8-year-old pepper sprayed after threatening police with a sharp stick.

Every kid throws a temper tantrum now and then, but it sounds like second grader Aidan could use a few anger management classes:

According to the report, Aidan “was climbing the cart and spitting at teachers. He also broke wood trim off the walls and was trying to stab teachers with it.”

“I wanted to make something sharp if they came out because I was so mad at them,” Aidan said. “I was going to try to whack them with it.”

The report goes on to say Aidan, “was holding what looked like a sharpened one foot stick and he screamed, ‘Get away from me you f—ers.'”

Lakewood Police officers ordered the 8-year-old to “drop the stick.” When he refused, they sprayed him with pepper spray twice until he dropped the piece of wood and was handcuffed.

According to the police report, the boy was later treated on the scene for “a red, irritated face.”

His mom is upset because she thinks the pepper spray was excessive saying that the previous two times that the police had to show up at his school they were able to calm him down by talking to him. Based on the kid’s own statements it sounds like he had every intention of causing bodily harm if he could manage it and if he wasn’t calming down then pepper spray is probably a better alternative than shooting him.

Which, based on the following, is something that seems like a possibility in the future:

Aidan admitted he has problems controlling his anger.

“Just kind of like whenever anybody upsets me,” he said. “Like I just kind of want to tear them apart… I think it’s not ever going to go away… It’s just who I am.”

Yeah, that’s gonna be a nasty issue for him as he gets older unless his parents can get him the help he apparently needs. If not I foresee a short, but infamous career on reality television.

Video of Pakistani kids pretending to be suicide bombers is nothing to freak-out over.

The above video clip is popping up all over the Internet causing all sorts of horrified commentary like this:

This amateur video of Pashtun children enacting a suicide bombing has circulated on the internet in Pakistan in recent days, highlighting the disturbing psychological impact of Taliban violence on a generation.

The unsettling 84-second clip has divided opinions, with some amused by the smiling child actors and fake explosions; others appalled by evidence that suicide bombers have become playground heroes of sorts.

“It’s horrifying and alarming. These children have become fascinated by bombers rather than condemning them,” said Salma Jafar of Save the Children UK in Pakistan.

“If they glamorise violence now, they can become part of it later in life.”

via War games: conflict becomes child’s play for young Pashtuns | World news | The Guardian.

I’m not convinced this should be all that surprising or upsetting. I can remember pretending to be all sorts of things as a child, some of which would could be considered disturbing. Cops and Robbers requires someone to be the robbers and it’s just not a chase unless you’re shooting guns at each other or attempting to run each other over. Cowboys and Indians isn’t as much fun unless you collect a few scalps along the way. Can’t fight WWII without someone playing the part of the Nazis. Oh, and whoever got to be the Evil Aliens got to make people’s heads explode (that was my favorite).

Despite all of that glorification of violence, I somehow managed to grow up and not be a head scalpin’ evil Nazi alien bank robber who caused people’s heads to explode while trying to shoot them in a car chase. But, I hear you say, this is different! This is something that really happens! Yeah, so did scalpings, and Nazis, and bank robbers. Though that’s true enough about the aliens… as far as we know.

My point is that a lot of child play contains sinister undertones and has throughout history. Hell, there are a number of classic games kids play to this day that have histories most folks would find unsettling if they knew about them. Most folks will instantly think of Ring Around the Rosies as an example as it’s common knowledge that it’s about the Black Plague. Reality is that it’s not about the Plague, but a lot of people think it is. But what I’m saying is that most of us manage to grow up relatively unmarred from pretending to be the bad guys.

There’s also the fact that this video is obviously being filmed by an adult. That calls into question whether or not the children are pretending to be suicide bombers out of admiration or just because an adult was instructing them to do so. Given how much attention is being aimed at the camera man I’m less inclined to think this was a spontaneous moment caught on film than I am that the whole thing was staged by adults probably to freak people out. Though if the kids are being indoctrinated then that would be something to be worried about. If it’s just something they decided to do on their own then it’s probably harmless.

Parents kill 1-year-old daughter with a hammer to rid her of demons.

There are some projects you shouldn’t try to do yourself. Say things like exorcising demons from your child:

They were arrested Tuesday after Rusk County Sheriff’s deputies responding to a 911 call found 13-month-old Amora Bain Carson beaten. Investigators think the couple used a hammer to “beat the demons out” of Amora, Carson’s daughter.

Lt. Reynold Humber said that the couple told detectives various stories on how the child was injured, including that the toddler was in an auto accident and attacked by the family’s dogs. They even said that the child beat herself in the head with a hammer.

