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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Idaho team readies artificial beak for wounded bald eagle

Beauty a rescued Alaskan bald eagle sits in her pen at a raptor recovery center near St. Maries Idaho Wednesday April 23 2008. A surgery in May 2008 will provide Beauty with a new artificial beak to replace the one damaged by a gunshot wound. (AP Pho ...
Beauty, a rescued Alaskan bald eagle, sits in her pen at a raptor recovery center near St. Marie's, Idaho, Wednesday, April 23, 2008. A surgery in May 2008 will provide Beauty with a new artificial beak, to replace the one damaged by a gunshot wound. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

(AP) -- She has been named Beauty, though this eagle is anything but. Part of Beauty's beak was shot off several years ago, leaving her with a stump that is useless for hunting food. A team of volunteers is working to attach an artificial beak to the disfigured bird, in an effort to keep her alive.

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"For Beauty it's like using only one chopstick to eat. It can't be done" said biologist Jane Fink Cantwell, who operates a raptor recovery center in this Idaho Panhandle town. "She has trouble drinking. She can't preen her feathers. That's all about to change."
Cantwell has spent the past two years assembling a team to design and build an artificial beak. They plan to attach it to Beauty next month. With the beak, the 7-year-old bald eagle could live to the age of 50, although not in the wild.

"She could not survive in the wild without human intervention," Cantwell said.

The 15-pound eagle was found in 2005 scrounging for food and slowly starving to death at a landfill in Alaska. Most of her curved upper beak had been shot away, leaving her tongue and sinuses exposed. She could not clutch or tear at food.

Beauty was taken to a bird recovery center in Anchorage, where she was hand-fed for two years while her caretakers waited in vain for a new beak to grow.

"They had exhausted their resources and she would likely be euthanized," Cantwell said.

Beauty was taken in 2007 to Cantwell's Birds of Prey Northwest ranch in Idaho after permits were obtained from the federal government.

Soon after, Cantwell met Nate Calvin during a speaking engagement in Boise. Calvin, a mechanical engineer, offered to design an artificial beak. A dentist, veterinarian and other experts eventually volunteered to help.
Molds were made of the existing beak parts and scanned into a computer, so the bionic beak could be created as accurately as possible.

"One side has much greater damage than the other," Cantwell said. "It's not as simple as a quick, snapped-off beak, 90 degrees and flush."

The nylon-composite beak is light and durable, and will be glued onto the eagle.

The team decided against fastening the new beak with screws because the stump is so close to the brain and eye, Cantwell said. But if the glue fails, screws will be tried, she said.

The artificial beak won't be strong enough to allow Beauty to cut and tear flesh from prey. But it will help her to drink water, and to grip and eat the food she is given.

Cantwell has been using forceps to feed Beauty, who is often treated to strips of salmon.

A successful attachment of a prosthetic beak is rare but not unprecedented, said Dr. Julia Ponder, executive director of The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota.

"Not enough of these have been done out there to say, `yes, it can be done successfully,'" Ponder said. "Whether or not it will be functional is a question."

Dr. Erik Stauber of the nearby Washington State University veterinary hospital in Pullman does not have a lot of faith the artificial beak will work.

"It's a valiant effort to do something," he said. "We have no experience with it."

While birds of prey are notoriously skittish around humans, Beauty has become somewhat comfortable with people. She allows herself to be carried by Cantwell, and tolerate the poking and prodding by those making the beak.

"She laid on the table for nearly two hours, fully conscious, knowing full well I was handling and restraining her, and never once trying to escape," Cantwell said. "I suspect she knows we not trying to hurt her."

Beauty has the potential to breed or be a foster mother for orphaned eagles. Cantwell has other plans for Beauty as well.

"She's a miracle recovery patient from her initial injuries," she said. "She will be a huge educational tool, primarily to instruct people on why we should not shoot raptors and why they are beneficial to the environment.

"Give me an hour with a third or sixth grader and they will never shoot a raptor."

Shooting a bald eagle, though they are no longer on the endangered species list, remains a violation of federal law.
Original here

Colbert wins 'Webby Person of the Year'

(CNN) -- Stephen Colbert may have already earned the title of "Greatest Living American" but now he can add "Webby Person of the Year."

art.stephen.colbert.gi.jpg

Stephen Colbert won the Webby Award for "Person of the Year."

Colbert became the "Greatest Living American" in the eyes of Google thanks to his fans who took to the Internet and "Google-bombed" him to the top.

They did so by posting comments all over the Web that contained his name and "Greatest Living American" to make him the top result when anyone searched Google for the title.

Colbert's use of the Internet, including challenging the "truthiness" of Wikipedia, attracting 78 members per minute to the Facebook page for his candidacy for president and his ability to get fans to rack up donations online for DonorsChoose.org earned him the award.

The Webby Awards honor excellence on the Internet, including Web sites, online film and video, mobile Web sites and interactive advertising from around the world. CNN.com received the People's Voice award for best mobile news site.

Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am won Webby Artist of the Year for his viral video "Yes We Can" in support of Barack Obama. The video, which was posted in February, has been viewed more than 17 million times since it was posted on YouTube.

The awards have been presented by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences since 1996, but users also play a part in picking the winners. For each of the categories a winner is chosen by both the Academy and the popular vote, which is cast online.

In some cases the judges and the popular vote match, but in many instances they are different.

The pop hit video "Chocolate Rain," which won a YouTube awards, was snubbed by the Academy, but won in the popular vote for Viral Video. The Academy chose "Here Comes another Bubble" instead.

Some of the winners:

Blog-Political: Huffington Post

Blog-Cultural: PostSecret

Magazine: National Geographic

Best mobile news site: CNN.com (voted by People's Voice)

Newspaper: NYTimes.com

Politics: FactCheck.org

Community: Flickr

Do-It Yourself/HowTo-Video: My Damn Channel's "You Suck at Photoshop"

Weird: Passive-Aggressive Notes (Academy), I Can Has Cheezburger? (Popular Vote)

Social Networking: Flock The Social Web Browser (Academy), Facebook (Popular Vote)

Comedy - Long Form or Series: "Wainy Days"
Original here

Ota Benga

Ota Benga in 1904.
Ota Benga in 1904.

