Monday, July 20, 2015

For Sale: Schoolgirls in Japan

Japan’s obsession with "JK" culture has taken a dark turn, with schoolgirls now offering themselves for “dates” with adult men. The US State Department flagged "Jyoshi Kousei" (literally "female high [school] student") or "JK" as fronts for commercial sex run by sophisticated criminal networks. This video reveals what happens behind closed doors, where schoolgirls involved in the rent-a-date industry reveal how they’ve been coerced into human trafficking.

"This problem won't be solved unless the adults who buy and sell disappear." 

Here's what the State Department said, " In a recent trend called joshi-kosei osanpo, also known as “high school walking,” girls are offered money to accompany men on walks, in cafes, or to hotels, and engage in commercial sex. Sophisticated and organized prostitution networks target vulnerable Japanese women and girls in public areas such as subways, popular youth hangouts, schools, and online; some of these women and girls become trafficking victims. Japanese men continue to be a significant source of demand for child sex tourism in Southeast Asia and, to a lesser extent, Mongolia."

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

For Sale: 50 State Legislatures

That's when ALEC - American Legislative Exchange Council - has its 42nd Annual meeting at which corporations and their lobbyists give prepared, written legislation to state legislators from across America. With the money from these lobbyists in their pockets, our state legislators return home with the corporate prepared legislation and create laws.

ALEC, the non-profit, corporate-funded organization that develops what it calls, “model legislation,” historically worked off radar. Thankfully, ALEC is now the subject of investigations and inquiries by several media outlets and the Bill Moyers' documentary “United States of ALEC.” It has also been shunned by major corporations (from to Wal-Mart) that previously paid for its initiatives. And as ALEC gathers its corporate and legislative “members” in SanDiego for their 42nd annual meeting, thousands of people are gathering in protest.

If you think ALEC has no particular political agenda, take a look at their list of Annual Speakers.

However, ALEC remains a defining force in statehouses throughout America. One report identified 466 ALEC bills that were introduced during in state legislatures during 2013 sessions. 

Today, ALEC remains an enormously powerful player in local American politics. Its influence is difficult to measure simply because the money it spreads to your elected officials pays for its own anonymity. No one involved wants you to know what is happening at these closed meetings, meetings at which your state laws are being written.

Fortunately, some state legislators propose that ALEC be required to follow existing lobbying laws, since they are quite obviously advancing the agendas of powerful, well funded special interests. In fact, the group’s 300-strong corporate members include some of the most high-profile in America: among them AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline, UPS, Pfizer, Bayer, Verizon, and Koch Industries. “When a company needs a state bill passed,”writes Bloomberg Businessweek, “the American Legislative Exchange Council can get it done.”

Each state has "chairs" who represent ALEC. These leadership positions are held jointly by legislators and corporation representatives. Here is a list of "chairs" in your state.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Backpage's Answer to Credit Card Companies? Free "Adult" Ads For Everyone

Crime finds a way.

"Backpage is ballsy." That was the text I received this morning from "Marie," a working prostitute who is one of the women I interviewed for my book, "The Berlin Turnpike: A True Story of Human Trafficking in America." Like many of her brief texts, I didn't quite understand what she was talking about. I replied with a simple "?"

Her response was ecstatic. "Backpage isn't charging me anything to post ads anymore! Woohoo!"

Recently, Visa, Master Card and Amerincan Express each barred its credit cards from being used to pay for "Adult" ads on Backpage.comthe online classified-ad company that's become the center of a hard-fought battleground against human traffickingThe decision followed a request from Cook County, Illinois Sheriff Thomas Dart who said the site is used by sex traffickers. 

In response, has stopped charging users to post ads in its "adult" section all together. Until now, users could post free ads elsewhere on the site, but paid fees for promotions in the "adult" section, which receives thousands of ads for "escorts" every few minutes. This is the section where "Marie" posts her ads every day. 

On July 1, 2015, when Visa became the last major credit card company to bar its users from posting "Escort" ads, human rights advocates were cheering. "We commend these credit card companies for making it more challenging for traffickers to profit off of the exploitation of people," said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris, a Washington-based anti-trafficking group.

In urging the credit card companies to refuse processing payments, Sheriff Dart wrote, "We have objectively found (sites like Backpage) promote prostitution and facilitate online sex trafficking. Institutions such as yours have the moral, social and legal right to step up on this pervasive problem and make a fundamental and everlasting difference."

But then made a simple determination: since no one can pay for "Adult" ads, why charge for them?

At this point, no one knows if will create a new way for users to post "Escort" ads. Some have suggested Backpage will give a boost to non-government, non-bank affiliated, web-based currencies like Bitcoin. One thing is certain, "Adult" ads account for a huge portion of income. Without them it could lose a substantial amount of traffic and advertising revenue. 

In an email to many of its registered users, hinted that the free adult postings may be temporary. "We understand some users have had difficulty posting over the last few days," said the email. "Sign up for a free account and enjoy posting free ads until the payment issues are resolved." Non-registered users received a similar email, this one instructing them to register for a free account using the promo code "FREESPEECH."

"Marie's" view on the issue is diabolically simple. "I pay Backpage. The johns pay me. I pay my dealer. Why are people f____ing with that?"

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