Reforming the Proxy Advisory Racket – Wall Street Journal

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Wall Street Journal
Reforming the Proxy Advisory Racket
Wall Street Journal
Last summer we told you about SEC Commissioner Daniel Gallagher’s campaign to reform the proxy advisory racket. A 2003 SEC rule, combined with misguided advice from SEC staff, had all but required many investment fund managers to hand off voting …

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McKesson CEO's $292 Million Golden Parachute Faces a Proxy Fight – Businessweek

If McKesson (MCK) were sold tomorrow and Chief Executive Officer John Hammergren were fired, he’d be eligible to walk away from the medical-products company with $292 million in severance pay—almost half of it in restricted stock and option awards that were intended as incentives to keep him on the job.

His tenure has been good for McKesson shareholders. Since Hammergren took the CEO post in early 2001, the company’s shares have soared by 541.4 percent, compared with a 59.4 percent rise in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index through last week.

McKesson’s board has rewarded him, in part, with a golden parachute that’s one of the largest among current CEOs, says Aaron Boyd, director of governance research at Equilar, which tracks executive compensation. Corporate goodbye gifts for CEOs have drawn increasing scrutiny since former General Electric (GE) CEO Jack Welch stirred outrage with a $417 million retirement payout more than a decade ago. Since the 2008 financial crisis, shareholders have more frequently taken action to challenge such packages, Boyd says.

McKesson is no exception; its so-called change-in-control plan is the subject of a proxy fight set to culminate at the San Francisco-based company’s annual meeting on July 30.

Hammergren’s potential payout under a change in control would include equity awards worth $140.6 million that were set up to vest only over time. They’d be his right away, though, if he were terminated after a sale. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which calls that kind of pay “unearned compensation for top executives on their way out the door,” has proposed a ballot measure urging McKesson’s board to reduce the accelerated vesting.

While it’s not unusual for unions to challenge CEO pay provisions, the Teamsters’ proposal is endorsed by proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services. It has also drawn support from CtW Investment Group, which represents investors with $250 billion in retirement assets under management, and the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which oversees $160.7 billion in retirement money, according to officials at both organizations.

Kris Fortney, a McKesson spokeswoman, declined to comment. In the company’s latest proxy filing on June 19, McKesson’s board opposed the Teamsters’ proposal, telling investors that accelerated vesting is “an important tool for motivating our executives in the face of a potential change in control transaction.”

The Teamsters’ measure favors a plan that would pay executives only a prorated portion of their unvested awards. All told, Hammergren and other top executives stand to get $283 million or more in such awards if they’re fired after a change in control, according to the Teamsters.

The July 30 vote will echo McKesson’s 2012 annual meeting, at which the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers offered a similar proposal. It lost, getting just 44 percent of the votes cast.

Hammergren’s pay has drawn attention previously. Last year, 78 percent of the shareholders who cast ballots opposed the company’s executive compensation plan in a non-binding vote. Earlier this year, Hammergren agreed to reduce his own eventual pension payout, from $159 million to $114 million, amid investor complaints.

Still, he’s doing reasonably well. His $292 million change-in-control severance package, combined with $289 million more in company stock and options he already owns, would bring his total kitty in the event of a termination to $581 million on paper—a figure based on valuations as of March 31. Factor in an 8.8 percent increase in share price since then, and it would come to roughly $616.6 million, according to calculations by Equilar.

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Social media fuels Munchausen by proxy, experts say – CBS News

Experts say the case of a mother accused of poisoning her 5-year-old son to death with salt appears be an example of how social media feeds into Munchausen by proxy, a disorder in which caretakers purposely harm children and then bask in the attention and sympathy.

Lacey Spears, 26, has pleaded not guilty to charges of depraved murder and manslaughter in the January death of her son, Garnett-Paul Spears, whose sodium levels rose to an extremely dangerous level with no medical explanation.

The little boy was taken to Westchester Medical Center, in the New York suburbs, on Jan. 19, and doctors there reported their concerns about him to the state Office of Children and Family Services, CBS New York reported. The department had already launched an investigation into whether Spears was harming her son before Garnett died Jan. 23, prosecutors said.

As Spears, of Scottsville, Kentucky, moved around the country – to Alabama, Florida and eventually New York – she kept friends updated on her son’s frequent hospitalizations with photos and musings on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and a blog.

“My sweet angel is in the hospital for the 23rd time,” she tweeted in 2009. A series of reports on the case by The Journal News, which covers the New York suburbs, found she kept it up right through her son’s death, with 28 posts in the last 11 days of Garnett’s life, including, “Garnett the great journeyed onward today at 10:20 a.m.”

