Hungry Predators

Sligo Irish Famine Statue

The high demand and supply in the USA of sexual and labor trafficking contributes to the human trafficking problem. Young adults, male and female as young as twelve, are victims of this serious crime. Less than 10% are kidnapped. Many victims were sold by someone they knew. They are targeted by their vulnerabilities. Victims may have a history of abuse, be developmentally disabled, be foster children, are homeless, or a runaway. After 48-72 hours after running away, a teen will be approached by a sexual trafficker.

The perpetrator breaks their victims down with sleep deprivation and substance abuse in order to control their victims. Often times, the victim is branded with a tattoo designating ownership by the perpetrator. The victim might have a money symbol, a scan code, property of stamp, etc. The locations of these are the key. They are usually on the side or back of the neck, behind an ear, inner lip, or in the pubic area. The female victims are required to have sex even during their menses cycle and are impacted with sponges or tampons. The victims are groomed what to say to medical personnel if they are brought in to be seen.

77% of victims related to human trafficking will suffer a higher episode of PTSD than a war vet due to the constant re-experiencing of the trauma and disturbing memories. They have difficulty sustaining relationships if they manage to escape. The victims avoid internal and external reminders of trauma and stress. They are hyperarousal due to the nervous system reaction of repeated fight or flight.

If you work in a medical facility or clinic, eye clinic, or dental office, etc. be on the lookout of these indicators of human trafficking:

  • patient claims they are out of town and has no address
  • lack of I.D.
  • disassociation or uncommunicative
  • confrontational
  • abnormal reactions
  • someone always talking for the victim
  • eyes downcast when spoken to
  • can’t be seen alone

What can you do about it?

  • watch your tone of voice when speaking to the victim
  • adjust to resistance
  • listen to them
  • don’t judge
  • avoid confrontation
  • kindness goes a long way
  • ask why the person is here or what happened to bring them here
  • express empathy
  • report suspicions to the National Human Trafficking Hotline @ 888-373-7888 or text HELP to 233733.

Want free material on the subject? Go to dsh.gov/ blue-campaign.

The Shocking Reasons Behind The Opioid Epidemic

According to the CDC, 91 people die everyday from opioid overdose. Deaths have increased since 2010. The root cause is debatable, yet since 1999, 400% in opioid prescriptions have increased.

In 1995, the Purdue Pharmaceutical Company released the drug, OxyContin. It’s an extended release oxycodone formulation branded for treatment of chronic non-cancerous pain. From 1996-2002, Purdue contributed to a large campaign to encourage chronic use of opioid prescriptions for pain. Not only that, but they asked doctors and nurses to include pain as another vital sign. Purdue financially supported the American Pain Society and other groups. They supported the message that long-term opioid use for pain was safe. In patient’s best interests, OxyContin became the best selling painkiller prescribed in the country.

Opioids are known for their analgesic ( pain ), sedative, and euphoric effects. They were originally derived from the poppy flower. Natural and synthetic opioids have since been formulated. Natural occurring opioids are Morphine and Codeine. Semi-synthetic opioids are Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Heroin, and Hydromorphine. Synthetic opioids are Fentanyl, Methadone, and Tapentadyl. The CDC names Oxycodone, OxyContin, and Hydrocodone as the top prescription opioids implicated in overdosed deaths.

Since 2007, IV Heroin usage increased over other drugs of abuse. The DEA reported 200% increase of Heroin overdosed deaths from 2000-2014. Since 2013, overdoses involving Fentanyl has affected the opioid crisis in North America. Fentanyl is used as an anesthetic as well as an analgesic in the medical field. It is the most potent opioid narcotic available. It is 50-100 times more potent than Morphine. The problem is the non-pharmaceutical Fentanyl is being manufactured illegally overseas, primarily China, and trafficked to the US, Mexico, and Canada. This powder is mixed with heroin and made into pills that looks identical to the common prescribed opioid medications. The high potency is equivalent to a few grains of salt. The short term effects are respiratory depression and decreased levels of responsiveness that leads to overdosed deaths.

