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.
In 2022, the World Bank estimates, remittances around the world will reach $630 billion. Remittances are the amounts being sent abroad to support family members by workers in foreign countries. It’s an astounding figure representing a 4.2% increase over the previous year. It’s particularly astounding when one remembers that the amount sent abroad are usually sent by migrants, people who do not earn much. There are exceptions surely, but many may not be legally in a country, and earn little. In order to send money to their family they endure a subsistence level existence, perhaps even more so because the costs of wiring money have gone up. These are the people often discriminated against, people whom in the United States, those on the political right are wont to call criminals. I can’t help but respect them. I’ve called attention to them before and I’m doing it again. As a group they make a difference in the economy of their respective country. In the Philippines for example the remittances sent make up 10% of GDP. Remittances slowed during the pandemic and border closures, still remittances to Mexico rose 27% to $32.8 billion and migrants sent 35% more to Guatemala. Ukraine also counts on remittances for 10% of its GDP. Inflation and higher interest rates may affect future remittances, still workers helping supporting their families, most often migrant workers, have and will continue to give and be inspirations for how to share.
Recycling plastics is a worldwide problem, each year millions of tons of plastic are dumped polluting the top of Everest, the deepest oceans and thousands of places in between. Any effort that could help towards recycling plastic is therefore good news. One of the most promising way is found in the saliva of wax worms. It began when an amateur beekeeper was cleaning out beehives removing the wax worms which normally feed on the wax in the honeycombs. They were placed in a plastic bag. Several hours later, the bags had holes, the kind of holes that suggest a chemical breakdown. The saliva of wax worms it turns out have some 200 enzymes, out of these 2 work to decompose polyethylene and does so at room temperature over a few hours. Polyethylene makes up about 30% of plastic production. It is used in bags and packaging and makes up a large portion of plastic pollution. Using wax worms saliva does require more research, perhaps the chemical breakdown could create valuable chemicals or even help to create a new plastic. The enzymes could overcome what has been a bottleneck in plastic degradation, and the fact they work at normal temperature without requiring high heat is an advantage. Commercial applications are a ways off, but scientists would love to be able to have home kits available to anyone to be able to recycle plastic bags, maybe into useful products.
If you want to be moved, go to the visiting room. If you want to hear how people can change, go to the visiting room. It’s a project based on interviewing and filming a 100 lifers at Angola State Prison in Louisiana, all those interviewed have been there at least 20 years. It’s a notorious prison and it holds more lifers without parole than any other state in the country, many convicted of second degree murder, a charge that in Louisiana asks for life without parole. The visiting room is also a website holding these interviews which anyone can visit and listen to. So often the idea of life with parole tends to be an abstraction, and one of the project’s creators, Dr. Marcus Kondkar, a sociology professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, wanted to show how it impacts individual people’s lives. Watching the interviews one becomes aware of the pathos of those lives. Most were young when they entered the system, not educated, without the knowledge of how the justice system works, without adequate defense, in some cases they would meet their attorney the day of the trial. Most of these lifers are black and the issues of race is inescapable. Their stories expose the harsh life of prison, their childhood, their regrets, their wishes, the desire for mercy and redemption. To me the project and its website show the need to reevaluate our criminal justice system. Is putting people away really an answer? These inmates are out of sight and out of mind and ought we not to realize that people can change, that punishing people by life in prison deprives us of what they could have given to society? As such the project becomes a message that we need to rethink our conclusions about criminality.