A Little Off The Top: Return to Sender?

offtoplogo.jpg picture by jmooser

Tennessee woman returns adopted Russian kid back to Motherland

Yes, you read correctly.

An American woman sent back an “unruly and violent” Russian orphan back to Russia after the family decided that it was in fact dangerous to house the child because of threats of violence and graphic, gruesome pictures he drew, which included a burning house with the family inside. According to the story I read, it wasn’t even the adopted mother who sent him off at the airport! Good ole grandma had to do it!

It appears that this family might have started an international firestorm, as Medvedev and the Russian foreign minister were “furious” and the actions were considered “the last straw.” So, until further notice, or at least until a full investigation is conducted, you cannot adopt Russian orphans- just in case that was on your “To-Do” list in the next month or so. At least we were able to come to some sort of diplomatic resolution with the Russians regarding a slight nuclear disarmament… who knows what might have happened.

So, we’re good about the nukes, right? Ok well, I’d like to make a return… what’s your policy on that?

In all seriousness, I feel that this story brings two issues up for discussion. The first is the actual ability to return a child to an orphanage, let alone to their original country, if the arrangements don’t go… as planned. I can assure you there are PLENTY of moments where our own parents may have thought the same thing… I’ve heard it a lot. But it’s all in good fun, usually. It’s part of the developing familial dynamics that go along with raising kids. But didn’t you make the same choice that mothers made, to bring/take a kid in this world?

I know their defense is “safety” and perhaps they indeed weren’t fit for the situation. Indeed, being a foster/adopted parent is a tough calling, and certainly a responsibility which isn’t celebrated enough. Should adopted parent have the right to do this? I mean, it’s a kid, right? It’s not like you went down to the humane society, pick out a great dane to live in your one room 50 square foot apartment and then return it because you can’t handle the responsibility. I assume that there is an extensive interview and screening process for international adoptions. And well, I’d also have to assume that this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, so I’d hope there is some sort of return policy if the parents see that they cannot handle the responsibilities.

Should be required viewing for anyone thinking of adopting/having children

All in all, I can see both sides of the argument here, but you can decisively conclude that the family definitely handled the situation incorrectly. They should face neglect charges since they are the legal guardians of the child, just like my parents would have faced sending me on an airplane by myself at the age of 7! As to the severity of the punishment, I don’t know. What is your opinion on the matter?

My second concern with this story is this. I know that many most countries are FAR worse off than us. I also know that in these other struggling countries the number of orphans/ abandon children is astronomical, and that the quality of life in their native countries is low. And I can certainly understand that through international adoption, you are saving a kid from a tough life and a potentially dangerous one. Saving a child breaks the cycle of poverty and lack of education, whether if it only for that one kid. There are may people who partake in this, a God bless their souls.

But don’t we face these problems at a domestic level as well? Wouldn’t it be more practical and perhaps even more beneficial to gradual improvement of quality of life in our own country to adopt children from the United States? It’s a problem that I think is bigger than one might fathom. For all sorts of adoption statistics, check out the following link: Adoption Statistics (Very in depth reports on orphans/adoptions in the US as well as internationally.)

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smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

A Little Off the Top


After a six month hiatus, your periodic post of humanity’s most questionable moments. Today, my home state of Florida provides the rather sad and disturbing material for our latest examination of bad, bad ideas.


Wednesday morning, a Burmese python attacked and killed a 2 year old toddler in Sumter County. The large constricting snake bit and then strangled the kid to death. Definitely a tragic story.

Here’s the news release from tampabay.com:

— An autopsy performed on a Sumter County 2-year-old girl determined she died of asphyxiation after authorities said she was squeezed and bitten by her family’s Burmese python Wednesday.

The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Children and Families are investigating. It’s unclear if any criminal charges will be filed over the python incident, but if so it likely will not happen this week or next, said Paul Magrino, a homicide prosecutor for the Sumter County state attorney.