Dr. Marc Feldman, a psychiatrist and forensic consultant in Birmingham, Alabama, who wrote the book “Playing Sick,” said he believes the Internet has contributed to the number of Munchausen by proxy cases, estimated from one study to be more than 600 a year in the U.S.

In a case exposed in 2011 in Great Britain, a childless 21-year-old woman joined an Internet forum for parents, claiming to have five children and chronicling her nonexistent baby’s battle with celiac disease and bacterial meningitis. Doctors at Seattle Children’s Hospital found three cases of mothers who falsely blogged that their children were near death and were rewarded with support.

“There are instantly accessible and endlessly supportive groups out there that will pray with you and cry with you if you purport your child to be ill,” Feldman said.

Mark Sirkin, director of the mental health counseling program at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, said that with social media, “you can expand your circle from the people you know to strangers who you’ve never met — you’re just getting that much more attention.”

While prosecutors and defense attorneys in the Spears case have yet to mention Munchausen in court papers or hearings, experts say the disorder could play a role because Spears fits the pattern of caregivers who invent, exaggerate or cause a health problem in someone in their care and then seek to portray themselves as a hero.

Spears, who was living in suburban New York when her son died, is accused of administering sodium through a feeding tube he had in his stomach while he was hospitalized at Westchester Medical Center. Prosecutors say she did it in the bathroom, where there were no surveillance cameras.

“This mother was intentionally feeding her child salt at toxic levels,” Westchester County prosecutor Doreen Lloyd said at Spears’ arraignment. She also alleged that Spears had done Internet research on the effects of sodium and that Spears had tried to dispose of a bag tainted with sodium by asking a friend to “get rid of it and don’t tell anybody.”

According to court documents, Spears told police she used only “a pinch of salt” for flavor when feeding her son fruits and vegetables through his tube.

Spears said the feeding tube was necessary because Garnett couldn’t keep food down. Some friends told The Journal News they saw no sign of that. They were also confused by her claims that Garnett’s father was killed in a car accident. A man who says he’s the father lives in Alabama.

Her attorney Stephen Riebling said last week that the defense would focus “on the relevant facts, not fiction.”

Spears’ lawyers won’t comment on whether a psychiatric defense is planned.

But by using a “depraved murder” charge, the district attorney seems to be taking a disorder like Munchausen into consideration.

The charge alleges “extreme recklessness” and “depraved indifference to human life” rather than an intentional killing, so prosecutors don’t have to prove that Spears meant to kill her son.

Feldman said it’s difficult for jurors to believe a mother would purposely hurt her child just to get attention.

“These mothers tend to be psychopathic,” he said. “They don’t experience guilt and they lack empathy.”

Louisa Lasher, an Atlanta-area consultant in child abuse cases, said parents who have the syndrome “do not love children in the way that most people do.”

Munchausen by proxy has been suspected in several court cases over the years. In 1979, a California woman was convicted of murder for slowly poisoning one child; the case was cracked when a second baby came down with similar symptoms. In 2010, a Tennessee woman pleaded guilty but mentally ill to charges she injected saltwater into her infant son’s feeding tube. A woman in Minnesota is accused of smothering her son; she said she wanted more attention from doctors.

Most cases rarely end in death because the child “is the goose that lays the golden egg for somebody who’s so needy of attention,” Sirkin said. “It would defeat the purpose to kill the child.” Often when a death occurs, it’s because of a miscalculation, Feldman said.

As for treatment, Sirkin said long-term psychotherapy is required.

“It’s not like a snake phobia where you can take somebody through some behavioral training and they’ll be over it,” he said. “This is a personality type that takes years in the making, and I think it probably involves psychotherapeutic treatment that would also take years.”

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London Gangs Draw Up Rape Lists In Proxy Attacks On Rival Gangs – Breitbart News

by Andre Walker 21 Jul 2014, 2:49 AM PDT post a comment


Gangs in London are passing around lists of teenage girls to be raped, as a punishment to rivals. The so-called “sket lists” are made up of young girls considered legitimate targets and have led to a whole raft of brazen attacks, according to the Guardian.

Youth workers have said that ‘sket’ is street slang for ‘slut’, and that sexual violence is an increasing part of gang life in the capital. The traditional stigma around sex crime does not seem to exist for these gangs, and some attacks have involved girls being dragged from school buses and sexually assaulted in broad daylight. 

Scotland Yard confirmed they are so concerned about the rise in gang related sex crime that the issue is now “at the top of our agenda”. They have already been forced to launch major initiatives to deal with both gang related gun and knife crime in the capital. 

