Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Nokia Lolitas

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A combustible mix of minors, sex and technology

It's a sultry early Friday night in downtown Fairfield and a pod of teenagers has converged at the local 7-11 for the free Slurpees being given away in celebration of July 11, aka 7/11. The teens are armed with all the tech you'd expect from suburban kids of some means, raised in the age of cell phones and the Internet. Instead of riding Razor Scooters, they're talking on Razr V3 fully-loaded phones and listening to tunes on their iPods. As the new tech has taken hold, it's been accompanied by a spike in amateur, do-it-yourself exhibitionism. It's a sexual revolution that's trickling down to teens, who are experimenting with sexuality in a way that's more public than ever before. And it's getting a whole lot of them into trouble.

"As soon as there's a new technology, it's used for sex," says Sarah Jacobs, curator of the Museum of Sex in Manhattan, which explains why people of all ages and persuasions send out naked pictures via cell phone, Craigslist and MySpace and post their sex videos on sites like YouPorn.

That's all legal. It can be fun—and it's eating into the adult industry's profits. But what about when minors get involved? An emerging trend of DIY teenage sex imagery raises questions about the limits of technology and the appropriate legal response. Should kids be facing criminal records for taking naked pictures of themselves?

In the past six months alone, there's been a deluge of news stories about middle- and high-school students getting into trouble for sending around naked pictures and sex videos of themselves or classmates. The disposition of the cases has been wildly disparate: Some kids are arrested, some punished at school and others are lectured about online safety.

Just how widespread is this trend, and how should officials handle it when students make their sex lives public?

There are endless MySpace profile pictures, taken in the mirror or at arm's length, of teenage girls in bras and boy shorts, eyes lined in black and lips slightly parted. Friendships nursed online often come with requests for nudes—or n00dz.

"Nine out of 10 kids I see have had experiences where they have put provocative photos of themselves on MySpace or Facebook," says Sonya Rencevicz, a clinical social worker and therapist in Greenwich who deals with adolescents.

GA - Former Cobb County Deputy Accused Of Kidnapping, Rape

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COBB COUNTY -- A Cobb County sheriff's deputy has been arrested and accused of rape, officials said Tuesday. The deputy was fired after the sheriff learned of his arrest.

According to investigators, 37-year-old Jason Anthony Bill of Marietta took a woman against her will from the Corona Bar and Grill on Pat Mell Road Monday night. Bill handcuffed and tied up the woman, police said. He then took her to an apartment on South Cobb Drive and sexually assaulted her at gunpoint, according to investigators.

She was later able to escape.

Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren released a statement Tuesday that said, "It was with a profound sense of outrage and betrayal that I learned of the actions and subsequent charges lodged against Deputy Jason Bill. This type of conduct is reprehensible under any circumstances but even more so when committed by a law enforcement officer. I have no tolerance for misconduct by anyone sworn to uphold the law and, as a result, have immediately terminated Jason Bill’s employment with the Cobb County Sheriff's Office."
- This is all good, but you are assuming he is guilty. He should be considered innocent until proven guilty. He may have done it, but give him the benefit of the doubt.

READ: Sheriff's Entire Statement On Jason Bill's Arrest (Also below the horizontal line)

Bill is being held at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center. He has been charged with rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated assault, kidnapping, false imprisonment and battery.


Sheriff’s Statement Regarding Arrest Of Deputy

COBB COUNTY -- The following is a statement released by Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren regarding the arrest of Jason Bill.

It was with a profound sense of outrage and betrayal that I learned of the actions and subsequent charges lodged against Deputy Jason Bill. This type of conduct is reprehensible under any circumstances but even more so when committed by a law enforcement officer. I have no tolerance for misconduct by anyone sworn to uphold the law and, as a result, have immediately terminated Jason Bill’s employment with the Cobb County Sheriff's Office.

This is indeed a sad day for the Cobb County Sheriff's Office and law enforcement in general. It is particularly disheartening when a law enforcement officer breaks trust with his co-workers and with those he is sworn to protect. We have many dedicated and honorable employees who give unselfishly of themselves on a daily basis to serve the citizens of this County. Our deepest condolences are with the alleged victim of this offense.

The investigation into this incident is on-going by the Cobb County Police Department and I have the utmost confidence in their ability and commitment to bring it to a successful conclusion. The Cobb County Sheriff's Office will assist in any manner necessary and will work to insure that any criminal violations are vigorously prosecuted.

NC - Sex Offender Who Removed Tracking Bracelet Arrested, Police Say

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You see folks, here is a sex offender who is on GPS and living by all these laws, and NOTHING protected anybody from him. NOTHING! So you see, these laws are worthless and are nothing but a waste of time and money and distracting people from more important issues. Billions of dollars are being wasted on GPS, registry and law suits, and for nothing... So tell me, how did any of these laws protect anybody here? Like I've said before, if someone is intent on committing another crime, 1 million laws will not prevent it.


MAYODAN -- A registered sex offender who police in Mayodan, N.C., said is a suspect in the June 8 attempted rape of a 14-year-old girl has been caught, authorities in Rockingham County said.

Mayodan police said Jason Lee Tuggle, 26, cut off his house arrest bracelet and skipped town in June and was arrested Sunday in Hope Mills, N.C., bringing the five-week manhunt to a close. Police said they found him at a friend's residence, and that he had been previously staying with relatives in the Home Mills area.

He has been charged with an attempted statutory rape/sex offense. Other charges are pending, police said.
- And he has not been found guilty yet, so don't assume he did it, not until the truth comes out.

Tuggle's mother told police she saw him at his North 7th Avenue home in June before he took off. He had been on house arrest for charges of assault with a deadly weapon.

Police said they received numerous reports from people who said they had seen Tuggle in the Fayetteville area.

Police said he is being treated in a hospital for injuries suffered prior to his arrest.

GA - Woman Challenges Sex Offender Laws

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Sex as a Teen Could Mean Eviction From Home 10 Years Later

Wendy Whitaker may not be allowed to live in the 100-year-old bungalow she owns with her husband. The 28-year-old was forced out of the house in 2006 and cannot volunteer at her local church. She says she was arrested for returning home to do her laundry.

Whitaker is a sex offender: When she was a 17-year-old high school sophomore, she had oral sex with a 15-year-old boy.

Whitaker pleaded guilty in 1997 to sodomy and served five years of probation. But she and her husband have been forced to move several times in the last two years because Georgia's sex offender registry laws prevent offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, church, playground, school bus stop or other place where children congregate.

Though she thought recent changes to the state's sex offender laws would let her return to her home, last week, she was told to move again because the house is too close to a church. She says she and her husband have had to put their careers and family on hold because they have moved so many times.

"I know what I did was wrong, but do I really deserve to keep going through this over and over?" said Whitaker, who is the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the registration laws. "Does my husband deserve it? I'm being punished over and over again."

Though Georgia's supreme court in November struck down as unconstitutional an earlier version of the law, the state legislature quickly passed a new version that keeps intact most of the law's strictest provisions. The new law, still considered one of the nation's toughest sex offender laws, went into effect this month.
- Every single state in this country says they have "The toughest laws on the books!" It's one of those phrases, like many of the statistics, they like to use, which are false of course, but the sheeple believe everything told to them.

It is one of a rash of laws enacted by state legislatures in the last several years that restrict where sex offenders can live, and in some cases, bars them from living within 2,500 feet of schools.

"I think it's an excellent step toward protecting the children of Georgia from sex offenders," said State Sen. John Wiles (Email), one of the co-sponsors of Georgia's law.
- This man is an idiot. He's just joining the bandwagon and doesn't have the balls to uphold the constitution and admit these laws are unconstitutional and won't work. But, it's typical of corrupt politicians who want to "save face" and keep their careers and wallet intact.

But unlike many states, Georgia does not distinguish between different types of sex offenders, treating those like Whitaker the way it would any other sex offender. What's more, several experts have argued that many laws targeting sex offenders have backfired, leading to clusters of offenders living in the few areas where they are welcome.

"There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that residence restrictions are effective," said Sarah Geraghty, Whitaker's lawyer at the Southern Center for Human Rights. "There is evidence that residence restrictions destabilize people on the registry and encourage people to abscond."

