libera voce/libera mente

"free voice, free mind"

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

'Thumb Sucking Remedy'

Adam's Chili PowderDALLAS -- A woman accused of suffocating her 5-month-old daughter by using chili powder as a thumb sucking remedy was convicted of manslaughter Sunday.

Angela DiSabella, 21, of Irving, was sentenced to seven years in prison for the 2004 death of her daughter, Kira.

DiSabella had been charged with capital murder. Jurors convicted her on the lesser charge after nearly 11 hours of deliberations.

Too Busy to Put the Phone Down

Police have issued an arrest warrant for a woman they think robbed Northern Virginia banks while talking on her cell phone, and are crediting a huge public response with helping to identify the suspect.

Candice R. Martinez, 19, of 4001 Spring Pond Place in Chantilly, has been charged in connection with two of four recent bank robberies in Northern Virginia in which a suspect was chatting on the phone while she handed a teller a note demanding cash.

She is the third woman charged in Fairfax County this year in connection with bank heists. The news of the arrest warrant comes two days after Arlington police arrested 20-year-old Susan Hooban, of Arlington, in connection with the robbery of a Virginia Commerce Bank branch on Lee Highway on Saturday.
girl on phone
Fairfax County police spokeswoman Mary Mulrenan said the department received more than 30 tips relating to the "cell phone" robberies after the case - and the suspect's photo - got widespread media attention at the end of last week.
"We got lots of telephone calls from citizens with tips about who she was," Mulrenan said. "I've never heard of anybody who has robbed a bank while on a cell phone. ...This is the third female to rob a bank this year [in Fairfax County]."
The Washington Examiner; November 14, 2005.

Monday, November 14, 2005

They're So 'Stressed-Out'

For centuries, women have been stereotyped as the passive victims of violence and aggression. Yet experts are now warning that record numbers of men are being physically abused by their stressed- out wives and girlfriends.

New figures show that the number of calls to domestic violence helplines from male victims has more than doubled over the past five years. And now one of the world's leading feminist journals will investigate the issue of male abuse for the first time in its history: the Psychology of Women Quarterly will devote a whole edition to research on violent women and their behaviour towards men.

Until now, domestic violence has been seen by police and ministers as an issue which blights the lives of women rather than men. Their policies are based on Home Office figures, which show that one in four women suffer abuse in the home compared with one in six men.

Incidents such as the arrest earlier this month of Rebekah Wade, the editor of The Sun, after an alleged assault on her husband, EastEnders actor Ross Kemp, are generally treated as trivial and a source of amusement by social watchers. However, experts say . . there is increasing evidence that women are lashing out and adopting behaviour traditionally associated with men.

. . .

ManKind, an organisation which campaigns for equal rights for men, receives more than a thousand calls a year to its helpline from male victims of domestic violence as well as from doctors worried about patients they suspect are being abused by their girlfriends and wives.

The charity Snap, which runs a gender-neutral helpline, says it receives up to 25 calls a day from battered men. There are only four places in the country which offer shelter to male victims of domestic violence, which men's rights campaigners say is not enough.
"The ones who are the perpetrators are in the caring professions - social workers, nurses, carers," said Anne Harris, a spokeswoman for Snap.
Research to be published next year will also show that more men report being victims of domestic abuse - and fewer women - in countries where there is greater gender equality. Based on an analysis of UN data on gender equality, the study by the University of Central Lancashire will show that more women carry out attacks on their male partners in Western nations such as Britain and the US compared with countries such as Pakistan.

Professor John Archer, an expert on both male and female aggression, who carried out the study, attracted huge controversy with a report five years ago showing that women were likely to lash out more frequently than men during rows. He says that battered men are treated as figures of fun by society and that policymakers must treat domestic abuse against both men and women with equal seriousness.
"There is a strong cultural ethos drummed into men from an early age that it's wrong to retaliate but these attitudes are not drummed into women," said Mr Archer, Professor of psychology at the University of Central Lancashire. "The Rebecca Wade case was treated as a joke which typifies the differences in attitudes. The male victim is seen as a subject of fun."
. . .

Dr Malcolm George, an expert on the brain and human behaviour, says there is evidence that "husband abuse" dates back to Elizabethan times.
Historical records that he has unearthed show that men who were beaten by their wives were publicly humiliated in a special ceremony called a "skimmington procession", named after the ladle used to skim milk during cheese making.
. . .

Claire Stewart is one of a growing number of women who are seeking professional help to manage their anger.

The nursing student, 37, from Leicester says she has head-butted Graham, a builder, tried to strangle him and thrown furniture at him.

. . .

The Independent online edition; November 13, 2005.

Reality of Choice

. . while politically pro-choice, I didn't think that my situation had anything to do with the whole abortion debate, and so I put it out of my mind, so much so that when my husband and I drove to Planned Parenthood the morning of the procedure and found our car immediately surrounded by gesturing people, we both thought,
"How nice of the Planned Parenthood people to make sure we knew where to park."
As I exited the car like some kind of odd celebrity, I wasn't prepared for the older woman who shoved her face an inch from mine and screamed that I was murdering my baby. I wasn't prepared for the looks of pure hate, no, the looks that could kill. I seem to vaguely recall being warned not to make eye contact, but I did, and I saw what I thought was someone who would gladly murder me to keep me from entering the clinic.