Det Supt Tim Champion of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Trident gang crime command, said: “The first thing we had to do is stop people killing each other. The focus now clearly is on women. It’s as prevalent as carrying a knife or a gun – raping a girl in a gang.”

In some cases the sisters and girlfriends of gang members have been targeted in attacks that include revenge rape. Claire Hubberstey, interim chief executive of Safer London Foundation, a charity working with young people to reduce crime, warns that gangs are using sexual violence in the same way that they use dangerous dogs to parade their masculinity.

Hubberstey believes that low conviction rates for rape are a big motivating factor, and many now see sex crime as a good way to spread fear with minimum risk. She said: “Criminals are clever, they know if they are caught carrying weapons they face a lengthy sentence; it’s risky carrying a gun. 

“The use of sexual violence is the same sort of thing as having a dangerous dog; it creates fear, it’s non-traceable, and they are also taking advantage of low rape conviction rates even when there are witnesses.”

Gangs are believed to use systems like Blackberry Messenger to circulate list of targets. Some of these systems can be hard to track and many of the victims are from communities that have poor relationships with the Police so they are often reluctant to report crime.

The problem of sket lists comes on the back of a number of major sex crime investigations in Britain’s inner cities. As previously reported on Breitbart, police and social services were slow to act when they discovered Asian grooming gangs abusing teenage girls from working class white communities in Northern cities.

Campaigners have claimed that public bodies had been traditionally reticent to investigate sex crimes committed by ethnic minorities as exposure of them might damage community relations. However, in the case of sket lists, which are thought to be used in afro-Caribbean communities, the authorities appear to have taken swift action.

This is likely to be cited as evidence that the police and social services are no-longer willing to turn a blind eye to these crimes fro the sake of community relations.

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Experts: Case Of Accused Child Killer Lacey Spears May Shed Light On … – CBS Local

CBS New York (con’t)

Affordable Care Act Updates: CBSNewYork.com/ACA

Health News & Information: CBSNewYork.com/Health

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Experts said the case of a mother accused of poisoning her 5-year-old son to death with salt appears be an example of how social media feeds into Munchausen by proxy, a disorder in which caretakers purposely harm children and then bask in the attention and sympathy.

Lacey Spears, 26, of Scottsville, Kentucky, pleaded not guilty last month to charges of depraved murder and manslaughter in Westchester County in the January death of her son, Garnett-Paul Spears, whose sodium levels rose to an extremely dangerous level with no medical explanation.

As Spears moved around the country — Alabama, Florida and eventually New York State — she kept friends updated on her son’s frequent hospitalizations with photos and musings on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and a blog.

“My sweet angel is in the hospital for the 23rd time,” she tweeted in 2009. A series of reports on the case by The Journal News, which covers the New York suburbs, found she kept it up right through her son’s death, with 28 posts in the last 11 days of Garnett’s life, including, “Garnett the great journeyed onward today at 10:20 a.m.”

Dr. Marc Feldman, a psychiatrist and forensic consultant in Birmingham, Alabama, who wrote the book “Playing Sick,” said he believes the Internet has contributed to the number of Munchausen by proxy cases, estimated from one study to be more than 600 a year in the U.S.

In a case exposed in 2011 in Great Britain, a childless 21-year-old woman joined an Internet forum for parents, claiming to have five children and chronicling her nonexistent baby’s battle with celiac disease and bacterial meningitis. Doctors at Seattle Children’s Hospital found three cases of mothers who falsely blogged that their children were near death and were rewarded with support.

“There are instantly accessible and endlessly supportive groups out there that will pray with you and cry with you if you purport your child to be ill,” Feldman said.

Mark Sirkin, director of the mental health counseling program at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, said that with social media, “you can expand your circle from the people you know to strangers who you’ve never met — you’re just getting that much more attention.”

While prosecutors and defense attorneys in the Spears case have yet to mention Munchausen in court papers or hearings, experts say the disorder could play a role because Spears fits the pattern of caregivers who invent, exaggerate or cause a health problem in someone in their care and then seek to portray themselves as a hero.

Spears, who was living in Chestnut Ridge when her son died, is accused of administering sodium through a feeding tube he had in his stomach while he was hospitalized at Westchester Medical Center. Prosecutors say she did it in the bathroom, where there were no surveillance cameras.

“This mother was intentionally feeding her child salt at toxic levels,” Westchester County prosecutor Doreen Lloyd said at Spears’ arraignment. She also alleged that Spears had done Internet research on the effects of sodium and that Spears had tried to dispose of a bag tainted with sodium by asking a friend to “get rid of it and don’t tell anybody.”

According to court documents, Spears told police she used only “a pinch of salt” for flavor when feeding her son fruits and vegetables through his tube.

