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Whip It Good!

In the immortal words of Devo, "Whip it good!" (Buzzfeed)

In the immortal words of Devo, “Whip it good!” (Buzzfeed)

For today’s blog post—and given all the interesting and shocking news stories floating around out there—I thought a quick whip-a-round might be in order. I don’t have enough for another edition of the Reality Round-Up, but here are some of the recent stories that caught my eye and piqued my interest.

Selbyville, Delaware: 30-year-old mother Ashley Tull was recently charged with drug possession and child endangerment after her four-year-old daughter mistakenly took 250 heroin packets to her daycare. She thought they were candy and distributed the packets to her classmates before staff members realized the truth. A number of children were taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure, but thankfully no one was hurt by this terrible mistake. The investigation is ongoing, but it’s obvious Tull won’t be winning a “Parent of the Year” award anytime soon!

Text messaging can be dangerous! (Stock Photo)

Text messaging can be dangerous! (Stock Photo)

East Harlem, New York: Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I hate meetings. So few of them do more than waste time and nothing productive ever seems to come from them. They also tend to be very boring, but I endure them nonetheless. Unfortunately, a charter school teacher in New York named “Eric” has the same tendency, only he reacted to his boredom in a bizarre and even illegal way. He sent two text messages to his wife, the first of which asked her to call in a bomb threat—which would undoubtedly bring the meeting to an abrupt end. She did as she was told and then received his second text message, which read simply “ha ha.” Moments later, eight NYPD units descended on the school to investigate the threat. No arrests have been made yet, but it seems like only a matter of time. If nothing else, this is proof positive that you should not only watch what you text to people, but read all your texts before taking action!

Prasetyo and Volke, her killer (Facebook)

Prasetyo and Volke, her killer (Facebook)

Ballarat, Australia: Our final story comes from “down under” and is the darkest of the bunch. It involves 28-year-old Marcus Volke, an Australian chef who was just arrested for murdering his Indonesian girlfriend and transgender dancer, Mayang Prasetyo. On Saturday night, police responded to a call about a strange, “rotting meat” smell coming from Volke’s apartment. When they investigated, they discovered the chef had not only killed his lover; he had also dismembered her body and was boiling some of her body parts in chemicals on the stove. Volke fled but before he could be apprehended, he committed suicide in an industrial bin near his apartment. It was a sad end to an even more tragic situation, in other words.

So ends the whip-a-round! Thanks for reading and have a great rest of your day, peeps!

Prayers for the Pope

Please pray for the Pope (Reuters)

Although I am not a religious man—or even much of a spiritual one, at that—I do have a lot of love and respect for Pope Francis, who hails from Argentina, a country I absolutely adore.

Earlier today, it was reported that four of Pope Francis’ relatives were involved in a terrible automobile accident: his nephew, Emanuel Bergoglio, his nephew’s wife and their two children. Their car slammed into the back of a truck along a highway between Argentine cities Cordoba and Rosario. Sadly, all but Bergoglio himself perished in the accident; he lost not only his wife, but his 2-year-old and 8-month-old children.

Given my non-religious nature, the best I can do in this situation is send positive vibes to Pope Francis and his nephew. However, if you happen to be the praying type, please consider including them in your prayers today. I’m sure they both could use them.

The Last Day

Grim will visit us all soon enough! (FreeVector)

Death is something I read about every day—given how dark and depressing most news stories are—but in general, I try not to ponder my own inevitable demise. Granted, this is something I was preoccupied with in my youth, but as I grew older, I decided life was too short to worry about dying. Death is inescapable and spending too much time dwelling on it can distract from what little life we all have left. Focusing on the days ahead rather than the end of those days is preferable, after all.

Then I started watching documentaries on Netflix and came across a Dave McRae series entitled Final 24, which chronicles the final day in the lives of famous people, all of whom died under mysterious circumstances. And now, much to my chagrin, I find myself thinking about death yet again.

