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Archive for February 18th, 2012

The good news is that Jesus is coming back.  The bad news is that he’s really pissed off.  – Bob Hope

Three new stories and six updates from the fifth week of 2012.

Good News, Bad News

Sometimes, reading stories about prostitution law is like the classic joke format.  GOOD NEWS:  77% of Canadians support decriminalization of prostitution and UNAIDS has condemned criminalization of sex work (including the “Swedish Model”, “end demand” schemes and the rescue industry) as a danger both to sex workers and to public health:

…Forced rescue and rehabilitation practices lower sex workers’ control over where and under what conditions they sell sexual services and to whom, exposing them to greater violence and exploitation…this leads to social disintegration and a loss of solidarity and cohesion (social capital) among sex workers, including reducing their ability to access health care, legal and social services.  Low social capital is known to increase vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections among sex workers and therefore has a detrimental impact on HIV prevention efforts…undermining sex worker organisations is one of the most important negative effects of law enforcement practices…anti-trafficking efforts typically ignore the possibility of engaging sex workers as partners…[even though they] are often best placed to know who is being trafficked into commercial sex and by whom, and are particularly motivated to work to stop such odious practices…Organised groups of sex workers are also best placed to establish safe working norms within the sex industry, and influence other[s]…to ensure that trafficked adults and children are not retained in sex work…

BAD  NEWS:  Western Australia is starting to buy into the “trafficking” narrative:

Federal police have launched an operation to rescue people trafficked into WA for forced labour, prostitution and servile marriages.  There are fears that an increasing number of women are being brought to Perth and forced into the city’s sex industry.  Supt Glyn Lewis…said human trafficking was insidious and abhorrent and many victims were never found…There have been only 14 convictions for human trafficking since legislation came into force in 2003.  People working in the area in Perth fear trafficking is a real and emerging issue “under the radar” of authorities and the public.  Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans said the problem had to be addressed…

None of these people stop to consider that maybe the reason that there are so few convictions and “many victims were never found” is that there was no crime in the first place.  But hey, we can’t let facts get in the way of hysteria and fear-mongering by cops and religious groups.

Scientific Detachment

The ability to look at sensitive subjects dispassionately and to present evidence without emotion is an admirable one, but as Professor G.S. Brindley (the doctor who developed the first medical treatment for erectile dysfunction) discovered in 1983, it’s probably best not to assume that the majority of one’s audience possesses that capacity to any great degree.  This January 27th article on the Discover magazine blog explains, and since synopsizing it in any way would do it a disservice, I’ll just leave you with the link.

Fundraiser for St. James Infirmary

I’ve been asked to publicize an online fundraiser for St. James Infirmary, which provides compassionate healthcare and social services for sex workers in San Francisco.  It will be held tomorrow (February 19th, 2012) at 3 PM EST on BlogTV; even if you can’t attend please spread the word!

Week 5 of 2012 Updates

Nothing in the Dark (August 8th, 2010)

This story demonstrates not only the reason for considering condoms a “safety net” against disease rather than a first line of defense, but also the reason I’m hesitant to entrust my health to a government bureaucracy:

…South Africa’s leading anti-AIDS group said…that…faulty condoms are among more than 1.35 million handed out at the African National Congress’ 100th birthday party…[they were] recalled but the Treatment Action Campaign said no warning has been issued to people that they may have carried away defective condoms…The third recall in less than five years raises questions about the quality of some of the 425 million-plus condoms that the government gives away each year, and the competence of the South African Bureau of Standards [SABS] that is supposed to ensure their quality…In 2007, the government recalled more than 20 million defective condoms…but recovered only 12 million…a [previous] recall…[resulted after] a testing manager at [SABS took] a bribe to certify the faulty contraceptives…

[AIDS activist Sello Mokhalipi] said people started coming with complaints about the condoms…three days after the celebrations ended…”We poured water into the condoms and they were leaking, not just in one place, they were leaking like a sieve,” he said.  Looking at them, “you can see there are small pores” like pinpricks…the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce, said many of the 10,000 to 15,000 prostitutes they work with often complain about the free government condoms…[so] they instead use a brand provided by an international charity…South Africa’s government sources its condoms from several companies and rebrands them with its colorful CHOICE packaging, in bright blue, red, yellow and green…

Any time there’s a lucrative government contract, there’s going to be graft.  And anything sourced out to the lowest bidder…

Who Did Your Tits? (October 1st, 2010)

Most women who have boob jobs feel they confer psychological and/or financial benefits, but I never considered this possibility:

A 41-year-old Florida woman says the breast augmentation surgery she had three months ago saved her life…her ex-fiancé’s new girlfriend…attacked her…stabbing her repeatedly in the left side of her chest…the knife had punctured the implant and she was soaked with saline.  Doctors say the salt water and walls of the implant prevented a deadly blow.