Spears said the feeding tube was necessary because Garnett couldn’t keep food down. Some friends told The Journal News they saw no sign of that. They were also confused by her claims that Garnett’s father was killed in a car accident. A man who says he’s the father lives in Alabama.

Her attorney Stephen Riebling said last week that the defense would focus “on the relevant facts, not fiction.”

Spears’ lawyers won’t comment on whether a psychiatric defense is planned.

But by using a “depraved murder” charge, the district attorney seems to be taking a disorder like Munchausen into consideration.

The charge alleges “extreme recklessness” and “depraved indifference to human life” rather than an intentional killing, so prosecutors don’t have to prove that Spears meant to kill her son. It carries the same maximum sentence, 25 years to life in prison.

Feldman said it’s difficult for jurors to believe a mother would purposely hurt her child just to get attention.

“These mothers tend to be psychopathic,” he said. “They don’t experience guilt and they lack empathy.”

Louisa Lasher, an Atlanta-area consultant in child abuse cases, said parents who have the syndrome “do not love children in the way that most people do.”

Munchausen by proxy has been suspected in several court cases over the years. In 1979, a California woman was convicted of murder for slowly poisoning one child; the case was cracked when a second baby came down with similar symptoms. In 2010, a Tennessee woman pleaded guilty but mentally ill to charges she injected saltwater into her infant son’s feeding tube. A woman in Minnesota is accused of smothering her son; she said she wanted more attention from doctors.

Most cases rarely end in death because the child “is the goose that lays the golden egg for somebody who’s so needy of attention,” Sirkin said. “It would defeat the purpose to kill the child.” Often when a death occurs, it’s because of a miscalculation, Feldman said.

As for treatment, Sirkin said long-term psychotherapy is required.

“It’s not like a snake phobia where you can take somebody through some behavioral training and they’ll be over it,” he said. “This is a personality type that takes years in the making, and I think it probably involves psychotherapeutic treatment that would also take years.”

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Experts: social media feeds into Munchausen by proxy – USA TODAY

WHITE PLAINS, New York (AP) — Experts say the case of a mother accused of poisoning her 5-year-old son to death with salt appears be an example of how social media feeds into Munchausen by proxy, a disorder in which caretakers purposely harm children and then bask in the attention and sympathy.

Lacey Spears, of Scottsville, Kentucky, has pleaded not guilty to charges of depraved murder and manslaughter in the January death of her son, Garnett-Paul Spears, whose sodium levels rose to an extremely dangerous level with no medical explanation.

As Spears moved around the country — Alabama, Florida and eventually New York — she kept friends updated on her son’s frequent hospitalizations with photos and musings on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and a blog.

“My sweet angel is in the hospital for the 23rd time,” she tweeted in 2009. A series of reports on the case by The Journal News, which covers the New York suburbs, found she kept it up right through her son’s death, with 28 posts in the last 11 days of Garnett’s life, including, “Garnett the great journeyed onward today at 10:20 a.m.”

Dr. Marc Feldman, a psychiatrist and forensic consultant in Birmingham, Alabama, who wrote the book “Playing Sick,” said he believes the Internet has contributed to the number of Munchausen by proxy cases, estimated from one study to be more than 600 a year in the U.S.

In a case exposed in 2011 in Great Britain, a childless 21-year-old woman joined an Internet forum for parents, claiming to have five children and chronicling her nonexistent baby’s battle with celiac disease and bacterial meningitis. Doctors at Seattle Children’s Hospital found three cases of mothers who falsely blogged that their children were near death and were rewarded with support.

“There are instantly accessible and endlessly supportive groups out there that will pray with you and cry with you if you purport your child to be ill,” Feldman said.

Mark Sirkin, director of the mental health counseling program at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, said that with social media, “you can expand your circle from the people you know to strangers who you’ve never met — you’re just getting that much more attention.”

While prosecutors and defense attorneys in the Spears case have yet to mention Munchausen in court papers or hearings, experts say the disorder could play a role because Spears fits the pattern of caregivers who invent, exaggerate or cause a health problem in someone in their care and then seek to portray themselves as a hero.

Spears, who was living in suburban New York when her son died, is accused of administering sodium through a feeding tube he had in his stomach while he was hospitalized at Westchester Medical Center. Prosecutors say she did it in the bathroom, where there were no surveillance cameras.

“This mother was intentionally feeding her child salt at toxic levels,” Westchester County prosecutor Doreen Lloyd said at Spears’ arraignment. She also alleged that Spears had done Internet research on the effects of sodium and that Spears had tried to dispose of a bag tainted with sodium by asking a friend to “get rid of it and don’t tell anybody.”

