Austin


Many thanks to Jordan for alerting me to this story, which is happening practically in my own back yard, right in Taylor, Texas!

—Freckles

From Texas cell, Canadian, 9, pleads for help

Family in limbo after unscheduled stop in Puerto Rico

From Friday’s Globe and Mail

AUSTIN, TEX. — Even if you try to look past the eight-metre-high chain-link fence, beyond the scores of uniformed guards patrolling the perimeter and away from the cameras, metal detectors and lasers, there isn’t the slightest evidence of children inside the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center.

No one is playing outside; there are no sounds of laughter.

But inside the thick, whitewashed walls of this former maximum-security prison in the heart of Texas are about 170 children — including a nine-year-old Canadian boy named Kevin.

Call it international limbo. Detained by U.S. Customs officials after their flight to Toronto made an unscheduled stop on American soil nearly four weeks ago, Kevin and his Iranian parents, Majid and Masomeh, feel they are being held hostage not only by the physical parameters of Hutto, but by the politics of nationality.

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'Dear Mr. Prime minister haper I don’t like to stay in this jail. I’m only nine years old. I want to go to my school in Canada. I’m sleeping beside the wall. Please Mr. Priminister haper give visa for my family. This place is not good for me. I want to get out of the cell. Just pleace give visa for my family. My home land is in Canada, My life is over there. I’m also sleeping beside wasroom. Mr. Priminister haper pleace bring me and my family to Canada. Thank you so much.'

‘Dear Mr. Prime minister haper I don’t like to stay in this jail. I’m only nine years old. I want to go to my school in Canada. I’m sleeping beside the wall. Please Mr. Priminister haper give visa for my family. This place is not good for me. I want to get out of the cell. Just pleace give visa for my family. My home land is in Canada, My life is over there. I’m also sleeping beside wasroom. Mr. Priminister haper pleace bring me and my family to Canada. Thank you so much.’

_______________________________________________

“We can’t go home because I am Canadian but my parents are not,” Kevin said in a telephone interview with The Globe and Mail — no personal interviews have been granted.

Majid and Masomeh — they prefer their last name not be used — initially fled Iran for Canada in January, 1995, to seek political asylum. Majid did odd jobs, eventually becoming manager of an east Toronto pizza parlour, paying the rent for their one-bedroom apartment.

In 1997, their only son, Kevin, was born. “For the first time, I was happy,” Majid said from the Hutto detention facility.

“I had my family with me — it’s the only family I have — we didn’t have any problems and we lived happy in Toronto.”

Kevin attended a Toronto school until Grade 3. Meanwhile, his parents were seeking refugee status, based on fear of persecution in Iran, but their application was denied and, in December, 2005, the family of three was deported.

Upon their arrival in Tehran, Majid said he was taken away from his family to a prison cell. For three months, he was detained, beaten and tortured, he said. When he was released, the three were reunited, and, with the help of friends and relatives, they connected with a people smuggler in Tehran.

“I pay him $40,000 to [get us] to Canada. It included everything: fake passports, tickets. He got $20,000 in Iran, and $20,000 in Turkey.”

(more…)

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There should be more stories like this, and the public should be more involved in helping the troops and their families. 365 deaths from just one military base!!!! And for what??? Why are we still in Iraq? The mission is over.

—-Freckles

memorial picture


Fort Hood support center: http://www.goldstarfamilysupport.org/

Army families: http://www.armyfamiliesonline.org/skins/WBLO/home.aspx

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Military Faces Growing Ranks of Bereaved


AP National Writer
One of the first sights greeting visitors to Fort Hood is a day-care center’s playground, brightly colored evidence of the Army’s commitment to be family friendly.

A few blocks away is a more poignant symbol: an office building recently converted into a first-of-its-kind support center for women and children whose husbands and fathers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. From Fort Hood alone, the toll has passed 365.

This photo, provided by war widow Melissa Storey, shows Melissa with her 4-year-old daughter, Adela, Dec. 16, 2006, on a hotel balcony in Anaheim. Calif., where they were attending a holiday gathering for families of fallen service members. Melissa, whose husband, Army Staff Sgt. Clint Storey, was killed in Iraq last August, is pregnant with a son conceived during her last days with her husband. (AP Photo/Courtesy Melissa Storey)

“It’s our sanctuary,” said Ursula Pirtle, whose daughter frequents a playroom at the center. Three-year-old Katie never met her father, Heath. He was killed in Iraq in 2003.

Over the past 15 years, America’s armed forces have taken huge strides to retain married service members — improving schools, health programs and child care. But now, as never before in this family-embracing era, the military is struggling with the toughest home-front problem of all: Doing right by the often outspoken and ever-growing ranks of the bereaved.

Of the 3,350 Americans who died in Iraq and Afghanistan through early January, 1,586 of them — 47.3 percent — were married. Those fallen warriors left behind 1,954 children, according to the Pentagon’s Manpower Data Center. More recent deaths have pushed that figure past 2,000.