Ota Benga (c.1881 or 1884March 20, 1916) was a Congolese pygmy who was featured in a 1906 human zoo exhibit at the Bronx Zoo alongside an orangutan. The exhibit was intended to promote the theory that humans evolved from primates, as well as eugenics, and scientific racism.[1]

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[edit] Biography

Ota Benga was a member of the Batwa people,[2] and lived in equatorial forests near the Kasai River in what was then the Belgian Congo. Benga had survived the slaughter of much of his village by the Force Publique, an army of King Leopold II of Belgium. He lost his wife and two children in the massacre.[3]

American businessman Samuel Phillips Verner was sent to Africa in 1904 under contract from the St. Louis World's Fair to bring back pygmies for exhibition. Verner met Ota Benga in the Belgian Congo that year and negotiated with a tribal slave trader for the pygmies, returning to the United States with Ota Benga and eight others.

After several months of travel in the U.S., Verner took Ota Benga to the Bronx Zoo in New York City in 1906 to find him a place to live, at the suggestion of Hermon Bumpus. Bumpus was the director of the American Museum of Natural History, and had provided a home for Verner's cargo including, briefly, Benga himself. At the zoo, Benga was allowed to roam the zoo grounds and help feed the animals. The events leading to his "exhibition" were gradual:[3] Benga spent some of his time in the "Monkey House" exhibit, and the zoo encouraged him to hang his hammock there, and to shoot his bow and arrow at a target. The first day of the "exhibit", September 8, 1906, visitors found Benga in the Monkey House.[3] A sign on the exhibit soon read:

The African Pigmy, "Ota Benga."
Age, 23 years. Height, 4 feet 11 inches.
Weight, 103 pounds. Brought from the
Kasai River, Congo Free State, South Cen-
tral Africa, by Dr. Samuel P. Verner. Ex-
hibited each afternoon during September.[4]

Ota Benga in 1906, purportedly at the Bronx Zoo.
Ota Benga in 1906, purportedly at the Bronx Zoo.

Bronx Zoo director William Hornaday saw the exhibit as a valuable spectacle for his visitors, and was encouraged by Madison Grant, a prominent scientific racist and eugenicist.

In response to immediate protests from African-American Baptist clergymen, Hornaday had Ota Benga removed from the exhibit. Public arguments were that the exhibit was racist—"Our race, we think, is depressed enough, without exhibiting one of us with the apes," said clergyman James H. Gordon; "We think we are worthy of being considered human beings, with souls."[3] Gordon also considered the exhibition hostile to Christianity, for its promoting Darwinism: "The Darwinian theory is absolutely opposed to Christianity, and a public demonstration in its favor should not be permitted."[3] Benga was then allowed to roam the grounds of the zoo as a sort of interactive exhibit. In response to his general situation and to verbal and physical prods from the crowds, his behavior became at first mischievous and then somewhat violent.[5]

A September 10, 1906 New York Times story registers some of the uproar over the incident:

"The person responsible for this exhibition degrades himself as much as he does the African," said Rev. Dr. R. MacArthur of Calvary Baptist Church. "Instead of making a beast of this little fellow, he should be put in school for the development of such powers as God gave to him. It is too bad that there is not some society like the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. We send our missionaries to Africa to Christianize the people, and then we bring one here to brutalize him."[4]

Toward the end of September 1906, Ota Benga again came under the guardianship of Gordon, who placed him in the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum (of which Gordon was the superintendent), a church-sponsored orphanage. In January 1910, Gordon arranged for Benga's relocation to Lynchburg, Virginia.

While in Virginia, Ota Benga's teeth, which he had filed to points in the Congo,[3] were capped, and he was dressed in American-style clothes. He was tutored by Lynchburg poet Anne Spencer and briefly attended classes at the Virginia Theological Seminary and College. He was much more at home discarding his clothes and roaming the nearby woods with his bow and arrow.

He discontinued his formal education and began working at a Lynchburg tobacco factory. Despite his small size, he proved a valuable employee because he could climb up the poles to get the tobacco leaves without having to use a ladder. His fellow workers called him "Bingo" and he would tell his life story in exchange for sandwiches and root beer.

Ota Benga was caught between two worlds, unable to return to Africa, and viewed mainly as a curiosity in the U.S. On March 20, 1916, at the age of 32, he built a ceremonial fire, chipped off the caps on his teeth, performed a final tribal dance, and shot himself in the heart with a stolen pistol. The death certificate listed his name as "Otto Bingo."

He was buried in an unmarked grave, records show, in the black section of the Old City Cemetery, near his benefactor, Gregory Hayes. At some point, however, both went missing. Local oral history indicates that Hayes and Ota Benga were eventually moved from the Old Cemetery to White Rock Cemetery, a burial ground that fell into disrepair.[citation needed]

Original here

The Slave in the Garage

Like a typical teen, Shyima Hall forgets to make her bed and groans when it's time to do her two chores-vacuuming the floor and cleaning the fishbowl. In the Orange County, California, home she shares with her adoptive parents and five brothers and sisters, the petite 18-year-old lounges on the couch, talking on her cell phone. She wears low-rise jeans, and her nails are painted pink. Last May she went to her prom in a silky gown, her long dark hair worn up with a gardenia. She juggles a packed schedule-part-time job, homework, weekend camp-as if she's making up for lost time. And she is. A year ago Shyima, who was born in Alexandria, Egypt, closed a chapter in her life she wishes had never been written. It began in 2000, when her impoverished parents sold her to a wealthy couple in Cairo. When the pair moved to the United States, they arranged for the ten-year-old to be brought illegally into the country, where she worked, day and night, in the family's posh home.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, human trafficking is now the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world. As many as 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders annually; the United States is a popular destination, with as many as 17,500 people brought in each year and exploited for sex or labor. Shyima, no stranger to hardship, fell into the latter category. One of 11 children born to desperately poor parents, she grew up in a small one-bathroom house shared by three families. She and her parents and siblings slept in one room on blankets laid

out on the floor. Her father was often gone for weeks at a time. "When he was home," says Shyima, "he beat us."

