Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Fresh Take On The Death Penalty

The Scientific Activist questions the humaneness of lethal injections.

Specifically, the fact that most people in the medical community refuse to participate in executions for the simple reason that is the Hippocratic Oath.

As a result, non-medically trained technicians are the ones that perform the executions.

Which wouldn't be a problem, except for the fact that if you don't know how to execute them properly, they will die the most horrible death possible - paralyzed and in pain.

There's the dilemma. The question (and therefore, the debate) is, given the large possibility of inhumaneness that might occur with a non-medico, should the medical community be forced to cooperate with lethal injections, or do they reserve the right to refuse to cooperate?


Friday, August 25, 2006

This Week in Status Quo

Women can buy the morning-after pill without a prescription, the government declared Thursday, a major step that nevertheless failed to quell the politically charged debate over access to emergency contraception.

That being said, I guess that means that debate is dead. Only way now is to discuss it in terms of minors since you still have to be of age to purchase the drug.


Astronomers have voted to strip Pluto of its status as a planet.

This brings up an interesting new science debate. Should science conform to societal standards? I haven't figured out how to word it properly yet, but the idea here is when it comes to certain things, should scientists disregard objective standards and follow what, dare I say it, emotionally resonates with society?


Human embryonic stem cell lines have been generated without embryos being destroyed, according to researchers.

This also brings an interesting development in this debate. Now that 'ethical' stem cell generation has been developed, should 'unethical' stem cell research continue?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

On Pedophilia

The New York Times currently has two articles up with regards to Pedophilia, Child Pornography and its relation to the Internet. Read it if you want to have a more comprehensive understanding of how this particular community works, it's probably going to help you in a debate one of these days.

Motions that I've thought of concerning this topic:

This House would extend child pornography laws to sexualized imagery of minors. (most balanced, I think)

This House would hold Internet Service Providers liable for the distribution of child pornography. (also balanced, and it SHOULDN'T be the same debate as that of filesharing)

This House celebrates the formation of Pedophilic Political Parties. (Just so you know, a Dutch Court upheld the formation of that Netherlands one)

Since their website restricts access to the articles after two weeks, I'm posting the full articles after the jump.

On the Web, Pedophiles Extend Their Reach

At first blush, the two conversations — taking place almost simultaneously in different corners of the Internet — might have seemed unremarkable, even humdrum.

In April, with summer fast approaching, both groups of online friends chatted about jobs at children’s camps. Did anyone, one man asked, know of girls’ camps willing to hire adult males as counselors? Meanwhile, elsewhere in cyberspace, the second group celebrated the news that one of their own had been offered a job leading a boys’ cabin at a sleep-away camp.

But participants in the conversation did not focus on the work. “Hope you see some naked boys in your cabin,” a man calling himself PPC responded. “And good luck while restraining yourself from doing anything.”

The two groups were made up of self-proclaimed pedophiles — one attracted to under-age girls, the other to boys. Their dialogue runs at all hours in an array of chat rooms, bulletin boards and Web sites set up for adults attracted to children.

But it is no longer just chatter in the ether. What started online almost two decades ago as a means of swapping child pornography has transformed in recent years into a more complex and diversified community that uses the virtual world to advance its interests in the real one.

Today, pedophiles go online to seek tips for getting near children — at camps, through foster care, at community gatherings and at countless other events. They swap stories about day-to-day encounters with minors. And they make use of technology to help take their arguments to others, like sharing online a printable booklet to be distributed to children that extols the benefits of sex with adults.

The community’s online infrastructure is surprisingly elaborate. There are Internet radio stations run by and for pedophiles; a putative charity that raised money to send Eastern European children to a camp where they were apparently visited by pedophiles; and an online jewelry company that markets pendants proclaiming the wearer as being sexually attracted to children, allowing anyone in the know to recognize them.

These were the findings of a four-month effort by The New York Times to learn about the pedophiles’ online world by delving into their Internet communications. In recent months, new concerns have emerged about whether the ubiquitous nature of broadband technology, instant message communications and digital imagery is presenting new and poorly understood risks to children. Already, there have been many Congressional hearings on the topic, as well as efforts to write comprehensive legislation to address the issue.

