Shotgun Wedding…Quebec Style

May maternal grandfather was married twice. The first time in a literal “Shotgun Wedding”, when a local Minister showed up at his door with shotgun and pregnant daughter in tow…

To encourage him to do the right thing. Family rumor has it that within a few hours of the arrival of the Minister, the time required to gather a few witnesses, and a very short guest list – the happy couple was married by his own hand.

The marriage didn’t last, they were divorced several years later after the birth of two children – and he eventually married my Maternal Grandmother.

Like any less than positive event reflecting on the character of a family member – this was hidden as a family secret for years. Leading to the invention of several salacious scenarios where he was seeing the two women at the same time, or wasn’t divorced from the first when he married the second, making lots of fun for those family members who enjoy scandal. Marriage and divorce records prove it didn’t happen that way – but what the hey!

I live in a “Common Law” state – you live with someone for 7 years and you are married by law.

In Quebec, Canada – a recent court decision may result in the largest virtual shotgun wedding in history.

I Don’t! – How a bizarre legal case involving a mysterious billionaire could force 1.2 million Canadians to be married, against their will.

Somewhere in North America, there is a place where little girls don’t give the slightest thought to what kind of wedding dress they’ll wear one day. A place where young men have never heard the expression: “why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?”—because the milk is always free. A place where no one asks an unmarried couple expecting a baby if they’re getting hitched.

This place is the province of Quebec. The French language spoken here is no guarantee for romance. Couples are practical, and lovers treasure their individuality. Quebec has become one of the least marrying places in the world, thanks to the institution known as “de facto spouses,” But now, thanks to a bizarre legal case entangling a Quebec billionaire and his de facto spouse ,  the freedom to un-marry is under threat. More than 1 million Quebecois in this kind of relationship may soon be automatically married by the state, against their will.

De facto spouses are defined by Quebec’s law as two people who have been living together for a year or more without being married and who check the “couple” box on their income tax statement form. Quebec’s lawmakers have deliberately chosen not to give de facto couples the same rights and responsibilities that married couples have under the Law of Quebec, to preserve the freedom of choice. Upon the termination of a relationship, “no matter how long cohabitation has lasted, de facto spouses have no legal support obligation to each other, even if one spouse is in need and the other has a high income.” Quebec is the only province in Canada where spousal support payments are not recognized by law for de facto spouses.

Other countries also recognize the status of common-law couples, including France and the Scandinavian nations. In the United States, common law marriage is a legal status in a minority of states.

The very religious province of Quebec traditionally perceived de facto spouses as a threat to the social order. But the “Quiet Revolution” starting in the 1960s led to a radical rejection of the church, a decline in religious weddings, and a reform of the Family Law that introduced the notion of de facto unions in 1979. The status gained more recognition during the ’80s and ’90s, mostly thanks to lobbying by gay rights advocates.

The institution has become wildly popular in Quebec, for gays and straights. Anastonishing 34.6 percent of all Quebec couples are de facto couples, and one half of couples under 40 are not married. A full 60 percent of Quebec children are born out of wedlock. ( – More -)

Teach Your Babies to Swim!

Growing up, I had a particularly hard time learning to swim. Nearly drowned when I was about 7 – so I decided to learn. One of the problems was that during segregation, there were very few pools which allowed black folks. The closest one to us was about 25 miles away in Alexandria, Va., which meant that I only got to work on swimming about twice a year.

When they started integrating facilities n the early 60’s, I decided to take some swim classes – convincing my parents that since a common summer activity for us was fishing  on the York River and Chesapeake Bay, learning to swim was a safety issue.

Didn’t really work for a long time, until I sort of mastered the “Dog Paddle”.

The following summer I spent with cousins on the Ocean. My “half fish” friends and cousins were jumping off a pier into a channel leading from the Yacht Harbor to the sea. So… in typical teenage desire to be one of the group …

Because of body fat, babies can’t sink – and can be taught very quickly to swim.

I jumped in to the 20′ deep channel. First time I had ever tried to swim in salt water. I floated right to the top, and found it easy to keep my head above water due to the increased buoyancy in salt water. The problem was the current was running with the tide out to sea – which rapidly was whipping past the ladder on the side of the pier which everyone was using to get back out. Sink or swim time…

I learned to swim, and would become a good swimmer.

