Hundreds nabbed in U.S. child prostitution sting

There are certain stories that lift the human spirit, that enoble us as a species. This is not one of them.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 300 people have been arrested for involvement in child prostitution rings and 21 children rescued in a nationwide sweep, the FBI said on Wednesday.

"Operation Cross Country," a five-day sting that ended on Sunday, spanned 16 cities in 10 states and the District of Columbia and caught 389 people who exploited children through prostitution, the agency said.

Investigations uncovered schemes ranging from prostituting children at truck stops to promoting their services on the Internet, the FBI said.

I rarely wish the Feds well on anything, but in this case here's to their successful casebuilding against over 300 rotten spots in the civic body. Go get'em guys.

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Opinion - Gore Vidal, 82 and Cantankerous as Hell

Unlike many of you here, I am not a reader. Simply put, unless it's a news story on the web or in the occasional magazine, it doesn't appeal to me. I'm much too manic-y to sit still for much more.

But this Time Magazine interview with Gore Vidal [by Deborah Solomon] may change that -

How did you feel when you heard that Buckley died this year? I thought hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins forever those whom he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred.

Based on this quote, I will not abandon my image of Buckley as a wise and intelligent right winger. I will not now believe him to be morally bankrupt. However, I will likely want to read more out of the collections of Vidal essays being published. People who speak their minds so brashly are just too good to ignore.

Some of us Democrats joked during the 96 election cycle that Bob Dole's campaign slogan was likely "Hey you punks, get off my lawn." After reading this short interview I am now convinced this was not Dole's slogan but octogenarian Gore Vidal's partisan personal credo.

Are you a supporter of gay marriage? I know nothing about it. I don’t follow that.

Why doesn’t it interest you? The same reason heterosexual marriage doesn’t seem to interest me.

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Three Pictures of Life Near Sadir's New Wall

We are on a mission in Sadr City to inspect some of the checkpoints along the newly completed wall. The first part of the mission brings us to the infamous Jamilla Market, an outdoor stretch of shops and home to some of the worst fighting in the entire war. The market suffered heavily. Shop owners are now facing repairs that they could never possibly afford, and it has made an impossible situation even worse for many.

Zoriah is a photographer I view with a little regularity and a lot of envy. He travels all over hells and back (hells, because human and natural disasters have spawned more than just one).

I don't want to violate his copyright so I can't drop his photos in here. But I can suggest you visit the link and travel with him to Iraq and China to monsoon and earthquake.

Perhaps this isn't news in the strickest sense - after all who among us doesn't know the name of Sadir-city? But the upclose and personal that this photographer gives us is new. And it is a view not usually dwelt upon on the evening news.

It's well worth getting acquainted with.

Three Pictures of Life Near Sadir's New Wall by Zoriah Three Pictures of Life Near Sadir's New Wall by Zoriah Three Pictures of Life Near Sadir's New Wall by Zoriah

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Ketchup anyone?

It strikes me funny that the French would have bad coming of age movies, but apparently they do. Hope you enjoy this a lot more than the young man in the film did.


Zion man Changes Name to "In God We Trust"

This took place in the city just south of the one I live in. I'm not sure how exactly to comment on it.

Steve Kreuscher is no more.

A Lake County judge granted permission to the Zion man Friday to officially change his name to "In God We Trust." That's "In God" as a first name and "We Trust" as a last name.

The 57-year-old artist and bus driver was ecstatic about the name change as he exited court Friday.

"I feel great. It's just like, yes!" We Trust said.

Check the history of Zion and you'll see that it was founded by a man who was either pious, a zealot or a nut job, depending on your point of view. In the recent past, the City Seal of Zion was subject of a Supreme Court case when someone sued to have a religious symbol removed from it (the city lost that one).

Some of the original residents and their descendants take their Christianity rather seriously, as proven by this story about Mr. We Trust.

[q url="http://www.suntimes.com/lifestyles/1006179,ingodwetrust061408.article"]The process to change his name took roughly three months. Throughout the course We Trust said he was looking for a sign from God that would let him know it was a good idea. He got it one day while adding up the expenses for the name change, which came out to roughly $600.

