A U.S. commander said Tuesday he is “deeply ashamed” by the Marine killings of Afghan civilians in March and reported that the American military has made condolence payments to their families.

“Today we met with the families of those victims: 19 dead and 50 injured,” said Col. John Nicholson, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, deployed in eastern Afghanistan. “We made official apologies on the part of the U.S. government” and payments of about $2,000 for each death. (AP via USA Today)

Old news, but I only came to learn of it during my commute back from work on NPR two days ago. Turns out the U.S. military makes condolences payments — officially called “solatia” payments (unofficially also “martyr” payments) — to the families of those accidentally killed during combat fire.

The Pentagon has set $2,500 as the highest individual sum that can be paid. Most death payments remain at that level, with a rough sliding scale of $1,000 for serious injury and $500 for property damage. Beginning in April of last year, payments of up to $10,000 were possible for “extraordinary cases” but only with a division commander’s authorization.

The report, titled The Department of Defense’s Use of Solatia and Condolence Payments in Iraq and Afghanistan (pdf),” offers a particularly coldblooded example of how payments are estimated, drawn from CERP‘s operating procedures: “Two members of the same family are killed in a car hit by U.S. forces. The family could receive a maximum of $7,500 in CERP condolence payments ($2,500 for each death and up to $2,500 for vehicle damage).”(WaPo, 06/18/07)

Some pics of these condolences payments being made from this article that makes it sound okay:

I’m frankly at loss for words. Can’t figure out what aspect to begin commenting on first. I don’t believe monetary apology to be valid after any wrongdoing. But let’s suppose that your life situation is desperate, and you make the trip to the official place to get ‘reimbursed,’ how far does $2,500 really go? Take any of the following scenario for instance, what do you suppose the money given to the victim’s family could most effectively be used for?

Approximately $8,000 was paid by the Pentagon to two children who lost their mother when the taxi in which she was traveling came under fire. The vehicle was said to have run a checkpoint. The children were alongside their mother when she died and were also injured. A measly “condolence” payment of $500 was paid to the family of a deaf man shot outside a museum in Samarra and a larger condolence payment of $2,500 was granted to the parents of a 4-year-old girl who died when a bullet fired from a Humvee struck her.

In what the U.S. military said “negligent fire,” an Iraqi ambulance driver was shot dead on his way to a bomb scene by a coalition soldier. The dead man’s family was paid $2,500. (AmericanFreePres)

Iraq Body Count, a Web site that reputedly maintains most accurate account of casualties of the war, reveals more instances where American military has put a supposedly justified price on lives or limbs lost. Please also read these two articles on the NYT, and listen to a report on NPR to learn more.

Lastly, I don’t mean to compare but, I would like to point out the amount given to the families of victims who lost their lives on the space shuttle Columbia in 2003: $26 million. This is far too sad for me to disrespectfully end the post with the usual clever comment. Because even these families likely are not satisfied, and would much rather have their loved ones returned, instead.

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A Dominican nun, a freelance writer and a principal of a prestigious school founded the International Community School in DeKalb County, Georgia to address the cultural and language barrier that many children of the refugee immigrants faced after arriving there in the late 1990’s.

In the last ten years, thousands of refugee children have come to DeKalb County, bringing not only gifts and talents but also the deep physical and spiritual wounds of war. Today the county is home to the highest percentage of refugees in the southeastern United States. (ICS)

Student population here represents over 40 nation and over 50 languages are spoken in the hallways. But children of refugees only compose half of all pupils. The other half is diverse in a socio-economic manner.

Parents from low-income families tend to choose the school over other nearby public schools because it is safe and has small classes. More affluent parents seek it for the potential benefits of exposure to so many cultures. Most of the middle- and upper-middle-class parents are social progressives from Decatur, a liberal enclave. (NYT)

Understandably, the community school faces expected challenges specific to each refugee student’s experience from the emigrated country.

Two sisters from Afghanistan seemed terrified as they arrived each day. As refugees in Pakistan, the children had worked making carpets. Exhausted, they regularly dozed at school, which drew beatings. The sisters had assumed such beatings were standard at every school.

A Sudanese girl was so traumatized from war and relocation that she insisted on sitting on the floor beneath her desk each day.

Fortunately, the school staff is as diversely represented as the student body. Which helps faculty understand or, in some cases, relate to their students.