Caught the boat bug – probably from my parents who owned a small runabout. I migrated to larger and larger boats. It is common on the Potomac to anchor your boat at a beach on one side or the other in fairly shallow water (depending on how deep in the water your hull went) and dingy or walk to the shore. One popular spot was called “Sharks Tooth Bay” because along the shore you could find fossils and hundreds of fossilized shark’s teeth. On this particular day, I set the anchor and joined friends. The anchor broke loose – resulting in he boat beginning to drift across the river. Jumping in to swim to the boat, I didn’t realize it was the wind which was pushing it faster than I could swim. The long and short of it is I wound up swimming nearly 3 miles – all the way across the river – to catch the boat in fresh water.

Full Throttle Vest Inflat Auto Univ Red 3205RED00

Inflatable life vest designed to auto-inflate when the wearer hits the water

Another night, on a friend’s boat – the Captain went for a leak on the transom and fell off the boat unbeknownst to the rest of us in the cabin. Since we were a couple of miles offshore -he left the boat in gear at low speed when he decided to take his “break”. When we discovered our missing Captain we had no idea how long he had been gone – so we reversed the course heading and started to search. Fortunately the guy had been a LRP, which was one of the precursors to the SEALS, and knew what to do. He made water wings out of his white pants, which kept him afloat – as well as made it easier for us to spot him with the boat’s powerful spotlight.

I don’t know any long term boat owners who haven’t fallen off their boats at one time or another. One of the hazards of even well designed decks is dew or rain making them slippery. Through the years I have pulled more than one non-swimmer out of the water – and a few swimmers who got caught in the currents. Because of that, I wear  an inflatable life jacket which blows up when you fall in when out on the water fishing or beaching. They are expensive (although the prices are falling) – so not a lot of boaters carry them.

Teach your kids to swim. I started mine as babies in a baby swim class. And for those worried about the effect of water on their hair…

It’s a lot better than drowning.

Swim lessons help minority children break cycle

Wanda Butts dropped the phone and screamed when she heard the news that her son was dead.

Josh had drowned while rafting on a lake with friends. The 16-year-old didn’t know how to swim, and he wasn’t wearing a life jacket.

“I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t want to believe it: that just like that, my son had drowned and he was gone,” she said, recalling the 2006 tragedy.

Butts had worried about her son’s safety when it came to street violence or driving, and she said she had always warned him of those dangers. But water accidents never crossed her mind. Continue reading

Medika Mamba – Saving Haiti’s Children From Starvation and Malnourishment

A Haitian child is given Nutributter, a supplementary food rich in nutrients.Working in Haiti is one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever done… And rewarding. 19 Months and 19 trips to the country after the earthquake which devastated the country, a hell of a lot hasn’t changed – or is worse. A hell of a lot has changed for the better as well  – much due to the perspicacity of the Haitian people, the hard work of independent charities and churches from other countries, the blood sweat and tears of the relief agencies…

Which I guess defines the “bipolar frustration” felt by many Haitians and AID workers.

The failures in the country include 19 months later, little to no progress has been made in fixing any of the very basic infrastructure systems in the country.  It hits you in the face as soon as you land in the country – the airport is in shambles. The main terminal which suffered severe damage during the earthquake is exactly in the same condition as it was 15 months ago, the Air Traffic Control Tower which collapsed during the earthquake has been replaced by a “temporary tower” – a Winnebago parked in the middle of the airfield…

That is the only way in and out of the country for emergency relief supplies such as medicines and food.

There was supposed to be a major project to correct the basic problems with the airport – it hasn’t happened.

Cholera made it’s reappearance last year killing over 6,500 people. It’s back again this year, spreading into Port au Prince. The country does not have a sewer treatment system, so raw sewage is pumped into the ocean, or in some recently documented cases just dumped right on the ground. Don’t even think about the sanitary conditions in the tent cities where roughly 600,000 Haitians still live, or the rivers where raw sewage is dumped to flow out to the ocean, but which get clogged with millions of plastic bottles causing overflow into entire neighborhoods, despite the frantic efforts of local authorities to clear the debris.

There was supposed to be a new sewer treatment plant – it hasn’t happened.

And that is just the “short list”.

One of the victims of the situation appears to be trash collection. Someone donated dumpsters to collect local trash – but the company which emptied them stopped emptying them (I assume because they ran out of money). So residents now burn the trash in the dumpsters sitting along the streets adding to the already serious air pollution issues (One of the principal killers in Haiti is Tuberculosis, and the average lifespan is only 59).

