Forensics and Crime Scene Investigation

 

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TV Shows like CSI, Bones, Forensics Investigators, Snapped, and many more have certainly familiarized most of us with the world of Forensics and Crime Scene Investigation. At least we are familiar with the TV depictions of these events.  As the library read through continues I am finding myself immersed with 360’s books about the way in which real life forensics assists and/or solves crime scene investigations, how forensics contributes to the judicial system, and how these relentless investigators deal with the things they see and do in their line of work as well as many other very interesting aspects of an investigator’s job. TV shows often feature one character doing multiple jobs when doing autopsies. In reality forensics investigators are highly specialized. For instance there are pathologists (who work with soft tissue) and anthropologists (who work with bones), and yet others who process the actual crime scenes just to name a few of the jobs that are done. After a body is removed from the crime scene, it will be sent to a pathologist first for examination of the soft tissue and then the body will be sent to an anthropologist for examination of the bones. All of these professionals contribute to the discovery of clues.  This topic is one that has always been of interest to me, but I realize it may not be for everyone.

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Teasing Secrets From the Dead  is written by real life forensic anthropologist Emily Craig, Ph.D. Dr.Craig discusses how her career as a medical illustrator and her love for art led her into making clay models of missing persons and then into the fascinating world of forensics. I found it pretty amazing to learn that art and forensics are very good partners-sometimes in unexpected ways. Doctor Craig also shares some of her very interesting cases throughout her career and how they were solved (or not). In addition to single deaths and homicides, the author has worked multiple death events such as Waco, Oklahoma City, the World Trade Center, fires, plane crashes, and natural disasters.  In describing her cases, the author does an amazing job of highlighting various techniques used to gather forensic information. Additionally, Dr. Craig describes her experiences while in school to become an anthropologist. During her school days one of the things required of her was to conduct research at the Body Farm in Tennessee. While I absolutely loved this book, it is definitely not for the squeamish!

Seldom do I ever mention the author who wrote the forward for another author’s book, but in this case I will make an exception. Kathy Reichs, a popular fiction writer and real life anthropologist, says she writes about her true life cases through her fictional character Temperance Brennan. Many of you may know the Temperance Brennan character through the TV series Bones (making many of the plot lines based on true events) as well as in her own books.  Kathy Reichs says that “Emily writes about her true life experiences through Emily.” For those of you who may be a bit too squeamish to read the above book, you may want to check out the Kathy Reichs books and/or the TV series Bones.

In addition to the more well known criminal investigations (by police, private investigators, forensics investigators, crime scene investigators, etc), there are also amateur investigators. True Crime Addict by  James Renner, an investigative journalist, is a book about the true disappearance of Maura Murray. Not only does James Renner write about the disappearance of Maura, he is actually trying to solve the missing persons case.

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In the course of his investigation, James has put his research online and has hit upon a hidden resource-armchair sleuths. These internet sleuths are interested in Maura’s disappearance and help to review clues that James posts. James calls this motley crew his “Irregulars” (a throw back to Sherlock Holmes’s “irregular” street kids). The Irregulars form a think tank of sorts and make suggestions to James to consider angles he hasn’t thought of as well as sometimes doing some investigatory work of their own to track down leads. James and the Irregulars have uncovered some rather interesting clues and go down some rabbit holes which lead to no where. To date, this crew has some very plausible theories as to what happened to Maura Murray, but have not solved the case.

As an interesting aside to the above story, James Renner also researched clues while trying to find Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, 2 of the 3 girls kidnapped by Ariel Castro and highlighted in my post on Predators. During the writing of True Crime Addict, Amanda Berry escaped with her child and all of the girls were rescued. Ariel Castro was arrested and James Renner was at the Cleveland hospital where the girls were taken giving the families advice about how to handle the massive press coverage that was about to start. James Renner had to be in court on an unrelated case and seemed to always be in the courtroom a few floors away while Ariel Castro was being tried in another courtroom on the same days at the same times.

Many people who are aware of forensics and crime scene investigation haven’t stopped to think about what happens when investigators leave the scene. On most TV shows  when the body leaves the scene, the plot line usually follows the body itself or some aspect of the investigation. In real life someone has to clean up the death site and/or the crime scene. In the past, grieving families and their friends (who were probably not emotionally up to the task) were left to this grisly task. However, with increasing awareness of how diseases are spread, handling biomatter has become something to take seriously. Aftermath, Inc. : Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home by Gil Reavill discusses why this task is best left to professionals.

aftermath-inc

Aftermath, Inc. is a real bioremediation company which you can read about at http://www.aftermath.com/crime-cleanup-services/ . In addition to cleaning up crime scenes, the Aftermath, Inc. company does such things as hoarder cleaning, unattended death clean ups, and industrial accident clean ups among many other services. There are now many such companies, but Aftermath, Inc. is one of the originals and has more experience than most others in the United States.

The book, Aftermath, Inc., is written by true crime writer Gil Reavill and traces this company’s history as well as explains exactly how and why they do the things they do. Even after all the true crime Gil Reavill has written about, he says even he had never stopped to consider what happens once investigators are done gathering their information. When offered an opportunity to job shadow some Aftermath, Inc. employees, Gil jumped right in and learned first hand how to clean up crime scenes. Gil’s first experience was in a hoarder home with a body in a three week decomp state. From there, the author participated in clean ups for mass murders, unattended deaths, and suicides among other situations. According to one of the owners of Aftermath, Inc. if Gil could tolerate a three week decomp and a suicide clean up, he would be able to do anything else required on the job.

I found the book to be very educational and the company to be very respectful to the families they serve. Among the crew members themselves there are sometimes some rather coarse descriptions of things or events, but I believe these are more coping mechanisms to help workers deal with a terrible task-similar to a cop calling a corpse a “stiff.” I was very interested in this subject but again, this book is not for the squeamish!

Have you ever known anyone that needed to use a service similar to Aftermath, Inc? Is this a job you think you could do?

Law Enforcement and Profiling

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There are many varied and important jobs in law enforcement. In this post I will be highlighting only a few of them. Though there are some bad apples, the majority of men and women serving in law enforcement are deeply devoted to protecting and serving the public.

One (now retired) officer/ FBI agent I have the deepest respect for is Roger L. Depue.

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In the course of his career he literally changed the field of law enforcement as well as took huge numbers of bad guys off the streets. Roger Depue is a former Viet Nam era Marine who began his career in law enforcement  by following in his father’s footsteps serving as a police officer. By the age of 27 (unheard of at the time), Depue was the youngest police chief in his home state of Michigan. At the same time, Depue was pursuing degrees in Psychology and became deeply interested in criminal behavior. It wasn’t long before Depue began working for the FBI and took over as the head of the newborn Behavioral Science Unit. Using psychology to catch the bad guys was a brand new concept in the 1970’s. Fascinated by similarities in certain types of criminals, Depue had a revolutionary idea. He and his team didn’t consider their job complete just by throwing bad guys in jail. Once they were in jail, criminals themselves were interviewed and studied. Depue felt that if similarities among certain classifications of convicts (rapists, serial murderers, kidnappers, etc) could be found that it may help to identify others with a criminal mind set before a crime was committed or that these patterns of behavior could help identify suspects during an investigation. Today we call this method criminology. Depue’s  ideas panned out. In fact, so successful were Depue’s methods that other law enforcement officials around the county were either taught the methods or assisted by other officers who had studied them. The study of criminals then led into what we would recognize today as modern profiling. Depue and his Behavioral Science Unit more or less invented modern profiling. FBI profilers, who were amazingly accurate in their predictions,  helped to take many criminals off the streets and in the course of doing so changed law enforcement practices forever.

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Between Good and Evil by Roger L. Depue is the memoir of his law enforcement career as well as a description of some personal struggles he had in trying not to be overcome by all the pure evil he witnessed on a daily basis. Dealing with violent offenders and serial killers everyday for years takes a toll on those who do it. Depue says he has always been a man of faith and sees no conflict between his faith and the evil he saw each day. However, seeing mostly evil on a daily basis can begin to warp one’s perception. After his retirement from the FBI, Depue started a consulting agency in which he and a team of other retired profilers and law enforcement officers assisted authorities in various ways–by writing profiles, helping with cold cases, writing reports for legal purposes, advising on high profile cases, etc. After doing this type of work for awhile, Depue needed to take some time to get his head straight. He enrolled in a seminary and studied to become a clergyman, trying to bring balance into his life. Depue then went on to work with convicts themselves. He was interested in helping to rehabilitate convicts that could be rehabilitated which he did for awhile. Now, Depue has a private practice and works with at risk kids–kids who can hopefully be turned around before they get into trouble and start on a bad path with the law.

