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Let The Punishment Fit The Crime . . .

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The outpouring comments calling for a public lynching, to metering out the same cold-blooded execution, in order to save taxpayers the expense of housing two teenagers, who brazenly shot to death a 13-month-old baby, is a very fiery and divisive topic.

One cannot argue that the crime committed by these two teenagers is not heinous, and that the punishment administered should be of equal measure, but our system is one of due process, where an individual is considered innocent until proven guilty.

If we are to subjugate thoughts of retribution, we need to let our justice system, no matter how imperfect we think it to be, run its course, and after all the facts have been presented and examined, whatever verdict and punishment is rendered by the court, is what the accused should have to contend with.

Once we allow ourselves to entertain the notion of dispelling due process and exacting revenge for nefarious acts of violence, are we any better than the perpetrators, when in the guise of being law-abiding citizens, we trample and ignore their rights?

Sherry West was pushing her baby Antonio in his stroller when two teenagers accosted her and demanded money. When she refused and insisted she had no money to give them, the elder of the two, whom she later identified as De’Marquis Elkins, threatened to shoot her, and her baby as well.

West wrestled with her two assailants. Neither could snatch her purse. Miffed by their futile struggle, Elkins allegedly carried out his threat. He shot West in the leg; another bullet grazed her head, and then with depraved indifference shot her baby between the eyes.

Would the outcome have been different if West had just given Elkins and his 15-year-old accomplice, Dominique Lane, her purse?

The coastal city of Brunswick, Georgia is appalled that such a ghastly incident could have occurred in their small close-knit community. Witnesses tipped police that Lane was seen in the backseat of a car driving away from the scene of the shooting.

Police using West’s description that her attackers were African-American teenagers, concentrated their investigation on the surrounding schools’ absentee records, and by going door to door. West identified a mug shot of Elkins out of the twenty-four she looked at, unbeknownst that the police already had him in custody.

Although his aunt, Katrina Elkins, stated that he dined with her at breakfast, which was an hour before the shooting occurred, Brunswick police spokesman, Todd Rhodes, says authorities have sufficient reasons to charge Elkins.

Verdell Hunter characterized her grandson, Lane, as a baby himself, not a baby killer.

West’s mournful depiction of what happened to her and Antonio will no doubt sway public sentiment that our judicial system should be abolished in this particular case.

Derisive comments querying if President Barack Obama had a son, would he likely to be of the same temperament as Elkins, only serves to fuel hatred and propagate racial discord.

There will be no winners in this case.

The parents of Antonio Santiago demand justice. West’s says she can never forgive her baby’s killer. “I hope the shooter dies,” she cried. “A life for a life.”

One can only hope that justice will truly be served.

A long drawn out battle is brewing, with Elkins’ lawyer proclaiming his client’s innocence. Lane’s mother, Brenda Moses, claims that her son is a victim and doesn’t know Elkins.

In the end we should not rush to judgment, but ensure that these are the individuals, who tried to rob a mother and ended up killing her 13-month-old son.

When these allegations are proven in the court of law, and not by the court of public opinion, then by all means let the punishment fit the crime.

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author


Is There a Cover-Up in the Death of Khan?

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11-year-old Shanno Khan has died, after allegedly being made to stand in the hot sun for more than two hours with a brick on each shoulder.

Although there are conflicting versions as to what led to the corporal punishment of Khan, at the ND Primary School in Narela, North Delhi, one thing is abundantly clear . . . the world’s outrage over this inhumane and barbaric form of discipline and the Delhi Government reluctance to act.

The alleged incident occurred on April 16, when Shanno failed to recite the English alphabet in class. The irate teacher allegedly slammed Shanno’s head against a table and made her stand in the sun for over two hours. She eventually fainted and was found unconscious by her younger sister, who attends the same school.

After being told of the incident by their younger daughter, Khan’s parents rushed Shanno to Maharshi Valmiki Hospital. Shanno’s condition started deteriorating on Thursday afternoon, and she was transferred to the Pediatric ICU of the Lok Nayak Hospital.

Although Renuka Chowdhury, the Union Minister for Women and Child Welfare promised justice would be done, the response of the Delhi Police has been anything but swift. They claimed that they have not received Khan’s autopsy report.

