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June 27, 2006

Major ISPs join forces to combat child pornography with image database

Top Internet Providers Hope to Combat Child Porn With Image Database
NEW YORK ­ Five leading online service providers will jointly build a database of child-pornography images and develop other tools to help network operators and law enforcement better prevent distribution of the images.

The companies pledged $1 million among them Tuesday to set up a technology coalition as part of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They aim to create the database by year's end, though many details remain unsettled.

The participating companies are Time Warner Inc.'s AOL (TWX), Yahoo Inc. (YHOO), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), EarthLink Inc. (ELINK) and United Online Inc. (UNTD), the company behind NetZero and Juno.

Ernie Allen, the chief executive of the missing children's center, noted that the Internet companies already possess many technologies to help protect users from threats such as viruses and e-mail "phishing" scams. "There's nothing more insidious and inappropriate" than child pornography, he said.

The announcement comes as the U.S. government is pressuring service providers to do more to help combat child pornography. Top law enforcement officials have told Internet companies they must retain customer records longer to help in such cases and have suggested seeking legislation to require it.

AOL chief counsel John Ryan said the coalition was partly a response to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales' April speech identifying increases in child-porn cases and chiding the Internet industry for not doing more about them.

The creation of the technology coalition does not directly address the preservation of records but could demonstrate the industry's willingness to cooperate.

Plans call for the missing children's center to collect known child-porn images and create a unique mathematical signature for each one based on a common formula. Each participating company would scan its users' images for matches.

AOL, for instance, plans to check e-mail attachments that are already being scanned for viruses. If child porn is detected, AOL would refer the case to the missing-children's center for further investigation, as service providers are required to do under federal law.

Each company will set its own procedures on how it uses the database, but executives say the partnership will let companies exchange their best ideas ­ ultimately developing tools for preventing child-porn distribution instead of simply catching violations.

"When we pool together all our collective know-how and technical tools, we hope to come up with something more comprehensive along the lines of preventative" measures, said Tim Cranton, Microsoft's director of Internet safety enforcement programs.

Ryan said that although AOL will initially focus on scanning e-mail attachments, the goal is to ultimately develop techniques for checking other distribution techniques as well, such as instant messaging or Web uploads.

Representatives will begin meeting next month to evaluate their technologies, determining, for instance, whether cropping an image would change its signature and hinder comparisons. Also to be discussed are ways to ensure that customers' privacy is protected. Authorities still would need subpoenas to get identifying information on violators.

The companies involved said they are talking with other service providers about joining. But companies that do not participate still are required by law to report any suspected child-porn images, and many already have their own techniques for monitoring and identifying them.

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June 13, 2006

WC06: Father John - "'Safe' Prostitution"

A great read from Father John's blog on 'Safe' Prostitution
The German government has made a solemn promise to condone only “safe prostitution” during this year's World Cup soccer tournament.

[...] The hypocrisy is appalling. Because it legalized prostitution in 2002, German officials now find themselves in a quandary. Until now they have been able to hide behind the talking points of sex industry advocates. Dressed in sharp ties and pretty pantsuits, they have learned to say with a straight face that its legalization is good for women as it defends their rights to: 1) the career of their choice, 2) legal recourse in the case of abuse, 3) social services including health benefits, unemployment, and retirement plans, and 4) safety from sexually transmitted diseases.

But as the market adjusts to new demands (the price of sex is less than a ticket to a soccer match), more people see the obvious ­ prostitutes, legal or illegal, are first and foremost a financial commodity in the hands of greedy men, “providers” and “consumers” alike.

Where are the real feminists when we need them?

Germany will continue to hide behind its efforts to stop “trafficking and forced prostitution.” They hope the rhetoric will take attention away from the 400,000 women currently registered by the government as sex industry workers. They fear the world might wonder in unison how many of these “workers” have freely selected prostitution as a career choice, how many of them feel protected by the law, safe from disease, and look forward to a happy retirement after a long and fruitful tenure. Weren't these the talking points?

Or are governments greedy too, even ones led by liberated women like Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel?

Today, I invite you to remember that not everyone will enjoy the World Cup. A new brand of "soccer moms" will be watching from the prisons of the "performance boxes" Germany officials continue to hail as safe and legal.

If that's "safety and legality," you can bet these women would happily trade them in for a bit of real "freedom" any day of the week.

False gods always take victims. Today in Germany, and many parts of the world, the gods of prostitution ­ money and pleasure ­ are claiming their corresponding victims: women enslaved by men, and men enslaved by their passions.

God bless, Father Jonathan

P.S. I'm a big soccer fan and you can bet I'll be watching. We can't let the presence of evil stamp out the very good things of life, sports being among them.
Amen, Father Jonathan, on all counts.