As much good as profiling has done, there has also been some questions about its misuse. For instance are law enforcement agencies using racial profiling? Are white cops targeting black men?  Can black men who feel like they have to constantly look over their shoulders trust white cops?  Are black men targeting white cops? Can police do their jobs if they are constantly second guessed and needing to look over their shoulders? Where do black cops fit into all of this? Is it possible that crime rates are not so much related to race as they are to the disintegrating family unit? This is a very emotional and controversial topic.

The next book, The War On Cops by Heather Mac Donald, is also quite controversial while considering plausible answers to all of the above questions.

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Due to the controversial nature of this book, I will simply quote what Perseus Publisher says to describe this book:

Since the summer of 2014, America has been convulsed with a protest movement known as Black Lives Matter. That movement holds that police officers are among the greatest threats if not the greatest threat facing young black males today. Policing and the rest of the criminal justice system from prosecutors to drug laws single out minority communities for gratuitous and heavy-handed enforcement, the charge goes, resulting in an epidemic of mass incarceration that falls most heavily on blacks.

This book challenges that narrative. Through vivid, street-level reporting, it gives voice to the many residents of high-crime neighborhoods, rarely heard in the media, who support proactive policing and want more of it. The book will argue that there is no government agency more dedicated to the proposition that Black Lives Matter than today’s data-driven, accountable police department. In New York City alone, over ten thousand minority males are alive who would have been killed had the New York Police Department not brought homicide in the city down 80% from its early 1990’€™s level. The intelligence-led policing revolution that began in New York and spread nationally has transformed urban neighborhoods, freeing their residents from the thrall of daily fear.

Crime and community requests for assistance, not race, determine police deployment and tactics, the book will explain. But given the demographics of crime, the police cannot go where people are most being victimized without operating disproportionately in minority neighborhoods. That disproportionate police presence increases the risk that when a police-civilian encounter goes tragically awry, it will have a minority victim. But the police could end all lethal use of force justified and unjustified tomorrow, and the black death by homicide rate would barely budge. That death rate six times higher than the homicide victimization rate of whites and Hispanics combined is a function of the black homicide commission rate, which is itself nearly eight times higher than the white and Hispanic homicide commission rates combined. It is such elevated rates of crime, the book will demonstrate, that explain why police focus on urban neighborhoods.

Other topics include such contested tactics as stop, question, and frisk and broken windows policing. It will take the reader inside prisons and jails. It will argue that proactive policing has been the greatest public policy success story of the last quarter century, resulting in a record-breaking national crime drop that no criminologist or even police chief foresaw.

That crime drop is now at risk, however, thanks to the nonstop agitation against the police led by the Black Lives Matter movement. The book will refute the argument that racist drug statutes and enforcement lie behind the black incarceration rate and call for a more honest and informed debate about policing, crime, and race, before the public safety gains of the last twenty years are lost.

While Heather Mac Donald clearly feels that race isn’t the prevailing reason behind high black incarceration rates, the next author does believe that race is a factor in some instances.

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Suspicion Nation :the Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It  by Lisa Bloom explores the controversial trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin. Bloom believes that race should have been discussed in the Zimmerman trial, but was basically dismissed. Zimmerman, who is a white man, shot and killed an unarmed black teenager who was walking home from the store with candy and a drink. Zimmerman, who was on his way to the grocery store, saw Trayvon walking home and thought he was “suspicious.” There had been some reported break ins to homes in the area. The burglar suspects were reported to be black men. Zimmerman called the police to report a suspicious person and then ignored the dispatcher’s comment that Zimmerman wasn’t needed to follow the person. The author clearly believes that racial profiling was at the heart of the Trayvon Martin murder case. By the time police arrived on scene, it was apparent some sort of scuffle had occurred and Trayvon was dead. Zimmerman was later tried and found not guilty of murder by a six person all female jury with only one minority juror. Lisa Bloom explores all the details of the trial in this book and inserts her opinions about the many mistakes she believes occurred. She tries to explain how a white man can shoot an unarmed black teenager and be found not guilty of a crime. Bloom makes it quite clear she thinks the outcome should have been different and that she believes there is a need for stricter gun control laws.

It appears that there is a deep need in this country to get back to the basics and treat people as people, regardless of race. It is my belief after much reading that blacks, whites, and other minorities want fairness, not necessarily a focus on race (even though in some cases race does need to be discussed). What are your ideas of ways to make this happen? How can we get past the emotionalism and anger (from all sides) and improve our justice system?

 

 

 

Lovely Blog Award II

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The Dewey Hop blog has been nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award for the second time in 8 months! I am honored to accept this award and humbled by all the attention the blog is getting. To be nominated twice in 8 months is a great privilege. Dewey Hop would not be so successful without the wonderful online readers, so I thank each and every one of you for helping to make Dewey Hop a great online presence and for bringing positive attention to the Fulton County Public Library in Rochester, Indiana.

I would especially like to thank fellow blogger Cale who writes the blog diariesofascatterbrain.wordpress.com for nominating Dewey Hop. Cale was being extremely kind and said, “I wanted to nominate you because you have one of the most interesting blogs, and are very engaged with your audience.”

The Rules for this award are as follows:

  1.  Thank the person who nominated you and leave a link to their blog
  2.  Post about the award. Share 7 facts about yourself
  3.  Nominate, AT MOST, 15 people
  4. 5. Tell your nominees the good news!

Random facts about me:

  1. Education: I have Bachelor of Science degrees in both Elementary Education with an Interrelated Special Education add-on and Psychology.  I was almost done completing a Master’s degree as a Reading Specialist when I was forced to drop out of school by a family emergency.
  2. I serve as a Special Power of Attorney to a missionary family in the Phillipines.
  3. There are 4 very spoiled critters that live at my house (not counting the Mr.): A Border Collie, 2 Jack Russels, and 1 calico cat with a checkerboard face.
  4. I have 4 sisters and 2 brothers; I’m the 7th and youngest.
  5. My favorite kind of food is Mexican.
  6. I love to cook and often cook for other people.
  7. The most requested of my talents is saying, “That’s despicable!” just like Daffy Duck.

Nominations:

  1. Doctor Jonathan at allabouthealthychoices.wordpress.com
  2. Kelley at kellysdiy.wordpress.com
  3. Dolly at koolkosherkitchen.wordpress.com
  4. Noel with Pointing Telescopes at snbradywriter.wordpress.com
  5. Melinda at purpleslobinrecover.wordpress.com

I am aware some of you have been nominated by other people in the past, but all of your blogs are unique and interesting and worthy of multiple nominations! Plus, I’ve never nominated you and you all deserve the attention! Please do not feel obligated to participate if you do not want to.

Thanks again to my nominator, Cale, whose escapades I really enjoy reading at diariesofascatterbrain.wordpress.com!

 

 

Toxins

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These days most of us are at least aware that organic foods are safer than processed foods. The concern about foods that are processed is that there are various chemicals being added which are not safe for human consumption. For instance the fresh fruits and vegetables that you buy at the grocery store are teeming with all sorts of pesticides and bacteria. You would never go buy a pesticide with the intention of eating it. Yet when you eat nonorganic fruits and vegetables right out of the produce department the result is the same although you aren’t intentionally poisoning yourself. For this reason organic fruits and vegetables are a better choice although some of them pick up various pesticides and bacteria from polluted soil. Organic fruits and vegetables are safer because the risk of accidental poisoning from pesticides is greatly reduced (Organic fruits and vegetables should still be washed before consumption). Most people would avoid putting pesticides and other harmful chemicals in their bodies if they were aware of their existence.

Unfortunately eating contaminated food isn’t the only way harmful chemicals can enter your body.

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Toxic chemicals can enter your body through everyday exposure to common things. You may inhale chemicals just by breathing air. Our water supply is no longer completely safe and has been shown to harbor many harmful things ranging from bacteria to harmful metals. The food you eat can become contaminated by soil which is contaminated with bacteria and pesticides. Household and personal care products can expose your body to harmful chemicals through your skin,

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your respiratory system,

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your eyes,

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and your mouth.

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Once these chemicals make it into your body, your organs have to work extra hard to try to filter them back out. Many harmful toxins are flushed out through your digestive system with the aid of the liver, kidneys, appendix (if you still have one), and  gall bladder (if you still have one). The human body must work harder than ever to filter out harmful toxins because we are now bombarded with more toxins than ever before.

