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Sat, 04 Feb 2023
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Public inquiry in north of Ireland reveals institutionalized child torture

Christine Smith
© Paul Faith/PA
Christine Smith QC, senior counsel for the historic institutional abuse inquiry
Counsel outlines allegations made by ex-residents of Nazareth House and St Joseph's Home, run by Sisters of Nazareth nuns

Children were forced to eat their own vomit and bathe in disinfectant at residential care homes run by nuns, the UK's largest public inquiry into institutional child abuse was told on Monday.

During evidence on the behaviour of nuns from the Sisters of Nazareth order at two Catholic church-run children's homes in Derry, the inquiry heard that children were beaten for bedwetting and had soiled sheets placed on their heads to humiliate them.

Comment: The excuses offered by the nuns as to why they treated the children in their care so horribly amounts to adding insult to injury. There are infinite numbers of ways to discipline children without resorting to abuse. The parties responsible for inflicting so much pain for so long to so many children can't but be sadists who take pleasure in others' pain.

Blue Planet

Doctor walks six miles in snow to perform life-saving brain surgery at Trinity Medical Center

© Joe Songer
In this file photo from 2005, Dr. Zenko Hrynkiw performs back surgery at Baptist Montclair, now Trinity Medical Center.
Dr. Zenko Hrynkiw was at Brookwood Medical Center Tuesday morning when he was needed for emergency brain surgery at Trinity Medical Center.

The problem was the sudden snowstorm had locked down traffic, and the neurosurgeon didn't get farther than a few blocks.

"The cell service was bad so we were fading in and out," said Steve Davis, charge nurse in the neuro intensive care unit at Trinity. "At one point, I heard him say, 'I'm walking.'"

Davis had alerted authorities, and they were looking for him. There were supposed sightings, but no one could find him.


Sex traffickers targeted in countdown to Super Bowl XLVIII

Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), cites numbers from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that claim 10,000 women and girls were trafficked to Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl.

© Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Melysa Sperber (center) moderates a congressional briefing with survivors of human trafficking to discuss solutions Monday. Lawmakers and advocacy groups used the three-hour hearing to shine a spotlight on sex trafficking during major national and international sporting events.
Beyond the bright lights of this week's Super Bowl parties in New York and New Jersey, sex trafficking will flourish in the shadows, Congress was told Monday.

"In less than a week, New Jersey will be hosting the Super Bowl, and along with welcoming enthusiastic fans, the state also is preparing for a likely influx of both domestic and international traffickers," Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) said at a House hearing.

"We know from the past, any sports venue - especially the Super Bowl - acts as a sex-trafficking magnet."

Lawmakers and advocacy groups used the three-hour hearing to shine a spotlight on sex trafficking during major national and international sporting events.

The trafficking is defined as inducing someone to have sex for money through fraud or coercion.

Comment: The federal government has estimated that at least 100,000 minors every year are sold for sex in the U.S. The men who purchase and pimp them are rarely punished. Instead, the most common reaction is to punish these victims. For more information see:

Give restitution to victims of child pornography, but also recognize all child victims of sexual exploitation


Give restitution to victims of child pornography, but also recognize all child victims of sexual exploitation


Society has made jail the only safe place for vulnerable kids.
The Supreme Court this week heard arguments in Paroline v. United States about restitution for victims of child pornography. This case reflects the recent awareness among lawmakers, courts and the media about sexual exploitation. This is a welcome development. But a significant group of child victims remains unrecognized as such -- children in the commercial sex industry.

The federal government has estimated that at least 100,000 minors every year are sold for sex in the U.S. The men who purchase and pimp them are rarely punished. And little is done to prevent this epidemic. Run-away shelters, safe housing and services for these children are perennially underfunded.

Instead, the most common reaction is to punish these victims. In almost every state, trafficked minors are routinely arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated for prostitution or related charges. Many of them are very young, entering "the life" at an average age of 11 to 14 years old. The evidence is clear that these children are extremely vulnerable, with over half of them having experienced sexual or physical abuse, and many of them taking to the streets to escape dysfunctional families. Experts estimate that, once he or she has run away, a young person will be approached within 48 to 72 hours to engage in prostitution. Many of them, with no safe place to sleep and no money to buy food, have no other choice.

Bizarro Earth

Tip of the iceberg: Human trafficking in one graphic

© Larry Fink
A photographer's representation of a typical scene at one of the motels in Central Connecticut used for sex trafficking.
From the World Economic Forum to the approaching Super Bowl to the current advocacy month, awareness surrounding human trafficking is swelling.

To coincide with National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, which lasts through January, UNICEF has tackled the subject with a dynamic infographic. And it paints a pretty grim picture.

The graphic reveals that 21 million people are victims of forced labor and other forms of exploitation each year.

"The issue with slavery is that it is everywhere," Andrew Forrest, chairman and founder of Fortescue Metals Group, told HuffPost Live on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Sadly, the most disturbing revelation from the infographic might be that there's a surprising lack of accountability and prosecution for those who perpetrate it.

In 2012, there were only 4,746 trafficking convictions worldwide. This number seems even more alarming when considering that of the estimated 21 million individuals currently being trafficked, 5.5 million of them are children.

