Posted by: reisendame | November 15, 2007

Serbian Bedlam Revealed


Human rights workers have discovered that a country up for entry into the European Union is guilty of the “most horrifying case of abuse… on powerless children, who are tied to beds and unable to move.”


A report from Mental Disability Rights International, titled “Torment not Treatment,” alleges that “filthy conditions, contagious diseases, lack of medical care and rehabilition… renders placement in a Serbian [mental] institution life-threatening.”

Read the Full Report

Investigators cited instances where children were stripped naked from the waist down and chained to beds, an arrangement forcing them to defecate, eat, and sleep in the same place.

One 21-year-old man with Down syndrome has been tied down for 11 years, according to this assessment.

This sounds like a modern-day Bedlam.

However, the year is not 1330, and modern psychiatry shows that the mentally disabled are not possessed by the devil, nor are they simply “lunatics”: they are humans whose brains function differently from the rest of those in “civilized” society. In the cases of these children, they are shackled like animals and absolutely treated like something other than human. That doesn’t sound very civilized to me. There are no enforceable laws in Serbia restricting these practices.

The Serbian government claims that these allegations are “dark propaganda,” and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica says the most biased and malicious charges are the claims that “children were tortured rather than treated, and that those were children’s camps not social institutions.”




That sounds like something George W. Bush has said about terrorists’ media tactics.

The EU claims to be angry because after the 1999 NATO-led war against Serbia (but not the Serb civilizians, of course), those nations spent tens of millions of Euros to rebuild a few of the institutions in the country, but the one where the eleven-years-in-bed man’s been living, logically, couldn’t have been really renovated since before 1996.

Read the New York Times Article



New research leads experts to believe that early, routine HIV testing will help curb the spread of this virus. HIV leads to AIDS, a disease that destroys immune systems, leaving a person’s body literally defenseless against sickness of all types. Half of all new HIV infections in the U.S. occur in adolescents between the ages of 13 and 24, but few actually seek testing.

The Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center conducted a study to determine why some high-risk teens would be tested, while others would not. The authors of the study found that teens with a history of HIV testing were much more likely to be tested in the future, and conclude that it is critical for HIV testing to be made more readily available for young people.

I applaud the findings in this study, and the work of its authors. Some may argue that early HIV testing would set a precedent to encourage unsafe sex practices, but to me this claim is largely unfounded and ignorant. The truth is that AIDS is not just an African problem, or a gay problem, or a drug abuser problem: it can affect anyone, and without testing, people can carry and spread the HIV virus for 15 years unknowingly.

AIDS is a horrifying and relatively new disease in our society. We know that there is no cure (yet). And, except for a few high-profile cases, its prevalence is generally swept under the rug. CNN equates this calamity to the Bubonic (or Black) Plague, as 34.3 million people in the world have AIDS, with 24.5 million largely ignored in Africa.

It’s not illogical to worry that this epidemic will continue to spread. We must encourage further scientific research for treatment, while following current advice for its prevention.

Video: New HIV testing method allows for early diagnosis in infants in South Africa

Posted by: reisendame | November 12, 2007

Colleges Ban Cigs on Campus

An old professor of mine once commented on the fact that just twenty-five years ago (and maybe less), students and teachers alike hot-boxed classrooms and libraries while they chain-smoked cigarettes. Now, as health science increasingly emphasizes that we need to kick these “killer cigs,” smoking indoors has now become taboo, if not outlawed.


A new standard has taken root that may advance the anti-smoking cause even more remarkably: CNN reports that nearly 60 U.S. colleges have smoke-free policies, but Overton College in Georgia is one of the first schools claiming to be completely tobacco-free. Lander University in South Carolina endeavors to accomplish the same goal.

Students at these schools must leave campus for a cigarette break, unless they’d risk getting caught. I searched the web, but found no published statement of punishment for violating the new rule.


According to Overton’s president, Martha Nisbitt, there have been no problems with the new policy so far. Still, it is difficult to tell just how closely the community college campus is monitored. It is also unclear just who is enforcing the rule. Campus security? Are faculty members responsible to report on students? What if a professor, administrator, or facilities worker was to violate the policy?