She'd never been to school, and her prospects were bleak. Still, Shyima wasn't without hope. "There was happiness there," she told a courtroom years later. "I had people that cared for me."

When she was eight, she went to live with Abdel-Nasser Youssef Ibrahim and his wife, Amal Ahmed Ewis-Abd Motelib, then in their 30s. Shyima's older sister had worked as a maid for them, but the couple fired her, claiming she'd stolen cash. As part of a deal the couple made with her still-destitute parents, Shyima was forced to replace her.

Two years later, Ibrahim and Motelib decided to move with their five children to the United States to start an import-export business. Shyima didn't want to go. Ibrahim, she says today, "told me I had no choice in the matter." She remembers standing outside the kitchen, overhearing her employers talk with her parents. "I heard them negotiate, and then my parents gave me away for $30 a month to these people," she says.

Shyima was brought into the United States on an illegally obtained six-month visitor's visa and settled into the couple's two-story Mediterranean-style house in a gated community in Irvine. When she wasn't working, she was banished to an 8-by-12-foot section of the garage with no windows, no air-conditioning or heat. Shyima says the family sometimes locked her in. Her furnishings: a dirty mattress, a floor lamp, and a small table. Shyima kept her clothes in her suitcase. Each day she rose at six with the couple's six-year-old twin boys. She took orders from everyone, including the twins' three sisters, 11, 13, and 15. She cooked, served meals, did the dishes, made beds, changed sheets, helped with laundry, ironed, dusted, vacuumed, swept, mopped, and washed the patios, and was often still doing chores at midnight. One day, when Shyima tried to do her own laundry, Motelib stopped her. "She told me I couldn't put my things in the washing machine because they were dirtier than theirs." From then on, Shyima washed her clothes in a plastic bucket she kept by her mattress and hung them outside to dry on a metal rack, next to the garbage cans.

Motelib and Ibrahim both hit Shyima, but the isolation and verbal abuse were worse. "They called me stupid girl and a nothing," she says. "They made me feel less than them."

She ate alone and wasn't allowed to attend school or leave the house without Motelib or Ibrahim escorting her. The couple warned her against telling anyone about her situation. "They threatened that the police would take me away because I was an illegal," Shyima says.

Though she never admitted longing for her mother, she cried openly in front of Motelib and Ibrahim when she came down with a bad flu. "They saw me suffering and didn't care," she says. "I still had to do my chores. They wouldn't even get medicine for me."

At night, exhausted and lonely, she stared into the darkness. Ibrahim had taken her passport, and she feared she would be held prisoner forever.

When Shyima turned 12, there was no celebration. She spent her birthday doing housework.

Six months later, on the morning of April 9, 2002, Orange County Child Protective Services social worker Carole Chen responded to an anonymous caller (believed to be a neighbor) reporting a case of child abuse. The person said that a young girl was living in the family's garage, acting as a maid, and not attending school.

Chen, along with Irvine police investigator Tracy Jacobson, knocked at Ibrahim's front door. When he answered, Jacobson asked who else lived in the house. Ibrahim said his wife and five children.

"Are there other children?" the officer pressed. Ibrahim admitted there was a 12-year-old girl. He claimed she was a distant relative.

"Can I talk to her?" Jacobson asked.

Cleaning upstairs, Shyima was oblivious that her salvation was moments away. Ibrahim called to her in Arabic, telling her to come downstairs and deny that she worked for them. Shabbily dressed in a brown T-shirt and baggy pants, she hurried to the door.

Chen, who noticed that the girl's hands looked red and raw, called a translator on her cell phone. Shyima told him that she'd been in the country for two years and had never been to school.

Officer Jacobson promptly took the girl into protective custody. Riding in the backseat of the police car, headed to a children's group home where she would be temporarily placed, Shyima prayed she'd never have to face her captors again. "She was amazing, a very strong child," Jacobson recalls. "She never cried. Shyima liked being in protective custody, unlike other kids, because she felt safe."

A few hours later, Jacobson, armed with a search warrant, returned to Ibrahim's house with agents from the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In the garage, they photographed Shyima's stained mattress. A bucket of soapy water stood next to a broken lamp; folded clothes were on the floor. "Shyima lived in complete contrast to the rest of the family," says Jacobson. ICE agent Bob Schoch adds, "I've seen pets that are treated better."

Hoping to justify the arrangement, Ibrahim showed the agents the handwritten, notarized contract he and Shyima's mother and father had signed. "It said she was to work for them for ten years," Jacobson says, "for a stipendpaid to her parents of $30 a month."

The investigator arrested Ibrahim and Motelib, charging them with conspiracy, involuntary servitude, obtaining the labor of another person unlawfully, and harboring an alien.

On the day of Shyima's rescue, immigration officials offered her a choice: Return to Egypt or stay in America and live in a foster home. Nervous and tentative, Shyima phoned her father in Egypt and blurted out, "I want to stay here." He was angry, but Shyima's mind was made up: She wanted to start a new, better life.

During the next two years, she lived with two foster families. In the first home, she learned to speak and read English. In the next one, in San Jose, they expected her to become a strict Muslim, and after an argument, they dropped Shyima off at a local group home. "I just wanted to be a regular American teenager," she says.

She soon got her wish. Chuck and Jenny Hall, parents of two daughters and a son, had recently bought a four-bedroom house in Orange County and decided they had room for more children. After becoming foster parents to a 15-year-old girl and Chuck's 13-year-old nephew, they were ready to welcome another. At their first meeting with Shyima, "we all clicked," says Chuck, a uniform company service manager. "She had the same sense of humor I do."

