May 31, 2012
By MIKE SCHNEIDER | Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — New documents released in the case of a Florida A&M drum major who died after being beaten by fellow band members show that being ritually hazed was what it took to be accepted inimages/stories/05-31-2012/nu-famuhazing-scrollzz.jpgto the inner circle of the Marching 100's percussionist section.
The affidavits for arrest warrants released Wednesday by the State Attorney’s Office in Orlando say that it was common knowledge band members were required to go through hazing in order to earn the respect of other percussionists.
Eleven band members have been charged with felony hazing for Robert Champion’s death in November. Two others face misdemeanor charges.
Champion had opposed hazing. But he was also vying to be the band's top leader, and friends say he volunteered to be hazed in order to win respect from others.
May 24, 2012
Egyptians on Wednesday and Thursday vote to elect their first president since the fall of Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, 2011, after 29 years of his authoritarian rule. A second round is likely to be held between the two top vote-getters on June 16-17. Here is a look at what's at stake in the election.
WILL EGYPT GO ISLAMIST?
A victory by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohammed Morsi will likely mean a greater emphasis on religion in government. The group, which already dominates parliament, says it won’t mimic Saudi Arabia and force women to wear veils or implement harsh punishments like amputations. But it says it does want to implement a more moderate version of Islamic law, which liberals fear will mean limitations on many rights. Two secular front-runners in the race say they will prevent Islamization, but that will likely mean frictions with parliament if they win.
WILL EGYPT BECOME A DEMOCRACY?
The two secular front-runners, former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and former foreign minister Amr Moussa, both are veterans of Mubarak’s regime and their opponents fear they will do little to change Mubarak’s autocratic system. The security forces and intelligence agencies that long prevented real change in Egypt remain in place, and there has been little move to end entrenched corruption and the intertwining of business interests and politics. The military, which took power after Mubarak’s fall, is due to hand over authority to the vote’s winner. But it is not clear how much power the generals will yield. Whoever wins, Egypt likely faces struggles between the different power centers.
WILL EGYPT’S ATTITUDE TOWARD THE U.S. AND ISRAEL CHANGE?
Many of the candidates in the race have called for amendments in Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, which remains deeply unpopular. None is likely to dump it, but a victory by any of the Islamist or leftist candidates in the race could mean strained ties with Israel and a stronger stance in support of the Palestinians in the peace process. Shafiq and Moussa — and ironically the Brotherhood — are most likely to maintain the alliance with Washington.
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By DAVID CRARY |
NEW YORK (AP) — As more of America's children are raised by relatives other than their parents, state and local governments need to do better in helping these families cope with an array of financial and emotional challenges, a new report concludes.
Compared to the average parent, these extended-family caregivers are more likely to be poor, elderly, less educated and unemployed, according to the report, “Stepping Up For Kids,” released Wednesday by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Yet despite these hurdles, child-welfare experts say children who can't be raised by their own parents fare better in kinship care than in the regular foster care system.
“We urge state policymakers to make crucial benefits and resources available to kinship families so that their children can thrive,” said the Casey Foundation’s president, Patrick McCarthy.
According to 2010 census data, about 5.8 million children, or nearly 8 percent of all U.S. children, live with grandparents identified as the head of household. However, many of those children have one or both of their parents in the household as well as grandparents.
The Casey report focuses on the estimated 2.7 million children being raised in the absence of their parents by grandparents, other relatives or close family friends. The report says this category of children — whose parents might be dead, incarcerated, implicated in child abuse or struggling with addiction — increased 18 percent between 2000 and 2010.
The majority of such living arrangements are established informally, but as of 2010 there also were 104,000 children formally placed in kinship care as part of the state-supervised foster care system.
These children accounted for 26 percent of all children removed from their homes by child welfare agencies and placed in state custody, but practices vary widely. In Florida and Hawaii, kinship care accounts for more than 40 percent of the children in foster care; in Virginia, the figure is only 6 percent.
Through the Fostering Connections Act of 2008 and other programs, federal funds are available to assist children who leave foster care to live under the legal guardianship of relatives. However, states vary in how generously they allocate such funds, and the Casey report said more outreach is needed to ensure that kinship-care families know their options.
“They’re trying to navigate this system on their own, and there’s not a lot of knowledge about what benefits they’re eligible for,” said Mark Testa, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Social Work.
“They’re actually doing a heroic job in keeping these kids part of the family, and they deserve our gratitude,” he said. “Without them, our foster care system would be overwhelmed.”
Donna Butts of the advocacy group Generations United estimated that kinship caregivers save U.S. taxpayers more than $6 billion a year by sparing state and local governments the cost of foster care.
“We shouldn’t then just leave them alone,” Butts said. “They need information, they need support, they need respite. Both the children and the caregivers need help.”
Among the problems encountered by kinship caregivers, according to the Casey report:
—Many of them take on children who were abused or neglected, and are coping with the trauma of family separation.
—They sometimes lack the legal authority for enrolling a child in school or obtaining medical care.
