Archive for the month “Ιουνίου, 2014”

Saddest Support Group: Parents Who Left Infants to Die in Hot Cars

Jun 24, 2014
It’s been seven years since Lyn Balfour realized she left her 9-month old son in the car while she was at work, mistakenly thinking her precious baby boy with was the babysitter. The boy overheated in the backseat of the sweltering car and died.
Balfour, an analyst for the U.S. military, realized her mistake too late. Now she’s devoted her life to helping other parents who have lost a child by accidentally leaving a baby in the car, and fighting to change auto laws for better safety features.
«I’m honest with them,» Balfour, 42, told ABC News. «It’s one thing when you lose a child. It’s completely different when you lose a child and it’s your fault. The pain does not go away. It’s something you learn to live with.»
Every summer, stories like Balfour’s emerge. This week a Georgia dad was charged with felony murder after leaving his 22-month old son in a mini-SUV on a day when the temperature reached 92 degrees by noon. Every year in the U.S., an average of 38 children die after being left in a hot car, according to the nonprofit Kids and Cars.
Balfour, from Earlysville, Va., works with the organization to reach out to parents who have accidentally left their children in cars. Some face murder charges and criminal trials, while others got lucky and realized their error before the unthinkable happened. Since 2007, when her son Bryce died, Balfour has talked to about 15 to 20 parents who have gone through similar experiences, she said.
«I always tell them, you’re not a bad parent,» Balfour said. «No one is going to judge you more than you do yourself.  I know that I did not leave my son in the car intentionally when I left that day. People tell me I need to forgive myself — I don’t feel like I have anything to forgive. I made a mistake and it cost me my son’s life. But I certainly didn’t leave him in the car to go bowling or to get my nails done.»
Janette Fennell, the founder of Kids and Cars, says parents like Balfour are uniquely suited to help other parents who have lost a child to hyperthermia after leaving him or her in the car.
«No one understands what you’re going through except someone who has gone through this,» Fennell told ABC News. «They don’t understand how it could happen. We try to give them as much info as possible about how their brains work, some of the science behind it. At least a portion of why this is happening is because the kids are out of sight and out of mind. They’re in a rear-facing car seat. Most of them are under one. Parents that first year are so sleep-deprived. Add all these things together and it really is a recipe for disaster.»
She and Balfour are fighting to get auto companies to consider a feature to help exhausted parents to remember to check the back seat, perhaps motion or weight sensors, she said.
«The auto industry already knows we’re human,» Fennell said. «If you don’t put your seatbelt on, you get a beep. If your key is in the ignition, you get a light.  Today you can’t even buy a car that doesn’t turn your headlights off or warns you that they’re still on. It just begs the question, who decided that it’s more important to not have a dead car battery than a dead baby?»
Kids and Cars sometimes sends care packages to parents whose children have died after being left in a hot car. They contain letters from parents who have suffered the same experience, legal information, statistics and phone numbers for support.
Balfour takes it a step further, sometimes visiting parents at court if they’re facing a criminal trial. She urges those parents to get involved with Kids and Cars.
«You can heal better and feel like there is a sense of purpose in the loss of your child if you get involved and help educate other parents,» Balfour said.
It’s turned into a sort of support group, which is ideal when typical support groups for grieving parents won’t work.»How do you walk into one of those groups and say, I want you to feel sorry for me? My son didn’t die in a car accident, he didn’t die of cancer, he died because I accidentally left him in a car,» Balfour said.
Since she started speaking up about Bryce’s death, parents she barely knows have been open about revealing their secrets — quick to share the time they accidentally drove away with their son in a carrier on the roof of their car, or the time a busy mom left her kid in the car while she was at work, but kept having a nagging suspicion that something was wrong.
They are secrets the parents hadn’t told anyone before Balfour.
«Has anyone ever walked up to you and said, ‘Oh my God, I just left my kid in the car for an hour and a half’? No! Because they think you’re going to call child protective services. There’s this fear,» Balfour said.
More parents than most people realize have experienced the fear of leaving their children alone in a hot car, Balfour said. Instead of stigmatizing parents who have made a fatal mistake, the go
al should be to educate other parents on how to keep their kids safe.
«The worst thing people can do is think it can’t happen to them,» Fennell said.