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June 12, 2006

WC06: "Hoping" for business

I'm not even going to bother with the rest of the article.

The wording of this one line gets me, for some reason: In Germany, a Building Debate:
COLOGNE, Germany -- At the Pascha, a 12-story building that advertises itself as Europe's biggest brothel, the working girls are preparing for what they hope will be a surge in business as more than a million soccer fans flock to Germany for the World Cup, which begins Friday.
Hope is incompatible with "the world's oldest profession".

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WC06: 40,000 trafficked prostitutes "overblown", source

Apparently, it's just a big misunderstanding, false alarm, etc.

AFP: German police say no rise in forced prostitution for World Cup.
[...] "Our unit which specialises in fighting procuring has noticed nothing special," a police spokesman in the southern city of Munich, where the tournament kicked off on Friday, told AFP.

The police chief in the northern port city of Hamburg, another one of 12 cities hosting the event, was quoted by news magazine Der Spiegel's website on Thursday as saying they had not noticed an increase in sex workers in general as a result of the World Cup either.

He said since Hamburg already has some 2,400 prostitutes, there was not much space on the market for newcomers hoping to profit from the world's biggest sporting event.

[...] [t]he head of the Berlin-based organisation "Ban Ying" for abused women said the figure of 40,000 was overblown.

"It is a rumour, a totally exaggerated figure," said Nivedita Prasad.

"Pimps have no reason to bring girls to Germany especially for the World Cup. It is not worth it financially for five weeks," she told AFP.

Prasad said the large number of police deployed for the event would discourage illegal immigrants from working as prostitutes.

"There is an enormous police presence, and women without the right documents would take a big risk to walk the streets. So I do not think that the World Cup will lead to an increase in forced prostitution.

"Anyway, with three matches a day, men will have less time for sex," she added. [...]
An unintentional gross misrepresentation of the facts, etc.

/sarcasm off

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WC06: Polaris Project - "Soccer With a Side of Slavery"

From the Washington Post: Soccer With a Side of Slavery.
By Katherine Chon and Derek Ellerman
Saturday, June 10, 2006; Page A19

"It is truly scandalous. People are talking about women, importing them to satisfy the base instincts of people associated with football. It is humiliating enough for me that football is linked with alcohol and violence. But this is worse. It is slaves that will come and be put into houses. Human beings are being talked about like cattle, and football is linked with that."

-- Raymond Domenech, coach of the French World Cup soccer team

As the 2006 World Cup games get underway in Germany, tourists and soccer fans are being joined at the various competition venues by denizens of an international world of crime where human beings are bought and sold for profit.

Human trafficking is the third-largest criminal industry in the world, after arms and drugs. While soccer fans anticipate the excitement of the games, many of us in the anti-trafficking movement are deeply troubled by the expected surge of sex trafficking in Germany to meet the demand for commercial sex associated with the World Cup. It is estimated that more than 40,000 women and children will be imported to Germany during the month-long competition to provide commercial sex in the "mega-brothels," "quickie shacks," other legalized venues and vast underground networks that exist in Germany.

The traffickers and those who benefit from sex trafficking promote an image of women freely choosing to be involved in prostitution, making huge amounts of money at it and in general having a great time. It is the "Pretty Woman" myth, which many apparently like to believe in order to justify their inaction or ignorance on the issue.
Read on...

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June 9, 2006

Report: U.S. taxpayers funding human trafficking the Middle East?

I highly recommend this article from the Chicago Tribune (via San Jose's Mercury News). I believe I have an older related article saved somewhere that I will try to look for and post if time permits.

U.S. taxpayers financed human trafficking, report says
[...] Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice unveiled this year's report by telling reporters that the United States and its allies "will stop at nothing to end the debasement of our fellow men and women."

Yet this year's report includes a special section on reforms the Defense Department instituted after an investigation prompted by "Pipeline to Peril," a series published by the Chicago Tribune in October that detailed human trafficking into Iraq for privatized U.S. military support operations.

Human brokers and subcontractors from Asia to the Middle East have worked in concert to import thousands of laborers into Iraq from impoverished countries, often employing fraud or coercion along the way, seizing workers' passports and charging recruitment "fees" that make it difficult for workers to escape employment in the war zone.

U.S. military leaders in Iraq have acknowledged confirming widespread abuses against such workers, who are brought to Iraq to do menial labor on U.S. bases for contractors and subcontractors. Those businesses ultimately receive their checks from the U.S. government. The abuses corroborated by military investigators included violations of U.S. human-trafficking laws.

In a section of the 2006 report titled "Department of Defense Responds to Labor Trafficking in Iraq," the State Department notes that Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, ordered sweeping changes in April for privatized military support operations.

