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The witching hour

AT CRESTON ACADEMY in the Bronx, around 50 students between the ages of 11 and 14 are dancing in sync to salsa music. “Do the Suzy Q,” yells their instructor. “Now the rumba!” Elsewhere in the building children are acting in plays, dribbling basketballs and learning how to cook. In this mostly Hispanic neighbourhood known for gangs and poverty, over 200 students are participating in free after-school activities provided by Good Shepherd Services, a charity that helps vulnerable youths in the Bronx and Brooklyn. “We’re having fun,” says Samira, a “Salsa Scholar” on break from the cha cha.

By staying in school until after 5pm, these children are also staying out of trouble. Violent crime by or against young people peaks between 3pm and 4pm on school days, according to national FBI statistics. By 10pm, when adults commit most crimes, young people are half as deviant as they are at 3pm. Nearly a fifth of all crimes involving young people take place between 3pm and 7pm on weekdays.

Cities nervous about juvenile crime often introduce a mandatory curfew to keep kids off the street between 10pm and 6am. A new juvenile curfew in Paulsboro, New Jersey, punishes violators with fines of up to $1,000. Baltimore introduced one of the strictest curfews last year. Yet there is little evidence that curfews reduce crime. In Denver, Colorado, for example,…Continue reading


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Depraved Hearts?

Pem Davidson Buck teaches anthropology and sociology at the Elizabethtown Community and Technical College in Kentucky.

Once upon a time police, they said, were a child’s best friend; the friendly cop on the corner with the big belly and the funny hat …



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Germany Wins the Title of ‘Bordello of Europe': Why Doesn’t Angela Merkel Care?

In 2002, Germany decriminalized prostitution, reportedly due to pressure by the sex trade lobby and a few brothel managers who petitioned the government to develop safety standards and reduce the stigma and violence found in the sex trade. This law effectively rendered the prostitution industry a legitimate business. Today, this experiment is failing. Violence, abuse and trauma have increased for prostituted women in Germany. Some 400,000 women are now in prostitution, the vast majority poor women from abroad, with a linked exponential spike in sex trafficking. Alarmed by this state of affairs, prominent German trauma experts and psychologists signed a petition in December 2014, calling on their government to repeal its decriminalization law as a preventive measure against sexual violence and trauma. Below is an interview with Dr. Ingeborg Kraus, who initiated the petition.

Q: The media has recently labeled Germany the “Bordello of Europe” when describing countrywide mega-brothels. Are these a product of the decriminalization of prostitution in Germany?

Dr. Ingeborg Kraus: Yes. The 2002 law is the most liberal prostitution law in the world in that it eliminates any kind of regulation. The law renders prostitution “a job like any other job” and calls the women “sex workers.” This was supposed to make the industry safer and less exploitative, but it hasn’t worked. Even the Bundeskriminalamt [German federal police] reported that the sex trade and related human trafficking has become more organized and aggressive as a result.

Q: What is the reality for prostituted women?

IK: Today, approximately 90 percent of prostituted women in Germany come from the poorest European countries, especially Bulgaria and Romania. Most of these women don’t speak German and don’t know their rights. The reality looks like this: For its opening weekend, the Pussyclub brothel chain in Stuttgart, offered beer, bratwurst and an unlimited number of women for a flat rate of 69 Euros. Close to two thousand sex buyers were expected that night. The women, mainly Romanian, broke down crying realizing they would have to cope with so many men. Some brothels now have menus.

Q: What is a “brothel menu”?

IK: Since the law destroyed any questioning of the harm in men buying women for sex, the acts are becoming increasingly dangerous, violent and degrading. Buyers pick from a long list of sexual acts, most of which could easily be defined as torture. They are too graphic to describe here, but for example you can order a “sandwich” (two men and a woman), “blood sports” (involving cutting the woman) or myriad “à la carte” selections involving urination, ejaculation, defecation or worse inflicted on women. The brothels have “gang-bang” floors if a man wants to bring his friends and nudist floors where all women wear are stiletto heels. Even Ellen Templin, a well-known dominatrix and brothel owner in Berlin, says that before the 2002 law she sold sexual services to men, but since the law, she has to sell sexual violence. These acts cause extremely deep, enduring and traumatizing harm to the women.