"What baby?" I blurted. Then a real Planned Parenthood escort took my arm, told me not to talk to them and led me inside. The two minutes had felt like a siege.

The clinic was an unhappy place. I was surprised by how crowded it was. I wasn't surprised to see so many faces of color or people paying by counting out an assortment of crumpled bills.
Of course no one chatted about her story, but in the inner sanctum I did learn that our reasons for being here were varied and that there was at least one other woman there who, like me, needed the procedure to correct an incomplete miscarriage.
I couldn't possibly know the circumstances that brought such a disparate collection of women to this place, but it was dismaying to see so many. It was no surprise that the Planned Parenthood staff loaded us up with birth control supplies stuffed into bags like Halloween treats. But I wondered exactly how much this would do to prevent "repeat customers." I remember the feeling of panic over pregnancy scares when I was younger, and I could easily envision myself here for an abortion of my own. But now that I'd had the experience of giving birth to a child, I wondered if anything had changed.

In truth, I didn't know how I felt, except that this experience left me feeling sad about the state of our society. Both sides of the debate are so heavily sunk into their bunkers. On one side, it seems monstrous that a handful of people, mostly men, decide on a procedure that involves, criminalizes and punishes women, and I know there are conservative, Republican, so-called pro-life women who feel they sit on the morally superior side but then end up having an abortion for the same reasons we pro-choice women are driven to it. But pro-choice people must also acknowledge somewhere in their hearts that this procedure is not the moral equivalent of merely surgically removing tissue.

I wish I'd had the foresight to visit one of those pregnancy clinics that offer free pregnancy tests, "counseling" and medical care, as they work as a front for religious organizations trying to persuade women to keep their babies; I'm curious what they would have done with me, someone who's just a little bit pregnant, for whom having or avoiding an abortion would add nothing to the inflammatory debate. Would they care about all my difficult pregnancies and miscarriages? Would they offer their free services for these ongoing problems? Somehow I doubt it.
At the same time, sitting in the recovery room with all those other women, post-surgery, the nurses exhorting us to eat our crackers, to get ourselves together (to those who were uncontrollably weeping), something didn't seem right either. There was a bit of an assembly-line feel to it. I was one of the first ones they moved out, probably because I seemed so chipper (only to throw up in the CVS parking lot not 15 minutes later).
When I was in Japan, doing the touristy temple visits, I happened to wander behind one particularly sumptuous one in Kyoto and came upon an odd, scrubby patch of ground that had a group of stone totems, almost exactly the size of those cloth target dolls you try to knock down at the county fair. Many of the totems were indeed dressed up in bits of cloth or had flowers or other offerings attached to them. I asked my Japanese friend what they were, and she, sort of embarrassed, said that they were like little gravestones for children who had been aborted or miscarried. And that the mothers came here to grieve, often dressing them up in baby clothes or bringing candy.

"It's so the baby's spirit won't get mad," she explained. I understood. Completely.
In America, I need to know: Where is the place for people like me, who feel it is important for a civilized society to make abortion safe and available for those who need it and who also believe that the ending of a pregnancy, however it happens, also releases a tiny spirit into the air?
Marie Myung-Ok Lee is the author of "Somebody's Daughter: A Novel."

Washington Post, November 13, 2005.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Infant Drowns as Mother Listens to CD's

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- A 16-month-old Brooklyn boy drowned in a filthy bathtub in a bathroom with no working light on Sunday while his mother spent 40 minutes in the next room playing CD's. The boy was found face-up in the tub by his mother. The Administration for Children's Services had been monitoring the family since she was arrested after a previous boyfriend scalded the dead infant's brother with hot water.
"We intend to gather all of the facts that will tell us what led to this child being in danger," said John B. Mattingly, the commissioner of children's services.
From The New York Times, November 9, 2005.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Woman pleads guilty in husband's death

RALEIGH (N.C.) -- A woman who was a scientist for a drug company admitted in court yesterday that she conspired with her lover five years ago to fatally poison her husband, a pediatric AIDS researcher.

Ann Miller Kontz, 35, was sentenced to 25 to 31-1/2 years in prison after her attorney read a statement saying she felt "a deep sense of remorse and regret" for Eric Miller's death.

Authorities said Kontz, who worked at GlaxoSmithKline, was having an affair with a co-worker when her husband was poisoned by arsenic, a colorless and usually tasteless poison once common in ant and rat killers.

Under a plea deal, Kontz admitted conspiring with the co-worker, Derril Willard, and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

Willard committed suicide about a month after Mr. Miller died on Deecember 2, 2000.

The Washington Times, November 8, 2005.

Mother Sentenced in Rape of Children

DENVER -- A Denver judge has sentenced a woman to 110 years in prison for allowing her husband to rape two of their children for years.