According to court documents, Spears told police she used only “a pinch of salt” for flavor when feeding her son fruits and vegetables through his tube.

Spears said the feeding tube was necessary because Garnett couldn’t keep food down. Some friends told The Journal News they saw no sign of that. They were also confused by her claims that Garnett’s father was killed in a car accident. A man who says he’s the father lives in Alabama.

Her attorney Stephen Riebling said last week that the defense would focus “on the relevant facts, not fiction.”

Spears’ lawyers won’t comment on whether a psychiatric defense is planned.

But by using a “depraved murder” charge, the district attorney seems to be taking a disorder like Munchausen into consideration.

The charge alleges “extreme recklessness” and “depraved indifference to human life” rather than an intentional killing, so prosecutors don’t have to prove that Spears meant to kill her son.

Feldman said it’s difficult for jurors to believe a mother would purposely hurt her child just to get attention.

“These mothers tend to be psychopathic,” he said. “They don’t experience guilt and they lack empathy.”

Louisa Lasher, an Atlanta-area consultant in child abuse cases, said parents who have the syndrome “do not love children in the way that most people do.”

Munchausen by proxy has been suspected in several court cases over the years. In 1979, a California woman was convicted of murder for slowly poisoning one child; the case was cracked when a second baby came down with similar symptoms. In 2010, a Tennessee woman pleaded guilty but mentally ill to charges she injected saltwater into her infant son’s feeding tube. A woman in Minnesota is accused of smothering her son; she said she wanted more attention from doctors.

Most cases rarely end in death because the child “is the goose that lays the golden egg for somebody who’s so needy of attention,” Sirkin said. “It would defeat the purpose to kill the child.” Often when a death occurs, it’s because of a miscalculation, Feldman said.

As for treatment, Sirkin said long-term psychotherapy is required.

“It’s not like a snake phobia where you can take somebody through some behavioral training and they’ll be over it,” he said. “This is a personality type that takes years in the making, and I think it probably involves psychotherapeutic treatment that would also take years.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Experts: Social media can feed Munchausen – SFGate

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Experts say the case of a mother accused of poisoning her 5-year-old son to death with salt appears be an example of how social media feeds into Munchausen by proxy, a disorder in which caretakers purposely harm children and then bask in the attention and sympathy.

Lacey Spears, of Scottsville, Kentucky, has pleaded not guilty to charges of depraved murder and manslaughter in the January death of her son, Garnett-Paul Spears, whose sodium levels rose to an extremely dangerous level with no medical explanation.

As Spears moved around the country — Alabama, Florida and eventually New York — she kept friends updated on her son’s frequent hospitalizations with photos and musings on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and a blog.

“My sweet angel is in the hospital for the 23rd time,” she tweeted in 2009. A series of reports on the case by The Journal News, which covers the New York suburbs, found she kept it up right through her son’s death, with 28 posts in the last 11 days of Garnett’s life, including, “Garnett the great journeyed onward today at 10:20 a.m.”

Dr. Marc Feldman, a psychiatrist and forensic consultant in Birmingham, Alabama, who wrote the book “Playing Sick,” said he believes the Internet has contributed to the number of Munchausen by proxy cases, estimated from one study to be more than 600 a year in the U.S.

In a case exposed in 2011 in Great Britain, a childless 21-year-old woman joined an Internet forum for parents, claiming to have five children and chronicling her nonexistent baby’s battle with celiac disease and bacterial meningitis. Doctors at Seattle Children’s Hospital found three cases of mothers who falsely blogged that their children were near death and were rewarded with support.

“There are instantly accessible and endlessly supportive groups out there that will pray with you and cry with you if you purport your child to be ill,” Feldman said.

Mark Sirkin, director of the mental health counseling program at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, said that with social media, “you can expand your circle from the people you know to strangers who you’ve never met — you’re just getting that much more attention.”

While prosecutors and defense attorneys in the Spears case have yet to mention Munchausen in court papers or hearings, experts say the disorder could play a role because Spears fits the pattern of caregivers who invent, exaggerate or cause a health problem in someone in their care and then seek to portray themselves as a hero.

Spears, who was living in suburban New York when her son died, is accused of administering sodium through a feeding tube he had in his stomach while he was hospitalized at Westchester Medical Center. Prosecutors say she did it in the bathroom, where there were no surveillance cameras.

“This mother was intentionally feeding her child salt at toxic levels,” Westchester County prosecutor Doreen Lloyd said at Spears’ arraignment. She also alleged that Spears had done Internet research on the effects of sodium and that Spears had tried to dispose of a bag tainted with sodium by asking a friend to “get rid of it and don’t tell anybody.”