Punk bassist Sid Vicious (Fanpop)

The first episode focused on Sid Vicious, the bassist for the punk band The Sex Pistols who died of a heroin overdose in 1979. After being arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen—a murder he could not remember perpetrating—Vicious went on a drug-fueled bender, sponsored in large part by his own mother. In fact, some believe his mother gave him a fatal overdose on purpose, to spare him from another traumatizing stint in prison. Whatever the case may be, Vicious’ final 24 hours were dark and depressing—as they likely are for most just before they die.

Episode two turned a lens on one of the greatest comedic performers of all time, the great John Belushi. Like Sid Vicious, Belushi spent his final day of life blitzed out of his mind on drugs, including cocaine, marijuana and—go figure—heroin, a drug he had just begun using during his final trip to New York City. Unfortunately, he didn’t just shoot up heroin; he injected speedballs, deadly combinations of heroin and cocaine. As you might imagine, things didn’t go well for Belushi and he overdosed on the concoction, which ultimately caused his death and put an end to one of the most promising careers in entertainment history.

Deceased comic genius John Belushi (Getty Images)

The remainder of the Final 24 series includes stories about other famous people and their tragic deaths: Marvin Gaye, John F. Kennedy, River Phoenix and Hunter S. Thompson. I plan to watch them all, of course, but I am trying hard not to dwell on my own impending death. I say “impending” because it could be today, next week or even fifty years from now. You just never know.

Of course, I hope that when my number is finally up, death comes in the most peaceful and painless way possible. Isn’t that something we all wish for? I mean, the last thing I want is to die while doing something embarrassing—not to me, necessarily, but to my friends and family members. One such scenario might involve masturbation—having a heart attack while stroking off and being discovered in a compromising position. Nothing would be more embarrassing, especially if rigor mortis set in and my hand had to be pried off my junk with a crowbar or something.

We can’t all die in our sleep, after all!

Revolting

The right to bear arms and to die from them, too (sites.psu.edu)

It looks like the latest recipient of a senseless shooting tragedy is none other than “Sin City” itself: Las Vegas, Nevada.

Yesterday around lunchtime, a couple walked into CiCi’s Pizza and for no apparent reason, gunned down two police officers in cold blood: 41-year-old Alyn Beck and 31-year-old Igor Soldo.

“I just sat down to have lunch. The officers were sitting in front of me, at the table right next to me, and this man came in out of nowhere,” eyewitness Sheree Burns recounted. “I thought he was going to get a drink, the way he walked up and walked past them. And then he turned around, pulled a gun on his right and shot the bald officer in front of me.”

After grabbing the officers’ guns and ammunition, the as-yet-unidentified couple said something like “This is a revolution” and left CiCi’s. They then walked across the street to Walmart, killed a woman as she was walking through the front door and exchanged gunfire with police before disappearing into the back of the store. Once there, the woman fatally shot her husband before turning the gun on herself in what some have described as a “suicide pact.”

Soldo and Beck (AP)

Details are still rather sketchy at this time, but some disturbing information has been released in the last few hours. For one, police searching the couple’s apartment discovered a written manifesto that included “extremist views toward law enforcement.” Officers also learned some strange things from Krista Koch, one of the couple’s neighbors. She claimed the couple often dressed up as Batman villains Harley Quinn and the Joker—the man sometimes dressed as Slenderman, too (the online meme who inspired two young girls to stab their friend on his behalf recently)—and even told police they planned to carry out an attack soon. When they first mentioned this to her, she dismissed it because they seemed so “crazy.”

Actually, craziness might be reason enough to take them seriously, especially in retrospect. Too bad that never happened.

No one knows what prompted this crazy couple to murder three innocent people before killing themselves, but it could be almost anything in our violent, gun-riddled society. Senseless violence is, unfortunately, becoming the norm, and I don’t expect things to improve anytime soon.

After all, if shootings in Aurora and Newtown didn’t illustrate the need for more gun control, why should this?

Burning Legs and Breasts

Yum… fried chicken (Getty Images)

It is my sad duty to report on a terrible tragedy that occurred in La Grange, Wisconsin last Friday night. And trust me when I say this was a tragedy most fowl.

