Monday, December 31, 2012

Perhaps now more than ever, organized religion must defend the faith. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s argument, like most of these attempts, falls short.

The Moral Animal?

I believe the author of the article below is overly naive as to his illogical conclusion! The utter failure of "good people" to grasp the world beyond their own tiny community, is mind-numbing!

Global hunger persists as the world's population grows - latimes.com Jul 22, 2012 ... Nearly 1 billion people are malnourished, and a child dies of hunger every 11 seconds. ... More people die of hunger-related causes every year than succumb to AIDS, ... Today, with nearly twice as many people on the planet, his words seem sadly prescient. .... It is called "The stork is the bird of war".

www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/population/la-fg-population-matters3-20120726-html,0,2752228.htmlstory   *

 IT is the religious time of the year. Step into any city in America or Britain and you will see the night sky lit by religious symbols, Christmas decorations certainly and probably also a giant menorah. Religion in the West seems alive and well. (Is there NO world beyond the West? -UOJ)

But is it really? Or have these symbols been emptied of content, no more than a glittering backdrop to the West’s newest faith, consumerism, and its secular cathedrals, shopping malls?

At first glance, religion is in decline. In Britain, the results of the 2011 national census have just been published. They show that a quarter of the population claims to have no religion, almost double the figure 10 years ago. And though the United States remains the most religious country in the West, 20 percent declare themselves without religious affiliation — double the number a generation ago.

Looked at another way, though, the figures tell a different story. Since the 18th century, many Western intellectuals have predicted religion’s imminent demise. Yet after a series of withering attacks, most recently by the new atheists, including Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, still in Britain three in four people, and in America four in five, declare allegiance to a religious faith. That, in an age of science, is what is truly surprising.

The irony is that many of the new atheists are followers of Charles Darwin. We are what we are, they say, because it has allowed us to survive and pass on our genes to the next generation. Our biological and cultural makeup constitutes our “adaptive fitness.” Yet religion is the greatest survivor of them all. Superpowers tend to last a century; the great faiths last millenniums. The question is why.

Darwin himself suggested what is almost certainly the correct answer. He was puzzled by a phenomenon that seemed to contradict his most basic thesis, that natural selection should favor the ruthless. Altruists, who risk their lives for others, should therefore usually die before passing on their genes to the next generation. Yet all societies value altruism, and something similar can be found among social animals, from chimpanzees to dolphins to leafcutter ants.

Neuroscientists have shown how this works. We have mirror neurons that lead us to feel pain when we see others suffering. We are hard-wired for empathy. We are moral animals.

The precise implications of Darwin’s answer are still being debated by his disciples — Harvard’s E. O. Wilson in one corner, Oxford’s Richard Dawkins in the other. To put it at its simplest, we hand on our genes as individuals but we survive as members of groups, and groups can exist only when individuals act not solely for their own advantage but for the sake of the group as a whole. Our unique advantage is that we form larger and more complex groups than any other life-form.

A result is that we have two patterns of reaction in the brain, one focusing on potential danger to us as individuals, the other, located in the prefrontal cortex, taking a more considered view of the consequences of our actions for us and others. The first is immediate, instinctive and emotive. The second is reflective and rational. We are caught, in the psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s phrase, between thinking fast and slow.

The fast track helps us survive, but it can also lead us to acts that are impulsive and destructive. The slow track leads us to more considered behavior, but it is often overridden in the heat of the moment. We are sinners and saints, egotists and altruists, exactly as the prophets and philosophers have long maintained.

If this is so, we are in a position to understand why religion helped us survive in the past — and why we will need it in the future. It strengthens and speeds up the slow track. It reconfigures our neural pathways, turning altruism into instinct, through the rituals we perform, the texts we read and the prayers we pray. It remains the most powerful community builder the world has known. Religion binds individuals into groups through habits of altruism, creating relationships of trust strong enough to defeat destructive emotions. Far from refuting religion, the Neo-Darwinists have helped us understand why it matters.

No one has shown this more elegantly than the political scientist Robert D. Putnam. In the 1990s he became famous for the phrase “bowling alone”: more people were going bowling, but fewer were joining bowling teams. Individualism was slowly destroying our capacity to form groups. A decade later, in his book “American Grace,” he showed that there was one place where social capital could still be found: religious communities.

Mr. Putnam’s research showed that frequent church- or synagogue-goers were more likely to give money to charity, do volunteer work, help the homeless, donate blood, help a neighbor with housework, spend time with someone who was feeling depressed, offer a seat to a stranger or help someone find a job. Religiosity as measured by church or synagogue attendance is, he found, a better predictor of altruism than education, age, income, gender or race.

Religion is the best antidote to the individualism of the consumer age. The idea that society can do without it flies in the face of history and, now, evolutionary biology. This may go to show that God has a sense of humor. It certainly shows that the free societies of the West must never lose their sense of God.

Jonathan Sacks is the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth and a member of the House of Lords.


Not One Religious Person In The Entire Group:


The Power Of One!

What if it all depended on me?

To change the world.

To change the world?

What if my only responsibility was to change the world.

To change the world? Let me be the ONE.

To start a revolution.

Let me sing my song to the people of the

world. It all begins with.







What kind of love can conquer disease.

And change the world. And change the world?

What can I do to make poverty history.

And change the world. And change the world?

Let me be the ONE. To start a revolution.

Let me sing my song to the people of the world.

To the children of the world.

It all begins with...






Please don’t close your eyes

Please don't turn away. Let your voices rise.

Put love on display. And make a difference now.

I believe you and me. Can make a difference now.

It all begins with ONE!...........

Sunday, December 30, 2012

How Can We Protect Our Children?


Giving Voice to the Trauma of “Immeasurable Fear” of Millions of Children!

Only if someone prominent – someone famous – allows the voice of those traumatized to be heard can others know they are not alone. As someone who has devoted much of my life to protecting children from abuse, there can be no more noble cause.

One of my first jobs out of law school was an Assistant Attorney General handling child protective cases. In that job I saw hideous photos – including scars from child sex rape. Child sex abuse usually happened within a family and usually was considered a private matter until recent decades. I know.

My mother was possibly the longest serving child protective investigator in America -- so child sex abuse matters to me.

It matters so much that when I was elected to my legislature, a top focus for me was initiating laws to better protect children from sexual predators. I’ve also spent multiple times on tour with Richard Dawkins.

This combination leads me to offer a distinct perspective on the experience of a woman who at age seven was sexually fondled by a priest.

In addition to this trauma, this woman, at about the same age, faced the horror of a childhood friend dying while having the “knowledge” -- drummed into her as a child -- that her friend would burn in hell. Why? Because this other child happened to be Protestant -- not Catholic. The woman said she never lost sleep based on the “yucky” (her words) fondling. She was deeply traumatized by the “knowledge” of hellfire for her friend. She recounted: “I spent many a night being terrified that the people I loved would go to Hell. It gave me nightmares.” She felt “cold, immeasurable fear.” She concluded that, in her experience, the emotional abuse of threatened hellfire was worse than fondling. (While each child abuse experience is unique, her experience is no less valid).

Would you condemn this woman? Is this woman “militant”? Is she “fundamentalist?” My guess is you’d say no such thing. Yet many have described Richard Dawkins this way for daring to recount her experiences and her conclusion. A Catholic online publication called Dawkins “infamous” as it went on to say that hell was real and a “matter of choice.”

While Richard Dawkins faced a bad experience that I have not (child molestation), I have extensive experience dealing with public policy and child sex abuse. I chaired a Commission on the topic and worked on the issue for years.

To me threatened hellfire has, from my childhood, been no more real than Thor, but, as an adult, I’d see photographs of trauma after child rape. So when this woman, who was fondled, says hellfire mythology is worse, I might be inclined to differ -- but NOT after going on three speaking tours with Richard Dawkins.