Q: How did you get involved in this field?

IK: For many years, I worked as a psychologist specialized in trauma with victims of war rape in Bosnia. The goal of sexual violence in conflict and rape as a weapon of war is for the victor to dominate by destroying the enemy from inside, from within their culture. With rape, women are not only deeply traumatized, they are dishonored by their communities and as a consequence often rejected by their own families and by society. This destroys the core social structures of a community.

Q: Do you see any parallels between your work in Bosnia and prostituted women in Germany today?

IK: When I returned to Germany, I also counseled women who were in or had left the sex trade. Learning about their life journeys, it became clear that prostitution was, in all cases, a continuation of violent experiences in their biographies. It surprised me that even in peaceful Germany, approximately half of the female patients I treated had experienced sexual violence as children. Also, the psychological effects of sexual violence on women, whether in war or in prostitution are clinically similar. Many rape victims of the Bosnian genocide were forced into prostitution. The only real difference between a “rape camp” and a German brothel is that, in the latter, money is changing hands.

But I see other parallels between the experiences of Bosnian women who survived sexual violence and the realities of prostitution in Germany as a result of decriminalization. The vast majority of prostituted women here come from disenfranchised countries. They are being been bought and traumatized primarily by men with economic and social power. Even the women who may know they are heading to a brothel in Germany, often sacrificed by their own families to earn money, cannot imagine the daily violence that awaits them. They are overwhelmingly very young, 18 or 19 years old. When they are too traumatized to continue, the traffickers typically send them back home, and like so many women who survived sexual violence in conflict, they are scorned by their own families and societies. Germany doesn’t want them either; they become women with destroyed lives and without a country, so to speak.

Q: What role can the medical community play in addressing the situation you are facing in Germany?

IK: There is no “occupation” in the world that causes as much harm as prostitution, so we have to stop thinking about it as a so-called free choice. Women are in the sex trade because of lack of choice. Our group of German trauma experts has developed a very clear understanding that prostitution is violence. The striking asymmetry of power and the potential for violence in the relationship between the mediator (trafficker or pimp) and the woman generates a form of enslavement and highly dependent relationships. Some patients can experience suicidal ideation, dissociative disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety, drug addictions and the list goes on. In our long years of psychotherapeutic experience, many of my colleagues and I are now weary of trying to patch up an endless stream of extremely damaged women. We must focus on working preventively as well. I managed to unify leading German trauma experts who all agree it is time to start tackling the demand for prostitution and enact the Nordic model in Germany. I am also in contact with French and Danish psychotraumatologists who share our point of view. I would like to see the medical community in Europe coalesce on this issue.

Q: This is a massive undertaking – are you hopeful?

IK: We have to tackle this dilemma from many angles. Earlier this year, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York marked the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Women in Beijing. My colleagues and I took this opportunity to send a letter, signed by close to 100 organizations worldwide, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, urging Germany to abide by international law and repeal the 2002 decriminalization law. We just launched a Change.org petition to mobilize the public. Our voices have been ignored so far, but the government will have to respond at some point. While things are changing slowly, we’re seeing progress. Mainstream publications like Der Spiegel are examining prostitution for what it is and are critical towards the sex trade lobby. We can no longer sit back while thousands of women (and some men) are subjected to unimaginable pain and suffering every day at the hands of exploiters and buyers until they are physically and mentally shattered. The oaths we take as medical providers forbid us to remain silent.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.



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Cleveland Clergy Demand Police Reform After Michael Brelo’s Not Guilty Verdict

Religious leaders in Cleveland are demanding action after a policeman charged with shooting two unarmed black citizens was acquitted Saturday.

Leaders of the Cleveland Clergy Alliance on Tuesday called for the firing of officer Michael Brelo and the 12 others involved in the 2012 deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, local TV station 19 Action News reported.

“While we respect the court, we do not accept that decision by Judge John P. O’Donnell,” said Reverend Lorenzo Norris, chair of the Cleveland Clergy Alliance, according to the station.

Brelo has been on unpaid leave since May 30, 2014, according to The Associated Press.