Fewer than 10 percent of sex crimes against kids are committed by strangers, according to Justice Department statistics; the majority of sex crimes are committed by a person the child knows. Within three years of their release, about 5.3 percent of sex offenders committed another sex crime, according to a Justice Department study.

"Each case should be dealt with on a case by case basis," said Glynda Gowen, also a registered sex offender who'd molested a 12-year-old boy, who faces possible eviction from her mother's home. "But they're not doing that. They're putting us all in one category and treating us the same."

Gowen, who has diabetes and heart disease and underwent a quadruple bypass last year, said she will have nowhere to go if forced out of her mother's house, which is near a church and a park.

"I don't know what I'll do," said Gowen, who said her doctors have told her to live with other people in case of emergency. "I can't work, I have no money coming in."

The new Georgia law makes an exception for those who bought their homes before July 2006. Though Whitaker and her husband bought their house in January 2006, her name was not put on the deed until last year, prompting a local sheriff to order her to leave within 48 hours.
- This is just some hateful, idiotic, jerk of a cop who is hell bent on punishing sex offenders, especially one who has a law suit against the laws. They owned the house before July 2006! Just because she decides to put her name on the deed doesn't mean that is when she bought the house. Come on.. This is a a$$hole cop!

The sheriff has agreed to let Whitaker stay in her house until the case is resolved, her lawyer said.

In 2006, Whitaker and her husband moved in with her brother-in-law. They were then forced to move out of state, she said, because the brother-in-law's home was too close to a bus stop.

After the state supreme court struck down the law, they moved back to their home in Harlem, Ga. "We've had to pay a mortgage in our house and then rent places to live. It's a strain on our marriage," she said.

Whitaker has asked a federal court for an injunction barring the government from kicking her out. In court papers, the state attorney general said she should seek relief from being evicted in the state courts.

Wiles, the state senator, said that while certain individuals may have compelling stories, "we deal with laws that impact all citizens. A balance was struck. This is a law that was designed to protect all citizens and that's what this law does."
- This idiot is not thinking, except for himself of course. These laws are not working, will not work, and will not protect anyone or prevent another crime. Common sense can tell you that. You are just grandstanding to "look good" to the sheeple. I bet he calls himself a religious person as well? If so, he's nothing but a hypocrite. We always know, that those who scream the loudest, usually do so for a reason. Like most people who hate homosexuals, they are scared of being gay themselves. So I wonder?

VT - Senate leaders to consider effectiveness of sex offender treatment programs

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(Host) Senate Democratic leaders have unveiled plans to hold 6 public hearings in the coming months to investigate several different aspects of the Brooke Bennett murder case.

Senate President Peter Shumlin says one focus of the hearings will be to consider the effectiveness of the state's sex offender treatment program in reducing the rate of recidivism.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) While incumbent Republican Lt. Governor Brian Dubie (Contact) wants Governor Jim Douglas (Contact) to convene a special session of the Legislature to consider a package of criminal justice reforms, the Democrats are taking a different approach.

At a Brattleboro press conference, Senate president Peter Shumlin announced plans to have the Senate Judiciary committee hold 6 public hearings over the next 3 months to investigate the specifics of the Bennett case, to review existing laws and to consider possible legal reforms:

(Shumlin) "That's the most important question what went wrong and why and second if current law that we passed in the last 4 years had been in place when Mr. Jacques committed his crime what would have been different and third what can we do to continue to strengthen and protect Vermont's children by passing further legislation."
- You can pass 1 million laws, and it will not prevent a person from committing another crime, if they are intent on doing so.

The individual charged with kidnapping Brooke Bennett, her uncle Michael Jacques, is a convicted sex offender who completed the state's treatment program. A state probationary officer described Jacques as "a success story" for the program.

Shumlin wants the Senate Judiciary committee to review the state's treatment program to determine if it reduces re-offending rates.
- Of course it does. There will always be some who it doesn't help, but a majority of the people it does and will help. If you eliminate it, then you can BET it will increase drastically!

Corrections commissioner Rob Hoffman says the answer is yes. Based on a ten year study, he says convicted sex offenders who complete the program have one of the lowest recidivism rates of inmates in the entire Vermont jail system - the rate is roughly 5%.

Convicted offenders who refuse treatment are 6 times more likely to re-offend and the rate for the general prison population is just over 50%:

(Hoffman) "For instance someone who has a substance abuse problem and may be either dealing drugs or burglary they would have a much higher re-offense rate so the re-offense rate tends to be higher for the non violent offenders it tends to be lower and among our lowest is for our sex offenders unfortunately as this tragic case illustrates the number is not zero."

Hoffman says the state has just received a federal grant to give his Department additional tools to evaluate the risks that specific sex offenders pose to the public before they're released from prison:

(Hoffman) "And combining what are known as dynamic risk factors about how someone is progressing through treatment as well as static risk factors their history the history of the crime working to combine those two factors to get an even better prediction of re-offense rate."

The $160,000 grant is part of the state's appropriation through the federal Violence Against Women Act.

© Copyright 2008, VPR

CO - Leaders could raise fees to up revenue

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Community forum results to be unveiled at City Council meeting

LONGMONT — Park fees. Recreation fees. Museum fees. Court fees. Permit fees.

They all could go up next year as city leaders look for ways to balance the 2009 budget and cover an estimated $1.6 million gap in next year’s projected $57 million general fund.

While city leaders likely will have to consider cutting staff and services, they also likely will consider increases in fees that residents pay.

To help cope with the gap between revenue and expenses, city leaders in June launched a series of forums to gather feedback from residents about their priorities for next year’s budget.

During the forums, many residents said the city should increase existing fees or create new fees before cutting services. Many people also said city services should bring in at least as much money as they cost.

With fuel, utilities, salaries and benefits costing more each year, residents “can see at a certain point you do have to buck it up and realize costs are going to go up,” Longmont City Councilman Sean McCoy said Monday.

But, he said, while there’s a certain place for making services pay for themselves, that’s not always possible without pricing people out.

Councilman Gabe Santos agreed that not all city services can be cost-neutral, but he said it’s a question of “what we should do and what can be done.”

With the city’s current budget situation, city leaders need to consider raising fees, Santos said, but they also can’t increase fees so much that people can’t use city facilities.

“This whole budget process is going to be a struggle,” he said.

The results of the community budget forums will be presented to the Longmont City Council at 7 tonight. City officials also will present a list of recommendations to increase city revenue by increasing fees, fines and rates.

That list includes:

Sales tax vendor fee: The city allows business owners to keep 3 percent of the total sales tax they pay to the city — up to $100 with each filing — to help cover costs of collecting and filing sales tax. City officials are considering lowering the percentage businesses can keep or doing away with the fee altogether. If the city lowered it to 2 percent, it would mean about $53,000 more in sales tax revenue to the city’s general fund. If the city does away with it altogether, it would be about $233,000 more in general fund revenue.

Parks maintenance fee: The city could start charging a fee on residential utility bills — about 34,000 households in Longmont — to help maintain city parks. Each dollar on each monthly bill would generate about $408,000 per year.

Union Reservoir fees: The city budgeted nearly $369,000 to open and operate Union Reservoir this year and expects to receive about $200,000 in revenue. Increasing the $6 daily vehicle admission fee to $7, for example, would bring in another $38,300, while increasing it to $8 would generate $56,400 more revenue.

Museum fees: The Longmont Museum & Cultural Center does not charge admission. A $3 admission fee could probably generate about $30,000 in revenue. A different option, officials say, is to charge a $5 admission fee to popular, high-profile exhibits. Doing so could bring in about $12,000 in revenue per exhibit.

Municipal court fines: Another option is to increase court fines for a host of violations, such as speeding, littering, curfew violations, careless driving, not wearing a seatbelt and not leashing a dog. Longmont’s fines are lower than in many other Front Range cities, city officials said.

Surcharge on municipal convictions: City officials are considering a surcharge, perhaps $15 to $25, on all municipal violations. Based on the number of tickets officers issued in 2007, a $15 surcharge would generate about $71,000 and a $25 surcharge would bring in about $118,000.