Clearly, there are some kinks to work out in this experiment, but I see no harm in implementing similar policies at schools across the nation, especially since U.S. smoking prevalence is highest in people between the ages of 18-24. People may protest that the decision to smoke or not to smoke cigarettes is a right we all reserve: these people must be informed that their own habits are, in fact, harmful to others by way of secondhand smoke.


I may say here that I actually started smoking cigarettes when I was a college freshman. It seemed to convenient and pleasurable to gather with other smokers outside the dorms at night, or outside the student center after class, chatting and shooting the breeze. If this daily activity hadn’t been so easy to engage in, I may not have been a regular smoker for almost four years.


Just for the record, I have since quit and re-started, then re-quit, and now have an occasional smoke when the mood suits me. This may be irrelevant, but it’s important to point out that I know first-hand how hard it is to stop once you’ve started. Nine out of ten smokers would probably say the same.

Smoking accounts for 30% of cancer cases, according to the American Cancer Society. Anything that can be done to reduce the number of smokers, especially those targeted at a young age, is imperative to promoting the health of those living now as well as future generations.

Video: Lander University Bans Smoking

Posted by: reisendame | November 12, 2007

what are we allowed to say? and, where?


I was born in Virginia and half of my family lives there, so I’m no stranger to the area.

I was used to taking in the Blue Ridge and the town shops, but once I had my license and drove during my visits, I inevitably looked at the road more. Then I saw more vanity plates than I’d ever seen before.

When I was down south, every time I was on the road, I noticed at least a few personalized licenses, the most notable ranging from “HELLYA” to “DNTLSST” to “PIMPN.”

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This is why I’m not at all surprised by the fact that the Commonwealth of Virginia boasts about 10% of all the vanity plates in all of America. MSNBC reports that these only cost $10 in Virginia, but in Illinois (which actually has the largest total number), they cost $78 per year.

For most of those who own them, personalized plates are all in good fun, but it seems that states are having trouble drawing the line between the PC and the obscene (or “just plain inappropriate.”)

A state like Virginia relies on the Word Committee (a 12-member panel of the Department of Motor Vehicles) to review questionable plates that have drawn resident complaints or have been flagged by a computer program that reviews proposed plate content.


Right now, the committee is reviewing the case of one gay man in Virginia who, for over 11 years, drove with plates stating “poofter.” This man, David Phillips, knows fully well that “poofter” is British slang for a gay man, and holds that “it’s just an amusing word I self-identify with.”


While Phillips faces the criminal charges, some cases do slip between the cracks. This summer, I happened to notice one plate, in particular, that simply read “HONKY.” Could this word not be found equally offensive to some people?

Bumper stickers are another issue. While these mini-statements don’t technically require government approval, they can be just as, if not more so, offensive or derisive.



I’m not sure what the point is, but it’s just funny how the criminalization of certain license plate sayings isn’t consistent at all, so who shouldn’t have one he or she likes?

Learn More: The First Amendment Center on License Plates

Article: One Woman’s Message Misunderstood

Video: “Why Personalize Your Plates?”

Posted by: reisendame | November 6, 2007

Rise and Shine!

The latest issue of Time magazine features the top inventions of 2007, and the publication has named Steve Jobs’ iphone as the greatest invention of the entire year.



I happen to disagree.

Doesn’t everyone hate waking up to any alarm clock? Many have pointed out that alarms are actually harmful, as they can disrupt sleep patterns necessary to maintain physical and mental health. Vincent Cheung’s blog highlights the pitfalls of using loud alarms to start your day.



When he wrote this blog, however, one potentially sanity-saving device hadn’t yet been invented: the glo pillow.

Time magazine explains that the glo pillow uses nothing but light to wake a person up. The pillow starts glowing “about 40 min. before reveille,” and gradually becomes brighter, simulating a natural sunrise.



This process is much more natural than being startled out of sleep by an alarm, and helps set the body’s circadian rhythm (or “body clock”).

