Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The VIDEO Facebook Does Not Want You To See

This is not something you can afford to miss. For the full story on the scandal of child exploitation here on Facebook, watch and share this new, compelling hour-long video produced by StopChildPornOnFacebook.com - http://vimeo.com/41583927

Then take real action. Go to http://stopchildpornonfacebook.com/ to send a message directly to Facebook that this abusive oversight must stop now.

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Friday, May 25, 2012


“Where do you live?”
I get that question a lot as I’ve been getting to know the people of the Hartbeat Ensemble and their wider circle of talented friends and collaborators. They’re developing a theatrical production called, “Project Turnpike,” partly based on a book I wrote. As we discuss the schedule of upcoming meetings and rehearsals, someone is curious about how far I’ll have to travel to their studios on Pearl Street in Hartford.
“Where do you live?”
It’s a normal question to ask someone you’ve just met. But nothing about this is normal. I try to act like it is, like I’m completely there in the room when we’re discussing the play’s script, like I’m not wondering what will happen tonight .  .  .  when I go home. I’m not fooling anyone.
“Where do you live?”
These are smart, intuitive people. So when I’m vague in answering their question, I feel exposed – and a bit silly. So be it. That’s the way it has to be. Right now, only two people know where I really live. The two people who were compassionate enough to lend me a home when I needed a safe place to go don’t tell anyone I’m there. My name isn’t on any utilities. My mail goes to a PO box. And I sleep better knowing I’m off the grid.
It’s hard to live a normal life when you speak truth to power, corruption and evil. You pay a price. And constantly looking over my shoulder is the price I’m paying now.
My book, “The Berlin Turnpike: A True Story of Human Trafficking in America,” tells the story of several women who were victimized by pimps in and around Hartford. Like the play, the book exposes the truth behind the abuse these women suffer and the tyrannical behavior of their violent pimps. I want to help Hartbeat make this an excellent and accurate portrayal of what victims of commercial sexual exploitation go through. We all want to give these victims a clear voice so people will see them as the valuable women they are.
The book focuses on a man named Dennis Paris. He ran what he called an “escort” service in Connecticut for years. Except it wasn’t just an “escort” service. It wasn’t even a prostitution ring. It was human trafficking. In 2007, that was the crime he was tried for in Hartford Federal Court, human trafficking. That and “sex trafficking of a minor.” One of his girls he sold to men through ads he placed in the Hartford Advocate was 16. Another was 14.
As part of my research for the book I attended Paris’ sentencing in late 2008. It was there that I met his brother, Jaykuan, who defended Dennis to the very end . . . even as they led him off to Federal prison for 30 years.
Although he didn’t like the idea that I was writing a book about the case, Jaykuan seemed to be a nice enough guy. He lived in a pleasant Glastonbury neighborhood with his wife who was a Connecticut State Trooper. I wasn’t surprised that he would defend his brother. They shared very strong family ties.
At the time, I didn’t know that they also shared the family business.
The reasons behind my present seclusion started in 2011. Strange emails, texts, and Facebook postings started to arrive sporadically. Someone was angry with me and my book. At first, I didn’t think much about it. Human trafficking is a sensitive topic. It can polarize people. So I shrugged it off and kept plugging away at everyday life.
Then, on November 15, 2011, things got very strange. On that day, Jaykuan Paris was arrested for “promoting prostitution.” With his brother serving time in an Arizona penitentiary for human trafficking crimes, State and Federal law enforcement had been investigating Jaykuan for the very same crimes for at least two years.
According to the 35-page arrest warrant, Jaykuan Paris was also a pimp for several women in Connecticut. The women under his control told police that Jaykuan would beat them if they received “bad reviews” on “escort” service websites. The users of these sites, often men who refer to themselves as “hobbyists,” readily “chat” about the prostitutes whose sexual services they have paid for.
And like his brother Dennis, Jaykuan did not operate his business alone. He had a partner: his wife, Pearl Kelly-Paris, the State Trooper.
How involved was she? Very. On one occasion, Pearl met her husband at a motel in Rocky Hill – driving her State Police cruiser – and handed him a digital camera. He then proceeded to photograph the two of “his girls” along with his wife – the Trooper – to post in online “escort” listings. All three women, including the State Troooper, wore black lingerie and face masks for the photographs. The “escort” ads would then generate calls from men looking to pay for sex.
Together, the couple arranged “for the prostitution of several females, in some cases by means of force, fraud and/or coercion,” explained investigators, further stating that they regularly advertised in the “escort” section of several websites.
After the arrest, the intimidating messages only increased. I still don’t know the source, but I wasn’t going to wait out in the open to find out.
So now, I go to script readings and rehearsals. I try to focus on this great play the Ensemble is building. I know it’s going to help a lot of people. It will expose a truth that has been hidden for far too long. We will finally experience the full humanity of these incredibly brave survivors.
And I try not to think about where I live. When people ask, I just say, “Connecticut.”
Jaykuan Paris is currently free on $250,000 bond.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