"I didn't want to use my own money because things are tight," said the father of four. "Three weeks later, I got my (tax) rebate check for $600."

To his credit I have seen more twisted rationale for weirder acts. I mean another man from my home town might have seen the $600 check as proof that God wanted him to get three lap dances at Milwaukee's On The Border.

Best wishes to Mr. We Trust in his life, faith and artistic pursuits.

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Illegal Alien Faces Up to 20 years in Prison for Auto Death

One of the side detriments to this sad case is that this idiot becomes a poster boy for the "build a fence between us and them" argument.

The 29-year-old Kenosha man charged in the West Allis crash that killed a 6-year-old girl Monday could face federal charges for re-entering the country illegally after being deported to Mexico in February, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office said Wednesday.
The 29-year-old Kenosha man charged in the West Allis crash that killed a 6-year-old girl Monday could face federal charges for re-entering the country illegally after being deported to Mexico in February, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office said Wednesday.

Gail Montenegro, spokeswoman for ICE’s Chicago region, said her agency expects to file federal re-entry charges against Jose A. Rodriguez, accused of striking Mackenzie J. Maddox and her 25-year-old mother, Andrea F. Maddox, both of West Allis as they crossed the street.

Apparently this homicidal doofus was thrown out of this country when he was caught doing something criminal as an illegal.alien. While the story does not tell what he got caught doing from the looks of his driving record it was likely vehicle related.

Rodriguez works for an Oak Creek waterproofing business. He has convictions for driving while intoxicated, speeding, failure to obey a traffic sign and property damage accidents, said West Allis Police Chief Michael Jungbluth.

Prayers to the family. Andrea Maddox is still in the hospital. her condition is satisfactory.

My advice to Jose A. Rodriguez - buy a frickin' bicycle.

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ChineseHackers No Slackers - Violate Congressional Computers

Anyone surprised by story has likely been asleep since Mao died.

In a press conference held on June 11, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf has made public that his office computers were hacked in August 2006 and that the FBI and other officials informed him that the attack came from inside China. Rep. Christopher Smith, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is also active in human rights affairs, said his computer had been attacked from inside China.

Hackers are hackers, no matter the country, though from what I have heard the Chinese actually pay their young'uns to pry into sensitive areas and report back. As the U.S. Government (and taxpayers have found) where there is a sub contract there's a way.

So what would Chinese hackers want from Congressmen's offices that they can simply steal from the Pentagon mainframe?

The computers in his office were being used by staff members working on human rights issues, which includes the names of dissidents, access to e-mail correspondence between his office and human rights groups and records from over 24 congressional hearings on human rights abuses.

He reported that after one of the attacks, a car with Chinese officials plates went to the home of a Chinese dissident in the United States and photographed it.

And what with the Olympics coming up with its threats of embarrassing protests that's likely information the Chinese government would love to have.

Qualifying as the most amusing paragraph in the story is the Chinese Government's denial - it claims its such a backwater regime that it couldn't possibly have the technology to do it.

"... China is still a developing country. Does that mean we have already mastered such high-end technology? Personally I' don't believe that." Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a news conference in Beijing.

Hard to believe from a country that's essentially the Captain Jack Sparrow of the copyright world.

Scientists force confessions from mucky fingerprints

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The Five Pokemon of the (Olympic) Apocalypse

OK, so they aren't really Pokemon, but damned if they don't look like them. 

HONG KONG: Superstitious bloggers have linked China's earthquake disaster and other recent misfortunes to the five Olympic mascots, a Hong Kong newspaper reported yesterday.

Gossip sites are full of speculation that four of the five cartoon mascots have fulfilled prophesies of doom with one more, connected to the Yangtze River, still to come, the South China Morning Post said.

Apparently, the first four figures are linked to disruption along the Olympic torch route, the recent earthquake, Tibetan protests and last month's infamous train crash. As mentioned above the last mascot, Beibei the Sturgeon, will be the last harbinger of doom.

