Bill O’Reilly is a commentator on the FOX NEWS Network:
The media has no bleepin’ clue how to cover the death of Whitney Houston. That’s because she was slowly dying for years, and many in the press simply averted their eyes. It was ultra-disturbing that a beautiful woman blessed with an extraordinary singing voice chose a self-destructive path in full view of the world. I mean, here is a person who signed a $100 million recording contract, actually sold 170 million albums, and commanded high six figures to deliver a 90-minute concert. Ms. Houston was a genuine worldwide star, yet was often seen in public disheveled and confused, her substance addiction apparent. The media simply did not know what to say.
We live in a time where addiction is categorized as a disease, and to do what Nancy Reagan once did, urge people to reject narcotics, is considered uncool. How many young performers do we see doing public service announcements warning children to avoid intoxication? Right now, I can’t think of one. The national media prides itself on being non-judgmental unless you are against abortion. Then you are dismissed as “anti-woman” or a religious zealot. But in the arena of personal behavior, there’s an excuse for just about every non-violent activity or bad decision. There is no question that some of us have a history of addiction in our families. There are folks who can use drugs casually and avoid dependence. But they are the exception. Once a person decides to dabble in cocaine, or opiates like heroin and Oxycontin, they are putting themselves at grave risk. And they know it. There are legends of famous people who wound up dead just like Whitney Houston. From Elvis Presley to Michael Jackson, the signposts are impossible to miss. No matter how rich and powerful you are, drugs can and will destroy you.
The current medical marijuana ruse is a great example of a society walking away from a responsible position. Ask any drug rehab counselor and he or she will tell you that pot often leads a person to harder drug use and is mentally addictive itself. Yes, most people can function while stoned. But the more you alter your mind, the more your perspective on life changes. Believe me, I know people who get stoned or drunk every day. They become incredibly desensitized to those around them. On the kid front, the situation is dire. Once a child enters the world of intoxication, their childhood is gone. Presto—they are jaded. That’s how dangerous drugs and alcohol are to immature minds. Society has an obligation to protect its children, not to tacitly accept or embrace mind-altering agents like marijuana. Whitney Houston, however, was an adult who made a decision to embrace the drug life. Reports say she tried to rehabilitate herself a few times, but you know how that goes. Once a person enters the hell of addiction, there is no easy way out. And that’s how the Whitney Houston story should be covered. As a cautionary tale. Another life vanquished by substance abuse.
Austin County Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Scott Minyard, left, and Dennis King, Austin County Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace, stand near the grave of recently identified Gloria Stringer Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012, in Wallis. Since 1975, the woman that occupied the grave was unknown. On February 10, after 37 years, the woman was identified as a young mother who disappeared from Texas City in 1975. Her body was found in the Brazos River on June 7, 1975 about two miles north of I-10. King has been working on the case since 1975. Minyard helped solve the mystery in identifying the woman. ( Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Brett Coomer / © 2012 Houston Chronicle
TEXAS CITY, Texas — (DMN/Chronicle) – The woman’s nude body was found floating in the muddy Brazos River in 1975, her features unrecognizable save for her flawlessly painted scarlet fingernails and flowing yellow hair. But after 37 years, the 22-year-old mother has been identified by Harris County forensics experts as Gloria Faye Stringer, opening an investigation into her possible murder and inflaming the long-held suspicions of Austin County Justice of the Peace Dennis R. King, a man committed to the case for decades. “The only thing worse than dying in a strange place is being lost at the same time and never finding your way home,” King said. “That was always the fear for me – that she had not been able to find her way home.”
Stringer had recently relocated to Texas City, leaving her 6-year-old son with grandparents in Tennessee, before vanishing in 1975. King and Austin County Sheriff’s investigators will try to determine how a woman who owned no car and couldn’t swim ended up naked and dead in a river 87 miles away from her last known address. Among other theories, officials are looking at whether her death is linked to the unsolved serial killings of young women and teens abducted from the Houston and Galveston areas in the 1970s.
It was King who helped recover Stringer’s body in 1975 and who had her bones exhumed in June 2009 hoping a forensic artist’s reconstruction of her face or DNA evidence might result in identification. “He never gave up,” said Scott Minyard, a corporal who got permission from the Austin County Sheriff to join the investigation in 2010. “Different sheriffs got elected, deputies retired or moved on and part of the file was lost … if King had died or left office this may never have been solved. But once he reopened the case it took a lot of teamwork and cooperation to put it all together.”
