Gustav may be Cat 5 by US Landfall

. Sunday, August 31
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Now this is good to see. New Orleans residents are obeying evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Gustav, which may strengthen to Category 5 by the time it hits 500 miles of US coast from Cameron, LA to the Alabama-Florida state line. Gustav is expected to hit Gulf coast land Monday, possibly with winds as high as 155 mph. City officials have already evacuated 30,000 elderly, disabled and poor via bus and train. "At 5:00 a.m. EDT Sunday, the U.S. hurricane center said Gustav was centered about 425 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and moving northwest near 16 mph."

President Bush, scheduled to speak on the opening night of the GOP convention, might not be there since he may be headed to the Gulf coast region instead. He has already declared states of emergency for Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. McCain and Palin will be in Jackson, Mississippi today.

On Saturday, several Central Arkansas EMS agencies lined up at Little Rock Airport to transport Gulf evacuees to area hospitals and Veteran's Administration facilities.

NY Will Make Air Car in 2010

. Saturday, August 30
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Introducing the air car. It touts 106 mpg by using a combination of compressed air and gasoline. Zero Pollution Motors of NY has obtained a license from MDI, a European company who's vice president, Shiva Vencat, is also the CEO of Zero Pollution Motors. The car will hit US markets at a sticker price below $18,000 for a six-seater that will go up to 90 mph, giving it about an 800 mile range on one 8 gallon tank of gas. The car is built of fiberglass, injected foam and an aluminum undercarriage with the parts glued together to make it as light as possible. Only prototypes of the car currently exist with higher gas mileage only a theory, though it is supposed to pass safety testing.

Self Portrait of Human Angst

. Friday, August 29
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I know that art is a subjective thing, beauty-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder and all that, but it takes an awful lot of stretching to call this sculpture of a frog holding a beer mug and an egg while nailed to a cross a piece of art. It's called "Feet First," and it will remain on display in a Bolzano, Italy museum exhibit despite the Pope's vocal displeasure, though his argument is of a more religious bent than mine. The regional government's argument contends that the sculpture is a "blasphemy and a disgusting piece of trash that upsets many people," especially the region's president that went on a hunger strike to protest the display of the sculpture. Yet the art experts and museum president decided unanimously to keep it on display anyway. Human angst is what it's causing, though why anyone would take it seriously enough to be upset by it is beyond me. German artist Martin Kippenberger's frog will land in New York City and Los Angeles soon. American's will not be denied art, even if it does belong on a bar-room wall.

A Chapter from X-Files

. Thursday, August 28
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Get this! David Duchovny has voluntarily admitted himself into rehab -- for sex addiction. He asks for respect and privacy for himself and his family during these trying times. But, no other information is forthcoming. Could it be that he dove too deeply into character on "Californication" as a 48 year old, sex-obsessed man? Who would've known that Duchovny was such a good actor? Or, was this the role that released the inner David? Either way, don't admit him into a hospital, for crying out loud. Send him around the states and let all his fans wear him out! They call it over saturation in behavior modification circles, and it is a very valid course of treatment... A-hem!

Kiron Dies at Home

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Kiron was born on Monday with one body and two complete heads by C-section in a hospital in Keshobpur, Bangladesh. Born from one embryo, Kiron was able to eat normally with both heads. A crowd of 150,000 gathered to see him, believed to be a god incarnate. Unable to afford medical care, his parents took him home instead of transferring the baby to a major hospital in Dhaka. Kiron developed breathing difficulties and a fever and died Wednesday night at home.

Shia Muslim Religion in Practice

. Wednesday, August 27
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Syed Mustafa Zaidi was found guilty of child cruelty in a British court today for forcing two boys age 13 and 15 to beat themselves with a "zanjeer zani" with 5 curved blades. The self-flagellation happened during a religious ceremony dedicated to a Shia Muslim spiritual leader.

I can't think of anything to say about this. I'm speechless. And absolutely horrified.