While the Chinese believe it will come from the Yangtze, my money is on tuna tainted by China's ever-present lead menace.

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Tiffany Hirst: the toddler left to die alone and unloved

In a case of neglect that resulted in the death of Tiffany Hirst, 3, a court was told yesterday how passers-by used to see the gaunt face of the toddler staring through the window of her mother’s squalid flat.

Frankly, I am not sure exactly why I posted this. It is news - extremely sad and poignant - and it needs to be seen. But posting it verges on being as obscene as the senseless death of this child.

Despite the flow of customers to and from the Sheffield pub below, senior detectives said that the neglect continued to go unnoticed, leaving the toddler to die, unloved and alone.

Tiffany was found by paramedics in a filthy bed in a beetle-infested room at the Scarbrough Arms in Addy Street, Upperthorpe. The pub was run by her mother, Sabrina Hirst, 22, and stepfather, Robert Hirst, 54.

“It is heartbreaking. We think this neglect had been going on for months and that those last few months, weeks and days of her life, she was unloved, unwanted, starved of attention and left alone to die and she would have known that.”

Believe it or not this could have been worse. Apparently the couple was charged with neglecting a second child, this one 12 months of age, Thankfully, the younger child is still alive.

Tiffany Hirst: the toddler left to die alone and unloved

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Will Judge Who Posted Bestiality Video be Recused from Obsenity Trial

Can't speak for you, but I live to run into these stories. Findingthem gives me a warm, squishy feeling - but not the type of warmsquishy feeling likely portrayed in the judge's video.

LOSANGELES - The chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appealsposted sexually explicit photos and videos on a Web site hemaintained that he has now blocked to the public, the Los AngelesTimes reported today on its Web site.

The revelation about Judge Alex Kozinski came as openingstatements were under way in an obscenity trial he is presiding overin U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Kozinski, 57, told the Times that he thought the material on hisWeb site, which included a video of a man cavorting with a sexuallyaroused farm animal, couldn't be seen by the public. He took the sitedown and said he didn't believe any of the images were obscene.

As for his thedecency of the video he posted, the judge said "Is it prurient?I don't know what to tell you...I think it's odd and interesting.It's part of life."

And how exactlydoes a man "cavort" with a sexually aroused farm animal?Will we end up arguing the definition of "cavort." [Note:the judge was appointed by Reagan, not Clinton, so this may not be anissue.]

[Judge Kozinski] is currently overseeing a trial in which Los Angelesbusinessman Ira Isaacs is accused of breaking U.S. obscenity laws byselling pornographic movies that depict extreme fetishes.

Trial jurors were scheduled to travel this afternoon to the 9thCircuit's Southern California building in suburban Pasadena to viewthe movies, which depict bestiality and fetishes involving feces andurine. The panel includes eight men and six women. Two will bedesignated alternates later in the trial.

Apparently, oneman's “odd and interesting” “part of life” is a quarter ofanother man's life. If convicted Isaacs faces a 20 year prisonsentence.

For his part, Judge Kozinski just ends up looking like a dumb asswho should not be trying this case... or hanging out at a pettingzoo.

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When an Auto Maker Leaves Town Community Needs Good Role Models

Janesville got the news a week or two back - General Motors isleaving town. GM is a major employer out that way, giving jobs to 4.3percent of Rock County's work force. and many of these are more thanjust "living wage" jobs. They're the types of jobs than anyAmerican community covets because they pay wages (both directly andindirectly) that give workers a real chance to reach out and grab theAmerican Dream.

Janesville faces a worrisome and uncertain future, one it has towalk into alone. But it doesn't have to do it without a road map. Itcan rely on the experience of another Wisconsin community that facedthe same loss but whose economy didn't just role over and die becauseof it.

KENOSHA— When Chrysler closed its auto assembly plant in Kenosha andeliminated more than 5,000 jobs, many thought the community wouldnever recover.

Local residents predicted a skyrocketing unemployment rate, to befollowed by a wave of crime, foreclosures and even suicide.