Shyima had just two questions for her prospective parents: Were there house rules, and what chores would she have to do? "Everything is negotiable," Chuck answered.

"The No. 1 rule: Homework and school first," added Jenny, a youth counselor. "We'll treat you as our own daughter. You'll be part of our family."

By then 15, Shyima had blossomed into a beautiful young woman. But she brought more with her than her suitcase. "I had a whole lot of anger," she says. For the first six months, she had trouble sleeping and suffered from anxiety. She regularly saw a therapist

and took medication for depression.

With time, she grew more self-confident. At school, she made friends, including a first boyfriend, and joined the track team. She got a part-time job at a Godiva chocolate store and participated in church dinners and car wash fund-raisers. She even volunteered to be a counselor at a camp for children with low self-esteem.

Ibrahim and Motelib, meanwhile, accepted a plea bargain to avoid trial. At their October 2006 sentencing hearing, Shyima sat nervously in the courtroom, listening to their pleas for mercy. "What happened was due to my ignorance of the law, but still I have all responsibility," Ibrahim told the judge.

Motelib was less repentant. "I treated her the same way as I would treat her in Egypt. I would have been very happy if she had come and told me, 'Please don't do this.' Then I would have changed my actions."

Unable to contain her outrage, Shyima asked to address the court. "[Motelib] is a grown woman, so she knows right from wrong," she said. "Where was their loving when it came to me? Wasn't I a human being too? I felt like I was nothing when I was with them. What they did to me is going to scar me for the rest of my life."

Ibrahim received a reduced sentence of three years in prison, and Motelib got 22 months. The couple were also ordered to pay Shyima $76,137 for the work she did. Both will be deported to Egypt when they get out of jail.

After the hearing, Shyima celebrated by going shopping for a dress to wear to her high school homecoming dance. She and Jenny chose a beautiful one-long, shiny, and black. With a portion of her restitution money, Shyima also got a laptop, a digital camera, and a new Nissan Versa; she put the rest into a college fund.

"She's strong-willed and independent," says Jenny, who with her husband legally adopted Shyima last year. "She knows what she wants."

As for the future, Shyima says she'd like to be a police officer so she can help other people. She also wants to return to Egypt one day to visit her brothers and sisters. For now, though, she's content, indulging the dream she never imagined would come true: life as a regular American teen.

***

The Modern Slave Trade

While on assignment in Sudan, reporter E. Benjamin Skinner met a man who had lived most of his life as a slave. The encounter inspired the new book A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery (Free Press), based on Skinner's five-continent

investigation of the human-trafficking trade.

RD: Why do you think slavery still exists?

Skinner: There are pockets around the world where people are absolutely desperate. Criminals will look at an individual with no education, financial resources, or access to credit, and say, "Here's an opportunity to make money." Until recently, there's been little recognition by some countries that slavery still exists within their borders. That attitude contributes to the problem here.

RD: How so?

Skinner: There's this idea that a domestic worker who's quiet is probably lacking [immigration] papers, or that somebody on the street dressed a certain way is a prostitute.

A domestic worker who never leaves the house may, in fact, be a trafficked woman, and a prostitute may be a sex slave.

RD: How common is slavery in the U.S.?

Skinner: The low-end State Department estimate of people trafficked into the country annually is 14,500, and there are more than 43,000 slaves at any given time. Overall, about 2 percent get rescued, and the U.S. is one of the best in the world on this.

RD: What can the average citizen do?

Skinner: Victims get out of these situations when individuals say, "Something is wrong here." So be aware of your neighborhood. Make sure elected officials put modern-day abolition on the American foreign policy agenda. Get involved with groups like Free the Slaves [freetheslaves.net].

RD: What surprised you most about the victims you interviewed?

Skinner: The capacity of human beings to have their humanity ripped away, then

rebuild their lives.

***

Law and Order

The United States started a program in 2000 to crack down on human trafficking and began ranking countries according to their willingness to eradicate the practice. In the most recent ranking, Egypt ended up just above the lowest tier. With urging from the United Nations, more than 100 countries have, in the past five years, passed or amended laws making human trafficking a crime. The State Department has also stepped up efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute the crime domestically. One hundred and eleven people were charged with human trafficking in the U.S. in 2006; 98 were convicted. Shyima Hall's case was the first one prosecuted in Orange County. •

Six months later, on the morning of April 9, 2002, Orange County Child Protective Services social worker Carole Chen responded to an anonymous caller (believed to be a neighbor) reporting a case of child abuse. The person said that a young girl was living in the family's garage, acting as a maid, and not attending school.

Chen, along with Irvine police investigator Tracy Jacobson, knocked at Ibrahim's front door. When he answered, Jacobson asked who else lived in the house. Ibrahim said his wife and five children.

"Are there other children?" the officer pressed. Ibrahim admitted there was a 12-year-old girl. He claimed she was a distant relative.

"Can I talk to her?" Jacobson asked.

Cleaning upstairs, Shyima was oblivious that her salvation was moments away. Ibrahim called to her in Arabic, telling her to come downstairs and deny that she worked for them. Shabbily dressed in a brown T-shirt and baggy pants, she hurried to the door.

Chen, who noticed that the girl's hands looked red and raw, called a translator on her cell phone. Shyima told him that she'd been in the country for two years and had never been to school.

Officer Jacobson promptly took the girl into protective custody. Riding in the backseat of the police car, headed to a children's group home where she would be temporarily placed, Shyima prayed she'd never have to face her captors again. "She was amazing, a very strong child," Jacobson recalls. "She never cried. Shyima liked being in protective custody, unlike other kids, because she felt safe."