—Though most kinship families are eligible for federal aid through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, many caregivers are unaware of this option or are reluctant to apply because of perceived stigma.
—Their eligibility for financial aid may be constricted by licensing requirements that were designed for foster parents and aren’t always appropriate for kinship families. Such requirements might include foster-parent training programs and regulations pertaining to the square footage and window size in bedrooms.
“Under federal law, unless they can meet the same hypertechnical licensing requirements as strangers, they are not, in fact, entitled to the help that total strangers get,” said Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.
Among the agencies viewed as a leader in the field is greater Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County Department of Human Services, which makes kinship arrangements for more than half of its children in foster care.
“It’s much less traumatic if they can go to someone they know and love, and who knows them, as opposed to going to strangers, no matter how well-intentioned that stranger is,” said the department’s director, Marc Cherna.
The department policy is to pay kinship caregivers the same rates as other foster parents, and work with them on how to optimize the children's long-term prospects.
According to the Casey report, one in 11 American children lives in kinship care for at least three consecutive months. For Black children, the ratio is one in five.
Morrisella Middleton, 62, of Baltimore, raised two of her grandchildren for many years while also working full time as supervisor of an assisted living facility. The children’s mother — Middleton’s daughter — had struggled with drug problems, and their father had died of cancer.
It wasn’t easy. Middleton went on disability after incurring congestive heart failure and hypertension, and relied almost entirely on Social Security benefits. Her grandson, Shane, also had chronic health problems related to lead poisoning, she said.
“I did not get the money like people do who are foster parents,” Middleton said. “The road has not been easy, but the reward has been so very satisfying. I see the fruits of my labors.”
Shane, now 19, recently began a job as a retail stock clerk. The granddaughter, LaQuanna, is 24 and works as a pharmacy technician.
Would Middleton advise others to consider kinship care?
“If you love these children and you want them to have a chance, then you don't have a choice,” she said. “In somebody else’s home, or in a group facility, they’re not going to get the chance that you could give them.”
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HESPERIA, Calif. (AP) — A 13-year-old Southern California girl and two friends are under arrest for investigation of the attempted murder of the girl's mother.
A police spokeswoman in the high desert city of Hesperia says officers were called by the victim after her daughter and two 14-year-old friends attacked her Tuesday morning.
The Victorville Daily Press reports the three were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and burglary.
Spokeswoman Susan Rose tells The Associated Press that the teen complained her mother was too strict with curfew and too critical of her friends.
Rose says there were three attempts on the woman's life, but she did not seek medical attention.
The victim initially reported her daughter kidnapped, but investigators determined it was part of a conspiracy among the teens.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli archaeologists have discovered a 2,700-year-old seal that bears the inscription “Bethlehem,” the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday, in what experts believe to be the oldest artifact with the name of Jesus' traditional birthplace.
The tiny clay seal’s existence and age provide vivid evidence that Bethlehem was not just the name of a fabled biblical town but also a bustling place of trade linked to the nearby city of Jerusalem, archaeologists said.
Eli Shukron, the authority’s director of excavations, said the find was significant because it is the first time the name “Bethlehem” appears outside of a biblical text from that period.
Shukron said the seal, 1.5 centimeters (0.59 inches) in diameter, dates back to the period of the first biblical Jewish Temple, between the eighth and seventh century B.C., at a time when Jewish kings reigned over the ancient kingdom of Judah and 700 years before Jesus was born.
The seal was written in ancient Hebrew script from the same time. Pottery found nearby also dated back to the same period, he said.
Shmuel Achituv, an expert in ancient scripts at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, who did not participate in the dig, said the discovery was the oldest reference to Bethlehem ever found outside of the Bible. Apart from the seal, the other mentions of Bethlehem, Achituv said, “are only in the Bible.”
The stamp, also known as “fiscal bulla,” was likely used to seal an administrative tax document, sent from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, the seat of Jewish power at the time.
It was found as archaeologists sifted through mounds of dirt they had dug up in an excavation outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls.
Shukron said the first line most likely read “Beshava’at” — or “in the seventh” — most likely the year of the reign of a king. The second line, he said, has the crumbling letters of the word “Bethlehem.” The third line carried one letter, a “ch” which Shukron said was the last letter of the Hebrew work for king, “melech.”
Hebrew words often do not have vowels, which are understood from the context, making several interpretations of the same word plausible. Some of the letters are crumbled, or were wiped away. Three experts interviewed by the AP, one involved in the text and two independents, concurred the seal says Bethlehem.
There are only some 40 other existing seals of this kind from the first Jewish Temple period, said Achituv, making this a significant find, both because such seals are rare, and because this is the first to mention Bethlehem.
The dig itself has raised controversy.
It is being underwritten by an extreme-right wing Jewish organization that seeks to populate the crowded Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan with Jewish settlers, arguing that they have ancient links to the area. The dig is being undertaken in a national park in the area of Silwan, known to Jews as “the City of David.”
Shukron said the seal was found some months ago, but they needed time to confirm the identity of the artifact.
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