Karen Rodriquez sobbed Monday, begged for mercy, and said she feared for her and her children's lives if she tried to leave her husband, the Rocky Mountain News reported.

Judge Herbert Stern said he thought Rodriquez was a victim of "horrific domestic violence," but she contributed to the children's victimization and should have left her husband, the Denver Post said.

The children testified against their mother. Before the assaults, Rodriquez would dress the son, now 18, as a schoolgirl with makeup.

Breaking the Science: Misleading Stories

by Mark B Rosenthal

Beginning October 20th, PBS stations around the nation will air a film entitled "Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories". Although protecting helpless victims from brutal abusers is a noble undertaking, distorting the facts to libel an entire class of people is not.

The Strategy For Passing Unjust Laws
This film seems to be the first step in a pattern that's been played out many times in the past few decades:
  1. Determine what conclusions a study would need to reach in order to stampede legislators into passing the laws you want passed.
  2. Conduct studies that are carefully designed ignore any inconvenient facts. Popular techniques in this step include:
    1. using self-selected rather than randomized population samples,
    2. taking care not to ask any questions that might elicit undesired answers, and
    3. neglecting to report any results at all from any questions whose answers contradict your thesis.
  3. Publicize these studies as if they were impartial research, by planting newspaper stories, publishing in journals whose referees are as biased as the studies' authors, getting corporations to fund advertising that masquerades as a "documentary", etc.
  4. Use yellow journalism to scare the public into demanding that legislators pass a law to fix the nonexistent problem.
In the early 1990s, the American Association of University Women had great success using such strategies. They began by issuing a report entitled "How Schools Shortchange Girls". Diane Ravitch, former Director of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Research and Improvement, calls the AAUW report "bizarre" for reporting that girls' educational achievement was lagging behind boys at exactly the time that girls had just overtaken boys in almost every area. But it doesn't seem bizarre at all if you assume that AAUW's goal was not to conduct honest research, but rather to drive public policy, sure in the knowledge that journalists wouldn't have the expertise to challenge their conclusions, and that they could get laws enacted to address their fabricated problem quicker than honest researchers could analyze how they'd manipulated their research to come to such a "bizarre" conclusion. And that's exactly what happened. Laws enacted as a result of the AAUW hype resulted in inequitable allocation of resources to programs for girls only. By pitting our daughters against our sons in this way, they denied a generation of boys the opportunity to overcome their deficits.

"Breaking the Silence" seems to be the publicity and hype phase of an even more insidious campaign. The goal this time appears to be stampeding legislators into passing laws that will have the effect of preventing courts from granting any form of custody (legal or physical, shared or sole) to any father over any mother's objection.

The Program's Claims
The hour-long program makes some astonishing claims. George Washington University Law Professor Joan Meier says that in "75% of cases in which fathers contest custody, fathers have a history of being batterers". In her worldview, if a father seeks a relationship with his children in family court, that in itself is tantamount to proof that he's a batterer.

A copy of the "Guest Editor's Introduction" to the August, 2005 issue of the journal "Violence Against Women" was distributed at the prescreening. The film's press release repeats that article's allegation that Parental Alienation Syndrome has been "discredited by the American Psychological Association," and Meier echoes that in the film, asserting that scientists have declared PAS "junk science". The film also claims that in family court cases where mothers allege battery, fathers are given custody two-thirds of the time.

What the Filmmakers Don't Want You to Notice
Analysis of the claims made in the "Violence Against Women" journal indicates that this research, on which much of the content of this film is based, fails to distinguish between allegations and actual abuse, and instead blindly assumes all allegations to be true.

A documentary filmmaker has a responsibility to present an issue in an accurate and balanced fashion. In this case, filmmakers Catherine Tatge and Domenique Lasseur provided a soapbox for a number of very angry women and their children to make some very serious accusations. The closing frame of the film says that only one accused father declined to be interviewed. So where were all the other accused fathers who didn't decline?

Michael McCormick, director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, reports that filmmaker Domenic Lasseur called him last spring to arrange to interview an ACFC spokesperson so the documentary would have some balance. But Lasseur later cancelled the interview. That, plus the absence of any other spokesperson to provide balance, suggests that he or someone above him decided that fairness and balance were unnecessary.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data on child abuse shows that over twice as many children are battered by their mothers (40.8%) as by their fathers (18.8%), excluding cases in which both parents are abusive (16.9%). Likewise the number of children killed by their mothers without the father's involvement is double the number killed by their fathers without the mother's involvement. Yet the filmmakers mislead viewers by interviewing only children victimized by fathers and denying children victimized by their mothers the opportunity to tell their stories.
Even the title "Breaking the Silence" is disingenuous. A Google search for "domestic violence" turns up 36.8 MILLION documents. This is "silence" like "War is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength".
Filmmakers Tatge and Lasseur use a small handful of cases to create the illusion of a pervasive problem of family court discrimination against women and children domestic violence victims. With a U.S. population of 297 million, it's possible to cherrypick a small non-representative sample to prove nearly anything.

