06-21-2018  5:23 am      •     
The Skanner Report
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AG Rosenblum Seeks Info from Oregonians

Oregon Attorney General seeks information on children separated from families at border ...

Community Forum: How Does Law Enforcement Interact With Vulnerable Populations?

Forum will focus on public safety and examine mental health and addiction issues ...

King County Council Recognizes Juneteenth

The Metropolitan King County Council recognizes a true 'freedom day' in the United States ...

Unite Oregon Hosts ‘Mourn Pray Love, and Take Action’ June 20

Community is invited to gather at Terry Schrunk Plaza at 6 p.m. on World Refugee Day ...

MRG Foundation Announces Spring 2018 Grantees

Recipients include Oregon DACA Coalition, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, Komemma Cultural Protection Association ...

Ex-basketball coach sentenced to 60 days for sex abuse

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A former Beaverton basketball coach has been sentenced to 60 days in jail and five years of probation for sexually abusing a teenage girl he met through work.KOIN-TV reported Wednesday 34-year-old Laurence Metz was convicted of two counts of sex abuse.Metz was a coach...

Legal pot will roll out differently in Canada than in US

Mail-order weed? You betcha!With marijuana legalization across Canada on the horizon, the industry is shaping up to look different from the way it does in nine U.S. states that have legalized adult recreational use of the drug. Age limits, government involvement in distribution and sales, and...

APNewsBreak: Schools mum on ties to doc in sex abuse inquiry

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A now-dead doctor accused of sexual misconduct by former student athletes at Ohio State University said he acted as a team physician at other universities, most of which won't say if they are reviewing those connections or whether any concerns were raised about him.Ohio...

Trudeau: Canada to legalize marijuana on Oct. 17

TORONTO (AP) — Marijuana will be legal nationwide in Canada starting Oct. 17 in a move that should take market share away from organized crime and protect the country's youth, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.The Senate gave final passage to the bill to legalize cannabis on...


How Washington’s 'School Achievement Index' Became School Spending Index

New assessment categorizes schools not by quality of education, but level of funding officials believe they should receive ...

Black Mamas Are Dying. We Can Stop It.

Congresswoman Robin Kelly plans to improve access to culturally-competent care with the MOMMA Act ...

Hey, Elected Officials: No More Chicken Dinners...We Need Policy

Jeffrey Boney says many elected officials who visit the Black community only during the election season get a pass for doing nothing ...

Juneteenth: Freedom's Promise Still Denied

Juneteenth is a celebration of the de facto end of slavery, but the proliferation of incarceration keeps liberation unfulfilled ...


Young immigrants detained in Virginia center allege abuse

WASHINGTON (AP) — Immigrant children as young as 14 housed at a juvenile detention center in Virginia say they were beaten while handcuffed and locked up for long periods in solitary confinement, left nude and shivering in concrete cells.The abuse claims against the Shenandoah Valley...

AP Explains: US has split up families throughout its history

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Some critics of the forced separation of Latino children from their migrant parents say the practice is unprecedented. But it's not the first time the U.S. government has split up families, detained children or allowed others to do so .Throughout American history,...

The Latest: Messi gets a chance to save face against Croatia

MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on Wednesday at the World Cup (all times local):12:16 a.m.Lionel Messi is going to have a hard time keeping up with Cristiano Ronaldo at this year's World Cup.Ronaldo has all of Portugal's goals, a tournament-leading four so far, and has been getting in digs at Messi...


Dig it: Archaeologists scour Woodstock '69 concert field

BETHEL, N.Y. (AP) — Archaeologists scouring the grassy hillside famously trampled during the 1969 Woodstock music festival carefully sifted through the dirt from a time of peace, love, protest and good vibes.Perhaps they would find an old peace symbol? Or a strand of hippie beads? Or Jimi...

Behind the making of Jack-Jack, the summer's breakout star

NEW YORK (AP) — The breakout star of the summer moviegoing season isn't a dinosaur, an Avenger or anyone aboard the Millennium Falcon. It's a giggling pipsqueak in diapers."The Incredibles 2," which last weekend set a new box-office record for animated films with 2.7 million in ticket...

Ariana Grande, Pete Davidson are engaged

LOS ANGELES (AP) — It's true, Pete Davidson says: He and Ariana Grande are engaged.The "Saturday Night Live" cast member confirmed their rumored engagement to Jimmy Fallon on NBC's "Tonight Show."Fallon put Davidson on the spot Wednesday, telling him he didn't have to get engaged to the pop...


New Zealand leader welcomes newborn girl 'to our village'

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave birth to a daughter Thursday...

Science Says: What makes something truly addictive

CHICAGO (AP) — Now that the world's leading public health group says too much Minecraft can be an...

APNewsBreak: Schools mum on ties to doc in sex abuse inquiry

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A now-dead doctor accused of sexual misconduct by former student athletes at Ohio...

Voting machines raise worries in Congo ahead of elections

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Congo's government is moving forward with plans to use electronic voting machines in...