Coworkers Applaud as 600 Illegals Detained

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Yesterday, nearly 600 suspected illegal immigrants were rounded up in a small town in Mississippi by Homeland Security's ICE team, the largest raid of its kind. 100 of those detained at the Howard Industries plant in Laurel were released wearing an electronic tracking bracelet for humanitarian reasons , and 17 year olds were transferred to the Office of Refugee Settlement in Louisiana. Fellow workers applauded as the illegals were taken taken into custody. As it turns out, union officials tipped off Federal officials years ago about the illegal immigrants employed at Howard Industries. "Those detained were from Brazil, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Peru." By Mississippi law, a company guilty of employing illegal immigrants lose public contracts for three years and the right to do business in the state. As of yet, no company execs have been detained.

Inbox: "Service"

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I became confused when I heard these terms with reference to the word "service:"

Internal Revenue Service
US Postal Service
Telephone Service
Cable Service
Civil Service
State, City and County Public Service
Customer Service

This is not what I thought "service" meant. But, today, I overheard two farmers talking, and one of them said he had hired a bull to "service" a few cows, then...BAM!  It all came into focus.  Now I understand what all those "service" agencies are doing to us.

I hope you are as enlightened as I am.

Obese in Alabama? You'll Pay

. Tuesday, August 26
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In January, 2009, Alabama state employees will be screened for BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose levels in an effort to control health insurance claim costs. If an employee is determined to be fat, he will have a year to lose weight or pay an additional $25 a month for health insurance. Alabama currently ranks as the second most obese state in the US. Opponents of the penalty say that many people are unsympathetic to overweight people and use it as an excuse to exclude them from the health insurance pool. Imposing the "fat tax" will cause greater financial stress and lead to buying cheaper, calorie-dense foods that will only exacerbate the problem. In a state that deep-fries everything, healthy food choices may not be all that easy to find. While incentives to lose weight are welcomed, penalizing people for being overweight is not widely accepted.

This Winter: Warm and Cold

. Monday, August 25
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It looks like it is going to be a bit difficult to plan ahead for the coming winter this year.  Why?  The two trusted resources for weather prediction, the Farmer's Almanac and the National Weather Service, disagree.  The Almanac's 2009 edition goes on sale this week, and it predicts that two thirds of the country can expect a below average, cold and snowy winter.  Looking ahead, the summer will bring higher than average temperatures. Based on trends, the NWS predicts a warmer than average winter across the board, even in Alaska.  No mention of what summer will bring though.  The Farmer's Almanac has proven to be about 85% accurate in its predictions, and the NWS...?  So, there's not much to work from.  Be prepared for the worst, and be pleasantly surprised if it turns out to be a warm winter, I guess.

Meet a Killer

. Sunday, August 24
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While waiting for pharmaceutical companies to embrace and run with nanotechnology that will do the trick, scientists have been refining antibody engineering.  These antibody cells recognize and attack cancer cells in the body by delivering a payload of powerful poison. The scientists first loaded the antibody cells with poison, and that caused problems with the liver and kidneys.  They found that, by limiting the amount of poison per antibody cell, the side effects were minimal, yet the cancers were demolished.  Now that is good news.

Obama's Brother George, McCain's Scare

. Saturday, August 23
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What a soap opera. Now that Obama 'officially' announced his VP choice, albeit 12 hours or so after it was leaked by an 'unnamed official,' the news has latched onto yet another piece of gossip and has proven it true.  Meet George Obama, Barak's half-brother, who lives in a  Nairobi slum and earns one dollar a day. Barak's book, "Dreams for my Father," is popular in Narobi, and George finds his brother an inspiration: "Because he wants to be [president]," he said. "I think in life, what you want is what you are supposed to get." (Well hell, if it's that easy, then I want to be president. Who knows; I might even be good at it.) Two months left before the circus ends, and that is more than enough time for more gossip to surface.