The high-speed car chase that ended in the deaths of Russell and Williams began when the pair’s car, which Russell was driving, backfired outside a court building. Mistaking the sound for a gunshot, more than 100 cops began chasing after the two civilians. When their car came to a stop after a 25-minute chase, 13 police officers fired 137 rounds at the car. But it was Brelo who got out of his own vehicle to fire at least 15 shots at Russell and Williams while standing on the hood of their car, according to CNN.

The dramatic shooting helped prompt a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the Cleveland police force. The resulting report found a pattern of excessive force in the department and said police often used guns, Tasers, pepper spray or their fists unnecessarily or in retaliation. Following the report, community groups were asked to provide ideas to reform Cleveland’s police force. The Greater Cleveland Congregations, an interfaith coalition, was one of the religious groups that submitted recommendations, which were incorporated into an agreement released Tuesday.

In a separate action organized by the GCC, about 600 people from more than 40 local religious centers linked arms and marched toward Cleveland’s City Hall Tuesday to demand broader reform of the criminal justice system.

The GCC leaders are pushing Cleveland’s county prosecutor to come up with a plan to decrease the number of residents convicted of low-level, non-violent felonies. The Cleveland region puts more people in prison than any other area in Ohio, according to the GCC, many of whom are convicted of minor crimes.

“We continually meet people who have a big ‘F’ on their foreheads for low-level offenses,” lead organizer Rob English told The Huffington Post. “And because they’ve made a mistake, they couldn’t be the mother or father they wanted to be, or gain meaningful employment, or find housing.”

“Cleveland is a felon factory and that has to be shut down so that people have a real opportunity for a meaningful life,” English added.

An agreement between the city and the Justice Department was released Tuesday. GCC leaders said they are encouraged by its focus on bias-free policing. But the fight isn’t over yet, they said.

English called the community’s current struggle for reform a “kairos moment,” or an appointed time for God to work.

“This is God’s time, when everything comes together for one moment and this is that moment in Greater Cleveland,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure this happens. We can’t afford to miss it.”

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.



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I Know an American ‘Internment’ Camp When I See One

I was born behind barbed wire 70 years ago in the Tule Lake Segregation Center, a maximum-security prison camp for Japanese-Americans in Northern California. My parents’ only crime was having the face of the enemy. They were never charged or convicted …



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Want to Know How to Recruit a Terrorist? Just Ask a Gangster . . .

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Reports of the increasing intensity of young Americans seduced and brainwashed by ISIS recruiters are disquieting. These young people are traveling thousands of miles to join and practice an extreme brand of terrorism. Such actions are forcing us to answer an unsettling question: How can a teenager go from attending high school algebra class one day to flying to Syria to join a blood thirsty terrorist organization the next?

To understand these phenomena it is helpful to consider the core philosophy behind the decades-old recruitment model of American criminal street gangs. Radicalization is generally fueled by a sense of disempowerment, a desire for adventure, misguided idealism, perverted romanticism, and a naive perception of the warrior lifestyle. A more robust strain of the same proselytization formula used by gangs like the Crips and Bloods to claim territory in South Central Los Angeles since the 1970s is now being harnessed by ISIS recruiters who are bent on forming a caliphate.

ISIS preys primarily on disillusioned youth who struggle with self-esteem and who hunger for respect, prestige, and status–the same emotional vacuum that criminal street gangs expertly dissemble. These recruiters exploit a deeply rooted element of human nature: the need to feel important and possess a strong sense of identity in an increasingly complex world. ISIS, like the street gangs before it, claims to be the corrective for the angst that results from a lack of individual identity that so many young people experience. David Kennedy, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, believes that many of those young people recruited in the United States are not primarily motivated by the “abstract or theological”; instead, they are attracted to jihadist groups because those groups appear to offer a prepackaged sense of purpose and status. The ISIS brand has resulted in what observers like renowned author Salman Rushdie have termed “Jihad Cool,” a subculture of recruits from Western nations who are enticed to join Jihad by social media, rap music, and video games.