I haven’t been able to find a price on the new foam pillow filled with a grid of LED lights, but it’s probably not the cheapest item around right now. Still, I want one! I can just imagine how much nicer my day would be if it began this way.

I’d only worry about it accidentally going off at night or penetrating cancerous light beams into my brain. Also, who knows how long it will take for the bulbs to burn out?

Anyways, the Royal Society of Art Design awarded its inventors the Ideal Standard Designers award. Take that, iphone!


A 22- year old from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has taken out a newspaper advertisement selling extra breast milk!

There are no Iowa laws barring sales of this nature, but Don McCormick of the Iowa Department of Public Health says that health officials strongly advise against it.

The only phone call the woman, Martha Heller, has recieved in response to the ad was a prank call, but she still offers $100 ounces of her breast milk for $200. The milk for sale has not been screened.

Heller is now donating screened milk to the University of Iowa’s Children’s Hospital Mother’s Milk Bank.

Apparently, Heller has been storing pumped breast milk since August, but since her four month old daughter won’t drink from a bottle, the stock is piling up. Heller doesn’t want her milk to go to waste.
It’s nice that’s she’s donating nourishment to children who really are in need, but selling breast milk in a newspaper ad??

That sounds creepy to me. First of all, even the infants at the children’s hospital are potentially exposed to harmful chemicals that screenings won’t necessarily pick up.

More importantly, I don’t know what kind of parent or guardian would buy aging, unscreened lactation from a stranger through a classified ad. There are much safer and healthier options for feeding infants than one such as this. My guess is that this milk will probably not be purchased for this purpose.

Who knows what kind of person would actually buy that? I’m sure there’s someone out there with a fetish for breast milk. I suppose much weirder preferences are out there.

I can’t blame Heller for trying, but it sounds like she’s just a young mother trying to pick up some extra cash. I doubt she would ever consult the classified ads seeking a solution to feeding her own daughter. It’s unnatural, irresponsible, just plain disgusting.

Read the Story on

Watch Martha Heller tell the story herself:

Posted by: reisendame | October 29, 2007

Addiction isn’t just about the drug

A researcher at University at Buffalo’s Research Institute of Addictions is testing out a new method of stress-reduction therapy, in conjunction with more traditional treatment in preventing relapses in recovering alcoholics.

What’s surprises me about this “new” therapy is the fact that it has not been commonly practiced before. It’s well-known that stress is one of the leading factors contributing to alcohol and drug abuse of all kinds. Whether it’s stress from family, work, or even anxiety about being addicted, there are a number of stress sources in the life of a drug/ alcohol addict.


Of course, there are many other elements that cause drug dependence, such as genetics and social influence. However, I think it’s important that drug and alcohol abusers learn to recognize and control their own emotional and behavioral patterns, so that they may more effectively cope with and have a handle on their addictions.

Co-morbidity is common is alcoholism and drug addiction: many of those afflicted also suffer depression, Obsessive-Complusive Disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, for example.

Addictions cannot effectively be treated by focusing on the drug abuse alone. The disease of addiction is one that affects the person afflicted, as well as the people around him or her. It ruins lives, and anything that can be done to decrease its prevalence is absolutely useful, and I can’t see how someone would disagree.

Stats on Alcohol Abuse

Posted by: reisendame | October 29, 2007

You’ve gotta fight for your right

Over 200 disgruntled students staged a protest and walk-out at Orville H. Platt High School in Meriden Friday afternoon.

Were they protesting civil rights infringement or fighting to end the war in Iraq? Calling for an end to nuclear proliferation? Demanding a higher quality of education?
No, they were fighting for the right to wear a Halloween costume to school for the upcoming holiday Wednesday, a priviledge that administrators suspended this year, to “maintain educational decorum.” PLatt’s cross-town rival, Francis T. Maloney, did not ban the yearly tradition.

Brandishing signs, the throng of students gathered outside and stood their ground. Some TP-ed trees and shouted obscenities at school officials and cars driving past on Coe Ave. More students attempted to join the masses outside, but doors were blocked by Platt staff who threatened to suspend any students who would defy them.