And then there was Dick Keehn, insisting the plant’s closurewould prove to be a good thing.

“I said Kenosha would be better off in the long run, but I hadto admit it was going to be hard in the short term,” said Keehn,who retired in 2000 after 31 years teaching economics at UW-Parksidein Kenosha. “That’s not a very popular thing to do.”

Today, Keehn believes his predictions were dead-on.

The local economy did not collapse, but it did struggle for a fewyears. The area has welcomed new businesses and residents in the last20 years, and the city has revived its once-ailing downtown.

Most importantly, the local economy is much more stable than itwas during the boom-and-bust-years of American Motors Corp., Keehnsaid.

I moved into Kenosha about 3 years after the the Chryslerdrastically reduced it's work presence. (Contrary to what the storymakes it seem, to this day Chrysler maintains a plant and a workforcethere, though not at near the same level as "back in the day."

This story is important to many of us - even if we don't face thepossibility of losing such a big employer - because the economy ofAmerica is changing radically. We are leaving the age of America asproducer and exporter behind. We're moving from making things toserving and providing things – and this doesn't pay anywhere nearas well.

Simply put, our economic realities need to be rethought and an neweconomic paradigm needs to emerge.

The experiences of Kenosha are not some one size fix all,applicable to every community. But they are one example of how toretool a community as it faces unpleasant choices concerning toughtransitions.

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Bacteria make major evolutionary shift in the lab

This brings to mind lectures my mother gave me about not leavingdirty plates or pizza crusts laying about in my room lest they growsomething. We'll it's a fortuitous thing that at least one persondidn't do what they were told.

Amajor evolutionary innovation has unfurled right in front ofresearchers' eyes. It's the first time evolution has been caught inthe act of making such a rare and complex new trait.

And because the species in question is a bacterium, scientistshave been able to replay history to show how this evolutionarynovelty grew from the accumulation of unpredictable, chanceevents.

20-some years ago this scientist started culturing E. coli. As ofnow he has 44,000 generations of them. Upon examining them hediscovered they had undergone a "profound change."

But sometime around the 31,500th generation, something dramatichappened in just one of the populations – the bacteria suddenlyacquired the ability to metabolise citrate, a second nutrient intheir culture medium that E. coli normally cannot use.

Indeed, the inability to use citrate is one of the traits by whichbacteriologists distinguish E. coli from other species. Thecitrate-using mutants increased in population size anddiversity.

Tis worth your while to read the rest of the article to see howthe attempts to duplicate the mutation in the other 11 culturesplayed out.

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Three ISPs Agree To Block Child Porn - Boon or Slippery Slope?

Goobergunchand other readers sent in word that Sprint, Time Warner, and Verizonhave agreed to block websites and newsgroups containing childpornography. The deal, brokered by New York Attorney General AndrewCuomo, occurred after Cuomo's office threatened the ISPs with fraudcharges. It's of some concern that the blacklist of sites andnewsgroups is to be maintained by the Center for Missing andExploited Children, an NGO with no legal requirement fortransparency.

While authors don't question the motive they do dispute see threepossible problems here -

  1. How long it will be before other groups want "their" topics blacklisted from the web?

  2. Will this move simply be negated in the courts like just as a similar law was in Pennsylvania?

  3. Will this move actually be effective for getting rid of child porn?

The general consensus on the answers are

  1. not long 

  2. yes and 

  3. sure, and I'm Louis XIV.

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Girls found dead near small Oklahoma town

There's not much you can say about a story like this...

WELEETKA, Okla. (AP) — The bodies of two girls were found shot to death in rural Oklahoma along a dirt road the best friends walked dozens of times to play and go to sleepovers.

By Tuesday, investigators had no suspects and were unsure of the motive for Sunday's killings of 13-year-old Taylor Paschal-Placker and 11-year-old Skyla Whitaker.

Residents remained on edge knowing a murderer could be in this close community of 1,000.

"Believe it or not, I have never pulled any shades in my house and I keep my doors unlocked," said Dena Priddy, a teacher's aide at the school the victims attended. "You just don't expect these things to happen here."