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Because our bodies are having a much harder time of filtering out harmful toxins, we are experiencing all sorts of allergies, diseases, neurological disorders, and behavior problems as a result. We must begin to make some changes in our environment, the foods we eat, and the products we use if we want to claim overall better health. No one is immune from exposure to harmful chemicals, plasticisers, and metals. Human beings are suffering from something called Toxic Overload. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be fatal and there’s plenty to be done to reduce our toxic load.

Toxic Free by Debra Lynn Dadd is a wonderful, quick read book that skillfully explains the issue of toxins and what we can do about them.

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Debra Lynn Dadd explains that toxins are poisons that our bodies collect and store. Toxins can be linked to every illness there is, according to Dadd. The author helps us identify toxins in our homes, our environments, and our own bodies. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my own home is well on the way to being toxic free. However, I also identified several areas that can be improved in my own home to further limit exposure to toxins. For example, I had no idea that formaldehyde use was so wide spread. If you’ve ever had new carpet installed, bought furniture with scotch guard, or have applied scotch guard yourself to any item there is formaldehyde in your home. Formaldehyde is sprayed on the majority of the new clothes you see in stores (this gives that shiny new appearance and adds a bit of stiffness). Formaldehyde is on the sheets you sleep on (and can cause insomnia). Your skin can absorb all of that formaldehyde and store it in your body for years, slowly building the toxins in your body. To prevent this, choose natural fiber (no synthetics) clothing as much as possible and switch to cotton sheets (also a natural material). If you absolutely must wear synthetic clothing (it may be a required uniform for your job for instance) at least wash (with natural soaps) all new items before wearing them. You will instantly reduce your toxic exposure and you’ll sleep better too! Formaldehyde is also a primary ingredient in most lipsticks (sorry ladies!). You run the risk of absorbing or swallowing formaldehyde while wearing lipstick. You may also pass the formaldehyde off to other people by kissing while wearing lipstick. To prevent this, either do not wear lipstick or wear a lipstick made from natural ingredients. There are many, many more examples of simple steps in this book that we can take in order to be and live toxic free. These steps also lead to better health. Debra claims she has lived toxic free for over 30 years. Her health drastically improved as a result. I highly recommend this book for everyone. Debra has her own website with tons of information at http://www.debralynndadd.com/ .

In Toxic Free, Debra Dadd explains signal words for the products we use in and around our homes. Until I read this section, I didn’t actually realize there was such a big distinction between words like “caution” and “warning.” Basically Debra has put label signals into 4 categories:

  1. Highly toxic          Signal Words: DANGER, POISON
  2. Moderately toxic Signal Word: WARNING
  3. Slightly toxic         Signal Word: CAUTION
  4. Non Toxic              Signal Word: not needed

With each category Debra lists how the toxin may be harmful. Symptoms could range from none to death depending upon the category and the amount of poisoning. The author says that she uses mostly nontoxic products but does use a few with the word CAUTION on them.

Because I can’t list all the wonderful information in Toxic Free in just one post, I was looking for somewhat of a summary of this issue and came across the You Tube presentation below. I am not promoting any one product, but this presentation happens to be sponsored by Nature’s Pearl Products. The actual presentation is about 42 minutes long, but there is a good 20-30 minutes of wonderful information before the products are promoted and I think this would be a 20-30 minutes well spent just to get familiar with the subject. The presenter talks about Toxic Overload, health problems created by toxins, and some of the actual poisons in everyday products–which you can then verify for yourselves with the products you personally use.

 

Our food is poisoning us. In Diet for a Dead Planet: How the Food Industry is Killing Us by Christopher D. Cook, the author discusses why it’s in the FDA’s best interest to promote poor eating habits. Human health is valued less by the FDA than the profit margin.

We have a whole economic system built around food which makes solving the problem of detoxifying our food quite complicated. Big business is shutting down family farms and essentially assuming control of our food supply “from farm gate to dinner plate.” Organic farmers have a very difficult time of getting their produce to grocery store shelves due to mind boggling FDA rules and regulations–all designed to protect big business. This problem is so vast that many compare FDA investigations on small businesses and farms to Mafia intimidation. Those souls brave enough to testify against the FDA often go to the extreme measures of testifying anonymously with hooded garments and using voice altering technology while others are still afraid to testify even in this manner. The FDA has deep pockets and is a force to be reckoned with. The FDA can and has destroyed many farming families through bullying and intimidation.

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Diet for a Dead Planet is an older book but still has very interesting and very important information and history to share. Manufacturers will continue to make processed foods, foods loaded with toxins, and food-like products as long as we continue to buy them. One of the most effective ways we have to force change is to vote with our dollars and buy only solidly nutritious foods. Buy organic foods as much as possible or grow your own produce in your own garden or containers. If you can’t grow your own produce and your grocery store still has limited selections for organics, try buying local in area farmer’s markets or directly from local farms (this may be limited by FDA restrictions).  If all else fails, you can now buy organic foods on the internet. However there has been some strong research to suggest that you should eat food from local sources whenever possible to take advantage of health benefits.

Fellow blogger Doctor Jonathan is very concerned about our lifestyle and food choices. I have followed Doctor Jonathan for awhile now and his blog, All About Healthy Choices, is well worth reading at https://allabouthealthychoices.wordpress.com/ . Please be sure to stop by  this very informative blog to check it out and say hello. Because it’s best that Doctor Jonathan speaks for himself,  we have collaborated on this post. (He has added several comments in red.) In addition to eating as many organic foods as possible, Doctor Jonathan suggests that food be eaten in the following order:

  1. Large amounts of vegetables and salads (6-9 servings of mixed PLAIN vegetables. If a sauce is needed, salsa or salsa mixed with plain greek yogurt works well. A second option could be garlic powder {not garlic salt} and a DRIZZLING of olive oil)
  2. Meat (6-8oz) with minimal sauces and gravy (if additional meat is eaten additional gravy/sauces can be used once the first 6-8 ounces have been consumed)
  3. A SMALL handful of Nuts if available (this will provide a HEALTHY source of fat and will satiate hunger)
  4. Bread (if bread is desired, only include it in the meal AFTER having completely eaten the above sources of food.) DO NOT USE BREAD to soak up sauces. You can use small amounts of butter.
  5. Anything else

Along with the above, Doctor Jonathan recommends drinking 12-14 oz of water BEFORE AND AFTER your meals. This is important to expand the stomach to reduce food cravings while satisfying necessary water consumption. (For a sedentary person, a good formula to start with is 1/2 your body weight (calculated in pounds) consumed in ounces. EX. 200lb sedentary person should drink 100oz. of water daily.

My husband and I have been participating in the above plan and it is working! My husband, who struggles with weight, recently lost 5 lbs. That may not sound like a lot, but considering any weight loss has been hard for him this is amazing. We haven’t been trying this for all that long a period of time. Also, another miraculous thing that happened was that my husband (who claims to not like vegetables) actually asked me to buy more vegetables! Doctor Jonathan is better at explaining all of this, but he says that by eating this way that hormones in the body basically reset themselves and then you won’t really want to eat a lot of junk food.

There are many interesting movies which do a nice job of teaching us about toxins and our toxic food supply. I highly recommend that you watch these:

 

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food-incfast-food-nation

There are many, many more movies along these lines, but the 4 DVDs above will give you a broad understanding of how our environment and food is being affected.

Have you or anyone you know had problems with Toxic Overload? Do you know anyone who has a food related disease?

Accident and Survival Stories

Joint UCT Diver Training
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nicholas S. Tenorio/Released)

Today Boston Harbor is a beautiful body of water with a lot of human activity.

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There is also a lot of wildlife activity in and around the waters of Boston Harbor.

Snowy Owl
Juvenile female Snowy Owl sitting on a snow covered hill.

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whale

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There are many other beautiful images of both human and wildlife activity in and around the Harbor that I encourage you to look up on the internet.

Unfortunately Boston Harbor hasn’t been without its share of problems. The library read through continues in the 360’s (Social Problems & Social Services) and Boston Harbor had certainly become a “social problem!” At one point, Boston Harbor was the dirtiest body of water in the United States. It was literally filthy with human waste. The area sewage plant, at Deer Island, was run down and certainly not environmentally friendly. Raw sewage from the Boston area (an approximate 50 mile radius) was dumped into the Harbor making it unfit for humans or wildlife. Wildlife either died from the toxic environment or fled for safer shores. Conditions were unsanitary for humans to say the least. Used condoms and tampon covers that had been flushed down toilets floated in the waters and washed up on the shore.  The water had become so dark and mucky on the bottom that it was called Black Mayonaise.