But most of those efforts have focused on examining particular instances of harm to children. There have been few, if any, recent attempts to examine the pedophiles themselves, based on their own words to one another, to gain a better recognition of the nature of potential problems.

Last week, that world attracted new attention after reports that John M. Karr, who was arrested last Wednesday as a suspect in the 1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey, apparently used Internet discussion sites intensively in efforts to communicate with children, sometimes about sex. In e-mail messages to a journalism professor that investigators believe were written by Mr. Karr, statements about children seemed to echo the online dialogue among pedophiles.

“Sometimes little girls are closer to me than with their parents or any other person in their lives,’’ the e-mail messages say. “I can only say that I can relate very well to children and the way they think and feel.’’

The recent conversations among pedophiles that were examined by The Times took place in virtual rooms in Internet Relay Chat, a text-based system allowing for real-time communications; on message boards on Usenet, which has postings by topic; and on Web sites catering to pedophiles.

In this online community, pedophiles view themselves as the vanguard of a nascent movement seeking legalization of child pornography and the loosening of age-of-consent laws. They portray themselves as battling for children’s rights to engage in sex with adults, a fight they liken to the civil rights movement. And while their effort has brought little success, they celebrated online in May when a small group of men in the Netherlands formed a pedophile political party, and they rejoiced again last month when a Dutch court upheld the party’s right to exist.

The conversations themselves are not illegal. And, given the fantasy world that the Internet can be, it is difficult to prove the truth of personal statements, or to demonstrate direct connections between online commentary and real-world actions. Nor can the number of participants in these conversations, taking place around the Internet, be reliably ascertained.

But the existence of this community is significant and troubling, experts said, because it reinforces beliefs that, when acted upon, are criminal. Repeatedly in these conversations, pedophiles said the discussions had helped them accept their attractions and had even allowed them to have sex with a child without guilt.

Indeed, law enforcement officials say that the refrain of justification from online conversations is frequently voiced by adults arrested for molestation, raising concern that such conversations may lower pedophiles’ willingness to resist their temptation.

“It is rationalization that allows them to avoid admitting that their desires are harmful and illegal,” said Bill Walsh, a former commander of the Crimes Against Children Unit for the Dallas Police Department, who founded the most prominent annual national conference on the issue. “That can allow them to take that final step and cross over from fantasy into real-world offenses.”

Still, in their conversations, some pedophiles often maintain that the discussion sites are little more than support groups. They condemn violent child rapists and lament that they are often equated with such criminals. Many see themselves as spiritually connected to children and say that sexual contact is irrelevant. Yet the pedophiles consistently return to discussions justifying sex with minors and child pornography.

Many of these adults described concepts of children that veered into the fantastical — for example, at times depicting themselves as victims of predatory minors. A little girl in a skirt reveals her underwear by doing a cartwheel; a boy in a bathing suit sits on a bench with his legs spread apart; a child playfully jumps on a man’s back — all of these ordinary events were portrayed as sexual come-ons.

“It really is like going through the rabbit hole, with this entire alternative reality,” said Philip Jenkins, a professor of religious studies at Pennsylvania State University who wrote “Beyond Tolerance,” a groundbreaking 2001 book about Internet child pornography.

The conversations also demonstrated technological acumen, with frequent discussions about ways to ensure online anonymity and to encrypt images. That underscores a challenge faced by the authorities who hope to combat online child exploitation with technology. For example, in June, Internet service providers announced plans for an alliance that will use new technologies to locate child pornography traders.

Pedophiles were undaunted. Within hours of the announcement, their discussion rooms were filled with advice on how to continue swapping illegal images while avoiding detection — months before the new technologies were to be in full operation.

Portraits of Pedophilia

In a sense, the creation of the pedophiles’ online community was a ripple effect from the success of government efforts to crack down on them.

Washington’s efforts in the late 1970’s to stamp out child pornography by declaring it illegal were enormously effective, closing off traditional outlets for illicit images.

But the Internet soon presented an alternative. In the early 1980’s, through postings on bulletin board systems, pedophiles went online to swap illegal images. From there, they could easily converse with others like themselves, and they found theirs to be a community of diverse backgrounds.