“They had multiple stories they went through before they told us they had beaten the child to death,” he told The Tyler Morning Telegraph for its Wednesday editions.

Humber said the couple eventually told deputies the child was possessed and they were trying to rid her of demons.

An arrest affidavit says that after the child was dead, the couple “drove to Henderson to pawn some items to pay for an exorcism.”

It shows the extent of their delusions that they thought that hiring someone to do a “proper” exorcism might in some way help after the child was already dead.

Nebraska learns a lesson in unintended consequences.

I always say that before you pass a law you should carefully consider whether or not you understand the full implications it holds. What sounds like a great idea may, in practice, come with some unitended consequences.

Take Nebraska’s Child Safe-Haven law. Like similar laws in many other states it allows parents of children who feel they cannot care for them to drop them off at a local hospital without fear of being prosecuted for abandonment. Unlike the other state’s laws, the Nebraska law allows not just parents, but anyone to drop off a kid and there’s no age limit on the child. It sounds like a good idea. After all if a kid isn’t being cared for properly it’s probably best that he be given up to the state.

The trouble is they didn’t anticipate how many people would take advantage of that law nor did they anticipate that parents would drive from other states to drop off their kids:

A Michigan mother drove roughly 12 hours to Omaha, so she could abandon her 13-year-old son at a hospital under the state’s unique safe-haven law, Nebraska officials said Monday.

The boy from the Detroit area is the second teenager from outside Nebraska and 18th child overall abandoned in the state since the law took effect in July.

[…] Last week, a 14-year-old girl from Iowa was left at an Omaha hospital by her grandparents. The girl has since been returned to her family.

It would seem there are a lot of families out there struggling with parenting issues and the Nebraska law is bringing them out into the open. Needless to say this wasn’t what they had intended:

“I certainly recognize and can commiserate and empathize with families across our state and across the country who are obviously struggling with parenting issues, but this is not the appropriate way of dealing with them, whether you’re in Nebraska or whether you’re in another state,” said Todd Landry, who heads the state’s Department of Health and Human Services’ division of children and family services.

[…] State officials have stressed that the safe-haven law should be used only for children in immediate danger; some worry the broadly written law could make the state a dumping ground for unwanted children.

State officials have said parents and caregivers need to understand there is no guarantee an abandoned child could be returned to them if they change their minds. The have encouraged parents to seek other resources before resorting to abandonment.

Lawmakers have spoken about the need to re-examine the law, but the Legislature doesn’t reconvene until January. Gov. Dave Heineman has been reluctant to call a rare special session.

Landry declined to comment on whether a special session was needed, but he did say Monday that a new law is needed to specifically address infants in danger. Two children coming from out of state is clear evidence changes are needed, he said.

“We need to get back to the intent of the law,” he said. “The intent of the law was always the protection of newborns in immediate danger of being harmed.”

It’s those pesky unintended consequences once again. They’ll come back to bite you in the ass every time.

One would hope this would spur a national conversation on what to do to help all the struggling families out there, but chances are they’ll just change the Nebraska law and go back to ignoring the problem. Kids with behavioral problems will continue to not receive the counseling they need and parents will continue to struggle to deal with their kids and the problems will never be resolved.

Man secretly names daughter “Sarah McCain Palin.” Let’s see if his wife notices.

Some folks take their political activism a little too seriously:

Mark Ciptak of Elizabethton put that name on the documents for the girl’s birth certificate, ignoring the name Ava Grace, which he and his wife had picked earlier.

“I don’t think she believes me yet,” he told the Kingsport Times-News for a story to be published Tuesday. “It’s going to take some more convincing.”

Ciptak, a blood bank employee for the American Red Cross, said he named his third child after John McCain and Sarah Palin to “to get the word out” about the campaign.

“I took one for the cause,” he said. “I can’t give a lot of financial support for the (McCain/Palin) campaign. I do have a sign up in my yard, but I can do very little.”

Actually your daughter took one for the cause. Years later she’ll tell an amusing story about what a dumbass her father is so it’ll all even out in the end.


Palcebos work better in kids than adults.

So says this rather brief article at Wired.com:

It’s a strange finding nestled inside a weird phenomenon:  children are 50 percent more likely than adults to respond favorably to placebos.

So concludes a Public Library of Science Medicine review by French pediatricians of anti-epilepsy drug studies. If replicated in other drugs, researchers may need to adjust their analyses of clinical drug studies involving kids.