What wealth gap? Danish welfare narrows disparity

This is what it’s like to live in Denmark, a nation with a narrower wealth gap than almost anywhere else: You’ve been jobless for more than a year. You have no university degree, no advanced skills. You have to pay a mortgage. And your husband is nearing retirement. You aren’t worried.
If you’re 51-year-old Lotte Geleff, who lost her job as an office clerk in January 2013, you know you’ll receive an unemployment benefit of 10,500 kroner ($1,902) a month after taxes for up to two years. You’re part of a national system of free health care and education for everyone, job training, subsidized child care, a generous pension system and fuel subsidies and rent allowances for the elderly.
And high taxes.
Denmark’s sturdy social safety net helps explain why its wealth gap — the disparity between the richest citizens and everyone else — is second-smallest among the world’s 34 most developed economies, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, surpassed only by the much smaller economy of Slovenia.
Behind its slender wealth gap are factors ranging from the highest tax burden in the European Union to a system that helps laid-off workers find new jobs and re-training.
They are factors that depend on a level of government involvement — financial and otherwise — that would be politically unacceptable in some areas of the world.
Cause and effect would be impossible to prove, but Danes appear more content than people in most other industrialized nations. Eighty-nine percent of Danes reported having more positive experiences in an average day than negative ones, according to the OECD — the highest figure among the organization’s 34 countries.
«We don’t have steaks on the table every night, but we’re OK,» says Geleff, who has a house near the city of Roskilde.
While the gap between the wealthy and everyone else is widening in much of the industrialized world, a large chunk of Danes remain firmly middle class.  Forty-two percent of the working population of 4.6 million have annual disposable incomes between 200,000 and 400,000 kroner ($36,700-$73,300). Just 2.6 percent earn more than 500,000 kroner a year ($91,383).
According to the OECD, the top 20 percent of Danes earn on average four times as much as the bottom 20 percent. In the United States, by contrast, the top 20 percent earn about eight times as much as the bottom 20 percent.
The idea of a generous government-provided cushion for ordinary people is deeply rooted in a nation with few outward signs of a pampered elite.
Members of the royal family often bike to drop off their children at a public daycare center. Last winter, Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt was seen shoveling snow outside her home in Copenhagen.
With a solid safety net in place, the government has persuaded unions to accept a flexible labor market. Under a model known as «Flexicurity,» companies can quickly lay off staffers during downturns. Laid-off workers, in turn, receive training and guidance in pursuing new careers.
Such training is part of Denmark’s approach to education, which is free for everyone of all ages in this country of 5.6 million. Students of any age over 18 who live on their own can receive a stipend of 5,839 kroner ($1,028) a month. Those living with their parents can receive about half that.
So widespread is education that one byproduct has been something unfamiliar elsewhere: A shortage of unskilled labor. Denmark has no mandated minimum wage. But unions and employers’ organizations have agreed on a minimum of 111 kroner ($20.30) an hour.
Torben Andersen, an economics professor at Aarhus University, sees political unity as a factor in Denmark’s narrow wealth gap.
«There are not the same strong conflicts and very strong parties and views like you will see, for instance, in U.S. politics,» he said.
Some issues do tend to fan tensions in Denmark. One is immigration. With net immigration of about 2.25 people per 1,000 citizens, Denmark welcomes nearly as many as the United States. Many come from war-torn Middle East countries with few qualifications. Some of them struggle to find jobs, leaving some Danes to complain about immigrants benefiting from the welfare system without contributing to it.
Such anxieties have lent support to the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party. Its influence has led to a tightening of immigration laws. It’s become harder for foreigners to obtain residence permits and for refugees in Denmark to bring relatives into the country.
Despite the heavy tax burden, public support for the social security system remains high. In a Gallup poll published this month, 38 percent of people who were asked whether they were happy to pay their taxes said they «fully» agreed.  Fifty percent «partly» agreed. A poll last year showed that 66 percent opposed cuts to the welfare system.
Kay Xander Mellish, a Wisconsin native who’s lived in Denmark for 13 years, says one reason Denmark’s system enjoys public support is that pretty much everyone, regardless of income, shares in its benefits.
«If you are a high earner in the U.S., you can pay a lot for social services that you will never use, and I can see why that upsets people,» says Mellish, who’s enjoyed a year’s paid maternity leave and subsidized daycare. «At least when I pay for social services, I can see what I get back.»
In Copenhagen, teacher Per Broenholt ticked off the government benefits he values. A father of two, he has six weeks’ vacation a year, which he uses to visit a summer home or foreign destinations such as Thailand or Turkey. He cycles to work and uses the family car mainly to drive to the grocery store on weekends.Still, he acknowledges, taxes are a burden.  Income tax rates in Denmark range from 30 percent to 51.5 percent. There’s little incentive to work toward a promotion, Broenholt says, because «the taxman would take half» the additional money earned. And gas is expensive, at around 12 kroner ($2.18) for a liter (0.3 gallon), a result of environmental taxes.
Advocates of low taxes, in the United States and elsewhere, have long argued that high taxes act as a drag on economies, stifling investment, hiring and spending. As with many countries with high taxes, Denmark’s long-term growth has trailed the pace of expansion in the United States and some other major economies.
Among Danes, though, distaste for ostentatious wealth tends to outweigh dissatisfaction with taxes.
«Elite is a dirty word here,» Mellish said.  «The whole idea of ambition is embarrassing in Denmark. It’s like being gay in the 1960’s: Everybody knows it exists, but no one talks about it.»
Wealthy Danes make up a lower proportion than in many other countries. About 0.3 percent of Danes earn more than $370,000 a year. In the United States, a full 1 percent had income over $394,000 in 2012, according to Internal Revenue Service data.
As the cost of their social welfare systems has grown, Denmark and other Nordic nations have embraced work incentives — a trend that’s led to a slight widening in income disparities.  Sweden has gradually cut income taxes for the employed by up to $330 a month. Denmark has pushed to lower the maximum period for full unemployment benefits from four years to two.
Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt said she’s committed to helping businesses stay competitive.»We need to continue to take decisions to ensure that our model is sustainable and preserves prosperity,» she said in an email to The Associated Press.In the end, there’s an economic trade-off, says Danske Bank’s chief economist, Steen Bocian.»You could probably have higher growth in Denmark, allowing for more income inequality,» he said. «But it’s a political question whether you would pursue that.»

