April 21st, 2008
05:38 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: Disturbing, strange and celebratory

Erica Hill
360° Correspondent

I like to think I am well-informed, but at least once a day, I am reminded I have so much to learn. I know there is terrible poverty and hunger in this world; I know desperate parents sometimes make decisions that seem unthinkable and cruel to an outsider, but to them these choices feel like the only solution. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to have to make those decisions – to sell your children or offer them up as slaves because this seems like the only way to ensure those children will eat. I know how fortunate I am to have a home and to have plenty to eat. Yet, it still boggles the mind when I hear about people who would knowingly send their children into hell.

Case in point, the family of a 9-year-old boy sent to a religious school, where he was beaten, nearly starved and forced to beg for hours every day. Somehow, this brave little boy had the courage to escape from the school twice, and with help from an aid organization, made his way home.

His parents knew the horrors their son endured – cold sleepless nights in a crowded, damp room with no blanket and little more than a scummy t-shirt on his body, two hours of study for more than four times that amount spent begging on the streets, beatings with an electrical cord until his skin would split and bleed. After all this, after his son’s first-hand account of the agony, the father promised the boy’s teacher – the man who created this hell disguised as a school – two more of his sons.

It is a gripping, sad, tale that is a reality for far too many people in this world.
I couldn’t believe my eyes this morning when I picked up the paper to find the words “Quest for Test Tube Meat.’ I immediately went searching for the story – PETA offering a million bucks to the “first person to come up with a method to produce commercially viable quantities of in vitro meat at competitive prices by 2012.”

Who wants to eat test tube meat? Some of the real stuff can be scary enough these days. Here’s an idea, if you’re not into eating meat: why not fill up on other foods like vegetables, fruit, grains or even tofu? Personally, although I do eat meat, I also love a good veggie burger… maybe PETA should try that first.

The craziest part in all this is that PETA would even be endorsing meat as food – I thought part of the organization’s platform is that no animals should be food. Even if the meat comes from a Petri dish, isn’t it still animal flesh?

Whatever it is, I am comfortable telling you today I will not be eating it.

I’ve saved the best for last today – Danica Patrick won the Honda Indy 300 yesterday in Japan! She’ll forever be known as the first woman to win a major auto race. A huge accomplishment for her, but also a huge relief – no more questions about when she’ll (finally) win.

I’m not sure why I’m such a Danica Patrick fan… I’m not exactly a huge racing fan. Yes, I did attend the Indy 500 once and had a blast, but that’s not the only reason. Maybe it’s because I can’t help but route for my fellow women. Maybe it’s because I read once she did Bikram yoga and there was a time – when I had time! – that I was also a Bikram devotee. Maybe it’s because I wanted her to stick it to all the haters and doubters who said she couldn’t cut it on the track, or who wondered if she was really just a pretty face.

Today, the most important outcome is simply that she won – and I couldn’t be happier for her.



Filed under: Erica Hill
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Guatemala Gringo


    IF Erica were a "typical American", she wouldn't even be bringing up this kind of a story, much less care about it. If Erica can find these countries such as Senegal or Belize or Burma/Myanmar on a map, she's not a "typical American" who can't tell Guatemala from Guacamole.

    Surely kids who have to dumpster dive or work in sweatshops for a living deserve better. OR is that just part of the reality of living in a poor country, no need to even bring it up?

    I agree that money doesn't buy happiness. However, poverty doesn't buy happiness either.

    April 22, 2008 at 9:23 pm |
  2. Janna

    If you really gave it some thought, I'm sure you'd realize that there are other reasons for being a vegetarian than not being into meat. Rainforests have been destoyed to make way for breeding cattle for food. The environment is a big reason for going veggie as is health. Of course, I'm hoping that the test tube meat will be healthier than the real deal and be satisfying for those who miss it but are adhering to the diets given by doctors. Even those animal lovers who find real meat a bit offensive may consider eating a form of it that is deemed to be created without death.

    April 22, 2008 at 8:49 pm |
  3. Taj

    Erica, more I read your blogs more I am convinced that you are not exposed to or have a good knowledge of other cultures & their way of life. Your opinions are very biased and very disappointing. A typical American, plenty to eat, have 6 cars, have a beautiful house, a have boat, travel around the world for vacation, etc, etc. This is not where everybody finds happiness. This is a typical American. In many other cultures people find peace & happiness in a simple way of life, having just enough to eat, walking & visiting friends and dear ones in the same town, growing vegetables & fruits in their garden and being with the loved ones. You have a lot to learn. Please go & live for a while in other parts of the world. Your mind & thinking has to change to be happy there. I know some child labourers are very successful business people. They start young & by 15 they are very practical & smart. They contribute to their family enarmously, do their duty & are happy. That's all that matters. That is where they find their peace & happiness.

