3-29-19 Barbra Streisand backpedaled
Barbra Streisand backpedaled this week after downplaying Michael Jackson’s alleged sexual abuse of children. Asked by a British newspaper whether she believed the two accusers featured in HBO’s documentary Leaving Neverland, Streisand, 76, said, “Absolutely,” but then added that “those children…were thrilled to be there” and went on to get married and raise families, so the abuse “didn’t kill them.” She said she felt badly for Jackson, who had “sexual needs” of his own, adding, “I blame, I guess, the parents who would allow their children to sleep with him.” After an uproar, Streisand said she was “profoundly sorry” for her words, adding that she had “nothing but sympathy for the accusers” and thinks their parents were “seduced by fame and fantasy.”
3-25-19 'At 11 years old, my dad sold me for sex'
Kayti was just 11 years old when her dad sold her for sex for the first time in a US town. After years of abuse, she shares what she lived through and how she finally escaped.
3-25-19 The torture chambers down the street
On the plight of children placed in so-called 'seclusion' in public schools. Once in a great while a piece of news rises above the omnidirectional tedium of our outrage cycle to demand everyone's attention. The Washington, D.C., radio station WAMU recently reported on the plight of hundreds of children placed in so-called "seclusion" in public schools. Some of these children were as young as 6 years old. Some of them were locked up by themselves as often as a hundred times a year. Many of them were intellectually or otherwise disabled. One autistic boy, Elijah Lickenfelt, was locked up for hours on end in a room with no windows. These are not last-ditch efforts by desperate teachers. School buildings have been designed with the practice in mind. According to Elijah's mother, Anne, the seclusion rooms at her son's former school were "built like Russian nesting dolls, rooms within a room. The innermost room was reserved for children with egregious behavior issues." This is not a story from the imagination of Poe or Sade. It is an American public school attempting to address the apparently inexplicable reality that children misbehave. Reading about it is bad enough, but if you want to see what it looks like when a terrified boy is hauled into a dungeon by an adult who is ostensibly responsible for his well-being. What did Fairfax County Public Schools have to say for themselves? Mind-numbing acronyms. Dehumanizing abstractions. All of it affectless, all of it gibberish, all of it self-exculpatory and utterly unrepentant. The word "child" is not used a single time. There is, in fact, nothing to indicate that human beings of any age are being discussed here. This is how the servants of the great 20th century dictators talked about the populations they were brutalizing — as impersonal factors in a mechanical process being handled correctly by experts in accordance with "guidelines." It is also how our educated professional classes talk about nearly everything. The practices reported by WAMU are, in fact, appallingly widespread. At least 36,000 children in America were locked up in the 2015-16 school year, and some 86,000 were physically restrained. More often than not these children are disabled. Not long ago, amid virtually no fanfare, Betsy DeVos, our much-criticized secretary of education, announced that her department would attempt to address the issue in public schools.
3-23-19 Michael Jackson: Barbra Streisand apologises for abuse remarks
The singer Barbra Streisand has apologised after she was criticised for sympathising with Michael Jackson over child abuse accusations against him. Streisand told The Times newspaper that she believed the allegations against the late superstar but said his actions "didn't kill" the accusers. She later wrote on Instagram that she was "profoundly sorry for any pain or misunderstanding" caused. Jackson's brothers have denied that the singer sexually abused children. The accusations were made in a new documentary - Leaving Neverland - which features testimony from two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who say they were abused hundreds of times by Michael Jackson from the ages of seven and 10. Asked whether she believed Mr Robson and Mr Safechuck, Streisand said she "absolutely" did. But she continued: "His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has. "You can say 'molested', but those children, as you heard say [Robson and Safechuck], they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." (Webmaster's comment: Pathetic! So sexually abusing children is alright if you have the need and it doesn't kill them? Sick!)
3-21-19 Child abuse may change brain structure and make depression worse
A study of over a hundred people’s brains suggests that abuse during childhood is linked to changes in brain structure that may make depression more severe in later life. Nils Opel at the University of Münster, Germany, and his colleagues scanned the brains of 110 adults hospitalised for major depressive disorder and asked them about the severity of their depression and whether they had experienced neglect or emotional, sexual or physical abuse during childhood. Statistical analysis revealed that those who experienced childhood abuse were more likely to have a smaller insular cortex – a brain region involved in emotional awareness. Over the following two years, 75 of the adults experienced another bout of depression. The team found that those who had both a history of childhood abuse and a smaller insular cortex were more likely to have a relapse. “This is pointing to a mechanism: that childhood trauma leads to brain structure alterations, and these lead to recurrence of depression and worse outcomes,” says Opel. The findings suggest that people with depression who experienced abuse as children could need specialised treatment, he says. Brain changes can be reversible, says Opel, and the team is planning to test which types of therapies might work best for this group.