Taylor's grandfather found their bodies after his wife got no answer when she called Taylor's cellular phone. The girls were sleeping over at Taylor's house and had decided to take a walk down the desolate road Sunday afternoon.

Peter Placker sobbed uncontrollably Monday as he tried to remember finding the girls' bodies about a quarter of a mile from his house near Weleetka, about 70 miles south of Tulsa.

We had the same thing happen in our area (Zion, Illinois) about 4 years back. As that one turned out it was someone the family knew - the stepfather.

Full autopsy results were not available yet, but sexual assaultappears unlikely, said Special Agent Ben Rosser of the Oklahoma StateBureau of Investigation. He noted the girls were clothed and had onlybeen missing for a half hour.

Investigators were examining evidence, including tire tracks, shell casings, ballistics and shoe prints for any possible leads.

"We will bring all the resources we need to try to help in our investigation," Rosser said in an afternoon news conference.

But as of Tuesday afternoon, authorities had identified no suspects or persons of interest in the crime.

"Nobody we could put a finger on and say this guy's good for it," Rosser said.

A $14,000 reward was being offered for information about the killings.

On Tuesday morning, Taylor's uncle, Joe Mosher, drove up to themakeshift memorial at the place the bodies were found. Yellow crimescene tape had been torn away and thick patches of grass were matteddown.

A rosary hung from a branch, and stuffed animals and abouquet of flowers just beginning to wilt formed the grim reminder ofinnocence lost.

"It's the most tragic thing that I've ever seen,"said Nell Mosher, Taylor's aunt. "They were just two precious littlebabies; they were good girls."

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US quits Human Rights Council?

As human right is not my beat  - I'm more a casual observer - there isno context for me to use in interpreting what the hell this means. Butwhatever it means it doesn't sound good.

Those of you who are smarter at this should feel free to comment yourbuns off on this one. I for one would welcome the insight.

To be frank, the current Administration in America has been really goodat no giving a crap at whatever anyone else thinks and this strikes meas one of its last acts of "up yours" defiance before it hands over thereigns of power to the next crew.

Carole Vann/Juan Gasparini/Human Rights Tribune - The news that the US has completely withdrawn from the Human Rights Council spread like wildfire Friday afternoon (June 6) through the corridors of the Palais des Nations in Geneva. There was general consternation amongst diplomats and NGOS. Reached by phone, the American mission in Geneva neither confirmed nor denied the report. Although unofficial, the news comes at a time of long opposition by the Bush administration to the reforms which created the Human Rights Council in June 2006. Washington announced from the beginning that the US would not be an active member but its observer status would mean that it could intervene during the sessions. To date even this has rarely happened.

“We don’t understand the reasons nor the timing of the decision”, said Sebastien Gillioz of Human Rights Watch. “There have even been some positive signs during this Council. For example Belarus was not re-elected as a member in 2007 nor Sri Lanka this year”.

And again...

But Eric Sottas, director of the International Organisation againstTorture sees it as a a political gesture. “The US has always clearlyshown its opposition to the Council. This is a slightly more public wayof putting pressure on it in order to raise the stakes. What is morethe Bush dynasty is coming to the end of its mandate,” he said. “Itreminds me of the time when the Nixon administration, which backedPinochet in Chile, chastized the UN for criticising the Chileandictator. But when Carter was elected in 1977, the American governmenttook the floor at the Human Rights Commission to ask forgiveness. Aftera presidency like that of Bush, you can expect some important changesin US policy on human right.”

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Stewart Saves Minnesota - Franken to Run For Senate

We can only hope he is a better politician than he was a comedian.

Minnesota Democrats have thrown their support behind comedian Al Franken in a race for U.S. Senate that will pit him against Republican incumbent Norm Coleman.

Franken, who wrote and performed for "Saturday Night Live," told Minnesotans on Saturday that he is "not a perfect person."

"I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers," he said. "But I'll tell the truth, I will keep my spine, and I will work for you."

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