Around 1982 a jogger was jogging along Boston Harbor and after his run literally found all sorts of human waste on his shoes. He had had enough and filed a lawsuit to force a clean up of the area. Because of this lawsuit, Boston Harbor was eventually cleaned up and became the beautiful place it is today. Although a successful project, this was no easy task to accomplish.

Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey is the true story of the clean up efforts that transformed Boston Harbor.

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In this book, our heroes are commercial divers. Commercial divers are basically construction industry workers who work under water. The divers perform incredible construction miracles underwater. In this case, engineers came up with a never before attempted plan which commercial divers were responsible for building.

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While there were renovations and upgrades to the sewage treatment plant on Deer Island, most of the harbor clean up changes and construction were to happen underwater.

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Better initial filtering of raw sewage was implemented.When toilets in the Boston area are flushed, the waste travels to the Deer Island facility through a series of pipes. Once it arrives at the headworks it is sent through pumping stations which start a series of treatments:

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The point at which the waste was sent being sent (before treatment) into the harbor was what caused much of the initial problems with contamination in Boston Harbor.

After upgrades to the Deer Island Treatment Plant, an unparalleled engineering plan began to take shape. The plan was to build an under water tunnel based on gravity which would start at  Deer Island and go approximately 400′ straight down into Boston Harbor. The wastewater is  released (treated and clean) and travels roughly 10 miles through a horizontal tunnel where it then is pushed through a series of risers and released out into Massachusetts Bay via under water diffuser heads. Solid waste is separated from the waste water and never enters the tunnel. The solid waste is treated and turned into sludge at Deer Island before being sent to processing factories where the sludge is turned into pellet fertilizer and sold commercially. During the process, methane gas is separated from the solid waste and routed back to the Deer Island facility where it is cleverly turned into electricity to run the facility. Because the waste water had been decontaminated and cleaned before being routed out to sea,  there is virtually no adverse affects to wildlife or humans. This system went a long way towards cleaning up Boston Harbor.

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There are other underwater tunnels, but what makes this one unique is its 10 mile length and that it is the world’s largest dead end tunnel. The tunnel is an engineering miracle.

Trapped Under the Sea not only tells the story and history of the tunnel construction, it seeks to point out the services most of us take for granted come at great cost. It is a story about ingenuity and bravery of the people who create and build engineering marvels.

Unfortunately in Trapped Under the Sea  commercial divers are also the victims of corporate buck passing and denial of responsibility for mind blowing safety violations. All told, 5 people died during the many years of construction. Two died due to actual construction site accidents at Deer Island, one person died during an inspection of the tunnel, and two divers died due to inadequate equipment malfunction. When the two divers died in the tunnel, three others barely made it out alive. The three who made it out alive all developed PTSD . The story in Trapped Under the Sea could keep psychological experts busy for a very long time studying group dynamics.

These events set off a fight for justice for the two dead divers and the three living, but psychologically injured, divers. The whole process of seeking justice was mind boggling. Was this a criminal case? If so, how does one prosecute a criminal case when the crime scene is 400′ below sea level and 10 miles out under the sea? The actual crime scene couldn’t be examined. Was this a murder investigation, manslaughter, or just an unfortunate accident? These are just a few questions that had investigators reeling.

I found Trapped Under the Sea to be a very interesting story which I would recommend. It seems to have all the makings of a great movie as well.There is action adventure, suspense, drama, heroes, a little romance and a whole lot more.

There are many other true accident and survival stories available in the 360’s section of the Fulton County Public Library. I checked out several of them with equally unique and interesting stories. I’m not able in this post to go into all of these other stories. This time I will just show some of the other books and give a general idea of what they are about:

deep-down-dark

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar is the story of a mining accident in Chile. Although it’s been my practice to review American social problems, this one is a little different since the US got involved in the rescue of 33 trapped miners.

the-33

The 33 is a DVD based on Deep Down DarkThis DVD does a nice job of getting all of the story’s  major details into the movie.

A couple other books are Coming Back Alive by Spike Walker and Survive! by Peter Deleo.

coming-back-alive  survive

My original idea for this post was to read about accident and survival stories in differing locations such as underwater, underground, on land, air, and sea. However, there is no way that I could accomplish all of that in one post. Therefore I encourage you to read some (or all) of these books for yourself. If you are someone that enjoys some action adventure and suspense these would be a good choice for you.  These are all the types of books that would make great movies (if they don’t already have a movie!).

Have you ever been to Boston Harbor? Did you know about the tunnel? Have you ever been a participant in a search and rescue operation (as either a rescuer or a victim)?

 

 

Terrorism

terrorism

Terrorism can be defined as the use of violence and intimidation in order to coerce a particular goal which is usually political. Terrorism can be international or domestic. Terrorists are the only predators that want attention drawn to them. They want media coverage and if they don’t get it, they will often call authorities and claim responsibility for an attack. Terrorists prefer to use weapons of mass destruction (WMD).  The FBI has identified 5 categories of WMDs: Nuclear, Chemical, Biological, Incendiaries, and Explosives. These 5 categories are all likely forms of attacks by terrorists. Additionally a terrorist may try to cause mass panic by such means as trying to take out communications networks, cutting off supply lines, or taking out vital utilities. In short, no one can predict where, how, or even when a terrorist attack will occur. This does not mean we are completely defenseless or unable to protect ourselves.

The keys to protecting ourselves from terrorism are education and preparedness. Anti-Terrorism 101: A Primer for Protection by L. Thome is a short book that is full of information which helps educate the reader about what can be expected from the government in terms of protection and what is individual responsibility for protection. There is no way I could completely comment on all of the information available in this book. The book was written shortly after 9-11-01 so some of its information is dated, but it still has plenty to offer the reader. This book helps the reader analyze personal and business risks and then take protective actions.

anti-terrorism-101

I believe that most of the suggestions made in the book about personal preparedness and safety are still valuable today. Creating a survival kit should be a priority. This is a matter of expecting the best, but preparing for the worst.

A survival kit should include such items as:

  • a first aid kit-complete with scissors and tweezers
  • chlorine bleach for water purification (or iodine tablets)
  • a fire extinguisher
  • wrenches and other tools
  • emergency supplies of nonperishable food and water (one gallon per person per day)
  • additional food and water for pets
  • a portable, battery operated radio & extra batteries
  • flashlights & extra batteries and bulbs
  • candles & matches (do not use if a gas leak is suspected)
  • heavy tape and large plastic trash bags
  • extra blankets
  • backup supplies of prescription medications, eyeglasses, & personal products (soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc)
  • paper map of your state
  • camping & outdoor survival equipment if you must leave your home
  • important family records & an inventory of household items (for insurance purposes)
  • cash

The Red Cross suggests having a two week supply of food and survival items on hand in the event of natural disasters or other emergencies. Other agencies and survivalists say you should stockpile supplies to last from 6 months to a year. Be sure to rotate supplies  and stock the newest items in the back so you aren’t caught with expired products if you choose to keep items for this long. Having one or more generators available is also a good idea.

In the event of an actual emergency, you should be able to receive instructions over the emergency broadcast system by either radio or TV (if it’s working). It is also important that your family has a plan about where to meet should you get separated from each other.

There is so much more information available in this book that I encourage you to at least skim through it.

Lights Out by Ted Koppel is a book that looks at what a potential terrorist attack would look like. In this particular scenario Koppel takes a look at what could happen if a terrorist targeted one of the major power grids in the United States. He believes that individuals and governmental agencies are not prepared to handle such an event. Throughout the book, he does make some suggestions for correcting the situation which don’t seem too complicated.

lights-out

One major way to prepare for such an event does seem to be to have a back up supply of nonperishable food items and survival equipment. As it turns out, the Mormons may have the best preparedness plan of anyone in the United States. Those who are members of the Mormon church (also known as The Latter Day Saints) are encouraged to have a well supplied “closet” or pantry. The Mormon closet is a back up food supply to feed their entire family that would last up to a year. Mormons are also highly encouraged by their church to have emergency money set aside for disaster planning. This is actually very good advice for everyone. However, the Mormons really take this concept to the extreme. Not only are individual families stockpiling goods, the entire Mormon community is literally warehousing almost anything you could think of. They have fuel reserves, nonperishable food, perishable meats, cheeses, and other items that would be backed up by huge generators in case of extreme emergency. They have clothing, household items, camping gear, cleaning supplies, medical and first aid items, flashlights, candles, matches, blankets; literally just about anything you can think of they have. The Mormons have their own supply trucks and drivers. They also have buses to evacuate their entire church community and plans where to send them should everyone need to be relocated. If all the Mormon warehouses and various resources were combined, it would make giants like Walmart look like a back road mom & pop store. These people are prepared for just about any disaster imaginable and we can learn a lot from them!