3-20-19 US mum 'abused kids who performed on family YouTube channel'
A US mother whose seven adopted children regularly performed as superheroes on her family's YouTube channel has been charged with child abuse. Machelle Hackney, from Arizona, and her two adult sons were arrested on Friday by local police. Ms Hackney has denied abusing her children. The adoptees regularly appeared on the popular Fantastic Adventures channel, dressed up as superheroes. The channel has more than 700,000 subscribers and, in total, a quarter of a billion views. With new videos uploaded about once a week, the Fantastic Adventures featured the children in fantastical situations, with animated effects representing their various superpowers. The children, aged about six to 15 according to The Washington Post, have now been removed from Ms Hackney's care. Police accuse Ms Hackney of starving, pepper-spraying, beating and isolating the children. Authorities also allege that they were forced to take ice baths and at least one of the boys experienced physical abuse to his genitals. One child was allegedly found in a cupboard when police arrived. "Officers came in contact with the six other children, who appeared to be malnourished, due to their pale complexion, dark rings under their eyes, underweight, and they stated they were thirsty and hungry," police documents said. Ms Hackney has been charged with seven counts of child abuse, five of unlawful imprisonment and two of child molestation, which she denies. Her two sons Logan Hackney and Ryan Hackney were charged with failing to report child abuse.
3-13-19 Nxivm 'sex cult' case: Co-founder pleads guilty to racketeering
The co-founder of a suspected US sex cult has pleaded guilty to committing racketeering offences. Nancy Salzman, 65, told a court in New York she had stolen email addresses of critics of Nxivm group and tampered with video evidence. Ms Salzman, known as Prefect in the group, is due to be sentenced in July. Female recruits of Nxivm were allegedly branded with the initials of the group's spiritual leader Keith Raniere and coerced into having sex with him. Investigators say the organisation is a sex-trafficking operation disguised as a mentoring group. Keith Raniere himself was arrested by the FBI in Mexico last year. His defence team says the alleged sexual relationships were consensual. In all, six people - including a liquor heiress and an actress - are facing criminal charges as part of an ongoing inquiry. On its website Nxivm (pronounced nexium) describes itself as a "community guided by humanitarian principles that seek to empower people and answer important questions about what it means to be human". Based in Albany, New York, the group was founded as Executive Success Programs in 1998 and says it has worked with more than 16,000 people. Members of the group are reported to include the son of a former Mexican president and Hollywood actresses. Federal prosecutors allege Mr Raniere oversaw a "slave and master" system within the group.
3-13-19 George Pell: Cardinal jailed for child sexual abuse in Australia
Cardinal George Pell has been jailed for six years after being convicted of sexually abusing two boys in Australia. The former Vatican treasurer is the most senior Catholic figure ever to be found guilty of sexual offences against children. Pell abused the 13-year-old choir boys in a Melbourne cathedral in 1996, a jury ruled last year. The cardinal, 77, maintains his innocence and has lodged an appeal. In sentencing Pell on Wednesday, a judge said the cleric had committed "a brazen and forcible sexual attack on the two victims". "Your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance," said Judge Peter Kidd. In December, a jury unanimously convicted Pell of one charge of sexually penetrating a child under 16, and four counts of committing an indecent act on a child under 16. His conviction has rocked the Catholic Church, where he had been one of the Pope's closest advisers. Pell will be eligible for parole after three years and eight months. His appeal will be heard in June. One of Pell's victims said it was hard "to take comfort in this outcome" with the cleric's appeal looming.
3-7-19 Phillipe Barbarin: French cardinal guilty of abuse cover-up
France's most senior Roman Catholic cleric, the cardinal Philippe Barbarin, has been given a six-month suspended sentence for his role in covering up the sexual abuse of minors. Barbarin was found guilty of failing to report allegations of assaults by a priest in the 1980s and 1990s. He denied the charges. His lawyers now say he will appeal against the verdict. Barbarin's sentencing comes as the Catholic Church reckons with a new wave of abuse scandals. Barbarin, who held the position of Archbishop of Lyon, was not present for the verdict. During the trial, he told the court: "I cannot see what I am guilty of. I never tried to hide, let alone cover up these horrible facts." The claims relate to alleged abuses committed by priest Bernard Preynat, who is now 73 and who ran a boy-scout group in the Lyon area for many years. Dozens of men say he sexually assaulted them as children. Mr Preynat lawyer's has said his client has admitted the allegations, but that the statute of limitations has expired. French officials argue that some of the offences can still be prosecuted and a criminal case has been opened against the priest. Some of Mr Preynat's alleged victims took action against Barbarin and five others over their inaction. They used provisions in French law to bring a private prosecution, bypassing the prosecutor's office which had not pursued the case against the cardinal. Barbarin told the trial he had known of "rumours" as far back as 2010. But he said he became aware of the alleged abuse after a conversation with one of the victims in 2014. He informed the Vatican about the allegations, and removed Mr Preynat from his position a year later – but never informed police. The allegations became public in 2015 and are now the subject of a film titled Grace of God, which was cleared for release last month after a legal battle. French broadcaster BFMTV described the case as "the first major trial of paedophile in the French Catholic Church".