Atul Katiyar, (Outer Delhi) Deputy Police Commissioner stated that police still have not received the report, although senior doctors at Maulana Azad Medical College are emphatic that they conducted the postmortem examination and submitted the report to police on Sunday.

What was the real cause of Khan’s death?

Khan’s parents and New Delhi officials differed on what cause the 11-year-old girl’s death.

The postmortem examination suggest that Khan, who had a history of respiratory illness, developed complications after she was allegedly forced to “sit like a hen” with two bricks atop her shoulders in the hot sun.

The report also intimates that the delay caused by her mother’s attempt, to first ward off evil spirits, which leads senior police officials to believe that may have contributed to Khan’s death.

Khan’s parents however are enraged that no charges have been brought against the teacher, who punished their daughter by having her stand out in the sun.

Why no one intervened as the child’s nose bled, when she vomited, and finally lost consciousness under the weight of bricks on each shoulder in the sweltering heat, is what Khan’s parents would like to know.

Who are we to believe?

“The child was admitted in with severe seizure and her condition further deteriorated before she slipped into a coma. She was shifted in critical condition,” said Dr. KK Deuri, medical superintendent of Maharshi Valmiki Hospital.

Although doctors stated that the cause of death was due to an epileptic attack, which was triggered by the corporal punishment inflicted on Khan by her teacher, no official charges have been brought against Manju (26).

As the events surrounding her death unfold . . . has Shanno Khan’s fate already been decided by New Delhi officials, who would rather let this incident slip quietly out of the public’s consciousness as opposed to excavating the truth, and risks exposing for the world to see, that the barbaric and inhumane tactics used by teachers to discipline their students, is just part of a normal school day.

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author


A Black Doll Head . . .

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Perhaps the citizens of Harlem were naïve to think that the egregious racial acts that threatened their very existence and attempted to strip them of their civil liberties were a thing of the past.

And if that was the case . . . then they were rudely awakened and put on noticed that nothing could be further from the truth by the doll head incident.

On the night of July 22, Harlem residents claimed that a life-size black doll head was mounted on the rear antenna of an unmarked police car driven by two white officers.

The incident first came to light when New York State Senator, Bill Perkins [speaking on behalf of Harlem’s complaining citizens] reported it to a police official.

Senator Perkins stated that during the celebration of the opening of a new restaurant at 1529 Fifth Avenue, several young men who lived across the street, noticed the life-size black doll head on an unmarked police car as it patrolled through the neighborhood.

“When a witness attempted to take a picture of the doll head,” Senator Perkins said, “one of the officers immediately took it down, stuffed the baby head in the trunk of the car and walked away laughing.”

The senator said that when he confronted the officers later, they claimed to have no knowledge of the doll head whereabouts.

This event has fanned the flames of an already frayed relationship between the populace of Harlem and the police officers, who are supposed to serve and protect them.

Harlem’s venerable citizens are incensed over the incident and have likened the act to the KKK burning a cross. Most can recall the riots in 1935, 1943, and 1964 which were partly attributed to problems with the Police Department.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly intimated that the doll head could have been the work of a neighborhood prankster. He blames the assertions made by Harlem residents of feeling victimized by officers as part of the negative stigma the police face in doing their job.

“I would describe our relations as good in Harlem and, quite frankly, throughout the city,” Commissioner Kelly said. “We are always going to have some pockets of tension because of what we do, because of the enforcement aspects of the work that the police department does.”

But residents disagree. Some have hinted that the relationship with the police have become more polarized; with a lot more young African-American males subjected to being stop and ordered to produce their identification.

The fear of reprisal, [for speaking out against police intimidation tactics] at least in the eyes of Harlem’s citizen came to fruition with the arrest of Clarence Jones.

Mr. Jones who had expressed his indignation over the doll incident at a news conference on July 24, and claimed to be the eyewitness, who tried to take the picture of the doll’s head, was apprehended on July 28, and charged with obstruction of government services and resisting arrest.

“I am certain it’s retaliation,” said Roger Wareham, Mr. Jones’s lawyer. “It’s sending a message to anyone else who is thinking of doing that, that it’s not worth it. This is what you are going to face.”

