Surviving Being Orphaned By HIV/AIDS

Ray Suarez is one of my favorite working journalists.  His pieces hit not just the factually meaty and difficult questions that need to be asked, but the heart and gut level issues that need to be exposed to the community as a whole.

He did a piece yesterday on HIV/AIDS orphans in South Africa that nearly ripped out my heart.

That’s usually a sign to me that it needs a wider airing, and I wanted to bring it to all of you today.  You can view it at right.

But Ray — in his usual, thorough, way did not leave it there.

He’s been doing a whole series on HIV/AIDS in Africa and its myriad complications, governmental and personal strains that is well worth your time. The extended interview clips alone make me want to push for Ray to have his own show — they are wonderfully human and in depth. He brings that same enormous heart that won me over on his poverty pieces through the years to this subject as well.

The magnitude of what these orphaned children face will rip your heart out:

Our first stop was a tiny hamlet in the mountains north of Durban, where we visited the tiny home of three girls left orphaned by AIDS three years ago. Their mother died in 2002, their father in 2006. The graves sit just feet from the front door of their home. Try to imagine being left without parents, with little extended family, and being able to look on your parents’ graves when you walk out your front door every morning.

Take the time to watch and read the whole of his reporting thus far. Ray is an old-school journalist who takes the craft of what he does as seriously as implications and need for asking the questions that ought to make people uncomfortable. And questions about "the lost generation" desperately need to be asked.

This is some of his best work. Considering how wonderful his past reporting on poverty and race has been, that is really saying something.

Dept. of Labor: Protecting Child Workers Or Employers’ Bottom Line?

I do not envy Hilda Solis’ task at the Department of Labor.  Reversing the last 8 years of not-so-worker-friendly Elaine Chao-isms is not going to be an easy task.  Especially where there are these types of concerns:

In one case, the division failed to investigate a complaint that under-age children in Modesto, Calif., were working during school hours at a meatpacking plant with dangerous machinery, the G.A.O., the nonpartisan auditing arm of Congress, found.

When an undercover agent posing as a dishwasher called four times to complain about not being paid overtime for 19 weeks, the division’s office in Miami failed to return his calls for four months, and when it did, the report said, an official told him it would take 8 to 10 months to begin investigating his case.

This is not the first time problems have been reported with child labor law enforcement particularly, something that is supposed to be a sacrosanct enforcement priority at Labor. Via Jamie Parks at AFL-CIO:

On a typical day, more than 400 workers younger than 18 are hurt on the job in the United States and one is killed every 10 days. At the same time, the number of federal child labor investigations has declined by half since the Bush administration took office eight years ago….

The U.S. Labor Department has 750 investigators who look into both child labor and wage and hour complaints, 20 percent fewer than in 2001, according to Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Education and Labor subcommittee on Workforce Protections. Woolsey, who conducted hearings last September on child labor, has vowed to work with the incoming Obama administration to strengthen child labor laws and increase the number of inspectors. The current laws have been loosely enforced at best, the Observer found. Under federal law, the maximum penalty for most child labor violations is $11,000, but in 2006 the average penalty was less than $1,000.

The Charlotte Observer series that Jamie references is wrenching, intersecting poverty, despair and dangerous conditions for the kids working at a poultry plant that actively recruited underage workers because they were more "compliant." (Full series here. Part I and Part II on child labor.)

That drop in child labor enforcement and reduction of staffing didn’t happen by accident, now did it? Is it what happens when you put people who loathe government and labor organizations in charge of the Department of Labor?

Do workers’ interests get a fairer shake in a Democratic administration? I certainly hope so, and will be watching. (more…)

1 In 50 Children In The US Homeless Each Year

Yesterday, the National Center on Family Homelessness released a report on the extent of homelessness among America’s children.  The results were stunning: 1 out of every 50 children — around 1.5 million total children — will go to sleep this evening without a home. 

These tough economic times have been rough on families.  But this is a systemic problem not just due to economic collapse, but also a lack of a comprehensive strategy for children and family programs nationwide.

We have a tear in the nation’s social contract, and these children are falling through it. In increasing numbers, too, since the last survey ten years ago showed fewer homeless children.  

A school official in Nevada asked ABC’s Brian Ross why so much bailout money was going to banks, but what was being done for families across America?  Isn’t it time we all started asking?

Via the Sacramento Bee:

Homelessness is "very, very difficult on children," said Burke. "They have lost their whole known world. They no longer have their neighborhood friends. They may have left a pet behind. Their parents are very stressed. They’re in a new school. It’s overwhelming for them."… 

The national report…calls for programs that would give needy people better access to affordable housing, increases in nutrition programs for homeless youngsters, expanded health services for needy families, and improved access to early childhood education for homeless youngsters.

And Sacramento is not alone. You see similar issues in Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Texas and Nevada — and everywhere in between:

Families with children comprise roughly one-third of the nation’s homeless population. Poverty continues to be a core reason for the crisis, though the aftermath of Hurrican[e] Katrina combined to swell the numbers in Louisiana, Texas and Georgia. Since the 1980s, single mothers have accounted for an increasing share of the homeless population, partly because of increased divorced rates, gender and wage disparities, and the shrinking supply of affordable housing. Officials believe that the current home foreclosure crisis will be adding a new demographic to these statistics: middle-class blacks and Latinos. "It’s families that were living pretty independently, doing pretty well. And, through just one event, it was, like, a domino effect — if one part of the puzzle breaks off, then everything breaks off," says Michael Levine, who coordinates social work programs for Hillsborough, Fla.’s 206,000-student school system.

We are mortgaging the nation’s future by failing to plan and failing to care for the most vulnerable among us. When will we realize that early investment in children and families social programs has a long-term yield for us all? (more…)

Setting The Example At The Nation’s Table And Beyond

How about we start Friday off with a little good news for a change? See if you can keep from smiling after reading this: “Ou[r] guests,” Gibson said, “are people on the street, people usually look through them. We all see people walk by them. That’s why we call them guests — not clients because they are special. Mrs. Obama’s visit tells our guests they are not forgotten. That President Obama and Mrs. Obama care about their neighborhood and their neighbors who a lot of people don’t care about.”

Remarks Of Michelle Obama At Miriam’s Kitchen

Yesterday, first lady Michelle Obama visited a soup kitchen in Adam’s Morgan, where she scooped out food in the steam tray line and spoke with guests who had come to get a hot meal. Her full remarks follow:

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, guys. Thanks so much. I am not going to talk long.

“You Gotta Speak Up”

Senior citizens in this country – especially elderly women – are a big chunk of the folks who were preyed on by unscrupulous lenders in search of a quick buck: The Florida panhandle, home to the US’ largest population of retirees, has become a center of financial panic….

Give Us This Day, Our Daily Bread

Times are getting tougher for what the NYTimes is calling “the next layer: “Once a crutch for the most needy, food pantries have responded to the deepening recession by opening their doors to what one pantry organizer described as “the next layer of people,” a rapidly expanding group of child-care workers, nurse’s aides, real estate agents and secretaries who are facing a financial crisis for the first time.

Batten Down The Economic Hatches

You know world financial markets are roiling when Dubai is having trouble: No one knows how bad things have become, though it is clear that tens of thousands have left, real estate prices have crashed and scores of Dubai’s major construction projects have been suspended or canceled….

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