A few hours later, Jacobson, armed with a search warrant, returned to Ibrahim's house with agents from the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In the garage, they photographed Shyima's stained mattress. A bucket of soapy water stood next to a broken lamp; folded clothes were on the floor. "Shyima lived in complete contrast to the rest of the family," says Jacobson. ICE agent Bob Schoch adds, "I've seen pets that are treated better."

Hoping to justify the arrangement, Ibrahim showed the agents the handwritten, notarized contract he and Shyima's mother and father had signed. "It said she was to work for them for ten years," Jacobson says, "for a stipendpaid to her parents of $30 a month."

The investigator arrested Ibrahim and Motelib, charging them with conspiracy, involuntary servitude, obtaining the labor of another person unlawfully, and harboring an alien.

On the day of Shyima's rescue, immigration officials offered her a choice: Return to Egypt or stay in America and live in a foster home. Nervous and tentative, Shyima phoned her father in Egypt and blurted out, "I want to stay here." He was angry, but Shyima's mind was made up: She wanted to start a new, better life.

During the next two years, she lived with two foster families. In the first home, she learned to speak and read English. In the next one, in San Jose, they expected her to become a strict Muslim, and after an argument, they dropped Shyima off at a local group home. "I just wanted to be a regular American teenager," she says.

She soon got her wish. Chuck and Jenny Hall, parents of two daughters and a son, had recently bought a four-bedroom house in Orange County and decided they had room for more children. After becoming foster parents to a 15-year-old girl and Chuck's 13-year-old nephew, they were ready to welcome another. At their first meeting with Shyima, "we all clicked," says Chuck, a uniform company service manager. "She had the same sense of humor I do."

Shyima had just two questions for her prospective parents: Were there house rules, and what chores would she have to do? "Everything is negotiable," Chuck answered.

"The No. 1 rule: Homework and school first," added Jenny, a youth counselor. "We'll treat you as our own daughter. You'll be part of our family."

By then 15, Shyima had blossomed into a beautiful young woman. But she brought more with her than her suitcase. "I had a whole lot of anger," she says. For the first six months, she had trouble sleeping and suffered from anxiety. She regularly saw a therapist

and took medication for depression.

With time, she grew more self-confident. At school, she made friends, including a first boyfriend, and joined the track team. She got a part-time job at a Godiva chocolate store and participated in church dinners and car wash fund-raisers. She even volunteered to be a counselor at a camp for children with low self-esteem.

Ibrahim and Motelib, meanwhile, accepted a plea bargain to avoid trial. At their October 2006 sentencing hearing, Shyima sat nervously in the courtroom, listening to their pleas for mercy. "What happened was due to my ignorance of the law, but still I have all responsibility," Ibrahim told the judge.

Motelib was less repentant. "I treated her the same way as I would treat her in Egypt. I would have been very happy if she had come and told me, 'Please don't do this.' Then I would have changed my actions."

Unable to contain her outrage, Shyima asked to address the court. "[Motelib] is a grown woman, so she knows right from wrong," she said. "Where was their loving when it came to me? Wasn't I a human being too? I felt like I was nothing when I was with them. What they did to me is going to scar me for the rest of my life."

Ibrahim received a reduced sentence of three years in prison, and Motelib got 22 months. The couple were also ordered to pay Shyima $76,137 for the work she did. Both will be deported to Egypt when they get out of jail.

After the hearing, Shyima celebrated by going shopping for a dress to wear to her high school homecoming dance. She and Jenny chose a beautiful one-long, shiny, and black. With a portion of her restitution money, Shyima also got a laptop, a digital camera, and a new Nissan Versa; she put the rest into a college fund.

"She's strong-willed and independent," says Jenny, who with her husband legally adopted Shyima last year. "She knows what she wants."

As for the future, Shyima says she'd like to be a police officer so she can help other people. She also wants to return to Egypt one day to visit her brothers and sisters. For now, though, she's content, indulging the dream she never imagined would come true: life as a regular American teen.

The Modern Slave Trade

While on assignment in Sudan, reporter E. Benjamin Skinner met a man who had lived most of his life as a slave. The encounter inspired the new book A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery (Free Press), based on Skinner's five-continent
investigation of the human-trafficking trade.

RD: Why do you think slavery still exists?

Skinner: There are pockets around the world where people are absolutely desperate. Criminals will look at an individual with no education, financial resources, or access to credit, and say, "Here's an opportunity to make money." Until recently, there's been little recognition by some countries that slavery still exists within their borders. That attitude contributes to the problem here.

RD: How so?

Skinner: There's this idea that a domestic worker who's quiet is probably lacking [immigration] papers, or that somebody on the street dressed a certain way is a prostitute.

A domestic worker who never leaves the house may, in fact, be a trafficked woman, and a prostitute may be a sex slave.

RD: How common is slavery in the U.S.?

Skinner: The low-end State Department estimate of people trafficked into the country annually is 14,500, and there are more than 43,000 slaves at any given time. Overall, about 2 percent get rescued, and the U.S. is one of the best in the world on this.

RD: What can the average citizen do?

Skinner: Victims get out of these situations when individuals say, "Something is wrong here." So be aware of your neighborhood. Make sure elected officials put modern-day abolition on the American foreign policy agenda. Get involved with groups like Free the Slaves [freetheslaves.net].

RD: What surprised you most about the victims you interviewed?

Skinner: The capacity of human beings to have their humanity ripped away, then rebuild their lives.

Law and Order
The United States started a program in 2000 to crack down on human trafficking and began ranking countries according to their willingness to eradicate the practice. In the most recent ranking, Egypt ended up just above the lowest tier. With urging from the United Nations, more than 100 countries have, in the past five years, passed or amended laws making human trafficking a crime. The State Department has also stepped up efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute the crime domestically. One hundred and eleven people were charged with human trafficking in the U.S. in 2006; 98 were convicted. Shyima Hall's case was the first one prosecuted in Orange County.