When I attended the school from 1998-2002, no such activism ever took place. Then again, we hadn’t been faced with the terrifying notion of banned Halloween costumes.

The protest actually was successful, as Principal Timothy Gaffney invited students to gather in the auditorium to discuss the issue. While most of the students were said to have behaved maturely, some were obviously on board just to get out of class and cause an uproar. These students were suspended, though the duration has not been specified.

At any rate, students are now allowed to wear costumes that comply with Board of Education dress code policy.

Although their cause may seem trite in the grand scheme of things, it’s somewhat encouraging to see students banding together and accomplishing their goal, even if the administration was just trying to shut them up. I don’t advocate protesting for the sake of protesting, but this may set a precedent for students who will fight for something really worth fighting for.

If students got fired up about issues that were a bit more consequential than Halloween costumes, they could really help correct some injustices in school systems and in their communities. Just because society considers them to be kids, does not mean their opinion doesn’t matter. Even though most high school students can’t vote, they CAN have a voice as long as they want to.Visit the Students’ Rights Resource website for information about how students can protect and exercise their rights in public schools: Underground Action Alliance

Posted by: reisendame | October 22, 2007

SoCal is burning…

When I blogged about the threat of wildfires in the American West last month, I certainly didn’t expect disaster to strike so severely and suddenly.



Over 250,000 people have been forced to flee the San Diego area, as of Monday, as fast-moving wildfires have incinerated over 100,000 acres of land in that area alone.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in seven California counties while the flames show no signs of extinguishing themselves.

As I write from the east coast, an entire continent stands between me and this tragic conflagration. It seems so far away; yet, a huge expanse of our country has been cremated, and we can be pretty sure that even more of the land will suffer this fate.

In the less-metaphorical sense, people are losing their homes. Many news outlets have focused on the monetary value of castles and other ritzy estates that have been incinerated. More importantly, in my opinion, are the thousands of ordinary people who have been and may be stripped of everything they own- even if it isn’t much.

I can’t help but be reminded of the havoc Hurricane Katrina wreaked on the New Orleans area of Louisiana. Something tells me that the flooded poverty-stricken region down south hadn’t recieved nearly as much immediate attention as the flames lapping Malibu.


Just how are we to defend ourselves when Mother Nature strikes? Well, the best we can, I suppose. We really need to heed weather warnings, and pay attention when experts observe and predict natural phenomena that could lead to these “states of emergency.”

Now, I’m not saying that we need to be paranoid and expect the Apocalyse, exactly. I do believe that we too often take materialism and civilization’s advantages for granted, though. Tragedies like that in California prove that we should never take anything in life for granted, because it could all be gone in a flash. Unless we really respect the unstoppable, uncompromising, and uncaring power of nature, then we’re only endangering ourselves.

Posted by: reisendame | October 22, 2007

Fatalities from prescribed drugs up 155%


Another wordpress blog, “Heroes Not Zombies,” reports that as the number of prescribed medications in England has risen, the number of deaths and adverse side effects from these meds have also increased dramatically. Most experts estimate that the figures reported are only about 10% of the actual deaths attributed to mis-prescription.

Check out the story as a good follow-up to my blog on herbal healing from last week.

Perhaps the present attention drawn to prescription drugs may be attributed, in part, to Michael Moore’s 2007 film, “Sicko.” Though his “investigation” into the health-care industry is certainly biased and provides no suggestions for solutions, he’s at least pointed out some serious (and fatal) flaws in the system.

Read the Washington Post Article: “‘Sicko’: Michael Moore’s Anemic Checkup”

At any rate, it really is imperative for us to be aware of how we are being treated, as well of the kind of treatement we deserve. Just because Dr. What’s-his-face made it through med school, does not mean that he knows your body better than you do. I’m not suggesting that you abandon medical treatment altogether, of course. What I mean to say is that in reality, doctors have and are inappropriately prescribing drugs to people of all ages, races, and genders. If you get sick, don’t think a prescription is necessarily the cure. Explore your options first.