Misleading the Public About Scientists Opinions on Parental Alienation Syndrome
The film's central thesis, that Parental Alienation Syndrome is "junk science" that has been discredited by the American Psychological Association, is itself misleading. Although it's true that Temple University psychiatry professor Paul Fink called PAS "junk science" in a July 1, 2003 Newsday interview, he explained, "There are lots of people who alienate their partners during a divorce. But it is not a syndrome, a disease or a disorder." So the claim that PAS is "junk science" doesn't mean it never happens; it just means it's not a recognized mental illness. Without Fink's full explanation, most people would assume that calling PAS "junk science" means the phenomenon doesn't happen. Dispelling that misimpression would undermine the filmmakers' point, so the fact that they don't provide the full explanation is worth noting.

The claim that PAS has been discredited by the APA is based on a single sentence from the APA's 1996 report on violence and the family, which simply says there are no data to support PAS.

The Association of Women Psychiatrists (a professional group unaffiliated with the APA) takes PAS seriously enough that their Fall 2003 newsletter printed an article asserting "The Denial and/or Discrediting of the Parental Alienation Syndrome Harms Women".

And apparently even the APA does not consider their 1996 report to be the final word. At the 2002 APA conference, PAS was considered important enough for them to offer a seminar worth seven Continuing Education credits, in which they explained what Parental Alienation Syndrome is and taught custody evaluators to identify when PAS does and does not occur.

If the Film's Agenda Becomes Law, Kids Will Pay the Price
"Research" that fails to distinguish between accusations of abuse and actual abuse is unworthy of the name "research". Using such a trick to conclude that nearly all fathers who contest custody are batterers, amounts to libel against all fathers who love their children enough to fight for their welfare.

Those who play this ugly little game in order to stampede politicians into passing ill-considered laws that will make it virtually impossible for any father to ever be granted custody, show a callous disregard for the welfare of two-thirds of abused children - those children abused by their mothers.

Finally, PBS's own Code of Ethics requires them to "avoid any conduct that might result in the loss of public confidence in CPB's programs ... or might reasonably give the appearance of ... the compromise or loss of complete impartiality of judgment and action." Allowing a speaker to assert that trying to maintain a relationship with your children means you've probably battered your wife, and not including any speaker to point out the hatefulness of that statement, certainly gives the appearance of a complete loss of impartiality., October 26, 2005.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Sexually harassed by a girl?

Answers from an online men's issues group . .

"Now that the subject comes up there was this fat broad while I was in college who stalked me for a year or so. She wouldn't leave me alone. She was particularly aggressive in the college sailing club social activities which I had belonged to for a couple of years before she arrived. I'm sure it would fit the description of "sexual harassment" if a man did it to a female today."
"During my last year of summer camp, at age 14, I was napping in my bunk. A 15 yr old trouble maker girl, jumped up on top of me and asked me to have sex with her, right then in there in front of the other guys (all of whom were 1-4 years older than me). It was truly traumatic and only one of a number of traumatic experiences in that "Lord Of The Flies" summer harrassment."
"Started at around age 14/15 too [older girls at school]... and from 16 onwards in the workplace from women often more than twice my age. I fell foul of them a couple of times too. At 24, I even considered taking one female colleague to a sexual harassment tribunal but, that "threat" solved the problem. This is definitely a subject that demands more discussion and exposure !!"
"Yes, in the workplace. I was 15. She was 19. She was determined to have sex with me. She was angry that I refused her advances, but she gave up after a month or so, as she found an alternate target.

Oh, yes I remember at College. A group of 5 girls. One would run up behind and pinch my bum in crowded hallways and dart back into the crowd. Another time it would be a different girl. Eventually, I figured out that it was a group of 5 girls working together. But they never actually met with me or talked to me, so it was odd.

And at two jobs I had in my early 20s there was sexual harassment. One time it was a group of 6 or so women who came to my workbench. Nuff said. Not the best memory.

Young men are victims of sexual harrassment. I was too young to know that I had rights of any kind. I'm past that age now."
"I can recall one instance in particular when I was 16. There was a rather skanky delinquent-type girl named Allison in my class, and I remember that one day, for some reason, she sat on a desk right in front of me with her legs open (she had a skirt on) when I was sitting in a chair. She had a rather hostile look on her face. Strange. I made some joke about her wearing multicolored panties, and she didn't say anything in return. I think that I walked away after that thinking how weird that was. This was back in 1978 in New Zealand."
"When I was 9, a female friend of mine, who was roughly the same age, every time we found each other alone together, she'd drive her tongue into my mouth, whether I wanted to or not. She actively pulled my shirt and took me to the basement, girl's bathroom, secluded garden spot, where then she would proceed to kiss me thoroughly. It went on for roughly 2 years. I don't know if this can be called 'sexual abuse', but it has made me squicky about kisses; I am turned off instantly b(y) the tongue coming in.

"Breaking the Silence" = Junk Journalism

The program "Breaking the Silence" has been widely criticized for bias and inaccuracy in depicting a world in which the only abusive parents are fathers. The program amounts to a libel that dads who seek child custody are wife-beaters.