But why has ISIS had such exponential success radicalizing and recruiting? The U.S. State Department reports that ISIS sends more than 90,000 social networking messages daily (many to lure Westerners to their cause), and the Brookings Institution reports that ISIS is linked to 46,000 Twitter accounts. ISIS uses its own media production house, a sophisticated propaganda machine that pledges through multiple media platforms a world of excitement, mentorship, and moral purpose, to attract those who feel marginalized by society and who are starved for emotional support, discipline, and camaraderie. The barbaric videos of burning a pilot alive in a cage and decapitating journalists arguably serve to counterintuitively accelerate the radicalization process and mobilize armies of online followers. ISIS has masterfully woven a utopian narrative of pleasure, instant gratification, and glamor for those who join the fight to bring down what it calls the evil and corrupt West. In one video ISIS uses a version of the popular gang-inspired Grand Theft Auto video game in which ISIS fighters gun down victims on the screen while the message flashes: “Your games–We do the same actions on the battlefield.”

ISIS’s recruitment tactics, at their core, are nothing new; American gangs have long used violent imagery, rap lyrics, and territorial markings to promote their organizations. Graffiti, once the “gangster’s newspaper,” has largely been replaced by “cyberbanging” in which individual sects electronically recruit, proliferate symbols, claim territory, and intimidate rivals online. Facebook postings of gang members sporting cash, guns, gaudy jewelry, and attractive women paint a fantastical portrait of a gang member’s life. These organizations lure new prospects with promises of riches, respect, brotherhood, a pseudo-family, purpose, and physical protection.

But the cold reality of life in both ISIS and criminal street gangs is far from the fantastical. Instead, it is grueling, dangerous, scary, abasing and impoverished. As Secretary of State John Kerry said, ISIS is “looking for people gullible enough to believe that terrorists enjoy a glamorous lifestyle.” ISIS recruits and gang recruits are equally naïve to believe their lives will, in any way, resemble the glitzy, almost comic-book persona these groups peddle.

In efforts to limit the radicalization of American youth by ISIS, it is wise to employ strategies that have been most effective in combating the recruitment of young people by domestic criminal street gangs. Chief among those is the development of a cohesive counter-narrative that lays bare the fallacy of the pathological propaganda ISIS spews before recruits board flights to Syria. The U.S. State Department has created The Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications “to coordinate, orient, and inform government-wide foreign communications activities targeted against terrorism and violent extremism.” Still, trusted, credible, faith-based, and other local community leaders need to take the initiative on the messaging if the effort is to have any chance of durable success. As Victor Hugo wrote, “If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness.” To be sure, in this information age, the meme war will be no easier to win than the military campaign.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.



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Deputy Escapes Murder Attempt Thanks To His Dog, Cops Say

A Mississippi sheriff’s deputy was about to be dragged to his death when his quick-acting canine came to his rescue, authorities said.

Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Frazier was attacked by three men who beat him and sliced him with a box cutter after Frazier stepped out of his car to investigate a suspicious vehicle on the evening of May 18 in Pearlington.

“They told him they were going to slit his throat, and they were dragging him toward the woods,” Chief Deputy Don Bass said, according to the Clarion-Ledger. “The three of them were dragging him toward the wooded area, and he was able to break one hand free to activate the button that opens the door and it released Lucas.”

Lucas, a black Belgian Malinois, sprung into action. The dog attacked the three men, biting two of them before they fled in their Lincoln Town Car, authorities said.

todd and lucas
Deputy Todd Frazier and his trusty sidekick Lucas

Because of Lucas’ heroic actions, both Frazier and his trusty partner escaped without major injuries, Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam told The Huffington Post.

“He’s doing fine,” Adam said, referring to Frazier. “We want to make sure he’s all right all the way mentally and physically before he comes back [on duty].”

As for Lucas, Adam said “he’s in worse shape” than Frazier, but is still expected to recover soon.

Lucas suffered chipped teeth and an injured shoulder from hanging on to one of the suspects in the car as it was pulling away, Adam said.

The three suspects are still at large, Adam said.

“Every lead we’re getting, we’re chasing it to the end,” he said. “We’ve had quite a few leads from the public and other jurisdictions as well and nothing has panned out. But we’re steady on it every day.”

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the sheriff’s department at 228 255-9191.

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– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.



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Grieving dad vows #NotOneMore death

Richard Martinez’s son was killed during the 2014 shooting in Isla Vista, California. Since then, Martinez has been on a quest to end gun violence.