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Only the Creepiest Photos Ever Taken

Mourning is a strange thing, and different cultures deal with it in vastly different ways. But there’s a reason people associate the Victorians above all with morbidity and death, and one of them is memento mori like this:postmortem2.jpg
The fact is, postmortem photographs like this were taken more than any other kind of photograph in the Victorian era — especially in the U.S. — and in many cases these carefully-arranged, meticulously staged pictures were the only ones ever taken of their subjects. From Stanley Burns’ book Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America:

These photographs were a common aspect of American culture, a part of the mourning and memorialization process. Surviving families were proud of these images and hung them in their homes, sent copies to friends and relatives, wore them as lockets or carried them as pocket mirrors. Nineteenth-century Americans knew how to respond to these images. Today there is no culturally normative response to postmortem photographs.

So, given your lack of a “culturally normative response” to these pictures, dear reader, we advise the faint of heart among you to click elsewhere.

“Child in Coffin at the Death Room”
child.jpg

From PBS.com: “This portrait appears to have been taken in the formal parlor of a family home. The parlor, or “death room,” was an important part of funerary rituals for most of the 19th century, the place where deceased family members were laid out for final respects. This image dates to c. 1890-1905, a time when many funerals were still taking place at home. Soon, however, death would begin to leave the home and by end of World War I most Americans will receive their health care in doctor’s offices and hospitals and most funerals will take place in funeral homes. As the funeral “parlor” came into vogue, the home parlor was rechristened a “living room.” A 1910 issue of Ladies Home Journal declared the “death room” to be a term of the past.”

Also, did you notice the strange silhouette on the right side of the picture? That’s the photographer’s assistant, holding the casket lid open for the shot.

brothers.jpg
For me, though, more intriguing than the dead are the living who pose with them — usually stoic and reserved, it’s the little bit of emotion their faces betray that make these portraits so compelling … and heartbreaking. (Above and below: siblings with their brothers.)

brother.jpg

Another common theme in Victorian-era postmortem photography was the staged scene of mourning, which was often highly melodramatic, like this one, “Orphans at Their Mother’s Grave”:
grave.jpg
The photograph above also reveals another Victorian preoccupation: spirit photography. Likely a double-exposure featuring an “actress” portraying the childrens’ mother, this style seems to me a highly theatrical way to deal with one’s grief.

newspaper.jpg
Another style was the photograph in which the dead were posed to look alive — the first in this series, at the top of this post, is an “eyes-open” example. The use of props like this man’s newspaper was less common; perhaps it was included to distract from the unnatural rigidness of his hands, among other giveaways.

Original here

Vend Me Over: Bizarre Vending Machines

For most Americans, vending machines are a convenient way to get their afternoon soda fix or to cure the munchies with a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos. In other countries, vending machines are host to the bizarre, the wacky, and sometimes, the perverted. We’ve come a long way from soda. Check out these not-so-ordinary vending machines from around the world.

Dirty Drawers
The Japanese have a love affair with vending machines. From beer to cigarettes, to rice and ramen, probably the weirdest (and the nastiest) machines are those that sell dirty schoolgirl panties. Soiled underwear from pre-pubescent girls … I guess there’s a niche for every perv.


Don’t Forget the Lube
In London, bars, night clubs, hair salons, and health clubs have started to sell sex toys from vending machines, including your run of the mill vibrators and, you know, your everyday anal beads and cock rings. Those crazy Brits and their anal beads.


Lobster Lovin’
Another crazy Japanese idea—a lobster vending machine. Yes, lobster—live lobster, in fact. Crawling, squirmy, and undeniably delicious lobster. The catch? It’s one of those grabby hand vending machine games you used to play as a kid. What I want to know is where do you put the live lobster after you win? Are there buckets with water available for carrying? How often do you change the lobsters and who’s in charge of the lobster machine? I’d like to know so I can get my catch on.

420 24/7
A walk down any San Francisco street and the heady smell of freshly rolled joints and pot smoke is easily recognized. Maybe that’s because in California, medical marijuana is legal and there are a ton of hidden (and not so hidden) pot shops where those with medical marijuana prescriptions can purchase their ganja of choice. These plain-looking vending machines are housed in rooms outside the shops, making it easy for potheads to access their herb 24/7, granted they have a proper prescription. Talk about reefer madness.

Crazy for Kosher
Oy vey! Can’t find a nosh to keep you kosher on the go? Here’s your solution—a kosher vending machine. Maybe Americans are starting to take a hint from the Japanese, though maybe we’re not quite as extreme yet as their soiled panties. At least you can get your fill of hot nosh, all day, every day.

Vending machines have definitely evolved since the early days of Snickers and Diet Coke. Though you can still get your Frito’s fix at most vending machines, be sure to also keep an eye out for that vibrating cock ring you’ve been coveting.

Original here

Genghis Khan Massage Chair


The chi of Portland: High weirdness in Nirvana

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Acupuncture is not just for people. It's also for cities — if the city is Portland.

Adam Kuby has stuck a 23-foot needle into the ground down by the Willamette River and hopes to plant more, choosing locations where he figures the city's "chi," or vital energy, needs some help.

Unusual? You bet. Unusual for Portland? Not really.

For several years, Portland has been reaping praise from lifestyle magazines, from Men's Journal to specialty publications, as one of the nation's more livable cities, listed among the best places to have a baby, grow old, go for a walk, ride a bike, take a jog, breathe clean air, own a dog, take public transportation, start a business (green or otherwise), go out for dinner or not get mugged.

The praises don't stop. Swing a cat and hit 10. On second thought, don't. Portland is rated the third-most humane city in the nation.

But the magazines skim over Portland's quirkier qualities. They aren't bandied about, but they're not hidden either. To some, they make Portland even more endearing.

There's what's left of the 24-Hour Church of Elvis (online only these days), the Voodoo Doughnut Shop, nude bike festivals, the 5K Bare Buns Run in Forest Park and what was billed as the world's longest drag queen chorus line.

Public nudity is illegal in Portland, but in a state where live sex acts are protected as free speech, police involvement generally is limited to keeping order.