Prof. Peter Higgs recently insinuated Prof. Dawkins was “fundamentalist.” I’d ask Mr. Higgs, whom I greatly respect, to listen to people -- the many people -- I meet on a Dawkins tour. Time and again – literally hundreds of times now – I’ve seen people tell Prof. Dawkins -- or tell me or tell our Executive Director Dr. Elisabeth Cornwell – how Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion, freed them from trauma of hellfire, similar to the trauma that this woman described as worse than sexual abuse.

Yet somehow we witness the intellectual acrobatics that Richard Dawkins must be condemned as harsh, or fundamentalist, because he dares to have compassion for a woman in this situation. Think of it. There’s nothing in this woman’s statement that should be dismissed. Yet Richard Dawkins must be condemned for daring to recount her trauma?

The woman victim -- terrorized by her religion (a religion not typically labeled fundamentalist) – has experienced a trauma that she describes as “immeasurable fear” with “sleepless nights.”

Millions of people face this fear, the same sleepless nights – and yet they often think they are totally alone. How dare Richard Dawkins be so rude - so impolite - as to let these victims be heard!? And remember: this cruelty is imposed by organized powerful institutions. Challenge the powerful on behalf of children!? How awful.

Only if someone prominent – someone famous – allows the voice of those traumatized to be heard can others know they are not alone. As someone who has devoted much of my life to protecting children from abuse, there can be no more noble cause.

Richard Dawkins has chosen to give voice to the trauma this woman experienced. Doing so challenges accepted order, established tradition. Whenever one does the right thing for those in the shadows, the powerful rush to condemn, conformists rush to agree.

Others, including many non-religious people, including the justly-admired Peter Higgs, may choose not to give voice to these victims -- and to the trauma they suffered. These victims – millions of victims, millions terrorized – are given hope by Richard Dawkins, a hope I’ve seen by the hundreds on every tour with this decent and honorable man.

I hope Peter Higgs, also an honorable man, and the millions like him (and like me) who have never been subjected to the terror of hellfire will take a step back, step back from the inclination to avoid controversy, the inclination to not ruffle the prominent feathers -- and face the stark reality that human beings are harmed by this terror. I hope they will do the right thing for these victims, and tell the truth about dogmatic childhood indoctrination. I have seen the truth set many people free. In my first hearing as a legislator, a Harvard man was nominated for a judgeship. The insiders -- the “right people” -- were on his side, but women came forward testifying to his sexual harassment. I’m as proud now to stand by the victims of abuse -- who’s story Richard Dawkins has told -- as I was proud to stand by the women who were sexually harassed despite the discomfort it caused “the right people.”

 Anyone who really cares about child abuse will stand with Richard Dawkins. In another time, the fight against child sex abuse, that has been so much of my career, was considered a “private” matter.

 It takes courage to bravely face the form of child abuse that society has yet to face.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Let's Ban Child Rape!


It’s Time We Had a Serious Discussion About Assault Vehicles

America is a great country, but we can be an even greater country if we just banned everything... for the children.

Americans are in love with anything on wheels. This is the country of the Corvette and the Hog where driving fast is considered a national birthright despite the toll in lives and pollutants. And most of the rest of us have come to accept that.

We may shake our heads at the billions wasted on gasoline, on air fresheners and dashboard ornaments that could have been used to feed the starving children of the world. But when tragedy strikes it is important for us to set aside the political rhetoric and have a serious discussion about assault vehicles.

Let’s talk about motorcycles.

Unlike cars, motorcycles have no practical purpose. No one commutes to work on a motorcycle. No one drives to pick up their children from soccer practice on a motorcycle. But for some people a motorcycle is a symbol of their masculinity and that symbol has become death on wheels.

Americans are in love with motorcycles. 9 percent of Americans own 11 million motorcycles as part of the 18 billion dollar motorcycle industry. Some Americans even own more than one motorcycle, even though one motorcycle is the most that any normal person could possibly need.

Motorcycle deaths have risen sharply in the last ten years and the motorcycle industry is to blame for preventing us from addressing this horrifying epidemic of highway death.

In 1994, there were 2,320 motorcycle deaths. In 2012 that number increased to 4,500 as the assault vehicles greased their wheels with the blood of innocent men, women and children.

1 in 7 US traffic deaths is now caused by the motorcycle. Or what we should properly rename the Assault Cycle. Unfortunately movies like Easy Rider glamorize motorcycle culture and the motorcycle industry preys on the vulnerable male psyche as riders chase after some escapist fantasy of personal autonomy.

Motorcycle culture has always been associated with violence and the escalating death toll now threatens our moral standing as a country. America was once known as a nation that the rest of the world looked up to, but now whenever I visit Lichtenstein or Luxembourg for an environmental conference, one of the first questions that I am asked is when Americans will join the rest of the civilized world in restricting the manufacture and sale of assault cycles. And I can only sadly shake my head while downing another Shirley Temple.

But perhaps tragedy will serve as a wake-up call. In Fairfield, California, an off-duty California Highway Patrolman is killed in a collision with a pickup truck. In Duarte, California, former MLB pitcher Frank Pastore died of injuries resulting from a motorcycle accident. In Florence, Kentucky, a motorcycle driver lost control of his assault vehicle and collided with a utility pole. In Tarpon Springs, Florida, a woman riding as a passenger on the back of a motorcycle fell off and was run over by a passing vehicle. These are just a few of the deaths caused by assault cycles that have taken place in the last week.

We cannot meet these awful tragedies with apathy. Only immediate unthinking action will suffice. A serious dialogue must begin in which all options are on the table. The politicians who have been in thrall to the motorcycle industry must look at these dead people that I have just mentioned and completely ignore the law and all other considerations to do whatever I want.

No one is talking about completely banning the motorcycle, except for those who are, but we must work together to reach a sensible solution. Motorcycle owners will still be able to keep and even drive their toys, but we must take action against the deadliest overpowered assault cycles with too much horsepower that have no legitimate purpose.

There is no reason for any law-abiding motorcycle owner to own one of the “superbikes” whose accident rate is 30 times higher than that of cars. These insanely overpowered assault vehicles, such as the Suzuki GSXR1000 and the Kawasaki Ninja, are literal killing machines. Although assault cycles only account for 10 percent of the motorcycles on the road, they account for 25 percent of all fatal motorcycle accidents.

200 horsepower is far too much for any legitimate street bike and it’s time that our elected officials stood up to the motorcycle industry and said no to the assault cycle.

And it cannot end there.

As pernicious as motorcycle culture is, car culture is even deadlier. Millions of children will grow up coughing and wheezing from asthma attacks because they live near a highway. And many more will die in the daily car accidents that mar our nation’s roads, bridges and tunnels.

Americans are in love with their Assault Sedans and their Murder Hatchbacks. The U.S. had 246 million registered vehicles for just 209 million drivers in a country of 311 million. There is no better evidence of the power of car culture than the fact that some people actually own more than one car, so that they can perhaps crash their first car into a crowd, and then get into their second car and crash that it into a crowd too to maximize the death toll.

40,000 people die in car crashes a year. That’s 400,000 a decade or 4 million over a century. That is the grim ugly face of America’s macabre love affair with cars. America leads the world in car ownership, aside from Monaco, and if we are going to take a horrible place like Monaco as our role model, then I no longer want to be an American.

The children, the most innocent among us, are the real victims of America’s insane car culture.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children from 2 to 14 years old. An average of 6 children die every day in car crashes… and 700 more are injured. Some of those injuries will cripple them for life.

Any decent person, even a car owner, can’t help but look at these statistics and demand immediate unthinking action of some kind. It is up to decent people like us, and even them, to join together and call for that action. It is up to us to capitalize on the deaths of these sweet innocent children for the greater good of all.

No one is talking about banning all cars. Some cars, like those that drive environmental activists to environmental conferences, are strictly necessary. But there is a big difference between legitimate and illegitimate cars.