In light of recent revalations (listed below), it's no longer appropriate to ask that the show be revised. The bias is so widespread and so egregious that there's no solution other than to pull the plug on this sad example of a "documentary."

The local PBS affiliates choose which shows they will air. This week, we're asking you to contact your local PBS station. Explain to them:
  1. It is now known that the filmmakers were informed on numerous occasions that one of the mothers featured in the film had been found by a court to have committed eight counts of child abuse. But the producers chose to portray her as the victim anyway. []
  2. The American Psychological Association has now called the film's claims "incorrect", and says that far from having debunked PAS, the APA has no official position on PAS. []
  3. A number of people with stories of anti-father court bias have now come forward to say that the producers scheduled and then cancelled interviews with then. []

Then request that they:
  1. Not broadcast Breaking the Silence.
  2. Produce a documentary focusing on the plight of children abused by their mothers, and the anguish of fathers who are prevented by the courts from protecting their children.

To find your local PBS affiliate:
  1. Go to and enter your zip code, or
  2. Look in your local telephone directory.

Date of RADAR Release: November 6, 2005.

'Payback' She Says

GREENSBURG, Pa. (Nov. 3, 2005) - A man claims his ex-girlfriend owes him more than $30,000 for gluing his genitals to his abdomen five years ago. "This was not just some petty domestic squabble," attorney Grey Pratt told a Westmoreland County jury Wednesday.

His client, Kenneth Slaby of Pittsburgh, is suing Gail O'Toole of Murrysville. His lawsuit claims the two broke up in 1999 after dating for 10 months and Slaby began dating someone else.

Slaby contends that O'Toole invited him over to her home on May 7, 2000, where he fell asleep. He woke up to find that O'Toole had used Super Glue to stick his genitals to his abdomen, glued his buttocks together and spelled out a profanity on his back in nail polish.

Slaby said O'Toole told him it was payback for their breakup, and he had to walk a mile to a gas station to call for help. He pressed charges and O'Toole pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and served six months' probation.

O'Toole's attorney, Chuck Evans, said it was a consensual act and Slaby wasn't permanently damaged.

"This is a case that should have been left in the bedroom," he said.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Reading for Boys

The first book in the Cirque Du Freak series starts in a toilet and ends in a graveyard. If you're a pre-adolescent boy, that's great stuff.

It's so great that 60 or so Hammond Middle School boys could hardly contain their glee when the author of the series was introduced at a special lunch yesterday in their school library in Alexandria.

The lunch was for members of Club BILI (Boys in Literacy Initiative), an all-male after-school book club that began at Hammond three years ago to help close the literacy achievement gap between boys and girls. The club focuses on books that appeal specifically to boys and includes read-aloud sessions, visits to elementary schools to promote reading and trips to see movies based on the books they read.

The reading gap is not new. On average, boys score seven to 11 points lower than girls on standardized reading comprehension tests, and the discrepancy is not limited to the United States -- a study by the University of York in Britain found it exists in 22 countries. Scientists say boys are born with biological differences that make them read later than girls, though they eventually catch up. Boys also have a harder time sitting still for long periods, studies show.

Prevailing attitudes toward reading don't help. "Society has created an aura about reading that it's a girl thing and it doesn't fit into adolescents' persona," said Jodie Peters, a reading peer coach at the school who co-founded Club BILI after coming upon a book about the gap called Reading Don't Fix No Chevys. "We want to fight that," she said.

Often, traditional classroom literature doesn't intrigue boys, Peters said. The club, which is funded by a grant from AOL and private donations, focuses on books that fire the imaginations of middle school boys. That means fewer plucky female protagonists and more potty humor and monsters.

Picking up the microphone at Hammond, Darren Shan, the 33-year-old author of the Cirque Du Freak books, knew what buttons to push. His upcoming series about demons, Demonata, starts with a bloody climax. "Chapter Two," he told the boys, "is probably the most gruesome thing I've ever heard of."

Listening to the Irish author, who was wearing a black hooded sweat shirt and looked rather boyish himself, the club members were wide-eyed. They interjected occasional one-word comments -- "Yesssss!" when Shan promised that there would be 12 books in the Cirque Du Freak series, and "Daaang!" when he said the last one wouldn't be out in the United States until the end of next year. Some boys had already devoured seven or eight of the pocketbook-size vampire adventure volumes and didn't want to wait.

It's not that boys don't read at all, said Rob Murphy, a burly sixth-grade teacher who is the club's other founder.
"They're reading tons of stuff -- comics, video game manuals." But too often, he said, "the boys really hated the books that we were making them read in classrooms. There were a lot of female protagonists, and it was hard for them to make the connection with some of the plotlines."
Boy-friendly literature featured in the club has included the Lemony Snicket "Series of Unfortunate Events" books and copies of Sports Illustrated. "It validates what they feel comfortable reading," said Murphy, who, like other teachers and some club members, wore a T-shirt that read, "Real Men Read." "That was the point of it."