Stringer last phoned home on June 4, 1975, saying only that she planned to travel to Houston. Three days later, boys fishing near their subdivision in Sealy spotted a body afloat in the fast-moving Brazos River, about two miles upstream from where the river crosses Interstate 10, said King, who arrived at the scene as a 29-year-old rookie in his first year as Justice of the Peace. “We had to go out into the water and pull her ashore,” King recalled. “She was a Jane Doe. With the type of systems we had back in 1975, there was little we could do other than just calling around to see if anyone was missing.”
Officers found no clothing or a car in searches of the riverbanks. There was no matching missing person’s report. Reluctantly, King authorized a county burial in a pauper’s grave. It was King’s first – and for 37 years remained his only – unidentified death victim as Justice of the Peace in Austin County, about an hour west of Houston. He never stopped working the case. In 2009, he placed his hopes in forensic science. King successfully petitioned for funds to exhume the body and asked a skilled forensic artist to use the skull to sketch a likeness. Then he hand-delivered bones from the body to the University of North Texas’ DNA Identity Labin Fort Worth.
Attempts to extract DNA proved unsuccessful. But an artist for the Texas Rangers, Suzanne Birdwell, produced a portrait of a 19-year-old with a pug nose, large pouting lips and widely-spaced oval eyes whose face was framed by a popular 1970s hairstyle. That image and case summary appeared on web sites for missing and unidentified persons in 2010. On June 7, 2011 – the 37th anniversary of the body’s discovery – King, Minyard and others gathered to place a plaque on the still-unmarked grave. King offered a prayer: “I wanted for it to happen before I retired or before I died.”
Afterward, Minyard dropped by the sheriff’s office to find a telephone message from Tennessee. The caller was Sandy Stringer, whose sister-in-law Gloria disappeared in Texas in July 1975. All the elements matched: height, weight, age. Both had their spleen surgically removed. Soon, Minyard reached Stringer’s only son, Dan E. Moore. Moore had been only six when his mother disappeared. Their last portrait shows him smiling beside her: They share the same pale hair and oval eyes. In the photo, her long manicured fingernails are painted scarlet -the same shade King spotted on the body in the river.
Moore is now a Tennessee Highway Patrol lieutenant who supervises criminal investigations. Over the years, he combed police reports and countless archives. Then in June 2011, his aunt told him to check the sketch of a woman she found on a Texas Department of Public Safetyweb site. Finally, a combination of 11 different clues helped convince doctors Jennifer Loweand Dwayne Wolfeof the Harris County Institute of Forensics Sciences to positively confirm Stringer’s identity earlier this month. “I don’t know how many hundreds or thousands of pictures that I’ve looked at since the Internet came around – always looking for my mom’s face,” Moore said. “I sometimes made calls … But when I clicked on this one that night, I just knew.”
The HOUSTON CHRONICLE contributed to this story.
Two world hotspots are making news this morning. Officials with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency begin a second round of talks Monday with Iranian officials over the country’s nuclear program, a day after Tehran cut off crude exports to British and French companies in retaliation for a new round of sanctions imposed on the regime. The two days of talks come amid heightened tensions in the region, with Israel making clear it is pondering an attack on Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure, while Iran warned it could cut off the narrow strait through which oil tankers sail in and out of the Persian Gulf.
The scheduled talks between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iranian officials are billed as an opportunity for the watchdog agency to get more clarity about the “possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program,” the group said. Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency cited the head of the IAEA mission as saying it would take time to resolve Iran’s nuclear issue because it is complicated. Mission head Herman Nackaerts is the IAEA deputy director general responsible for ensuring that countries are not secretly developing nuclear weapons. Iran says it is producing enriched uranium to fuel civilian power plants and has refused international demands to halt its production. But the IAEA reported in November that it had information to suggest Iran had carried out some weapons-related research.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it is up to Iran to disprove the allegation. “The agency is committed to intensifying dialogue. It remains essential to make progress on substantive issues,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said in statement following the first round of talks in January. The talks in Tehran follow an announcement Sunday by Iran’s oil ministry that it was halting crude exports to French and British companies, an order following a threat that Iran would cut oil exports to some European Union countries in retaliation for sanctions put in place last month by the EU and the United States. “Iran has no difficulty in selling and exporting its crude oil. … We have our own customers and have designated alternatives for our oil sales. We shall sell to new customers, who will replace French and UK companies,” ministry spokesman Ali Reza Nikzad-Rahbar said in a statement. But on Monday, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said he expected relations with Europe to improve.
