to all sorts of influences and all sorts of people.  She is not sheltered from that.  She would be at risk.”  It is not in the public’s interest to marginalize [her] no matter how distasteful people find her, or how much revulsion they feel about her crimes.

The article did not mention anything about the crimes for which the woman was imprisoned, so I had to look her up.  That, in and of itself, I found to be interesting.  Read any story in your local paper about a trial or sentencing of a criminal, and the story will include a “recap” of the crimes in question.  It turns out that this woman had served 12 years for manslaughter for her part in the most heinous sex-crimes murders, with multiple victims, in recent Canadian history.  But no mention of the crimes in the article at all.  Nothing to remind the public who this person was.  I could only assume that the public needed no reminder.  And yet, here were professional criminologists, on the front page of the Canadian national newspaper, urging their fellow citizens to accept that she had served her time and was rehabilitated.

Based upon what I read out on the internet, the woman is very lucky she is a Canadian.  The crimes she was accused of were so vicious that any prosecutor here in the “States” would have sought the death penalty, and there would have been no problem with securing that sentence.  But what amazed me the most about the story was that, even though this horrendous monster was about to be released, the professionals involved with the case were not warning the public, but chastising them.  Several communities had already voiced their displeasure at the prospect of this woman relocating to their vicinity, and a home that had been under construction for her by her parents had been burned to the ground before the building was complete.

It made me think of the vast differences between our society and that of our neighbors to the north.  Statistically speaking, they have about 100 times the number of guns per capita than the US, and yet gun crimes are almost non-existent.  The vast majority of the population lives in very close proximity to each other within 200 miles of the US-Canadian border, but still familiarity does not seem to breed contempt as it does here.  Everyone is just so nice.  No greater example could be made than the display of Canadian hospitality and warmth during this year’s Olympic Games in Vancouver.  Maybe courtesy and gentility are not dead, just a little further north.

As Americans, we pride ourselves on being the “Melting Pot” of the world.  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”  I wonder, did the “wretched refuse” of Canada end up here?  Maybe that is why the only headlines we see in our American papers are sensational ones.  Corruption!  Murder!  Bombings!  Conspiracy!  Scandal!  Have all the good folks left?  Are the only ones still here the “homeless, tempest-tossed”?  The optimist in me says, “NO!  WE ARE STILL HERE!”

I have to believe it is true.