In other news, an Arapahoe County, Colorado inmate, Marc Harold Ramsey, sent John McCain's Denver campaign office a threatening letter that said, "Senator McCain, If you are reading this then you are already DEAD! Unless of course you can't or don't breathe." The envelope included a white, powdery substance that turned out to be harmless. Still awaiting his court date for charges of menacing, assault, contempt and fugitive from justice, Ramsey now faces 5 years in a federal prison and a $250,000 fine. This just added another ring to the circus.

Anonymous Official Leaks Obama VP Choice

. Friday, August 22
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I don't get it.  The headline says, "Official: Obama Picks Biden for Veep," then goes on to say that this 'official' wants to remain anonymous because Obama wants to release his choice via text message Saturday morning. Add to this obvious publicity stunt is the nickname "Veepstakes" for this portion of the electoral process.  In listing Joe Biden's accomplishments, assumingly in order of importance, he is 65, Catholic, has blue collar roots, and is a long-winded orator.  Oh, and by the way, he served as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and the Judiciary Committee. Meanwhile, the convention will hold both Democratic contender's names with a roll call vote.  Seems to me like everything could change, both the spilled beans on the VP choice and even the nomination itself.  It wouldn't surprise me. No one ever says the same thing twice.

eyebald has a new look

. Thursday, August 21
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I've just finished switching the template for eyebald. What a task! (I probably won't be doing it again any time soon. Whew!) The content is the same, but there are a few things in new places.

  • The comments count is now at the top of each article, and you can click on the article headline to read and leave your comment.
  • To subscribe to the eyebald feed in your favorite reader, click on "RSS" in the menu bar along the top of the page, and along the bottom.
  • There is a link at the bottom of the page to zoom you right back up to the top again.
  • There are links at the end of every post that allow you to Digg, Stumble, Technorati and Delicious.
Let me know what you think of the new layout, and please please please let me know if something isn't right.  Enjoy!

Fay Set for Strike Three

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While downgraded to a tropical storm, ol' Fay is still hanging around just offshore this morning, but is expected to return to land for the third time. Florida is now a flooded, soggy mess with Govenor Crist requesting federal disaster status and help from FEMA. Alligators and snakes have appeared in unusual places, washed out of their normal homes.  The storm is currently stalled just southeast of Daytona Beach and is expected to slowly move northwest later today with 60mph winds, and bringing the total to 30 inches of rain fallen. Residents in the northern area of the state are advised to stock up on at least three days of food and drinking water. Keep your chins up.

McCain in the Lead

. Wednesday, August 20
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A surprise in this morning's news. John McCain now has a 5-point lead over Barak Obama with his economic policies as the reason for the sudden shift in poll results. The Rueters/Zogby poll results released today shows McCain leading with 46 percent of the likely votes compared to Obama's 41 percent.

With the economy as the most important issue in voters' minds, McCain seems to have a stronger grasp, due to his push for increased off-shore drilling. Obama once said he opposed the expansion of off-shore drilling but now supports it as part of a total economic package. This flip-flopping has hurt him with liberal voters, and support within his own party slipped 9 points. Overall, his drop in popularity is across the board, with no particular voter group showing wild swings.

It's a Rubber Suit After All

. Tuesday, August 19
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Get this. It's no surprise, none at all. A disappointment maybe, but no surprise. Remember the found Bigfoot? It's a hoax. Boo.

Matt Whitton, the police officer on medical leave and who lost his job over this fraud, and his cohort Rick Dyer are nowhere to be found now. The two ingeniously froze the body of what they claimed was a Bigfoot in a huge block of ice and then sold it during the latest media craze to researchers for an undisclosed amount. As the ice slowly melted, the scientists found empty, rubber toes and a hollow head, and hair that balled up like plastic when heated. Are you surprised?

Good game, guys. Enjoy the rest of your lives on that tropical island.