Around 7:30 p.m., firefighters in La Grange received a call about a blaze that had broken out at the S&R Fresh Egg Farm. According to Fire Chief John Duerst, the entire northern building of the farm was engulfed in flames when crews arrived. And since water had to be transported from miles away to the rural area, more than 60 fire agencies and as many as 200 firefighters assisted in extinguishing the blaze, which took roughly 15 hours. Fortunately, no human beings were injured, but the poultry fatalities were astounding.

In what can only be described as a chicken holocaust, nearly 300,000 birds perished in the fire, most within the first 10-15 minutes. Hundreds of thousands of chickens survived, but sadly it was too late for their family and friends.

But I can say this: it sounds like one hell of a barbecue!

Reality Round-Up: Dumb and Disturbing

Rounding up this week’s shocking news stories (Catherine Morgan)

It’s finally Friday and like millions of people around the country, I am anxiously waiting for what I hope will be a relaxing, flu-free weekend. Of course, there are still hours to go until quitting time—the perfect amount of time for another edition of the Reality Round-Up—so here are some dumb and disturbing things that have been happening in the good old United States recently.

WOODLAND, WASHINGTON

23-year-old Teresa Hernandez appeared in court this week on charges of first-degree assault of a child. Apparently, she was home taking care of her boyfriend’s 3-year-old son and decided to punish him in some extreme and brutal ways.

Throw the damn book at Hernandez! (KPTV)

Throw the damn book at Hernandez! (KPTV)

When he got too close to her while she was ironing, Hernandez pressed the hot iron down on his hand and left it there for at least five seconds while he screamed in pain. She initially told police that he grabbed the iron by accident, but changed her story a short time later.

Hernandez also confessed to pushing the young boy down the stairs a few days after burning him with the iron. She was apparently bringing a laundry basket downstairs and pushed into the boy, who tumbled down 12 stairs and hit his head on the tile floor below. The boy was taken to Randall Children’s Hospital for surgery and, as of now, remains in fair condition.

I certainly hope this poor little guy recovers. And I hope they throw the proverbial book at this mean “witch with a capital B.” What a loser…

PORTSMOUTH, RHODE ISLAND

A few weeks ago, Portsmouth Middle School parents received a rather disturbing email informing them of even more disturbing behavior by some of their students. It seems that some kids were caught snorting Smarties, the sugary candy normally associated with Halloween and trick-or-treating.

Don't snort the Smarties! (ajc.com)

Don’t snort the Smarties! (ajc.com)

According to school officials, snorting the fruity treats causes a sugar rush—likely the same kind of rush you might get from actually eating the candy. Unfortunately for this young “users,” snorting sugar won’t get you high and could instead do damage to nasal passages. What’s worse is that school officials even claimed this behavior could lead to cigarette smoking or drug use later, which makes sense since a buzz-seeking middle school student may be more willing to experiment with different substances.

I only hope they don’t graduate to something harder… like Fun Dip or Pixie Sticks!

MUNDELEIN, ILLINOIS

A 14-year-old girl in the Chicago area was arrested on Tuesday morning and charged with murder. And what she did shocked the small Mundelein community where she lives.

Children should not play with knives (Shutterstock)

Children should not play with knives (Shutterstock)

On Monday night, the young girl reached her breaking point with her 11-year-old half-sister, who she felt was unappreciative for all the help she’d been given—her older sister often cooked dinner for her and performed other chores around the house. After deliberating for 10 or 15 minutes, the older sibling went down to the kitchen, grabbed a butcher knife and proceeded to stab her younger sister… at least 40 times!

After showering and rinsing off the blood, the young girl phoned the police and claimed an intruder had broken in and attacked her sister. Local schools were briefly placed on lockdown, but this soon ended once the young assailant confessed to her crime. And since her sister died a short time after being found, the young killer could now be tried as an adult and could spend a considerable portion of her life behind bars.

It’s sad that we live in a society where even young children resort to violence to solve problems that could easily be solved without it. School shootings get all the attention, but it’s obvious that the problem runs much deeper. And the true victims are the kids who should be learning reading, writing and arithmetic… not revenge.

STOCKTON, CALIFORNIA

It saddens me to report on this next story, but it does provide yet another example of young children taking extreme and violent measures. Only this time the child in question was an 8-year-old boy.