Compared to the heavily draftee combat troops of the Vietnam war, today’s volunteer fighting force is older, more reliant on National Guard and Reserve citizen-soldiers, and more likely to be married.

And more so than their Vietnam counterparts, the new generation of bereaved spouses has been vocal — on their bases, at congressional hearings — in pressing for more compassionate, effective support.

It’s a constituency that politicians and generals do not want to alienate. The result has been numerous policy changes, ranging from improved benefits to better training for the officers who break the grim news of war-zone deaths. Even the Fort Hood support center materialized due to pressure from widows and their allies.

But the learning process is ongoing and the results are mixed.

“The war on terror has presented us with new challenges we haven’t seen before, in terms of number of casualties,” said an Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Kevin Arata. “We know we’re not perfect — there are things families have said we can do better, and we’ve listened to that.”

Interviews with a dozen widows at Fort Hood and across the country reveal varied experiences, but also some common bonds.

Across the board, the widows are proud of their husbands — even if they disagree on the wisdom of the Iraq war. Each woman is still grieving, and those with children have extra worries — financial and psychological — that extend far into the future.

Some are deeply grateful for the support provided by the military after their husbands’ deaths; others are critical. Among the common complaints — that notification and assistance officers were sometimes ill-informed or aloof, and that they were bounced through different parts of the military bureaucracy when seeking help.

“We have to have someone who knows what they’re talking about,” Pirtle said. “The blind-leading-the-blind system isn’t working out.”

(more…)

Ugh!!!!!! Coal? THAT’s the best we can do???? Ugh!!!! We protested against coal just a few weeks ago. Not sure we did any good.

Rockdale smelter

Central Texas plant gets OK

By SCOTT STREATER
STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER

TXU Corp. received permission Wednesday to move forward with plans to construct a coal-fired power plant in Central Texas. The plant is one of three that the company’s prospective new owners still plan to build.

A federal judge in Austin approved a settlement Wednesday among TXU, the Justice Department and Alcoa Inc. that allows TXU to build the Sandow power plant in Milam County, about 50 miles south of Waco.

The Sandow plant will replace three older coal-fired units used to power Alcoa’s aluminum smelter in Rockdale and will be much cleaner.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks comes days after two private equity firms working to buy TXU announced that they’ll scrap plans to build eight of the 11 power plants. They also agreed to commit to other clean-air initiatives that drew raves from many environmentalists, elected leaders and citizens groups fiercely opposed to the plants. (more…)


p2110010.jpg Today I was with hundreds of other people protesting against the governor’s plan to use 9 additional power plants for coal. There were people of all different ages, and a lot of people brought their dogs. They had different kinds of political music there and lots of speeches. One was by a state senator, one by a pastor, one by a doctor, and a few by high school and college kids. Here are some pictures. I wrote about the rally last week and you can read that post here. (Thanks Betsy for taking photos!)

MONDAY UPDATE: There is a story and pictures about the protest in today’s Austin-American Statesman.

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Just got this from MoveOn. I hope to go. If you are in Texas, please come.

—Freckles

Governor Rick Perry and the Texas State Legislature are deciding whether or not to build 19 new dirty coal-fired power plants. Come to Austin and tell them we need a clean energy future—not more health problems and global warming! Can you come to the State Capitol for the rally?

Stop the Coal Rush Rally
Sunday, February 11th, 2007
3:00 p.m.

And if you can, stay for the Citizen’s Lobby Day
Monday, February 12th, 2007
2:00 p.m.

Register here: http://www.stopthecoalrush.com/moveon


Dear MoveOn member,
Governor Rick Perry is pushing through the construction of 19 new dirty coal-fired power plants in Texas—just as the new Congress is getting serious about global warming solutions in D.C. These plants alone would release more greenhouse gasses into the air than would be cut by the most progressive proposals currently in Congress.

He is rushing to get the coal plants built before any new legislation kicks in, and if he succeeds, he’ll be unilaterally taking us backward in our urgent fight against global warming. And Texans can look forward to more bad air quality days and increased asthma rates.

A coalition of groups including American Lung Association and Texas Sierra Club Legal Action have organized a rally at the Capitol in Austin at noon this Sunday to stop this. Can you join them to demand that Texas pursue a clean energy future?

Click here to attend the Stop the Coal Rush Rally:

http://www.stopthecoalrush.com/moveon

What: Stop the Coal Rush Rally
When: Sunday Feb. 11 at 3:00 pm
Where: Texas State Capitol
Austin, TX

Already, more than half of Texans live in areas where the air fails to meet federal minimum health-based standards. These plants would add an additional 124.5 million tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the skies over Texas each year, further threatening the health of Texas citizens and accelerating the pace of global warming.

(more…)

This is important news, and I am very glad that this program is starting. I hope they also offer it for free to 7th, 8th, 9th & 10th grade girls as well.