The report also says the Defense Department "has responded swiftly with a number of measures to closely monitor the hiring and employment of foreign laborers."

John Miller, who heads the State Department's trafficking office and is responsible for the annual report, said it was the first time in the report's six-year history that it contained allegations that U.S. taxpayers had financed such abuses.

In an interview, Miller also suggested the Defense Department moved too slowly, saying, "All of this should have happened faster, ideally." But he praised the measures and pledged to press the State Department itself to adopt reforms similar to those instituted by the military.
It is important to note the DOD, spearheaded (I believe, as the article stated) by General Casey, DID in fact proceed to address these issues promptly.

You can read a little more about the report by clicking here, and scrolling down a little more than halfway until you find the heading, "DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (DOD) RESPONDS TO LABOR TRAFFICKING IN IRAQ".

There is more, read on...

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Sex-trafficking on the rise in Northern Ireland

Human trafficking 'a growing problem' in N.Ireland
Human trafficking is a growing problem in Northern Ireland according to a British Government minister.

Paul Goggins has told a House of Commons committee that there is some suggestion that foreign women are being used for the sex trade.

The seedier side of Belfast life can be seen at night as prostitutes ply their trade in the city centre.

But there is growing evidence that the sex trade in Northern Ireland is being fuelled by human trafficking.

Northern Ireland Office minister Paul Goggins has told the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs committee that the issue of immigration crime - so-called people trafficking - has become a more pressing problem.

He said there is an increase in female foreign nationals working as prostitutes and that there are a greater number of brothels operating in Belfast.

But the minister says the problem is that often the women involved often say that they are doing it voluntarily and are not being forced into it.

The police has said that it has made inquiries into the problem of people trafficking.
Read the rest of the article here.

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FL-USA: Ukrainian woman allegedly enslaves, prostitutes Russian woman

Ukrainian Accused of Forcing Russian Woman Into Prostitution
ORLANDO, FL (AP) -- A woman has been arrested in Orlando for allegedly harboring an illegal alien who she is accused of enslaving, beating and forcing into prostitution. US Magistrate Karla Spaulding has ordered Yelena Aleksandrovna Telichenko held without bail until a hearing next week.

Telichenko was ordered deported by an immigration judge last year. She was arrested only on charges she harbored an illegal alien. A 24-year-old woman who says Telichenko forced her to sleep with men to pay for rent and food refused to file a report.

According to an affidavit, Telichenko at one point offered the Russian woman to a man who introduced them to a pimp. The victim could be deported as well, but authorities say she may be eligible for a special visa for victims of human trafficking.
I certainly hope and pray the Russian woman is granted a visa.

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June 6, 2006

Israel responds to critics, breaks up transnational trafficking ring

From the Jerusalem Post: 3 arrested in int'l prostitution ring

On a day when Israel faced stiff criticism by the United States for not taking a tough enough stance against the trafficking of women, Tel Aviv District Police revealed Tuesday that three suspects had been arrested earlier in the morning after allegedly helping to operate a prostitution ring in which Israeli women were send to work as prostitutes in Canada.

Over the course of two months of investigation, police gathered evidence against three residents of Ariel; 40-year-olds Arkady Kazner and Igor Vieman and 29-year-old Anna Kortayev.

The investigation began after police noticed an advertisement in Russian-language newspapers published in Israel that solicited young women to work as escorts in Canada. The advertisement promised would-be employees a monthly salary of $10,000, as well as subsidized plane tickets and even passports to young women who didn't have one.

Curious to see what was behind the enticing offer, police enlisted the use of a female undercover officer who contacted the number listed on the advertisement and posed as a prospective call girl.

The officer met with the suspects a number of times in anticipation of the trip to Canada, and the suspects provided her, as promised, with both a passport and a plane ticket.

The investigation indicated that the suspects sent dozens of young women overseas who worked as call girls in brothels and clubs in Canada. Police suspect that many young women were asked to pose naked for photographs, which were then allegedly sent to sources in Canada, who would review the pictures and select young women for the job. Police sources said that some of the women may not have been aware that they were being sent to work in prostitution.

After a large amount of evidence was gathered against the three, police decided to begin the overt stage of investigation. In a morning raid on suspects' houses in Ariel, the three were arrested and materials that police said implicated the suspects in the charges against them was found in their possession. On Tuesday afternoon, the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court extended the remands of Kazner and Vieman by five days. Kortayev's remand was extended by two days.

Police said that more arrests were likely to follow - and emphasized that the investigation was not restricted to Israel. Throughout the investigation, Israeli detectives worked together with authorities in both the United States and in Canada. Arrests overseas were also likely to occur as the investigation progresses.

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