The Police Department released a statement claiming that the officers who arrested Mr. Jones were unaware of his connection with the outcry over the doll head incident.

How the life-size doll head got mounted on the antenna of the unmarked police car is debatable.

What isn’t however, are the feelings that this episode has spawned within the Harlem community.

Young African-American males assert that racial profiling is a tactic used by officers of the 28th precinct. Their chief complaint is that they are constantly being stopped and harassed by police.

The New York Civil Liberties Union obtained data from the Police Department corroborating the allegations made by Harlem’s young African-American male population.

These encounters known as “stop-and-frisks” showed a disparity in the overall numbers from April through June in 2006. The 28th precinct, in Central Harlem, police officers made 2,365 stops, compared to 409 made by officers in the 24th precinct, on the Upper West Side, although both share the same crime statistics.

And according to data from the first three months of this year the trend is likely to continue . . . 514 stops in the 28th precinct and 460 in the 24th.

Although police claimed that they make stops based on the descriptions of suspects, it’s becoming increasing difficult to find someone, who doesn’t feel that it’s really based on the age and hue of a person’s skin.

It would seem that the citizens of Harlem have a legitimate grievance and are justified in being fearful of the very officers, who have taken an oath to serve and protect them.

Perhaps the old adage is true . . . African-Americans have come a long way—but to the citizens of Harlem, the rogue cops who patrol the streets with a life-size black baby doll head . . . they haven’t come far enough.

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author


Let’s Go To The Videotape!

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A catch phrase used by sport commentator Warner Wolf to introduce highlights seems apropos on this occasion . . . since the videotape in question provides concrete evidence of the deplorable conditions at the psychiatric ward at Kings County Hospital.

Esmin Green, 49, a devout churchgoer from a small country village, Lluidas Vale, in Jamaica had been involuntarily taken to Kings County Hospital on June 18.

In what would seem incredulous if it had not been captured on surveillance tapes, Ms. Green sat in the waiting room for twenty-four hours without being attended to by any of the hospital’s staff.

Even more horrific is that the tape clearly depicts the indifference and disregard of the hospital’s employees towards Ms. Green when she collapsed onto the waiting room floor.

The surveillance camera video shows a woman falling off the waiting room chair, landing face-down on the floor and convulsing. The NYCLU indicated that the woman collapsed on June 19 at 5:32 a.m., and she stopped moving at 6:07 a.m.

Ms. Green sprawled out in the corner between two rows of waiting room chairs could be seen writhing in pain as she attempted to get up from the floor. Moments later she ceased moving.

Ironically all of this occurring right in front of the surveillance cameras which are supposed to be monitored by security guards. A guard appears on the tape but seems to be more interested in looking at television although Ms. Green is in full view face-down on the floor.

Nearly an hour elapsed before the guard wheeling himself in an office chair, realizes that Ms. Green is on floor and summons help.

If the treatment or lack of towards Ms. Green wasn’t inhumane enough by Kings County Hospital . . . the NYCLU has evidence that hospital staff falsified her records to cover up the lack of assistance she received while sprawled out on the floor.

“Contrary to what was recorded from four different angles by the hospital’s video cameras, the patient’s medical records say that at 6 a.m., she got up and went to the bathroom, and at 6:20 a.m., she was ‘sitting quietly in waiting room’ . . . more than ten minutes since she last moved and 48 minutes after she fell to the floor.”

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, which is responsible for overseeing the hospital, released a statement regarding the circumstances surrounding Ms. Green’s death.

“We are shocked and distressed by this situation. It is clear that some of our employees failed to act based on our compassionate standards of care.”

This statement however seems incongruent with the reputation Kings County Hospital has built up over the years.

The infamous G building . . . has been reputed to commit acts of physical abuse against patients who dare to complain about the psychiatric ward’s horrid treatment. The building gained its notoriety as a place where patients are injected with drugs to keep them submissive.

The Civil Liberties Group and the Mental Hygiene Legal services in May of 2007 filed a law suit in federal court against Kings County. The suit alleges that conditions at the facility are filthy. The group asserts that patients are forced to sleep on plastic chairs or on the floor covered with blood, feces and urine as they await a bed . . . often going without basic hygiene provisions, such as showers, clean linen and clean clothes.

