Not Suitable For Children

Can Arizona’s Broken Child Welfare System Ever Be Fixed?


Two-year-old Cloud Gerhart weighed just 17 pounds when the Department of Child Safety finally removed him from his home in September 2014. The first call to authorities had come before he was even born, after Cloud’s mother, Megan, tested positive for marijuana during two prenatal appointments.

Between the time of his birth and the day DCS took him away, the state’s child abuse hotline received six more calls expressing concern that Cloud was skinny and hungry, that Megan drank and smoked a lot, and that their trailer in Sierra Vista was dirty and full of trash.

Though it’s unacceptable that Cloud had languished in Arizona’s “broken” child welfare system, it’s almost unfathomable that he continued to do so for seven months after what arguably was the most drastic overhaul of the system ever attempted in this state… (Continue reading in The Phoenix New Times.)


The Deepest Cut

Jessica Burlew was only 16 when she strangled her boyfriend and mutilated his body. Should someone have seen it coming?

CoverJB “This guy is dying. He might be — this guy is dying!” the woman screams into the phone. Her voice is panicked. Her breaths are raspy.

“Is he breathing?” the 911 emergency dispatch operator asks.

“I don’t think so.”

“Bring the phone over to the patient — bring the phone over to him, okay?”

“I don’t think he is, and he’s — oh, my God . . .”

“Ma’am, take a breath. Bring the phone over to the patient,”

“Okay, I’m there,” she gasps.

“Okay, are you looking at him now?”

“I am.”

“Is he breathing?”


“Okay, I need you to kneel at his side — did you witness this happen?”


“Kneel at his side, and we need to begin compressions, okay? Put your hands flat in the center of his chest.”

“He might be alive!” …Continue reading in The Phoenix New Times


Sound and Fury: Will Phoenix Sue the FAA?

Last year the FAA changed flight paths over Phoenix without warning. A lawsuit is in the works.

coverGerry McCue gets a kick out of describing the moment last fall when he first heard the airplanes over his house.

“I thought the city of Phoenix was being evacuated and I didn’t get the memo,” the 85-year-old says, opening his eyes wide for dramatic effect.

Like many residents in Phoenix’s downtown historic area — as well as those living in Laveen and certain parts of Tempe — when Gerry and his wife, Marge, woke up on September 18, 2014, the house they had lived in since 1962 was suddenly under a major flight path out of Sky Harbor International Airport. At the time, they had never heard of “NextGen,” but that would change very quickly.

“They come in batches. You can hear it for four continuous hours — rooooaaaar, rooooaaar, rooooaaaar,” Gerry says, trying to imitate the drawn-out sound of an engine. “You hear it coming, and just as it peaks out, you hear the next one.”

He likens it to Chinese water torture: “constant, chronic.”

The noise interrupts their conversations and keeps them from sitting outside or inviting guests over for a BBQ. The sound makes them unconsciously tense their jaws and grit their teeth. And even worse, it has reduced the value of their home by over 30 percent — no small dent in their life savings… (Continue reading in The Phoenix New Times.)

The State’s Vocational Education Problem

Massachusetts is widely lauded for its world-class universities, competitive public school rankings, and top-notch private high schools. But there’s another school system that’s locked up in a decades-old conflict affecting thousands of students: vocational education

Photo by Miriam Wasser

Photo by Miriam Wasser

In 2008, Ed Bouquillon, then the new superintendent of Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School, noticed something odd: dozens of 8th graders who wanted to attend his school weren’t allowed to apply. In Massachusetts, before prospective students can submit applications to Minuteman—or any other vocational school, for that matter—they need their hometown superintendent’s approval. Students are rarely denied, and if they are, it’s usually because they live in a town that already offers the exact program they hope to study.

Minuteman Tech could be called the Harvard of vocational high schools. Last September, American RadioWorks produced a four-part documentary that spotlighted it as the example of a 21st-century vocational school. The school is located in Lexington, but serves as the district vocational school for 16 suburban towns in Middlesex County. Of the 700 or so students who enroll at Minuteman every year, historically about half have come from out-of-district communities.