By all accounts, Julianni Plascencia was a happy and sensitive young boy. He served as the youngest usher at his church, loved to play football and often asked his parents to give money to homeless people on the street. Unfortunately, something changed last Saturday night… and it was something destined to change the lives of his loved ones forever.

Julianni killed himself (News10)

Julianni killed himself (News10)

While his mother was out buying groceries, Julianni told his older brother that he was going to hang himself. His brother thought he was joking and told him not to say such things or he would tell his mother. Julianni walked away and, for a while, everything seemed fine… at least until his brother realized how quiet the house became and went to see what was happening.

What happened next still shocks the hell out of me.

The older brother found Julianni in his parents’ bedroom and, sadly, he had done exactly what he said he would: he used a scarf to hang himself from the doorknob. Paramedics soon arrived on the scene and were able to get Julianni’s heart started on the way to UC Davis Medical Center, but he passed away the next morning.

Julianni’s father believes his son was only mimicking something he’d seen on television, but that certainly doesn’t make his suicide any easier to handle. And again, it seems as if our violent society has claimed yet another victim… and we all know that he won’t be the last.

It’s been a weird couple of weeks and, as you can see from these stories, a traumatic few weeks, too. Kind of makes you wonder what tomorrow will bring, doesn’t it?

Bad Medicine

If you can't trust your doctor, who can you trust? (Brain and Spine Institute of California)

If you can’t trust your doctor, who can you trust? (Brain and Spine Institute of California)

Despite choosing a career in higher education, most of my family members opted for professions in the healthcare industry. My dad was a surgeon and had a practice with my uncle, who is still operating today; my mother and aunt are both registered nurses; my sister works in health information; and my brother is a physical therapist.

Some might label me as the black sheep of the family for choosing a field other than medicine, but what can you do? We aren’t all cut out to be doctors, dentists and nurses, after all. Given my medical “background,” though, I have always been a strong supporter of modern medicine. Granted, it isn’t perfect—and don’t get me started about the Obamacare debacle—but it’s the best system we have.

Holistic healers and health-food gurus might disagree, but you can’t please everyone.

Of course, some recent health news has me very concerned, especially since I have a six-year-old son (who is currently battling the flu, I’m sorry to say). Consider the well-publicized case of 13-year-old Jahi McMath, for instance.

On December 9th, Jahi was admitted to the Children’s Hospital & Research Center in Oakland, California for what should have been routine surgery. She was scheduled to have her tonsils and adenoids removed, along with some additional sinus tissue. Everything seemed to go according to plan and Jahi even awoke from surgery to ask her mother for a popsicle. A short time later, though, things took a disturbing turn.

Jahi McMath (McMath family)

Jahi McMath (McMath family)

Without warning, Jahi began bleeding from her nose and mouth before going into full cardiac arrest. She was rushed to the hospital, but doctors soon declared her brain-dead, which set off a legal struggle that continues today—doctors want Jahi removed from life support, but her family wants her cared for since they truly believe she will recover. It’s a huge mess, and one that likely began when a surgeon nicked one of Jahi’s arteries and caused extensive brain damage.

How horrible this must be for her poor family. And though they may have a bad taste in their mouths with regard to modern medicine, the sad fact is that they will have to rely on it for as long as Jahi is alive. I certainly hope things work out for them.

Sadly, another family is dealing with a heartbreaking situation resulting from common medical procedures, this time performed by a dentist. Unlike Jahi’s family, though, they have no hope because their child is already gone.

Finley Boyle—a 3-year-old girl from Hawaii—passed away Friday night following a dental procedure last month. Ashley Boyle—the girl’s mother—took Finley to Island Dentistry for Children in November and was told she needed extensive dental work: four root canals and six fillings. Boyle returned in December to begin the root canals, but little did she know that a month later, Finley would be dead.

Apparently, the dentist performing the procedures administered the wrong dosages of drugs to Finley and even left her sedated and unmonitored for nearly 30 minutes. As a result, she went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to the hospital, where pediatric neurologist Dr. Gregory Yen performed an MRI and discovered severe brain damage—what he called a “persistent vegetative state.”