For a photographic tour of some of the Mormon resources, click the link or copy and paste it into your browser. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2528650/The-super-hoarders-Utah-Inside-huge-warehouses-used-feed-states-insatiable-desire-disaster-preparation.html

In 2005 the Mormon disaster plan outperformed Washington’s own disaster plan in response to Hurricane Katrina. Before the storm actually hit, the LDS church had evacuated all but 7 of it’s approximately 2,500 members in the area. The church had developed an automated telephone warning system that alerted all members of the impending danger, telling them to get out of town, and where they should go. Members were sent to safer areas where other members of the church who were out of harms way were able to assist them or where they could get a safe hotel room. During this time FEMA seemed to be struggling to cope with the situation while the Mormons were calm and orderly. The evacuation (at least of the church members) went smoothly. Ten fully loaded trucks were dispatched by the Latter Day Saints  and contained sleeping bags, tarps to cover wrecked roofs, bottled water and 5 gallon drums of gasoline. Supplies were calmly handed out to people who needed them. The Mormons not only got all but 7 of their members to safety, but they also sent relief teams to help others in the path of the storm.  (The 7 members who were not evacuated were left there to serve on the relief/rescue teams.) While the Mormon response to Hurricane Katrina was extremely impressive, they can’t be expected to rescue the entire country in the event of a truly catastrophic event. Our government and individual families can learn much from the Mormon example.

Overall, Lights Out, is a book to make us think. While I found much of it to be alarmist in nature, it does make some very valid points. I think it’s a book definitely worth taking a look at and can help us to bring about some balance in our own preparedness approach. This book is a way to try to help prepare us for the worst case scenario while we are still hoping for the best. I think this book would actually make a great movie!

Do you have a preparedness plan? Have you put together any type of disaster emergency kit?

 

Predators

stalking

I have always tried to keep the Dewey Hop blog family friendly and if I had to give it a rating it would generally fall in the G to PG range. Given the upcoming subject matter I will be covering in the next few sections of my library read through, the rating will increase temporarily to between PG and PG-13. There are some younger readers of the Dewey Hop blog so parents please use discretion with your kids. Beginning with this blog more difficult topics will be discussed. This blog entry will deal primarily with predators and stalking, but  does include references and some discussion of more violent crimes. These topics may be appropriate discussion starters for teens and parents.This may be a good time to begin or continue discussing safety precautions with your kids (There are suggestions at the end of this blog to help keep your kids safe). I am still making my way through the 360’s (Social Problems & Social Services) which, unfortunately, also reflects the darker elements of our society. My goal is to explore and educate about what is available at the Fulton County Public Library, not to scare anyone. Given some of the upcoming categories I felt a “warning” of sorts should be given.

While I believe in the basic goodness of most people, there are those individuals who do not conform to social norms, have no moral values, and who are anything but trustworthy. There are those who prey on other people which can manifest in many different ways and none of them are good. Learning to protect ourselves from predators involves a lot of learning to trust our instincts. Sometimes when people have ignored their instincts, things have gone terribly wrong.  In Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland by Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus (also available in BOCD format) that is exactly what happened.

hope

Hope is a tragic story with a  mostly happy ending. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were all stalked and then kidnapped by the same man. Although they were taken at differing times, they were all held in the same house at the same time for years. The story in Hope is primarily about Amanda and Gina although Michelle is occasionally mentioned.

(Michelle Knight has her own book, Finding Me.

finding-me

There is also a movie called Cleveland Abduction which aired on Lifetime and is primarily Michelle’s story.)

cleveland_abduction

Amanda was kidnapped when she was 16 just a day before her 17th birthday. Gina was kidnapped at age 14. All three girls knew their abductor, Ariel Castro, as a local school bus driver. The girls knew Ariel’s kids who were close to their ages. Amanda was able to keep somewhat of a diary during her captivity which was then later used to help put events in a chronological order for the book she would write with Gina. Some information that the girls didn’t know about at the time was later researched (such as details about the police and FBI investigations into their cases) and put into the story at appropriate times so that the reader will get the overall story details in a logical order.

In both of Amanda’s and Gina’s  kidnappings, the girls say they ignored their instincts that something wasn’t quite right about the situation. Both made the mistake of getting into a car with a man they barely knew. They both thought it would be ok because they knew his kids. Once they realized their mistake, it was already too late for them to escape.

Predators are experts at blending in and appearing normal. Ariel Castro was no exception. By day he was a school bus driver who was trusted with and had access to many  children in the school system. The Castro children attended the school system where Ariel worked.  While holding the girls captive, Ariel Castro went to work everyday for years. His extended family, that he continued to interact with, was well known in the community.  There was nothing that seemed out of the ordinary about his appearance or behavior.

Predators are not who they appear to be. By night Ariel Castro used threats and intimidation to control his captives. He repeatedly raped the girls who were literally in chains and couldn’t defend themselves. He barely fed them enough to keep them alive; presumably to make them weak so they couldn’t fight him.  He would torture them by making them watch TV shows which featured the investigations into their cases because the  programs showed the distraught family members and made the girls cry knowing they couldn’t go to their families. He was proud of himself that he had kidnapped three girls and investigators had no clue what had happened to the them. Ariel seemed to take particular delight in the fact that the investigators seemed to be focusing on all the wrong people. He was not even a suspect. For Ariel it was all about control.

Eventually, Amanda managed to escape and free her daughter (A child she had with Ariel Castro). Amanda called the police who then came and rescued Gina and Michelle. The girls were reunited with family members. Sadly, Amanda’s mother died (mostly of a broken heart) during Amanda’s captivity. Michelle Knight’s child  who had been in temporary foster care was adopted out because it was assumed that Michelle had abandoned him. Ariel Castro was tried and convicted of over 900 criminal counts (thanks to Amanda’s diary of events) which is believed to be a very conservative number. He was sentenced to life without parole plus 1,000 years. After his conviction, Ariel Castro barely made it over a month before killing himself in prison. He couldn’t stand being a captive himself. The “house of horrors” was demolished. Michelle, Amanda (with her child), and Gina are now moving on with their lives.Unfortunately the story in Hope is just one of many thousands of predators’ victims.

All of us need to learn to better protect ourselves with the best tool we have-our minds. How we can do this is outlined in Predators: Who They Are and How to Stop Them by Gregory M. Cooper and Michael R. King.

predators

The authors have worked with the FBI (and various other fields of law enforcement) on thousands of cases and saw a serious need to better educate people on how to better protect and defend themselves. Just locking your doors and windows is no longer enough.  Many of the stories in this book are much too graphic to share in detail here. Horrible crimes are discussed such as crimes against children and the elderly, terrorism, sexual assault, domestic violence, kidnapping, and murder. The authors of Predators do not mean to scare anyone and present the subject material in as respectful a manner as they can. Though the stories are not easy to think about, they are presented as opportunities to learn defense techniques.

The authors spend quite a bit of time at the beginning of the book discussing victimology, the study of the victim. Victims of violent crimes are studied to find links to the perpetrator. By working backwards many predators are caught and stopped. It is useful for readers to learn this technique as taught in the book, apply it to personal lives, and figure out what can be done to protect themselves from a similar crime. By thinking about the crime and tracing events backwards we can identify steps we can take in our own lives to reduce the probability of the same crime happening to us. The majority of things we can do to protect ourselves involve common sense but do require that individuals take an honest and hard look at their own lives.