    April 22, 2008 at 12:42 pm |
  4. michelle: Ont,Canada


    Thank your for bringing attention to the pilght of children who are suffering . Ican't imagine a parent doing this to thier own child.
    Is this thier idea of "tough love"? I Also regarding the test tube meat
    that is disgusting and what in the world are they thinking?

    April 22, 2008 at 10:09 am |
  5. EJ - Ohio

    Well if its marketed as "test tube meat" I don't think it will catch on. That doesn't lead to nice images.

    They should use the same adjectives that manufacturers give the other food that they mess with or re-engineer in some way.

    "Organic meat" or "Fresh alternative meat" or even "The New Meat"

    April 21, 2008 at 11:25 pm |
  6. Alex, Calgary, Canada

    Re: Test tube meat. Although I have issues with some of PETA's tactics (I used to work for a newspaper have seen first-hand some of the stunts they've pulled to get our attention), believe it or not, though the idea of test-tube meat might make some people a bit antsy, it might be a direction we may have to look at in the future. If food prices continue going up, and if global warming (or cooling - I'm in western Canada where we're in the dead of winter right now at a time when we should be enjoying April Showers) makes it more difficult to raise viable livestock, some sort of alternative might be necessary, just like people are trying to figure out ways to grow viable crops without Mother Nature's crapshoot. I never thought I'd give PETA a second thought, but on this one I'm actually interested to see what happens. Problem is I have virtually zero faith in industry coming up with a solution that won't cause more problems than it attempts to solve. Ask me again in 2012, I guess.

    April 21, 2008 at 9:31 pm |
  7. Danielle M


    Thank you for blogging about this story. I was near tears to read about these type of atrocities. I love children and as a parent of course you'd do anything to protect them. I think that these stories are under reported.

    I think the "west" needs to hear more of life is like elsewhere. There are so many children that don't have have the opportunity to be kids and we certainly owe it to them to acknowledge what they have been through and see what we can do to help. We need to hear more of these type of stories despite what gets good ratings or not.

    Thank You Erica.

    Danielle M – Toronto, ON

    April 21, 2008 at 8:45 pm |
  8. Jennifer - Michigan

    Hi Erica,
    Man, what a sad story about the little boy. What a life, I couldn't imagine the suffering. Makes our problems seem so small for sure! And to think his parents are OK with this. His little heart must be broken thinking who will care for him? This world can be so cruel for humans and animals alike. We are so blessed and lucky. Have a good night.

    April 21, 2008 at 8:44 pm |
  9. Eugenia

    The stories on children being abused tear at my heart always. I wish there was a way to protect them all. The children that are abused because of being connected with a religious group is even more distressing because the parents are being protected within those religious walls and feel it's ok. Just like all the priests that have gotten away with hurting children. If you did a survey on if you had been physically or mentally abused when you were a child, the percentage of people that had been – would be shocking.

    I wonder what the people would say about PETA 100 years ago.

    San Francisco, Ca

    April 21, 2008 at 8:37 pm |
  10. Annie Kate


    I'm with you – test tube meat does not sound like anything I would want to eat either. I would be wondering what all went into it and which of the ingredients will turn out to be bad for us.

    The story about the little boy is so sad. It makes me thankful for what I have and for the fact that while I'm not rich I' m also not so poor I would ever have to consider bartering my children away. I just do not understand how a teacher of religion can treat his students in this way and still be a religious teacher – his actions seem to be the very opposite of what a religion would teach.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 21, 2008 at 8:32 pm |
  11. Kathy, Chicago

    I hate to see stories about children, also. I still get upset when I remember 360's report about child prostitution. I think more should be done to educate people about birth control. Some people just don't need to have children, The test tube meat just sounds gross. I respect those who don't eat meat, but I do. and a big Go Girl! for Danica Patrick. I remember her interview on Lettermen after her first big win! Have a great night-see ya on the web cam.

    April 21, 2008 at 7:48 pm |
  12. Tammy

    My niece is coming to stay for a week this summer, and after reading this story I feel almost guilty for planning this fairy princess extravaganza while she's down hanging with me. Our kids in this nation are so blessed. We don't realize how much until we see stories like this. As a parent in that horrific situation, who knows what I would do?

    As for in vitro meat, how much worse can it be than hormone injected, non-organically fed meat we consume now? I'm thinking vegetarian is the safest bet for everyone anyway. I'm much healthier when I don't eat meat. And my blood work proves it.