The two sides need each other, the semiofficial Mehr News Agency quoted him as saying. “I believe that relations will return to their earlier state,” Salehi said in Tehran, Mehr reported. The sanctions put in place last month are meant to force Iran to provide more information on its nuclear program by shutting off its sales of crude oil, which generates half of Iran’s revenue. Iran exports 2.2 million barrels of oil a day, 18% of which is bound for European markets, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The world consumes about 89 million barrels of oil per day. U.S. and European sanctions are already squeezing Iran’s economy, driving down its currency and driving up consumer prices.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has called for tougher sanctions, saying that accelerating the pace of sanctions would force Tehran to return to nuclear talks. Iran proposed a resumption of those stalled talks last week. U.S. and European diplomats were still trying to gauge the sincerity of the Iranian offer, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it “an important step.” Meanwhile, Israel has made clear it considers a nuclear-armed Iran a threat to its existence and has suggested it is considering an attack on Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure. The United States believes talk of military strikes against Iran’s nuclear program is “premature” and has advised Israel that an attack would be counterproductive, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”
Dempsey said U.S. officials aren’t convinced Iran has decided to pursue nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, economic and diplomatic sanctions appear to be taking a toll on the Islamic republic, he said. “On that basis, I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us,” Dempsey said. Dempsey said American officials believe an Israeli strike would delay Iran’s nuclear development “probably for a couple of years, but some of the targets are probably beyond their reach.” He said he and others have had “a very candid, collaborative conversation” with the Israelis about the issue. “I’m confident that they understand our concerns, that a strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives,” he said. “But, I mean, I also understand that Israel has national interests that are unique to them. And, of course, they consider Iran to be an existential threat in a way that we have not concluded that Iran is an existential threat.”
Tensions between Iran and Israel have been further heightened in recent days with two Iranian warships sailing through Egypt’s Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea. It’s only the second time such ships have crossed through the Suez Canal since Iran’s 1979 revolution. Iran’s Press TV reported Monday that the two ships had docked Saturday in the Syrian port of Tartus, where the crews were to provide maritime training to Syrian naval forces.
SOUTH KOREA HOLD DRILLS DEFYING NORTH
South Korea has conducted live-fire military drills near the disputed Yellow Sea border with North Korea, despite Pyongyang’s threat to attack. The South Korean defence ministry said the Marine Corps, which guards “frontline” islands near the flashpoint border – began the exercise at about 10am local time [0100 GMT]. About 1,400 civilians living on the islands were evacuated to bomb shelters during Monday’s drill, a local official said. South Korean military officials said they were ready to repel any attack, but there was no immediate military response from the North to what Seoul terms a “routine” drill, which ended after about two hours. South Korean troops on the five islands fired artillery into waters southward, away from nearby North Korea, a defence ministry official said.
The North Korean News Agency released a statement: The Command of Forces of the Korean People’s Army in the Western Sector of the Front issued an open notice on Feb. 19 as regards the plan of the south Korean military warmongers to stage a brigandish naval shelling drill in the waters around five islands in the West Sea of Korea on Feb. 20 with the territorial waters of the north side as their target.
The notice says:
Such move of the war-like forces is a premeditated military provocation to defend the illegal “northern limit line” at any cost and drive the overall situation on the Korean Peninsula into the phase of war by straining the situation in those waters to the highest pitch of tension. As regards the prevailing situation, the Command of Forces of the KPA in the Western Sector of the Front is authorized to issue the following notice: The territorial waters of the DPRK side in the West Sea of Korea are the waters where its sovereignty is exercised.
Once the group of traitors starts a reckless military provocation in those waters, trespassing on the DPRK’s inviolable marine demarcation line, and in case just a single column of water is observed in its territorial waters, the KPA will promptly make merciless retaliatory strikes. In this regard, all civilians who either live or engage in occupation on five islands in the West Sea and in their vicinity are advised to evacuate in advance to safe areas before nine o’clock on Feb. 20 when the puppet military warmongers will kick off the provocative naval shelling. The Lee Myung Bak group of traitors should not forget the lesson taught by the Yonphyong Island shelling case that occurred on Nov. 23, 2010.