The criminal mind is also examined. From the criminal mind we can learn some things we can do to help protect ourselves from predators:

  •  Predators count on predictability. Vary your routine occasionally. By becoming unpredictable (ex: take different routes to work, return early sometimes or leave later, etc) you are protecting yourself and your family. Vary your weekly schedule sometimes as well (ex: don’t always shop for groceries on the same day at the same time)
  • Predators don’t want attention drawn to them (with the exception of terrorists). Teach young children to yell “Fire” or “Stranger” as loud as they can if they are approached by someone they don’t know and are uncomfortable with. Also teach children that it’s ok to walk away from an adult who is making them uncomfortable and even screaming is ok if there is “stranger danger” or the child is intimidated in any way (remember not all dangers come from strangers).  Teach children about “good touches” and “bad touches” (anywhere covered by a bathing suit is a private area). Teaching your children (or even yourself) not to be a compliant target could save lives. (Ariel Castro said he was able to kidnap all three of his victims because they were compliant.)
  • Predators will try to gain the parents trust in order to gain access to children. Background check people who will be near your kids. The authors recommend not even letting them go to sleepovers. If your kids participate in clubs or church activities ask a lot of questions to find out if the leaders have been background checked. Our church background checks EVERYONE who has contact with the children. It’s a shame that this has become necessary. Good people will understand and those who object should be viewed with suspicion. Background checks can be done formally or you can use the internet (for a fee) to check up on someone. Above all trust your instincts. Remember that background checks only expose predators if they’ve ever been caught.
  • Predators are drawn to vulnerability. If you are a single woman living alone, for example, you can do things like put old muddy work boots or other props outside your door as if a man lives there. You can put props in your car such as leaving a tool belt  or a man’s jacket visible on the back seat or floor of the car. Be creative. Anything small like this may be enough to discourage a would be attacker. If you are a frail elderly person, there are still things you can do to protect yourself. Never let a stranger into your home, no matter the weather or how clean cut they may appear. Keep them outside to increase the likelihood a neighbor or someone driving by will see you talking to him/her. If the person is someone you may want to talk to, ask them to wait outside. Lock the door and then go get your coat (if it’s cold outside), call a utility company to see if this person was actually sent there (if that’s who they say they are), etc. Don’t just rely on someone flashing a company badge or wearing a company uniform to be who they say they are. If the person has waited for you to come back outside after you’ve gone inside, then return to the door and go outside to talk to them. Increasing the chances of being seen will help to protect you. Any stranger who shows up at your door unexpectedly is a potential threat no matter what they look like, what they say they want, or whether the person is male or female.
  • Predators may use the telephone to try to trick you. This could be true for anyone, but the elderly and children are particularly vulnerable. Never ever give out personal information over the phone. No legitimate business or service will ask for private information over the phone. If the person claims to be from a medical office but something strikes you as odd, for example, hang up and call that office yourself. Never call a number the caller gives you and you aren’t familiar with. Use the one you know or the one out of your phone book. There is a scam in this area in which a person will call claiming to be a grandchild who has gotten into trouble and needs a grandparent to bail him or her out of some problem. The best thing to do to avoid phone scams is to not answer the phone when there are numbers you don’t recognize. If you can’t read the numbers, get a phone that will talk and tell you who is calling. If you don’t answer the phone and the call is important someone will leave a message. If you happen to answer for whatever reason and you are suspicious, just hang up. It is better to be rude and remain safe. The scammers needing a grandparent will try to get an elderly person to guess who they are and then when a name is thrown out they claim to be that person. On occasion a grandparent may have a legitimate reason to wonder if this is a true call (although I sincerely doubt it ever would be). In that case, make up a name of someone you don’t even know and if the scammer says that’s who they are, you’ll know it’s a scam. But again, the best thing to do is not to even engage. Children should be taught not to carry on conversations with strangers on the phone. Young children shouldn’t even be allowed to answer the phone. Older children can be taught to call out  “Mom” or “Dad” , then say after a brief pause a parent isn’t able to come to the phone. The child can take a number and inform the caller that a parent will call them right back. Avoid having children say anything that could indicate they may be home alone.

There are many, many more strategies in the book which I encourage everyone to read.

The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker is an excellent book.

the-gift-of-fear

I actually read this book about 14 years ago when a friend recommended it. This is another book that I encourage everyone (especially women) to read. The basic premise of the book is to teach you to pay attention to your instincts-even though you may not realize why at the time. There are various scenarios presented throughout the book to illustrate why it’s so important to pay attention to your instincts.  It’s far better to err on the side of caution. It is not too dramatic to say that this book could save your life.

Because I had read this book years ago, I believe that I was protected from a potentially bad situation. It happened when my family went on vacation to an ocean resort area. I used to suffer from migraines and I felt a migraine coming on. (I was vulnerable.) I got separated from my family when I went back to my hotel room alone. (I was isolated.) I decided to soak in the tub for a few minutes–which always seemed to help with my head. I was just finishing up when someone started pounding on the door–which of course I had locked and bolted. I asked who it was and tried to look through the peephole. I am barely 5′ tall with my shoes on so that was no easy feat. Anyway, I believe that I saw two men (My instincts said this wasn’t normal.) standing outside my door who said they were from maintenance. (My instincts said that maintenance people don’t just show up disturbing guests..) Because I couldn’t see out the peep hole very well, I couldn’t say exactly what they were wearing, but they didn’t look like maintenance people to me. It also struck me as odd that there were two of them. (My instincts said I should be suspicious.) I said, “Just a minute.” Then I went to the phone and called the front desk and asked if they sent two maintenance workers to my room. They said no and that they would send security up. Of course by the time security got there, the men were nowhere to be found. (Predators don’t want attention drawn to them.)

Just as reading this information helped me, I hope that Dewey Hop readers will benefit from this information as well. I do encourage everyone to read these books since there is so much more helpful information in them than I could ever begin to include in one post.

Keeping Kids Safe

For some excellent safety training parents can do with their children, go to:

http://www.kindervision.org

http://www.raidkids.org

The above two sites can keep you and your child busy for awhile. There are tests and quizzes you can give to your child to find out his/her knowledge of safety practices. There are videos to watch together and discuss to help train your child about how to stay safe. I highly encourage all parents to check out these sites.

Additionally you should have your child finger printed and swabbed for DNA. If you live in a country outside of the US and don’t have access to fingerprinting/swabbing, you can keep a lock of hair, or an old bandaid with blood on it (label and keep this in a baggie in the freezer). Although I hope no one will ever have to use these things, you will be glad you have them should the need arise.

Have you ever had an experience in which you listened (or didn’t listen) to your instincts? What happened? Would you do anything differently?

 

 

Identity Theft

identity-theft

 

Identity theft is the crime of the century. Anyone and everyone can do it if they are so inclined. No special skills or equipment are needed as long as the thief has access to a computer. Identity theft can be perpetrated from anywhere in the world and everyone is vulnerable. This type of crime is invisible,  doesn’t take very long, and is very profitable. Men and women are equally likely to commit this type of nonviolent crime. Teenagers sometimes try it out as a prank. The crime is ageless and can be committed by anyone from a child to an elderly person. Most identity thieves are never caught and are attracted to this type of crime due to the low probability of prosecution and the prospect of free and unlimited money.

identity-theft-money

 

The FBI only gets involved in high profile (and high dollar) identity theft crimes. Police don’t often pursue identity theft crimes leaving victims of identity theft in a very precarious predicament. What then is to be done? In Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan by Frank W. Abagnale these issues and many more are addressed.

stealing-your-life

Frank W. Abagnale is a former forger who now works with banks, the FBI, police, and others to prevent identity theft. Stealing Your Life is a must read for everyone. The book is an easy read and loaded with information that I couldn’t possibly cover in one blog post. Many of the stories are chilling but useful learning tools. Frank Abagnale does an excellent job of describing what identity theft is, how thieves get access to your personal information, and how your information may be used once it’s  accessed. Identity theft is not a prank and it is not a harmless crime. People’s lives can be ruined by it.

Many people think that most personal information is obtained through data breaches–such as what happened recently in the Wells Fargo fiasco where bank employees used client information to open new accounts without client knowledge or permission. This does happen as indicated by the graph:

identity-theft-bar-graph

Often though people may be victims of identity theft and not even know about it for years. Sometimes you may find out you’ve been a victim by noticing an unauthorized charge on your debit card (as happened to me) or you may be denied credit because your credit has been ruined by an identity thief. College students, prisoners, the elderly, the critically ill, and young children are particularly vulnerable victims of this crime. Many identity thieves get your personal information and then apply for credit cards in your name. With that credit card they can apply for mortgages, car loans, and other types of financing. They can buy goods and services, take vacations, and even have medical and dental procedures–all while you are responsible for the bills. Sometimes this is a one time event and at other times an identity thief may completely assume your identity.

