When parents pick prayer over health care

June 4, 2016

Children die, of course. This tragedy occurred in 2013 but is in Calgary court now. According to testimony, Emil and Rodica Radita returned from church to find their 15-year-old son not breathing. They waited 2 whole fucking hours before calling EMS, opting to pray over the boy instead. Apparently other church members were in the house at the time, doing the same.

Shauna Mitchell, an investigator from Medical Examiner’s office reportedly heard conflicting stories from witnesses and thought it was possible the boy was already dead before the parents left for church that evening.

The boy, a diabetic, died from bacterial sepsis due to complications from starvation and neglect.

Both Mitchell and Const. Larry Pugliese, the first police officer on the scene, said the boy was nothing but skin and bones when they saw him dead in his bed.

Pugliese said Alexandru was “like a skeleton.”

He said it was clear to him the teen was dead.

“The boy was extremely thin,” Pugliese told the Court of Queen’s Bench murder trial.

The parents also claim the boy didn’t want to go to a hospital earlier that day because he had a “bad experience” when he was 3.

The murder trial continues later this week so hopefully I’ll remember to update.

Back in May, the CBC reported on this story, mentioning the fact that the family once lived in British Columbia but left. Why, I wonder…

[They] had their son seized by social services in that province in 2004 after he nearly died from untreated diabetes — the same allegations they now face in relation to his death, according to prosecutor Susan Pepper.

So, this poor kid suffered for a hell of a long time. It’s appalling, to say the least.

The other story that was making the rounds lately was also from Alberta: 19-month-old Ezekiel died of untreated meningitis. That had nothing to with picking prayer over hospitals; that was all naturopathic bullshit masquerading as health care. (Although naming a baby Ezekiel probably means David and Collet Stephan are fairly familiar with the Bible as well.)

Despite the conviction, they remain unrepentant, painting themselves as persecuted and warning that the parenting police are out to get us all.


The message in the conviction is consistent with what our laws and courts have said over decades in cases with similar philosophical underpinnings – parents who refuse blood transfusion, vaccination, cancer treatment and other demonstrably beneficial medical treatments for their children in favour of prayer or other nonsense: As an adult, you can have beliefs, religious or otherwise, and you can raise your children according to those beliefs, no matter how wacky, but that does not obviate the obligation to provide the necessities of life. When a child’s health and well-being are compromised, the rules change, because a guardian has responsibilities as well as rights.



Atheist Scruples: how old should a kid be before killing something?

September 17, 2014

When I was in junior high school or thereabouts, my eldest cousin was down visiting and his kids and I were playing upstairs at my Grandpa’s. The boy was 4 or so at the time and poking around in the closet. He found one of my uncle’s rifles that had been stashed up there and started swinging it around. His sister and I scrambled into a spare room and held the door shut while hollering at the top of our lungs for my cousin to get up there and rescue us from doom. The boy was adamant: “But there’s no bombs in it!” but there was no way to know for sure until my cousin and uncle could get the .22 away from him and check. I don’t know if he tried to pull the trigger. I don’t think my uncle was the type to leave loaded weapons around the house but being a farm, it may have seemed sensible to keep something close to hand. Only my uncle and grandfather lived on the land by that point and might have also forgotten the gun was up there.

Today’s question is somewhat timely — but only because rarely a day goes by between stories of a kid killing someone with a gun he or she didn’t know how to use and maybe shouldn’t have been touching in the first place.

Your father-in-law wishes to take your 12-year-old son hunting. Do you permit it?

Yes, because my father-in-law is a rational man who uses a bow and would make damned sure his grandson wasn’t stupid with it. He may not even be allowed to use it, but instead be forced to stay behind everyone that does until he’s taken a proper class in how to use one.

And the Man and I would also go – not so we can kill things, but because I haven’t used a bow and arrow since high school and I’ve been wanting to try it again in a target practice scenario. I recall it was pretty fun to aim carefully and let loose. Memory may fail me, I think I was pretty good at the time. All of the three times I tried it…

More recent story in mind here: the nine year old girl who shot her gun instructor with an Uzi. The children of the dead man released a video recently urging her to move on with her life and not let it cripple her future.

“You are only 9 years old,” Tyler, one of Vacca’s sons, says in the video. “We think about you. We are worried about you. We pray for you. And we wish you peace. Our dad would want the same thing.”

The 9-year-old girl dropped the gun after the fatal shot was fired, telling her mother that “the gun was too much for her,” according to a report released by the Mohave County Sheriff’s Department.