3-4-19 George Pell: Cardinal to be sued over 1970s abuse allegation
Cardinal George Pell is being sued by a man who alleges he was sexually abused by the cleric in an Australian swimming pool in the 1970s. Pell has consistently denied committing abuse in a pool in Ballarat, Victoria, in the 1970s. Last week, prosecutors dropped criminal charges against him relating to that decade. He is now being sued in a civil case. In December, Pell was found guilty of sexually abusing two boys in Melbourne in 1996. He is challenging the verdict. Allegations that Pell indecently assaulted boys in the 1970s had been due to be put to a second trial, but it will no longer go ahead. On Monday, a 50-year-old man - who does not want to be identified - lodged a civil lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Victoria, alleging that he was assaulted by Pell in a Ballarat pool as a boy. The man had been due to testify in the criminal trial and was "devastated" that it had collapsed, according his lawyer. "He said he felt empty and that a major injustice had occurred," said Lee Flanagan from firm Arnold Thomas & Becker.The man was a ward of the state at the time of the alleged abuse. He is also seeking compensation from Victoria's state government, his former boys' home, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne over alleged breaches of duty of care. Pell's legal team is yet to respond to the lawsuit. Last year, a criminal trial heard that Pell had abused two 13-year-old boys in a cathedral in 1996, when the cleric was archbishop of Melbourne. The jury in the trial unanimously convicted him of five charges. Pell was remanded in custody last week and is due to be sentenced on 13 March.
3-1-19 Vatican abuse summit leaves victims angry
Clerical sex abuse survivors expressed disappointment this week after Pope Francis called for “all-out battle” against abusers in the Roman Catholic Church—but failed to offer any concrete measures to root out predator priests. At a Vatican summit to address the crisis of pedophilia within the clergy, victims from around the world told the 190 assembled bishops and religious superiors of the pain caused both by their abuse and the church’s indifference to their suffering. Priests should be “physicians of the soul,” Chilean survivor Juan Carlos Cruz said in testimony, yet many became “murderers of the soul.” Francis called abusive priests “tools of Satan,” and insisted that the church would “do all that is necessary” to bring pedophile clerics to justice. But the pope did not use his authority to institute the zero-tolerance policy sought by many Catholics, under which priests found guilty of child abuse—and bishops who cover for them—would automatically be removed from ministry. Francis said the church should avoid a rush toward summary justice, “provoked by guilt for past errors and media pressure,” and asked bishops to police abuse at the local level. Victims and activists expressed anger at the strategy. Francis “absolutely doesn’t get it,” said Anne Barrett-Doyle, co-founder of the U.S.-based advocacy group Bishop Accountability. “This is a catastrophic misreading of the faithful.” (Webmaster's comment: The bottom line is that the Catholic church still wants to forgive child rape rather than impose punishment!)
3-1-19 George Pell: Cardinal argues 'irregularity' in sexual abuse conviction
Cardinal George Pell is challenging his child sexual abuse conviction on three grounds, including saying that the trial had a "fundamental irregularity". The ex-Vatican treasurer abused two boys inside a Melbourne cathedral in 1996, a jury found in December. Pell maintains his innocence. His lawyers argue that he was wrongly prevented from entering his plea before a jury, according to court documents which have been republished by Australian media. The defence team also argues that the jury's verdict was "unreasonable" because it relied too heavily on one person's testimony. Last year, a court heard that Pell had abused two 13-year-old boys following a mass in 1996, when he was archbishop of Melbourne. A jury unanimously convicted him on one charge of sexually penetrating a child under 16, and four counts of committing an indecent act on a child under 16. The trial heard testimony from one of the victims. The other died of a drug overdose in 2014. Pell was remanded in custody on Wednesday and is due to be sentenced on 13 March. The case has rocked the Catholic Church, where Pell was considered one of Pope Francis's closest advisers. On Thursday, footage of Pell responding to the allegations for the first time - during a police interview in Rome in 2016 - was released by a court. Details of the case had been kept secret from the public until this week for legal reasons. Pell's lawyers argue that the verdict relied on the surviving victim's evidence, saying "it was not open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt". The jury had heard "unchallenged" evidence from 20 other prosecution witnesses, the defence team said.