The Impact of a Four-Day School Week

. Sunday, August 17
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Days are getting shorter, nights a little cooler, and fall is approaching.  We'll be back to the morning rush to get everyone ready and out the door, kids will be waiting at bus stops and the all too familiar arguments about whether homework is done every evening will resume. While parents and kids may greet this time of year with excitement and relief, there may be some changes to this school year that will substantially add to parents' already stressed budgets.

According to an article in Time this morning, one out of seven schools are seriously considering a four day school week with Mondays off. While school districts struggle with the high cost of diesel fuel, the budget-cutting options are few and, in one way or another, detrimental to the quality of education children receive.

Where schools can cut back is on field trips, extracurricular activities that require busing, they can lay teachers off, close schools entirely, or shrink bus routes and cancel busing service entirely. The four day school week seems to be the lesser of the evils to many school boards. The school day will be extended an hour and breaks shortened so that students spend the same amount of time in the classroom.

Though the four-day schedule would be a substantial savings in fuel, payroll, insurance and building utilities, there have been no formal studies on the impact a condensed schedule would have on student performance. A few districts in rural areas of states such as Kentucky, Louisiana and South Dakota that have already changed to the shortened school week reported a decrease in absenteeism in both students and teachers and some academic gains if the school then invests freed monies in instructional content and tutors.

What may be a solution for today may have long-term, very detrimental effects on education. Time spent in school is a known, positive and extensively studied factor in academic performance. The US has a shorter academic year than all other industrialized nations, and the result is correspondingly lower achievement rates in math and language skills. "All the evidence says the more hours our schools are open, the better off our kids are... Cutting days puts our country's economic future at risk."

The four-day school week will shift the economic hardship from schools directly to parents. Briefly acknowledged in the Time article, the impact of the shortened school schedule will cause a major burden for households already stretched to the breaking point by high food, gas and utility costs. Younger children will need additional childcare, which is already expensive, on top of the additional gas it will take to drive them to childcare. With children home another day, grocery lists will grow, taking another chunk out of the family budget. Add this to the cost of buying school supplies and new clothes, and it could sink families already struggling with the escalating cost of living. And with colder weather on the way, this is not a good time to add even more strife to an already stressed and difficult financial situation.

Ideally, kids could use the extra day off to work on school projects and homework. But, is it fair to make children responsible for their own education? How likely is it that an exhausted teenager will use the extra day off productively? Left unsupervised, how many kids will get into trouble? How is it an option to shift schools' financial woes to families and children -- and, our country's future?

Bigfoot and Mind Reading and Soldiers

. Saturday, August 16
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I really should drink more coffee before attempting to read the morning news...

Back in early June, two hikers, one a police officer on leave, discovered this body of a 500 pound, 7-foot-7-inch, half-man, half-ape creature. Armed with their video camera, they taped three other such creatures shadowing them along a wooded trail in North Georgia woods. Scientists say it's unlikely that a tribe of these creatures would go unnoticed in such a popular hiking area of the state, so the men handed the body over to Tom Biscardi, a "real" bigfoot hunter who knowingly promoted a false claim of a bigfoot discovery in 1995. Matt Whitton and Rick Dyer insist their claim is not a hoax, even though they put together a video and posted it to YouTube that said, ""It seems that the stalkers have busted us in a hoax,...but we still have a corpse. We just wanted to give you something to do for the weekend."  Quite the publicity stunt to run in the national headlines for two days and counting.

The US Military is now funding research into mind reading in the hopes to be able to hear the thoughts of soldiers that suffered brain injury, and, by the way, it would even work with stroke victims.  Instead of Mr. Spock's five-fingered mind-meld, they place EEG electrodes to the scalp, then ask the participant to think of a particular word. A computer catalogs the brain waves associated with the word so that thought recognition software can then translate and speak it out loud.  Forget that this could be used in interrogation.  I say every parent of a teenager needs one of these! Unfortunately, scientists say, "This will never be used in a way without somebody's real, active cooperation." Darn.