These issues have to do with the billions of dollars in aid promised by various governmental and international financial agencies – which never got spent to fix the very basic problems in the country. Now – if anyone ever got around to writing a book about why that happened, and continues to happen, parts of it would come out like those international thrillers by a Coyle or Ludnum. The rest like a slow motion disaster movie. The fact of the matter is, both the domestic government under Preval, and the international agencies share the blame. Most people believe corruption is only on the part of the historically corrupt Haitian Government. That’s not entirely true – although the Preval administration was undeniably corrupt to the core – there has been plenty of corruption, bureaucratic incompetence and foot dragging at the international agencies, including by our own US governmental agencies as well. The result has been little progress.

If our conservative friends really gave a damn about government incompetence, malfeasance, corruption, waste, and inability to work together toward a common goal… This would be Herman Cain’s new “bookend” speech. But they don’t – so I expect little to change for the better, regardless of who takes office in 2013. Besides – it’s a black country, and we know damn well where those rank on the hierarchy of conservative concerns.

So I guess, it is uplifting when you hear about something that is working. Here is one, very important case of a treatment that I believe, was initially developed in Africa (Although George Washington Carver could have told them about this 100 years ago), having success in Haiti, and creating an industry.

Thanks for making my day, Meds and Food for Kids!

‘Peanut butter medicine’ giving hope to Haiti’s hungry

 With his ribs showing and his skin practically hanging off him, Pierre Wisny is painfully thin.

The 11-month-old Haitian weighs just 11 pounds, and it’s no surprise that he is severely malnourished.

The same applies for 3-year-old Alcincord Guerviscon, although it’s clear — even without measurements — to see that his growth has been stunted by the same condition. He weighs only 15 pounds.

In most of these cases, the children got this way because of poverty and a lack of access to good food. If they’re not given emergency treatment, they could die or suffer more effects of malnutrition, including reduced brain development.

For staff members at one clinic in northern Haiti, intervention comes in bright green packets: Medika Mamba, which means “peanut butter medicine” in Creole. It’s a ready-to-eat paste packed with nutritious ingredients that — over a period of weeks — gives a jolt to the system and puts children back on track. Made by a U.S.-based nonprofit called Meds and Food for Kids, it’s one of several brands of ready-to-use therapeutic foods.

“You can’t rehabilitate a child who has severe malnutrition with a plate of beans and rice. There’s just no way,” said Thomas Stehl, the nonprofit’s director of operations. “Their stomachs are too small and their nutritional requirements are too great to ever be satisfied in that way. So the quality and the density of food is really important. And that is why ready-to-use therapeutic food and Medika Mamba is such a great answer.” Continue reading

Bi-Racial…Tri-Racial… And the American Melting Pot

Herman Cain says that racism isn’t a significant factor in America anymore. Unfortunately, like much of what Mr Cain claims about race (and politics) in America, that isn’t true.

What is true is that race, and racism in America, sans a few Tea Party bigots, has become far less “in your face” – thanks to the many black and white folks (unlike Mr Cain) who marched, and after the marching was over – chose to live their lives rejecting one of the the very core premises of the founding America…race.

This family’s experiences aren’t any different than a majority of mixed race families in America, where their children struggle with a sense of belonging, acceptance – and sometimes the racism of their peers and peer’s parents.

In Strangers’ Glances at Family, Tensions Linger

The question tore through Heather Greenwood as she was about to check out at a store here one afternoon this summer. Her brown hands were pushing the shopping cart that held her babbling toddler, Noelle, all platinum curls, fair skin and ice-blue eyes.

The woman behind Mrs. Greenwood, who was white, asked once she realized, by the way they were talking, that they were mother and child. “It’s just not possible,” she charged indignantly. “You’re so…dark!”

It was not the first time someone had demanded an explanation from Mrs. Greenwood about her biological daughter, but it was among the more aggressive. Shaken almost to tears, she wanted to flee, to shield her little one from this kind of talk. But after quickly paying the cashier, she managed a reply. “How come?” she said. “Because that’s the way God made us.” Continue reading

Hispanic Children Now Largest Number of Poor in America

One is six American children are now living in poverty…

Isn’t it time to raise some hell in this country?

