Tough-Love Teen Camps A "Nightmare"

Gina Jones holds a photo of her slain son, Martin Lee Anderson, 14, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006, during a press conference in Panama City, Fla. A videotape shows guards brutally beating Anderson at a military-style boot camp for juvenile delinquents not long before the teenager died, two lawmakers said Thursday.( CBS/AP

The Skinny is Keach Hagey's take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.


For years, people have complained about abuses at so-called boot camps and other wilderness programs where frustrated parents send their troubled teens to get straightened out.

Today, USA Today gets a sneak peak at the findings from the first federal inquiry into the programs, and the results reveal a lot of tough love -- minus the love.

The Government Accountability Office cataloged 1,619 incidents of abuse in 33 states in 2005, according to a study to be released later today. It also looked at a sample of 10 deaths since 1990 and found untrained staff, inadequate food or reckless operations were factors. In half of those cases, the teens died of dehydration or heat exhaustion.

"This nightmare has remained an open secret for years," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif, who has designed a bill to encourage states to enact regulations. "Congress must act, and it must act swiftly."

Investigators counted thousands of cases of abuse, using Web sites and news reports. Five of the 10 programs where teens died are still operating.
The GAO didn't release names, but USA Today pieced together a few of the cases from news reports.

In one particularly haunting case, Anthony Haynes, 14, died in 2001 while at American Buffalo Soldiers boot camp in Arizona. Children there were fed an apple for breakfast, a carrot for lunch and a bowl of beans for dinner.

Haynes became dehydrated in 113-degree heat and vomited up dirt, according to witnesses. The program closed, and the director, Charles Long, was sentenced in 2005 to six years in prison for manslaughter.

Verizon, AT&T Can Censor Customers' Speech

Remember all the hubbub last month about Verizon Wireless' decision to block an abortion rights group from sending text messages over the company's network? The company flip-flopped as soon as the news came to light, but today's Los Angeles Times reports that, legally, the incident was just the tip of the iceberg.

Verizon and AT&T both have language buried deep in their high-speed Internet contracts that allows them to pull the plug on customers who say things that might harm their "name and reputation," the paper reports.

The language came to light a few days ago, after AT&T sent notices to thousands of customers revising their service contracts as part of the company's merger last year with BellSouth.

An AT&T spokesman defended the boilerplate, saying it was "common brand language designed to protect the brand," but the LA Times pointed out that other companies, such as Time Warner Cable, don't have it. Just before the paper went to bed last night, the AT&T spokesman called back and pulled a Verizon, promising that the company's contract language would be revised in the future to reflect a more free-speech mind-set.

One has to wonder if the company's terror of bad PR had anything to do with what's going on in Congress today. The New York Times reports that executives for AT&T and Verizon have been vigorously lobbying behind the scenes to get legal immunity for having helped the National Security Agency eavesdrop without warrants. House Democrats promised yesterday to block any deal for immunity unless the White House agreed to turn over internal records showing the utilities role in eavesdropping. Anybody want to wager on the chances of that happening?

IMF Admits Downside Of Globalization

Normally, the International Monetary Fund is at the receiving end of anti-globalization taunts. But yesterday, the IMF released a report that might hand alumna of Seattle and Genoa's rowdy protests a powerful argument to use in their next rally, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Technology and foreign investment are making income inequality worse around the world, the IMF said in its recent economic review. The Journal pointed out that the reports "is an unusual admission by the IMF of the downsides of globalization."

The report found that, overall, wealth increased through globalization. But in the great majority of countries, income of lower-income workers has risen at a slower pace in the past two decades than that of higher-skilled workers.

These facts go against traditional economic theory, which has long held that increased trade and investment should diminish income inequality in developing nations. The theory argued that as more low-skilled jobs moved - from the U.S. to developing nations, for example - demand for lower-income workers would increase in developing nationas, as would their wages in comparison with higher skilled workers there. But that hasn't happened.

Instead, since countries in Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe began to liberalize their economies, the gap between rich and poor has widened, the Journal reports, and political resentment has increased as a result.

L.A. Mulls A Commuter Lane For Wildlife

Should transportation tax dollars go toward helping animals get around?

That's the question at the heart of brewing controversy in Los Angeles, where transportation officials are planning to spent nearly half a million dollars to build a bridge over a clogged highway to help wildlife cross from one stretch of open space to another.

The Los Angeles Times reports that controversy stems from a plan by the California Department of Transportation to replace an overpass to accommodate the scheduled widening of the 405 Freeway and the addition of a carpool lane through Brentwood, Bel-Air and Sherman Oaks.

Concerned that the wider freeway would make it more difficult for wildlife to cross east and west from habitats above the pass, environmentalists won a tentative commitment from transportation officials to make the new bridge, which also would include lanes for cars, 5 feet wider than originally planned.

Despite California's reputation as the land of designer doggie sweaters, the plan is drawing fire from commuters who say the money should go to help those with four wheels before it helps those with four legs.

"What are they going to do, have Doctor Dolittle standing there directing animals to use the bridge?" scoffed Ernest Frankel, a member of a residents group.

Californians may grumble at the thought of their transportation tax dollars going to wildlife, but here in New York, we're quite used to the idea. For a century, we've been supporting a subway system that houses rats far better than it moves humans.

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  • Keach Hagey

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