2-26-19 'Thousands of US child migrants sexually abused'
The US health department has received more than 4,500 complaints of sexual abuse against detained migrant children from 2014-2018, documents show. The Department of Justice reportedly received an additional 1,303 sex abuse complaints against unaccompanied minors during the same period. Congressman Ted Deutch, who released the figures, said at least 154 claims are against facility staff members. A spokesman for the health department said it takes the claims seriously. "These documents demonstrate over the past three years there have been 154 staff-on-unaccompanied-minor - let me repeat that, staff-on-unaccompanied-minor - allegations of sexual assault," Congressman Deutch said during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. The hearing, which focused on the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy that led to thousands of immigrant children being separated from their families, featured testimony from Jonathan White, the deputy director for children's program's at Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). "This works out, on average, to one sexual assault by HHS staff on an unaccompanied minor, per week," Mr Deutch continued. Mr White clarified that those allegations are not against HHS staff, but rather against the contractors who are paid by HHS to run the underage migrant detention facilities. "I will make that clarification. It doesn't make what happened any less horrific," Mr Deutch responded. Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for HHS, said the shelters are run by childcare service centres that are licensed by state officials. "These are vulnerable children in difficult circumstances," she said in a statement to Axios, which first reported the documents. "When any allegations of abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect are made, they are taken seriously and ORR acts swiftly to investigate and respond." The allegations include sexual relationships, showing pornographic videos to children and forcible touching, according to Axios. The figures were revealed as Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform voted to issue subpoenas to Trump administration officials involved in the now-suspended policy of separating parents from their children after they illegally cross the US-Mexico border.
2-26-19 Tanzania's FGM safe house for girls in danger of cutting
Every December is the "cutting season" in Tanzania, where thousands of young girls are forced to undergo the illegal practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). This involves removing all or part of a girl or woman's external genitalia, including the clitoris, an ordeal that could cost them their lives. In fear of her being "cut" by her own family, 12-year-old Rosie Makore made the difficult choice of running away to a safe house. Ultimately she is taken back to her village to confront her mother about whether or not she will be returning home. Defying The Cutting Season follows the brave and courageous girls fighting against a tradition that goes back thousands of years and reveals the one safe place they can escape to.
2-26-19 George Pell: Cardinal found guilty of sexual offences in Australia
Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty in Australia of sexual offences against children, making him the highest-ranking Catholic figure to receive such a conviction. Pell abused two choir boys in Melbourne's cathedral in 1996, a jury found. He had pleaded not guilty. As Vatican treasurer, the 77-year-old Australian was widely seen as the Church's third most powerful official. Pell, due to face sentencing hearings from Wednesday, has lodged an appeal. His trial was heard twice last year because a first jury failed to reach a verdict. A second jury unanimously convicted him of one charge of sexually penetrating a child under 16, and four counts of committing an indecent act on a child under 16. The verdict was handed down in December, but it could not be reported until now for legal reasons. Pell was swarmed by media and heckled by onlookers as he left a court on Tuesday. The Vatican later confirmed that Pell was prohibited from public ministry, and had been banned from having contact with minors. He has to abide by these rules until any appeal is over. They added that while the ruling was "painful", and the Church has the "utmost respect" for the Australian authorities, Pell has the right to "defend himself to the last degree". The Catholic Church worldwide has in recent years faced a damaging series of allegations relating to sex abuse by priests, and claims that these cases were covered up. Pope Francis has just held an unprecedented summit on paedophilia in the Church. Pell was archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 when he found the two 13-year-old boys in cathedral rooms following a mass, the County Court of Victoria was told. After telling them they were in trouble for drinking communion wine, Pell forced each boy into indecent acts, prosecutors said. He abused one of the boys again in 1997. The court heard testimony from one of the victims. The other died of a drug overdose in 2014. A jury rejected an argument by Pell's lawyer, Robert Richter QC, that the allegations were fantasies contrived by the victims.
2-24-19 Pope Francis compares child sex abuse to human sacrifice
Pope Francis has promised concrete action to tackle child sex abuse at the end of a Roman Catholic Church summit on paedophilia. Clergy guilty of abuse were "tools of Satan", the Pope said, pledging to face every case with "utmost seriousness". Child sex abuse, he said, reminded him of the ancient religious practice of child sacrifice in pagan rites. Bishops would now review and strengthen their guidelines to prevent abuse and punish perpetrators, he added. The Pope spoke largely in general terms, but victims and survivors of abuse will call for detailed practical steps to be announced, says the BBC's Vatican correspondent, James Reynolds. "I am reminded of the cruel religious practice, once widespread in certain cultures, of sacrificing human beings - frequently children - in pagan rites," he said at the end of a four-day summit held in the Vatican. "The inhumanity of the worldwide phenomenon becomes even more serious and more scandalous in the Church, because it is in contrast with its moral authority and its ethical credibility. "The consecrated person, chosen by God to guide souls to salvation, lets himself be subjugated by his own human frailty, or by his own illness, thus becoming a tool of Satan. In the abuses, we see the hand of evil that does not spare even the innocence of children." He said victims would now be the priority and promised an end to cover-ups, saying all abusers would be brought to justice. He also stressed child sexual abuse was a universal problem - "a widespread phenomenon in all cultures and societies". The unprecedented conference - called Protection of Minors in the Church - was attended by the heads of all national bishops' conferences from more than 130 countries. They were handed a roadmap of suggestions on how to handle abuse, such as drawing up mandatory codes of conduct for priests, training people to spot abuse and informing police.