When using opioids, the reward center in the brain is stimulated. Once individual moves beyond the early stages of pleasure and reward seeking, a more complicated neuro-biological process takes over. The more exposed to the drug, the more the drug is needed to achieve the same affect. Once individual acquires escalating doses of opioids to achieve pleasure and analgesic affects, the person has developed a tolerance. Tolerance results when the receptors in the brain cells become less responsive to opioid stimulation. Opioid dependence occurs when the body has adapted to presence of drugs and will suffer physical symptoms  in drug’s absence. They will suffer withdrawal symptoms if drug stopped suddenly. The withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, jitteriness, dilation of pupils, muscle cramps, insomnia, GI upset, and Tachycardia.

It is important in this opioid epidemic to decrease the access and exposure to the opioid drugs.

Cheese And Bacon Puffs

Cooking Up The Pantry

I have shared my cheese puff recipe before but these combine two of my all time favourite foods.

These little gems are crispy on the outside, slightly gooey on the inside and utterly delicious!

I like to use a smoked bacon as it gives more flavour.

Makes 48-60 mini muffin sized puffs. Leftover batter happily lives in the fridge for 48hours.

Ingredients

200g bacon

350g tapioca flour

170g Cheddar, grated

2 eggs

150mls oil

350mls milk

A pinch of cayenne pepper

A little salt

Method

Over a high heat, fry the bacon until crispy and the fat has rendered.

Spoon the cooked bacon onto some absorbent kitchen towel and squeeze to get as much fat out as you can.

Place the bacon in a food processor and pulse to create bacon crumbs.

Now add all of the remaining ingredients and whizz to form a thick batter.

Preheat the oven to…

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Malta 2017, Preview Pictures

pretty skies

Have Bag, Will Travel

Malta Mellihea

I went to Malta last month, here are some post preview pictures…

Malta SunsetMalta Sunset The Red Tower

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The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side

Here is a creepy campfire story for Halloween I wrote.

The moon shone upon the campsite like a giant eye. A gust of wind rustled the dry leaves. The fire crackled and popped. Eddie gazed at the other boys and rubbed his hands together.  This was his third year at Camp Crockett. His mother worked long hours as a nurse and Eddie found himself alone more times than any ten year old he knew. At least here, he found companionship.

He knew the other boys looked up at him. Eddie’s long legs beat half the kids in races. He climbed a rope with ease and excelled in the premium of sports. Camp Crockett felt like home to Eddie. He heard a commotion behind him and whirled around. Some older boys shoved a short, butterball of a kid down. He skinned his knees.

“Are you gonna cry, baby? Boo-hoo,” Mulligan teased. He stood taller than the others and bobbed his head like a rooster.

Eddie stood and strode over to Mulligan. “Leave the kid alone. Remember you were new last year.” Eddie leaned in and whispered, “Or do you want me to tell everyone you peed your pants during last year’s story time?”

Mulligan snorted and fluffed his Mohawk. “Funny one.”

Eddie wrapped his arm over the new kid’s shoulder. “Come sit up front with me. What’s your name?”

“Bobby. Thanks for saving my hide.”

“No problem-o.”

They strolled close to the campfire and sat cross-legged on the ground. Eddie listened as some of the older boys bragged about a camp across the lake. Curiosity got the best of him. “Hey, does the other place really have a swimming pool and bowling alley?”

“It’s not for little kids,” Mulligan sneered. “Quit listening on my friend’s conversation.”

The counselor shushed the boys. “Some of you know the story of the green man in the woods. Please refrain from stealing the punch line for the new-bees.”

Bobby chewed his lower lip and kneaded his thighs as the counselor rambled on about the man in the woods.

Eddie elbowed Bobby. “Hey, you want to have some real fun?”

“Sure.”

“Is the story too scary for you, Eddie?” Mulligan laughed like an inner tube leaking air. He high-fived a ruddy-cheeked boy next to him.

“Check your pants, Mulligan. I saw a snake crawl inside.”

“What?” Mulligan jumped up and spun around.

Everyone pointed and laughed at him.

“You got him good, Eddie.” Bobby beamed through his mass of freckles. “Where we headed?” A gap between his front teeth made him sound like a snake.

“Can you swim?” Eddie asked.

