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Thursday, March 17, 2005

SAN ANGELO, Texas -- Opal Petty, who won a landmark law suit against the state after she was held against her will in mental insitutions for 51 years, has died. She was 86.

Ms. Petty died March 10 in a San Angelo hospital.

She was 16 when her family committed her to a state hospital in 1984. While state officials say she has been diagnozed with schizophrenia, her attorneys and a witness in the law suit said she had briefly suffered from a psychotic depression but was never schizophrenic.

Dr. Jeff Nelson, a psychiatrist, said Ms.Petty's psychotic symptoms quickly subsided and she should have been released. But she remained institutionalized until she was placed in a foster home in 1985.

In her lawsuit, Ms. Petty said she suffered irreperable harm by being held in a "prison like environment" for so many years. Nelson said Ms. Petty suffered from "institutional syndrome" that left her with a withdrawn personality.

Jurors in 1989 found the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation negligent and awarded her $505,000. She ultimately received about %350,000 after the award was reduced in accordance with a state law limiting damages in lawsuits caused by the actions of state employees.

"What a life she lost because of what the state did to her", said Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, who represented Ms. Petty. "She lost having a family; she lost having relationships and went through that terrible process of institutionalization."

After she was released, Ms. Petty lived near relatives in the San Angelo area for nearly 20 years, using part of her award money to buy a bungalow. She worked at a workshop for people with mental retardation.

The rest of the money from the award covered her health care expenses. Harrington said. She also went to Disneyland.

During her years of institutionalization, Ms.Petty bought six dolls with the token wages she earned. She will be buried with the dolls, which were like the children she never had, said Linda Kauffman, the wife of Ms. Petty's nephew, Clint Denson.

"She changed our lives much more for the better",Kauffman said. "She changed the system,because of her case and the class action."

(abstracted from CHICTRIB/Associated Press)


Long after his retirement from boxing, Muhammad Ali still packs a punch.

The latest honor for the former world heavyweight champion is Germany's OTTO HAHN freedom medal. Ali will receive the award for his work in civil rights in America and his worldwide efforts as United Nations peace ambassador.

Other winners is named after a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, include Mikhail Gorbachev, Yehudi Menuhim and Simon Wiesenthal.

The German Society for the United Nations said Ali will be given the medail Dec. 17 and recognized his ability to deal with Parkinson's disease that "has been unable to halt him in his commitment to society."

(abstracted from SUNTIMES/QuickHits by: Elliott Harris)


SINGAPORE -- The drinks aren't the only things ice cold at the Eski Bar, a new nightspot in tropical Singapore. The room temperature is so chilly that staff wear heavy coats and ski caps, and patrons get a 10 percent discount if they show up in winter wear.

The bar contains decorated, industrial strength freezer, with the mercury ranging from 28 degrees Fahrenheit to just above zero. The goal is to attract thirsty clientele who need a break from the round the clock sweltering Southeast Asian heat.

So far, the gimmick is working. The director of Eski Bar, which officially opened this month near Singapore's Chinatown district, plan to open another one, larger outlet next month.

The decor features ceiling and wall lights shaped like melting ice cubes, as well as a transparent plastic curtain at the entrance to keep out the heat. Beer and white spirits such as vodka are served ice cold, and one cocktail is called Sleeping Polar Bear.

(abstracted from SUNTIMES/Associated Press)
posted by infraternam meam @ 3:37 AM  
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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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