“The autopsy was only done this morning, and there’s still some additional investigation to be done,” Magrino said Thursday. “Generally speaking, whenever you have the death of a small child in a home under circumstances that demonstrate something other than natural causes, it certainly has to be investigated.”

Shaiunna Hare was in her crib Wednesday morning when deputies say the 8-foot-, 6-inch python escaped its enclosure and entered her room. It repeatedly bit her and squeezed her to death before her mother’s boyfriend, Charles Darnell, awoke and found the snake missing.

Darnell, 32, called 911 around 9:40 a.m. and sobbed as he reported the snake had strangled the girl. He freed her, deputies say, by stabbing the snake with a 6-inch knife and meat cleaver.

Deputies and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers got a warrant to enter the home and removed the pet python and a 6-foot boa constrictor. The python was treated at a veterinary hospital, commission spokesman Gary Morse said, and is being held as evidence until the investigation is completed.

Darnell did not have a state permit to own the python and could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.

The Department of Children and Families removed two other children from the home after Wednesday’s incident, said DCF spokeswoman Carrie Hoeppner.

The agency also visited the home in May 1 after a complaint was filed that Darnell and Shaiunna’s mother, 19-year-old Jaren Hare, alleging drug abuse and physical abuse of the children. An investigator visited the home and noted that Darnell was agitated by DCF’s visit and admitted smoking marijuana, but the home had running hot and cold water, was clean and had food, and there were no immediate dangers inside the house. The case was closed June 12.

“I have no doubt if my investigators saw something of concern, whether it was an abused cat or a dangerous dog or some animal that posed a hazard to the children, we would pursue that,” Hoeppner said. “I do know the investigator observed and documented one of the snakes.”

When a photo of officers carrying the snake from the home was published Wednesday on tampabay.com, the web site of the St. Petersburg Times, readers posted anonymous comments questioning the health of the snake, speculating on its size and wondering if it had been starved.

It was just a skinny snake, not starved, said Morse. “It was in good health,” Morse said. “The snake was well-fed and well taken care of for an 8-foot, 6-inch python.”

Magrino said its too early to determine whether Darnell and Hare could be charged with a crime. If charges are filed, “It could be anything from perhaps child neglect to a (manslaughter) homicide.”

Emily Nipps

Python swallowing a sheep

That’s what a Burmese python looks like after swallowing a pregnant sheep whole. You can bet it would have done the same to the little girl as well. Apparently in the 70’s there was a case where one of these pythons swallowed an 8 year old boy whole. Wow.

Warning: Video is Graphic. Do not play if you don’t want to see it.

And that video is of a small snake. Look on youtube for the 12 footer. It takes out a goose. Wow.

What in the world is a 8 foot python doing in the same house as a little kid? The facts are these. The snake has had an “escape” history. The owner did not have the appropriate permit/licenses for owning an “exotic” animal. The guy and the 19 year old “Baby’s Mama” are drug users!

What the heck is this guy doing with exotic animals? And you’re telling me that all he might face is a misdemeanor? I understand that it was an accident. But this tragic event as well as the chimpanzee attack a few months ago bring the issue of individuals owning animals that aren’t normally domesticated again to the critical spotlight.

Should “exotic” animal ownership be illegal across the board? While local laws do say a permit is needed, it is clearly not being enforced to the degree it should have been. Sales of these types of animals needs to be controlled and limited to people who already have a license.

But of course, we ALL know that most of these animals are obtained illegally anyway. The penalty for importation and distribution should be stiffer, let alone the penalty for possession. It baffles me that this guy is only going to basically get a slap on the wrist.

The Heap’s take: There is no reason why any unqualified individual, permit or not, should have access to exotic animals. A license should only be granted after AMPLE education and hands on experience and care of such animals. However, this extends to certain animals only. Snakes would be allowable, but something like a Burmese python would not. Exotic animals that are deemed to be stronger than men should not be allowed under ANY circumstances. Chimps and other primates, wild cats and dogs, etc. should not be allowed to be owned at your home, no matter if you have a license to do so.