There’s no reason for a law-abiding driver to own a car that goes faster than 35 miles per hour. Above that speed is when most fatal accidents occur and closing that speed loophole will save millions of lives. Cars that travel faster than 35 miles per hour, let’s call them assault vehicles, have no purpose except to cater to a sick car culture that values speed over the lives of innocent children. We owe it to our children to give them a better world. A world where 35 miles per hour isn’t just the speed limit in my gated community, but throughout the entire land.

An assault vehicle ban will also be good for the environment. Many drivers will discover that they can get to work faster by riding a bike than by driving their fume-spewing murder machines.

Speaking of bicycles, there has unfortunately been a sharp rise in cyclist deaths as well. I remember many hours of joy riding my bike up and down the street as a child, and I still put in a few miles on my exercise bike when my schedule allows for it, but these innocent vehicles are being upstaged on the road by killing machines that have very little in common with my 12 inch Huffy and exist only to race and kill.

I have never understood why there must be any bikes with more than 6 speeds. The bike industry, the bike lobby and the bike culture is irresponsibly pushing multi-speed bikes that are completely unnecessary. These Assault Bicycles which have 18 speeds are murder vehicles of death.

It might be best if we put an end to vehicle culture altogether. It might be best if everyone just walked. So long as they walk responsibly.

The number of pedestrian deaths has risen sharply in 2012 and the problem may lie with what I like to call, Assault Walking, or walking too fast, not to mention Assault Running.

To all the paranoid alarmists out there, no one is talking about banning you from going on a light jog or even a brisk walk; so long as you keep it under the speed indicated on your government issued Citizen Pedometer with built-in breathalyzer. If you wish to walk faster than that, you will have to apply for a license, undergo a psychological evaluation, give up your health insurance and then wait six weeks.

Let's talk about child-rape:

Let's ban those rapists; We're certain to get rid of all child-rape by just banning it.

Rape & Child Sex Abuse Laws & Registering Sex Offenders Have Done Nothing to Stop Offenders: CLICK ON LINK:

America is a great country, but we can be an even greater country if we just banned everything… for the children.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Boy Scout sex abuse files: What do they tell us? [Video Discussion]

 The Times this week released about 1,200 previously unpublished files kept by the Boy Scouts of America on volunteers and employees expelled for suspected sexual abuse.

The files, which have been redacted of victims' names and other identifying information, were opened from 1985 through 1991. They can be found in a database along with two decades of files released by order of the Oregon Supreme Court in October. The database also contains summary information on about 3,200 additional files opened from 1947 to 2005 that have not been released publicly.

Together, the material in the database represents the most complete accounting of suspected sexual abuse in the Scouts that has been made public. All of the material was obtained as a result of lawsuits against the Scouts by alleged abuse victims or by media organizations. The Boy Scouts kept the files for nearly a century for internal use only, to keep suspected abusers from rejoining.

About as many files were opened in the six years before 1991 as in the previous two decades. At least in part, that reflects greater reporting of accusations, as awareness of child sexual abuse rose in the Scouts and society at large. About that time, the Scouts launched a concerted effort to train youths and adults on how to identify and prevent sexual abuse.

The files do not represent a complete accounting of alleged abuse in Scouting. Experts say many cases probably were not reported to the national office, and the Scouts say the organization destroyed an unknown number of files over the years.

The latest dossiers — used as evidence in a 1992 court case — are among those reviewed by The Times for a series of stories over the last year, which detailed the Scouts' repeated efforts to keep allegations from police, parents and the public and its resistance to performing criminal background checks on all volunteers. The BSA's inaction or delayed response to allegations at times allowed alleged molesters to continue sexually abusing children. Alleged abusers consistently violated a policy, instituted in 1987, prohibiting adults from being alone with Scouts.

The alleged abusers — including doctors, teachers, priests and other professionals — commonly preyed on children without father figures or gained the trust of both parents.

Re “Scouts employ aggressive tactics in abuse defense,” aka "The Agudath Israel Defense."

I applaud The Times for reporting the disgusting practices of the Boy Scouts of America. The overwhelming evidence that shows how the Boy Scouts went after the victims rather than protecting young boys says everything we need to know about this corrupt organization.

I am an Eagle Scout and had the privilege of having four Scoutmasters who were wonderful and brilliant teachers. These men were educators first and dedicated their careers to bettering young people's lives. I never heard a discriminatory word out of their mouths.

But today the Boy Scouts has an unacceptable way of determining who is and who isn't eligible for membership and leadership, homosexuals and non-Christians being the most discriminated against. Unfortunately, child molesters are evidently not on the blacklist.

I'm the first in line to return my badge and distance myself from what has become a repulsive entity.

Tony Ferdyn
Santa Barbara

Apparently the Boy Scouts interprets “be prepared” as mandating tactics right out of the Scientology litigation playbook.

David R. Ginsburg
Los Angeles

Interesting that the Boy Scouts discriminates against gays but protects pedophiles. Does it remind you of another major institution?

Nelson Schwartz

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Not So Silent Epidemic in New York!

Erin Merryn has had an eventful fall.

In October, Glamour Magazine chose her as one of its 10 Women of the Year. She finished her third book — all it needs now is a title — and most recently got engaged when her boyfriend proposed on Black Friday.

"I never thought I would find a man (whom) I could trust," she said. "It was easier for me to love somebody than to trust them."

At 27, Merryn still thinks about the men who raped and molested her as a child. It's her passion for fighting child sex abuse that led to her other major achievement this fall: Nearly three years after she launched a nonstop campaign against what she calls a "silent epidemic," Illinois lawmakers appear poised to pass a bill aimed at teaching children about sex abuse.

The bill would extend state-mandated sexual abuse and assault education to elementary and middle schools. Only high schools are required to teach it under current law. But as Merryn learned from her own childhood, those lessons often come far too late.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. It first happened to Merryn when she was 6. Without knowing that what her neighbor had done to her was wrong, she kept it a secret. Her older cousin later molested her when she was between the ages of 11 and 13. Once again, she remained silent.

It wasn't until Merryn was a sophomore in high school that she first learned about sexual abuse in class. By then, she said, she had suffered through years of failed therapy, nightmarish flashbacks and dwindling grades.

"If someone gave me the right message, I would have spoken up," she said. "I was consumed with this fear that no one would believe me. I kept quiet so I didn't get in trouble."

In April 2010, Merryn quit her job as a youth and family counselor to work full time on her national awareness campaign. She considers the Illinois bill a milestone in her ongoing fight against child sexual abuse. It's the culmination of two published books, hundreds of speaking events and hours of testimony.

The Illinois House of Representatives passed the bill 97 to 10 earlier this month. Its fate is now in the hands of the Senate, which lawmakers say will likely vote on it in early January. And if the bill passes, Gov. Pat Quinn — an outspoken supporter of Merryn — could sign it by Valentine's Day.

The young activist says she's only getting started. She has taken her campaign on the road with a time-tested pitch and newfound sense of urgency.

Outraged by the string of recent child sex abuse cases — from Penn State University to the Boy Scouts of America — Merryn says lawmakers are more willing than ever to listen to her message.

"These examples show it isn't the 'stranger danger' going after all your kids," she said. "There are those cases, but they happen only seven percent of the time."

Various studies show that between seven and 25 percent of child sex offenders don't know their victims, according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center. The center estimates up to a third of offenders are family members.

Realizing the window for change may be brief, Merryn testified in six states this year and plans to testify in 10 more in 2013.

Four states have passed versions of "Erin's Law," which creates the task force charged with writing recommendations for how schools should teach sex abuse education. The law is pending in nine others.

"Erin's Law" passed two years ago in Illinois without receiving one "no" vote. But unlike the task force the law created, the proposals outlined in the more recent bill aren't free of controversy.