In the conversations observed by The Times, the pedophiles often discussed their personal lives. Their individual jobs were described as being a disc jockey at parties (“a high concentration of gorgeous” children, a man claiming to hold the job said); a pediatric nurse (“lots of looking but no touching”); a piano teacher (“I could tell you stories that would make you ...well... I’ll be good”); an employee at a water theme park (“bathing suits upon bathing suits!!!!!”); and a pediatrician specializing in gynecology (“No need to add anything more, I feel”).

The most frequent job mentioned, however, was schoolteacher. A number of self-described teachers shared detailed observations about children in their classes, including events they considered sexual, like a second-grade boy holding his crotch during class.

The man relating that story held up that action as an expression of sexuality; he was not dissuaded when another participant in the conversation suggested that the boy might have just needed to go to the bathroom.

Some pedophiles revealed that they gained access to children through their own families. Some discussed how they married to be close to the children from their wives’ previous marriages. Pedophiles who said they were fathers described moments involving their own children, such as a man who told of watching his sons change for swimming in a locker room, complete with details about the older boy’s genitals and emerging pubic hair. Others insisted they would never feel any interest in their own children, but commented on the benefits presented by parenthood.

“I have a daughter and have never been attracted to her,” a man with the screen name of jonboy wrote. But, he added, “I did find her friends very attractive.”

Pedophiles chafe at suggestions that such comments reflect risks to minors. They point out, correctly, that family members and friends — not strangers — are the most frequent perpetrators of child sexual abuse. They never note, however, that the minors mentioned in their online discussions are most frequently those they know well, like relatives and children of friends.

Justifications Online

In the pedophiles’ world view, not all sexual abuse is abuse. There is widespread condemnation and hatred of adults who engage in forcible rape of children. But otherwise, acts of molestation are often celebrated as demonstrations of love.

“My daughter and I have a healthy close relationship,” a person with the screen name Sonali posted. “We have been in a ‘consensual sexual relationship’ almost two months now.”

The daughter, Sonali wrote, is 10. Whatever guilt Sonali felt for the relationship was eased by the postings of other pedophiles. “I am so happy to find this site,” Sonali wrote. “I thought having a sexual attraction to my daughter was bad. I now do not feel guilty or conflicted.”

In that, Sonali was demonstrating what experts said is the most dangerous element of the pedophile Internet community: its justification of illegal acts. Experts described the pedophiles’ online worldview as reflective of “neutralization,” a psychological rationalization used by groups that deviate from societal norms.

In essence, the groups deem potentially injurious acts and beliefs harmless. That is accomplished in part by denying that a victim is injured, condemning critics and appealing to higher loyalties — in this case, an ostensible struggle for the sexual freedom of children.

Pedophiles see themselves as part of a social movement to gain acceptance of their attractions. The effort has a number of tenets: that pedophiles are beneficial to minors, that children are psychologically capable of consenting and that therapists manipulate the young into believing they are harmed by such encounters.

“Every human being, no matter the age, should be allowed to have consenting mutual sexual relations with anyone they wish,” a man calling himself Venn wrote. “All age of consent laws must, and forever, be abolished.”

Those same types of comments online are now turning up in court. For example, a man known by the screen name Brother Peteticus is among those who have argued online for legalizing sex with children. In real life, he is Phillip J. Distasio of Rocky River, Ohio, who was arrested last year on charges of raping two autistic boys who were his students. In court this month, Mr. Distasio, 34, portrayed himself as following the dictates of his own religion, and made arguments frequently expressed by the online community.

“I’ve been a pedophile for 20 years,” Mr. Distasio said at the pretrial hearing. “The only reason I’m charged with rape is that no one believes a child can consent to sex. The role of my ministry is to get these cases out of the courtrooms.”

In the days that followed, some pedophiles supported that position online, agreeing with Mr. Distasio that mentally handicapped, prepubescent boys could consent to sex with their teacher.

That same logic is applied by the pedophiles to child pornography, which many of them said should be legalized. “Where is the problem?” from child pornography, a pedophile who used the screen name Writer said in an online posting. “Once again, the underlying issue is the repressive belief that sex is intrinsically sinful.”