Sex offender registration fees: State law allows communities to charge convicted sex offenders a fee when they register. Longmont does not. On average, about 55 new registered sex offenders move to Longmont each year; there currently are 222 registered sex offenders living in Longmont. By charging $80 for newly registered offenders and $20 for quarterly and annual re-registration, police officials expect they could generate about $13,000 each year.

Vehicle impound fees: The Longmont Police Department impounded 936 cars last year. Police officials could charge $50 per junked and abandoned car that is impounded.

Animal impound fees: Animal control officers impounded about 700 animals in 2007. A $50 per animal impound fee would help offset the costs, police officials say.

Permit fees: The city charges $50 for a “use of public places” permit. City officials are considering increasing that fee and could start requiring permits for events that don’t currently need permits. Also, the city might create a fee for permits allowing alcohol in public places.

Liquor license fees: State law limits the rates for liquor licenses, but that law allows for license rates to increase in January. Raising the license fee would generate another $4,500 next year.

Rachel Carter can be reached at 303-684-5216 or rcarter@times-call.com.

CA - County sex offender law still in the works

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BY JAMES BURGER, Californian staff writer (jburger@bakersfield.com)

Action to reverse a county ban on paroled sex offenders moving within 2,000 feet of licensed day cares will come back to the Board of Supervisors July 29.

Supervisors Don Maben, Jon McQuiston and Ray Watson said the ordinance isn't fair because it pushes sex offenders into rural areas.

All that ordinance did was make metropolitan Bakersfield off-limits and push the problem to the outlying areas,” McQuiston said.

County Counsel Bernard Barmann said the ordinance reversal was not ready to be voted on Tuesday.

The rural areas have less law enforcement. They have less social services. They have less of what they need to deal with this problem,” Watson said.

Two supervisors called for the county to explore a way in which sex offender parolees could be moved into a specific location that could be far away from children and other vulnerable groups.

Maben moved to create a committee to explore that idea.

Union Avenue business owner Jim Starkey praised the original ordinance and opposed its reversal.

“We still have 50 sex offenders living within 1,600 feet of my business,” he said.

“Your neighborhood is happy. I have a lot of neighborhoods that aren't,” Maben told Starkey.

In other action: Supervisors voted 3-2 to spend an extra $20,000 to fight former Sheriff Carl Sparks’ efforts to recover attorney fees.

Sparks and the county have been locked in a legal battle over extra pay he gave to employees while in office without authorization from the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisors Michael Rubio and Mike Maggard voted against the additional payment to the county's private law firm, Kuhs and Parker.

But McQuiston, Watson and Maben supported continuing the legal battle.

Barmann noted in a memo to the board that Sparks has stated that the California State Sheriff's Association has already paid all of his legal bills and none of the money has come from Sparks' pocket.

CT - Sex Offender Registration/Community Notification - It's Not That Simple

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by Beverly Brakeman Colbath
Associate Director, CONNSACS

You've seen and heard them.....the sensational headlines, provocative radio and talk shows and one-sided newscasts about sex offenders and their registration. While provocative and graphic may be interesting, it does not represent the complexities of this issue, which often inspire a diverse web of facts, opinions, and feelings. In this edition, we will attempt to raise awareness and educate our readers about the complexities of sex offending behavior, registration and community notification. Our focus will be on community and victim safety as we delve into this new and unchartered territory for many in our state.

Most commonly referred to as Megan's Law, sex offender registration is the legal requirement that sex offenders, as statutorily defined, register their name, address and other identifying information with the Department of Public Safety upon their re lease into the community. Community notification, on the other hand, is a set of policies and practices designed to collect, maintain and disseminate information about sex offenders, minimally, to victims and their families, the offender's family, and the local police.

As of October I, 1998, Public Act 98-1 I I, An Act Concerning the Registration of Sexual Offenders, went into effect and greatly expanded the list of individuals required to register as sex offenders. This Act also requires the Governor to appoint a committee to make community notification recommendations for the entire state and allows for sex offender registration lists to be made available on the internet.

While both sex offender registration and community notification are designed to promote community and victim safety, we are concerned about the false sense of security they may cultivate in our communities. For example, members of a community may feel that they are safe and do not have to worry about their children's safety as long as they keep their children away from the one identified sex offender in their neighborhood.

What we know, in fact, according to the Rape in America Report, is that only about 16% of sexual assaults are ever reported to law enforcement. Additionally, according to the 1993 Senate Judiciary Committee Report, 98% of victims of sexual assault will never see their attacker caught, tried and imprisoned.

Therefore, it is clear that the majority of sex offenders never come to the attention of the criminal justice system nor fall under Megan's Law. It is these sex offenders who pose a greater risk to our communities because they have not received treatment nor have they been held accountable for their behavior.

As referenced in the Rape in America Report, we know that victims will be acquainted with their offender about 78% of the time. If the victim is under 12 years of age, that percentage rises to 90%. It is these victims whose voices have long been silenced by the shroud of secrecy surrounding incest and child sexual abuse in our society. It is these frightened and anxious victim's voices we want you to hear as we address the complexities and intricacies of widespread, and oftentimes, inconsistently administered community notification. The broad-based availability of sex offender registration information, may in fact, discourage some victims from reporting their abuse and/or encouraging some victims to recant out of fear for the offender's well-being or the disclosure of their own identity.

It is neither cost effective nor feasible to keep all sex offenders incarcerated indefinitely, as some would like it. Therefore, we think the answer lies in collaborative, victim-centered approaches to sex offender management and treatment. This should include victim input throughout the criminal justice process from the initial investigation and arrest, to the trial, sentencing, incarceration, probation/parole, treatment recommendations, and other post-incarceration conditions placed on the offender. Additionally, offender accountability, victim empathy education, and victim and community reparation must all be included in order to manage sex offenders in communities comprehensively and holistically with a focus on ensuring ongoing community and victim safety.

In the last legislative session, Public Act 98-135, An Act Concerning Sexual Offenders, was passed requiring the Office of Adult Probation (OAP) in conjunction with statewide experts in law enforcement, the treatment of sexual offenders and sexual assault victim services to develop a community response education program for neighborhoods and municipalities that have been notified that a sex offender will be or is residing in their community. This program will include accurate information about sex offender behaviors and typologies, registration, victims, talking to your children about child sexual abuse for parents and personal and community safety planning.

CT - Chris Powell: New Haven ID card undermines state, U.S. laws

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By CHRIS POWELL - Journal Inquirer

On Sept. 11, 2001, about 3,000 Americans were killed as the United States was attacked by terrorists, many of them aliens long known by the government to have been in the country illegally. That attack prompted all sorts of national and state legislation in the name of what is called “homeland security,” including legislation in Connecticut. But last week on a vote of 3-1, Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission construed the state’s “homeland security” law to require secrecy for the New Haven city government program that issues city identification cards to illegal aliens — the sort of people whose attack on the country prompted the law.

Connecticut’s commissioner of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, James Thomas, was first to order secrecy for the New Haven ID card program. He testified to the FOI commission he acted at the request of city officials without holding any hearing or discussion with anyone else and without making any independent inquiries of his own. He acknowledged the arch-terrorist Osama bin Laden himself already could have obtained a New Haven city ID card and Connecticut’s Homeland Security Department would not know about it. And his position was that the public should not be able to know about it either. It was a matter of protecting holders of the city ID cards against people who might assault them out of a resentment of illegal immigration.

No hate crimes
Indeed, there has been much angry and even some threatening talk about the ID card program. But New Haven’s police chief acknowledged to the FOI commission that attacks on the city’s immigrants, legal and illegal, have been ordinary assaults and robberies, not hate crimes, and that no one has ever been arrested for threatening in connection with the ID card controversy.

Of course, government in Connecticut is full of other personally identifying public documents that could be useful to anyone seeking to do harm. Perhaps foremost among those documents is the state’s sex offender registry — about which, fortunately, Thomas has not yet been asked to make a “homeland security” judgment. For if people might be tempted to beat up illegal aliens, how much more tempted might they be to beat up sex offenders?

Connecticut’s “homeland security” law cites government and utility facilities, protecting their blueprints, security manuals and such against disclosure. The homeland security commissioner and the FOI commission now have construed that law to authorize the withholding of any public record anywhere in the state when anyone feels threatened, even if someone feels threatened by exposure of his own wrongdoing.