While praising the sex abuse education bill's objective, Republican lawmakers who voted against it said they ultimately couldn't support its unfunded mandate.

"You can't do good things with bad legislation," said Rep. Richard Morthland, a tea party conservative. "And an unfunded mandate is bad legislation."

Morthland added that state lawmakers should leave education reform to individual school districts, which he considers better equipped to respond to the needs of students.

Merryn and her supporters hope the public fervor sparked by the string of recent sex abuse scandals overwhelms any opposition to the bill. But with national attention already fading, they know that passing it isn't going to get any easier.

Danny Langloss, Dixon police chief and chairman of the "Erin's Law" task force, says Illinois could become an example for the rest of the county to follow. His hope is Merryn's mission — to pass "Erin's Law" in every state.

"The importance of Penn State is that it helped raise awareness," Langloss said. "It has given this issue some incredible momentum."


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

2012 a year of unparalleled justice for child sex abuse victims!

Nechemya Weberman aka THE ANIMAL
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Experts say 2012 was a year of unparalleled justice for child sex abuse victims, but whether the string of high-profile convictions will translate into a turning point for juvenile safety remains to be seen.

The year's headlines heralded the criminal convictions of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, Monsignor William Lynn of the Catholic Church's Philadelphia Archdiocese and ultra-Orthodox Jewish therapist Nechemya Weberman, a prominent figure in New York's Satmar Hasidic sect.

Sandusky, 68, was sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars for raping and molesting 10 boys, some in the campus football showers. Lynn, 61, was ordered to prison for up to six years for covering up for pedophile priests. Weberman, 54, faces up to 25 years' imprisonment when he is sentenced on January 9 for sexually abusing a girl during counseling sessions.

Each conviction hinged on the testimony of victims brave enough to shatter years of silence surrounding the abuse. Each verdict was reached by a jury determined to decide fairly in the shadow of a revered institution that, at best, ignored the crimes, sometimes for years.

"2012 is a landmark in the drive to reduce and deter community-based abuse," said Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University and an advocate for victims of clergy sex crimes.

"The key here is modern-day courage," Hamilton said. "It took extraordinary courage for survivors to break ranks from their communities and accuse those inside the community."

Decades of secretiveness have shrouded child sex abuse within institutions that turned a blind eye, said David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

One development encouraging victims to come forward today is more women in law enforcement and criminal justice who may seem more approachable, experts say. Another is a growing acceptance of homosexuality, which could help ease the victims' humiliation, and the idea that survivors with calamitous lives may nevertheless be telling the truth, experts say.

"We're learning that victims inevitably seem troubled and flawed. It's very rare that someone can be sexually violated as a child and live a charmed, perfect life," Clohessy said.

Heightened publicity has also drawn out victims who now know they are not alone, said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

"The climate is so much better for survivors than it was a decade ago when they felt isolated and like a freak," Finkelhor said.

"Almost everyone knows this happens to other people now. It's not nearly as stigmatizing," he said.

The momentum in prosecuting child sex abuse cases depends upon many factors, including whether state legislatures broaden the time frame for victims seeking justice, a move under discussion in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

By the time a child victim is able to confront an assailant, a state's statute of limitations may prevent prosecution. If victims are still eligible to file civil lawsuits, however, the surrounding publicity may draw out other victims and could lead to subsequent criminal prosecutions, advocates say.

"When a predator is exposed in any way, in any form, it encourages victims, witnesses, whistle-blowers to step forward and perhaps file criminal charges," Clohessy said.

"Obviously, kids are safest when predators are jailed," he said. "Sometimes civil suits lead to criminal prosecution. Even when they don't, they warn people about a potentially dangerous child molester."


“Daddy, I love you.”

LIFE LESSONS: Jeffrey Wright with his son, Adam, who has a developmental disorder, in a scene from “Wright’s Law.”

 “That’s what makes the why of what we exist,” Mr. Wright tells the spellbound students. “In this great big universe, we have all those stars. Who cares? Well, somebody cares. Somebody cares about you a lot. As long as we care about each other, that’s where we go from here.”

Laws of Physics Can’t Trump the Bonds of Love

Jeffrey Wright is well known around his high school in Louisville, Ky., for his antics as a physics teacher, which include exploding pumpkins, hovercraft and a scary experiment that involves a bed of nails, a cinder block and a sledgehammer.

But it is a simple lecture — one without props or fireballs — that leaves the greatest impression on his students each year. The talk is about Mr. Wright’s son and the meaning of life, love and family.

It has become an annual event at Louisville Male Traditional High School (now coed, despite its name), and it has been captured in a short documentary, “Wright’s Law,” which recently won a gold medal in multimedia in the national College Photographer of the Year competition, run by the University of Missouri.

The filmmaker, Zack Conkle, 22, a photojournalism graduate of Western Kentucky University and a former student of Mr. Wright’s, said he made the film because he would get frustrated trying to describe Mr. Wright’s teaching style. “I wanted to show people this guy is crazy and really amazing,” Mr. Conkle said in an interview.

The beginning of the film shows Mr. Wright, now 45, at his wackiest. A veteran of 23 years teaching, he does odd experiments involving air pressure and fiery chemicals — and one in which he lies on a bed of nails with a cinder block on his chest. A student takes a sledgehammer and swings, shattering the block and teaching a physics lesson about force and energy.

But each year, Mr. Wright gives a lecture on his experiences as a parent of a child with special needs. His son, Adam, now 12, has a rare disorder called Joubert syndrome, in which the part of the brain related to balance and movement fails to develop properly. Visually impaired and unable to control his movements, Adam breathes rapidly and doesn’t speak.

Mr. Wright said he decided to share his son’s story when his physics lessons led students to start asking him “the big questions.”

“When you start talking about physics, you start to wonder, ‘What is the purpose of it all?’ ” he said in an interview. “Kids started coming to me and asking me those ultimate questions. I wanted them to look at their life in a little different way — as opposed to just through the laws of physics — and give themselves more purpose in life.”

Mr. Wright starts his lecture by talking about the hopes and dreams he had for Adam and his daughter, Abbie, now 15. He recalls the day Adam was born, and the sadness he felt when he learned of his condition.

“All those dreams about ever watching my son knock a home run over the fence went away,” he tells the class. “The whole thing about where the universe came from? I didn’t care. … I started asking myself, what was the point of it?”

All that changed one day when Mr. Wright saw Abbie, about 4 at the time, playing with dolls on the floor next to Adam. At that moment he realized that his son could see and play — that the little boy had an inner life. He and his wife, Nancy, began teaching Adam simple sign language. One day, his son signed “I love you.”

In the lecture, Mr. Wright signs it for the class: “Daddy, I love you.” “There is nothing more incredible than the day you see this,” he says, and continues: “There is something a lot greater than energy. There’s something a lot greater than entropy. What’s the greatest thing?”

“Love,” his students whisper.

“That’s what makes the why of what we exist,” Mr. Wright tells the spellbound students. “In this great big universe, we have all those stars. Who cares? Well, somebody cares. Somebody cares about you a lot. As long as we care about each other, that’s where we go from here.”

As the students file out of class, some wipe away tears and hug their teacher.

Mr. Wright says it can be emotionally draining to share his story with his class. But that is part of his role as a physics teacher.

“When you look at physics, it’s all about laws and how the world works,” he told me. “But if you don’t tie those laws into a much bigger purpose, the purpose in your heart, then they are going to sit there and ask the question ‘Who cares?’

“Kids are very spiritual — they want a bigger purpose. I think that’s where this story gives them something to think about.”

Mr. Wright says the lecture has one other purpose: to inspire students to pursue careers in science and genetic research.

“That’s where I find hope in my students,” he said. “Maybe if I can instill a little inspiration to my students to go into these fields, who knows? We might be able to come up with something we can use to help Adam out one day.”

WATCH VIDEO: http://nyti.ms/VrUccz

Monday, December 24, 2012

"Promoter of Justice" - Another Xmas Fraud!