Some thieves are hackers, some get information from people, and some may physically steal the information they need. These things are bad enough, but what is amazing is how much of this information can be found through legal means. In the United States we have access to public records such as birth dates, death dates, marriage and divorce dates, phone numbers, addresses and even social security numbers. If you are into genealogy you may have looked up this type of information yourself. It’s not illegal.

identity-theft-on-the-rise

To prove a point, Frank Abagnale listed three possible websites where an identity thief might glean this information. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormons, own the world’s third largest database at familysearch.com . Frank suggests that you go to this site and type in the name of someone you know who is deceased and just peruse the information that comes up. Frank typed in the name of his father and this is what he says he found:

…up came my father’s date of birth, date of death, and Social Security number, as well as the last five cities he lived in prior to his death. Because I had searched for Abagnale, I was able to scroll down to more than two hundred Abagnales-aunts, uncles, cousins, who had passed away. Some cousins I didn’t know-third cousins probably. Some died when they were twenty-one and twenty-eight. They must have been killed in Vietnam or in car accidents. But for each person I had the dates of birth and death, a social security number, and the last five localities where they lived. Everything available was derived from publicly available sources.  (pp.35-36)

I took this challenge myself. I typed in the names of two different deceased family members and got very similar information–including information about me although I didn’t type in my name and I’m obviously not dead! I also got information about other living relatives such as names and locations because in one case an obituary had been recorded. I didn’t type in those names either. I could click on every name given and go to that information.

identity-theft-ssn

As if this isn’t chilling enough, there are some legitimate sites where you can actually buy anyone’s social security number. There are no laws in the United States that prohibit the sale of social security numbers. There may be legitimate reasons this information is needed such as businesses trying to collect on a debt. Very often though people who pay for this information don’t have legitimate uses in mind. For just $49 you can go to docusearch.com and buy a social security number. According to Frank Abagnale, sites like these don’t usually bother to verify in any way why you may actually need the information.

If all of this doesn’t have you concerned yet, the following information will. If you really want the goods you can go to netdetective.com where they will “tell you everything and anything about anybody” for $150. If you decide to check on yourself  you will learn:

…where you work, what your salary is, your date of birth, your Social Security number, who you’re married to, and who you’ve been married to. They’ll tell you where you went to elementary school, where you went to high school, and where you went to college-you name it.

They claim that they do cheap background checks for $150. So if I were an identity thief, why would I waste my time looking up this information when, for $150, I have it at my fingertips? What’s $150? I’m going to get a credit card in your name, probably with a $5,000 limit, so the $150 is simply the cost of doing business.

Other sites like DocuSearch.com, will furnish personal but public information for anywhere between $49 to $150. You can even pick up what the FBI knows about you. (p.37)

arrest
Business people in police lineup

If an identity thief steals your identity, it can take years and even a lifetime to straighten out your credit. That’s tough enough but some unfortunate individuals have not only had their identities stolen and credit destroyed, but have also been falsely accused of  and arrested for crimes they didn’t commit. This could happen to an individual or to a group such as you and your coworkers. Crooks like identity thieves have been known to get arrested for crimes other than Identity Theft, but show a false ID to the police. They may spend a night in jail and be released with a pending court date. Of course they never show up for the court proceeding and because they used a false name. The wrong person is then picked up by the police for failure to appear–and that’s in the mildest cases. Crimes identity thieves have been known to commit and blame their victims for include drug related crimes, medical fraud,  insurance fraud, traffic violations, assault, and even murder. A credit record can eventually be erased, but a criminal record is never completely erased.  Thus an identity thief could also ruin your reputation.

The key to dealing with identity theft is to try to prevent it in the first place. Frank Abagnale lists 20 steps to preventing identity theft. I will briefly list those steps here, but I urge you to read this book for yourself as there is much more depth to this issue (and prevention) than I’m able to cover in just one post. Here are the 20 steps suggested by Frank Abagnale:

  1.  Check your credit report
  2. Don’t give out your Social Security Number
  3. Protect your computer
  4. Keep track of your billing cycles
  5. Examine your financial statements like an obsessed accountant
  6. Guard your mail from theft
  7. Invest in a shredder (not a “spaghetti” shredder)
  8. Practice safe shopping
  9. Avoid sketchy ATMs
  10. Be suspicious of unexpected calls or letters
  11. Put real passwords on your accounts
  12. Keep your credit card close when shopping or eating out
  13. Use safe checks, and use them sparingly
  14. Secure the home front and the office front
  15. Carry only what you need
  16. Spring clean your credit cards
  17. Opt Out
  18. Read privacy policies
  19. Protect a deceased relative
  20. Place fraud alerts on your credit report

There are also many other things that Frank Abagnale  suggests that you can do which are not included in the above list. His book will walk you through exactly how to implement all of his suggestions.

If you do become a victim of identity theft, you will want to check out How to Survive Identity Theft: Regain Your Money, Credit, and Reputation by David H. Holtzman.

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This book is slightly newer than Frank Abagnale’s book and contains more up to date laws and resources of what you can do to fight identity theft after the fact.Many resources  are listed by state. Much of what I’ve already written is also included in this book, but I think this book is also worth your time because it does have some differing information/ideas. There are also examples of legal forms you will probably need to use if you find yourself in such a serious situation.

Many businesses are making progress in fighting identity theft. In some areas of the country law enforcement is beginning to take this crime more seriously. These things alone are not enough to protect you. You must defend yourself and your family. I highly recommend that you begin with these two books.

Have you ever been the victim of identity theft? Are you taking steps to protect yourself and if so are there any that differ from those discussed in this blog?

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Post Addendum:

Since this post was originally published it’s received a lot of attention. Two of my coworkers here at the Fulton County Public Library have requested to have information added added.

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Olivia Owl is the head of the IT department at Fulton County Public Library. We will learn more about her when my library exploration brings us to the computer area. For now, though, Olivia told me about a movie that I did not mention in my previous post. The reason I didn’t mention it was because I didn’t know about it. However, on Olivia’s suggestion I checked it out and watched it over the Thanksgiving break.  The movie is called Catch Me If You Can.

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It is the true story of Frank Abagnale’s  life as a forger. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Frank and Tom Hanks plays the law man who ultimately caught Frank. It’s because of this background that Frank Abagnale is now so good at helping to fight identity theft. I found the movie to be both funny and entertaining.

The next request comes from a staff member you have met before here on the Dewey Hop blog.

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Twain Turkey was introduced way back in a blog about the Media Commons. He helps support patrons with technical skills by teaching tech classes. He also works at Adult Circulation (more about that in a future post).

Twain wanted to share some strategies he uses which he thought might be helpful to Dewey Hop readers. Twain says that he has talked to the people at his bank and has requested an email whenever a charge over $25 appears on his checking account. By receiving the email alerts, Twain is able to keep a close watch on his bank account. Twain also receives email alerts whenever charges under $2 are made. It’s important to watch out for the lower charges as well because many identity thieves will “test” the account to see if the charge goes unnoticed or to make sure it’s still an active account. Often the smaller charges will precede much larger charges although the time in between a small and large charge will vary anywhere from a few days to years.

Additionally, Twain recommends contacting all three major credit reporting agencies (something mentioned in both books discussed above) and placing a credit freeze on your own accounts. Twain uses a password with the credit agencies so that no new accounts can be opened without that password.

Please feel free to add your own thoughts/suggestions in the comment section below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veterans

thank-you-veterans

Continuing along in the library read through project, I read about “honor crimes” and the exploitation of women and girls–just some of the things our vets have fought against. It really came as no surprise to me that the next major topic I encountered was veterans themselves. I am still reading in the 360’s, Social Problems & Social Services. Our vets are sadly not immune from social problems. Many vets come back with physical injuries that are easier to see and treat. Unfortunately many vets also come back with no visible signs of injury and struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Unseen injuries are the hardest to treat and often lead to the visible social issues we can see:

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 In addition to the social issues depicted above, many vets experience difficulties in their marriages, relationships, and  problems in the workplace (if they have actually managed to find work) often due to undiagnosed PTSD and TBI.  Where do these vets belong when they come home? How should PTSD and TBI be treated? These are just a few of the questions addressed in Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel.

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Rarely have I seen a book so candid and sincere concerning vets with PTSD and TBI. David Finklel follows several soldiers who served in Iraq, their families,  a war widow with dependent  children, and professional men and women who are trying to help returning wounded warriors through the chaotic months after their homecoming.  Many of the soldiers in this book go down very different paths seeking answers about what to do with themselves. Which path is best? Which treatment is best? Society as a whole is still trying to figure this out. Compassionately written and eye opening, this is a book that will open your understanding of just what these heroes  and their families face in their own personal wars on the home front.

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Veterans Unclaimed Benefits by Michael Riedel is an absolute must read for any veteran, spouse of a veteran, or widow(er) of a veteran. This book is by far the best of its kind that I’ve ever seen. If you have friends or family who are veterans, please try to get this book in their hands. There are so many helpful programs and services available to veterans and their families but they do no good if the targeted recipients don’t know about them.