Finley Boyle (Facebook)

Finley Boyle (Facebook)

Finley’s family has filed a lawsuit against Island Dentistry alleging dangerous conduct and negligence, but the only outcome so far is that the practice has been permanently closed. I’m sure this provides little relief to Finley’s family, but at least no other children will be harmed by this deranged dentist… at least I hope they won’t.

Modern medicine is great and can work wonders, to be sure. Unfortunately, though, the individuals practicing medicine aren’t always reliable or even safe. And this fact will undoubtedly worry me every time I take my son to the doctor’s office.

Merry Christmas, Newtown

Christmas in Connecticut just won't be the same this year (isthisrevolutionary.com)

Christmas in Connecticut just won’t be the same this year (isthisrevolutionary.com)

December 14th may represent Day Two of the “12 Days of Christmas” to most of us, but to the people of Newtown, Connecticut, it means something much different, and much more tragic.

Last year on December 14th, a mentally disturbed 20-year-old named Adam Lanza murdered his mother at home, traveled to Sandy Hook Elementary School and slaughtered twenty young children, as well as six adult staff members. He then turned the gun on himself, bringing the death toll for that one fateful day to 28 people.

Despite having almost a year to cope with their losses, the families of the victims now have to face the anniversary of an event that forever changed their lives—an anniversary sure to be over saturated in the media.

Sadly, I’m probably not helping much by writing about it now, but I feel impelled to do so as a way of honoring those we lost, as well as those who survived and now struggle to come to terms with what happened on that horrible day. Please take a moment to remember the people whose lives ended because of one deranged young man:

The victims of Sandy Hook (Amanda Jean Brown)

The victims of Sandy Hook (Amanda Jean Brown)

  • Nancy Lanza
  • Rachel D’Avino
  • Dawn Hochsprung
  • Anne Marie Murphy
  • Lauren Rousseau
  • Mary Sherlach
  • Victoria Leigh Soto
  • Charlotte Bacon
  • Daniel Barden
  • Olivia Engel
  • Josephine Gay
  • Dylan Hockley
  • Madeleine Hsu
  • Catherine Hubbard
  • Chase Kowalski
  • Jesse Lewis
  • Ana Marquez-Greene
  • James Mattioli
  • Grace McDonnell
  • Emilie Parker
  • Jack Pinto
  • Noah Pozner
  • Caroline Previdi
  • Jessica Rekos
  • Avielle Richman
  • Benjamin Wheeler
  • Allison Wyatt

… as well as the shooter Adam Lanza, I suppose. Had he been effectively treated for mental illness, then there’s a good chance that this would not have happened. In this way, I consider him among the victims of this terrible tragedy, as well.

A makeshift memorial for the Newtown victims (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

A makeshift memorial for the Newtown victims (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Although I feel horrible for the families of all the Newtown victims, I am especially concerned about the parents of the slain children. Christmas is a wonderful holiday for everyone, but for children it can be downright magical. The same can be said for parents, especially after seeing how much joy and happiness the holiday can bring to their kids.

Unfortunately, Christmas in Newtown simply won’t be the same for these poor people. Instead of enjoying the laughter and love of another holiday season, they will be reminded of the day when their happiness ceased, and when their children were taken from them. And there can be little doubt that the same thing will happen every Christmas, at least until parents join their children in “The Great Beyond.”

I may not be the religious type, but as you’re enjoying all that the Christmas season has to offer, please send a prayer to the people of Newtown. I assure you they need it more than ever…

Bearer of Bad News

The scene of the deadly crash (Zachary Kaufman)

Heartbreaking stories are not hard to find these days, and this one in particular is as heartbreaking as they come.

Caran Johnson is well known in the Vancouver area for tweeting about local traffic under the handle @ScanCouver. And on Wednesday afternoon, she sent numerous tweets about an accident on I-205 near 83rd street.

The accident involved two vehicles that collided around 1:45 p.m., so Johnson’s tweets mostly involved changes in traffic patterns, exit closings and other information common in these types of reports. As time went on, though, she started to worry since her husband takes the same route to come home from work. And on Wednesday, he left work early because he wasn’t feeling well.