For kitsch lovers there's the Velveteria, a black velvet painting museum. Lots of taste, all of it bad in some eyes, unless you love it, and the owners do. Nothing is for sale. Open weekends.

A black light room enhances your favorite Mack Truck Jesus, wahine, Elvis or bandito.

"You will never be the same after a visit to the Velveteria," the Web site promises. And it has "arrived." A monthlong show at Powell's Books, billed as the world's largest bookstore, begins May 1.

"Zoo Bombers" are young adults who race on kiddie bicycles down steep and windy roads starting near the Oregon Zoo. Speeds up to 50 mph are achieved. Details and photos of fractures and ghastly scrapes and bruises are posted on the Internet as badges of honor.

"I used to bomb until a friend of mine biffed it pretty hard. He was in a coma for two months," says Chris Banks, who works the counter at a pizza joint where the Zoo Bombers sometimes gather before starting their wild Sunday night rides.

There weren't any Bombers at the pizza joint on a recent Sunday night.

"They don't always start from here. They're probably up there getting loaded first. These guys are hard-core," said the well-tattooed Banks.

Among the latest additions to the panoply of Portland's oddities are Adam Kuby's giant needles. An artist who arrived from New York four years ago, Kuby says the acupuncture project is an attempt to get people to see the city in a holistic way.

"It is a visual way of expressing what a lot of people already know," said Kuby. The city is "one organism, one body, one very complex, independent system."

Not to mention eccentric.

Ubiquitous bumper stickers proclaim "Keep Portland Weird." They were meant to support small local businesses to keep Portland from being big-boxed out of its identity.

But they've become a focal point for what might be a counterculture elsewhere.

Portland has been called The People's Republic of Portland (land-use rules irk some developers) Beervana, (it's loaded with microbreweries), the Rose City (they are nearly worshipped here) and Sin City, a salute, of sorts, to its frontier past and recent bouts of permissiveness that some people find a bit much. Others just shrug. That's Portland.

The first President Bush called it "Little Beirut" for the hostile receptions he could rely on, and his son hasn't fared any better.

Portland's quirkiness is homegrown as are many other things, some of them under Gro-Lites.

It never got set in its ways. Many of its residents came from somewhere else. You can pick a Brooklynite or a New Englandah out of a chorus, but there is no Portland accent and people here have no pounded-in traditions of doing things a certain way.

So they don't.

At first it was "Stumptown," a just-logged patch of rough riverside cabins in the mud. A wintertime coin toss in 1845 decided it would be Portland, not Boston.

Given the season, it probably was raining. Given Portland's reputation, many probably assume it still is.

It was always a little different.

Tavern-keeper and recent Mayor Bud Clark was photographed a few years back with a raincoat wide open in front of a statue. "Expose Yourself to Art," the poster read, a classic then and now.

Teetotaling lumberman Simon Benson, hoping his workers would show up reasonably sober, gave the city the ubiquitous "Benson Bubbler" brass drinking fountains a century or so back, promoting pure water. Portland's beer consumption plunged. Undaunted, Portland brewer Henry Weinhard offered to pipe fresh beer, 24/7, through a downtown fountain. He got a polite "no thanks."

There's more.

Portland's Skid Road was revered by loggers, sailors and miners flush with pay looking to "blow her in" on a spree. Those who overdid it might wake on a sailing ship, "Shanghaied" as an unwilling crewman. In this, Portland put even wicked San Francisco in the shade. There's a tour available of tunnels said to have been used for the purpose.

And it's Skid Road, not Skid Row, named for the downhill road that horse teams used to drag logs to the mills. Portland claims to have coined the term.

It included Erickson's Saloon, which claimed the world's longest bar. The late historian Stewart Holbrook writes that it measured exactly 684 feet, "a kind of symbol of local greatness and potency" worth fighting over.

The building still stands, duly marked, in the old district, which is reluctantly becoming gentrified, sort of.

The recent glitter and hype is no accident.

Joe D'Alessandro, who headed the Portland Oregon Visitors Association for 10 years until 2006, said Portland lacked a large promotional budget so it focused on impact.

"We were determined to find the niches that were really unique about Portland and tell them to the world," he said.

"We didn't try to make Portland something for everybody. We centered on what Portland's authentic strengths are, what Portland is really good at."

Now, about that rain:

It falls just once a year, from October to about May.

Mobile, Ala., gets three times, on average, more rain a year than Portland. But Portland has three times as many rainy days.

Wettest? Hardly. Rainiest? It's up there.

Bring an umbrella.

___

If You Go...

ZOOBOMB: http://www.zoobomb.net. Weekly bike event, Sundays, 8:30 p.m., across from Rocco's Pizza, 949 SW Oak.

5K NUDE RUN: In Forest Park, June 14, 7:30 p.m; http://www.barebunsrun.com.

ART:

-Velveteria Museum of Velvet Paintings, 2448 E. Burnside St.; http://www.velveteria.com or 503-233-5100, Friday-Sunday, noon-5 p.m., $5.

-Acupuncture Project, http://www.adamkuby.com.


-"Expose Yourself to Art" image, http://tinyurl.com/5arjul

Original here

Famed actress investigates 'Green Porno'

NEW YORK (CNN) -- When it comes to sex, Isabella Rossellini is an animal.

Green Porno

Isabella Rossellini, as a fly, poses with a friend in "Green Porno."

A spider. An earthworm. A fly.

They're just some of the creatures the actress impersonates in her new project, "Green Porno." The series of short films, commissioned by the Sundance Channel, is a showcase of how small creatures get down to the business of reproducing.

Rossellini hopes you'll find the two-minute flicks amusing. She also wants you to learn something along the way, such as the fact that snails are hermaphrodites. And perhaps more interestingly, that the saucy mollusks engage in a decidedly rough form of foreplay.

Of course, you can't beat the praying mantis when it comes to aggressive copulating. The female bites the head off the male during sex.