Naza Orlovic, a teacher’s assistant from Bosnia, said her experience as a refugee allowed her to recognize and to soothe hurt feelings that frequently arose out of cultural misunderstandings.

“I constantly remind them how lucky we are,” said Hodan Osman, 27, a tutor separated from her parents at age 10 during the civil war in Somalia.

“We could have been killed,” she said, “and not only are we here, but we’re in a place where we’re celebrated. I tell them they can take everything away from you, but your knowledge is in your head, and it makes you brave.”

Presently, there are strong plans to add a middle school to the institution. And a founder desires to open a health clinic for the refugees there.

Maybe not apparent at first glance, but the location of the school is a bit ironic.  The region used to be a Ku Klux Klan haven.

Gang rape victim sentenced

November 17, 2007

When religious or traditional beliefs overlap with the law of the land, the outcome isn’t always logical.

We witness this to be true when we hear from folks who, in the twenty first century, want children to learn creationism in school. If Christian parents want to teach their kids of Adam and Eve, then no outsider can dictate it to be untrue, and therefore deem it unethical to do so. But Jews, Muslims, Jains and Buddhist children, too, attend the very same school the advocates want to modify the science class curriculum for. Realize that the bible plays as much part in a Hindu child’s life as the Bhagvad-Gita does in a Christian child’s life: zero. That’s where I’ll leave that argument.

Same is true with folks who oppose legalizing marriage between two homosexuals. They claim their religion (and personal beliefs) strictly prohibits so. And of course, all must adhere to their fancy.

In a like twisted government ruling, a 19-year-old woman from Saudi Arabia, who was raped 14 times by seven men, was sentenced to 90 lashes for being in a vehicle with a man who isn’t family.

The rape victim was punished for violating Saudi Arabia’s laws on segregation that forbid unrelated men and women from associating with each other. (BBC)

For the record, the seven men were too punished. Ranging from ten months to up to 5 years.

The story gets better (worse, actually).

A Saudi court has increased the sentence given to (the) gang rape victim to 200 lashes of the whip and six months in prison and ordered disciplinary action against her lawyer. (Reuters)

This happened because she and her lawyer spoke to the media and got sympathy from folks around the world. They shouldn’t have done that. And the government made certain they realize so at the appeals court.

The lawyer, Abdel Rahman al-Lahem, could potentially lose his license. At the moment he is suspended. There are talks to appeal for the third time. But really, would you be surprised if the victim was sentenced to more lashes and time was added to her sentencing?

Lahem’s critics have called him an infidel and “lawyer of homosexuals”. In the past he has been jailed and banned from traveling abroad. He will appear before a disciplinary committee at the ministry of justice on December 5, charged with criticising the judiciary and conducting activist campaigns in the media. (Guardian)

The lawyers is actually a true advocate for those facing injustice in the country. Here’s a link to an article where Lahem took on the case of an outspoken journalist.

Saudi journalist Rabah Al-Quwayi, 24, has been detained by Hail authorities in connection with his writings posted on Internet forums, which they allege place his Islamic faith in doubt.

Lawyer Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem announced yesterday that he would be representing Al-Quwayi.

“We weren’t able to go to church because we didn’t have any money for transport and my father had a fever so my mother and I had to wash clothes for money.” (link)

That excerpt was from an entry in 11-year-old Mariannet Amper’s diary. She committed suicide by hanging herself with a nylon cord Nov. 2, likely because of her family’s unfortunate state in poverty.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the media has blown out of proportion an “isolated case.” A comment that enraged many to protest on the streets. Although he later added, “we take responsibility for everything because we are leaders of government. We need to ensure that services are there.”

A representative of an NGO, Global Call to Action against Poverty, said, “One death is too much.”

“We were shocked and saddened by the news of the suicide of 11 year-old girl, and for a few hours our world stopped. To hear the government reducing her death to an isolated case is outrageous.”

 

 

Crowds of sympathizers filed into the Santa Cruz chapel, where the Mass for the 12-year-old girl was held, before proceeding in a long procession to the unkempt cemetery, which looked as miserable as the girl’s destitute life.

