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Odd stories spur more thankfulness - Clay Wilson

Here are yet two more reasons to be thankful for living in America.

I said in my Thanksgiving column that even though things aren't perfect here, they are much better than in other parts of the world.

Not that I needed further examples of this, but I found some, oddly enough, in "Oddly Enough."

This section of Yahoo! News features weird stories compiled mostly by Reuters and the Associated Press. I sometimes check it out on the Internet when I'm putting off real work.

I only look at it, though, in hopes of finding new column material. That's me – always working.

Anyway, in yesterday's Oddly Enough I came across two stories that reminded me of why I'm thankful I live in this country.

One of them was headlined something like "Thongs, bras come to Colombia's rescue." Naturally, with the mention of Colombia, I couldn't help but read the story. I assure readers that the mention of thongs and bras was purely incidental for me.

According to the story, a United Nations-backed initiative is seeking to entice poor Colombian families away from growing cocaine by putting the women to work making racy lingerie. The undergarments will be sold by the French supermarket chain Carrefour, first at its 12 Colombian stores and possibly later in other countries.

The story said the lingerie would be fabricated in clothing and shoe factories in the southern Colombia province of Cauca. The province was hit hard by the collapse of world coffee prices, the story said, causing many area families to start growing cocaine.

"We thought it was a very original idea. These are regions where there are drug crops and people need legal jobs," the story quoted Thierry Rostan of the U.N. Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.

I'll agree that this is an original idea. I'd just hate to live in an area where my only two options for making a decent living were growing cocaine or manufacturing unmentionables for an oversexed population.

The other story had the intriguing headline, "Forgetful man pays for gasoline with nephew."

The story, which was actually pretty sad, said a Cambodian man basically traded his 9-year-old nephew for three liters of gas.

It said the boy had been traveling with his uncle in a quest to find the boy's father in a nearby province, but their motorbike ran out of gas. After refilling with three liters from a roadside stall, the man realized he had no money in his wallet.

According to the story, the man then convinced the elderly woman who owned the stall to keep his nephew as collateral until he returned with the money – about $1.50.

That was in March of 2002. The man has never returned.

Fortunately, the gas stand owner told a Cambodian newspaper that she intends to raise the boy as her grandson. Nevertheless, the story goes on to say that in civil-war-scarred Cambodia, "child rights remain a distant dream."

Admittedly, the state of child welfare in America sometimes leaves something to be desired, and I have heard stories of children being sold here. But at least if it happens here and authorities find out about it, there will (or should) be consequences for the person who did it.

So that's another two items to add to my list of reasons why I'm thankful I live in America. That, and the fact that if I need a column idea, the Internet is always just a click away.

Clay Wilson is the education reporter for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or by e-mail at cwilson@henryherald.com.