    All I have to say for Danica Patrick is that she lived out the dream of this race fan yesterday. I have watched all forms of racing since I was a little girl with my Dad, I have always thought racing would be the coolest thing to do, and she proved once and for all women can hang tough with the best of them. That is just so awesome!!!

    April 21, 2008 at 6:53 pm |
  13. Ruby Coria, LA., CA.

    Erica, and to think there is more story's like that of 9 yr. old and worst..,should there be a limit to having children?, prevention sounds better?,humm. I watch the Indy racing only because I want to see what other are so hyped about?, now I have more of a reason to watch. Ms. Patrick!. see u tonight.

    April 21, 2008 at 6:49 pm |
  14. Lilibeth

    The story of the little boy from Senegal is heart-wrenching, indeed. I give to humanitarian organizations on a frequent basis to help kids like Coli, and I know this is not enough. I’d like to know what the UN and other international organizations are doing. I’m not saying that they should solve all of the world’s problems, but I’m curious to know what they’ve done lately. Can 360 do a story on the UN, its history, its mission, its accomplishments, its challenges, its plans for the future, and frankly, I’d like to know who’s keeping them honest. The dire conditions of these poorest-of-the-poor countries have been going on for decades...why isn’t more being done to help them?

    Test tube meat...that just sounds bizarre. I’m now confused what PETA’s mission is. I also thought that their whole thing is that no animals should be eaten. I eat meat, although, if I have to, I can give it up. I so love vegetables!

    Danica Patrick’s win...wasn’t that amazing? My husband actually is the auto racing fan...he follows the sport religiously. He, too, was proud of her. She is capable as well as beautiful!

    Erica, I’m not sure I’ll be blogging in the next few days...as I’ll be travelling. I’ll try though.

    See you tonight!

    Edmonds, Washington

    April 21, 2008 at 6:22 pm |
  15. Michael, NC

    I am currently enrolled in a sociology class where we often get off topic and discuss similar stories of slavery, poverty, starvation, things that shouldn't be happening in our beautiful world. I took six weeks off class to visit South Africa and Nicaragua. To travel those places with nothing other than a video camera and to see how little these people have-but they still go on. Upon returning, a sense of guilt kicks you in the gut.
    It is one of the reasons I wish to be a news reporter. And as gay or whatever it sounds-Anderson has been a HUGE influence on me with his book, outstanding coverage, and amazing team at AC360.
    I know why I like Danica Patrik! And it doesn't hurt that she is a pioneer for women. She is almost as influential as THE Erica Hill.

    April 21, 2008 at 6:09 pm |
  16. Betty Ann

    Hi Erica!
    Yes, when I hear stories about this kind of child abuse I wonder why some people think they deserve children at all. This is such a dispicable story.
    I used to think PETA made some good points (that was a long time ago). Now, I just think they are a radical group who will stop at nothing but the absurd. In the profound words of Forest Gump," That 's all I have to say about that."
    I too am a proud supporter of sisterhood in women! Danick Patrick rocks and so do you sister!
    Thanks for the report~

    April 21, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  17. liv

    Oh, Erica,
    this story about the boy is terrible. What the poor child has to go through. No child should ever suffer! Sometimes I think that humans are the worst species around – all the horrible things they did, do to other humans.
    I would not be able to put my child – or any other child through something so terrible.
    Sometimes I wish the humans would be redesigned to better.
    I know how much bad is happening to children in India, and other countries.
    People have children, love them, and some people have them, – and abuse them, hurt them, kill them. How they an live with themselves?

    I saw very poor people in Belize – while filming a documentary about carbon in forests – these people were happy, polite, modest, they live in one big room with dry toilet outside the house, they have to pump the water, but they are proud of reforesting the rainforest, for having chickens on the meadow, and little tiny pond where they fish, and little tiny garden for the whole small community.
    It was so touching to see them – then you think about what we have – how spoiled we are. After we came back, I did not go to store for a week, I could not touch the computer – I did not need it.....it was quite experience.

    thank you for touching all these important and interesting subjects.

    April 21, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  18. EJ - Ohio

    I read the story of the little boy over the weekend. Very sad – and not surprising. The poorest & neediest people are always the most abused. I can't imagine the number of kids – especially in Africa – who have to live through situations like these. I do know many run away (and not back home if they were sent back previously).

    I think the family (or many families) is actually pretty brainwashed into thinking that offering up their sons will bring them paradise or good fortune. That's why its under the disguise of religious deeds - so the abusers can have an easier time justifying what they do to these children. I actually think some families don't know that this has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with abuse & power.

    April 21, 2008 at 5:49 pm |

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