So much for “homeland security.”

Did the General Assembly and the governor really mean Connecticut’s “homeland security” law to require secrecy for identification documents issued to illegal aliens?

Did the General Assembly and the governor really mean to supplant the Freedom of Information Commission with the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security in matters having nothing to do with government and utility facilities?

Is the growing security apparatus really going to scare Connecticut out of its liberties and the accountability of its government?

Should the most politically correct municipality in the state be permitted to undermine the nation itself?

If all that is not what the legislature and the governor intended, they easily could correct those misinterpretations by putting just a few words of clarification in the law.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester

UK - Father-of-three branded a 'pervert' - for photographing his own children in public park

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<-- Does that picture make him a pervert?

You see people, this is how simple it is for YOU to be labeled a sex offender. Granted this is the first time I've heard of this, but it can happen to you as well.


When Gary Crutchley started taking pictures of his children playing on an inflatable slide he thought they would be happy reminders of a family day out.

But the innocent snaps of seven-year-old Cory, and Miles, five, led to him being called a ‘pervert’.

The woman running the slide at Wolverhampton Show asked him what he was doing and other families waiting in the queue demanded that he stop.

One even accused him of photographing youngsters to put the pictures on the internet.

Mr Crutchley, 39, who had taken pictures only of his own children, was so enraged that he found two policemen who confirmed he had done nothing wrong.

Yesterday he said: ‘What is the world coming to when anybody seen with a camera is assumed to be doing things that they should not?

This parental paranoia is getting completely out of hand. I was so shocked. One of the police officers told me that it was just the way society-is these days. He agreed with me that it was madness.’

Father- of-three Mr Crutchley, a consultant for a rubber manufacturer from Walsall, West Midlands, was with his wife Tracey and their sons when the pleasant Sunday afternoon out turned sour.

He said: ‘The children wanted to go on an inflatable slide and I started taking photos of them having a good time. Moments later the woman running the slide told me to stop.

‘When I asked why, she told me I could not take pictures of other people’s children. I explained I was only interested in taking photos of my own children and pointed out that this was taking place in a public park.

‘I showed her the photos I had taken to prove my point. Then another woman joined in and said her child was also on the slide and did not want me taking pictures of the youngster.

‘I repeated that the only people being being photographed were my own children. She said I could be taking pictures of just any child to put on the internet and called me a pervert. We immediately left the show.’

Mrs Crutchley, 37, a teaching support assistant and qualified nursery nurse, said: ‘I was shocked by the reaction of those women.

'It is very sad when every man with a camera enjoying a Sunday afternoon out in the park with his children is automatically assumed to be a pervert.’

The slide was run by Tracey Dukes, 35, whose father Malcolm Gwinnett has an inflatables hire company.

Mr Gwinnett, 58, a LibDem councillor in Wolverhampton, said: ‘Our policy is to ask people taking photos whether they have children on the slide. If they do, then that is fine.

‘But on this occasion another customer took exception to what the man was doing and an argument developed between those two people that continued without any further involvement from staff on the slide.’

NJ - Towns can't ban sex offenders, court rules

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Appeals court decision is here


Judges say local actions interfere with statewide 'Megan's Law'

NEWARK - New Jersey towns cannot ban sex offenders from living near schools, parks, or other places where children gather, a state appeals court ruled on Tuesday.

The three-judge panel found that New Jersey's Megan's Law was "pervasive and comprehensive" and should be the only law governing how sex offenders are treated. The ruling upheld findings by judges who invalidated ordinances in Cherry Hill and Galloway townships.

Supporters of those ordinances hoped the towns would appeal. Richard D. Pompelio, a lawyer for the New Jersey Crime Victims' Law Center, filed a brief endorsing the town's laws.

He questioned how Megan's Law, which requires sex offenders to register with the state, was pre-empted because it does not impose residency restrictions.

The towns banned adults convicted of sex offenses against a child from living within 2,500 feet of any school, park, playground, church or other place "where children might congregate."

Similar laws are in place in many states and dozens of New Jersey towns; those in New Jersey will be at risk if the latest ruling stands.

Judges back 'statewide' law
Appellate Judge Joseph F. Lisa, writing for the court, said the Cherry Hill and Galloway ordinances "interfere with and frustrate the purposes and operation of the statewide scheme."

Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt was considering whether to appeal the ruling and maintained that the ordinance "is valuable to our community," spokesman Dan Keashen said.

A message seeking comment from Galloway officials was not immediately returned.

The ruling was applauded by the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Megan's Law is already accepted as constitutional and as the state's comprehensive approach to sex offenders. The residency requirements do not contribute to rehabilitation and may in fact undermine it," said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the state chapter.

State Public Defender Yvonne Smith Segars filed a brief urging the appeals court to strike down the laws.

"You can't impose unrealistic burdens on people and expect them to reintegrate. They paid their debt to society and are under supervision," Segars said.

Three men challenged laws
The Cherry Hill law was challenged by two sex offenders convicted of violating the law after being placed in a motel by welfare officers with the approval of their probation and parole officers. The two men were considered at moderate risk of committing another sex offense.

A 20-year-old college freshman at Richard Stockton College, in Galloway Township, challenged the law there after moving into a dormitory on campus. The student was considered a low-risk sex offender for an offense he committed when he was 15 against a 13-year-old girl.

Calls to attorneys for the men were not immediately returned.

The three men were among about 11,000 sex offenders registered in New Jersey, the first state to enact a Megan's Law. It was passed after a 7-year-old Hamilton Township girl, Megan Kanka, was killed in 1994 by a sex offender who lived in her neighborhood. Similar laws in other states and eventually the nation followed.

In New Jersey, neighbors of high-risk offenders are notified by police.

AUSTRALIA - Most police don't want rape by partner to be reported

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I do not believe this so-called "study!" Where is the link to show the actual data and who did it?

Here is the report, pointed out by the user in the comments.


  • Police discourage women from reporting partner rape
  • The crime is difficult to prove and often trivialised
  • Many husbands do not consider the crime rape

ONLY one in five police officers believe a woman should report being raped by her husband, according to a study showing the crime is often trivialised.

Nuns, ministers, doctors and police often knew a woman had been raped by her partner but did nothing, the Victorian study found.

Each of the 21 victims interviewed for the study said her partner would not consider it rape, despite some suffering drugging and near-suffocation.

Only six of the 30 police interviewed said they would recommend a woman report partner rape, despite 28 calling it a serious crime.

They cited as reasons "the disrespectful and damaging treatment of women in court", difficulty in proving it, and long waits before cases got to court.

Health workers told researchers some police discouraged women from reporting rape.

"There were several accounts of police trying to dissuade women who had gone to them for help from taking action ... and suggesting the complaint was trivial," the report said.

The researchers from Women's Health Goulburn North East and Upper Murray Centre Against Sexual Assault interviewed 21 partner rape victims from the Goulburn Valley and northeast Victoria, and scores of police and health professionals.

The study, to be released today, found the men believed it was their right to do what they liked with their partner and that society often trivialised partner rape, despite it being a crime since 1985.

"One of the women went to her minister in her church, and he said, 'Go home and pray about it'," study co-author Debra Parkinson said.

"There was domestic violence as well and she said, 'What if he kills me?' And the minister said, 'Well, at least you'll go to heaven'."

The husband of one victim shook their marriage certificate in her face and said, "I own you with this".

CA - City may tighten law on sex offenders

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Covina considers more restrictions on residency

COVINA - The city might prevent registered sex offenders from living near each other as well as near day care and child care centers.

A proposed ordinance imposing residency limitations for sex offenders will be voted on at tonight's City Council meeting.

"We want to make sure the neighborhoods are safe," police Chief Kim Raney said Monday. "Sex offenders have to live somewhere but no one wants them in their neighborhood."

The action comes after several residents lodged complaints about a high number of offenders in the city.

There are currently 62 registered sex offenders living in Covina, according to the Megan's Law Web site. Neighboring West Covina has 65, while Baldwin Park lists 53.

Under Jessica's Law, offenders are only prevented from living within 2,000 feet of any public or private school or park where children regularly gather.

If approved, Covina's new ordinance would prevent sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of day care and child care centers. The proposed law would also prohibit sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of each other.