Yes, Yes; Come Children Sit On Papa's Lap!
Boston priest to lead oversight of Vatican abuse claims

ROME -- Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday appointed as the Vatican's new sex crimes prosecutor a priest who handled clergy sexual abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church in Boston at the height of the scandal and for years afterward.

The pope also pardoned his former butler, who was serving a prison term after leaking confidential documents in the Vatican's most embarrassing security breach in decades.

The Vatican said that the Rev. Robert W. Oliver, the top canon lawyer at the Archdiocese of Boston under Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, would be the "promoter of justice" at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's doctrinal office that reviews all abuse cases.

In a statement released by the Boston archdiocese, Father Oliver said, "It is with deep humility and gratitude that I received the news that the Holy Father is entrusting me with this service to the church."

Father Oliver was among the canon lawyers brought in to advise Cardinal Bernard F. Law on sexual abuse cases in Boston, where the church's sexual abuse scandal erupted anew in 2002. He was put in charge of the office investigating charges against accused priests after Cardinal Law was forced to resign in 2002 amid an uproar over revelations thatthe cardinal had kept abusive priests working in parishes.

Father Oliver helped write the archdiocese's new abuse prevention policy in 2003. He has been serving as a canon lawyer for the archdiocese and as a visiting professor of canon law at Catholic University of America in Washington.

Advocates for abuse victims in the Boston Archdiocese criticized his record on Saturday. Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of Bishop Accountability, a watchdog group that maintains an archive of abuse cases and documents, said in an interview, "Reverend Oliver is a champion of accused priests, which obviously does not bode well for the job he will do as promoter of justice."

She said that under Father Oliver's guidance, the Boston Archdiocese reported that between 2003 and 2005 it had cleared 32 of 71 accused priests, about 45 percent, saying it did not find "probable cause" to pursue abuse cases against them. That was a far higher clearance rate than the 10 percent reported by other dioceses nationwide, according to a report in 2005 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

She also said the new policy on abuse that Father Oliver helped write in 2003 allows accused priests to remain in the ministry without being publicly identified while allegations against them are investigated. In contrast, laypeople suspected of abuse who work or volunteer for the church are to be immediately suspended.

Terrence C. Donilon, a secretary for communications for the Archdiocese of Boston. But he said, "Any attacks on Father Oliver's distinguished track record of service to the church and his many contributions to the response to clergy sexual abuse are unfounded and just plain wrong."


"Many American families are in denial about who their children are; others see problems they don’t know how to stanch."

Anatomy of a Murder-Suicide

"We need to offer children better mental health screenings and to understand that mental health service works best not on a vaccine model, in which a single dramatic intervention eliminates a problem forever, but on a dental model, in which constant care is required to prevent decay. Only by understanding why Adam Lanza wished to die can we understand why he killed. We would be well advised to look past the evil against others that most horrifies us and focus on the pathos that engendered it."

SUICIDE is not as newsworthy as homicide. A person’s disaffection with his own life is less threatening than his rage to destroy others. So it makes sense that since the carnage in Newtown, Conn., the press has focused on the victims — the heartbreaking, senseless deaths of children, and the terrible pain that their parents and all the rest of us have to bear. Appropriately, we mourn Adam Lanza’s annihilation of others more than his self-annihilation.

But to understand a murder-suicide, one has to start with the suicide, because that is the engine of such acts. Adam Lanza committed an act of hatred, but it seems that the person he hated the most was himself. If we want to stem violence, we need to begin by stemming despair.

Many adolescents experience self-hatred; some express their insecurity destructively toward others. They are needlessly sharp with their parents; they drink and drive, regardless of the peril they may pose to others; they treat peers with gratuitous disdain. The more profound their self-hatred, the more likely it is to be manifest as externally focused aggression. Adam Lanza’s acts reflect a grotesquely magnified version of normal adolescent rage.

In his classic work on suicide, the psychiatrist Karl Menninger said that it required the coincidence of the wish to kill, the wish to be killed and the wish to die. Adam Lanza clearly had all three of these impulses, and while the gravest crime is that his wish to kill was so much broader than that of most suicidal people, his first tragedy was against himself.

Blame is a great comfort, because a situation for which someone or something can be blamed is a situation that could have been avoided — and so could be prevented next time. Since the shootings at Newtown, we’ve heard blame heaped on Adam Lanza’s parents and their divorce; on Adam’s supposed Asperger’s syndrome and possible undiagnosed schizophrenia; on the school system; on gun control policies; on violence in video games, movies and rock music; on the copycat effect spawned by earlier school shootings; on a possible brain disorder that better imaging will someday allow us to map.

Advocates for the mentally ill argue that those who are treated for various mental disorders are no more violent than the general population; meanwhile an outraged public insists that no sane person would be capable of such actions. This is an essentially semantic argument. A Harvard study gave doctors edited case histories of suicides and asked them for diagnoses; it found that while doctors diagnosed mental illness in only 22 percent of the group if they were not told that the patients had committed suicide, the figure was 90 percent when the suicide was included in the patient profile.

The persistent implication is that, as with 9/11 or the attack in Benghazi, Libya, greater competence from trained professionals could have ensured tranquillity. But retrospective analysis is of limited utility, and the supposition that we can purge our lives of such horror is an optimistic fiction.

In researching my book “Far From the Tree,” I interviewed the parents of Dylan Klebold, one of the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre in Littleton, Colo., in 1999. Over a period of eight years, I spent hundreds of hours with the Klebolds. I began convinced that if I dug deeply enough into their character, I would understand why Columbine happened — that I would recognize damage in their household that spilled over into catastrophe. Instead, I came to view the Klebolds not only as inculpable, but as admirable, moral, intelligent and kind people whom I would gladly have had as parents myself. Knowing Tom and Sue Klebold did not make it easier to understand what had happened. It made Columbine far more bewildering and forced me to acknowledge that people are unknowable.

When people ask me why the Klebolds didn’t search Dylan’s room and find his writings, didn’t track him to where he’d hidden his guns, I remind them that intrusive behavior like this sometimes prompts rather than prevents tragedy and that all parents must sail between what the British psychoanalyst Rozsika Parker called “the Scylla of intrusiveness and the Charybdis of neglect.” Whether one steered this course well is knowable only after the fact. We’d have wished for intrusiveness from the Klebolds and from Nancy Lanza, but we can find other families in which such intrusiveness has been deeply destructive.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

"I've read that kids with Asperger syndrome are more likely to commit suicide than the population at large."

Dear Paul,

My son Linus loves to play video games, his favorite food is mac 'n cheese, and he was born with Asperger syndrome.

As a mom, I worry most about the isolation and depression that many children with Asperger syndrome suffer from. I've read that kids with Asperger syndrome are more likely to commit suicide than the population at large.

A month ago, Linus was at risk of losing insurance coverage for the treatment he needs to keep him from becoming isolated and depressed. Our insurance company, United Healthcare, can stop covering this kind of treatment when a child in certain states “completes 9 years” of age.

But then I started a petition on Change.org and my health insurance company has now agreed to cover Linus’ treatment even after he turns 9.

United Healthcare did the right thing for my son, but I know that other families might not be so lucky. That’s why I’m asking United Healthcare to set a national standard of covering autism-spectrum related treatment for kids after age 9 and into adulthood.

One big problem is that state laws are inconsistent about who United is required to cover: in Texas, United Healthcare is only required to cover kids up to age 9, but in other states, they are required to cover kids up to age 18 and even into adulthood.

If United Healthcare can extend coverage for my son, they can do it for other children with autism too. Families shouldn’t have to fight with their insurance companies to get coverage for the potentially lifesaving treatment their doctors recommend.

I'm hoping that if enough people speak up for children with Asperger syndrome, United Healthcare will reevaluate their policy and set an example to other top healthcare providers by creating a national standard.