Time Magazine weighed in on this, taking the “kids should use guns” side.

Shooting a rifle accurately requires children to quiet their minds. Lining up the sights on a distant target takes deep concentration. Children must slow their breathing and tune into the beat of their hearts to be able to squeeze the trigger at precisely the right moment. Holding a rifle steady takes large-motor skills, and touching the trigger correctly takes small motor skills; doing both at once engages the whole brain. Marksmanship is an exercise in a high order of body-hand-eye-mind coordination. It is as far from mindless electronic diversion as can be imagined.

Points for improving concentration but you know what? They could also take up darts or bowling or golf and also improve concentration and marksmanship. It ain’t that easy to get a triple twenty, a perfect game or a hole in one.

Invite a child to learn how to shoot and the message is: I trust your ability to listen and learn. I trust your ability to concentrate. I welcome you into a dangerous adult activity because you are sensible and trustworthy. For young people accustomed to being constrained, belittled, ignored and told “no,” hearing an adult call them to their higher selves can be enormously empowering.

Let kids shoot tiny missiles traveling 2,500 feet per second but take away the lawn darts before anyone else gets killed. There seems to be something of a safety disconnect going on.

What’s the push for gun use at a young age really about? That’s the question I’d want to ask.

I don’t really think it’s about concentration and letting kids feel grown up. That’s what Solitaire and Han Solo are for. What games and imagination are for.

I don’t think kids that young should be allowed to use real guns. 12, like the age in the question, may be old enough but it’s going to also depend on the maturity level of the kid at that age. Some kids at 18 shouldn’t be handed a loaded weapon either.

The Daily Beast points to other news reports lately that illustrate how common it is for people to get shot on gun ranges – especially adults who are supposedly sensible and trustworthy and fully able to concentrate. And I quote…

Since the incident with the 9-year-old that attracted so much media attention, there have been at least five shootings at gun ranges—three accidental and two intentional—that resulted in three deaths and three injuries. In the last two weeks alone, a 65-year-old man accidentally shot and killed himself at a Massachusetts range; a 67-year-old man accidentally shot himself in the hand at a Maine range; Timothy Ramsuer Jr., 29, committed suicide with a gunshot to the head in front of witnesses at a Virginia range; two men were shot and injured at a Florida range during a failed attempt to unjam a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun; and a Georgia man fled to a gun range where he shot and killed himself after fatally stabbing his ex-wife.

There’s more in the article, and many links to these and other news stories along these lines.

Thoughts? Where do you sit on this issue?

(edited to add: People posting pictures of their kids with guns – what’s up with that?)

Thou shalt not kill — unless you’re an elderly church deacon and he’s homeless?

September 8, 2014

And likely not to be charged with any crime, according to police:

Eighty-year-old Lillian McTodd, dressed head to toe in white, struck the man as he pushed a shopping cart containing bottles on Gates Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant at around 10:30 a.m., witnesses said.
He was in the crosswalk, and McTodd had a green light as she made a left turn in her gold Chrysler 300C from Bedford Avenue onto Gates, police said.

“I didn’t know him, never saw him before,’’ the stunned woman told The Post after the accident, with the man’s body lying in the street about 15 feet away.

She was headed to 11 am mass at her church at the time, her bible was open on the dashboard and she also had a plaque on the windshield: “God is my co-pilot.”

My assumption is that her head was filled with church mission thoughts and not actually on her driving which, at that moment, really should have been the priority in her life.

Unfortunate. Maybe she needs to be banned from driving at least.


Saturday snicker: “Pardon me, demon. I have to take this phone call..”

August 16, 2014

Ah, haha.. An exorcist has just begun his attempt to cure this man of whatever demon ails him when the phone rings…

The accent is hard to for me to understand and also the sound quality is cell phone poor so all I can hear is, “I’m fine… I’ll call you… bye bye…” before he hangs up and we see he’s willing to start flailing around again and continue the “exorcism”. Clearly the exorcist is kind of pissed at the interruption, though, and I can’t make out what he says to the man once the call finishes. Certainly nothing went as expected there.

(h/t: liberalamerica.org)

This happened to be a funny exorcism attempt and makes me wonder if either of the people involved actually believe in possession. Is the guy in the suit a charlatan? Maybe deliberately, maybe ignorantly – at least in terms of thinking these kinds of methods release anyone from anything besides their money. The flailing victim seems totally ordinary once his phone rings, like he was willing to be in on the act and pretend something was happening just so the suit guy wouldn’t feel silly acting alone up there. Again, who knows.