2-23-19 Vatican abuse summit: Cardinal says files were destroyed
A senior Roman Catholic Cardinal has said that files documenting child sexual abuse were destroyed, allowing offences to continue. German Cardinal Reinhard Marx told a conference on paedophilia in the Church that procedures to prosecute offenders "were deliberately not complied with". "The rights of victims were effectively trampled underfoot," he said. The unprecedented four-day summit has brought together 190 bishops from across the world. The Catholic Church has faced growing pressure amid long-running cases of sexual abuse of children and young men, with victims accusing it of failing to tackle the issue. "Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created," Cardinal Marx told the third day of the conference in the Vatican. "Instead of the perpetrators, the victims were regulated and silence imposed on them." He urged greater transparency in the Catholic Church's response to the issue, adding: "It is not transparency which damages the church but rather the acts of abuse committed, the lack of transparency or the ensuing cover up." On Friday, Cardinal Marx - who is one of nine advisers to the pope, known as the C9 - met survivors of abuse and members of the global organisation Ending Clergy Abuse. Hundreds of victims have protested outside the Vatican, calling for justice and zero tolerance over the issue. The conference was called for by Pope Francis, who earlier this month admitted that abuse of nuns by members of the clergy had included sexual slavery. Last week, a former Catholic cardinal was defrocked over historical sexual abuse allegations.
2-22-19 U.S. cardinal defrocked
Pope Francis expelled the disgraced ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick from the Catholic priesthood last week, making the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., the highest-ranking American cleric to be defrocked in the church’s global sex-abuse scandal. McCarrick, 88, was found guilty in a church trial on numerous counts of sexually abusing minors and sexual misconduct with adult seminarians and priests—including soliciting sex during confession. He was forced to resign as cardinal last year. “Nothing can give me back my childhood,” said James Grein, who accused McCarrick of sexually abusing him for decades from age 11. “With that said, today I am happy that the pope believed me.” In the past few decades, more than 1,000 priests worldwide have been defrocked for sexual misconduct.
2-22-19 Gay Priests
At least 30 to 40 percent of Catholic priests in the U.S. are gay, according to multiple estimates by researchers and dozens of interviews with priests. Some are sexually active, and some are not, but priests said the widespread homosexuality within their ranks is an open, though rarely discussed, secret. (Webmaster's comment: Being a gay priest is fine, sexually abusing children is not!)
2-22-19 Turpin captivity case: California parents admit torture
A California couple has pleaded guilty to imprisoning, shackling and torturing some of their 13 children. David and Louise Turpin each admitted 14 felony counts including cruelty to an adult dependent, child cruelty, torture and false imprisonment. They were arrested in January 2018 when their 17-year-old daughter managed to escape the house in Perris. The children, ranging in age from two to 29 at the time, were found severely malnourished and abused. The 57-year-old husband remained impassive in Riverside Superior Court on Friday, but his 50-year-old wife wept as she pleaded guilty. District Attorney Mike Hestrin said during the brief hearing that the plea deal spared the children a trial that would have further traumatised them. He said the decision was made in part because of the "worldwide media attention" the case has received. "We decided that the victims have endured enough torture and abuse," he said. "I personally met with the victims and, rest assured, they all are greatly relieved to know this case has been resolved." Officers who raided the family home 70 miles (112km) south of Los Angeles found a scene of squalor and stench of human waste that contrasted with the tidy exterior of the property in a middle-class neighbourhood. Some of the adult victims' growth had been so stunted by malnourishment that authorities at first mistook them for children. Prosecutors said the parents beat, strangled and starved all of the children except for their toddler daughter. Some of them were chained to furniture in a campaign of abuse dating back to at least 2010. The victims were forbidden to shower more than once a year and none of them had ever seen a dentist. (Webmaster's comment: Lock them up and throw away the key!)
