Mississippi Personhood Amendment

[Please note: This post is copied entirely from the original post here on LiveJournal.]

Okay, so I don’t usually do this, but this is an issue near and dear to me and this is getting very little no attention in the mainstream media.

Mississippi is voting on November 8th on whether to pass Amendment 26, the “Personhood Amendment”. This amendment would grant fertilized eggs and fetuses personhood status.

Putting aside the contentious issue of abortion, this would effectively outlaw birth control and criminalize women who have miscarriages. This is not a good thing.

Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the only place women can get abortions in the entire state, and they are trying to launch a grassroots movement against this amendment. This doesn’t just apply to Mississippi, though, as Personhood USA, the group that introduced this amendment, is trying to introduce identical amendments in all 50 states.

What’s more, in Mississippi, this amendment is expected to pass. It even has Mississippi Democrats, including the Attorney General, Jim Hood, backing it.

The reason I’m posting this here is because I made a meager donation to the Jackson Women’s Health Organization this morning, and I received a personal email back hours later – on a Sunday – thanking me and noting that I’m one of the first “outside” people to contribute.

So if you sometimes pass on political action because you figure that enough other people will do something to make a difference, make an exception on this one. My RSS reader is near silent on this amendment. I only found out about it through a feminist blog. The mainstream media is not reporting on it.

If there is ever a time to donate or send a letter in protest, this would be it.

What to do?

– Read up on it. Wake Up, Mississippi is the home of the grassroots effort to fight this amendment. Daily Kos also has a thorough story on it.

– If you can afford it, you can donate at the site’s link.

– You can contact the Democratic National Committee to see why more of our representatives aren’t speaking out against this.

– Like this Facebook page to help spread awareness.

Service Dog Denied to Disabled Woman

[EDIT: See also this YouTube video; embedded below, and this blog post.]

A friend emailed me about this yesterday and asked that I share it [original article here]:

PHOENIX – A Valley business faces tough questions from the ABC15 Investigators about thousands in donated money after they deny a disabled woman a service dog.

Amber Steenbock has cerebral palsy. For just a couple of minutes, imagine yourself in her shoes.

EVERYDAY LIFE

“Somebody’s got to get me out of bed,” said Steenbock. “Somebody needs to dress me.”

Her boyfriend, Daniel Stasinski told us how difficult her life can be.

“If there’s no one to open the door for her, she’s stuck indoors,” said Stasinski. “And if she drops something, there’s no one there to pick it up.”

“All my life I had to ask for help,” said Steenbock.

Now, imagine this Chandler woman’s excitement about the possibility of getting help from a service dog.

“I had a feeling that the dog would be able to open up my world in ways that I didn’t know,” she said.

Four non-profit organizations turned her down because of her disability. Then one for-profit business, Arizona Goldens LLC of Mesa said, “Yes”.

RAISING THE MONEY

It would be costly. Steenbock would have to come up with $20,323.84 up front. She would have to sign a contract and raise the money herself. It became her mission.

“It’s kind of ironic that this body has such an independent spirit,” said Steenbock.

She turned to Facebook friends and family like Alaina Schumacher, her cousin in Casa Grande.

“I grew up with her, and I knew that this is something she wanted for a very long time,” Schumacher said.

A high school friend performed a benefit concert in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. They raised about $5,000.

“It was hard work, but I have a lot of good friends and a wonderful boyfriend,” Steenbock said.

Stasinski gave everything he had — $10,000 toward Steenbock’s dream.

According to the contract she signed, she had two years to raise the money. Steenbock did it in less than 6 months.

None of it went to her. Donations went directly into her Arizona Goldens LLC account.

“After they got paid in full, it got very dark,” said Stasinski.

BOOT CAMP

Even though all the money had been raised, Steenbock still did not have a dog.

She had to go through testing. There would be both written and verbal testing. She passed her written test with 83 percent.

Then Steenbock had to go to what the company called Boot Camp training. She said she had no idea what to expect.

“I thought we were going to be sitting down and learning the commands for a while,” she said.

According to Steenbock, that didn’t happen. She told us that the dog wouldn’t obey her because the trainers never left them alone.

“They weren’t listening to me because they were bonded with my teachers,” she said.

Steenbock went to Boot Camp for 5.5 days. And according to Stasinski, she came home crying almost every time.

“There was absolutely no time given for the dog to familiarize themselves with who the actual owner will be,” he said.

Steenbock was told that she failed the verbal test. Not only would she not get a dog, but Arizona Goldens LLL would keep the almost $21,000 she raised.

NO DOG, NO REFUND

Steenbock wanted answers, and so did ABC15.

We caught up with Arizona Goldens LLC after the owners twice refused an interview. We asked why they didn’t give back the donated money.

One of the owners, Brian Daugherty said Steenbock had nine opportunities to pass. He pointed to the contract which states failing the boot camp and the tests meant no dog and no refund.

But the ABC15 Investigators found Steenbock should have expected much more than the 5.5 days of Boot Camp that she said she got.