The suit alleges . . . Kings County Hospital lacks . . . “the minimal requirement of basic cleanliness, space, privacy, and personal hygiene that are constitutionally guaranteed even to convicted felons.”

The Hospitals Corporation took the first step in its pledge to put “additional and significant” reforms in place since Ms. Green death. After a preliminary investigation, it terminated or suspended seven employees, “including staff involved with the direct care of the patient as well as managers of security and clinical services.”

The videotape that has circulated worldwide uncovers the inhumane, barbaric, and deplorable conditions of an institution responsible for being a safe haven, where a despondent woman suffering from “agitation and psychosis” was taken against her will . . . to receive help.

“What’s happening in Kings County Hospital is an affront to human dignity,” New York Civil Liberty Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a written statement. “In 2008 in New York City, nobody should be subjected to this kind of treatment. It should not take the death of a patient to get the city to make changes that everyone knows are long overdue.”

One can only help but wonder if Ms. Green had received the proper treatment the day before in the same hospital would she be alive today.

According to Ms. Sterling, a close friend . . . Ms. Green, the mother of six children living in Jamaica, had come to this country to provide a better life for them.

Ms. Green pined for her children. She was constantly calling them and sending large barrels filled with food and gifts for the holidays.

“Esmin had grown despondent of late,” Ms. Sterling said. “She had no work, was on the verge of losing her apartment and could no longer send money home.”

People closest to Ms. Green spoke about long stretches of depression that would last for weeks. Dark days had engulfed a woman, who had no immediate family in the United States, as she struggled against hopeless financial limitations to feed her six children.

 “Whenever she was getting sick, she would not eat. She would walk back and forth on the street, or stay in her room.”

With nowhere else to turn, the church had become her family.

Ironically in the same hospital that she would later die . . . Ms. Green over the course of four years had accompanied her longtime friend and chaplain Eleanor Ramsaran, while she gave sermons in the chapel at Kings County.

Perhaps if Ms. Green would have been left alone in her apartment, during her latest bout of depression, and not taken against her will to Kings County Hospital, she would still be alive.

Then again . . . the lord works in mysterious ways.

Who would disagree that as Ms. Green writhing in pain, face-down on the waiting room floor . . . oblivious to other patients and under the surveillance of video cameras . . . that divine intervention did not use her and that moment, to depict the barbaric and inhumane conditions that have existed for quite some time in the psychiatric ward at Kings County Hospital.

Thank God for the videotape . . . it serves to remind us of Ms. Green’s plight and hopefully the image of a woman gasping for her last breath on a cold waiting room floor . . . is one that will not be so easily forgotten.

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author

Our Voices Won’t Be Silenced . . .

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In what would appear to be bitter irony—children are lined up, each holding a floral arrangement.

Not to honor the students that died when schools collapsed during the earthquake on May 12, but to mark the reconstruction efforts in Dujiangyan, southwestern China’s Sichuan province.

Chinese officials, in an effort to restore life to normalcy, are using intimidation tactics to dissuade grieving parents from protesting about the conditions that led to this deplorable state of affairs.

As the children await the ceremony to begin, one can’t help but notice the government omnipotent presence as soldiers stand slightly behind them.

China wants to focus the world’s attention on its rebuilding efforts and not on grieving parents lodging their complaints about shoddy school construction.

In an effort to propagate the perception that life is returning to normal, a photograph of a hand clutching a twisted piece of steel rebar no thicker than a No. 2 pencil was removed from an exhibit chronicling last month’s devastating earthquake.

“We don’t know if we were told to remove the photo,” said Wu Zhiwei, an assistant to the general manager of the Museum Cluster Jianchuan, which had organized the exhibit and is the largest privately run museum in China. “And if we were told to remove the photo,” he concluded. “We’re not sure we could tell you.”

At the center of the controversy is Juyuan, where grieving parents were pulled away by police from a courthouse as they knelt in protest earlier this month while attempting to submit a lawsuit.