The benefits and programs for vets and their families are clearly explained in terms of what the program is, how it works, how to establish eligibility by explaining what forms (and where to get them) need to be submitted, when, and to whom. This book will help any vet and family to cut through bureaucratic red tape. The information in this book can and has helped save vets thousands of dollars in everything from college and medical expenses to housing and final planning.

The majority of those who have served our country are eligible for many vet services provided that the vet was not dishonorably discharged. However, the Veteran’s Administration (VA) never explains what all of the offered programs and services are or how to apply for them unless they are specifically asked. Even when specifically asked the VA reps don’t always know the answers or even know about some of the programs. Michael Riedel’s book explains exactly how to go about finding the correct path to getting the right information and being able to receive sought after benefits and services.  The vet & family must be diligent in educating themselves about programs and services available. For this reason alone thousands of vets are not receiving compensation and/or services to which they are entitled.

I am married to an Army vet and he is fairly well educated about many of the programs and services available. He’s already taken advantage of several of them. He has a 10% service connected disability which makes him eligible for free health care through the VA health care system and a small monthly compensation. That alone has saved us thousands of dollars. He has taken advantage of many of the programs which help with education–again saving us thousands of dollars. There are other benefits that he has also taken advantage of at various times. However, when I brought this book home even he found many things in it that neither of us knew were even an option. For instance he knew that he could have a military burial service/grave plot but neither one of us knew that would also extend to me (not the military service) for burial and a grave plot as the wife of a veteran. We also found out that even though my husband’s disability (which is a hearing loss caused by shooting mortars) was rated at 10%, that if his hearing loss gets worse (as it seems to be doing) he can actually be reevaluated and possibly be rated at 20% or whatever. He may be eligible for hearing aids and other items. We had no idea that the percentage rating could get changed. In the VA system this is important because a service related disability percentage change can open doors to needed medical treatments and devices (such as hearing aids). These are only a couple of small examples that we found in this book.

If you happen to be the spouse or widow/widower of a veteran, I urge you to also read this book. There are many benefits that extend to YOU and also your children if they are dependents, in college, or disabled themselves. Spouses of active duty military personnel hold down the home front in a million different ways when a soldier is deployed. Upon leaving the military many vets have spouses who advocate for them and oversee much of their medical treatment and other services. Spouses often care for vets at home, assure proper medications are given, drive them around to various appointments, keep up with important paperwork, make appropriate phone calls and basically coordinate treatments and service  schedules as well as act as liaisons between the vet and professional people just to name a few ways spouses contribute to the care of veterans. That some services and/or programs extend to spouses appears to be a nod from the military and law makers to recognize all contributions that spouses make-most of which are never recognized since most spouses prefer to keep the attention on the vets.

Vets have done a great service for our county. They deserve all of these offered benefits and services. They deserve jobs, good homes, and plenty of good nourishing food. They deserve to be compensated for all they have done. Many have payed the ultimate price and their families deserve to be cared for. Some vets have returned physically and/or psychologically injured and deserve top rate medical and/or psychiatric treatment. Regardless of the circumstances of their return, these men and women deserve our utmost respect and our gratitude.

Here at the Fulton County Public Library, we love and support our vets. Each year a staff member,  Fancy Fox,  sets up a patriotic salute to all vets. Fancy Fox is also an Army mom of a currently deployed soldier.

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Vets and their families have responded well to this project. Here is the display this year:

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Anyone can remember a vet, living or dead, with an ornament. Each year local school children are given the opportunity to participate in this project. This year the ornaments are made of clay. The front of the ornament shows the vet’s picture.

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The back of the ornament shows the name, branch, and any relevant details of the vet’s time in service.

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Across from the heroes’ tree(s) is a place for families to write down similar details to honor their vets.

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A sign in this area explains the project.

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The American Legion usually comes in full uniform and performs a dedication service in honor of our vets. At the end of the project, the families are contacted and given the ornament of their vet to keep.

If you would like to do something to help, but you aren’t sure what, please check out booksforsoldiers.com . Books for Soldiers (BFS) is a non-profit corporation, operated as a ministry of the non-denominational, interfaith Order of the Red Grail church in North Carolina. You can become a volunteer to support our vets and active duty soldiers both overseas and stateside. Through this site you can become a pen pal, find out what books, dvds and other relief items our men and women in uniform are requesting. Many of these things will also be sent to vets in hospitals.

From my family and from the  Fulton County Public Library to all vets everywhere we say:

Thank You For Your Service!

Verbal / Emotional Abuse

deepest scars

Perusing library shelves is ongoing in the 360’s section of  the Fulton County Public Library. This is a broad category called Social Problems & Social Services. With a category attempting to incorporate all social problems, you can imagine the sheer size of this section! Obviously there’s no way I can cover all social problems in a few blog posts so I’ve been trying to bring attention to many that may not be as well known. In the meantime though, I’ve actually been reading about many other topics that don’t necessarily get their own posts. Lately some of those topics have been: foster parenting, adoption, home visits, children with parents in prison, and birth mothers.

With better education most of us are at least aware of the topic of abuse.

types of abuseCertain types of abuse are more obvious than others. Physical scars and injuries make it easier for us to see and respond to abusive situations. However there are types of abuse in which the injuries and scars do not show and it might be easy to miss or not take as seriously.

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Often the literature refers to only a woman as the abused and a man as the abuser. Statistically a woman is more likely to suffer from this type of abuse, but in some cases it’s the woman who is abusive and the man is the target. I’ve also read that verbal and emotional abuse is a huge problem among many same sex couples. No one deserves to be abused; ever.

The effects of verbal abuse are real and may manifest in physical and/or psychological symptoms.

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The good news is that there are very effective ways to combat verbal/emotional abuse. Here are some highly recommended books to help:

Why Does He Do That

This book is exactly what it says it is on the cover. Of all of the books of this type that I’ve read, I would say this is by far one of the most encouraging and informative ones that I’ve ever come across. Why Does He do That? by Lundy Bancroft is an easy to read book (also available in audio book format)  that may be read straight through or the reader may use it as more of a reference type book by looking up a question and reading its response by the author. Even though this book is written primarily with women in mind, it is a helpful resource to anyone experiencing verbal/emotional abuse.

the verbally abusive relationship

This book is a must read. The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans literally changed my life. I happened across this book several years ago while I was doing some research about workplace bullying. When I first read this book, I was absolutely horrified that I was reading about my own life in its pages. This may sound strange, but until I read this book I had absolutely no idea that my (then) relationship was verbally abusive. It was the same story as the proverbial frog sitting in water that is slowly being heated. The changes in my life up to that time had been so gradual that I was only just beginning to feel the boil. I don’t want to make this post about me (and I will be covering more of this in my own book as I’ve mentioned before), but I think everyone should read this book.  There is invaluable information on how to respond to abuse or even recognize the abuse when it happens to your or other people.

invisible scars

Invisible Scars by Catherine Dowda, M.Ed., LPC  is a very interesting book that gives a lot of empowering information. It differs from many other books of its subject matter in that it will help the abused person to realize if his or her situation can be changed. It is the only book of it’s kind I’ve ever seen that gives specific reasons why an abuser is or is not likely to change. This book may help someone to save a lot of heartache.

stop suffering in silence

If you are experiencing emotional or verbal abuse educate yourself and then get help. Abuse of any kind is never ok. There are many ways to do this:

  1. Read books
  2. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline -advocates are available 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Counselors at the hotline are fluent in over 170 languages. All calls are confidential and anonymous.
  3. Visit websites starting with the Domestic Violence Hotline site-http://www.thehotline.org/help/ . On this site you can read important information, chat with counselors, and learn about safety planning.

If you are not being abused but know someone who is, you can help by:

  1. Providing a safe place for a target to go-whether temporarily or long term
  2. Working out code words or signs (for example a porch light on during the day) that could signal for you to call for help.
  3. Respond appropriately EVERY time to verbal/emotional abuse.

Abuse thrives on silence so by all of us speaking up and speaking out any time we encounter verbal/emotional abuse it becomes harder to deny. More importantly it becomes harder for an abuser to continue . Abusers often try to silence their targets because they lose their “power over”  when a target speaks out. It takes courage to speak up and speak out but it is one of the best protections. The more people who know about it, the better.

Have you ever had to deal with verbal/emotional abuse? Have you ever helped someone in this type of situation?