The 8th graders who weren’t allowed to apply to Minuteman were all from out-of-district, but, Bouquillon reasoned, it wasn’t like they lived on the other side of the state. They were mostly from Medford, Somerville, and Waltham, towns that have always sent quite a few students to Minuteman. As far as Bouquillon could tell, there was no obvious reason these kids should be prohibited from applying…. Continue reading at Boston Magazine


The Queen of Street Cats

New York City has more than a million feral felines. One Queens resident has a humane—and controversial—plan to save them all.

Brad Horrigan/

Brad Horrigan/

No one opens a can of cat food quite like Debi Romano. Gracefully, she peels back the metal lid and dumps the mushy contents onto a pile of dry cat food. With mesmerizing speed, she opens and dumps cans like a seasoned assembly line worker, tossing the empties into a plastic bag.

Working out of the trunk of her red Camaro, she puts the food into disposable containers and places them under dumpsters and cars, near fences and building crawl spaces. Romano spends four hours every night hitting five Queens neighborhoods and feeding upwards of 100 street cats. She goes through $2,000 of cat food a month, and puts forty dollars worth of gas in her car every other day.

When she was twelve, her mother predicted she would become “that crazy cat lady.” Now fifty-four, she probably is New York’s ultimate one. Continue reading at

The Battle for Bunny Land

Miriam Wasser/ The Big Round Table

Miriam Wasser/ The Big Round Table

Cathy Caracciolo is no amateur rabbit breeder. She got her first bunny at a birthday party when she was five, and fifty years later, she still considers herself a rabbit addict. Cathy brings to mind a fondly recalled kindergarten teacher – she is in her mid-fifties, and her bearing and attire of jeans, sweatshirts, and sneakers suggest comfort. She is also a star in the rabbit world.

Cathy is among the nation’s best known breeders of Flemish Giants, a type of rabbit that, as the name implies, are really, really big—often growing to the size of a small dog and weighing as much as eighteen pounds.That she has achieved this status as a woman makes her ascent and position all the more remarkable.

“Once you have a Flemish Giant, you never go back,” she says, pausing to smile at her own joke before flipping the latch on her backyard gate… Continue reading on The Big Roundtable



Are Rabbits Pets or Meat?


Miriam Wasser/ The

No one is talking about selling kittens and puppies at the meat counter, but for the group of bunny-loving pet owners protesting near the Whole Foods in Union Square, they might as well be. Fifty or so women and men of all ages carry signs, pass out flyers and pamphlets, and try to spread their message to passing Manhattanites. “Boycott Whole Foods,” they say, “because they’re killing rabbits.” Continue reading on The


Hey, Um, Wyoming? We Need to Talk … About Carbon

In the wake of Monday’s announcement by the EPA, it’s time for some states to have the ‘tough love’ conversation they’ve been avoiding.

Wow, what a day we had on Monday! The Environmental Protection Agency outlined new, groundbreaking carbon-emisson standards that have the potential to reduce our nation’s carbon output by as much as 30 percent over the next 16 years, using 2005 standards as our benchmark. But now that we’ve all had a couple of days to absorb the big news, states from coast to coast are going to have to sit down, take a good, honest look in the mirror, and do the actual carbon-cutting math—especially those states whose economies and energy policies have for too long relied on coal… Continue reading at

Witches and Mermaids


Miriam Wasser/Brooklyn Ink

Miss Cherry Delight woke up one Saturday morning not long ago and knew she was no longer a princess. Her reign had ended the night before when a new Miss Coney Island was crowned. Hers had been a good reign, albeit a tough one. “I may not be theMiss Coney Island anymore,” she said again and again, “but I’ll always be Miss Coney Island 2013.” No one could take that away from her.   …..Continue reading on the Brooklyn Ink