Please sign my petition now and ask your admirers as well to join me in asking United Healthcare to set a national policy covering Asperger syndrome treatment for children after they turn 9 years old and into adulthood.

Thank you so much for your help and all you do for children the world-over.

With admiration and the hope you give to thousands,

Mindy Armbrust

Doylestown, Ohio

The Armbrust Family

Friday, December 21, 2012

Yeshiva Victim Overcomes Shame To Speak Out

One of Macy Gordon's Accusers Tells Story of Alleged Abuse

By Anonymous

The author claims to have been sodomized by Rabbi Macy Gordon, a former teacher at Yeshiva University High School for Boys, while a student at the school in the late 1970s and early ’80s. His was one of the accusations reported in the Forward’s December 21 issue, in “Student Claims of Abuse Not Reported by Y.U. Leader.”

I am Macy Gordon’s accuser. My allegations are true, yet I understand why some people may doubt my claims. I wish now to respond to some of the comments I have read in the wake of the Forward’s revelations and to make a few statements of my own.

To those who say that pedophiles exploit more than one child and that there must be other victims — you are correct. There was at least one more victim but he has not come forward. I cannot speak for him, but for me the exposing of this abuse has evoked nightmares and forced me to relive traumatic events that I had put behind me. Although I have asked to be anonymous, there is no guarantee that my identity will remain protected, and that is a risk I take. If other victims decide to remain silent out of fear or otherwise, that is their right, but it does not make me a liar.

To those who knew or know Rabbi Gordon and respect him, shock and denial is a reasonable response; however, surely they know that this was the reaction in the cases of Jerry Sandusky and many Catholic clergy. It is that very veneer of respect that might enable some of these infamous pedophiles to commit serial crimes. If it were the janitor, he would be reported immediately. But when a revered member of society commits these crimes, victims are confused and are frightened of the perpetrator’s authority. Their stature also grants these pedophiles a lesser degree of suspicion. That, too, intimidates victims.

To those who are outraged that these individuals are being tried in the press, this was the last — and only — resort. Rabbi Norman Lamm, Y.U,’s former president, admitted that staff who had improper sexual activity were let go, especially if it was what he called a “cut-and-dry case.” In my case we reported the activity to Y.U. and as far as I know they did not investigate further, although I gave them the name of another victim. That also means they did not try to evaluate or assist that other student. After so many years, the statute of limitations has expired. Others have previously pleaded with Y.U. to investigate past sex abuses but were ignored. The only way this has gotten any attention was through the media. Whatever you think of the Forward, the paper’s staffers are not stupid. Trust me that they did their due diligence, interviewed me a number of times and still took great risks to publish my account.

To those who doubt my account because of the details, that hurts me the most. You are essentially accusing me of being not just a liar, but also a bad liar. Would you be more satisfied if I said I had been raped? It should be self-evident that victims do not choose their method of assault.

To you victims of sexual abuse who are still struggling to find your way, I understand you. Perhaps you blame yourself. Your response is normal. In fact, you are entitled to whatever feelings you have about this. You are also entitled to get professional help, which is what I did. You may want to reconsider your connection to religion, but I encourage you to not let the predator rob you of your ties to Judaism. Find the best values that religion has to offer and live by them, as I do. Gemilut chesed, acts of loving-kindness will help you heal. Dedicate yourself to some form of community service and your faith in people and yourself will be restored.

To the Orthodox who are grappling with this, some of you are stuck between the concepts of lashon hara, gossiping, and motzi shem ra, discussing false accusations. This is a reflex response for some of you, but also a convenient way to stifle discourse on an important topic for the community.

To Rabbi Macy Gordon, you are now an old man, but you were in your prime when you assaulted me. Although you had no compassion for me, I have some rachmanus, compassion for you. I feel bad for you that you must deal with this now at this stage of life. And I feel very sad for your children. This cannot be easy on them, but it is your own fault. Also your fault is that I cannot daven the shmone esrei in peace and often skip it entirely. That is because you required us to memorize the modim and I find myself thinking of what you did to me. It is your fault that it took me many years to trust people again.

To Rabbi Norman Lamm, how is it that you do not now remember the “shock” that we were told you experienced upon hearing of my molestation at the hands of Macy Gordon? I suppose a $250,000 donation to name a scholarship after Gordon is incentive enough to forget. To current Y.U. President Richard Joel, what will you do now? Will you allow the Macy Gordon scholarship to stand? In the end, I have to say that I did learn some things during my time at Yeshiva:

To distrust authority, especially the clergy.

That the Orthodox are for sure better at observing various rituals but are just as corrupt and unethical as everyone else (they just don’t see it that way).

I want to share a story that even I find incredible in retrospect. I once was caught cheating on a chumash test in Macy Gordon’s class, but I tried to lie about it. I was sent down to the office of the assistant principal, George Finkelstein, where he looked at me sternly and said, “Averah goreret averah” — “One sin begets another.”



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Yeshiva Officials, Rabbis Knew of Alleged Abuse

More Students Say Nothing Was Done About Allegations

After the Forward published an investigation into sexual abuse allegations against two former staff members at a high school for boys run by Yeshiva University, Y.U. issued an immediate statement and said that it would investigate. Later that day, Modern Orthodoxy’s official rabbinic association, the Rabbinical Council of America, said it was “deeply troubled” by the report and confident that the university was “equal to the task” of confronting “improprieties.”

But interviews with current and former staff members of Y.U. and with high-ranking RCA officials, as well as with several former high school students who say they were abused, indicate that Y.U. and the RCA have known about some of the allegations against at least one of the alleged abusers, Rabbi George Finkelstein, for a decade or longer.

The Forward has spoken to 14 men who say that Finkelstein abused them while he was employed at Yeshiva University High School for Boys, in Manhattan, from 1968 to 1995.

From the mid 1980s until today, however, Y.U. officials and RCA rabbis have dismissed claims or kept them quiet. Some of these officials allowed Finkelstein to leave the Y.U. system and find a new position as dean of a Florida day school without disclosing the abuse allegations. Later, an RCA rabbi and a Y.U. rabbi warned the Florida school that Finkelstein could be a threat. And when Finkelstein’s next employer, the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, asked whether the allegations that dogged him were true, Y.U. assured the synagogue that there was nothing to worry about.

Maurice Wohl, the synagogue’s president at the time, “spoke to the responsible authorities at Y.U, who denied the charges outright,” Zev Lanton, the synagogue’s director general, said in a statement. “Later, the same authority, upon visiting Israel, offered similar denials, both to the chairman of the board of the synagogue and the vice president.”

In response to a Forward request for the identity of that Y.U. official, Lanton replied that the synagogue would “take outside advice” before responding.

The abuse allegations against Finkelstein and against Rabbi Macy Gordon, a Talmud teacher who served at Y.U.’s High School for Boys from 1956 to 1984, have shocked many in the tight-knit Modern Orthodox community. Even Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff, decried the allegations in his keynote address at the Y.U. annual dinner, held on December 16...


"Goofball" No More! License, Train & Arm The Teachers - The Time Is Now!

STRATFORD, Conn. — She has come to be known for her instinctive heroism in saving the lives of many of her young students, but at her funeral on Wednesday, Victoria Soto, a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, was remembered in a way that only those closest to her would have known.

"Her last act was selfless,” the Rev. Meg Boxwell Williams said of Ms. Soto.

She was a sister, a cousin and a friend, someone who had a passion for teaching but also a beguiling “goofball” side that delighted her friends and relatives.

The funeral service, the first of six for the school employees who died in the massacre that also took the lives of 20 children on Friday, was held in a classic steepled white New England church in the Lordship neighborhood of Stratford on the Long Island Sound, where Ms. Soto had lived all of her 27 years. Services were also held for Charlotte Bacon, 6; Daniel Barden, 7; and Caroline Previdi, 6. Wakes were held for Chase Kowalski, 7, and the school principal, Dawn Hochsprung, 47; their funerals were to be private.