What could account for the tendency of kids to feel better after taking a drug designed to do nothing? The reasons, write the researchers, “remain largely unknown and mostly speculative.”

This seems pretty simple to me. The placebo effect is at least partly based in belief and children will believe almost anything someone they trust tells them in sincerity. Kinda makes sense that they’d work better in kids. That’s probably oversimplifying things a bit, but I’d be surprised if that wasn’t true.

Two year old refuses to say “amen” after meals. Is starved to death as punishment.

Another child dies thanks to a mother so deluded she follows the instructions of her religious leader and lets the child starve to death for the crime of not saying the word “amen” at the end of a meal:

Police say the five suspects belonged to a small group of adults and children who operated for a time in East and West Baltimore. Police allege that the victim’s mother, Ria Ramkissoon, 21, the first to be charged with murder, and others neglected Javon and allowed the boy to starve to death because they thought he was a demon for not saying amen after he was fed, according to police charging documents.

[…] In court documents charging Ramkissoon, Parker, the homicide detective, recounts eyewitness accounts from a source within the religious group. The source said the group’s leader, Queen Antoinette, “had a problem with baby Javon, who would not comply with mealtime ritual by saying ‘Amen’ after meals,” Parker wrote. “The more the Queen pressed Javon, the more resistant he became.”

The child stopped getting food and water, and he became thin with dark circles under his eyes, according to the document. Javon stopped breathing and was placed in a back room of a house in the 3200 block of Auchentoroly Terrace. At one point everyone was instructed to pray around the boy’s body, the document said.

“The Queen told everyone that ‘God was going to raise Javon from the dead,’” according to Parker’s statement of charges. “That resurrection never took place.”

The kid was two years old. He died in December of 2006. The members of “1 Mind Ministries” have been carting him around in a suitcase from place to place until May of this year when police got a tip and recovered the body. It was still wearing a diaper.

It’s hard to imagine how someone can be so caught up in their beliefs that they watch their own child slowly starve to death. And then, after the child’s suffering has finally ended, to believe that a bunch of people praying will bring him back to life? And when that didn’t work she still didn’t recognize that she had been had and seek out the authorities? Too much faith will make you stupid.

Hat tip to Unscrewing the Inscrutable.

Ohio priests given rules on touching kids.

Apparently the pedophilia scandal didn’t make things clear enough for the priests in Ohio as the Church felt it necessary to put out a do and don’t list:

CINCINNATI (AP)—The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has issued a detailed list of inappropriate behaviors for priests, saying they should not kiss, tickle or wrestle children.

The newest version of the archdiocese’s Decree on Child Protection also prohibits bear hugs, lap-sitting and piggyback rides.

But it says priests may still shake children’s hands, pat them on the back and give high-fives.

Oddly enough there’s nothing about not touching their genitals or asking the kids to touch them. You’d think that’d be obvious, but you know someone’s going to say it wasn’t on the list so they didn’t know. The above strikes me as an attempt to avoid the appearance of inappropriateness without actually, you know, dealing with inappropriate behavior itself. Then again perhaps I’m just being nitpicky as I haven’t seen the full list.

Study finds AMBER Alerts are great drama, but have few successes.

I don’t know if you folks in other countries have a similar system, but here in America we have something called an AMBER Alert which is used to get the word out about abducted children in hopes of someone phoning in a tip quickly before the child is harmed.  The word AMBER is a backronym for “America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response” as well as being the name of a little girl whose abduction and murder brought about the legislation that created the system. Most of the states, including Michigan, participate in the program in some fashion and when activated messages will go out on TV, radio, electronic highway signs, digital billboards, SMS text messages, and even in some places on lottery tickets. Details on the child’s physical appearance and (if the medium allows it) a picture will be included.

It seems like a good idea that should result in saved lives, but very few people have ever questioned if it actually works. Now at least one study says it often doesn’t make a difference:

The program’s champions say that its successes have been dramatic. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 400 children have been saved by Amber Alerts. Of the 17 children Massachusetts has issued alerts on since it created its system in 2003, all have been safely returned.

These are encouraging statistics – but also deeply misleading, according to some of the only outside scholars to examine the system in depth. In the first independent study of whether Amber Alerts work, a team led by University of Nevada criminologist Timothy Griffin looked at hundreds of abduction cases between 2003 and 2006 and found that Amber Alerts – for all their urgency and drama – actually accomplish little. In most cases where they were issued, Griffin found, Amber Alerts played no role in the eventual return of abducted children. Their successes were generally in child custody fights that didn’t pose a risk to the child. And in those rare instances where kidnappers did intend to rape or kill the child, Amber Alerts usually failed to save lives.