Japan to scrap evacuation drills for NKorean missile threat

TOKYO (AP) — Japan plans to suspend the civilian evacuation drills it started last year while North Korea...

Official: Polish leader's ill health not sparking infighting

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A government official is denying rumors that the illness of Jaroslaw Kaczynski,...

Errol Barnett CNN

(CNN) -- As a teenager in war-ravaged Sierra Leone, Ishmael Beah was brainwashed, drugged and forced to kill.

"We went from children who were afraid of gunshots to now children who were gunshots," says Beah who became separated from his family at just 12 years old when his town was attacked.

He says his family was later killed in the country's vicious civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002.

During this period rebel groups like the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) -- who were notorious for hacking off limbs and indoctrinating children into their struggle -- fought government forces and their offshoots for control of the diamond rich West African state.

Desperate for help, Beah says he wandered the countryside with a group of other children who had lost their families in similar circumstances.

They managed to avoid the roaming RUF rebels but witnessed gunfights, ransacked villages and countless dead bodies along the way.

"I saw a man carrying his son that had been shot dead, but he was trying to run with him to the hospital," Beah recalls.

"(There was also) this woman had been running and she had a baby that was tied on her back. She'd been running away from the fighting and the bullet had struck the baby and the baby had been killed but she didn't know."

Eventually Beah and his friends came across a rural camp they initially believed to be an army base.

They soon realized however that they had in fact stumbled upon a battalion of breakaway Sierra Leonean soldiers. The splinter group opposed the RUF but were pursuing similarly vicious fighting tactics, including the deployment of child soldiers. Beah was taken in, given shelter and eventually trained to kill.

"Somebody being shot in front of you, or you yourself shooting somebody became just like drinking a glass of water. Children who refused to fight, kill or showed any weakness were ruthlessly dealt with.

"Emotions weren't allowed," he continued. "For example a nine-year-old boy cried because they missed their mother and they were shot," he says of the era which was portrayed in the 2006 Hollywood film "Blood Diamond," starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou.

Speaking about the moment he became separated from his family, Beah recalls: "I had gone to a talent show, I was interested in American hip-hop music, with my older brother, to another town and my town was attacked. I went from having an entire family to the next minute not having anything. It was very painful."

Now a U.N. goodwill ambassador, a law graduate and a best-selling author, Beah is heading the fight to publicize the plight of child soldiers in Africa.

"I do work with UNICEF to go to some of these places, but also to meet the young people who are coming from these experiences to reassure them that it is possible to come out of this," he says.

"I can speak to these children. With proper integration this is the way you can have a successful removal of children from armed groups"

Beah says he now has a greater understanding as to why children are viewed as such valuable fighting assets to groups like the RUF across Africa.

According to the United Nations there remains an estimated 300,000 children involved in conflicts around the world today.

"Everybody always asks why do they go after children? Because you can easily manipulate them," he says.

"They also want to belong to something, especially if they live in a society that has collapsed completely. Their communities are broken down, they want to belong to anything slightly organized and these groups become that."

Beah felt this acceptance in his division of child soldiers and fought with the group for two years before eventually being rescued by UNICEF.

He was taken to a rehab center in the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown, where he spent eight months learning about what happened to him and readjusting to life after the war.

Those who worked at the center were frequently attacked by child soldiers finding it difficult to adapt to their new surroundings in the early days.

"We were very angry. We were very destructive. We destroyed the center where we were staying at (and) we burned some things up," he says of his early months there.

"We beat up the staff members. They came back, we beat them up some more."

With time, and the patience of a carer named Nurse Esther, however, Beah says he was eventually able to reconnect to his lost childhood and remember the person he once was.

He also credits the hip-hop music he loved as an innocent 12-year-old and the songs of Bob Marley as a major help in his recovery.

Beah's progress was so impressive that in 1996 he was selected to go to the United Nations and speak to a conference led by Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela's wife, on the plight of child soldiers.

It was during this trip that he would meet Laura Sims -- a UNICEF worker who would eventually adopt him and bring him to America when the conflict in Sierra Leone escalated to engulf Freetown in 1998.

Upon moving to the U.S., Beah enrolled at the United Nations school in New York before going on to graduate with a law degree from Oberlin University in Ohio.

During his studies he also wrote a book on his experiences as a youth in Sierra Leone, "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier".

"I finished this book before I graduated. I never intended to publish it but the idea for writing it was really this desire to just find a way to give the human context that was missing in the way the issue of child soldiers were discussed," he says.

His passion for bringing a greater understanding to the experiences of child soldiers has since led Beah to his current role as a U.N. ambassador for children affected by war.

And he hopes to offer the same support to today's child soldiers as Nurse Esther and the staff at the Freetown rehab center offered him.

"I witness UNICEF workers doing all of this and when these children were removed I felt their confusion," he says.

"I've been in that place before. All of a sudden you no longer have your military gear, you're now a kid."

"What I'm saying to them is that everybody has the capacity to find their own talent with the right opportunities to do something more with their lives, and everybody can walk their own path."

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