Really?

"Yes, while they're mating the female eats up the male and the male continues to mate until he's completely eaten and dead," says Rossellini. "With a lot of insects, a lot of females eat the male." Video Watch a seductive Rossellini in "Green Porno" »

Don't Miss

Costumed as a different critter in each of the eight films, Rossellini -- perhaps best known to American audiences for her roles in the film "Blue Velvet" and the TV series "Alias" -- shares tidbits like these, not all of them so gruesome, and demonstrates the appropriate technique.

But before you reach for the dimmer switch and start cranking Barry White tunes, know that her mate in each scene is made of ... well ... cardboard.

Consider it small-time porn for the small screen. The films were actually tailor-made for viewing on cell phones.

Rossellini sat down with CNN to share her views on sex, bugs and family.

CNN: You conceived, scripted, directed and star in these short films. How did you come up with the idea for "Green Porno"?

ISABELLA ROSSELLINI: I had the format of the film, I had the fact that being [for a] small screen you have to do something that is almost like animation, with primary colors, very strong. So I had the art direction. Then Sundance's mission is to be a green channel ... so I knew the subject had to be about green. And so with these elements I thought, "Ah! Sex life of bugs!" Because everybody likes sex and is interested in sex. And people don't really think how strange the animals are around us.

I've always been very interested in animals. I'm a bird watcher. I raise dogs for the blind. Mostly my career has been as a model and as an actress, but people who know me know that I have a big interest in animals. The world of animals shows me how incredible this planet is. It's bigger than fantasy.

CNN: Do you play the female insect in each film?

ROSSELLINI: It's hard to tell. Sometimes I play the male, but a lot of insects are hermaphrodites.

CNN: What was the most challenging creature to play?

ROSSELLINI: Probably the hardest costume to wear was the worm. Because my hands [were restricted]. We shot one animal per day, so I was in that costume for many, many hours and I couldn't scratch, I couldn't drink. We had a lunch break so I could come out, but once I was in my costume I stayed paralyzed for hours.

CNN: Would you say these are the most unusual roles you've ever played?

ROSSELLINI: Definitely. They are the most unusual roles that I've played because generally I play humans. [laughs]

CNN: How do you approach the graphic nature of sex?

ROSSELLINI: Well I chose insects because they are so [different] from us. Mammals, like a dog or a chimpanzee, might look too much like us. The films are very accessible. They are not shocking in any way. And I wanted it to be that way. Insects are so different from us that you can't even go close to anything that would shock us.

CNN: Have your kids seen these films?

ROSSELLINI: Yes they have. They liked them a lot. In fact my son is one of the bees. Bees are so complicated and they are so much of a community that I couldn't really play all [of them]. I needed some actors, so I hired my son and his friends to play the male bees.

CNN: To help mom in her porno.

ROSSELLINI: Exactly! [laughs]

CNN: I take it you had fun making these films.

ROSSELLINI: Oh I had so much fun making them. It was really great. I worked with a group of about 10 people and we are all looking forward to making more. It's fun to resolve it visually. When I write the scripts I write them like a comic strip. But I don't know how to make a three-dimensional fly. I draw it, and [my colleagues] help realize it.
Original here

'Bribe' or 'miswording'? You make the call.

The Consumerist this morning has an item about an outfit called TheCellShop.net apparently trying to buy itself a top-notch reputation on resellerratings.com.

The practice is not exactly uncommon, but isn't usually this bald-faced in that TheCellShop wasn't just asking for good grades but 100% perfect ones:

Dear Valued Customer,

If you have purchased from us before and feel we did a good job, please use the link below and rate us 10/10 and we will give you $5.00 in credit to use for anything on our website.

The pitch was even thoughtful enough to walk a customer through the process of fudging an invoice number needed to submit the review if they no longer had theirs handy.

Since The Consumerist didn't mince words in its headline -- "TheCellShop.net Caught Bribing Customers To Submit 'Perfect' Reviews -- I figured I'd send "Danny" at TheCellShop an e-mail to give him an opportunity to defend himself. Here's his reply:

We worded the email that was sent out improperly. We wanted to offer $5.00 coupon to anybody who submitted a review ... we have posted the mistake as well on resellerratings.com.

We are now offering $5.00 for anybody who leaves a review whether it be good or bad.

We posted a few replies to the reviews on resellerratings letting consumers know we did in fact make an error and will have to deal with it since it was our fault for the misworded emails that were sent out.

-Danny

Convinced? Me neither.

My guess is that they're going to get more reviews and coupon requests than they can handle now ... and not many are going to be giving perfect grades.

Welcome regulars and passersby. Here are a few more recent Buzzblog items. And, if you'd like to receive Buzzblog via e-mail newsletter, here's where to sign up.

YouTube's down, everybody panic.

This Year's 25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries.

TV crew tames the Bermuda Triangle of parking lots.

Women 4 times more likely than men to cough up personal info to a stranger.

Adults are too quick to dismiss educational video games.

Google renames the Persian Gulf.

Top 10 Buzzblog posts for '07: Verizon's there, of course, along with Gates, Wikipedia and the guy who lost a girlfriend to Blackberry's blackout.


8 can't-miss tech predictions ... for 1998

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Confirmed! Bureaucrats have no sense of humor, funny stop signs nixed

Inhabitants of Oak Lawn, Ill. apparently have a hard time understanding the meaning of the large red octagons posted on street corners through the city. So in an effort to get people to actually stop, the city installed smaller signs below their larger, legal counterparts to get motorists attention while providing them a half-hearted chuckle. The extra signs correlated with the "Stop" written above, with slogans including "and smell the roses," "right there pilgrim" and "means you're not moving." While residents and the town's mayor found them funny, the Illinois Department of Transportation was less than enthused and claims that the signs violate the Fed's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. That means that federal funding for projects in the city could be put on hold, so $1,700 worth of signs were pulled down. In a word: lame.
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