In making these arguments, pedophiles often demonize parents and other adults as cruel, unloving people who exert authoritarian control over children and stand in the way of minors’ sexual freedom. “Anti-pedophiles are NOT about protecting children,” a man who called himself Christopher wrote. “They are usually the ones who are beating (they call it spanking) or emotionally neglecting their children.”

But their arguments often seem contradictory. While maintaining that they can be trusted with children, some pedophiles said they would not allow minors in their lives to be with other adults attracted to children. “I guess coming from the inside, I know a bunch of the bad stuff that can happen,” one man wrote.

Many pedophile sites conduct surveys to learn about the attitudes of their contributors. While none of these surveys are scientifically valid, they do reflect the thinking of some people who traffic in these sites. And not surprisingly, a large number of the surveys are about sex.

For example, on one site, pedophiles were asked if they would “have full intercourse with a little girl.” Seventy-four members responded. Only 17 replied no. The same number said that they might. The largest group — over 54 percent — said that they would.

Some attached comments to their survey response. One man provided descriptions of the acts he would repeatedly perform on an 8-year-old to prepare her. The words — too graphic to be printed here — raised no criticism on the site.

But in other discussions, pedophiles cautioned that some comments were too dangerous. When one man described in lurid terms his fantasies about molesting an infant girl, the response was quick. “This is best not discussed,” a man calling himself garvy wrote, adding that someday, pedophiles would need evidence proving that they cared only about children’s best interests.

“Such posts,” garvy concluded, “will be very damaging to the Cause.”

A Web of Deception

The booklet — recently circulated through a Web site for pedophiles — had been written, it said, “for any boy who is old enough to be able to read it.”

Called “Straight Talk for Boys,” it is an 18-page discussion of sex, particularly between children and adults, from the pedophiles’ viewpoint. Such encounters are depicted as harmless, even beneficial. The document criticizes parents and therapists. And it encourages boys to wear Speedo bathing suits and shower naked in public places.

But it repeatedly returns to one message: boys should never tell about sex with adults. “Older boys and men may be frightened about getting caught having sex play with you, because they can be put in jail,” it says. “So you have to think of ways to ‘signal’ your interest in another person without openly saying what you want,” adding that “nobody else can know about what you agree to do.”

The booklet comes with instructions, advising pedophiles on how to distribute it. “The best and safest way is to leave quantities of the booklet in places where boys in the 8 to 14 range can find them, and where adults will not discover them too quickly,” the instructions read. “Obviously, you don’t want to be observed placing the booklets in your chosen locations.”

The booklet reflects how pedophiles can use the Internet to advance their interests in the real world. Like many of those efforts, this one involved deception: the booklet does not reveal, for example, that it has been written and distributed by men who are sexually attracted to children, but instead portrays itself as objective fact.

Using deception to gain access to children is a recurring theme. For example, on a site for adults attracted to boys, someone calling himself Vespucci asked in June whether a single man could become a foster father. The respondents cautioned Vespucci to disguise his pedophilia.

“You better have a darned good excuse why you never married, such as your fiancĂ©e died in a car wreck,” replied a man calling himself simply “d.” “I highly recommend you date women for several years and keep at least a couple of those relationships going for at least a couple of months. Around the women, make a point of being nice to children.”

The deception would be worthwhile, d wrote. “It will help out in the reference-check dept. when you apply.”

Pointers on ways to get close to children were frequent topics. One man posted an Internet “help wanted” advertisement from a single mother seeking an overnight baby sitter for her 4-year-old daughter; another recommended shopping at weekend estate sales, since plenty of bored minors showed up accompanying inattentive parents.

Some participants in these conversations claimed to have established charitable efforts that put them in contact with children. For example, an organization called BL Charity said it was seeking money to send Eastern European children to camp.

The charity’s site, which recently closed, showed scores of images of children at camp and in their homes, supposedly taken by the men running the site. The effort was organized by pedophiles; BL is the online term for “boy-lover.” It eventually shut down, largely from a lack of money, according to a posting from the site’s operators. After the site closed, further details of BL Charity could not be learned. Not every organization and effort of the pedophiles is directly tied to trying to reach children. For example, pedophiles have created Internet radio stations for the purpose of providing support for one another and encouraging their perceived social movement.