The Camel’s Nose (October 2nd, 2010)

Yet another spooge sneaker; this one is so reprehensible he constitutes a one-man argument in favor of sex offender registries:

…Mark Berndt, a third-grade teacher [at Miramonte Elementary School in California]…is charged with committing lewd acts on 23 boys and girls, ages 6 to 10, between 2005 and 2010…[he] was removed from classwork in January 2011 and fired within the month, but only parents of children identified as victims were told…some angry parents…complained that they only learned of the investigation through the media after Berndt’s arrest this week.  School officials and investigators said proper procedures were followed…but…two former students…said school officials were informed about [Berndt’s] odd behavior two decades ago

…Berndt is suspected of snapping nearly 400 photographs of…students, some with a giant Madagascar cockroach from a classroom terrarium on their faces.  Others were blindfolded or had clear tape over their mouths, and some were shown with a spoonful of milky liquid placed near their lips…The photo sessions were treated as a game and some children were given sperm-laced cookies to eat as treats…The investigation began in the fall of 2010 when a film processor became suspicious about the photographs and turned them over to…police…an investigator…found a blue spoon…in a trash can [in Berndt’s classroom] that appeared to be the one seen in the photographs, but it took months before analysis determined there was semen on the spoon and more time before DNA testing matched it to Berndt…Meanwhile, investigators kept trying to identify children in the photographs…

I would hope that prosecutors build their cases on photographic and DNA evidence, and that they, cops and parents have the sense not to question the children or (even worse) subject them to the ordeal of trial participation; adult eyewitness testimony is unreliable at best, and that of children is often worse than useless.  Alas, I fear that’s a vain hope; adults just can’t resist traumatizing young children by subjecting them to frightening and confusing interrogations and filling their heads full of horrible images, thus exploiting them just as monstrously as the criminal did.

Welcome To Our World (January 20th, 2011)

I think my readers can answer David Reber’s questions, which he seems to consider rhetorical:

…What could a teacher possibly know about education?  Countless arguments used to denigrate public school teachers begin with the phrase “in what other profession…” and conclude with practically anything the anti-teacher pundits find offensive about public education…In what other profession, indeed.  In what other profession are the licensed professionals considered the LEAST knowledgeable about the job?  You seldom if ever hear “that guy couldn’t possibly know a thing about law enforcement – he’s a police officer”, or “she can’t be trusted talking about fire safety – she’s a firefighter.”  In what other profession is experience viewed as a liability rather than an asset?  You won’t find a contractor advertising “choose me – I’ve never done this before”, and your doctor won’t recommend a surgeon on the basis of her “having very little experience with the procedure”.  In what other profession is the desire for competitive salary viewed as proof of callous indifference towards the job?  You won’t hear many say “that lawyer charges a lot of money, she obviously doesn’t care about her clients”, or “that coach earns millions – clearly he doesn’t care about the team”…For no other profession do so many outsiders refuse to accept the realities of an imperfect world.  Crime happens.  Fire happens.  Illness happens…People accept all these realities, until they apply to public education…

Well, Mr. Reber, there is at least one other…

The Enlightenment Police (October 1st, 2011)

One would think the usually-sensible Dutch would have waited to see what the European High Court will do with the French version of this first:

The Dutch…government plans to ban Muslim face veils…”People should be able to look at each other’s faces and recognize each other when they meet,” the interior affairs ministry said…The ban will also apply to balaclavas and motorcycle helmets when worn in inappropriate places, such as inside a store, Deputy Prime Minister Maxime Verhagen told reporters, denying that this was a ban on religious clothing…The face-veil law, which still needs to win approval in both houses of parliament, excludes clothing worn for security reasons such as that worn by firemen and hockey players, as well as party clothing such as Santa Claus or Halloween costumes.  The ban does not apply to religious places, such as churches and mosques, nor to passengers on airplanes or en route via a Dutch airport…

Hark, Hark, the Dogs Do Bark (January 11th, 2012)

Since neofeminists insist that all gendered behavior is “socially constructed”, I’m sure they’ll deny these findings just as creationists deny fossils and carbon dating:

Testosterone makes us overvalue our own opinions at the expense of cooperation, research from…University College London has found…Problem solving in groups can provide benefits over individual decisions as we are able to share our information and expertise.  However…collaborating too closely can lead to an uncritical groupthink, ending in decisions that are bad for all…research has shown that people given a boost of the hormone oxytocin tend to be cooperative.  Now…researchers have shown that…testosterone has the opposite effect — it makes people act less cooperatively and more egocentrically.

Dr Nick Wright and colleagues…[tested] 17 pairs of female volunteers who had previously never met…On one…day…[they] were given a testosterone supplement; on the other day, they were given a placebo.  [Men were not used because supplements can trigger a drop in their own testosterone production, invalidating the results]…as expected, cooperation [in a task] enabled the group to perform much better than the individuals alone…but, when given a testosterone supplement, the benefit of cooperation was markedly reduced.  In fact, higher levels of testosterone were associated with individuals behaving egocentrically…”Most of the time, this allows us to seek the best solution to a problem, but sometimes, too much testosterone can help blind us to other people’s views,” [said Dr. Wright.]  “This can be very significant when we are talking about a dominant individual trying to assert his or her opinion in, say, a jury”…

One Year Ago Today

Not the Same Tree” showcases a Detroit reporter’s excellent and very perceptive article about the federal persecution of an escort service.

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