[…] “Amber Alert is a victim of its own fantastically good intentions,” says Griffin. “If someone gets ahold of a kid and has sufficiently nasty intentions, in the long run there’s not much we can do.”

Defenders of the program reject Griffin’s argument. Some dismiss it as needless hair-splitting, while others question his data. And, considering the grim stakes, most see little point in criticizing a tool that saves any lives at all. “If an Amber Alert saves any child, don’t you think it was worth it?” says Terrel Harris, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

What Amber Alerts do create, its critics say, is a climate of fear around a tragic but extremely rare event, pumping up public anxiety. Griffin calls it “crime control theater,” and his critique of Amber Alerts fits into a larger complaint on the part of some criminologists about crime-fighting measures – often passed in the wake of horrific, highly publicized crimes – that originate from strong emotions rather than research into what actually works. Whether it’s child sex-offender registries or “three strikes” criminal-sentencing rules, these policies, critics warn, can prove ineffective, sometimes costly, and even counterproductive, since they heighten public fears and distract from threats that are at once more common and more tractable.

“The problem with these politically expedient solutions is that they look good but do very little to solve the problem,” says Jack Levin, a professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern.

The researchers go on to point out that there are some successes, even a couple of very dramatic ones, and they admit their results are preliminary at the moment, but the results seem to indicate that the system doesn’t play a huge role in the vast majority of cases. Still the fact that it does play a role in at least some cases is more than enough justification on the part of supporters to keep the system:

To supporters of the system, these arguments are at once misguided and dangerous. To say that only children snatched by unrelated child rapists are truly in danger, they argue, is setting the bar too high. Any abduction is deeply traumatic for a child, they argue, and a parent with a gun has certainly put that child in harm’s way.

“There’s an extremely high level of danger in violent domestic disputes,” says Robert Hoever, who directs the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Amber Alert program.

But more generally, Amber Alert’s defenders take issue with the idea that a low success rate should be seen as a fault with the program. Just because the Amber Alert system doesn’t save more children than it does, they argue, hardly qualifies it as a failure.

“It doesn’t cost anybody anything,” argues Tyler Cox, operations manager for radio station WBAP, chairman of the Dallas/Fort Worth Amber Plan Task Force, and one of the people who helped create the original Amber Alert. “There’s no expense to operating an Amber Alert system if you’re doing it the right way.”

The authors of the study, however, say that there’s still a cost inherent in the program even if it’s more psychological than monetary:

“It creates a sense of paranoia, not only in parents, but in children themselves,” says James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University professor of criminal justice.

Historically, crimes against children have shown a particular tendency to inspire strong measures. The criminologist Kristen Zgoba, now a researcher with the New Jersey Department of Corrections, has looked at the genesis of Amber Alert and Megan’s Law (named after a raped and murdered 7-year-old, Megan’s Law established state registries for sex offenders). Zgoba argues that while the number of stranger abductions and murders of children has remained steady over the years, public fear around the issue has fluctuated wildly, cohering into national panics from time to time, as in the summer of 2002, when several high-profile disappearances led cable news channels to proclaim the “summer of abduction.”

In fact, according to Fox, stranger abductions remain exceedingly rare: In the United States, he calculates, the odds of a child being kidnapped by someone he or she doesn’t know are roughly one in a million. “We tell kids, ‘Don’t talk to strangers, they all want to abduct you,’ but if a child needs assistance, a stranger will generally help them, not hurt them,” Fox argues.

This is, of course, little consolation to parents who have lost children to kidnappers. But, according to Fox, if we want to save children’s lives, we’d do better to worry about loosely enforced bicycle helmet and seat-belt laws, or the safety standards of school buses – all of which are much more statistically dangerous but lack comparably high-profile systems for stoking public concern.

There are far too many laws on the books that were created because of strong emotions taking precedence over logic and reason and the results have been mixed at best. The idiocy of Zero Tolerance laws, for example, have made it impossible for someone who got onto a Sex Offender registry because they had consensual sex as a teenager with another teenager to find a place to live or a job or, even more ludicrous, resulting in some teenager being kicked out of school for carrying aspirin in her purse.

It’s fair to ask if the program actually makes a difference or if the time and effort involved could be better spent elsewhere. If it truly costs no money and it does help a fair amount of children then the AMBER system should be kept in place, but if it’s largely just making people paranoid for no good reason then maybe there are better ways to “think of the children.”