It is not known how many such stations exist, nor the size of the audience. The most prominent station appears to be Sure Quality Radio, which on its home page proclaims, “From all levels of society you will find us, not as predators but as human beings, loving and caring for boys or girls or both.” The site has a program schedule and an online store selling mainstream music and movies featuring children.

People who work with Sure Quality Radio did not respond to questions e-mailed to them from The Times, although one person with the online name of boystory replied by saying he was immediately severing all ties with the station.

There are also online podcasts, recorded talk shows of 60 to 90 minutes featuring discussions among pedophiles. The discussions, as described online, deal with topics like “benefits of age difference in sexual relationships”; “failure of sex offender registries”; “children’s sexual autonomy, practices and consequences” and “the misrepresentation of pedophilia in the news media.”

With the chat rooms, radio stations and other organizations, pedophiles’ views are continually reinforced. But some realize that this online echo chamber can warp reality. For example, a man calling himself AtosW reported to fellow pedophiles that he had been chatting on a game site frequented by boys. A conversation began about the Dutch pedophile party, AtosW said, and the minors reacted with threats of violence.

AtosW was perplexed. “Why are posters THAT young so angry about it?” he asked. “It is after all THEIR rights that they are pushing for.”

A man calling himself Ritter responded. “Your post is a typical example of what happens when you spend too much time in the online BL community,” he wrote. “Believe it or not, most young children are NOT anxious to have sex with adult men.”

With Child Sex Sites on the Run, Nearly Nude Photos Hit the Web

In the photograph, the model is shown rising out of a bubble bath, suds dripping from her body. Her tight panties and skimpy top are soaked and revealing. She gazes at the viewer, her face showing a wisp of a smile that seems to have been coaxed from off-camera.

In just over seven months, the model has become an online phenomenon. She has thousands of fans from around the world, membership lists show, who pay as much as $30 a month to see images of her. According to the posted schedule, new photographs of her — many clearly intended to be erotic, all supposedly taken that week — are posted online every Friday for her growing legions of admirers.

The model’s online name is Sparkle. She is — at most — 9 years old.

Sparkle is one of hundreds of children being photographed by adults, part of what appears to be the latest trend in online child exploitation: Web sites for pedophiles offering explicit, sexualized images of children who are covered by bits of clothing — all in the questionable hope of allowing producers, distributors and customers to avoid child pornography charges.

In recent months, an array of investigations of the child pornography business — by the Justice Department, state and local law enforcement and Congress — have contributed to wholesale shutdowns of some of the most sexually explicit Internet sites trafficking in child images. But they have been rapidly replaced by a growing number of these so-called model sites, Internet locations that offer scores of original photographs of scantily clad under-age children like Sparkle, often posed in ways requested by subscribers.

More than 200 of the sites have been found by The New York Times through online advertising aimed at pedophiles, and a vast majority focus mostly on one child. Almost all the children appear to be between the ages of 2 and 12.

Based on descriptions in online customer forums and in Web pages showing image samples, the children are photographed by people who have frequent access to them. The sites often include images of “guests”: children who are described as a friend of the featured child, but who appear for only a day. The sites say the children come from different parts of the world, including the United States.

Based on the images and wording from online advertisements, the sites show toddlers wearing tight thongs, and slightly older children posing evocatively while wearing makeup and feather boas. There is even a site that offers images of girls and boys who appear to be 5 or 6 years old, wearing just diapers.

In online conversations observed by The Times over four months, pedophiles portrayed model sites as the last of a shrinking number of Internet locations for sexual images of minors.

”I considered the authors of those sites as leaders of a rebellion movement for child porn,” a man calling himself Heartfallen wrote in an online site for pedophiles, discussing the decline in the number of sites featuring images of naked minors. “They’ve vanished. There is much less freedom on the Internet now. We still have a rebellion made up of nonnude child modeling sites. But are they going to suffer the same fate as their predecessors?”