Several of the boys eating Subway sandwiches in the library yesterday said they had learned about the club through word of mouth; some said they had persuaded their friends to join.

"Write that I'm the biggest Darren Shan fan," said Mike Walker, 12, who discovered Cirque Du Freak in the library. "I picked it up and I couldn't stop reading."

Others discovered it only a couple of weeks ago, at the club, but have since immersed themselves in the stories of a regular teenage boy whom circumstances force into becoming a half-vampire.

In a question-and-answer session with Shan, some technical questions about vampires came up, such as what is a vampire-general (it is someone who has command over ordinary vampires but is lower in the hierarchy than a vampire-prince.)

Some students wanted to know whether Shan was in fact the series' main character, who is also named Darren Shan. "Are you really a vampire?" one boy asked. After a weighty pause, Shan said no.

Seventh-grader Brandon White, 12, asked a couple of questions about the books' characters. Then he asked one thing more. "Can I have a hug?" he said. "I love you."

Shan gave him a bear hug, then, in his best tough-guy voice, growled, "Get outta here."

Back at his table, Brandon and his friends discussed the merits of Shan's work.

Most books at school, they said, are for girls. But Cirque Du Freak is so good, said Brandon, that "you, like, kind of read it really fast."
"It's, like, blood and gore and snakes and spiders," Chris Platt, 12, explained, adding, "when I sit down to read I'm only supposed to read for 30 minutes, but I sit down at home [with Cirque Du Freak] and then when I look at the clock it's been two hours."

The Washington Post, November 5, 2005.

Her 'Poisoning My Mother' Blog

rat poisonJAPAN -- A 16-year-old girl has been arrested with trying to kill her mother with rat poison while she kept an Internet blog narrating her progress over three months, news reports said this week.
"Mother has been sick since yesterday, having a rash all over her body," the newspaper Asahi Shimbun quoted the girl as writing on August 19 on the online journal.
Another newspaper, Mainichi Shimbun, reported that on September 12 the blog said:
"Mother is sick today, too. She had been complaining her legs have been out of it for two or three days and she has finally become almost unable to move."
The police found that the dates of the blog matched the illness of her 47-year-old mother, who is in critical condition at a hospital in Shizuoka Prefecture, the reports said.

Agence France-Presse; appearing in The New York Times, November 4, 2005.

Mother Sells Daughter's Internal Organs

A court in the Bryansk region of Russia issued a conviction against Olga Zelentsova. The woman was found guilty of selling an under-aged individual for commercial purposes. Investigators determined that a mother of two juvenile children, was trying to sell her little daughter's internal organs.

The police found out that a young woman was looking for people, willing to buy "live goods." Investigators traced the woman themselves and arranged several meetings with her, as potential clients, to discuss all terms and prices of a possible deal with the seller.

A "client" told the woman that he was going to purchase her little daughter and use the girl as a prostitute.
After that the disguised police officer said that the girl would probably have to be killed to withdraw her internal organs and tissues. The mother did not mind. The seller and the "buyer" agreed for a $10,000 deal.
Olga Zelentsova was arrested in August of the current year, when she came to receive the money for her daughter.

The court sentenced Zelentsova to six years of "coercive works" in a colony. The woman will most likely be deprived of parental rights for her two little children, born in 1999 and 2005.

Pravda online, October 26, 2005.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The "Cruel Hoax" Known as Feminism

"So was the feminist movement some sort of cruel hoax? Do women get less desirable as they get more successful?"
Columnist Maureen Dowd posed those questions in Sunday's New York Times Magazine in an essay adapted from her forthcoming book: Are Men Necessary: When Sexes Collide.

Entertaining as usual, Dowd explored her premise that many women end up unmarried and childless because they're successful by reviewing women's evolution since her college days, which happen to have coincided with my own. We both came of age as women's lib was being midwifed into the culture by a generation of women who felt enslaved by homemaking and childbearing.

Now, in the span of a generation, all that business about equality apparently isn't so appealing to a younger generation of women, who are ever inventive as they seek old ways to attract new men. Dowd writes:

"Today, women have gone back to hunting their quarry ... with elaborate schemes designed to allow the deluded creatures (men) to think they are the hunters."
Dowd, herself unmarried and childless, wonders whether being smart and successful explains her status. She observes that men would rather marry women who are younger and more malleable, i.e. less successful and perhaps not so very bright.

No one vets the culture with a keener eye than Dowd. Her identification of trends - especially the perverse evolution of liberated women from Birkenstock-wearing intellectuals into pole-dancing sluts - is dead on. But while she sees women clearly as they search for identity in a gender-shifting culture, she doesn't seem to know much about men.
Men haven't turned away from smart, successful women because they're smart and successful. More likely they've turned away because the feminist movement that encouraged women to be smart and successful also encouraged them to be hostile and demeaning to men.
Whatever was wrong, men did it. During the past 30 years, they've been variously characterized as male chauvinist pigs, deadbeat dads or knuckle-dragging abusers who beat their wives on Super Bowl Sunday. At the same time women wanted men to be wage earners, they also wanted them to act like girlfriends: to time their contractions, feed and diaper the baby, and go antiquing [to do with antiques].