On Sunday, police cordoned off the area surrounding the collapsed middle school where over 300 students died. Outrage parents complained that they had a right to observe the 35th day of mourning, a key date according to local tradition.

“It’s as if we’re bad people now,” said a man, who claimed he was the father of a dead student. “This is our last chance to burn incense and they don’t let us in,” the man continued, reluctant to give his name.

Ignoring the dangers of being rounded up, threatened, and detained——dissenting parents are refusing to remain quiet. Although the entire state-controlled media wants to shift the focus from the missing photo, grieving parents, impeding lawsuits, the fact is these issues are not going to go away.

So as Chinese officials use these kid’s as pawns to further their propaganda, it is perhaps ironic that life is returning to normal . . . since shoddy school construction and the aforementioned ceremony only exemplifies, the lack of concern the government has for its children.

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author


When There Is No Hope . . .

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They stood together . . . each holding a picture of their child. It was as if they were trying to build a human wall to express the overwhelming anguish they felt for each child that had perished.

The pictures of smiling faces contrasted against the faces etched in sorrow for children they would never see again.

They had walked through the rubble of fallen school buildings trying to make sense of what had happened. A woman, unable to get to her feet, still clutching the picture of her son, lamented how he had said goodbye to her in the morning and ended up a corpse that night.

All of the children had been eager to go to school. A safe haven their parents thought. Now they stood 100 strong, defiant, in their demands that the government provide them with answers of why school buildings collapsed on May 12 when an earthquake irrevocably changed their lives.

As each sifted through the rubble, hoping to find something of their child, they questioned how the surrounding buildings suffered little or no damage while schools were destroyed.

China is eager to suppress the fact that shoddy school construction made walls collapsed, resulting in the death of over 10,000 children. Government officials in Sichuan, hoping to avert protests have tried to silence parents by offering monetary restitution to compensate for their loss.

As 100 parents stood in DUJIANGYAN, China—mourning the deaths of thousands of children during the earthquake and demanding answers . . . their government responded by surrounding them with police officers in order to stifle their protest.

As the Chinese government tries to quell the defiant unrest of its citizen in the aftermath of the earthquake through censorship and intimation, the grieving parents are becoming a potent symbol of people victimized by corruption, to the rest of the world.

Children are the foundation on which new generations are built. Schools are supposed to be a safe haven where they are taught ideas to make the world better.

Perhaps the Chinese government believes in this ideology as well, but their handling of this catastrophe as viewed by the rest of the world: children are placed in shoddy constructed buildings, and when their parents protest—if they cannot be bought, they are intimated and dragged away by police, clutching the picture of their dead child . . .

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author


The Walls of Jericho Part 2 . . .

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On August 28, 2008 . . .  the-walls-of-jericho-part-1 the dream will be fulfilled.

Dr. Martin Luther King was indeed a visionary. He was able to portend the future by laying the groundwork that enabled the world to witness what it has on this historic occasion . . . Barack Obama is the Democratic Presidential Nominee.

To the neophyte, who succumbed to the political fodder propagated by the media, there were days of apprehension and nights filled with restlessness about which candidate would emerge victorious.

But to those deeply rooted in an unwavering faith, the outcome was already seen through the spiritual eye . . . awaiting the moment that it would transcend itself into a physical state.

For forty years, Joshua and the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness. After crossing the stopped waters of the Jordan River, they were ready to begin to conquer the land of Canaan.

For forty-five years:

A segment of the population clung to the hope that the promised nirvana wasn’t just an ideology, to give them false hope while they were shackled by the chains of oppression.

A segment of the population had become disheartened, and dispirited, that the message delivered back then did not reverberate with the youths of today.

A segment of the population was so disillusioned and disenfranchised that they saw no reason to raise their voices in unity, to assail the very political tyranny, which had enslaved them to a life of poverty and cast them as second-class citizens, who were not entitled to the promissory note pledged by the men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

But there comes a time:

When the manacles of subjugation must be broken . . .

When people must channel their indignation against a system that defines their self-worth or lack thereof, not by the content of their character, but by the hue of their pigmentation.

Dr. King spoke of the expediency of NOW.

The trumpets are ready to blare . . .

Bradley Booth/Freelance Commercial Writer/Author


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