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A thieving church and amnesty that amounts to impunity

“Son, I am sorry that I had to wait until the hour of my death to tell you the truth, I wish I had had the courage to reveal it to you earlier. I am not your biological father! I bought you from hospital X when you were Y days old!”

Imagine being told that by the man you have known all your life as your dad. It would be heartbreaking, to say the least. This is exactly the situation that two men in their forties, Juan Luis Moreno and Antonio Barroso, found themselves confronting earlier this year in Spain as recounted by this BBC article. All their lives, they had lived a lie; believing that the parents they lived with were their biological parents.

Their situation is not unique in Spain. After their story went public, many mothers came out to tell stories of their missing babies too. All these incidents trace their origins to the dictatorial era of Francisco Franco (1936-1975). After the Spanish civil war, Franco’s side took babies from women it believed to be unworthy parents because they had supported the Republican side during the war. However, over the years, this practice was turned into a money-making enterprise as babies were taken at birth from their parents and sold to couples wishing to adopt them. Continue reading “A thieving church and amnesty that amounts to impunity”

Church or Jail?

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Bay Minette, a city in my home state Alabama (woot!), recently launched “Operation Restore Our Community.” It sounds super legitimate, but I can’t say that I am too proud of it. Essentially, Bay Minette is now offering some offenders the choice between “Jesus time” and “jail time.” The ones who choose church over jail will have to check in with a local church of their choosing every Sunday for a year. This Operation aims to provide a more long-term solution to some offenses and is projected to save $75 a day per inmate. Only churches are participating in the Operation because there are no synagogues/mosques/temples in the region.

And it is also being sued by the ACLU on the claims that the city government is forcing religious participation (surprise!?!?).

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The Death of a Hamster

ChadDDHamsterLast year at June, an angry 19 year old teenager choked and threw a hamster out of the house and killed it instantly, and about three weeks ago, she was arrested and charged with aggravated cruelty to animals and faced up to two years in prison. I was pretty horrified when I first heard of this, and judging from some of the comments I’ve read from various blogs, the public seems indignant at what she has done.

There is probably not much debate on whether her action was humane or not, what I think really is worth talking about is Mark Bittman’s response in the New York Times. Bittman argues that we torture animals everyday in meat factories and we make it okay because we eat the animals (warning: he included some really graphic videos). The fact that a teenager is charged with a federal felony for killing a hamster while industries get away with grinding up 200 million chicks alive in a year is something that really troubles me.

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Rules are Made to be…Flexible?

We are all told from a young age that we need to follow certain rules to be successful, or to keep order. Certainly, everyone but perhaps the most die-hard of anarchists among us agrees that rules are an important part of our society. What exactly these rules should do or regulate, is a topic of considerable more controversy, but not one I want to discuss today.

Instead, I want to talk about the unnecessary rigidity with which we enforce rules today. Instead of making rules a flexible code by which to properly keep order and respect in society, we have, in many cases, allowed rules to become elevated to sacrosanct status. Instead of looking at the pros and cons of enforcing a rule in any given situation, we repeat the mantra that “rules are rules” and the punishment must be enforced no matter the situation.

One of the best speakers I have seen on this subject is Barry Schwartz, who within this excellent TED talk (it’s long, but worth it) tells the story of a professor who accidentally gave his young son a “Mike’s Hard Lemonade” and nearly ended up losing custody of him.

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Don’t Drink and… Ride?

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Everyone knows drinking alcohol and driving vehicles don’t make a good match. But what about handling other means of transportation while under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Recently, a public safety ad in Montana which broadcasts catching a ride home with a horse as a metaphor for finding a safe ride home is now actually calling into question whether riding your horse home while intoxicated is illegal.

According to Montana law, horseback riding while drunk is, in fact, legal, as an animal is not lawfully defined as a vehicle (this isn’t the case in Colorado). So should Duke consider installing a safe-ride horse service to take students between East and West campus post-Wednesday-night Shooters (it may get you home faster than waiting for that C-2)? Not quite.

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Jail Cell Too Small or Prisoner Too Big?

Ever since the war on terrorism, torture has been a heatedly debated topic in this country. However, a story in The Netherlands provides a unique twist to this conversation.
A Dutch prisoner recently sued the government for “torture” because his jail cell is too small; or rather he is too big. The court ruled against Angelo MacD, who weighs 230 kg (approximately 506 pounds) and is 6 feet and 9 inches tall. In fact, MacD does not seem to be exceptionally obese, but rather just tall, big, and heavy. The court affirmed that the prisoner’s conditions are not inhumane.
His lawyer argued that this violates the conditions of detention outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights. I do not think that this case can be compared to “torture” and I do not think that the prison system is deliberately designed to cause pain to people of a big stature, like MacD.
So how bad could his conditions be?

Continue reading “Jail Cell Too Small or Prisoner Too Big?”