Take a moment this weekend to remember our soldiers in Iraq and their families waiting for their return.  This is a homecoming photo of  an Air Force Senior Airman when he arrives home after a six-month deployment in Iraq. While the air force deploys in 4-6 month rotations, the Army and Army Reserves deploy for 12-15 months at a time. Imagine the incredible sacrifice of our service members.

Norwegian Penguin Knighted to King's Guard

. Friday, August 15
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Meet Nils Olav, Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian King's Guard, inspecting his troops. His elite unit is assigned to protect the royal family, and he takes his role seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he was awarded medals for good conduct and long service, and today he was knighted. He is now addressed as "sir."

Celebrities Spy for OSS

. Thursday, August 14
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Get this.  The National Archives has released 35,000 top secret files of the WWII era Office of Strategic Services, including personell files of people who were spies during that time in history.  One of the names is Julia Child, the famous chef.  Others include Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, John Hemingway, Kermit Roosevelt, and Sterling Hayden.  President Truman disbanded the OSS and folded it into the CIA in 1945.  It seems that everyone was told to keep quiet about their activities with the short-lived agency, and are now relieved that they are finally able to talk about it.

In other news, the Census Bureau predicts that whites will be a minority with Hispanics the majority in the US by 2045, based on the current rates of births, deaths and immigration.  In the meantime, our population is exploding.  There are currently 305 million people in the US today, and that number is expected to increase to 400 million by 2039.  Of course, things could change.

Do you remember this face?  Ah, JR Ewing, the most loved-to-hate charcter of the 1978 - 91 TV series "Dallas," is in the news today among all the other headlines to announce the show's 30th reunion on August 22.  Meet Larry Hagman, Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy, tour the Southfork mansion, and enjoy country music and fireworks. The three actors will be available for a question and answer session, if the aged actors can stay awake.  If you want to attend, tickets cost $100 - 1,000.  Better hurry; that's next week already.

Tragedy in Little Rock: Gwatney Gunned Down

. Wednesday, August 13
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Today's THV reports that Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gwatney was gunned down in his party headquarters office this afternoon and died at 3:59 p.m. The as yet unidentified gunman entered the office saying that he wanted to volunteer, then walked into Gwatney's office and shot him three times. The gunman then stole a truck and led police on a high speed chase that ended 50 miles away. He was shot and killed after opening fire on the police.

The Gwatney name is well known here in Arkansas, and Bill's tireless service to the state will be greatly missed. He owned three car dealerships, and served 10 years in the State Senate as well as being the state's Democratic Party chairman. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

Spain's Olympic Team are Racists?

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Get this. This is a photo of Spain's Olympic basketball team taken July 1 as an ad for a Spanish courier company called Seur. The photo shows the team members pulling their eyes into slants, much like every child does to mimic the way Asian eyes appear to non Asian children. Why Seur requested this particular antic from adults as notable as an Olympic basketball team or even how this photo could promote a courier service is beyond me. A British news agency picked up the photo four days into the Olympics straight from the Internet, and of course it is raising quite a bit of racial uproar around the world. The team pictured has no idea what the fuss is all about since the prank was supposed to be all in good fun. Well, the fun may have cost Spain the role of host of the 2016 Olympics since they are so behind the times in political correctness. Bah.

Inbox: You Want Me to Do What?

. Tuesday, August 12
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Most US and Foreign Companies Don't Pay Taxes

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Get this. Between 1998 and 2005, two-thirds of US and foreign owned corporations doing business in the US paid no federal income taxes, said a new report from Congress. The Government Accountability Office study shows corporations reported trillions in sales yet paid nothing to support our country. About 25% of these corporations were considered large corporations with at least $50 million in receipts.  The GAO study did not report how these corporations avoided paying taxes, but there now is a call for them to "pay their fair share" from two Democratic senators.

If you ask me, this is something that should have been brought to the public eye a long time ago. The government exists to protect Big Business, yet they pay nothing for it. It's more than time to return the government to one that is "for the people, by the people."

Reality Closer to Fantasy With Invisibility Cloak

. Monday, August 11
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The good news is...