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A Little Off the Top: The Scorpion Queen?


It seems like Dwayne ‘The Rock” Johnson’s fictional character may have met its more legitimate match. Kanchana Ketkaew has set the world record for sitting in seclusion with more than 5,000 scorpions for 33 days!

That’s pretty crazy.

According to this report, it states that she was stung 13 times! That’s about 13 times too many for me!

Out. Of. Control.

So I think this officially proves there is a record for ANYTHING nowadays. I’m sure it’s more for publicity than anything.

On a more bizarre note, while I was searching for her name, she is apparently married to Thailand’s own Centipede King!

Eww. The thought of all these things is freaking me out. Enough is enough.


A Little Off the Top III


It feels good to write again… even though A Little Off the Top is mostly just another article… and my wonderful insight. Today we have a real treat, from Bosnia, where the Sarajevo Police are holding a drug smuggling pigeon in custody… literally, behind bars, as the article explains.

SARAJEVO (AFP) – Bosnian police have impounded a pigeon after discovering prisoners used it to smuggle drugs into one of the country’s highest security jails, an official said Thursday.

“The guards suspected the animal might be involved in drug smuggling once they noticed four prisoners visibly intoxicated shortly after the pigeon landed on a prison window,” Zenica prison official Josip Pojavnik told AFP.

All four inmates had tested positive for heroin, said Pojavnik, adding disciplinary proceedings had been launched against the inmates.

The drugs, he added, had probably been stuffed into tiny bags attached to the legs of the carrier pigeon, which one of the prisoners had previously been allowed to keep as a pet in his cell.

“We suspect that the pigeon carried the drugs from Tuzla,” a town around 70 kilometres (more than 40 miles) northeast of Zenica in central Bosnia, he added.

The pigeon had been taken into custody by police, who have launched an investigation aimed at identifying those who had loaded it up with the drugs.

“We do not know what to do with the pigeon, but for the time being it will remain behind bars,” Pojavnik said.

The incident had prompted the prison administration to consider closing down a prisoner pigeon-breeding project established in a ward of the jail as part of a rehabilitation programme, he added.

Pojavnik insisted those birds had not been involved in the incident.

A similar case of carrier pigeons being used by prisoners was reportedly uncovered earlier this year at a jail in Brazil, where the birds were being used to deliver drugs and even mobile telephones.

My question is, does the bird get his phone call. Really Bosnia? A bird behind bars? I’m sure he’s made some new friends in jail, being that he’s a drug smuggler and all. Can you imagine if you were in jail and actually had the pigeon as a cellmate? Rewarding conversations right there. After a few days in the big house, I’m more than positive our feathered friend will be looking for a plea bargain. He’ll talk. I know it. I guess that is what officials want, right? Perhaps it will lead them back to the real perpetrators. Hang in there buddy, Harvey Birdman is on his way!



A Little Off the Top II


This one is straight from Cincinnati, OH, written in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Ohio man buys new truck with thousands of coins

CINCINNATI – An Ohio man who says he doesn’t trust paper money has delivered enough coins to cover half the price of a brand new pickup truck.

Employees at a dealership in the Cincinnati suburb of Springdale say 70-year-old James Jones plunked down 16 coffee cans full of coins Tuesday for a new Chevrolet Silverado.

Salesman David Crisswell says employees spent 90 minutes counting the collection of dimes, quarters, half-dollars and dollar coins, which covered half the $16,000 price of the pickup.

Jones and his wife, Betty, wrote a check for the other half of the cost.

Jones’ son says his dad has always preferred to pay with coins. Dennis Jones says he’s most amazed that his penny-pinching father decided to replace his 1981 pickup, which struck his father when its parking brake failed last year, putting him in a hospital.