According to court documents, Spears told police she used only “a pinch of salt” for flavor when feeding her son fruits and vegetables through his tube.

Spears said the feeding tube was necessary because Garnett couldn’t keep food down. Some friends told The Journal News they saw no sign of that. They were also confused by her claims that Garnett’s father was killed in a car accident. A man who says he’s the father lives in Alabama.

Her attorney Stephen Riebling said last week that the defense would focus “on the relevant facts, not fiction.”

Spears’ lawyers won’t comment on whether a psychiatric defense is planned.

But by using a “depraved murder” charge, the district attorney seems to be taking a disorder like Munchausen into consideration.

The charge alleges “extreme recklessness” and “depraved indifference to human life” rather than an intentional killing, so prosecutors don’t have to prove that Spears meant to kill her son.

Feldman said it’s difficult for jurors to believe a mother would purposely hurt her child just to get attention.

“These mothers tend to be psychopathic,” he said. “They don’t experience guilt and they lack empathy.”

Louisa Lasher, an Atlanta-area consultant in child abuse cases, said parents who have the syndrome “do not love children in the way that most people do.”

Munchausen by proxy has been suspected in several court cases over the years. In 1979, a California woman was convicted of murder for slowly poisoning one child; the case was cracked when a second baby came down with similar symptoms. In 2010, a Tennessee woman pleaded guilty but mentally ill to charges she injected saltwater into her infant son’s feeding tube. A woman in Minnesota is accused of smothering her son; she said she wanted more attention from doctors.

Most cases rarely end in death because the child “is the goose that lays the golden egg for somebody who’s so needy of attention,” Sirkin said. “It would defeat the purpose to kill the child.” Often when a death occurs, it’s because of a miscalculation, Feldman said.

As for treatment, Sirkin said long-term psychotherapy is required.

“It’s not like a snake phobia where you can take somebody through some behavioral training and they’ll be over it,” he said. “This is a personality type that takes years in the making, and I think it probably involves psychotherapeutic treatment that would also take years.”

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Experts: Social Media Can Feed Munchausen by Proxy – ABC News

Associated Press

Experts say the case of a mother accused of poisoning her 5-year-old son to death with salt appears be an example of how social media feeds into Munchausen by proxy, a disorder in which caretakers purposely harm children and then bask in the attention and sympathy.

Lacey Spears, of Scottsville, Kentucky, has pleaded not guilty to charges of depraved murder and manslaughter in the January death of her son, Garnett-Paul Spears, whose sodium levels rose to an extremely dangerous level with no medical explanation.

As Spears moved around the country — Alabama, Florida and eventually New York — she kept friends updated on her son’s frequent hospitalizations with photos and musings on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and a blog.

“My sweet angel is in the hospital for the 23rd time,” she tweeted in 2009. A series of reports on the case by The Journal News, which covers the New York suburbs, found she kept it up right through her son’s death, with 28 posts in the last 11 days of Garnett’s life, including, “Garnett the great journeyed onward today at 10:20 a.m.”

Dr. Marc Feldman, a psychiatrist and forensic consultant in Birmingham, Alabama, who wrote the book “Playing Sick,” said he believes the Internet has contributed to the number of Munchausen by proxy cases, estimated from one study to be more than 600 a year in the U.S.

In a case exposed in 2011 in Great Britain, a childless 21-year-old woman joined an Internet forum for parents, claiming to have five children and chronicling her nonexistent baby’s battle with celiac disease and bacterial meningitis. Doctors at Seattle Children’s Hospital found three cases of mothers who falsely blogged that their children were near death and were rewarded with support.

“There are instantly accessible and endlessly supportive groups out there that will pray with you and cry with you if you purport your child to be ill,” Feldman said.

Mark Sirkin, director of the mental health counseling program at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, said that with social media, “you can expand your circle from the people you know to strangers who you’ve never met — you’re just getting that much more attention.”

While prosecutors and defense attorneys in the Spears case have yet to mention Munchausen in court papers or hearings, experts say the disorder could play a role because Spears fits the pattern of caregivers who invent, exaggerate or cause a health problem in someone in their care and then seek to portray themselves as a hero.

Spears, who was living in suburban New York when her son died, is accused of administering sodium through a feeding tube he had in his stomach while he was hospitalized at Westchester Medical Center. Prosecutors say she did it in the bathroom, where there were no surveillance cameras.

“This mother was intentionally feeding her child salt at toxic levels,” Westchester County prosecutor Doreen Lloyd said at Spears’ arraignment. She also alleged that Spears had done Internet research on the effects of sodium and that Spears had tried to dispose of a bag tainted with sodium by asking a friend to “get rid of it and don’t tell anybody.”