And then, when whatshisname inevitably lapsed into guy-ness, women wanted him to disappear. If children were involved, women got custody and men got an invoice. The eradication of men and fathers from children's lives has been feminism's most despicable accomplishment. Half of all children will sleep tonight in a home where their father does not live.

Did we really think men wouldn't mind?

Meanwhile, when we're not bashing men, we're diminishing manhood. Look around at entertainment and other cultural signposts and you see a feminized culture that prefers sanitized men - hairless, coiffed, buffed and, if possible, gay. Men don't know whether to be "metrosexuals" getting pedicures, or "groomzillas" obsessing about wedding favors, or the latest, "ubersexuals" - yes to the coif, no to androgyny.

As far as I can tell, real men don't have a problem with smart, successful women. But they do mind being castrated. It's a guy thing. They do mind being told in so many ways that they are superfluous.

Even now, the latest book to fuel the feminist flames of male alienation is Peggy Drexler's lesbian guide to guilt-free narcissism, Raising Boys Without Men. Is it possible to raise boys without men? Sure. Is it right? You may find your answer by imagining a male-authored book titled: Raising Girls Without Women.

Returning to Dowd's original question, yes, the feminist movement was a hoax inasmuch as it told only half the story. As even feminist matriarch Betty Friedan eventually noted, feminism failed to recognize that even smart, successful women also want to be mothers. It's called Nature. Social engineering can no more change that fact than mechanical engineering can change the laws of physics.

Many of those women who declined to join the modern feminist movement learned the rest of the story by becoming mothers themselves and, in many cases, by raising boys who were born innocent and undeserving of women's hostilities.

I would never insist that women have to have children to be fully female. Some women aren't mother material -- and some men don't deserve the children they sire. But something vital and poignant happens when one's own interests become secondary to the more compelling needs of children.

You grow up. In the process of sacrificing your infant-self for the real baby, you stop obsessing and fixating on the looking glass. Instead, you focus your energies on trying to raise healthy boys and girls to become smart, successful men and women.

In the jungle, one hopes, they will find each other.

Orlando Sentinel, 2 November 2005. Author Kathleen Parker can be reached at or 407-420-5202.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Russian Demographics Destroyed by Abortion

In Russia, abortions were prohibited during Stalin's ruling, and many women had to undergo illegal abortion operations which usually were incredibly barbaric and might even be lethal. When abortions were legalized once again in 1995, the number of abortions was clearly twice the number of newborn babies. 

Every year the number of women deciding to have an abortion decreases in Russia, but the country still leads the world with 13 abortions for every 10 childbirths. Even though the abortion rate has been cut almost in half over the past 23 years, the country still experienced a serious demography crisis in the early 1990s. According to approximate estimates, the Russian population is speedily decreasing every day (with alcoholism and traffic accidents contributing to high death rates).

The number of pregnancies is increasing among teenagers, but the number of abortions in the same age category is increasing at the same time--11 percent of all abortions are performed on girls under 15. This operation performed in early age usually results in sterility in mature age, meaning the birth rate in Russia may drop even more. Forecasts say Russia's population may feasibly decrease to 100 million people.

"An abortion is a killing of a living human being. If a baby was conceived nobody has the right to kill him. Abortions are a serious problem for Russia; we lose over 1 million people every year, including those killed by abortions. Prohibition of abortions may be ineffective, but it is also important today to focus on family planning and teach the youth be more family-minded to solve the problem."
So says Deputy of the Russian parliament Alexander Chuyev, initiator of a law curtailing abortion.

From an article in Pravda, November 2, 2005. Translated by Maria Gousseva.

Grandmother Stabs Grandchild to Death

AURORA (AP) - Carol Lynn Pappas, 52, was formally advised Monday that she will face a first-degree murder charge in the fatal stabbing of her 21-month-old granddaughter. Officers found the toddler's body Saturday after Pappas called 911 from the home she shared with family members in this east Denver suburb, police said.

Judge William Sylvester sealed search and arrest affidavits and ordered attorneys not to discuss the evidence.

Police said they believe Pappas was alone with the child at the time of the stabbing. Pappas lived at the house with her son, Nicholas, 27, his wife, Jessica, 28, and a roommate, authorities said.
"This is a tragedy," said Joan Powers, a friend of Pappas and her ex-husband. "There is no explanation. I've seen (Carol) with her grandchildren. My experience with Carol is she was a lovely person and a wonderful grandmother."
Source, November 1, 2005.

Preening Boy-Toys Proliferating

"These men I see on television and in magazines, they are like women!" Michèle Pujos-Gautraud, a physician and "andrologist", marvels. "With their facial lotions and coloured shoes. It's quite stunning."
Frosted hair. Body waxes. Manicures and rub-downs and handbags that look like purses.