Prescription drug dependence or side effects may also be passed down from one generation to the next. We know this to be the case with other controlled substances, like heroin and crack-cocaine. Do you want your kids to suffer from seizures because you took too much adderall? I know I wouldn’t.


The Dangers of Prescription Drugs:

Posted by: reisendame | October 16, 2007

Rape epidemic ravages Congo- how can we stop it?

According to the United Nations, sexual violence in the Congo is the worst in the world. In the South Kivu province alone, there were 27,000 reports of sexual violence in 2006 alone, and its likely that this figure is a mere fraction of the total.


Assailants apparently have no targeted age range: doctors say they have seen rape victims between the ages of 3 and 75. Most of the time, these little girls and women are so sadistically attacked that their reproductive and digestive systems are left beyond repair.


What’s so sick about this epidemic is the fact that the region’s own government is partially responsibility for these atrocities. UN officials say that the Congolese government troops are among the worst offenders when it comes to rape, but the most vicious crimes are usually committed by local militia groups.



Large swaths of the country are virtually authority-free, where rogues run rampant. Since few of the culprits are ever punished, these crimes continue to rise in practice and prevalence. Brutality has almost become normal for most women. Seventy percent of the women in the town of Shabunda reported being sexually brutalized.

This is a horrifying trend that shows no signs of slowing down as it has become a regular aspect of culture in this region. What’s so troubling about these inhumane crimes is that it is difficult to even fathom a way to save these women from the shame and torture they’ve endured and are sure to endure in the future.

Posted by: reisendame | October 15, 2007

Remedy for deadly diarrhea shows benefits of herbal healing


This may come as a surprise to some, but the truth is that diarrhea is the leading cause of infant mortality in developing nations.

This affliction, caused by the E.Coli virus, accounts for 380,000 infant deaths yearly and produces 210 million cases worldwide per year. Despite these startling numbers, recent studies in Taiwan show promise that a cure more easily accessible than drug therapy may be on the horizon.

As it is, few infants (or their families) have the means to access treatment for this actually deadly sickness. Many of the people affected barely have enough food to survive.

Researchers in Taiwan have yet to test its effectiveness in infants (or its safety), but they have concluded that an extract of ginger root may be the answer to introducing a relatively inexpensive treatment to families who currently cannot afford any other.

In fact, this discovery may highlight the benefits of herbal medicinal treatment as opposed to pharmaceutically-rendered drugs. In many cases, artificially produced drugs have terrible side effects that can lead to physical ailments that weren’t there in the first place. At least herbal treatments are natural; naturally, they would agree with a person’s body better than lab-created meds.

Today it seems as though we rely too much on overpriced prescriptions that many people don’t even have access to. We’ve all heard the tales of doctors over-prescribing thanks to payoffs from pharmaceutical companies. And these big name companies haven’t hesitated to pay off the generic companies to keep their drugs off the market, either.

This Taiwanese study shows that if we put our scientific minds on the right path, leaving self-interestbehind, we might actually be more progressive in medicine and technology than we have been in some cases. The fields of medicine and science should be to truly better humanity, not to produce the next most expensive wonder-drug that will come off the market within a decade.

Posted by: reisendame | October 15, 2007

“Kid Nation” is blatantly an Abomination

There never seems to be a shortage of reality tv these days, and networks will rack their brains and bend the rules to produce new shows that will, in turn, boost their ratings.

Reality tv has become a sick phenomenon in our society and CBS’ new series, “Kid Nation,” is proof of my allegations.


This exploitative “reality” drama that debuted on September 19 features 40 children, all between the ages of 8 and 15. They were placed in a New Mexico “ghost town,” which is really just a tv set, for 40 days with little or no contact with their parents.

The idea is that these children will run their own community. If this were a group of marooned kids in “Lord of the Flies,” we could expect them to start killing each other. The difference here is that there are cameras, producers, a host, and a group of four teens predetermined to be the “Town Council.” These elements all converge to create a plethora of artificial drama.