Bobby patted his belly. “This blubber makes me float.” He snickered. “Actually, I’m on the swim team at school. I’m quite good.”

“Excellent! I bet that camp across the lake is a girl’s campsite. Why else would the older guys talk about it? I heard there’s a pool. Care for an adventure?”

“I don’t know that’s a long way to swim. Won’t we get in trouble?” Bobby asked.

“We’ll take one of the boats. They won’t miss us. The counselors are busy telling ghost stories, remember?” Eddie draped his arm over Bobby. “Come on.”

They walked through the acre of trees which lined the dirt path. The trees thinned out as they drew close to the lake. The full moon shone bright and its reflection rippled the water. The lake lapped the sides of the rowboats perched along the dock’s edge.

Eddie removed the slip knot from one boat. “Get in.”

Bobby climbed inside and Eddie shoved the boat out. The lake felt cool to his legs. Water dribbled from his cut-offs as he pulled himself inside the boat. Eddie handed an oar to Bobby. They paddled to the other side of the lake. By the time they reached the other shore, their arms ached. They set the oars inside and hauled the boat across the gravel.

A pale girl, around twelve in a white tennis dress, emerged from the bushes. “What are you doing here?”

Her voice sounded hollow to Eddie’s ears. Did he get water in them? He slapped the side of his head. He licked his fingers and smoothed his copper hair. “We’re curious about your camp. Is it true? Do you have a bowling alley and swimming pool?”

“Yes and other things. My name is Diane. Would you care to go in?”

“I’m Eddie and this here is Bobby. We’d love to go in.”

Diane produced a key and unlocked the padlock to the gate. She pushed it open and the hinges squealed. They wandered inside. Eddie frowned. Garbage littered the grounds, broken windows looked like jagged teeth of a pumpkin, and the cabin porches slumped to one side. They strolled by the pool and held their noses. It smelled foul and green slime floated on top. Where were the kids and the counselors? Something didn’t feel right. Eddie ran over to a building. He stood on a wooden box and peered through a window. He didn’t see a bowling alley or any video games. Something caught his eye. He gasped and stepped back.

“What did you see?” Bobby asked.

Eddie raced back to the gate.

“Wait!” Bobby ran behind Eddie.

The gate slammed shut before them. Eddie pivoted around. His eyes widened. Why hadn’t he listened to his gut feelings? Diane’s arms and legs changed into vines that rolled and entwined over each other as she approached the boys. Eddie and Bobby scrambled up the gate. Diane caught one of Bobby’s legs and dragged him back.

“Don’t leave me, Eddie!” Bobby screeched.

Fear made Eddie crawl over the fence. His jacket sleeve snagged on a wire and he couldn’t budge. The vine slithered up the fence. Eddie yanked his arm out of the sleeve and jumped down. He rushed to the boat. The ground rumbled under his feet. Eddie leapt and landed inside the boat. The vines tunneled under the boat and lifted him up. Eddie grabbed a paddle and smacked it across the vines. A shrill rent the air and Eddie covered his ears. The vine shrunk back. Eddie took the opportunity and rowed to the middle of the lake. He felt bad. He hadn’t wanted to leave Bobby there, but what else could he have done? He hoped Bobby escaped.

Eddie drifted on the water for hours until the sun rose again. He decided to head back to Camp Crockett and relay the bad news. Something stopped him. Eddie thought he heard Bobby calling him. He rowed back. Bobby stood by the gate and waved. Eddie felt relieved his little buddy had made it.

“Diane’s sleeping. Please get me out of here. “My legs hurt, Can you carry me?” Bobby pleaded.

“Sure.” Eddie climbed out of the boat and strode over. He picked Bobby up and carried him to the boat. He placed Bobby on the seat. Eddie pushed the boat out and jumped in. As Eddie paddled, he noticed Bobby’s eyes seemed a brilliant green instead of blue and his skin had an olive-green sheen. Before Eddie could question him, Bobby’s arms and legs changed into vines. Eddie screamed and the vines entered his mouth.

Hours later, the camp leaders found Eddie’s boat circling in the middle of the lake. Green slime covered him and his eyes were hollowed. Bobby wasn’t anywhere in sight.

That night the counselor told the story again of the green man in the woods.