In an op-ed for the Guardian on Monday, Ivy Suriyopas, the director of the Anti-Trafficking Initiative at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, writes that too many laws criminalize victims instead of holding the traffickers themselves accountable.


'Vampire' banking as practiced in Ireland

Royal Bank of Scotland
© Desconocido
Small businesses from Bath to Bradford are having their lifeblood sucked out by "vampire" banking practices, the author of a report alleging unscrupulous behaviour by Royal Bank of Scotland has told British MPs.

Lawrence Tomlinson gave evidence to the Treasury Select Committee about the "shady" behaviour detailed in his report, which accuses the state-backed lender of driving firms to collapse in order to profit from their property assets.

Mr Tomlinson claimed viable businesses were placed into the hands of the bank's turnaround division, the Global Restructuring Group (GRG), only to find it was in effect a debt collection unit stripping their assets.

"They trust them all the way down the line. Usually by the time they realise what's going on, it's too late," said Mr Tomlinson, who is entrepreneur in residence at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

Mr Tomlinson said he was frustrated at the widespread belief that banks have been helping to keep some "zombie" firms alive and said instead it was small firms that had been the victims of "vampire" practices by being hit with heavy charges.

"They are kept in GRG and as soon as they get any cash to invest and grow it is just taken away," he told MPs. "We have seen people's charges being exactly the amount of profit they have made."

Better Earth

10-year-old Michigan boy saves 80-year-old woman by lucky hunch

Howell - Saturday evening, 10-year-old Danny DiPietro of Howell, Michigan became a local hero when he spotted something peculiar in an open garage on the way home from a hockey game.

As his dad drove the young boy home, he looked through the side window and noticed something moving. At a passing glance, he thought it was a dog accidentally left outside by its owners.

"It was late at night and super cold out and their garage was open and something just didn't feel right," said Danny.

Unable to get the image out of his mind, when he got home he asked his mother Dawn if she could check it out. At first, Dawn was skeptical and tried to assure Danny that the dog was fine and that nobody would leave their dog outside in such severe cold.


Swedish homeowner invites would-be burglar for coffee

© Gvjekoslav
A cup of coffee
A man tried to break into a couple's apartment in northern Sweden recently, but got a welcoming surprise. The owner, after making a citizen's arrest, offered him a cup of coffee.

Tomas Holmberg and his wife were sleeping in their home when a noise from the balcony awoke them at 1 a.m. Holmberg immediately ran to the balcony and flung open the door, to find the would-be burglar.

He immediately overpowered the 21-year-old and took him inside.

While awaiting the arrival of the Kvarnåsen police, Holmberg sat the burglar down in the kitchen and offered him a cup of coffee.

Holmberg told the local Västerbottens Folkblad newspaper that the would-be thief looked so forlorn and quite cold, he thought he "could use a gulp of coffee."

The youngster then apologized to Holmberg for trying to break into his apartment and sat quietly enjoying his coffee until the police arrived for him.

Under Swedish law, any individual can make a citizen's arrest when catching a perpetrator in the act of a crime, as long as they hand over the culprit to the police as soon as possible thereafter, and if feeling generous, can offer them refreshment.


West Virginia official says residents are breathing cancer-causing agent after chemical spill

Water Distribution
© Reuters/Lisa Hechesky
Water is distributed to residents at the South Charleston Community Center in Charleston, West Virginia.

A West Virginia state official told legislators on Wednesday that he "can guarantee" some residents are breathing in a cancer-causing substance due to the chemical spill that occurred earlier in January.

In a recent meeting with a state legislative committee on water resources, Scott Simonton of the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board said that his tests have detected formaldehyde in water samples contaminated by the recent Elk River chemical spill.

"I can guarantee that citizens in this valley are, at least in some instances, breathing formaldehyde," Simonton said, according to the Associated Press. "They're taking a hot shower. This stuff is breaking down into formaldehyde in the shower or in the water system, and they're inhaling it."

As Simonton noted, the chemical mixture that leaked into the Kanawha Valley's water supply - a combination of seven substances used to wash coal that's called "Crude MCHM" - is partly composed of methanol. When this chemical breaks down, it turns into formaldehyde, a carcinogen linked to diseases such as respiratory cancer.

"It's frightening, it really is frightening," the Charleston Gazette quoted Simonton telling state lawmakers. "What we know scares us, and we know there's a lot more we don't know."

Arrow Down

UK government cuts hitting poorest areas hardest, figures show

Street in Liverpool
© Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
A street in Liverpool, the most deprived area.

The most deprived communities in the country are bearing the brunt of government cuts while more affluent areas are escaping relatively unscathed, according to an analysis of official figures.

Labour said the data showed that the government was hitting the poorest communities the hardest and failing to live up to its commitment to ensure that those with the broadest shoulders bear the largest burden.

Councils in the 10 most deprived areas of England are facing cuts averaging 25.3% in the financial years 2010-11 to 2015-16, compared with 2.54% in the 10 least deprived areas.

The figures were drawn up by Paul Woods, the veteran treasurer of Newcastle city council. Woods took government figures on the level of cuts to the 326 local authorities in England and compared them with the multiple indices of deprivation issued by the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Liverpool city council, with the highest deprivation score of 43.45, is suffering cuts of 27.1%. Hart district council, with the lowest deprivation score of 4.47, is facing cuts of 1.5%.