Fifty-year campaign shows strengths, limitations of government programs
President Lyndon B. Johnson shakes the hand of one of the residents of Appalachia in 1964 as he launched his War on Poverty. (Cecil Stoughton, LBJ Library)
INEZ, Ky. — Fifty years ago, when President Lyndon Johnson drove into this Appalachian town, Route 3 was a two-lane road that hugged the mountains in tight curves. Minzie Stanley was 6 years old, living with her parents and 17 brothers and sisters on one of the narrow gravel lanes that sprouted off the main road.
Johnson was there to shine a spotlight on families living in rural poverty, families such as Stanley’s. Minzie’s father didn’t have a steady job. The family had to grow everything they ate, or they’d go hungry. She got a pair of hand-me-down shoes once a year if she was lucky. There were few good-paying jobs. College was a distant dream.
Stanley moved up and out of poverty, thanks to a coal boom that provided her husband with steady work as a miner. But the cycle wasn’t broken. Her daughter, Jennifer Jarrell, 34, and two grandchildren live on food stamps and child support in a two-bedroom trailer that’s more than 30 years old.
“We’ve progressed in certain areas,” Jarrell says. “We do have things like indoor plumbing.”
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Jim Cole is national program manager for the victim identification program at Homeland Security Investigations’ Cyber Crime Center.
(Photo: H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)
The mother of five remembers the moment when everything she thought she knew about raising her children exploded into shards of anger, despair and confusion.
She was sitting at a conference table with federal computer forensics experts, a victim’s advocate, a police detective, and state and federal prosecutors. They showed her photos she couldn’t have imagined: her ex-husband, naked, posing next to their 7-year-old daughter, who was unconscious on his bed.
“I asked for a garbage can. I thought I was going to throw up,” she says. “Those photos are burned in my head.”
She learned that her ex-husband had drugged and raped their daughter and invited other men to choose among his three young daughters for sex. He took photos of himself and another man raping the youngest and posted them online for other pedophiles to enjoy.
If not for the agents who knocked on her door that Fourth of July weekend in 2010, the mother would have had no idea.
“They swooped in and saved my kids,” she says. “They were my kids and I did not know they were in danger.”
The expansion of the “Dark Web,” where pedophiles hide using websites that encrypt their computers’ identifying information, has fueled an explosion of child pornography that has law enforcement in a race against time to find victims before they are abused again.
With Mandela’s death, many have little faith the government will help improve their lives.
ALEXANDRA, SOUTH AFRICA – Tucked behind a black steel gate and a partially collapsed cement wall with barbed wire sits Nelson Mandela’s first house when he moved to Johannesburg in 1940.
A pile of garbage and a giant nylon bag full of empty bottles stand at the entrance to the courtyard with its dirt paths and crumbled patches of concrete. Most nearby houses have no electricity or indoor plumbing. People use buckets to haul water from a communal tap and use outhouses, called long drops, that they lock, so no one steals the metal toilets inside.
In some parts of this sprawling township, the conditions are not much different from what Mandela described in his autobiography about his time here: “It was no more than a shack with a dirt floor, no heat, no electricity, no running water. But it was a place of my own and I was happy to have it.”
Two miles away, past the boulevard where hawkers line the sidewalk selling fruits, vegetables, hats, sunglasses, goats and cellphone minutes, lies Sandton. The well-heeled suburb is home to a swanky mall, gated apartment complexes, the South African stock exchange and an Aston Martin dealership.
The disparity between abject poverty and great wealth that is evident in Alexandra and Sandton is representative of a growing income inequality throughout South Africa since the end of apartheid.
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The two-story dwelling at 21 4th Avenue was not just a house to Joseph and Ellin Ward, their 11 children and 24 grandchildren. It was their life. But it was no match for Superstorm Sandy.
TOMS RIVER, N.J. — The two-story dwelling at 21 4th Ave. was not just a house to Joseph and Ellin Ward, their 11 children and 24 grandchildren.
It was an escape from the bustle of daily life in northern New Jersey, a vault for family relics, a matchmaking service and, for 50 years, witness to the big and small moments in the lives of the Wards.
The house that was a hub for the Ward children and their friends, that held up as more than 20 people shared two bathrooms and five bedrooms every summer for five decades and produced upward of 45 meals a day in the tiny kitchen, was no match for Superstorm Sandy.
The storm enveloped the shores of Normandy Beach with 20-foot waves and 80-mph wind gusts that drove oceanfront homes across the street into the Ward house, knocking it off its foundation. The front of the structure collapsed sideways, like a listing boat, while other parts were compacted or buried under other houses and mounds of sand.
For the Ward family, the loss of the ranch-style memory-maker was more than just the loss of brick and mortar. It was the loss of a lifestyle that hearkened to the Jersey Shore of yesteryear. Here, generations of the same families spent every summer in the same Shore town, and the children played every day in the same plot of sand by the water and visited the same ice cream shop every night. It was the loss of family history and memories that felt as though they were a part of the very structure.
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Bobby and Pamela Vazquez decided to ride out Superstorm Sandy in their Union Beach home. Their house was leveled, and they barely survived. Nine months later, they’re trying to find a way to move on.
UNION BEACH, N.J. — The saltwater kept rolling in off Raritan Bay in 20-foot waves, crashing on the street where Bobby and Pamela Vazquez lived, turning it into a churning rapid.
The wind howled with 80-mph gusts, gas lines burst and hissed, electric lines crackled and people trapped in their homes yelled for help.
As water gushed into their house, Bobby and Pamela ran to the apartment over the garage — the highest point they could reach — to ride out the storm. They watched the wind tear the French doors free as water surged through the opening. The walls and roof twisted and crumbled.
Superstorm Sandy had arrived.
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Mark Botker plays with daughter Greta, 7, at their new Colorado home. Greta is prescribed cannabis oil for severe seizures. The oil is extracted from a genetically modified strain of marijuana called Charlotte’s Web.
(Photo: Nathan Armes for USA TODAY)
Greta Botker has been through more adversity in her short life than most adults. At the age of 7, she’s sampled a host of medications for her epilepsy: Onfi, Depakote, Felbatol, Keppra and Prednisone.
She’s been on strict diets.
She’s had brain surgery.
Nothing reduced the 15 or so seizures she had every day since she was 5 months old that kept her from walking steadily, feeding herself or talking. Her parents, Maria and Mark, had run out of options.
Then they heard about a strain of marijuana grown in Colorado that reduced the number of seizures in children with severe epilepsy.
“We really tried everything with Greta,” says Maria Botker, a nurse. “We put our child through brain surgery, so a plant like marijuana was not going to scare me.”
In November, Maria and Greta headed west to find a miracle. Mark and the couple’s two other daughters, 13 and 10, stayed on the family’s farm in Minnesota.
Maria and Greta joined a migration of parents who, after trying countless methods to ease their children’s crippling seizures, are packing up their families and moving to Colorado.
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For the policy wonks in all of us, I moderated a lively discussion on July 9 with CLASP, Foundation for Child Development and Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray about successes and challenges in helping parents improve their education and career options while also helping their children’ss early development. New findings by Donald J. Hernandez, sociology professor at Hunter College, show some pretty striking differences in how well children do depending on their mothers’ education.
The other panelists included:
Olivia Golden, Executive Director, CLASP; former Assistant Secretary for Children and Families
Dr. Gail Mellow, President, LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City, NY
Juan Salgado, President and CEO, Instituto Del Progreso Latino, Chicago, IL