Steenbock’s paperwork states to expect training to last for six days a week for three weeks. Daugherty told us that those 18 days were for clients with Autism. But, no nowhere on the paperwork does it state only for clients with Autism.

“I care about Amber,” said Schumacher. ”I just can’t understand someone taking advantage of a disabled person.”

Schumacher told us that as a donor, she had no idea about the “no refund” policy because it was nowhere on the fundraising website. The site was set up and operated by Arizona Goldens LLC.

WHERE’S THE MONEY?

So, if the money wasn’t refunded, where is it? The contract states that it goes to “…raising, training and breeding service dogs for other clients.”

We asked the company. Daugherty said, “That’s not what it says in the contract.”

But, that is exactly what it states in the contract.

“These people that we don’t even know,” said Schumacher, “just pocketing [the donations] just feels so violating.”

Stasinski said that Arizona Goldens LLC should not have taken money from donors upfront.

“They shouldn’t be soliciting for the actual dog until they’ve evaluated whether she can even get a dog,” he said.

An attorney for Arizona Goldens LLC sent a five page letter to Steenbock. She shared it with ABC15. The company offered to give her $4,054 in total if ABC15 doesn’t air this story and if she removed statements involving Arizona Goldens from the Internet.

Steenbock refused, and she filed complaints with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau.

She has a message for the people who donated in her name. “I’m not apologizing because I failed. I’m apologizing because Arizona Goldens failed me. They failed you. And hopefully, we’ll be able to get some good out of this.

Here’s the response from Arizona Goldens, L.L.C.

———————-

We also met up with Happy Tails Service Dogs. It’s a Valley non-profit organization that helps owners train their dogs to become service dogs. Instructor Kristi Nolde-Morrissey explains in the attached video.

[Read more…]

Local Humane Society Seeking Help

I’m a big supporter of the Humane Society (and a bunch of other similar organizations) and it truly pained me to see tonight’s news report about the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society: Menands Animal Shelter is in almost desperate need of assistance. Due to Hurricane Irene they have nearly reached their capacity to house all the animals they are currently sheltering. This includes dogs that had to be left due to evacuation and others who were unfortunately abandoned or lost from the severe weather. Not to mention their normal load of dogs and cats and the fact that this is generally a busy time for the shelter.

Adopting a rescue isn’t for everyone and I would never blindly suggest that anyone do that, but if you are able to help out the shelter in any way there are sure to be many adorable kitties and puppies who will be quite thankful. And if you aren’t local, there’s not a shelter or rescue organization around that couldn’t use another pair of hands to help out in some manner.

Earthquake

Virginia’s quake this afternoon caused shaking along a good stretch of the East Coast, including here in Upstate NY where it shook my house for a good minute or so. This lengthy duration was actually what clued my mother in that it wasn’t the typical shake we get from passing freight trains. Being on the ground floor was what gave me the initial clue since along with the shaking I also got to experience the sensation of the ground rolling.

Anyway, we’re all fine and well here. Uschi was a bit freaked afterward, but I think it had more to do with the neighbors shouting. She was a bit clingy for a bit, but as you can see she got over her slight trauma pretty easily:

Uschi sprawled out on her bed, completely unfazed by the earthquake

Disabled Student Forced to Apologize to Her Rapist

Via Boing Boing [original article]:

The Republic School Districtof southwestern Missouri expelled a 7th-grade special education student because they didn’t believe her when she told adults at her school that a classmate raped her. School officials forced her to apologize to him, then kicked her out of school for lying. She was allowed back to school the following year, and the same boy raped her again in the school library, according to a lawsuit filed on her behalf.

From the Springfield News-Leader, the local newspaper that broke the story today:

The suit, filed July 5, alleges when the girl — a special education student — told officials about the harassment, assault and rape that occurred during the 2008-09 school year, they told her they did not believe her. She recanted. The suit also alleges that, without seeking her mother’s permission, school officials forced the girl to write a letter of apology to the boy and personally deliver it to him. She was then expelled for the rest of the 2008-2009 school year and referred to juvenile authorities for filing a false report.”School Officials, although mandatory reporters under Missouri’s Child Abuse Reporting Law, failed to report [the girl’s] complaints to the Division of Family Services or to Greene County Juvenile Authorities,” the suit says.

In 2009-10, the girl was allowed back in school, and the boy continued to harass and assault her, the suit says. She did not tell school officials because she was afraid she would be accused of lying and kicked out of school. In February 2010, the boy allegedly forcibly raped the girl again, this time in the back of the school library.

School officials didn’t believe her that time, either. Her mom took her to The Child Advocacy Center, and a physical examination showed that a sexual assault had occurred. The lawsuit says DNA from that test proves that the boy she claimed was her rapist was indeed her rapist.

Here’s the kicker. The school district then suspended the girl again. And the district’s response to the lawsuit says the officials named are not responsible for damages, because “the girl failed and neglected to use reasonable means to protect herself.”

[Read more…]