Johnson tried repeatedly to reach her husband—who used Bluetooth and was always known to answer—but she couldn’t get through. She eventually returned home to wait for him, but he was late and she started to panic. So Johnson placed a 911 call and, after providing her husband’s license number, was transferred to another department and told they would call her back.

Unfortunately, the call she received later confirmed that her worst fears had come true. Here’s how she expressed it on Twitter:

@ScanCouver tweets the bad news (Twitter)

@ScanCouver tweets the bad news (Twitter)

Without knowing it, Johnson had reported on the very accident that took her husband’s life. And even though she has received an endless outpouring of prayers and support from the community, nothing can change the fact that her children no longer have a father and she no longer has a spouse.

How heartbreaking is that?

Making Waves

The awesome power of the sea cannot be denied (Desktop Nexus)

“Roll on, deep and dark blue ocean, roll. Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain. Man marks the earth with ruin, but his control stops with the shore.”  – Lord Byron

The power of the sea has been well documented throughout human history—perhaps beginning with The Great Flood that sent Noah aboard the ark with representatives of every animal species on earth (if you believe this actually happened, of course). For all its beauty and wonder, though, there can be little doubt that our oceans possess another, more formidable quality: danger. The sea can bring life—as it did when humans first crawled out of the primordial slime, which aligns more with my own evolutionist beliefs—but it can also bring death.

Just look at what happened to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines a few weeks ago. The deadliest typhoon in the nation’s history claimed more than 5,600 lives and quickly ranked as the fourth strongest ever in terms of wind speed. And where did it originate, you ask? In the ocean near Micronesia—another example of how destructive the sea can be, especially when high winds “fuel the fire,” so to speak.

My daily scan of the news sites revealed even more examples of the ocean affecting human beings. Here are a few stories that caught my eye and illustrate why we should all respect the seas that surround us.

CRYSTAL BEACH, FLORIDA

Stephen Chadwick and Joseph Citro were heading to meet some friends on Sunday afternoon when their boat suddenly started to take on water. The men immediately capsized the boat in an effort to keep it afloat, but it didn’t work and they were forced to try to swim to shore.

Drowning has to be a terrible way to die (Straight Speak)

Citro used a backpack as a flotation device, while Chadwick used the only available life vest. Before the men could reach the shore, however, Chadwick lost consciousness. Citro pulled him to the beach and performed CPR until paramedics arrived and rushed them to a local hospital. Unfortunately, Chadwick died from his injuries a short while later. He was 24 years old.

OAHU, HAWAII

On Saturday, University of Hawaii running back Willis Wilson went with friends to an Oahu beach to enjoy some surf and sand. He and a few others waded out into waist-deep water and were fine until the sea sent a huge wave crashing down on them.

Fortunately, the people with Wilson at the time managed to make it back to shore safely, but there was no sign of the young football player. Authorities launched an air, land and sea search and, sadly, recovered Wilson’s lifeless body several hours later.

As heartbreaking as this tragedy is, it’s even worse when you consider that Wilson recently transferred to the University of Hawaii—where his father played football in the 1980s—and had not yet appeared in a game this season. And now he won’t appear in a game ever again. What a sad turn of events.

SAN PEDRO, CALIFORNIA

The destruction of Typhoon Haiyan (Boston.com)

The final example of the ocean’s fury occurred on Saturday—apparently a very unlucky day to hit the beach—and involved a 36-year-old Good Samaritan who basically sacrificed his own life to save others.

The tragedy happened near the Cabrillo Beach breakwater—a popular spot for taking pictures and fishing—when a teenager and 49-year-old man were suddenly swept into the ocean. The victim leapt into action and tried to save them, but his efforts were in vain. The older man managed to make it to shore on his own and divers pulled the teen from the water, but there was nothing to be done for the victim. He was pulled from the sea and transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead later. Luckily, the other potential victims were in good health and were released from the hospital the same day.

Yes, the oceans can be beautiful and inspiring, but never forget the enormous dangers they can bring. And always show the proper respect to the sea or who knows? You could be next!

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