Τα Υπ’ ‘Οψιν της 22 ΙΟυνίου 2014

Στα Υπ΄’Οψιν της 22 Ιουνίου 2014, μεταξύ άλλων, συζητάμε:

-Ιράκ: Οι αντάρτες προελαύνουν πολεμώντας εαυτούς και αλλήλους ενώ ο Αλ-Σάντρ καραδοκεί.

-Αίγυπτος: Ξαφνικά το Κάϊρο απαραίτητο στο χτίσιμο του σουνιτικού τείχους: συμπαράσταση και παρατηρήσεις από ΗΠΑ και Σ.Αραβία

-Τουρκία: Η τρίτη προεδρική υποψηφιότητα που ευνοεί Γκιούλ αντί Ερντογάν: το κοινοβούλιο πολεμά τον αυταρχισμό

-Αφγανιστάν: Διαλέγοντας τον διαιτητή των αποτελεσμάτων: το δημοκρατικό πείραμα αγωνίζεται να πετύχει.

-ΗΠΑ, ρεπουμπλικανοί: Τα καλά αποτελέσματα των ενδιάμεσων εκλογών κίνδυνος για τις προεδρικές

-Ελλάδα: Τα προαπαιτούμενα της τρόϊκα και οι νέες ασταθείς ισορροπίες των κομμάτων

-Νάϊτζελ Φάρατζ: Το «φλουρί κωνσταντινάτο» της Λε Πέν βοηθά τον Φάρατζ να κάνει ομάδα στο ευρωκοινοβούλιο.

-Ουκρανία: Η ανακωχή δεν πείθει, τα ρωσικά γυμνάσια ίσως.

Και στο Μαγκαζίνο των Υπ΄Όψιν:

-Γιατί το Μουντιάλ βλάπτει σοβαρά την υγεία, τα ήθη και το …πορτοφόλι.

-Μεσανατολικές νοοτροπίες και ιδιοτροπίες: όχι στα καθίσματα μωρών στο αυτοκίνητο, όχι σε παραλίες που δεν εγκρίνει ο Βασιλιάς Δαυϊδ.

-Έξυπνη εμπόρισσα  ανατρέφει με…αγάπη 100.000 κατσαρίδες.

-Η νέα γραμματική για να αναφερόμαστε σε όποιον δεν είναι  απαραίτητα «αυτός» ή «αυτή»

-Τώρα οι σολωμοί μεταναστεύουν με …φορτηγό: η απίστευτη ξηρασία της Καλιφόρνιας και η ανθρώπινη βοήθεια στον κύκλο ζωής των ψαριών.

-Το κατσίκι , νέο οικόσιτο και πιο..συμφερτικό: εμπρός στην αλλαγή κανονισμών και νοοτροπίας.

-Πικάσσο: Οι πίνακες που ζωγραφίστηκαν ο ένα επάνω στον άλλον.

-Η ενδιαφέρουσα ιστορία του ακριβώτερου γραμματόσημου στον κόσμο: σελίδες φόνου, τρέλλας και … βασιλικής τσιγκουνιάς!