Stepping on tombs, some of the girl’s classmates wailed as they took a last look at their classmate, whom they described as “jolly,” now lying in a white wooden coffin under a lone mango tree amidst a jungle of poorly kept tombs. (link)

All classmates and community members that attended the funeral agree that Mariannet made a poor choice. They too are affected by the poverty crisis, but wouldn’t resort to such drastic measure. Her classmate, Mary Riza Jumawan, 12, said that her family’s condition is similar, but options still remain.

“We’re also poor but I will not hang myself because I want to study and become a teacher. If my parents can’t afford to send me to school, then I’ll finish my studies as a working student like (my) elder sisters”

24-year-old mother of three, Anabel Carbonella, a neighbor, maintains the community’s consensus that suicide was an easy way out. She said, “Even if we are poor, we should not stop striving because there is hope if we try hard.”

Mariannet Amper is survived by a younger brother, her mother and father.

Over the years, I’ve been noticing news of the high staggering rate of teenage pregnancy when referring to Scotland. Pick any news agency at random in the last few years and follow its coverage chronologically till present day. Pay close attention to the modifications made (and its results) to address the issue, and you’ll notice little to no change in the rate — the bottom line in this conversation (link) .

November 10, 2003 –Teenage pregnancies are higher in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, and though the figures are declining, Scotland has more than 9,000 every year.

Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm made a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday and launched a wide-ranging consultation on the 100-plus recommendations produced in the panel’s 92-page report.

Among them is a “sex czar” to oversee the implementation of the strategy. This person would be given the job of reducing the pregnancy rate among 13 to 15-year-olds by 20% by 2010. (link)

January 27, 2005 — Young people should be informed about sexual health services and have access to them, according to the Scottish Executive’s new strategy.

The issue of sex education, particularly in Catholic schools, has already provoked controversy.

The strategy is aimed at tackling high rates of STDs and unwanted pregnancy. (link)

April 14, 2005 — Health officials in Tayside are proposing to make condoms available free from chemists and other outlets near secondary schools.

It is one proposal in a new strategy aimed at reducing the high number of teenage pregnancies and abortions.

Dundee has the highest number of young teenagers falling pregnant in the whole of western Europe.

The condom scheme, however, has been condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as unacceptable and irresponsible. (link)

May 29, 2005 — School pupils across Scotland are being denied access to sexual health websites because of internet “firewalls”, a youth organisation says. (link)

March 29, 2006 — Caledonia Youth claimed it had been forced to close its Dundee branch following service cuts by NHS Tayside. (link)

October 30, 2007 — Reducing teenage pregnancy rates in deprived areas is a key government target, but there has been little change over the past six years.

More than 9,000 teenage girls became pregnant in Scotland in 2005, including 678 aged under 16.

The figures for 2005 showed a slight drop in the total number of girls under 16 who became pregnant.

The pregnancy rate for that age group has also remained fairly steady over the past six years, despite a government commitment to try to reduce it.

Dundee remained Scotland’s teen pregnancy capital, with 80 pregnancies for every 1,000 teenage girls. (link)

1964-2007

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African reggae star Lucky Dube was shot and killed in front of his son and daughter, SABC radio reported on Friday.

Dube, 43, was killed on Thursday night in an apparent car hijacking attempt and police were searching for three suspects, the radio said. (link)

Dube was more that a ‘South African reggae star.’ And it’s no justice to his life dedication of addressing poverty and promoting brotherhood to only refer to him as such.

Dube sang in English about social issues, racism, justice and poverty. With “Together As One” he was the first black person in South Africa whose songs were aired on a white radio station.

President Thabo Mbeki described him as “a great South African artist”, promoting efforts against crime in a country where, in 2006 alone, as many as 20,000 counts of murder have been recorded.(link)

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Well no scientist has just flat out said cigarettes are worse than crack. But they do agree,

tobacco is highly addictive. It is considered mood and behavior altering. Tobacco is believed to have an addictive potential comparable to alcohol, cocaine, and morphine.

Now that certainly should qualify as reason enough to not go near the cause for lung cancer. Or quit, if currently smoking. So who could still be blazing?

Even as antismoking campaigns have sharply reduced tobacco use in society at large, smoking has remained far more common among the poor of all races. (link)

In fact,

Officials (in Baltimore) said they were surprised when a recent study suggested that more than half of poor, black young adults smoke cigarettes — almost always menthol, almost always Newports.

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