Insight to the Ramsey Case

The secretive world of child exploitation is in the spotlight because of an arrest last week in the 1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey, a 6-year-old beauty pageant princess. The suspect was a fugitive from charges of possessing child pornography and had exhibited a fascination with the sexual abuse of children.

While many of the recently created sites are veering into new territory, the concept of for-pay modeling sites using children has been around for years. They first appeared in the late 1990’s, when entrepreneurs, and even parents, recognized that there was a lucrative market online for images of girls and boys.

Sites with names like emerged, showing photographs of children, usually modeling in clothes or swimsuits. Their existence set off a fury of criticism in Congress about possible child exploitation, but proposed legislation about such sites never passed.

The sites that have emerged in recent months, however, are markedly different. Unlike the original sites, the newer ones are explicit in their efforts to market to pedophiles, referring to young children with phrases like “hot” and “delicious.” The children involved are far younger, and the images far more sexual, emphasizing the minors’ genitals and buttocks.

Some modeling sites have already attracted the attention of law enforcement. Earlier this year, prosecutors obtained a guilty plea on child pornography charges from Sheila L. Sellinger, then of Shoals, Ind., who had been selling illegal photographs of her 10-year-old daughter on a modeling Web site. Last month, Ms. Sellinger was sentenced to almost 12 years in prison.

Ms. Sellinger, who earned thousands of dollars a week from the pornographic yet clothed images of her daughter, cooperated with law enforcement, leading to the arrest of two men who had been assisting her with her site and had been running several more, court records show.

To attract subscribers, central marketing sites, called portals, list scores of available modeling sites that accept money in exchange for access to children’s images. The portals promote the busiest sites, ranking them by the number of hits they receive.

Such a marketing approach proved effective for some online child pornography businesses that have disappeared over the last year, including those that offered illicit videos of children generated by Webcams.

The Times did not subscribe to any sites, which it first saw referenced in online conversations among pedophiles. The Times followed a link posted in those conversations to forum postings and images on freely accessible pages of the modeling sites. Because those sites appeared to be illegal, The Times was required by law to report what it had found to authorities. Federal law enforcement officials were notified in July about the sites.In contrast to their advertising, many of the sites portray themselves on their main pages as regular modeling agencies trying to find work for their talent. But executives in the legitimate modeling business said that virtually everything about the sites runs contrary to industry practice. Most child images for genuine agencies are password-protected, the executives said, with access granted to companies and casting agents only after a check of their backgrounds.

These executives said that real modeling agencies would refuse to use the types of sexualized images of children sought by pedophiles, not only because they are exploitative and illegal, but also because they would be bad business.

Such images on an agency Web site would drive away many parents who might be seeking representation for their child, executives said; indeed, most photographs of child models are nothing more than head shots. And the legitimate agents provide the phone numbers, addresses and names of their executives so potential clients can contact them; most of the sites aimed at pedophiles not only provide little or no means of contact, but even hide the identities of the owners behind anonymous site registrations.

“These are clearly not bona fide companies, and it’s obvious these are just Web sites for people to go on and view children in an unhealthy manner,” Bonnie Breen, chief booker for the Bizzykidz Agency, a prominent modeling agency for children based in London, said when provided with a description of the emerging modeling sites.

Despite repeated statements on the sites that they are lawful, they may well run afoul of American law. While the issues are far from settled — thus leading to the attempts by Congress to clarify the law — courts have worked over the last two decades to define standards for what constitutes potentially illegal images of children.

‘Lascivious Exhibition’ Standard

Under law, for an image that does not involve a child engaged in a sex act, a court must find that it entails “lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area” of a minor to determine that it is child pornography. As a result, courts have ruled that images of naked children were not automatically pornographic, and thus not illegal, while also holding that the mere presence of clothing on a photographed child was not, in itself, adequate to declare the image lawful.

Instead, the courts often apply a six-pronged test, developed in a 1986 case called United States v. Dost, to determine whether an image meets the “lascivious exhibition” standard. That test — which requires a court to examine the child’s pose and attire, the suggestiveness and intent of the image and other factors — includes one standard on whether the child is naked. However, no single standard under Dost is absolute, and courts must continuously examine potentially illegal images while considering each part of the test.