According to court documents, Spears told police she used only “a pinch of salt” for flavor when feeding her son fruits and vegetables through his tube.

Spears said the feeding tube was necessary because Garnett couldn’t keep food down. Some friends told The Journal News they saw no sign of that. They were also confused by her claims that Garnett’s father was killed in a car accident. A man who says he’s the father lives in Alabama.

Her attorney Stephen Riebling said last week that the defense would focus “on the relevant facts, not fiction.”

Spears’ lawyers won’t comment on whether a psychiatric defense is planned.

But by using a “depraved murder” charge, the district attorney seems to be taking a disorder like Munchausen into consideration.

The charge alleges “extreme recklessness” and “depraved indifference to human life” rather than an intentional killing, so prosecutors don’t have to prove that Spears meant to kill her son.

Feldman said it’s difficult for jurors to believe a mother would purposely hurt her child just to get attention.

“These mothers tend to be psychopathic,” he said. “They don’t experience guilt and they lack empathy.”

Louisa Lasher, an Atlanta-area consultant in child abuse cases, said parents who have the syndrome “do not love children in the way that most people do.”

Munchausen by proxy has been suspected in several court cases over the years. In 1979, a California woman was convicted of murder for slowly poisoning one child; the case was cracked when a second baby came down with similar symptoms. In 2010, a Tennessee woman pleaded guilty but mentally ill to charges she injected saltwater into her infant son’s feeding tube. A woman in Minnesota is accused of smothering her son; she said she wanted more attention from doctors.

Most cases rarely end in death because the child “is the goose that lays the golden egg for somebody who’s so needy of attention,” Sirkin said. “It would defeat the purpose to kill the child.” Often when a death occurs, it’s because of a miscalculation, Feldman said.

As for treatment, Sirkin said long-term psychotherapy is required.

“It’s not like a snake phobia where you can take somebody through some behavioral training and they’ll be over it,” he said. “This is a personality type that takes years in the making, and I think it probably involves psychotherapeutic treatment that would also take years.”

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Putin's dangerous proxy war – Politico

Vladimir Putin has been playing a dangerous game in Eastern Ukraine. On Thursday, it backfired badly.

Ever since seizing Crimea earlier this year, the Russian president has been offering tacit – and sometimes more direct – support to pro-Russian separatist groups battling the Ukrainian government. Although Putin seems to have backed off the idea of a cross-border military invasion and has been trying, half-heartedly it appears, to disengage himself from the conflict, he’s yet to make a full break with the rebels.

After Thursday’s shoot-down of a Malaysian Airlines flight over rebel-held territory in Ukraine’s volatile east, killing 295 people, he may no longer have much choice in the matter.

If the rebels are responsible for the downing of Flight 17 (and from all appearances that seems to be the case), they have dealt Putin a grievous blow – one that will likely force him to cut ties with them or face even harsher economic and diplomatic censure. But whatever choice he makes, the fallout from this tragedy could reverberate for years to come. It provides an object lesson in the dangers of getting too cozy with insurgents who are neither under one’s control nor with whom one’s interests are firmly aligned.

That lesson extends to Washington. For many months, armchair military strategists on Capitol Hill and elsewhere have harshly criticized President Obama for refusing to arm the motley groups of rebels in the Syrian civil war. In recent weeks Obama has begun to ramp up moves in that direction. But the blowback from Putin’s support of the separatists in Ukraine is a reminder that such a policy brings with it real downsides.

While few of those calling for U.S. aid have been pushing for surface-to-air-missiles to be sent to the Syrian rebels, the larger point holds. Insurgents who are armed with U.S. weapons but who are not governed by U.S. law or American military chains of command can do what they like; they could easily sell them to other, more extreme groups or, even worse, use them to commit human rights atrocities. Both the death squads in Latin America supported by U.S. aid in the 1980s and more directly, the Sabra and Shatilla massacre in Beirut by Christian groups allied with Israel are tragic examples of the latter. Or, as was the case with American support for the Afghan mujahedin during the 1980s, the freedom fighters of today could one day in the future turn their attention—and their guns—against America.

To be sure, every situation was different, but well before the downing of Flight 17, Putin had been facing plenty of fallout from his effort to destabilize Ukraine. On Wednesday, the United States imposed a new set of sanctions on Russia that targeted some of the country’s major banks, defense firms and key energy companies, including the country’s largest oil firm, Rosneft. The European Union followed suit by suspending new investment in Russia by the European Investment Bank and seeking to stop loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Although these were a tougher set of sanctions than those already in place, the impact was unlikely to be dramatic, but that has never been the intention of sanctions. Instead, they were geared toward increasing international pressure on Putin. And guess what: It’s worked. The combination of sanctions, regional instability and Russia’s isolation helped to scare away foreign investment and spurred major capital flight from the country. Already this year there has been $75 billion in capital outflows, more than twice the amount in 2013. With this latest incident, earlier predictions of $100 billion for the year seem low. Russia is already headed toward recession and the downturn that began earlier this year will likely only get worse.