2-22-19 India Catholic Church defends Cardinal Gracias over 'failed abuse victims'
The Indian Catholic Church has defended itself over how it handled allegations of sexual abuse reported by the BBC. On Thursday, a senior cardinal admitted he could have better handled the allegations that were brought to him. The BBC reported two cases where Cardinal Oswald Gracias was claimed to have failed to respond quickly or offer support to the victims. Cardinal Gracias, who is the Archbishop of Mumbai, is tipped by some as the next possible Pope. Victims and those who supported them allege that Cardinal Gracias did not take allegations of abuse seriously when they were reported to him. The Archdiocese of Mumbai sent the BBC a statement saying that, in the 2015 case of the alleged rape of a young boy by a parish priest in Mumbai, the cardinal had met the boy and his family when an appointment had been requested. "The cardinal tried to console the parents. The cardinal was to leave for Rome that same night. After the complainants left, the cardinal at once phoned up [the accused priest] and informed him of the allegations made against him." The priest denied the allegations, but "the cardinal removed him from office immediately and told him that he was not even allowed to celebrate Mass the next morning", the statement says. The cardinal then asked a bishop "to keep in touch with the family and start an inquiry", and then left for Rome, it says. When he reached Rome, the cardinal phoned the bishop, who told him the family had subsequently informed the police themselves. Later on, the Church offered the family further help, but the family declined, the statement said. However, the cardinal understands their pain and remains ready to provide assistance. Cardinal Gracias is one of four men organising a major Vatican conference on child abuse this week. The issue of sexual abuse within the Church is being called the Vatican's biggest crisis in modern times, and the integrity of the Catholic Church is said to ride on the outcome of this conference.
2-21-19 Pope Francis: Concrete action needed against child abuse at Church
Pope Francis has said the world expects "concrete measures" to tackle child sexual abuse by priests and not only "simple and obvious condemnations". At a summit to discuss the scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church, he said "the cry of the little ones seeking justice" had to be heard. Details of sexual abuse have emerged across the world and the Church has been accused of covering up crimes. Survivors say new safeguarding protocols are needed to protect minors. The unprecedented four-day summit at the Vatican is being attended by the heads of all national bishops' conferences from more than 130 countries. The Vatican has tried to reduce expectations with the Pope previously saying the conference - called Protection of Minors in the Church - represented only the beginning of a conversation. The 82-year-old pontiff is under serious pressure to provide leadership and generate workable solutions to what is the most pressing crisis facing the modern Church. "The holy people of God look at us and await from us not simple and obvious condemnations, but concrete and effective measures to put into place. Concreteness is required," he said in a short opening statement. "I ask the Holy Spirit to support us in these days and to help us to transform this evil into an opportunity for awareness and purification. May the Virgin Mary enlighten us to try to cure the serious wounds that the scandal of paedophilia has caused both in children and in believers." (Webmaster's comment: Condemnations? These child sex abusers should all get serious prison time!)
2-21-19 First Vatican summit on child sex abuse
Catholic bishops are meeting to discuss the Roman Catholic church's response to the sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy for the first time. The Vatican says it wants four days of reflection and discussion with survivors and it is likely to be a defining moment for Pope Francis. The BBC spoke to Brigitte, who is a survivor of child sex abuse, and to David Gibson, from Fordham University's Centre of Religion.
2-16-19 US ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick defrocked over abuse claims
A former Roman Catholic cardinal has been defrocked after historical sexual abuse allegations. Theodore McCarrick is the most senior Catholic figure to be dismissed from the priesthood in modern times. US Church officials said allegations he had sexually assaulted a teenager five decades ago were credible. Mr McCarrick, 88, had previously resigned but said he had "no recollection" of the alleged abuse. "No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the Church," Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement. "For all those McCarrick abused, I pray this judgment will be one small step, among many, toward healing." The alleged abuses may have taken place too long ago for criminal charges to be filed because of the statute of limitations. (Webmaster's comment: A statue of limitations on sex crimes just encouages the pedaphiles.) Mr McCarrick was the archbishop of Washington DC from 2001 to 2006. Since his resignation last year from the College of Cardinals, he has been living in seclusion in a monastery in Kansas. He was the first person to resign as a cardinal since 1927. He is among hundreds of members of the clergy accused of sexually abusing children over several decades and his dismissal comes days before the Vatican hosts a summit on preventing child abuse. The Vatican said Pope Francis had ruled Mr McCarrick's expulsion from the clergy as definitive, and would not allow any further appeals against the decision.
2-13-19 Hotels train staff to spot human trafficking
The front line for preventing human trafficking might not be at airports, international borders or in police raids. It might be at the hotel check-in desk. An international hotel chain has completed a two-year project to train half a million staff with the aim of spotting potential victims of trafficking. Marriott's workforce, in almost 7,000 hotels, have completed a process of mandatory training teaching them to look out for warning signs. "Hotels can unfortunately be unwilling venues for this unconscionable crime," David Rodriguez, the hotel group's chief global human resources officer, said. "There is no easy fix but combating modern-day slavery starts with awareness," Mr Rodriguez said. "And we now have a significant number of people capable of recognising suspicious behaviour and reporting it to management and, in some cases, law enforcement." The type of signs might include "guests with minimal luggage and clothing" and "individuals who can't speak freely or seem disoriented". There might be "guests who insist on little or no housekeeping". Concerns about trafficking for prostitution might be raised by multiple people being escorted to a room one at a time. Staff are taught that while none of these individually might be a sign of trafficking, when there is a "combination of indicators", it might be time to raise concerns with hotel managers. Hotel staff, watching their guests arrive and during their stay, have an unusually close-up view of their behaviour. "In a hotel, our people wouldn't necessarily see a human trafficker visibly restraining a victim," Mr Rodriguez said. But he said workers might recognise a "scenario that is much more nuanced and harder to detect if you don't know what to look for". "That's why helping associates identify the signs of sexual exploitation and forced labour is so important," Mr Rodriguez said. A spokeswoman for Marriott said the training had recently paid off when staff in a central London branch had noticed someone "using the hotel lobby to meet with and groom an under-age girl". Police were contacted and the perpetrator was subsequently jailed.