—Freckles

UPDATE:

According to Ralph Blumenthal in today’s New York Times,

Under the order, girls and women from 9 to 21 eligible for public assistance could get free shots immediately. The governor’s office said parents could opt out of the school program “for reasons of conscience, including religious beliefs.”
nurseVaccine   nurse1.gif

Governor requires HPV vaccine for sixth-grade girls

Sexually transmitted virus can cause cervical cancer.

Listen to this article or download audio file.Click-2-Listen


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Saturday, February 03, 2007 nurse

Gov. Rick Perry on Friday issued an executive order calling for all girls entering sixth grade in Texas, starting in September 2008, to receive a vaccine against a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. While Texas parents will be allowed to opt out of having their daughters get the vaccine, conservative groups are protesting.

Texas is the first state requiring girls to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus, the country’s most common sexually transmitted disease.
Some strains of HPV cause cervical cancer, a disease that killed nearly 400 Texans in 2006, the governor’s office said.

“The HPV vaccine provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer,” Perry said. “Requiring young girls to get vaccinated before they come into contact with HPV is responsible health and fiscal policy that has the potential to significantly reduce cases of cervical cancer and mitigate future medical costs.”

Texas Capitol

But Cathie Adams, president of Texas Eagle Forum, a pro-family organization that opposes mandating the vaccine, said it gives girls false hope that sex is safe.

“We’re very unhappy because it’s not a crisis, because parental rights are being usurped and we believe young girls are being experimented upon,” Adams said. “Would they be more promiscuous? Chances are very good that they would be.”

Perry ordered that the vaccine be made immediately available to low-income Texans through the Texas Vaccines for Children and Medicaid programs.

That would cost $50 million in the first year: $29.4 million in state funds and the rest in federal funds, said Perry spokeswoman Krista Moody.

The market cost of the vaccine, Gardasil, is $360 for the three-dose series.

Federal officials approved the vaccine in June and added it to a list of recommended vaccines for girls. Most insurance companies cover vaccines
on that list.

Merck, the drug company that makes Gardasil, is bankrolling efforts to pass state laws across the country mandating the vaccine for girls as young as 11 or 12. It doubled its lobbying budget in Texas and has funneled money through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country.

Perry received $6,000 from Merck’s political action committee during his
re-election campaign. And one of the drug company’s three lobbyists in
Texas is Mike Toomey, Perry’s former chief of staff.

“This is not a political issue,” Moody said. “This is an issue of women’s health.” State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, author of a bill proposing a
required HPV vaccine for girls, said Perry’s order is “terrific news.”

“A big chunk of my work is done,” said Farrar, who said she had precancerous cells removed a few years ago after having an abnormal Pap
smear. “I’m very excited he’s made this such a priority. This is going
to save so many lives. This is going to wipe out a cancer.”

(more…)

In the past few days, two people died who’ve affected my life indirectly. The first was Molly Ivins, one of my role models and a great liberal Texas voice. The second was Kenneth Kincaid, who I never met, but who must have done something right to raise Bob Kincaid and to be so admired by him.

I’ve also been touched by a few other deaths in the past year. The most horrible was the sudden death of a 7th grade girl that I knew, a girl I went to elementary school with. She was younger than me and died only a few hours after getting sick. That was super sad for her family and for the whole community. She died while she was on a school trip, and that made it even worse.

The other death was of a 38 year old man who was the father of a friend of mine. He spent almost three years dying, and a lot of that time preparing his family and himself for his death. He wrote letters that Elyse will read when she graduates high school and when she gets married. He also recorded videos for her and her mom.

dove

I have an internet friend who is dying of cancer, and who talks about it. Yesterday he said that he will soon be visiting with Molly, and that got me thinking even more about death. I will miss him a tremendous amount when he dies, but I don’t know what will happen to him. The real him, the soul and not the body.

I have no idea what happens to us after we die. I don’t know if our mind or soul goes to the places we visit in our best dreams or if we see the people that died before us or if nothing at all happens and it’s just over. I don’t know if we go with angels or with God or old friends. I don’t know if this is something I will understand better when I get older or if it’s just something to think more about.

I also think about how I never met my grandparents and about how I will feel when my parents die. I think I probably won’t feel too much about my dad’s death because he hasn’t been in my life since I was five. But I think about my mom dying a lot. She’s an addict and she’s in prison, so her chances of dying early are pretty high. I worry about her and hope she gets better. She also abused me really badly for a long time and part of me thinks it will be easier to finish getting past all that myself after she dies. I don’t wish her dead, but I don’t know how I will react when she does die.

My brother is in the military, but he is safe and sound in Texas. I can not even imagine life without him, so I refuse to even consider the idea that he will die before he turns 100.

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I also think about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you asked a kid my age there, how many people would they know that died? Would they be people that died from accidents and diseases? Or from bombs and bullets? How scared are the kids there about never seeing their families again? Or about dying themselves?

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There is no solution to death. But if everyone had all the medical care they needed and if no one started wars, a lot of people would live a lot longer and have a beautiful dignified death with the people they love sitting by their beds.


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