Friday, September 26, 2008

NIne Kids Out: Nebraska Safe Haven Law Overdoes It

Nebraska was the last state in the nation to adopt a safe haven law but when they finally did, it was a doozy. Meant to prevent abuse, neglect or death of infants, from overwhelmed new parents, safe haven laws offer the option of abandoning a child at designated locations, anonymously, without threat of criminal charges.
Usually, safe haven laws come with some stipulated age limit.  In Maryland, the baby can be up to 3 days old. North Dakota will accept babies up to a year after birth. Not in Nebraska. In an effort to avoid arbitrary age limits, Nebraska simply used the word "child," when indicating who could be abandoned without parental consequence. This unique law took effect in July.
Last night, nine siblings, five boys and four girls, ranging in age from 1 to 17 were abandoned by their father at Creighton University Medical Center's emergency room in Omaha. 
The father, Gary Staton, says he had become overwhelmed with the responsibility of taking care of his family since his wife died from a brain aneurysm 17 months ago. He tried to improve matters by quitting his job; but that only led to an inability to pay the rent. So, he went to plan B. Last night, around 8 o'clock, he gathered up nine birth certificates, loaded the kids into the family vehicle, and drove them to the emergency room. He handed the birth certificates to a woman working there and informed her that he was surrendering his family.
"I was able to get the kids to a safe place before they were homeless," he told reporters today. "I hope they know I love them." 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pooper-Scooper Law Meets CSI

DNA samples are being collected from canine residents in the city of Petah Tikva, Israel. For the next six months, unscoooped poop found on the city sidewalks and other inappropriate places will be brought to a municipal lab and compared to the DNA samples in an effort to identify the pooper and slap a fine on the non-scooper. Meanwhile, poop deposited in specially-marked receptacles around the city, will be identified and the depositor awarded with dog toys and coupons for dog food. If this voluntary trial period is successful, the city is considering making the DNA testing mandatory for all dogs. Of course, the major flaw with the trial period is that people who don't scoop are not about to bring their dogs to the municipal veterinarian for the oral DNA swab in the first place. Also, how long are people going to have to carry the poop around to get it to one of those specially marked receptacles? Unless there's one on every corner, I don't think they're going to do much business.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Balance: In Search of the Lost Sense

Have you noticed any changes in your equilibrium lately? Feeling a little less steady on your feet? If you're past your twenties, you might be experiencing a natural deterioration in your sense of balance. In his intriguing book, Balance: In Search of the Lost Sense, Scott McCredie explores the importance of the often ignored vestibular system, the rapid-fire sensory superhighway connecting the eyes, the inner ear and the proprioceptors - cells in muscles and joints that indicate our position in space. Inspired, in part, by a fall suffered by his aging father on a hiking trip, McCredie delves into balance's past, present and future and scours the research for a solution to the "epidemic" of falls among the elderly.

The author intersperses anatomy and physiology lessons with fascinating field trips - some, back in time, to the early 19th Century, when the mentally ill were treated by strapping them into spinning chairs to induce vomiting: some, to unusual places, such as the School of Circus Arts in San Francisco or an anti-gravity training flight for astronauts. Readers join Lord Nelson on his ship, battling not only the enemy but persistent sea-sickness as well. We are in the cockpit with John Kennedy Jr. on his final flight. We walk the high wire without a safety net, with Karl Wallenda as he supports his wife on his shoulders. And we wobble and sway along with
Robin Grindstaff, who suffered from severe vestibular disorder until she made the decision to sacrifice her hearing, in an effort to recover her balance.

If you've never thought much about balance, this book will give you a new-found respect for the "lost sense.". And if you haven't tried standing on one foot lately, you just might be surprised at how challenging it has become.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Principal's Office

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. In truTV's new "actuality" show, The Principal's Office, we get to watch real high school administrators confront real - as in, you couldn't possibly make these people up - high school students. It's fine entertainment seeing the teens attempt to rationalize inappropriate behavior and negotiate their way out of punishment. Some of them are skilled strategists, like the girl who refused to participate in gym class because she didn't want to mess up her hair. The gym teacher sent her to the principal who delivered a half-hearted lecture on the goal of coming to school being learning not looking good. The student argued altruistically that people depend on her to show up looking good and she didn't want to let them down. She added that, were she to be forced into exercising and showering, her temporarily straight hair would frizz and she would end up looking "like a lion." Eventually, the dumbfounded principal sent her on her way with a warning. Out in the hallway, the hair-obsessed student told truTV's camera that she considered this a "win-win" situation. Not only had she escaped detention or any other punishment from the principal, she had, most importantly, avoided messing up her hair in gym class.
Other students struggle to utter a coherent sentence. Last night's episode featured one such language-challenged soul who, ironically, was sent to the Principal's office for hanging out in the journalism room. Maybe he should be encouraged to spend more time there instead of less. It might expand his vocabulary beyond "like," "uh" and "y'know."