Stories about child abuse have always horrified me – but maybe more so now that I have two beautiful children of my own. When I hear about the incomprehensible things mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers, stepfathers and stepmothers, do to their loved ones, I look at my little ones and wonder how on earth anyone could hurt the most vulnerable, these little life forces who rely on us to take care of them and give them a happy life.
So needless to say, when I was pitched a story about how few Americans are actually reporting abuse when they suspect it, I knew it was something I wanted to do. When I learned more, including how four children die every day from child abuse and neglect – that's right four children dying every day – I thought if there were more public awareness, maybe more lives could be saved.
I had a chance to talk with 26-year-old Julia Charles, who is one of the most inspirational young women I have talked with in my reporting career. She endured years of brutal beatings as a kid at the hands of her biological mother. She uses the term "biological mother" because she's since been adopted by her foster mother whom she calls her mom.
I saw the saying come to life in the town of Cabaret. It was my first trip to Haiti, a ninety minute plane ride from Miami. So close, yet so foreign. There was no warning the night Hurricane Ike hit Cabaret and no evacuations. The town's two rivers swelled with such force the night Hurricane Ike hit, they swept dozens of people out to sea, and left a thick layer of mud in homes and on roads. At least 68 people were killed in flash floods in this farming town of 30,000 – 17 of them children.
When I arrived, the mud from the river was dry and a fortunate few managed to remove most of it from their homes. But there's no way to clean the bedding, the tables, the walls. Banana farmer Jean Renaud Romelus told me he hasn't even gotten that far yet. His home is filled with mud, his truck buried in mud, his crop flattened by mud. He has no food to sell; no food to eat.
It was an inauspicious way to start the day, with the earth shaking the way it did. But we tried not to let it rattle us. It didn't seem to bother Laird nor his adorable four-year-old daughter, Reece, who tagged along for our story.
We headed to the water and Laird, now 44-years-old, talked and talked about stand-up paddling. But realize this is the man when it comes to traditional surfing. He has conquered some of the biggest waves on the planet, up to 80 feet high. In 2000, he took what's considered one of the most daring surf rides ever, on a monster wave in Tahiti's Teahupo's break, a super-dangerous place to surf due to its razor-sharp reefs. Laird has also appeared in two surfing movies and his latest, "Water Man," is due out this month.
CRAWFORD, Texas – Maybe you can explain it. I can't.
In Denver, there are 15,000 members of the media covering the Democrats formally designating their candidate for president. Fair enough. It's a legitimate story – though a strong argument can be made that it's being way over-covered.
Meanwhile, 700 miles away here in Crawford, the media count of those covering President Bush is about 30 (of which barely 12 are reporters).
That's the problem Melody Morrow faces as a single mom with three kids. Her home is in foreclosure proceedings, and Melody has been forced to take pay-cuts at work in order to keep her job.
Meanwhile, the bills have stacked up and her ex-husband hasn't kept up with child support payments. For the Morrows, finding extra money for new clothes and school supplies simply wasn't an option this year. That is until Melody's daughter, Shelby, decided to do something about it.
At 16-years-old, Shelby found a job at a local retirement community, working part-time as a server in the restaurant. While she brings home just about $100 a week, that money goes a long way to helping out her mother.
They'll undoubtedly still have to leave their house, but in the short run, Shelby is making a difference – and learning a bigger lesson. Just click here to check out the piece on the CBS Evening News.
Li'l Smokey has had a lot of help from humans. He almost certainly would have died if he had not been found and captured by Adam Deem, a firefighter.
Still, the little bear doesn't much like people and that makes the people taking care of him quite happy. When bears and humans get too friendly it can often end badly … for the bear.
When you are walking down the street and an officer approaches you, asks for your identification and purpose for being at that place at that time … how do you respond? Do you automatically comply because you have nothing to hide? Do you feel like your personal freedoms are being infringed upon?
In the small town of Helena-West Helena, Ark., last week the mayor imposed of a curfew on a 10-block area that had been recently filled with gunfire. Apparently fists flew after a fight over $6 from a dice game, and soon fists were replaced by bullets for the next three weeks.
Large plastic barrels with curfew signs adorn all the roadways leading into that section of town. Thanks to unanimous City Council support, the police action in one section is spreading citywide. On random nights now, authorities including criminal investigators, county sheriffs and police work 12- to 16-hour shifts making everyone very aware that there is a curfew and they should not be out without reason.
I was assigned to go to Shenandoah, Penn., about a month after the beating, and subsequent death, of Luis Ramirez. Ramirez was an illegal immigrant. His death sent shockwaves through the community and the media descended on this small town to try to figure out why this happened and question whether it could happen again. (I had a number of meals at the local Mexican restaurant – where the waitress told me that I was hardly the only reporter to make a stop there.)
Most of the folks we spoke with believed Ramirez's death was a "terrible mistake." Many called it a "fight … gone badly," and said his death was an accident. One townsperson blamed it on "the drink." The boys implicated had, reportedly, been drinking before the fight.
A number of teenagers in town vouched that those charged with the crime (four boys from the local high school – all on the football team) were "good boys" and said they were "surprised" that this incident had happened.
It's not a foreign invader from a far-off land, so don't go blaming China or India. And it hasn't been dropped into our forests maliciously, so you don't have to call homeland security just yet. But it is deadly. The right combination of severe droughts over the past decade, warmer winters without serious cold snaps (prolonged extreme cold can kill the bugs) and increased density of some of our forests has left millions (yes millions) of trees choking – thanks to the tiny teeth of these beetles.
These little bugs crawl under the bark and start to feed on the phloem (the rings that carry the nutrients of a tree for those who were throwing paper airplanes in biology class). This month they feed and multiply and leap from tree to tree and they are having the time of their lives.
I mean, really, does a dog need a service record complete with all his merits … and demerits (he once ate a Marine's hat). But it shows the lengths the Marines will go to in order to cultivate their public image.
Chesty is an English bulldog – those pug noses and jutting lower jaw are bred to make them better able to hold on once they sink their teeth in – and he's named after Chesty Puller, the most decorated Marine in history. He is, in other words, the perfect symbol of the Marine Corps.