Hahaha! Really? Paying 8,000 dollars with coins? Can you imagine being at the car dealership having to count that? Perhaps even double checking that? The article states that there were 16 of those giant coffee cans (I automatically thing of Folger’s… but I like this independent one here:)


So presumably, there had to have been 500 dollars in each. That’s absurd. I mean, I get annoyed at people who pay for things in coins at the store, especially when it’s not in quarters!!! Another question of mine is how long it actually takes to save 8,000 dollars in change! I mean, I’m luck after a month or two to have 20 dollars in my piggy. Of course, this guy has made it clear that his preferred currency is coins… so perhaps he cashes his paychecks in denominations of 25’s 10’s 5’s and 1’s … cent pieces of course.


Just a Little Off the Top I


Finally, a non-sports related post! This segment, as you can read, is called “Just a Little Off the Top.” No, we won’t be covering haircuts here at the heap., unless it happens to be the topic of one of the bizarre, “off-beat'” stories I find in my internet reading. Today we have a story from Nevada, having to do with… ecosystem-threatening frogs? The story comes from Yahoo! News, and was written by the AP.

119 illegal African clawed frogs seized in Nevada

RENO, Nev. – State wildlife officials raided three residences in the Reno area where they seized more than 100 African clawed frogs, which they say are prohibited because they can pose a serious danger to native frogs and entire ecosystems.

No charges have been filed against the people who illegally possessed a total of 119 frogs because they are cooperating fully with law enforcement to “get any and all prohibited frogs off the streets,” the Nevada Department of Wildlife said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We are very pleased we were able to seize them before they were circulated to people in the area and possibly escaped into the wild,” said Cameron Waithman, game warden captain for NDOW’s Division of Law Enforcement.

African clawed frogs grow about as large as bullfrogs and can destroy entire ecosystems by voraciously eating native fish, amphibians and just about anything they can swallow, he said.

Scientists also believe these frogs carry and spread an African fungus that has decimated frog populations worldwide, Waithman said. The frog carries the fungus on its skin and is immune to its deadly effects.

Because of the danger the frogs pose, people who knowingly possess such amphibians face up to six months in jail and a $500 fine, he said.

“If people turn these frogs in voluntarily, we don’t have an interest in writing them tickets,” said Waithman.

“However, if we find even more people involved with keeping and selling these frogs, we will prosecute at the conclusion of our investigations. These amphibians really are a threat to Nevada, and we have a duty to seize any and all that we find.”

The African clawed frog was used in hospitals in the 1940s and 1950s as a way to detect pregnancy in women. It produces eggs when injected with the urine of a pregnant woman.

Scientists say the fungus on the frogs works like a parasite that makes it difficult for the frogs to use their pores, quickly causing them to die of dehydration. It has been linked to the extinction of amphibians from Australia to Costa Rica.

Japan reported its first cases of frog deaths from the fungus in January 2007, prompting research groups to declare an emergency in the country. On the Caribbean island of Dominica, the fungus has almost wiped out the mountain chicken, a frog species considered an island delicacy.

First of all, I can’t believe there MAY be a black market for things like African Clawed Frogs. It seems like you can purchase anything these days. These amphibians are pretty nasty. Usually, when you think of frogs, you have that lovely image from various cartoons of these creatures that try to nab flies with the pinpoint accuracy of their tongues. More often than not we’d see some sort of comical conclusion- the tongue hitting something else, or perhaps even the frog itself becoming entangled in it. Noooo, these aren’t your average goofy frogs. They are hardcore carnivorous predators and serve as a carrier for epidermal disease. And according to the article, and the Wikipedia entry for the African Clawed Frog, these bad boys can disrupt entire ecosystems!


I’d have to say that my favorite line comes from the second paragraph, with the psuedo-serious line “getting any and all prohibited frogs off the streets.” Like they are some crazy fugitives on the loose. Would these frogs count as illegal immigrants? I guess we’ll just send them back to Africa. Good thing this occurred in Nevada and not Texas. Guaranteed these frogs would have a one way ticket to execution. Maybe we shouldn’t be so harsh. I mean, maybe some desperate couples were trying to save a buck or two on pregnancy tests. See? Not so impractical after all.