It would also limit occupancy in multi-family homes, mobile home parks and hotels and motels to one sex offender per location.

Jessica's Law prohibits sex offenders from residing in a single-family home with any other sex offenders unless related by blood.

Raney said cities such as Alhambra, Long Beach and La Verne have passed similar ordinances.

"We are starting to see this trend as loopholes are found in Jessica's Law," Raney said. "Cities continue to try and protect the neighborhoods."

The ordinance would not be retroactive and would take effect the day it is adopted. The council may call for an urgency ordinance, which adopts the law immediately instead of in 30 days.

Community residents belonging to a Neighborhood Watch group gathered at a council meeting earlier this month after discovering that a sex offender lived across the street from a family with two children.

Mayor Kevin Stapleton said he understands the fear in the community.

The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 E. College St.

amanda.baumfeld@sgvn.com - (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2108

Virtual Bible

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Police caution 13yo girl over sex pictures on MySpace

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A 13-year-old girl has been cautioned by police after sexually explicit pictures of another 13-year-old girl were posted on social networking site MySpace without her knowledge.

A 17-year-old boy could also face charges over the incident, say Victorian police, who called in the FBI in the United States to help with the investigation.

The case began two months ago when one of the 13-year-old girls sent sexually explicit pictures of herself to her 17-year-old boyfriend at that time, said police based at Bacchus March, west of Melbourne.

The images later came into the possession of a second 13-year-old girl, who then created a false MySpace account using the first girl's identity and posted the explicit images.

After receiving a complaint, police began an investigation in conjunction with the FBI and Australian Federal Police, who helped obtain computer-based evidence and close the MySpace site.

Detective Sergeant Tony Coxall said the investigation was a timely reminder to all parents to monitor their children's use of computers and the internet.

"Cyber bullying can be very traumatic and upsetting for the victim and there can be instances where the perpetrator doesn't know that they are actually breaking the law," he said.

"Any explicit images can constitute serious criminal offences and are investigated accordingly."

Det Sgt Coxall said images posted on the internet could be hard to erase and could become a record for many years to come.

"Children should be very careful when creating personalised accounts or posting images of themselves or others," he said.

Det Sgt Coxall said the 13-year-old who created the false MySpace account had been cautioned, while the boy could be charged on summons for related offences.
- So if the 17 year old is being charged, why isn't the 13 year old? She received and published child porn... Not that I'd want either on the registry, but just trying to make a point.

VT - Lt. Gov. Dubie urges speciall session for sex offender crackdown

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More knee-jerk reactions, that won't work either, watch and see.


MONTPELIERLt. Gov. Brian Dubie (Contact) endorsed a slate of reforms to the state's sex offender laws Monday morning and called on Gov. James Douglas (Contact) to bring lawmakers back to Montpelier for a special session this summer.

Dubie, a Republican running for re-election this year, called for a comprehensive review of Vermont's criminal justice system and said lawmakers should pass proposals such as Jessica's Law and chemical or physical castration for habitual sex offenders.
- That explains it all....

He said Vermont needs to ensure that cases such as last month's kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett never happen again.
- How you plan on doing that? Nothing you do will prevent this from happening again. Come back to reality and stop the GRAND STANDING!!! I'm sure the sheeple will suck it all up though.

"In just over 39 months, three young women have been kidnapped, raped and murdered at the hands of sexual predators," Dubie said at a press conference Monday morning on the steps of the Statehouse. "The loss of a single life is a tragedy; the loss of three in such a short timeframe is something we cannot turn away from."

Dubie's news conference comes days after Douglas, who also is up for re-election this year, floated similar ideas – including reinstating the death penalty in Vermont – at a news conference. He added that he was interested in calling lawmakers back to Montpelier this year, but said he doubted they would seriously consider his reforms.
- This country is so corrupt. All other countries can see it, but the sleeping sheeple cannot.

"His view is we need to have a conversation about how we limit the judiciary discretion that has the unintended consequence of releasing dangerous offenders into our communities," said Jason Gibbs, Douglas' spokesman. "A discussion of enhancing mandatory minimums is one he's prepared to have."
- I wish I got $1 every time I heard this phrase, I would be able to retire already!

House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, who is running against Douglas this year, said in a statement Monday afternoon that any special legislative session would address "why our current laws are not being enforced by the Douglas administration before we talk about adding more laws."
- Man, you can read these corrupt politicians like an open book. I just cannot wait until these very laws sweep them into the nets, then let's see what they think. Also, why isn't Mark Foley on the registry yet? Notice how he just vanished?

"It is much more important right now to find out why this convicted sex offender was set free and fix the problems that lead to his early release so that we don't have a repeat of this failure," Symington said.
- How do you plan on doing this? Just sentencing all people accused of a sex crime to prison for life? That won't work either, more will follow. I am thoroughly convinced we have nothing but idiots in office. Now I know why I never vote, bunch of morons.

Dubie also announced that he has launched a petition drive – with a form available at his Web site – in support of his proposals. The initiatives outlined by Dubie were:
- Just make sure you remember this. Watch and see how many crimes this prevents. More will follow, any person with common sense would tell you that, but common sense died a long time ago!

  • A comprehensive review of Vermont's criminal justice system.
  • Adoption of Jessica's Law, setting 25-year minimum for first-time child sex offenders.
  • Mandatory life sentence for second-time violent child sex offenses.
  • Civil confinement law extending prison terms for high-risk offenders.
  • Chemical and physical castration for habitual offenders.
  • Increasing the information on Vermont's Sex Offender Registry.
  • Tougher penalties for those who harbor unregistered sex offenders.
  • Expansion and funding of Special Investigative Units.
  • Allowing evidence of prior sexual misconduct in sex crime trials.
  • Collection of DNA from violent sex offenders.

But Dubie's proposals got a cool reception from a victim's right's group, which said long mandatory minimums can discourage suspects from entering into plea bargains and scare victims out of coming forward.
- Well, they don't care about that, they care about their careers!

"Long mandatory sentences make us feel really good, but they really do very little to keep people safe from sex offenders," said Karen Tronsgard-Scott, director of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

According to Tronsgard-Scott, a high percentage of sexually abused children know their attackers or are related to them, which could make them shy away from reporting it if they believe doing so would lead to a long prison term.
- And thus more victims, possibly. This is about "saving face," and nothing more.

Moreover, about half of child sex abusers are children under 18, and long mandatory sentences won't deter them since the sentences usually aren't imposed on juvenile offenders, she said.

Plea bargains, which may mean less prison time, are beneficial because they allow courts and prosecutors to impose sanctions and community-based control, so that offenders get treatment in prison and courts can impose controls that make repeat offenses unlikely once they get out, she said.

"What happens to victims is they're forced to go to trial and in 65 percent of the cases, the perpetrator walks away without any consequence or community sanction," she said.

Senate Democrats are expected to announce today their own legislative approach to the Bennett tragedy.

Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will join Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, at a Brattleboro news conference in front of the town's district court at 12:30 p.m.

Sears said he will pull his committee together for six special meetings, including two to seek input from the public, over the summer and autumn to determine what changes may be needed in how Vermont deals with sex offenders.

This review, which will conclude with a Nov. 15 report, could result in suggestions of new legislation for lawmakers when they return to Montpelier in January 2009. But Sears said these issues "would be difficult at best" to address during a two-day special legislative session this summer.

"Vermont is one the safest states in the nation. That is a fact," Sears said. "If I picked up the newspapers, I might wonder about that. But we have to remember that we are one of the safest states in the nation."

Symington endorsed this approach Monday, adding she is declining to call up the House Judiciary Committee right now to insure her campaign for governor is not a distraction during those proceedings.

The Associated Press' John Curran contributed to this report. Contact Daniel Barlow at Daniel.Barlow@timesargus.com.

KS - Sex registry brings up more questions than it can answer

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The national sex offender registry list is almost complete, but many feel non-violent offenders should not be on the list.

In 2009, the national sex offender registry list will be complete, but Kansas already has a list of offenders within the state. The list includes current information on the offenders’ crimes, their appearance and their current addresses.

Although the registries are created for safety purposes, not all of the offenders are violent offenders.

