The plight of unwed mothers and their babies in Ireland has become notorious. Films, TV shows, books, articles, have documented the mistreatment and horrors of those institutions which were usually run by the Catholic Church. Thousands of people were affected. Thousands of mothers have wanted to know what happened to their children. Thousands of children wanted to know what happened to their mothers, what was their birth names or any information about the beginning of their lives. The Irish government has just opened an online service where adopted people living anywhere but born in Ireland can trace information about their birth. From wherever they live they can now access whatever information the state has about them, including the name of their birth mothers. The service also enables anyone with relatives lost within the Ireland adoption system to trace them, and that includes birth mothers trying to discover what happened to their children. As late as 1998 thousands of pregnant and unwed girls were sent to mother and baby homes where they were pressured to give up their babies for adoption and treated with punitive abusive measures sometimes leading to death and lifelong traumas.
The online service opens the door to the information that should lead to healing for many. Unwed pregnancies and adoptions were shameful in Ireland, as they were elsewhere, and the service becomes a tool to put that shame behind. The US doesn’t have such a national registry, and it would be useful even in states where open adoptions are allowed.
About 275 miles north of Rio de Janeiro there’s a city of 2.5 million people with no hunger. It’s Belo Horizonte, a technological industrial hub which had all the social divisions and hunger similar cities have in the US and elsewhere. But back in 1993 the city did something rather notable and rare, it enacted a municipal law that established the right to food. It went further, it established what was needed to make it real. It created a commission of government officials, farmers, labor leaders and gave them a mandate, “ to provide access to food as a measure of social justice.” The cost of all this, less than 2% of the city’s annual budget. The pioneering effort is made up of about 20 interconnected programs, as one might expect all sustainable. A core idea is to connect food producers to consumers, bypassing middle people, and the mark ups retailers can’t help charging. That involves delivering food directly to public schools, nursing homes, daycare centers, clinics, charitable organizations, it means regulating some prices, it calls for food stands, something like farmers’ markets and what can be called public restaurants who charge a fixed price.
It is not an approach that might fit a large urban center like Los Angeles, but many of its ideas could be adapted. Food stands, delivering food to daycare and nursing homes in certain neighborhoods for example. The cost of social services for those who are food insecure, and often unemployed or homeless as well, is much more than 2% of annual budgets. Yet any attempt would have to start with the notion underlying the effort of Belo Horizonte that to provide access to food is a measure of social justice.
Up to now ghost gun kits somehow did not meet the definition of a firearm and were exempt from the ATF requirement that they have a serial number. But a new rule went into effect that certain parts of a ghost gun kit, the incomplete frames and receivers , key parts of the kit, have to be serialized. The rule also asks federally licensed gun dealers to keep records of gun kit sales until they go out of business. Ghost guns are usually sold unassembled and are often sold to people who want to put them together as a hobby. But recently they have increasingly been found at the site of mass shootings, neighborhood homicides and in raids of makeshift gun factories. It is not the entire gun that will be serialized, only key parts of it, but obviously that will make a difference. The new rule mainly affects people with a record, or people with a domestic violence history. It is not a panacea just puts under ATF jurisdiction a category of guns which were previously totally under the radar. As can be expected this new rule from the current administration does have its detractors. Division 80, a manufacturer of the kits key parts is suing to stop the rule. Another suit to request an injunction on the rule was filed by an individual gun owner, firearm dealer and gun right advocate in North Dakota, and he has been joined by people in 17 states. They claim that the rule would bring irreparable damage to the industry and interfere with individual owners building their own guns. Still the lawsuits are not expected to stop the rule from going forward. Ghost guns are easily trafficked and this new rule would make it a little harder to traffic guns, it is therefore welcomed.
I noticed an article about a law requiring hairdressers in Tennessee to undergo training to recognize signs of domestic abuse as of January 2022. Subsequently, I discovered that Tennessee ranks 5th as the state where women are killed by men. So utilizing any available resource wouldn’t be surprising, still, I was curious why Tennessee and no other states? That’s how I discovered that many other states have similar programs. New York, Illinois, Massachusetts… and to my great surprise that list included Texas or at least certain counties in Texas, with a program that began in 2015 in Brazos County, where about half of violent felonies were from domestic abuse situations. Yet in none of these states is the training extensive but that’s not the point, hairdressers—and barbers—are not therapists–. The point is that hairdressers and barbers are in a unique position. Domestic abuse sufferers will generally not report their predicament to law enforcement but they will share it under the right conditions. And all of us know the freedom one experiences, how open and unfettered we can be while our hair is being cut and fussed with. Hairdressers can notice bruises and cuts, but also they can observe or be taught to observe certain behavior such as self- blame, sudden lifestyle changes, irregular appointments. One hair dresser noticed a bald spot in her client and it turned out that her husband was pulling her hair out. As a rule the task of the hairdressers and barbers is not to report it to law enforcement but to share appropriate resources. That can be something as simple as giving them a phone number or two. In Tennessee it took a while for the law to be passed. The legislature did not want to appropriate funds for the training. Finally a sponsor came through.
Training hairdressers and barbers is such a common-sense approach to a delicate problem. I don ’t know it if is in all states, but I would surmise in time it will be.