2-12-19 AI has helped rescue children trafficked for sexual exploitation
One photo of a child in a hotel room can often be the only clue to a trafficked child’s whereabouts. An artificial intelligence is now helping investigators to identify these hotel rooms, leading to the rescue of a number of sexually exploited children. Globally, an estimated 4.8 million people have been forced into sexual exploitation. More than 1 million are under 18. In the US, exploited children often appear pictured in hotel rooms in online adverts. These images are found across dozens of websites as well as on dating apps. Traffickers regularly move location to try to avoid being found. To fight back, Abby Stylianou at George Washington University in Washington DC and colleagues built an AI that attempts to identify hotels from these adverts. It does this by comparing the advert images to a database of more than 1 million photos of 50,000 hotels around the world, including some from travel websites and others sent in by volunteers. To train the AI, the team adjusted some of the images to resemble trafficking photographs by cropping, rotating and altering the colour. They then blacked out parts of the images with silhouettes to resemble a person in the foreground. The images donated by volunteers were particularly useful, says Stylianou. That is because they have similar lighting to those taken by children who are coerced into taking photos of themselves. Regular renovations and hotel chains with identical decor makes the task more difficult, as does the fact that many images the investigators find have much of the background obscured. In tests on images the AI hadn’t previously seen, it identified the correct hotel chain 63 per cent of the time in a top-five list by similarity. However, identifying the specific hotel was more difficult. When producing a list of 100 candidates, the AI only included the correct hotel around 25 per cent of the time.
2-3-19 Why it’s key to identify preschoolers with anxiety and depression
New research shows these kids have mental and physical problems as they grow older. The task was designed to scare the kids. One by one, adults guided children, ranging in age from 3 to 7, into a dimly lit room containing a mysterious covered mound. To build anticipation, the adults intoned, “I have something in here to show you,” or “Let’s be quiet so it doesn’t wake up.” The adult then uncovered the mound — revealed to be a terrarium — and pulled out a realistic looking plastic snake. Throughout the 90-second setup, each child wore a small motion sensor affixed to his or her belt. Those sensors measured the child’s movements, such as when they sped up or twisted around, at 100 times per second. Researchers wanted to see if the movements during a scary situation differed between children diagnosed with depression or anxiety and children without such a diagnosis. It turns out they did. Children with a diagnosis turned further away from the perceived threat — the covered terrarium — than those without a diagnosis. In fact, the sensors could identify very young children who have depression or anxiety about 80 percent of the time, researchers report January 16 in PLOS One. Such a tool could be useful because, even as it’s become widely accepted that children as young as age 3 can suffer from mental health disorders, diagnosis remains difficult. Such children often escape notice because they hold their emotions inside. It’s increasingly clear, though, that these children are at risk of mental and physical health problems later in life, says Lisabeth DiLalla, a developmental psychologist at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Carbondale. “The question is: ‘Can we turn that around?’”
1-31-19 New York school 'strip search' of black girls aged 12 investigated
Allegations that four black 12-year-old girls were strip searched at a school should be investigated at state level, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says. He said the allegations were "deeply disturbing" and raised "serious issues of racial and gender bias". The girls and their parents say the school nurse and assistant principal searched them believing they had drugs. Local education authorities question whether a strip search took place, but have hired a firm to investigate. "Asking a child to remove her clothing - and then commenting on her body - is shaming, humiliating, traumatic sexual harassment," Mr Cuomo said in a statement. "In New York we have zero tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind," he added on Twitter. The Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow, which campaigns for deprived communities, said the girls had been searched after appearing "hyper and giddy" during their lunch hour on 15 January. The group said the girls' parents had not been contacted until after the alleged searches and had not given consent. Local radio station WSKG quoted one of the girls as saying that she had been asked first to pull down her trousers and then to pull down the leggings she had on underneath. "My leggings were tight. And she was like, 'can you pull them down a little bit for me?' So I pulled them down under my knees," the girl said, speaking after a meeting this month between community members and school officials. The mother of one of the girls said her daughter had been detained for more than an hour, the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin reported.