Here are some situations that could land students on the list:

  • A couple trying to spice up their relationship should think twice before doing the deed in public.
  • If someone is on the losing side of a bet, it might be a better option to endure repeated harassment than striping down and running around the neighborhood.
  • And if a person can’t hold it any longer, peeing their pants might be a safer bet than dropping their drawers and peeing on the corner.

Each of these offenses is considered by the state of Kansas to be lewd and lascivious acts. In court, if the lewd and lascivious act is deemed sexually motivated, then a person looking at a membership to the sex registry list.
- And all the ignorant people out there says urinating in public cannot get you on the registry! As I've said before, do your homework.... If I ever see ANYBODY peeing in public, you can bet I will report it and get your butt on the registry as well. Then see how you like it...

In Kansas, first-time adult sexual offenders are required to register for 10 years. A second conviction or some sexual offenses requires a lifetime registry.

A person’s picture, crime and address will become public knowledge. In 2009, the national sex offender registry list will be complete, allowing someone’s information to be looked up anywhere in the country by anyone.

District Attorney Charles Branson said he had mixed feelings about the sex offender list. Although a crime must be proven to be committed out of sexual gratification, the number of possible offenses continues to grow.
- This is a load of crap. All it requires is someone saying you did something, and your life is over!

“The more it expands the less potency it has on the offenses that the registry was created for,” Branson said.
- And I've said that many times as well. If we must have the registry, only the people who are truly a risk to society should be on it, or it defeats the purpose and just heightens the FEAR FACTOR!!!

According to Branson, expansion also makes it more difficult to track offenders.

There are currently 67 offenders, including two women, on the Douglas County Sex Registry who live within Lawrence city limits. Nine of those offenders are within the ages of 18 to 22. Another nine live within the “student ghetto,” — which are surrounding neighborhoods of the University.

The Human Rights Watch, a New York City-based agency, said that sex offender registries did more harm than good. According to a report the agency completed in 2007, the lists have become a threat to offenders. In 2005 and 2006, four sex offenders were killed in the U.S. Their information was found through the sex registry.
- If anybody ever sees a politician or someone else peeing in public, report their a$$. When someone who is high profile gets busted, then things might change. Maybe? There is a lot more than 4 who have been killed. I think Human Rights Watch needs to see this list, which I'm sending them now.

Human Rights Watch has found six other countries that use a sex registry­ — Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Japan and the United Kingdom. However, the registries of these nations are kept in the hands of the police and are only released to citizens on a need-to-know basis.

The harassment and ostracism encountered by sex offenders has led Minnesota to tailor information about sex offenders to the violent nature of the criminal. Prior to being released from prison, the offender is given an evaluation concerning their mental state. Violent offenders’ information is still released, but non-violent offenders information is withheld.

Dan Winters, Executive Director of the Kansas and Missouri American Civil Liberties Union, said that sex registries brought up more questions than they answered.

Winters said that if there was a sex registry then it would be just as likely to create a driving-while-under-the-influence registry. He said he thought there was a problem with punishing people after they had done their time.
- Hell, don't stop there. Make ALL criminals be on a registry, regardless of their crime, then we'd see how many people like it.

Winters said another problem with the registry was the compiling of violent and dangerous offenders with non-violent offenders. He said a man caught urinating in public is pictured next to someone who has raped a 14-year-old.

“I wouldn’t touch a 14-year-old but I have peed behind the wheel,” Winters said.
- I won't even ask! Well, actually, yes I will. So why aren't you on the registry?

PA - Columbia says no to sex offenders - Officials hope to bar home from borough

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So what are you doing to stop the witch hunt you and the media has created by using bogus statistics and fear-mongering?


Tom Armstrong's home for sex offenders isn't welcome in Columbia Borough.

Armstrong, whose first halfway house was chased out of Conestoga Township earlier this year, is now on thin ice in Marietta Borough. The former state representative is presently housing three sex offenders in his own Marietta home.

But Armstrong recently told Marietta officials the situation was a temporary fix until a permanent property for the program is secured in Columbia.

That's news to Columbia officials.

"As far as we know, no, that is not the case," council president Sandra Duncan said Monday.

Columbia Borough manager Norman Meiskey said the borough "is doing everything legally possible to protect the children of this borough from any sexual predator."

Mayor Leo Lutz was even more direct.

"We want to send a clear message to Mr. Armstrong," he said. "We don't want you in Columbia. Please go elsewhere."

The program Armstrong began in Conestoga Township was ordered out earlier this summer because it did not comply with local zoning ordinances. Marietta sent Armstrong a cease-and-desist order on June 16 for violating borough codes.

Armstrong defended his right to house the men in his home, although he also said his wife and daughter were currently staying outside the area with a sick relative.

Columbia officials now want to make sure Armstrong's halfway house doesn't get a foothold there.
- Well where in the hell do you expect these people to live?

"There are avenues that he could take legally," Meiskey said. "But to the degree legally possible, no stone is unturned at this point. … We will do whatever we can as a borough to make sure that everyone is protected."
- There is nothing in the world you can do to make sure EVERYONE IS PROTECTED... Nothing!! You are living in a fantasy world!!

Lutz said Columbia officials, residents and business owners are working very hard "to change the image of this community. Something like this would not work with what we're trying to do. So we don't want it."

The borough is working with state legislators, the prison board and other county officials to try to block Armstrong from moving into Columbia, Lutz said.

"These people need to live somewhere," he said, "but I think it's a unanimous thought that we don't want these folks in Columbia Borough."
- Then where? Everywhere they go, it's the same BS!!! You people just don't have the balls anymore to uphold the Constitution, which is not work the paper it's written on. This is why the Constitution was created, to keep POWER HUNGRY people in check....

If it's not possible to bar them from the borough entirely, Lutz said, they still hope to restrict what portions of the borough would be open to them.

"We have spent an inordinate amount of time in dealing with this issue," said Councilwoman Mary Wickenheiser. "We will do everything possible and legal that we can to contain it and prevent it. … We are determined to stay on top of this."
- And you will constantly be fighting it in court, wasting millions if not billions of dollars which could be spent elsewhere, like on the homeless, hungry, etc.

Duncan said public outcry "is important in combating this kind of situation. … Keep this a hot-button item in all of your conversations. Speak out on it."

Armstrong did not attend a Monday evening meeting of Columbia Borough Council. But several residents did speak out against the plan.

"Keep Tom Armstrong out," said Louise Berg of 745 Walnut St.

Donald Haines of 451 Walnut St. called Armstrong's halfway house a "potential blemish on our community."
- Is that true, or are you worried about the price of your house dropping because of the damn hysteria the media and idiotic politicians continue to spread? I think the latter!

"If something like this does happen in our community, it's going to set back all of the progress that we have made," Haines said.
- And what progress is that? Exiling, demonizing and scapegoating people? If you call that success, then yeah, you have been successful...

E-mail: tknapp@lnpnews.com

Why we suffer from fear-mongering, who's to blame, and what to do about it

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Who profits from promoting fear? Does paranoia make us blind to real dangers? How can we combat fear-mongering? These are some of the questions author Dan Gardner answers in an interview with DigitalJournal.com about his recent book Risk.

Digital Journal — Do any of these headlines sound familiar? “Parents fear MySpace is playground for pedophiles.” “What is the most dangerous part of flying?” “Nonstick cookware may cause cancer.” If you answered “yes” then you win the grand prize of fear-mongering, the trend du jour in politics and media. Author Dan Gardner studied how our brains are hard-wired to accept paranoid proclamations as real dangers.

In his book Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear (McClelland & Stewart), Gardner, a reporter for the Ottawa Citizen, explains how irrational fear is dominating sectors of society that profit from making mountains out of molehills. It’s all well and good to illustrate the true risks afflicting global cultures, Gardner says, but we live in the safest and healthiest period in human history. So why are we bombarded with messages about the risk of flying, terrorist attacks, cancer-causing cookware and Internet pedophiles?

In an interview with DigitalJournal.com, Gardner discusses how our Stone Age ancestors actually understood the real dangers existing in their lives. So what changed? This is your guide to how politicians and journalists put the fright into people all over the world.

DigitalJournal.com: What inspired you to write Risk?

