The first story that struck me was about the extreme and protracted training that certain unfortunate children in China are subject to ... because of the Olympics. The Chinese government is so hell-bent on winning gold in the Olympics that they take children who are barely old enough to walk and force them into rigorous - and dare I say, ridiculous for their age - exercise training to turn them into gold-winning Olympians. This is sanctioned by their government.
Now it's one thing for you dear reader to read my words here, but today I saw video of this training. It showed small children hanging onto poles mounted on a gymnasium wall, hanging by their elbows doing leg-lifts, tears streaming down their cheeks, their faces grimaced in pain. They were too high off the ground to even touch it with their tip-toes. Other children were bent cruelly backwards, face-down, their feet pinned by the adult standing behind them, and then let go to smack the floor with their faces! No, I'm not making this up. When the story ended, the anchors' reaction told the real story - it was just shocking to see. Other children were going round and round and round walking on their hands, lap after lap after lap. It was very difficult to watch.
And their parents? Their parents put them into these horrible workouts in the hopes that one day their children might enjoy a better life, one of prestige and luxury so they wouldn't have to worry about anything anymore!! A father interviewed for the story beamed with pride and happiness over the torture he was putting his child into. The families are so poor, so oppressed ... this is about the only hope they have in that country.
Another story we told was of a woman, a high school principal who was fired because of her nationality. She's spent the last 17 years teaching. She was going to be principal of New York's first Arab language school, and was told she'd be perfect for the job because of her work in building bridges across faiths and different backgrounds.
But for some reason, somewhere along the way, someone got it into their head that she was a "9/11 denier" and an "extremist". Turns out that couldn't be farther from the truth. Her own son was one of the first responders at Ground Zero - serving the National Guard. But an article was published making these outrageous claims against her and next thing she knew, she was out of a job. Just like that. And the mayor of NYC, Michael Bloomberg, first sounded like he was on her side, then later at a press conference clearly changed his position: "It was her decision, you'll have to ask her whether it's the right decision, we did not force her to resign, she chose to resign, that's the answer to your question."
Debbie Almontaser was asked to resign. It was NOT her decision, she was forced into it.
To use her words she said, "...we live in a post-9/11 world where there is a lot of misunderstanding and misconceptions of Arabs and Muslims." That story was filed by Jason Carroll of CNN.
Finally, our top story at 6pm today was of a man we called a "good Samaritan", a man who helped rescue a family from what might have otherwise been a fatal car crash on the interstate. He was hailed a "hero".
When it turns out what he actually did was steal one of the victims' purses and then used her credit cards, racking up $1000 in charges!!!
According to Robert Tozzi, he helped get the family out of the van. Talking to the family today, the truth comes out. They said he was "just kind of there, lurking I guess."
And while Lori Greenburg was being carted away on a stretcher, Tozzi stole her purse and went out shopping, just an hour after the wreck!
This is not Tozzi's first foray into the dark side. Last December he was arrested for stealing nearly a half-million dollars while working at a North Naples car dealership.
I will not end this post on a negative note: gas prices are falling - that's a blessing - and last night we ran a completely uplifting story that really restores one's faith in humanity and our ability to pull together and do good things. One of the most oppressed and crime-ridden neighborhoods in SWFL, Dunbar, paired up with local law enforcement and threw a party, celebrating their accomplishment at pulling off what many thought was impossible: they brought the rate of crime down in their neighborhood. As Ron Matthews put it, "Just because you have a bad experience with a police officer don't mean it's the same way with all police enforcement. I know when I'm in trouble, I'm calling them!" You can read the story here.