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Pope excommunicates Italian mafia, calling them ‘the adoration of evil’

The pope’s harsh words for Italy’s mob is the strongest condemnation of the Mafia in the past 30 years
June 21, 2014 
Pope Francis had harsh words for the Italian Mafia on June 21, describing one crime syndicate as «the adoration of evil» and saying all mafiosi «are excommunicated» from the church.
Francis’ condemnation was the strongest attack on the mob since Pope John Paul criticized the Sicilian Mafia in 1993.
Francis made the remarks after visiting a stronghold of the ‘Ndrangheta, one of Italy’s most dangerous crime groups. There, he comforted the jailed father of a 3-year-old boy killed in a mob ambush and condemned mob violence against children.
Francis flew by helicopter to the town of Cassano All’ Jonio in the southern Calabria region, home base of the ‘Ndrangheta, which investigators say has spread around the world.
The pope made the trip in part to pay tribute to Nicola «Coco» Campolongo, who was killed in the town along with his grandfather in an organized crime attack last January.
The charred body of the boy, who had been entrusted to his grandfather Giuseppe Iannicelli after his parents were jailed on drugs charges, was found along with those of Iannicelli and a Moroccan woman in a burnt-out car in the town.
Francis, who last January strongly denounced the murder and asked the killers to repent, comforted the boy’s father and other relatives during a meeting a Vatican spokesman described as highly emotional.
«Never again violence against children. May a child never again have to suffer like this. I pray for him continuously. Do not despair,» the spokesman quoted the pope as saying.
The boy’s parents and grandfather were part of a drug-trafficking clan of the ‘Ndrangheta. Social workers have been criticized for entrusting the boy to his maternal grandfather, a convicted drug-runner who was out on bail.
The crime group has been much harder for investigators to combat than the Sicilian Mafia because its structure is more lateral than hierarchical and its tightly-knit crime families are less flashy than the Sicilian mob.
A 2013 study by Demoskopia, an economic and social research institute, estimated the ‘Ndrangheta’s annual turnover at around $72 billion in 30 countries, equivalent to about 3.5 percent of Italy’s total official economic output.
Around half of its revenues came through drug trafficking, the study found.
In the prison, which holds a number of ‘Ndrangheta criminals, the pope told the inmates they should not waste their time behind bars but seek forgiveness from God for their crimes and emerge rehabilitated.
Francis, who has condemned organized crime several times since his election in March 2013, later addressed priests in the cathedral of Cassano all’ Jonio, a run-down town of mostly drab concrete houses in the mountains near the Adriatic.
The bishop of Cassano, Nunzio Galantino, is seen as one of the most progressive in Italy’s poorer, underdeveloped south and has taken strong stands against organized crime.But there have been instances of collusion by some priests in other areas of Calabria where the ‘Ndrangheta is strongest.

Al Jazeera and wire services

Τα Υπ’ Όψιν της 1ης Ιουνίου 2014

Στα Υπ’ Όψιν αυτής της εβδομάδας:
– απελευθέρωση Αμερικανού λοχία με αντάλλαγμα 5 Ταλιμπάν: ένας Ταλιμπάν για κάθε χρόνο κράτησης
– δόγμα Ομπάμα για τις διεθνείς υποθέσεις: ηγετικός ρόλος με αυτοσυγκράτηση
– ο Έρικ Σινσέκι έφυγε, τα προβλήματα περίθαλψης των βετεράνων παραμένουν
– εκπομπές άνθρακα: το πολιτικό κόστος και το νομικά εμπόδια για τον περιορισμό τους
– ποιοι μένουν και ποιοι φεύγουν στον επικείμενο ανασχηματισμό. Χαρτοφυλάκιο για Λοβέρδο;
– εκλογή Προέδρου της Δημοκρατίας: το επόμενο μεγάλο «crash test» για την κυβέρνηση
– ανατροπές στις δυνάμεις των πολιτικών κομμάτων: κομμάτια η ΔΗΜΑΡ, θρύψαλα οι ΑΝΕΛ
– τo ΔΝΤ ζητεί επιπλέον μέτρα, ο Σόιμπλε προβλέπει 10 δισ. επιπλέον βοήθεια
– η υποψηφιότητα Γιουνκέρ παραμερίζεται, νέα ονόματα στο τραπέζι για την Κομισιόν
– η Ουκρανία εξακολουθεί να μετρά θύματα, αποπληρώνει χρέος για φυσικό αέριο
– το θέμα της Αγίας Σοφίας για άλλη μια φορά υπό συζήτηση στην Τουρκία
– άρχισε στην εμπόλεμη Συρία η εκλογική αναμέτρηση «παρωδία»
– η επιχείρησης «Αξιοπρέπεια» του Χάφταρ κερδίζει υποστηρικτές στη Λιβύη
– «συντονισμένα πυρά» ΗΠΑ-Ιαπωνίας οργίζουν την Κίνα
– γυναίκες θύματα στην Ινδία (βιασμοί, απαγχονισμοί) στο Πακιστάν («έγκλημα τιμής» με λιθοβολισμό 25χρονης εγκύου) στο Σουδάν (καταδίκη 27χρονης σε θάνατο για αποστασία)

Ακούστε Τα Υπ΄ Όψιν με την Έλενα Σπηλιώτη και τον Γιώργο Ζορμπά για ενημέρωση και συζητήσεις στα θέματα της επικαιρότητας.

Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο:

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