Hispanic Children Make Up Largest Share Of Poor Children In U.S.

The largest group of poor children isn’t white for the first time in U.S. history, according to a Pew report released Wednesday.

There were 6.1 million Latino children living in poverty in 2010, that’s 37.3 percent of all of the nation’s poor children, compared with 30.5 percent who were white and 26.2 percent who were black, according to the report. The Great Recession, which pushed increasing numbers of American children into poverty, hit Latino families especially hard, the report found.

The unemployment rate among Latinos is currently 11.1 percent, significantly higher than the national rate of 9.1 percent. And the high jobless rate is affecting their kids; twenty-five percent of children in black and Hispanic families had one unemployed or underemployed parent last year, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Hispanic households were also devastated by the foreclosure crisis; almost half of the victims of loan modification scams were Hispanic, African American or Asian, according to a report from the Homeownership Preservation Foundation.

The pain has yet to end. Seventeen percent of Latinos lost their home or were at risk of losing it in June 2010, according to a CNN Money analysis of Center for Responsible Lending Data. That’s compared to 11 percent of African American homeowners and 7 percent of white homeowners, according to CNN Money.

The foreclosure and jobs crisis exacerbated Hispanic child poverty rates, according to the Pew report. An additional 1.6 million Latino children were pushed into poverty between 2007 and 2010, a boost of 36.3 percent. By comparison, the ranks of white children living in poverty swelled by 17.6 percent, while the number of black children living in poverty grew by 11.7 percent.

In addition to economic woes, high birth rates among Hispanics living in the U.S. may also explain why Hispanic children make up the largest share of children living in poverty, the Pew report found. Hispanic children make up 23.1 percent of the nation’s children, due mostly to their high birther rates, according to the Pew report.

The rise in Hispanic children living in poverty is part of a larger trend of a rise in child poverty since the recession. One in four U.S. children under six are living in poverty, according to the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. And that rise isn’t limited to pockets of the country.Child poverty rose in 38 states in the last decade, a report released last month by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found.

The boost in child poverty is indicative of the rise in poverty in the nation as a whole. The U.S. poverty rate increased last year to 15.1 percent, according to Census data released earlier this month. The ranks of the nation’s poor swelled to 46.2 million, the most since the agency began keeping track.

Israel And Child Deportation

Now that the strategy of importing foreign workers to drive Palestinians out has worked, Israel wants to drive out the replacements…

"Don't Want Your Kind Livin' Here"

“Jewish character of the state of Israel”? Over here we call it “Anchor babies” and “English Only”…

Israel to deport hundreds of migrant workers’ children

Israel moved Sunday to deport the offspring of hundreds of migrant workers, mostly small children who were born in Israel, speak Hebrew and have never seen their parents’ native countries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the new policy was intended to stem a flood of illegal immigrants, whose children receive state-funded education and healthcare benefits, and to defend Israel’s Jewish identity.

“On the one hand, this problem is a humanitarian problem,” Netanyahu said during a meeting Sunday of the Cabinet, which had debated the move for nearly a year. “We all feel and understand the hearts of children. But on the other hand, there are Zionist considerations and ensuring the Jewish character of the state of Israel. Continue reading

What Is Wrong With Religion In This World?

It seems that almost every day we are confronted with yet another depressing case of horrific crimes in the name of, or under the guise and protection of religion. What’s disgusting is, as in the case of nearly a Century of Catholic Priests abusing children in their charge – even those in charge, and innocent of carnal crimes won’t step up to the plate and stop it… Or take the steps necessary to prevent the miscreant from doing it, again and again.

It’s not just the Catholics – this has gotten to be a far too pervasive theme across all denominations. Case in point -

Dangerous Place for Children?

Police: Girl raped, then relocated

After being raped and impregnated by a fellow churchgoer more than twice her age, a 15-year-old Concord girl was forced by Trinity Baptist Church leaders to stand before the congregation to apologize before they helped whisk her out of state, according to the police.

While her pastor, Chuck Phelps, reported the alleged rape in 1997 to state youth officials, Concord police detectives were never able to find the victim. The victim said she was sent to another church member’s home in Colorado, where she was home-schooled and not allowed to have contact with others her age. It wasn’t until this past February that the victim, who is now 28, decided to come forward after reading about other similar cases, realizing for the first time it wasn’t her fault that she had been raped, she told the police. Continue reading

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