Dan Gardner: It came out of my experience as a journalist. I was digging into subjects like cancer, terrorism, and crime. Time after time I found the threat wasn’t as big as it was being portrayed. I became increasingly aware of the disconnect behind this fear-mongering and the improvement of our living standards. We have become fearful of things that are not as bad as we think they are, and we aren’t aware of the benefits of life today. Why is this?

DigitalJournal.com: Who is responsible for making us so fearful?

Gardner: First there’s the media, who engage in sensationalism to tell catastrophic stories. Sadly, all the commonplace criticisms of media are true. Second, marketers love fear. There’s a long list of organizations that profit by promoting fear. If a corporation makes you fear something, they’ve succeeded. Look at how security and home-alarm systems are a big industry: if you see their ads, there’s no question they promote the fear of crime. If you’re afraid of being a victim, the solution is to buy a home alarm.

The third most important factor is psychology. I argue about the mismatch between our brain and the information age we live in. We have a conscious mind, the mind listening to this conversation, the mind that can think logically. But we also have an unconscious mind that does most of the brain’s heavy lifting. It delivers snap judgment and offers decisions as hunches. They are feelings that are somehow true but you can’t explain why. So why does the unconscious mind deliver instant results whereas the conscious mind is slow and lumbering? Because we don’t always survey information logically. We take snippets of info and apply a rule of thumb.

DigitalJournal.com: Like in what situations?

Gardner: What about thinking of examples? If you can think of an example easily, it must be common and may happen in future. If you struggle to find an uncommon example, it will unlikely happen in the future. It made sense in the Stone Age. The only info available was personal experience or anecdotes from other guys. If you can quickly think of an example of someone grabbed by crocodile, you should be worried about croc attacks. In the information age, you turn on the TV and see the evening news, say a story about a German boy lured by a pedophile, kidnapped and then murdered. Now parents take their kid to a park, and they’re worried about strangers abducting children. The unconscious mind processes the info and says, “How hard is it to think of a pedophile example?” It’s really easy because the parents just saw a case last night on the evening news. Therefore it is common, right? And parents have an uneasy feeling because now they need to watch their kids. Abductions by strangers are fantastically rare but parents are convinced it’s a serious threat.

DigitalJournal.com: Won’t some parents say that there’s no harm in being protective?

Gardner: When you dig deep, there’s a huge cost to being overly cautious. It’s significant when parents won’t allow kids to play unsupervised. They keep children indoors where they don’t get enough exercise and then we see a rise in obesity. That’s a serious threat to their well-being.

Part of the process of maturation is increasingly taking on risk. Children should make decisions for themselves. Street-proofing kids can be important, but what does it do to a four-year-old’s psyche when he’s being told every stranger is a monster?

DigitalJournal.com: It seems that politicians love putting the fear in us in order to win more votes come election time.

Gardner: Politicians can work on the fear of pedophiles, for instance, and say “I’m a responsible leader, and I will crack down on strangers lurking in bushes!” The media report the politician’s words, the paranoia is instilled in the public and around it goes in this never-ending cycle, resulting in outsized fears totally out of proportion.

DigitalJournal.com: How can science reporting give the public the wrong impression?

Gardner: When scientific studies flip-flop, it tends to damage the credibility of science and not the media reporting on those studies. But that’s unfortunate because changing results says nothing about science. It’s supposed to work like this: in science, there is a slow accumulation of evidence. Researchers look at any question that contradicts their bits of evidence. Scientists assess the total body of evidence and wonder which direction it points. The problem is the media iare overwhelmingly scientifically illiterate. Many reporters say a study proves X and it’s now settled scientific fact. Then another study proves negative X and the public says “Science is crazy.” But reporters should understand the scientific process. They should communicate that one study proving an essential point is only one study. In the same story, reporters should discuss all evidence to date. Is this conclusion in line with other studies? Is it contradictory?

DigitalJournal.com: So what can we do to resist the tug of fear-mongering in politics, science and media?

Gardner: I don’t think the solution is moving up to a cabin in the woods and avoiding television. In human decision-making, the conscious mind can always overturn decisions from the unconscious mind. People don’t usually do that, instead thinking with their gut. But we have to have a healthy amount of skepticism and ask ourselves, “If I believe something to be true, why do I believe it?

Manipulating social tragedies for political gain - Part 4

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Looks like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to use issues to further their careers and agendas. You see, everyone knows you tug at someones hearts, and they will do anything and pass any law, whether it's right or not. THE SICKNESS IS SPREADING WORLD WIDE!!! And in the name of security, when it's actually about oppression and implementation of a police state.


World Socialist Web Site journalists Susan Allan and Richard Phillips and freelance photographer John Hulme recently visited central Australia to report on the social and political impact of the federal government’s Northern Territory Emergency Response or police/military intervention into Aboriginal communities. This is the fourth in a series of articles, interviews and video clips. Parts one, two and three were posted on June 21, June 26 and July 2 respectively.

A key element in the Howard government’s preparations for its long-planned NT intervention was a series of sensationalised news reports in 2006 about child sex abuse in Aboriginal communities. Indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough, working with the corporate media and programs such as ABC television’s “Lateline”, claimed that pedophiles were running rampant in Aboriginal communities.

None of these allegations was ever substantiated. In fact the “evidence” for one lurid story came from Greg Andrews, a senior official in Mal Brough’s department of indigenous affairs, who appeared on “Lateline” in May 2006 claiming to be a social worker. Andrews, whose face was blacked out during the interview, insisted he had hard evidence of organised pedophile activity in Mutitjulu, a remote community adjoining Uluru (Ayers Rock). His “evidence”, it appears, was not presented to police, nor was anyone charged.

Right-wing academics and Aboriginal leaders, such as Kimberly Land Council director Peter Yu, also got into the act, whipping up public outrage and demanding immediate government action. Yu, who has recently been appointed to the Rudd government’s intervention review board, called for a military style intervention in Aboriginal communities to deal with the alleged crisis.

Brough continued to insist that sexual predators were operating widely in Aboriginal settlements. “Everyone knew who was running the pedophile rings,” he told the media in April 2006, but they were being protected by tribal law and a “code of silence”.

There is no question that Aboriginal people confront serious problems, iuncluding alcoholism, petrol-sniffing, high-levels of family violence and other social evils caused by endemic, long-term poverty. But to suggest that a substantial proportion—at the very least—of Aboriginal parents had been transformed into child molesters was nothing short of slanderous. It was aimed, not at rectifying the alleged crisis, but at creating a public scandal that would justify harsh and long-planned government measures.
- Just like in the good ole' corrupt USSA as well.

This was the political climate in which the Little Children are Sacred report was released in June 2007. The report, written by Rex Wild QC and Patricia Anderson, was commissioned in August 2006 by the NT government to consider ways to protect Aboriginal children from sexual abuse.

Howard and Brough seized on the report. Within two weeks of its release, they had launched the police/military intervention, claiming to be acting to protect Aboriginal children.

The government’s cynicism was breathtaking, especially considering it came from representatives of the very social and economic order that had removed hundreds of Aboriginal children from their parents only a generation ago—as part of an ongoing “assimilation” policy aimed at wiping out the country’s indigenous population.

The government, moreover, wilfully ignored the actual recommendations made in the Little Children report, which insisted that decent health, education, housing, employment and other basic services were required to “break the cycle of poverty and violence” in Aboriginal communities.
- Just like in the good ole' USSA!

Twelve months on, none of Brough’s much-vaunted pedophile rings have been discovered in the Northern Territory, a fact verified by the Australian Crime Commission in May. Nor have any of the almost 11,000 Aboriginal children checked by intervention doctors shown any direct evidence of sexual abuse.
- It's just like the Salem Witch Hunts and the Satanic ritual abuse moral panics.

What has been exposed, though, is that thousands of Aboriginal children are suffering from ear and eye disorders and other serious health problems caused by chronic poverty and the grossly inadequate health facilities in many communities.

This is not to suggest that sexual abuse of Aboriginal children does not exist, or that it should be condoned. But it is not—or, rather, should not primarily be—a police issue. It is a problem bound up with the deprived and marginalised existence that Aboriginal people are forced to endure. And so far, the only evidence that has come to light of child sex has involved young people in what they consider to be consensual relationships.