On a scientific level, she's intrigued. But as a 53-year-old woman accustomed to Gallic males in all their swarthy, skirt-chasing glory, she finds the trends disconcerting.
"A few years ago, I might have said that men didn't take care of themselves enough," she says. "Now they're doing so more and more -- maybe too much. With these men, I could not fall in love."
Social scientists and medical reseachers around the world are taking up the cause. Pujos-Gautraud was among several experts in human sexuality who spoke at a symposium titled "The Male Ravaged by Daily Stress" during last summer's annual World Conference of Sexology in Montreal.

Together, the academics described a gender once secure in comfy archetypes like breadwinner, protector and head of household tacking on a host of unfamiliar roles like nurturer, homemaker and, yes, sex object. Surveys suggest more than three quarters of men believe family time is more important than money, power or prestige. And growing numbers see paternity leave as a respectable, attractive option.

Some reliable barometers of female preference suggest the drift toward a more feminine male is indeed reversing. Take Hollywood's current crop of leading men: while such sensitive, limpid figures as Leonardo DiCaprio and Hugh Grant struck a chord with women in the 1990s, the movie industry has for some time now been back to banking on testosterone machines like Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen and the hawkish Daniel Craig, who recently won the role of James Bond.

The tug-of-war played out symbolically last fall in Closer, a dark comedy which pitted winsome Jude Law against swarthy Clive Owen in a competition for female attention. Owen's character -- a chauvinistic yob whose idea of seduction is asking Julia Roberts if she "fancies a poke" -- landed him on People magazine's Most Beautiful People list in 2005.

Another prototype of the reconstructed male is distinctly a throwback to such debonair types as Frank Sinatra or Cary Grant. The "übersexual," as they call him, is more polished than the average hetero, more masculine than a metrosexual. He is dedicated to style and quality in all aspects of life.
"The men in this category have defined themselves, their goals and their needs, with very little reference to women," says The Future of Men. "They have good relationships with women, but do not go out of their way to seek women's acceptance or approval."
A few years ago, Kimmel formed a three-pronged theory about how American men were protecting their outdated ideas of masculinity. They sought to exclude others, such as women and homosexuals, from their fraternal world, he said. Or they tried escape -- "lighting out," as Mark Twain would have it, on hunting trips, or mythopoetic retreats, à la Robert Bly. When all this failed, Kimmel believes, they retreated into themselves, focusing on appearance and their ability to shape their own bodies.

Men now run the risk of obscuring the meaning of male altogether, of robbing the sexes of that age-old friction that, however frustrating, happens to be the stuff of life. If the views of one open-minded, middle-aged Frenchwoman are anything to go by, that would be one evolutionary rung too far.

From an article appearing October 28, 2005 in To comment, email

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

He Just Can't Be Notified

unborn child
"Now the gauntlet has been, I think, thrown down. It was humiliating, it was degrading and it's a profound and disturbing view of Judge Alito that he would uphold spousal notification as he did in the Pennsylvania case, and it raises concerns about his views of women." — Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL-Pro Choice America.
He provided the sperm, he can be sued for child support, he will grieve the death of the unborn child for years (without anyone recognizing his pain) . . but he can't be notified of your efforts to murder his child.

$107,000 Just Doesn't Go As Far As It Used To

A former D.C. public school system principal pleaded guilty yesterday to taking more than $9,000 from a student fundraising account for personal purchases that included DVDs, lobster, sushi, calling cards and a Palm Pilot.

Nae M. Davis, 58, former principal of John Burroughs Elementary School in Northeast, faces six months to two years in prison after pleading guilty to a felony theft charge, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Miss Davis controlled and made all spending decisions for money held in a bank account earmarked for proceeds of school fundraising events. Students raised money by selling sodas, cakes and doughnuts.

Between 2000 to 2002, Miss Davis spent thousands of dollars from the student activity bank account on personal purchases at local food stores, officials said. Some of the personal purchases included DVDs; a Palm Pilot personal messaging device; travel clocks; dinners of lobster, shrimp, veal, and sushi; calling cards and a cordless telephone.

D.C. public school system payroll records from 2004 indicate the position of principal at John Burroughs Elementary School paid a base salary of approximately $107,000 annually.

From "Former principal pleads guilty" by Jim McElhatton in the THE WASHINGTON TIMES, November 1, 2005.

lobster dinner

War Be Thy a Woman

"American Woman," the first song by a Canadian rock band to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts in May 1970, was not about an actual woman but was a protest by the Guess Who against the "militaristic approach of the United States toward other nations" at the time of the Vietnam War. In other words, the U.S. government is the "American Woman" that other countries tell to "get away from me" as the song's lyrics state.

Legend has it that the song's birth was during a 1969 Guess Who concert in Seattle when lead singer Burton Cummings failed to return to the stage after a break. The rest of the band started improvising and came up with the now-famous guitar riff that starts "American Woman."

Supposedly, Cummings heard the melody from offstage, returned to the microphone and invented the lyrics on the spot.

Due to its anti-American lyrics, the Guess Who was not allowed to play "American Woman" when it performed at the White House for President Richard Nixon in 1970.

Answer Line with Michael E. Newman

American woman with a gun