Making fantasy a reality is now closer as scientists are making headway on creating a material that will render people and objects invisible. This artificially engineered metamaterial bends and redirects light and how it is reflected back to the eye "like water flowing around a smooth rock in a stream." The material is a mxiture of metal, Teflon and fiber that bends light enough so that three dimensional objects don't create reflections or shadows.

Bernie Mac, Play On

. Saturday, August 9
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Bernie Mac, actor and commedian, died this morning from pneumonia.  Known for his uplifting  The Bernie Mac Show and as part of the Ocean's 11 team, Mac was chastised by the Democratic Party when he spoke at a fundraiser for Obama in July and joked about menopause, sexual infidelity and promiscuity. (If the shoe fits...)

He suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease, but the pneumonia was unrelated to this condition.  Mac was born in 1957 and raised in Chicago.

"Wherever I am, I have to play, I have to put on a good show."

Obama as Antichrist Hits Mainstream Media

. Friday, August 8
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It has happened. The common held opinion among Obama opposition has hit mainstream media today with an extensive article in Time called "An Antichrist Obama in McCain Ad." The McCain camp has released an ad called "The One" in which several references to prophetic books and beliefs support the Obama-as-Antichrist sentiment. As Hal Lindsey said, "Obama is correct in saying that the world is ready for someone like him - a messiah-like figure, charismatic and glib...The Bible calls that leader the Antichrist. And it seems apparent that the world is now ready to make his acquaintance."

If it is said often enough and long enough, it will become the accepted truth. I just wonder if three months is enough time to break through Obama's blind and feverish popularity to get down to the issues that need to be publicized instead of this crap. (And by the way, I've been heard calling him an antichrist myself.)

Inbox: 2nd Ammendment

. Wednesday, August 6
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No Market For Male Contraceptives?

. Tuesday, August 5
7 comments

Get this. Major pharmaceutical companies have decided that there isn't enough of a market to put money into research and development of male contraceptives. One German company dropped its projects, and all the rest followed, many close to success and completion. It seems as though there is a large chasm between what drug companies research and develop and what is medically needed. In a survey of 9,000 men between the ages of 18 and 50, only 55% said that they would be interested in new male contraceptives, but the survey didn't question how many men would actually use it if it were available. So, it seems as though women remain the responsible ones for the tango that takes two.

Child Left at Airport, Parents Fly to Paris Unaware

. Monday, August 4
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Get this. A family of 7 is late to catch a flight out of an Israeli airport (pictured above). They rush around, get all their duty-free shopping items checked safely along with their 18 pieces of luggage, then board the plane. They are in the air 40 minutes (that's forty minutes!) yet still didn't know their three year old daughter was missing, left at the airport to wander, until a flight attendant told them their child was found. The child follows - in the company of another flight attendant - on the next flight to Paris where the family is vacationing. We wouldn't want to disrupt a vacation over a silly thing like probable child neglect, now would we? Police will look into it when they return. Bah.

Arkansas Child Protective System Under Scrutiny

. Saturday, August 2
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  • In the last two months, four children have died while in Arkansas foster care, and two of the cases are being investigated for abuse.
  • So far this year, 11 children have died within 12 months of an abuse report to DHS, with abuse as the cause of death. These children were not in foster care.
  • The state of Arkansas is rated 45th for child protection because the mortality rate is above the national average.
The article on a local TV station's Web site, Dying in Arkansas Foster Care, includes several reader comments that add dimension to the horror vs. help aspects of child protective efforts.

There were roughly 9,000 children living in Arkansas foster care in 2006. There have been reports of rape, extreme physical abuse and starvation. Some foster children live four to a room, face padlocked refrigerators, prison-like rules and are not allowed to interact with the family. As horrifying as this is, it is not the full story...

What I learned as a caseworker.

Did you ever wonder why you never hear about the success stories of saving children from harm? How is it that thousands of children removed from abusive and neglectful parents to go on to lead happy and healthy lives are never story headlines?