So many people came to mourn Ms. Soto — perhaps 400 — at Lordship Community Church that half of the crowd endured the cold on chairs set up on a lawn outside the church, listening to the service on loudspeakers under a brilliant sun.

Her coffin, draped in white flowers, was carried into the church to the sorrowful sounds of three bagpipers as an honor guard of more than a dozen Connecticut police officers flanked the hearse and the other cars in the funeral caravan.

In her eulogy, the Rev. Meg Boxwell Williams praised Ms. Soto as a “quick-thinking, beautiful, selfless person” who huddled her first-grade pupils into a closet and cupboards and hurried others to escape as a determined gunman invaded the school.

“Her last act was selfless, Christlike in laying down her life for her children,” Ms. Williams said in closing remarks.

After the eulogy, a song was offered by a familiar voice: Paul Simon, who performed “The Sound of Silence,” the haunting words capturing the nightmarish nature of how Ms. Soto died and the emptiness her death left behind. A representative for Mr. Simon said, “The Sotos and Simons met through Vicki’s mother and Paul’s sister-in-law, both nurses.”

Relatives and friends, some choking or weeping openly as they spoke, recalled her as a daughter, a sister to three siblings, a cousin and a friend. Ms. Soto was remembered as a young woman with long brown hair, captivating blue eyes and “an infectious laugh,” one who had a passion for gathering her extended family together whenever she could and making relatives laugh with sometimes zany impulsive gestures.

They recalled how Ms. Soto, on a whim, insisted that all of her cousins and siblings buy cheap sunglasses before a trip to a Six Flags amusement park, how she woke her lovesick college roommate with “Kiss the Girl” from the Disney film “The Little Mermaid.” Ms. Soto loved the Yankees’ No. 11, Brett Gardner; collected flamingos in all shapes and sizes; and seemed to live for Christmas and the chance to ornament a tree that she insisted on choosing, and to be surrounded by her family.

“You were the funniest, goofiest person I know,” Heather Cronk, a cousin, said.

Ms. Soto’s roommate at Eastern Connecticut State University, Rachel Schiavone, said Ms. Soto was “always up for anything.”

“When she hugged you,” she said, “she put her whole heart and soul into every hug she gave.”

Ms. Soto’s aunt, Debbie Cronk, a teacher who was her professional inspiration, remembered how exuberant Ms. Soto was when she called five years ago to say she had secured a job at Sandy Hook Elementary. But Ms. Cronk also remembered her mischievous side, how as a little girl Ms. Soto loved feeding the ducks near her grandmother’s house, though not as much as eating the bread herself.

Ms. Schiavone, her best friend, recalled Ms. Soto’s devotion to the profession — spending every evening working on lesson plans and designing poster boards — and the extra mile she went for her students.

“It does not surprise me at all that Vicki died protecting her kids,” Ms. Schiavone said.

Gary MacNamara, the chief of the Fairfield Police Department, who rushed to the Sandy Hook school shortly after the shooting, said Ms. Soto had “pushed children into a closet and allowed other kids to escape” before she herself was killed by Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old armed with a semiautomatic rifle and other guns.

“All of law enforcers are asked what will we do if given that moment when a life-threatening decision has to be made,” Chief MacNamara said in an interview. “She answered that question: through her strength, she took action to save the life of the students. I know, because I’ve spoken to children in that class who are alive because of what she did.”

The service began with the singing of “Amazing Grace,” and then Ms. Williams reminded mourners that it was “God who consoles us in our affliction” and that death did not “separate us from the love of God.” Yet, Ms. Soto’s death was “a shock that goes beyond our comprehension.”

“We had no warning, no time to tie up loose ends, to clean up misunderstandings, to say I love you one last time.”

She talked about the muddle of emotions that someone might feel, even “flashes of anger at Vicki — why did you have to be so good” and sacrifice herself for so many children.

Yet, the minister concluded, those were the selfless instincts that made Ms. Soto the teacher she was.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Will children with autism or mental illness be shunned even more than they already are?

Don’t Blame Autism for Newtown

Last Wednesday night I listened to Andrew Solomon, the author of the extraordinary new book “Far From the Tree,” talk about the frequency of filicide in families affected by autism. Two days later, I watched the news media attempt to explain a matricide and a horrific mass murder in terms of the killer’s supposed autism.

It began as insinuation, but quickly flowered into outright declaration. Words used to describe the killer, Adam Lanza, began with “odd,” “aloof” and “a loner,” shaded into “lacked empathy,” and finally slipped into “on the autism spectrum” and suffering from “a mental illness like Asperger’s.” By Sunday, it had snowballed into a veritable storm of accusation and stigmatization.

Whether reporters were directly attributing Mr. Lanza’s shooting rampage to his autism or merely shoddily lumping together very different conditions, the false and harmful messages were abundant.

Let me clear up a few misconceptions. For one thing, Asperger’s and autism are not forms of mental illness; they are neurodevelopmental disorders or disabilities. Autism is a lifelong condition that manifests before the age of 3; most mental illnesses do not appear until the teen or young adult years. Medications rarely work to curb the symptoms of autism, but they can be indispensable in treating mental illness like obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Underlying much of this misreporting is the pernicious and outdated stereotype that people with autism lack empathy. Children with autism may have trouble understanding the motivations and nonverbal cues of others, be socially naïve and have difficulty expressing their emotions in words, but they are typically more truthful and less manipulative than neurotypical children and are often people of great integrity. They can also have a strong desire to connect with others and they can be intensely empathetic — they just attempt those connections and express that empathy in unconventional ways. My child with autism, in fact, is the most empathetic and honorable of my three wonderful children.

Additionally, a psychopathic, sociopathic or homicidal tendency must be separated out from both autism and from mental illness more generally. While autistic children can sometimes be aggressive, this is usually because of their frustration at being unable to express themselves verbally, or their extreme sensory sensitivities. Moreover, the form their aggression takes is typically harmful only to themselves. In the very rare cases where their aggression is externally directed, it does not take the form of systematic, meticulously planned, intentional acts of violence against a community.

And if study after study has definitively established that a person with autism is no more likely to be violent or engage in criminal behavior than a neurotypical person, it is just as clear that autistic people are far more likely to be the victims of bullying and emotional and physical abuse by parents and caregivers than other children. So there is a sad irony in making autism the agent or the cause rather than regarding it as the target of violence.

In the wake of coverage like this, I worry, in line with concerns raised by the author Susan Cain in her groundbreaking book on introverts, “Quiet”: will shy, socially inhibited students be looked at with increasing suspicion as potentially dangerous? Will a quiet, reserved, thoughtful child be pegged as having antisocial personality disorder? Will children with autism or mental illness be shunned even more than they already are?

This country needs to develop a better understanding of the complexities of various conditions and respect for the profound individuality of its children. We need to emphasize that being introverted doesn’t mean one has a developmental disorder, that a developmental disorder is not the same thing as a mental illness, and that most mental illnesses do not increase a person’s tendency toward outward-directed violence.

We should encourage greater compassion for all parents facing an extreme challenge, whether they have children with autism or mental illness or have lost their children to acts of horrific violence (and that includes the parents of killers).

Consider this, posted on Facebook yesterday by a friend of mine from high school who has an 8-year-old, nonverbal child with severe autism:

“Today Timmy was having a first class melt down in Barnes and Nobles and he rarely melts down like this. He was throwing his boots, rolling on the floor, screaming and sobbing. Everyone was staring as I tried to pick him up and [his brother Xander] scrambled to pick up his boots. I was worried people were looking at him and wondering if he would be a killer when he grows up because people on the news keep saying this Adam Lanza might have some spectrum diagnosis ... My son is the kindest soul you could ever meet. Yesterday, a stranger looked at Timmy and said he could see in my son’s eyes and smile that he was a kind soul; I am thankful that he saw that.”