1-18-19 Social media’s effects on girls
Teenagers who spend hours a day on social media are at an increased risk of suffering from poor sleep and symptoms of depression, a new study has found, with girls appearing to be particularly badly affected. The study, based on interviews with almost 11,000 British 14-year-olds, found that, compared with girls who use social media for one to three hours a day, girls who spend at least five hours daily on Instagram, Snapchat, and the like showed a 50 percent increase in depressive symptoms. Among boys, the heaviest social media users showed a 35 percent increase in depressive symptoms. Lead author Yvonne Kelly, from University College London, calls the gender disparity an “alarming difference.” The study also found that girls tend to spend more time on social media, reports CNN.com: Two-fifths are on it for at least three hours a day, compared with only one-fifth of boys. Teens who used social media the most tended to report having more problems sleeping, and in turn, the children with the worst sleep were more likely to suffer symptoms of depression. Time spent online was also linked to an increased likelihood of being the victim of cyberbullying; girls were more likely to have experienced such bullying.
1-13-19 When kids think a shooter is coming
When kids think a shooter is coming. Lockdowns have become an ordinary feature of the American school day, said journalists Steven Rich and John Woodrow Cox. Even when there’s no violence, children suffer the psychic consequences. Locked behind their green classroom door, MaKenzie Woody and 25 other first-graders huddled in the darkness. She sat on the vinyl tile floor against a far wall, beneath a taped-up list of phrases the kids were encouraged to say to each other: “I like you,” “You’re a rainbow,” “Are you OK?” In that moment, though, the 6-year-old didn’t say anything at all, because she believed that a man with a gun was stalking the hallways of her school in the nation’s capital, and MaKenzie feared what he might do to her. Three times between September and November, bursts of gunfire near MaKenzie’s public charter elementary school led DC Prep to seal off its Washington campus and sequester its students. During the last one, on Nov. 16, a silver sedan parked just around the corner at 10:42 a.m., then the men inside stepped out and fired more than 40 rounds. As MaKenzie’s class hid upstairs, teachers frantically rushed three dozen preschoolers off the playground and back into the building. The children of DC Prep hid for 20 minutes, until police officers arrived at the crime scene around the corner and began to take note of where the 40-plus bullet casings had scattered. What did not arrive was the caravan of TV trucks and reporters that so often descend on schools when such scenes play out in whiter, wealthier neighborhoods. In the hours that followed, students began to unravel. Among the things they said: “Who’s going to shoot me?” “I want to shoot people.” “I want to shoot myself.” “The lockdowns,” as MaKenzie calls them, have changed her, because the little girl with long braids and chocolate-brown eyes remembers what it was like before them, when she always felt safe at her school, and she knows what it’s been like afterward, when that feeling disappeared. In April, the country will mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High, and that day will arrive in the aftermath of the worst year of school shootings in modern American history. Last spring, The Washington Post launched a database that tracked incidents of gun violence on campuses dating back to 1999, and the carnage in 2018 shattered every record. Most shootings at schools: 25. Most people shot: 94. Most people killed: 33. Most students exposed to gunfire on their campuses: 25,332.
1-4-19 Pope Francis: US sex abuse scandal undermines Church's credibility
Pope Francis has said the credibility of the Catholic Church in the US has been severely damaged by the ongoing child sexual abuse scandal there. Efforts to cover up the crimes had caused even greater harm, he said in a letter delivered to US bishops attending a retreat in Chicago. He urged the bishops to end internal bickering and show unity as they tried to tackle the crisis. The Pope's comments on child abuse have grown stronger over time. In an extensive letter released by the Vatican, the Pope says the "hurt caused" has generated "division and dispersion" within the ranks of US bishops. "God's faithful people and the Church's mission continue to suffer greatly as a result of abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse, and the poor way that they were handled," he wrote, adding bishops had "concentrated more on pointing fingers than on seeking paths of reconciliation". "Combating the culture of abuse, the loss of credibility, the resulting bewilderment and confusion, and the discrediting of our mission urgently demands of us a renewed and decisive approach to resolving conflicts," the Pope wrote. Attempts to restore the institution's credibility must be based on rebuilding trust, he added. Next month, US bishops will join their counterparts from across the world for an extraordinary meeting at the Vatican to find ways of tackling the crisis. A report last year by a grand jury in Pennsylvania identified more than 1,000 victims abused by hundreds of priests over seven decades in that state alone. In July of last year, the pontiff accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, one of the US Church's most prominent figures, following allegations he had sexually abused a teenager. In October, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington DC, stepped down over his handling of abuse cases. Pope Francis called for "decisive action" when he was elected in 2013, but critics say he has not done enough to hold to account bishops who allegedly covered up abuse. In late December, he urged priests who had offended to surrender to the law, in preparation for "divine justice". (Webmaster's comment: Divine Justice has not worked for over 1,500 years. Why should we expect it to work now? It's just words!)