Diplomatically, Russia is more isolated than ever, and its efforts to bring Ukraine back into the Russian orbit have failed spectacularly. The new Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, has signed the association agreement with the EU that was at the root of the initial protests in Kiev that sparked the current crisis. And the continued fighting in Eastern Ukraine—and Putin’s apparent culpability in encouraging the rebels—was further driving Ukraine into the arms of the West.

So even before today’s disaster, Putin’s ill-considered decision to wrap himself in the mantle of Russian nationalism was taking a toll.

The rebels in Eastern Ukraine were at the heart of his problem. On the one hand, Putin was unable—or unwilling—to control the separatists as they ratcheted up the violence with the downing of Ukrainian military aircraft. On the other hand, as he stayed quiet over Kiev’s military gains against the rebels, he was criticized by Russian nationalists for failing to fully offer his support.

That was then. Now Putin’s ability to control events has likely been taken away from him—and he faces greater challenges down the road. If he continues to support the rebels he will undoubtedly face further sanctions (any reluctance on the part of the EU to tighten the screws on Putin likely ended today). The smarter choice for Putin would be to abandon the separatists and endure the humiliation and domestic backlash from backing down—though considering the authoritarian nature of his regime it’s one he can certainly weather. But even if he takes the safer route, Putin’s ability to bully his neighbors is going to be severely constrained—and one has to believe he will be gun-shy about supporting the next pro-Russian separatist group looking for his support. Beyond that, any hope of a softening of relations with the West has likely disappeared for the near term.

Having boosted and actively supported the rebels, Putin was unable to control the monster he created. What seemed like a cheap and easy way for Russia to exert influence in Ukraine has boomeranged against him. Proxy warriors—and their powerful backers—around the world, beware.

This is not to say that every country—including the United States—should refuse to support other nations or even insurgent groups. One could even argue that U.S. backing for the Syrian rebels today, as the battle lines have stabilized, is less dangerous than it would have been three years ago when the situation was more fluid.

But Obama must tread with care and take into account the potential unforeseen consequences to U.S. national security interests of getting involved in someone else’s fight. Even U.S. engagement from afar can blow up in your back yard. If you don’t believe me, just ask Vladimir Putin.

Michael Cohen is a fellow at the Century Foundation.

Michael Cohen is a fellow at the Century Foundation.

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UPDATE 2-Two proxy firms give boost to activist slate at miner Cliffs – Reuters

(Adds details on advisory firms’ recommendations)

(Reuters) – Casablanca Capital LP said two
independent proxy advisory firms have recommended shareholders
of Cliffs Natural Resources Inc vote in favor of the
hedge fund’s bid to replace some of the members of the miner’s
board of directors.

Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis &
Co have issued strong recommendations in support of Casablanca’s
campaign for board changes, the New York-based hedge fund said
in a statement late on Wednesday.

ISS is the largest proxy advisor for institutional
investors.

On Thursday, Cliffs said that Egan-Jones Proxy Services, a
smaller independent proxy advisory firm, had recommended that
shareholders vote for all of Cliffs’ director nominees.

Cliffs, a Cleveland-based iron ore and metallurgical coal
producer, is locked in a proxy battle with Casablanca, which
owns 5.2 percent of Cliffs’ stock and accuses the company of
destroying shareholder value.

Casablanca wants to replace Cliffs’ chief executive officer
with its own nominee and six of the 11 board members, a
majority, with its candidates.

Cliffs said in a statement that ISS and Glass Lewis were
only recommending four of Casablanca’s six nominees. Reuters was
not immediately able to obtain a copy of the proxy firms’
reports.

Since shareholders can only vote for one side’s slate, and
Casablanca could vote its entire stake for the other two
nominees, Cliffs said Casablanca is likely to be able to elect a
majority to the board if shareholders follow the ISS and Glass
Lewis recommendations.

Cliffs offered Casablanca a third of the seats on its board
in July in an attempt to settle what it described as a “costly
and distracting” proxy contest.

Cliffs shareholders are set to vote on board appointments at
the company’s annual meeting on July 29.

(Reporting by Supriya Kurane in Bangalore and Nicole Mordant in
Vancouver; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier and Paul Simao)

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