Watch the CBS Trailer:

Some of it is real, though. In just the first episode, children were sobbing uncontrollably and one child decided to go home. The contract clearly states that these kids must do whatever the producers ask them to, or else they must leave and risk not getting paid.

Somehow these contracts are legal. I can’t imagine what kind of a parent would send their child into an environment like this. I wonder in how many cases the child was forced to participate. It will almost certainly be traumatic in many instances, especially in those of the younger children. I suppose it’s not much different from the parent who lives vicariously through his/her child’s extracurricular life: i.e. football dads, backstage moms, etc.

In any case, the show is an abomination. It’s just further confirmation of how low our culture has sunk- and also a frightening clue as to how much further we may go (that is, if we go unchecked).

Posted by: reisendame | October 8, 2007

Crime and Punishment


A Missouri man faces thirty years in prison for stealing a 52 cent doughnut and allegedly pushing the store clerk out of his way as he fled the scene.

While the doughnut theft alone would be mean misdemeanor shoplifting charges for Scott A. Masters, the assault on a store clerk ups the charges to “strong armed robbery.”

Since Masters has prior criminal history, he faces thirty years in prison.


Masters swears that he didn’t even touch the clerk, saying that “there’s no way I would’ve pushed a woman over a doughnut.”

I wonder if the store had any surveillance cameras so the crime could actually be reviewed as it happened. As it is, the case is purely on a “he said-she said” basis, and police are less likely to believe a thief with prior criminal history than a female employee who claims to have been assaulted.

I also wonder what kind of accounts witnesses would give in this situation.

I happen to believe the thief, but I could be wrong. Is there any evidence of an assault, like bruises or scratches? If the store clerk suffers no injuries or evidence that he attacked her, then thirty years in jail is absolutely an inappropriate sentence.

These charges seem to be discriminatory. I wonder how much he must suffer from a guilty conscience compared to other criminals who have served lighter sentences for more heinous crimes. Child molestors do less time.


Mary Winkler, who murdered her preacher husband (motives questionable), only spent seven months in custody after being found guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

Ah, I love the justice system.

Posted by: reisendame | October 8, 2007

Mentally disabled better off without wombs, some say

Doctors are seeking legal advice to determine whether or not they may fulfill a British woman’s request to have her 15 year old daughter’s womb surgically removed.

Alison Thorpe is not trying to avoid premature pregnancy or stamp out the family line; instead, she’s concerned for the well-being of her daughter Katie, who is afflicted with cerebral palsy.


This kind of surgery is referred to as the “Ashley treatment,” after a nine year old girl with the mentally of a three-month old has had a hysterectomy and her breat buds removed in order to stop her body from developing.

Thorpe says that Katie will not understand the pain and emotional baggage that comes with monthly menstruation for all other women. She didn’t mention this part, but I would assume that the bleeding would also terrify a young girl.

Andy Rickell, director of the disability charity Scope, says that such an invasive surgery would set a disturbing precedent for young girls with disabilities. He also says that the surgery is medically unnecessary and certainly infringes on human and reproductive rights for disabled people.

This is a touchy subject, because one must wonder what rights mentally disabled people are actually entitled to, especially when it comes to rearing and raising their own children. In the U.K., 40-60% of children born to a disabled parent are removed from that parent’s care.

But, as aforementioned, Thorpe says her quest is purely for relieving Katie of the traumas of menstruation. Clearly, she has no expectations of her daughter ever becoming pregnant or enduring nine months of pregnancy.

I can see her point, but in my opinion, womb removal may be going a bit too far. Menstruation and puberty are, after all, natural processes of all female human development. A natural physical phenomenon may actually be easier for a disabled woman to understand and even embrace than she would with that kind of surgery. Many doctors would say that mentally disabled people are actually blessed with a deeper intuition than “normal” people; in fact, Katie may feel something is inherently wrong or missing afer she undergoes the surgery. Some doctors suggest hormonal therapy as a means of coping with problematic side effects of menstruation. Surgery without consent should never be performed without a pressing clinical reason.

That’s just my opinion, though. This one’s for the lawyers.

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