This was confirmed by Mark O’Reilly from the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (CAALAS) in Alice Springs. He told us that the consensual relationships in question had been sanctioned by the families concerned, and/or by Aboriginal customary law.

“In the past,” he continued, “these matters would be dealt with as a health or education issue and involve the parents, but now there is increasing pressure on judges and magistrates to be tough on this sort of thing and people are going to jail for consensual relationships between 18- and 15-year-olds. The girl gets pregnant, the health service finds out and has to report it to the National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse taskforce and then it ends up in court.”

O’Reilly said that the lives of young Aboriginal men jailed for these relationships had been “ruined”. “Their names go on a sex-offenders register as pedophiles for at least 15 years, which seriously hampers their ability to get work or move within and between states.”

“This is outrageous and very serious,” he continued, because “there doesn’t seem to be anyone saying we should have family meetings and getting health professionals involved. There seems to be less scope now for dealing with these sorts of problems in a humane manner.”
- Just like in the good ole' USSA!

Substance abuse

Alcoholism and substance abuse, a long-standing problem in many Aboriginal communities, was another element used by the federal government to justify its intervention.

Chronic alcoholism is a disaster both for the individuals afflicted and the communities in which they live. Our first night in Alice Springs gave us some sense of how it impacts on Aboriginal communities. Our accommodation was located not far from the Mpwetyerre or Abbots town camp and drunken fights and shouting raged on into the early hours of the morning.

Why is alcohol abuse such a major problem in the NT? This is a complex question but one that cannot be understood without recognising the impact of two centuries of unrelenting oppression of Australia’s native peoples. After visiting the town camps, it became clear that a major element is that alcohol provides the means for individuals to anaesthetise themselves from the harsh realities that their communities have endured, not just for a few weeks or months but for generations.

Alcohol abuse, of course, is not confined to Aboriginal settlements in Australia. Similar problems afflict indigenous populations in the US, New Zealand and Canada. And, of course, it is not restricted to indigenous communities. According to recent figures, one in 10 Australian children lives in a household in which there is parental alcohol and/or drug misuse. In England an estimated 1.3 million children are affected by the alcoholism of at least one parent. In all cases medical authorities insist that what is a required is a holistic approach—i.e., one that recognises the major role played by social deprivation.

The government intervention had no interest in pursuing such an approach. It callously used the tragedy of alcohol abuse in Aboriginal communities for its own political gain, simply declaring that it was a legal question and criminalising the victims via a total alcohol ban on 73 “prescribed” Aboriginal communities.

Twelve months on there are no new treatment centres or counselling services and, up until the end of May, only one new “safe house” had been established for children in Alice Springs. At the same time, the constant police patrols enforcing alcohol bans have ramped up tensions in the communities.

Town camp residents we spoke to said that alcohol-related problems and violent assaults had worsened since the intervention. In Alice Springs, for example, the number of violent assaults had increased by 17 percent in the last quarter of 2007, while Darwin had a 25 percent rise in the first quarter of 2008.

The Rudd government and the corporate media claim that the intervention’s “income management” scheme has improved conditions of life, ensuring that Aboriginal families purchase food, clothing and other necessities for their children, rather than alcohol. We saw little evidence, and no objective statistics have been produced to prove these claims.

What is known is that Centrelink-issued store cards are now being traded or gambled in exchange for cash, which is then used to make alcohol purchases. Moreover some alcoholics are turning to dangerous substitutes—mouth-washes, raw spirits and worse.

Petrol sniffing is also resurgent with virtually no assistance available to those involved. In Alice Springs, for example, there are more than 20 Aboriginal youth addicted to petrol and glue sniffing, an increase over the past year. Two months ago the town opened its first treatment clinic, ten years after medical experts called for the facility. The clinic, however, only accommodates 10 people.

Police harassment

NT police have wide-ranging powers under the intervention, including the right to conduct warrantless raids on any property they believe might contain alcohol or pornography. Pre-dawn raids on town camps and other violations of basic democratic rights are now commonplace.

The government’s suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act, an integral part of the intervention, also means that Aboriginal people have no legal protection from any acts of racial discrimination by police. Police lawyers only have to argue that the officers were looking for alcohol or pornography to justify their actions.

Soon after we arrived in Alice Springs, more than 190 Aborigines were taken into so-called “protective custody” in a two-day special police operation. Its purpose was to target alcohol consumption and “loitering” and was aimed against youth who “might get up to no good”. This was necessary, police told the local media, because of “increased numbers of Aboriginal people in public spaces”—i.e., homeless.

Not surprisingly, we encountered numerous Aborigines who had been taken into “protective custody”, had their homes raided, or been pepper-sprayed or assaulted by police.

One woman from Mt Nancy town camp, who wanted to remain anonymous, told us that police had raided her home in the early hours of the morning on three consecutive days in early April. She said that armed police burst into her home, pulled the blankets off sleeping residents and shone torches in their faces. The officers had no search warrants. They simply claimed that they were looking for one of her distant relatives.

Jackie Okai, 38, an executive member of the Inarlenge or Little Sisters town camp, explained that she was violently assaulted by police during a warrantless 6 a.m. raid late last year. The police declared they were searching for someone from the town camp. Okai used to work in childcare at Tangentyere Council, but is now on sickness benefits.

“Seven police came into our house when people were sleeping and started pulling the blankets off everyone. Many of us, including me, are under medication. I’m an asthmatic and epileptic but they just dragged me around like a dog.

“I said to them, ‘Excuse me, have some manners’ but they just sprayed mace right in my face and I had a fit. They kicked me in the legs and the ribs and then dragged me to the paddy wagon, chucked me in the back and took me down to the watch house.

“The Aboriginal police officer verbally abused me—he kept calling me an elephant—and then they pepper sprayed me in the watch-house yard. They gave me a big spray in the eye. I cried out for a doctor because it was burning, but they didn’t take any notice. They were really crueling me.” Okai was eventually released without charge and taken to a health clinic.

Since the raid on Okai’s home, NT police have been equipped with taser guns. One can only imagine the tragic consequences if they had been used.

A wink and a nod

Soon after we interviewed Okai, we read about the trial of a senior police sergeant, Michael Bourke. In late November 2006, Bourke assaulted a handcuffed Aboriginal prisoner, 31-year-old Graham Kunoth, in the Tennant Creek police station.

Bourke punched Kunoth in the face, threw him to the prison floor, repeatedly kicked him in the head and then dragged him along the corridor to another cell. A female probationary police constable caught Bourke attempting to tape over CCTV footage of the incident and decided to tell authorities.

Bourke was charged and put on trial for aggravated assault and attempting to destroy evidence, charges that carry maximum penalties of five years’ and 18 months’ jail respectively.

During the trial the media published comments from former police officers praising Bourke as a “good copper”, while an unnamed source cited in the Australian newspaper denounced Kunoth as “a complete mongrel” and “the most violent person” in Tennant Creek. Up to 20 police officers, some in uniform, and their wives and girl friends attended the trial in a show of support for Bourke.

Needless to say, Bourke was found guilty and last month sentenced to six months’ jail for the aggravated assault charge and three months for attempting to destroy evidence. Bourke’s sentence, however, was suspended and, in a “wink and a nod” from Australia’s ruling elite, he was ordered to serve the entire nine months in home detention!

Such lenient treatment is no isolated incident. It needs to be contrasted with the following statistics:

* Over 240 Aborigines died in police custody in Australia between 1980 and 2000, with only 5 percent of these deaths attributed to the conduct of authorities and not one charge of murder laid against police or prison officers.

* More than 82 percent of NT prison inmates are of Aboriginal descent, with 21 percent of those incarcerated for driving offenses.

* In 2005-06, more than 22,000 Aborigines were taken into “protective custody” by NT police. With a population of about 66,000 indigenous people in the Territory, this means that, on average, one in three Aborigines was taken into police custody that year.

These grim figures are yet another reminder that the war that was waged against NT Aborigines by pastoralists, mining corporations and other representatives of the profit system in the latter part of the nineteenth century is still underway, albeit under the banner of a new “humanitarian” intervention to protect Aboriginal children.

See Also:
Photographs of conditions for Aborigines in the Northern Territory

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