Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

A Dramatic Beginning to The Wake of the Vikings

It’s not that I am THAT compulsive, but I do like to plan ahead, and things that happen at the last minute that require attention can disturb my sleep.

This is a trip we’ve had planned for over a year and a half. We didn’t plan for Hurricane Harvey, and we are flying out of Houston. We didn’t plan on Hurricane Irma, another all-time historical hurricane, headed toward Florida, and possibly into the Gulf. Possibly into Pensacola.

 

We have a wonderful couple who take care of our house and our cats while we are gone. She called the day before we were leaving to ask if we had any plans for the hurricane she needed to know about. Hmmmm. No, I didn’t. I planned not to worry about it. And . . . at the same time, all around me, people are stocking up on propane, and Sam’s has run out of water, and . . . . some people are preparing to hunker down and some to leave home, heading north.

We got moving. I had an hour before my last meeting, and spent that hour figuring out what really mattered to me (photo albums) and putting photo albums up high and in cupboards, and fragile things, like the crystal candelabra AdventureMan gave me for our first anniversary in the safest place I could think of.

Law and Order Man (our son) said he would take Ragnar and Uhtred, our very young cats, to a safe place, if needed.

AdventureMan braced the garage doors with huge specially made steel beams that bolt into place, and we called our contractor who said if it looked like Irma was heading our way, he would put up all the ballistic window and door covers.

It’s not everything, but it’s something. We all felt a lot better.

And thanks to the ‘net, we know that Houston is up and running, and our flights into Houston and out of Houston will fly.

Around eleven, we hear the front door opening (? ! ? ! ? !)  and it is the couple who are coming to stay with the house and cats; they thought we were leaving at night, not the next morning. We all laughed, got them settled, and went to sleep peacefully.

 

The flight into Houston was the best kind, uneventful. We love uneventful flights. You can still see a lot of standing water, and water damage, but the greatest part of the upswell of waters appears to have subsided.

 

 

“Today is the first day that the airport is 100% up and running,” a Houstonian tells us. We are good listeners, and he tells us that the worst part of all this drama is that the death count continues to mount as rescue-workers go into places where people thought they could shelter in safety. The mold is also hitting hard and fast, and emergency facilities are strapped. They are functioning, and they are prepared, and some things are beginning to run out.

The best, he followed up with, is that “you know how divided we have all been? Once the storm hit, it didn’t matter if you were black or white or Mexican or Confederate, we were all just people, and we helped our neighbors, we helped each other. In that way, it was one of the best things that has ever happened in Houston.”

Who would have thought? Houston-strong!

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September 6, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Florida, Health Issues, Hurricanes, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Relationships, Social Issues, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Houston Backlog of 6,663 Rape Kits Tested, Resulting in 850 DNA Hits

In the category of ‘you can run, but you can’t hide’ is the fact that hundreds, thousands of rape kits have gone untested in police departments all over the United States. Too expensive, or so they say, to process them all, but the force of public opinion is relentless, and the result is that some of these kits are finally producing results and convictions that, at long last, give the rape victims some satisfaction.

I worked with one of the very first Rape Crisis Lines, back in the beginning when it was all new, in, of course, California. We worked with the victims, but we also worked with emergency workers and with police. It was a team. Most of the police I worked with were merciful and compassionate, but there are other places where the police culture is harsh, and rape victims are not well-treated. There are still those people who believe that somehow a victim asked for it in some way.

I learned some surprising things as I worked with the victims. I learned how strong and how smart victims (they’re not all women) can be. They did what they had to do to stay alive, and they memorized everything they could to be able to tell the police. Many made it a point to leave DNA in the car, or to save the rapist’s DNA. It was less about the physical violation than finding oneself in a position of utter powerlessness, and not knowing if you were going to survive. I didn’t pity the victims; I admired their courage and resilience.

JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) — Evidence from more than 6,600 rape kits that went untested for years in Houston have turned up 850 hits in the FBI’s nationwide database of DNA profiles, marking a major step in the city’s $6 million effort to address the backlog, officials announced Monday.

Charges have been filed against 29 people, six of whom have been convicted, since the city launched an effort in 2013 to test 6,663 rape kits — some of which dated back nearly three decades. Testing was completed in the fall, and the results have now been uploaded to a database used by investigators nationwide to compare DNA profiles of possible suspects, Mayor Annise Parker said.

“This milestone is of special importance to rape survivors and their families and friends because it means their cases are receiving the attention they should have years ago,” Parker said at a news conference, where she joined local law enforcement officials to announce the results.

Police are continuing to review the matches to see if charges can be filed in other cases. In the cases where prosecutors have won convictions, defendants have received sentences ranging from 2 to 45 years in prison. One case was dismissed after the victim decided not to pursue the case.

Rape kits include biological samples and physical evidence gathered from sexual assault victims that are later processed to see if they match a suspect’s DNA. Testing results are uploaded to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said there were some cases where suspects committed other crimes while rape kits that could have identified them sat untested.

“Now that the testing of these kits is complete, we know that it’s up to us to finish the job and to seek justice for these victims. The ball is in our court and we will do our best to put the people who are responsible for these heinous crimes behind bars for as long as possible,” she said.

Experts say Houston’s backlog — and similar backlogs in other U.S. cities — are due in part to the high cost of testing which can run from $500 to $1,000 per kit, though advocates argue that the lack of testing signals that sex crimes haven’t always been law enforcement priorities.

More than 12,000 kits went untested for years in Memphis, Tennessee, which is facing a lawsuit from rape victims as it tries to test the kits. In Detroit, prosecutors discovered more than 11,000 rape kits in an abandoned police warehouse in 2009, and Cleveland prosecutors have sent their entire 4,700-kit backlog for testing.

“This is not a Houston problem. It’s not a Texas problem. It’s a nationwide issue that built up over years and years,” Parker said.

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Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/juanlozano70

February 24, 2015 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Crime, Law and Order, Quality of Life Issues, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment