43-year-old Jorge Muñoz’s sister, Luz, says his brother has “got no life.” But what Luz really means by that comment is that Jorge’s life is dedicated to serving others, leaving little time to indulge in for himself.

The people he serves are undocumented immigrants — often homeless and always hungry — who seek jobs on the cold streets in Queens every morning. Folks in whom he likely sees himself only a few years ago reflected in.

Muñoz drives to the same location every night in his white pickup truck at 9:30 p.m. to feed these individuals in desperate states with a warm meal.

“Every single night, Jorge is here,” said one worker, his leathery face peering out from a hooded sweatshirt. “Doesn’t matter. Rain, thunderstorm, lightning. He do that from his good will, you know.

“He feeds everybody, make the stomach happy,” the worker added. “He’s an angel.” (NYT)

Ms. Zapata, Muñoz’s mother with whom he prepares the meal everyday in the small apartment they live in, said that his son displayed this altruistic trait since he was very young. She cites a time when Muñoz was only 7 and a stranger requested the family something to eat.

Ms. Zapata told the visitor they had none. “But Jorge gave him his plate,” she recalled. “I said, ‘Jorge, you have to eat for school.’ And he said, ‘No, I’ll just have bread.’”

Although his devotion to the welfare of others might seem selfish at the superficial, Muñoz claims he gets compensated more than appropriately with gratitude.

“I know these people are waiting for me,” he said. “And I worry about them. You have to see their smile, man. That’s the way I get paid.”

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“I have never seen such a catastrophe in my 20 years as a government administrator,” said Harisprasad Pal, a local official in the hard-hit southern district of Jhalokati. (ABC)

 

On eve of Thursday, Nov. 15, The tropical Cyclone Sidr has devastated much of southern Bangladesh with its 140 miles per hour wind, claiming over 2000 lives, destroying entire communities, and displacing over 650,000 people from their homes, said Ali Imam Majumder, a senior government official.

In one district, called Shatkhira, according to local journalists, roughly 5,000 mud homes collapsed back into the ground. Local relief workers for Caritas, the Catholic relief agency, reported that an entire island in Barisal district was submerged under at least six feet of water and houses were blown away by winds. (IHT)

Over a million had evacuated their homes for nearby safe shelters. Upon their return, a few have, if at all, have found a place to return to. Realizing so, foreign countries and concerned organization rush to provide aid.

U.S. government has provided an initial $2.1 million in emergency relief aide. (AP)

Direct Relief International Reaching Out to Partners in Bangladesh, Releases $280,000 in Medical Aid. (DR)

Action Aid team is carrying emergency relief items which include 2000kg of beaten rise, molasses, oral re-hydration salts, clothes and water purification tablets. ActionAid intends to reach over 5000 families with these supplies. (AA)

The U.N.’s humanitarian chief on Friday said the world body has made several millions of dollars available for aid to Bangladesh (IHT)

Of course, similar to Hurricane Katrina and the flood in Tabasco, Mexico, all were aware beforehand that this part of Bangladesh was dangerously prone to such devastating storm.

And as is the custom, nothing was done about it.

“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.

How can you dispute so if the latest study reveals that 25 percent of homeless folks in the United States are war veterans.

Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.

And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job. (link)

So this study accounts for the soldiers from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan too. May I throw an unsettling thought in your head? THE WAR IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE INDEFINITELY!

Now I can’t decide what saddens me more: war veterans unfortunate state or how we’ve neglected them after their return… and will likely continue to do so.

“When the Vietnam War ended, that was part of the problem. The war was over, it was off TV, nobody wanted to hear about it,” said John Keaveney, a Vietnam veteran and a founder of New Directions in Los Angeles.

“I think they’ll be forgotten,” Keaveney said of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. ”People get tired of it. It’s not glitzy that these are young, honorable, patriotic Americans. They’ll just be veterans, and that happens after every war.”

Homelessness is just the tip of the iceberg. Unemployment is an issue to. Jason Kelley, 23, said, “The only training I have is infantry training and there’s not really a need for that in the civilian world.”

More statistics from Pete Dougherty, director of homeless veterans programs at Veterans Affairs Department:

Overall, 45 percent of participants in the VA’s homeless programs have a diagnosable mental illness and more than three out of four have a substance abuse problem, while 35 percent have both.

There are many ways to support the troops. Putting up a bumper sticker on your car saying that you do so, is the most superficial one.

 

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)

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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At about midnight Friday, Felix Najera was sleeping on a cardboard box in front of the Iglesia Cristiana Betania Church on East 103rd Street, when one teen lit his pants on fire with a cigarette lighter, police said. Najera jumped up, “causing him to be engulfed in flames,” said Sgt. Carlos Nieves, a New York Police Department spokesman

Najera, 48, a Mexican immigrant, suffered burns over at least 40 percent and possibly as much as 75 percent of his body, including his face, chest, arms and abdomen. He was in critical condition Friday night at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, police said. (link)

A drunken homeless’ life in the New York city streets isn’t worth much to many. It’s reality. Even less if he is an Mexican immigrant. Surprisingly, upon hearing of the horrible plight of Felix Najera many residents collectively began voicing their rage.

“Whoever did this has no love for humanity,” Rev. Ariel Soto of Iglesia Cristiana Betania Church on East 103rd Street said. “The person who did this is psychologically disturbed. There is absolutely no meaning to this.”

A veteran NYPD detective who was passing out fliers with Najera’s photograph and an offer of a $2,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, shook his head and said, “I can’t remember a case like this happening here, and I’ve been here since 1994.”

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