Unfortunately, they aren’t always a show on a stage.

On Christmas Day 2010, a fifteen year old boy named Kristy Bamu died in a bathtub after three days of being attacked and tortured by his older sister, Magalie, and her boyfriend, Eric Bikubi, during some kind of exorcism attempt.

During the trial, jurors heard Kristy was in such pain after three days of attacks by Bikubi and Bamu, who used knives, sticks, metal bars and a hammer and chisel, that he “begged to die”, before slipping under the water.

Kristy had been killed while he and his siblings were visiting Bikubi and Bamu for Christmas, the court was told.

During the stay, Bikubi turned on them, accusing them of bringing “kindoki” – or witchcraft – into his home.

He then beat all three of them and forced other children to join in with the attacks, the jury heard.

Kristy got the worst of it, though, tortured and ultimately forced to confess to sorcery and witchcraft.

Magalie later tried to claim she was also a victim in this but nobody bought it. Others testified with enough detail to poke holes in her story. Bikubi’s defense tried to lower his sentence by stating he was mentally ill due to lesions on his brain (scans seemed to suggest that) but that plea failed.

Met Det Supt Terry Sharpe said: “Child abuse in any form, including that based on a belief in witchcraft or spirit possession, is a horrific crime which is condemned by people of all cultures, communities and faith, and is never acceptable in any circumstances.”

Kristy’s family said they hoped comfort could be drawn from his death through raising awareness “of the plight of children accused of witchcraft or spirit possession and promote the need to safeguard children’s rights”.

The couple was original from the Democratic Republic of Congo. A documentary put out by BBC3 in 2013 covered the prevalence of child witchcraft accusations there. At the time of filming, 50,000 children had been accused of witchcraft in the country. If you can find Branded a Witch anywhere, it might be worth a watch. If not, look around Youtube.

I’m not snickering anymore…

Witchhunts in Cambodia

August 14, 2014

Not a country I know about, but apparently it’s one with enough superstition and belief in the supernatural to create mobs intent on accusing ordinary people of black magic and sorcery. Why they thought Pov Sovann was trouble? He was into traditional herbal healing and well respected locally for it. A group reportedly 200 strong confronted him at his home and several followed him up to his bedroom and ultimately bludgeoned him to death. There had been rumours and fears that he’d caused the death of some locals via curses.

Sovann might be the fourth such case in the country this year, up a bit from previous years. Not many deaths all told, but enough for people to start taking notice. Of the hundreds that took part in the latest attack, few if any have been arrested and human rights groups, journalists, anthropologists and economists are weighing in on this disturbing trend.

The article goes on to state that Cambodia has 400 years of history with this “death to sorcerers” business, but back then it was government-sanctioned execution rather than neighbourhood gangs and the accused were tied up and thrown in the river. If they still survived after 15 minutes, then they were definitely using black magic to do it and were killed in some other way. Only by drowning would it prove they were innocent. Sound familiar?

“Witchcraft is born in the time of misery,” said Ang Choulean, a historical anthropologist with the Royal University of Phnom Penh, citing an 1862 book that was published in English under the title “Satanism and Witchcraft: A Study in Medieval Superstition.”

“If one understands that, one can understand anything,” Choulean said, adding that although massacres had happened throughout the world, they still happen in Southeast Asia in times of insecurity or war.

They have no minimum wage and low-level work may only net a person $2 a day.

Using a complex econometric model, economists Joerg Baten of the University of Tuebingen and Ulrich Woitek of the University of Munich connect grain prices with the fluctuating number of accusations of witchcraft.

The result: “[A] 30 percent decline [of real wages] implied a 60 percent increase in accusations,” Baten said.

“An econometric analysis of data from these regions demonstrates that in fact, there is a significant relationship between economic pressure and witch hunting activity,” the paper reads.

I don’t know where to go from there. It’s weird. They aren’t really helping their situation by accusing their neighbours of witchcraft. I’d be curious about the religious leanings of the perpetrators. The country is a mix of Buddhist, Christian and Muslim (and others) so deep down do they think they’re trying to please a god who might reward them? If they vanquish evil God might make the country prosperous. Or is it a violent attempt to fix the karma and bring them to a place of peace and harmony? Maybe it’s pointless asking for a rationale when people are being this irrational…

Psychic “predicted” Robin Williams’ death

August 13, 2014

In other words, woman claiming to be “psychic” rattled off a long list of prominent celebrities on a death list and got one lucky hit. Here’s Psychic Nikki’s list in its entirety.