Rather than averting his eyes or staring, this stranger took the time to look, to notice and to share his appreciation of a child’s soul with his mother. The quality of that attention is what needs to be cultivated more generally in this country.

It could take the form of our taking the time to look at, learn about and celebrate each of the tiny victims of this terrible shooting. It could manifest itself in attempts to dismantle harmful, obfuscating stereotypes or to clarify and hone our understanding of each distinct condition, while remembering that no category can ever explain an individual. Let’s try to look in the eyes of every child we encounter, treat, teach or parent, whatever their diagnosis or label, and recognize each child’s uniqueness, each child’s inimitable soul.


Signs of Autism:http://www.mifne-autism.com/early-detection/

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

“She said that whenever she told Noah ‘I love you,’ his answer to her was: ‘Not as much as I love you.’ ”

Veronique Pozner, the mother of Noah Pozner, 6, was escorted by a rabbi after services at a funeral home in Fairfield, Conn.
In addition to a taco-factory manager, she said, Noah also wanted to be a doctor.

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Noah Pozner loved tacos, so much so that he talked of wanting to be the manager of a taco factory when he grew up; that way, he would be able to eat a taco whenever he wanted. He had a way of charming his elders and loved his siblings, including a twin sister who was in another classroom that day.

Jack Pinto adored the New York Giants and proudly wore a red Little League cap adorned with a large N for the name of his hometown. He was a spinning top of a boy, bouncing from one activity to the next, as if the day could never contain all the fun to be had.

The people of Newtown buried these two boys under an ashen sky on Monday afternoon, in the first of the many funerals to follow last week’s massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. They were both 6 years old.

The realization that Jack and Noah were gone settled like the December chill upon the Honan Funeral Home in Newtown, where a Christian service was held for Jack, and upon the Abraham L. Green and Sons Funeral Home in Fairfield, where a Jewish service was held for Noah.

An 8-year-old boy named Nolan Krieger, dressed in khaki pants and a plaid dress shirt, captured the intensifying sense of loss as he left the service for his friend Jack. “I used to do everything with him,” Nolan said, rubbing his eyes. “We liked to wrestle. We played Wii. We just played all the time. I can’t believe I’m never going to see him again.”

The how of their deaths is, by now, internationally known. A 20-year-old man named Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother on Friday morning. Then, armed with an assault rifle and two handguns, he shot his way into the elementary school and killed 20 first-grade children and six school officials, all women, before killing himself.

The why of their deaths, though, is still being pieced together. The school remains a crime scene, and law enforcement officials said they expected to spend weeks, if not months, investigating angles and interviewing witnesses — including children — to develop the complete, unsettling picture.

First, though, there was Monday, just after Hanukkah, a week before Christmas Eve — and what was supposed to be the first school day after the devastation in the classroom on Friday.

In Fairfield, about 25 miles south of Newtown, mourners formed a somber queue outside the two-story, white-clapboard Green funeral home. Many were from Temple Adath Israel, the Pozner family’s Conservative synagogue in Newtown. Dannel P. Malloy, the governor of Connecticut, and one of its United States senators, Richard Blumenthal, were also there.

A little girl in a pink hooded coat, clutching a floppy stuffed animal, served as a reminder of the innocence lost, as a couple of bomb-sniffing dogs did, in their own way.

Lt. James Perez of the Fairfield Police Department said that nonspecific threats of protests at the funeral home, coupled with “stupid comments” on the Internet and on social media, had prompted the unusually large police presence. “You have to prepare,” the officer said. “Newtown wasn’t warned either.”

Lieutenant Perez said that he had been inside, and had spoken with the family — as best as he could. “To see it be a child, it’s just beyond — ” he said, adding, “I didn’t have any words.”

During the service, Noah’s teenage brother, Michael, spoke for himself and for his other siblings. Diane Buchanan, the mother of one of Michael’s friends, said the young man had to pause to gather his emotions as he spoke. “We no longer have a brother,” she recalled him saying, “but now we have a guardian angel.”

Noah’s mother, Veronique, also eulogized Noah, and talked of his boundless aspirations. In addition to a taco-factory manager, she said, he also wanted to be a doctor. Throughout, observers said, she spoke with a remarkable poise that seemed meant to help others cope with the loss.

“But the main thing she left was one point,” said Rabbi Edgar Gluck, who splits his time between Krakow, Poland, and Borough Park in Brooklyn. “She said that whenever she told him ‘I love you,’ his answer to her was: ‘Not as much as I love you.’ ”

Outside the Honan Funeral Home in Newtown, Conn., where services were held for Jack Pinto, 6. “We just played all the time,” one friend said. “I can’t believe I’m never going to see him again.” ...

READ MORE: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/nyregion/two-funerals-for-two-6-year-old-boys-in-newtown.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&hp

Monday, December 17, 2012

Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?

                  "We’re all parents, that they are all our children...

........"But we as a nation, we are left with some hard questions. You know, someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around.

With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves, our child, is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice, and every parent knows there’s nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet we also know that with that child’s very first step and each step after that, they are separating from us, that we won’t — that we can’t always be there for them.

They will suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments, and we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear. And we know we can’t do this by ourselves.

It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself, that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation.

And in that way we come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.

This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?

Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?"......


Sunday, December 16, 2012

By George! - I Told You It Was Just A Matter Of Time!

George Finkelstein

Alleged Yeshiva Abuser Quits as Accusations Mount!

Finkelstein Steps Down at Shul; 5 More Students Claim Abuse!

“Macy Gordon was malevolence personified,” said Barry Singer, who graduated from Y.U.’s Manhattan High School for Boys in 1975, “whereas George Finkelstein was a more complicated, disturbed individual.” “I fought these guys tooth and nail the entire time I was in school,” Singer added. “I had no idea that what was being done to me was sexual abuse or any abuse, I merely knew I didn’t want these guys touching me and I did my best to keep them away from me.”

A former staff member at Yeshiva University High School for Boys has resigned from his post at a synagogue in Jerusalem. Five more ex-students have told the Forward they were abused by rabbis George Finkelstein or Macy Gordon.

 Rabbi George Finkelstein has resigned his position at the Great Jerusalem Synagogue after the Forward reported that he had sexually abused students at Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Manhattan during the 1970s and ‘80s.

“He sent us an email saying he’s resigning because he does not want to expose the Great Synagogue to embarrassment,” Zalli Jaffe, the synagogue’s vice president, said in an interview. Finkelstein had served as the institution’s executive director since 2001; last month, he began serving as its ritual director.

Jaffe said that the resignation was received on Thursday, “immediately following the publication” of the Forward’s investigation. The correspondence came from France, where Finkelstein is currently vacationing.

Around the same time as Finkelstein resigned, senior staff of the Orthodox Union in America and Jerusalem held a teleconference regarding the position of the other Y.U. high school staff member investigated by the Forward, Rabbi Macy Gordon. They decided to impose a “leave of absence” on Gordon’s teaching duties at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem, where he gives a weekly class on the laws of the Sabbath, Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, OU executive vice president emeritus, told the Forward on December 16.

He said that the unilaterally-imposed leave of absence will last until the OU can “clarify exactly what happened.” This is in spite of the fact that the OU has “to presume that he’s innocent until we find out more about it.”

Weinreb said: “When we became aware of the news article we felt we had to investigate ourselves to see what kind of credence to give [the claims].” He stressed that the allegations were dated to a time before Gordon started teaching at the OU.

He said of Gordon: “I know that he has no memory of the alleged incident whatsoever."

The dramatic news came as five more men have stepped forward to say they were inappropriately touched and suffered emotional and sexual abuse at the high school.....

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/167767/alleged-yeshiva-abuser-quits-as-accusations-mount/?p=all#ixzz2FEPA8wtn