WDRC Interview from Afghnistan

Listen to my interview with Mary Jones and Brad Davis. I called them from Afghanistan during their radio show on WDRC to talk about our latest television project. The link is above.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Operation Care Newsletter

Operation Care is an extraordinary project assisting children and families in Afghanistan through the voluntary efforts of our troops serving there. These US military service members devote their time to build relationships with the Afghan people and improve the lives of our own military personnel serving in outling areas. To learn more or to help, please follow the link above to read this month's Operation Care Newsletter as written by the organization's Director, US Army Captain Ken Chambers.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


"We were sitting on an IED for two days one time," the soldier tells me, "and we didn't have anything with us but water and baby wipes. Those are the only things you need anyway. That and bullets."

He's in his mid-twenties and seated across from me as we travel down a dusty road in Afghanistan. I can guess his age because I met him before we loaded up and headed out on this mission. He is fair skinned, just under six feet tall, probably dark hair, but the short haircut and blazing sun makes it hard to tell what anyone here really looks like.

Now, in the back of the heavily fortified MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected), the only parts of him I can truly see are his nose, cheeks, mouth, and a bit of his chin. Everything else is covered by heavy, protective and camoflaged battle gear. Besides the young soldier and myself, there are seven others dressed the same way in the 17 ton vehicle. I am the only civilian.

Before asking questions, I am constantly trying to decipher what is being said around and to me. Embedded with a military unit means a steady barrage of acronyms, words, points of reference, jargon, and terminology that are useless to a civilian. It means I have to spread my questions out carefully and cautiously. Too many basic questions and your status as an "outsider" becomes glaring. Go too long without asking anything and you'll always be in the dark.

I decide the time is right to use one of my precious questions because I've heard the term "sitting on an IED," too many times to go on without knowing what it means. I already know IED's (Improvised Explosive Device) have killed  thousands of US  soldiers over the past decade plus of war both here and in Iraq. "Sitting" on one doesn't sound like a good idea.

"Tell me what you mean by sitting on an IED," I say over the noise of the enormous diesel engine that's pushing us and the MRAP further away from the safety of the  FOB (Forward Operating Base) where this unit and I are staying. As soon as the words leave my dry lips, I know I've asked incorrectly.

"Well sir, an IED is an Improvised . . . "

"I know," I say cutting him off. Exposing my civilian ignorance, the patient soldier naturally thinks I don't know what the entire phrase means, including "IED." And in Afghanistan, not knowing the meaning of IED is like being in America and not knowing who the New York Yankees are.

"Oh, okay," he smiles, realizing I don't want him to think I'm completely in the dark. "It means when you find an IED, it's yours. You have to call it in, guard it, protect the locals from it. You are completely responsible for it until the thing can be disarmed. You stay with it. So you gotta be prepared to sit on it because if you see it you own it."

"If you see it, you own it." Nothing can prepare you for the things you see in Afghanistan. As we drive to our destination, a school construction project, I think about what I had seen the day before. An Army Chaplain at one of several FOB's (Forward Operating Base) here took time out of his day to show me around the Base's exceptional emergency medical facilities. Along with stories and photos of injured local children who were treated at the hospital, he told me about his personal duties of counseling both to patients and to those who treat them.What they go through can never be forgotten. Once they see the horrors of war they own them.

As we were leaving the hospital I asked about a square, yellow tent, about 20' by 20', which sat isolated from all the other buildings and vehicles.

"Yes," the Chaplain says. "That is the last place are fallen heroes rest before their journey home." That's when I noticed the large generator and refrigeration unit adjacent to the tent. This was the morgue.

"Here, I'll show you," the chaplain says as he begins walking in its direction. I'm not sure I want to see this, but he wants to show me the inside so I follow.

He unzips the tent door and we step into a small room with a desk, phone, and chair. Then, through a heavy plastic "door" to a much larger room with two empty gurnies.

"The soldiers are brought here," he explains. "I spend a few minutes with them, in prayer. Then, they wait in hear for the transport home." He turns to an enormous metal refrigerator with three doors. Opening one of them, he continues, "This unit can hold 15."

Three aluminum racks capable of holding five bodies each. The racks are, of course, empty. The first thing I notice is the cold coming from inside. It's almost freezing and it cuts through me.

But the thing I notice the most its utter blackness, so void of light that I cannot see the far end of the racks meant to hold the bodies of American soldiers killed here in Afghanistan. It's as though I'm looking into their eternal loss. Everything they were. Everthing they could have been. Gone. All their wives, children, fathers and mothers back home. Alone.

It is the darkest thing I have ever seen. And now I own it.