Mulligan exclaimed, “What a bunch of hogwash! You think it was him that killed Eddie?”

Before his eyes, the counselor changed into an alien of mossy vines and snapped Mulligan’s tongue. “My name is Bobby. Anyone else care to deny my claim?”spooky hat

 

A Ghost Story for Halloween

creepy

Have Bag, Will Travel

Posada San Telmo

We picked up a hire car at the Sol-Mar desk and after completing the formalities found the vehicle and headed west on the Autovia to the tourist town of Santillana de Mar and the nearby village of Ubiarco where our accommodation was booked.

It was an odd thing about the accommodation but when I checked the web site a few days before I couldn’t find the hotel again and I had worried that perhaps my booking had been cancelled or the place might be closed for the winter.

Eventually I found it through my booking reference number and everything seemed to be in order so I stopped worrying. I was perplexed however that when I entered alternative dates just to check, there was never any availability and there were no more rooms available for this weekend either. I convinced myself that the place must surely be full of people all…

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Roast Chicken With Creamy Lingonberry Sauce

Cooking Up The Pantry

Six ingredients make this a seriously tasty dish that’s as simple as combine, bake and baste.

If you don’t have lingonberry sauce, cranberry sauce works just as well!

You can mix the ingredients the day before you bake them if you want and this freezes well, just add a little more cream when you reheat it gently in the oven.

If you aren’t keen on chopping up a chicken, drumsticks, wings and thighs will work just as well.

Serves 6.

Ingredients

1.8kg whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces

4 tablespoons lingonberry sauce

2 tablespoons gluten free Worcestershire sauce

4 garlic cloves, crushed

250mls cream

Salt and pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade.

In a roasting tin, combine all of the ingredients.

Cover tightly with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes covered.

Remove the foil, baste with the sauce in the pan and return…

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Dip, Dip, Hooray

BitterSweet

In the battle for snack supremacy, the competition is fierce, but a few front runners have emerging from the pack. Potential winners are obvious from any vantage point in the bleachers, if you just take a moment to look at the odds. Think back and try to remember the last time you attended a decent party that didn’t have a bottomless bowlful of hummus on display, for starters. And what would Taco Tuesday be without nacho cheese in amply supply- Maybe just Tortilla Tuesday? All bets are off when it comes to picking a winner between the two, but I think I have a solution that neither side would see as a compromise.

Nacho hummus, bearing all the cheesy, spicy decadence of a good queso dip with the more substantial heft of a chickpea spread. The two rivals compliment and contrast one another with surprising ease, a natural union that…

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Almond And Cherry Mini Cakes

Cooking Up The Pantry

With the start of cricket season here in Western Australia it is time to get back to baking for the shared morning teas when the boys play matches at their home ground.

These are lovely sweet treats that disappear quickly. Any leftovers freeze very well and are perfect for school lunch boxes.

Makes 48 mini cakes.

Ingredients

150g ground almonds, almond meal

140g gluten free plain flour

80g caster sugar

1 tablespoon gluten free baking powder

100g butter, melted

140g Greek yogurt

1 egg, beaten

125mls milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

140g cherry conserve

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade. Line 2 x 24 hole mini muffin trays.

In a large bowl, combine the ground almonds, flour, sugar and baking powder. Give it a whisk to get rid of any lumps.

In another bowl combine the butter, yogurt, egg, milk and vanilla extract.

Pour the wet ingredients into…

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Continuing through dawn at one of the Vermilion Lakes

Christopher Martin Photography

When I arrived at the second Vermilion Lake and scrambled down to the shoreline I was alone and in darkness.  Once I turned off my headlamp my eyes adjusted and a thin line brightening to the east.  Mount Rundle stood resolutely across the water and I started to make out clouds as they slid toward the horizon.

The image above was a 25 second exposure on f/10 and ISO 800 taken at 7:25 AM.  I used that to get a feel for how the scene looked as it was still too dark to make out much of the details and color in the sky with my eyes alone.

I didn’t mind the grass but I chose to focus on the sky and its reflection so a few steps to the right and setting up closer to the waterline was the next step.  The clouds in the image above made a…

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