Part of it, of course, is that horrible news sells newspapers. But the majority of the reason is that laws protect minors under the auspices of Family Law by keeping their information confidential and out of the public eye. This protection is an absolute necessity that prevents further victimization and stigma.

The protected and confidential nature of a child's life is damning since it keeps intact those walls and closed doors that so much horror happens behind.

Because so much of what happens occurs out of sight of the public eye, much more of the atrocities happen than is widely known while very little funding is funneled to services to protect children as a result. In Arkansas, child protective caseworkers' starting pay is, on average, $26,000 - 28,000 per year. People who become and stay caseworkers are there to make a difference for as long as they can tolerate the unbearable caseloads, extreme stress and low pay. Arkansas is 88% staffed, yet under a hiring freeze. It is highly doubtful that the situation is any different in most states across the US. Unless it is part of some politician's campaign strategy, very little light falls on child welfare.

The other side of the coin is society's definition of what is and is not child abuse and neglect. A child with an iPhone, Wii, designer clothes, computer and personal credit card may seem like the current standard of satisfactory care, this is obviously not reality. You may run into a mother with a baby in a soiled diaper in a store and immediately think that the mother is neglectful for not changing that diaper, even without knowing just when that baby pooped in its pants. A family may live in the country and allow their children to play outside for most of the day, holding to the tenet that a kid who isn't dirty didn't have fun, while a city-living family may send their child to the shower if its hands look dirty. Some parents spank, and others look at spanking as if it were capital punishment.

Child protective laws, therefore, are based on the lowest socially acceptable standard of care.

While you may think that a house with dust on the bookshelves, clutter on the counters and fingerprints on the windows is unfit for habitation, a caseworker can only remove a child from a home if the child is in imminent physical danger. If there are holes in the floor, exposed electrical wiring, sharp objects (knives, broken glass) and rotting food and animal feces on the floor, then a caseworker can remove a crawling baby from a home. If the child is, say between the ages of 3 and 5, the caseworker may be required to give the family time to clean up before the child is remanded.

Even if a caseworker knows without a shadow of doubt that a parent is drunk or under the influence of drugs, there is nothing that can be done unless that caseworker witnesses the parent taking or smoking a drug or putting a child into a car and getting behind the wheel with an open can of beer in hand.

The majority of a caseworker's job is to make home visits. Trust me when I tell you that any social services person knocking on a door is at risk of bodily harm, and they make home visits alone. Very few people that come in contact with a caseworker open the door with a smile on their face.

It is my understanding that a caseworker must have contact with clients at least once every 30 days, even with children in foster homes or other alternative placements. Required or not, I don't see how that would be humanly possible with 350-500 average open cases at all times, especially in as rural a state as Arkansas is. Many caseworkers go into the job unprepared for what they will face on a daily basis and burn out quickly. They do their best to make a difference while all the time running into brick walls as to what they are allowed to do.

Education is key, or 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.'

I've said this thousands of times until I'm blue in the face. It takes education to prevent teen pregnancy, to learn parenting skills, to support the family and money to train caseworkers, teachers and those in the medical professions to educate as well. Kids aren't born with an instruction manual in hand.

I learned a very valuable lesson while doing an internship. I went with a caseworker on a home visit. What I saw when the client opened the door was so much dirt on the floor it hid the carpet, dirty dishes and clothes everywhere, garbage, and a very dirty child dressed only in an extremely dirty cloth diaper in the dead of winter. The caseworker said to me, "What do you expect? The only way that mother has to learn about child care and maintaining a household is watching soap operas on TV. How many times have you seen a soap opera character clean house or change a diaper?"

Take home message.

I've only scratched the surface of this issue. My point is that it is necessary to get far more of the facts than this sensationalist news story presented before you draw any conclusions. Most importantly, just because child welfare isn't in the news doesn't mean that everything is in fine working condition. That so many children have died is proof that everything is not OK.