First, there are a bunch of very old people, including, but not limited to:

Kreskin: born 1935

Loretta Lynn: 1932

Tippi Hedren: 1930

Clint Eastwood: 1930

Shirley Temple: 1928 – Feb 2014: a “hit” not mentioned in the article. Maybe they didn’t know.

Hugh Hefner: 1926

Cloris Leachman: 1926

Lauren Bacall: 1924 – Aug 12, 2014 (died at home, suspected stroke.)

Betty White: 1922

Nancy Reagan: 1921

Mickey Rooney: 1920

Zsa Zsa Gabor: 1917

Arlene Martel (1936) also died on the 12th. She wasn’t on the list.

Second, there are a bunch of people listed who are already known for their risky behaviour and history similar to Robin Williams with his addictions and depression. And some of them probably already have chronic/acute diseases that they won’t recover from. Something she could have easily looked up before compiling her list.

(EDIT TO ADD Aug 14/14: Williams’ wife admits to press he had Parkinson’s)

Nik Wallenda (1979) who is a high wire act kind of guy so any sort of risk the man takes could be his last.

Kim Jong-un (1983) — how stable is North Korea?

Lindsay Lohan (1986) — how stable is she these days? I’ve blogged about the train wreck that’s been her career, although not lately. Search my posts if you’re curious.

Melanie Griffith (1957) — rehab in 2000 and 2009 for painkiller addiction.

“Leaders in Syria and Iran” — she doesn’t even bother to name any of them but it’s a war zone. What are the chances people will die in those countries? Leaders might blow up or get shot. It’s pretty likely and shouldn’t count as psychic prediction given all the history we have on this planet with war and deaths resulting from them. May as well predict rain will fall down the next time it pours.

Justin Bieber (1994) who’s one punch in the head away from a coma, probably, but it’s not nice to speak ill of the living, even if he seems to be a tool of astronomical proportions. How come she didn’t predict that his godawful music might deter bears? Now that would have been proof she’s psychic. Who’d make that up? (Edit Aug 18/14: Alas, Cracked reports the Bieber/Bear story is false, so evidently somebody did. My bad…)

Fidel Castro is listed. He has a history of being unkillable, a man with extraordinary good luck in avoiding assassinations. Did the US government quit trying?

The list is only names, no details of what fate would befall each of these people or the date on which it would happen. I could just as easily tear a page out of the phone book, claim they’re all going to die and then look for their obituaries. I suspect the law of large numbers would guarantee a hit or two. Would I consider that a win? No. I’d know it was all coincidental and ultimately worthless as proof that I’m a psychic.

I don’t know about you, but I call fraud.



Robin Williams, I hardly knew you

August 12, 2014

His death was news everywhere yesterday. He’d had trouble with depression and substance abuse and last month had decided to go back to a treatment program. Something happened between that hopeful decision and yesterday when he took his own life. From CBC:

“This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken,” said Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider. “On behalf of Robin’s family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

Can do.

I have dim recollections of Mork and Mindy but that’s where I first saw him.

I had a Mork from Ork toy, complete with his egg-shaped spaceship. I played with them even after I lost half the egg and Mork lost an arm. Years later, I found the exact same toy still in its packaging for a very cheap price and bought it. It’s in a box still at my folks’ place. I don’t bring this up intending to sell it for $1000s now that he’s gone. It’s just something I happen to own.

I wouldn’t put him in a top ten list of favourite actors but I did see many of his movies over the years. I don’t think I saw him in anything since he put out Insomnia in 2002 (the original Norwegian film was better) but in terms of earlier work, sure.

Mrs. Doubtfire was always good for a laugh. Awakenings was very interesting (if you liked that film, look into Oliver Sacks and the book by the same name which is where the film got its “based on a true story” tagline). Patch Adams seemed like an ideal role for him and his antics. Hook was a bit of a dud (not his fault) but Fern Gully, Jumanji, Aladdin — he was certainly the voice of my childhood in many ways. I really liked those three.

Not sure what else to say. He’s the latest in a long line of famous people who’ve left the world before the world of fans and family was ready for it. I always hope when I see the aged in films that they’ll live long enough to make the sequel(s). It doesn’t occur to me to worry about the younger ones who make up the rest of the cast. Who’s struggling on the inside? Who’s hurting? Who’s getting help? Who’s feeling helpless and at a crossroad? Who’s going to go home today and call quits on everything?

Taking it back to the fans, friends and family, I’m sorry for your loss.