The leading precedent on child pornography involving clothed minors is a federal case known as United States v. Knox, which involved a pedophile who obtained erotic videos of girls. In that 1994 case, the Federal Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of the pedophile, Stephen Knox, saying explicitly that clothing alone did not automatically mean that images of children were legal.

“The harm Congress attempted to eradicate by enacting the child pornography laws is present when a photographer unnaturally focuses on a minor child’s clothed genital area with the obvious intent to produce an image sexually arousing to pedophiles,” the court’s ruling says. “The rationale underlying the statute’s proscription applies equally to any lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area whether these areas are clad or completely exposed.”

While adult pornography has some First Amendment protections, there are no such protections for child pornography. Still, some experts have expressed discomfort, in general, at criminalizing clothed pictures of minors.

“This is a difficult area,” said Michael A. Bamberger, a First Amendment specialist at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, based in New York, who filed a brief on behalf of a booksellers’ group in the Knox case. “The whole history of the exception from First Amendment protections for child pornography is based on the harm to the child. But there is in my view a free speech issue with respect to designating photographs of persons under the age of 18 who are clothed as child pornography.”

But Mr. Bamberger expressed uncertainty about whether his concerns applied when told details of the model sites found by The Times. “To me, it sounds as if you are really talking about nude equivalents, almost like cellophane clothing, and that’s not clothing at all.”To distinguish between illegal images and, say, photographs of children posing in underwear for a store catalog, the court said it had to apply the Dost standards and review a range of facts, like the nature of the images and whether the marketing was intended to appeal to pedophiles.

For example, the court noted, a potential customer could know the images of minors were illegal if they were marketed with statements proclaiming that they would “blow your mind so completely you’ll be begging for mercy.” Explicit listing of the children’s ages, along with sexually loaded terms like “hot,” could also be used as evidence of illegality, the court said.

The modeling sites reviewed by The Times incorporated many such references to encourage viewers to subscribe.

That is true for one of the most successful collections of sites, according to some portal rankings, run by an entity called PlayToy Entertainment. On its central site, PlayToy holds itself out as a company that helps children start modeling careers. There is, however, no phone number, address or prominent e-mail address available for companies that might seek to hire the girls or for parents who might want their children to be models.

The central PlayToy site originally located by The Times contained links to as many as six sites featuring little girls. In recent days, the central site has been redesigned, removing the links to the girls’ individual sites.

Those sites still exist, however, including the one for the girl called Sparkle. Another site features a prepubescent girl named Lolly — a widely used online code word for pornographic images of girls. There are even sexualized images of a girl called Baby, who appears younger than 5 and whose photographs seem to go back as far as her second birthday or earlier, when she was still in diapers.

The marketing makes clear that this is no typical modeling company.

“Call 911 before viewing!!!” proclaims the site for Sparkle, which shows her in a thong so revealing that she appears to be naked below the waist. The ad for the site uses words that echo those cited in the Knox decision, reading, “Only 9 years old! Hot!”

Other PlayToy sites are more explicit. “Feel her breathe on your face, take a gentle touch from your screen, open your mind and push the limits,” reads the site for the girl called Lolly. “If you are ready to handle this trip, PlayToy Lolly is calling.”

An advertisement for another PlayToy site, featuring a girl called Peach, declares, “A peach has never looked so delicious.**8 years old**.”

The site includes a picture of the young girl wearing a tank top pulled off one shoulder. Directly below that is a purple emblem with the company name and the words, “Nonnude website: 100% legal.”

But experts said that assurance was almost certainly not true. Based on the ages of the children, the marketing words and customer comments on the PlayToy sites described to him by The Times, a lead lawyer in the Knox case said that the subscribers had plenty of reason to worry.

“They shouldn’t have any comfort that they are not breaking the law,” said Edward W. Warren, a partner from the Washington office of Kirkland & Ellis who helped to argue Knox as a representative of 234 members of Congress who joined the case. “This sounds worse and more graphic and more grotesque than what we were dealing with, particularly given how young the children are.”

The assurance by the company that the sites are lawful is irrelevant to any potential prosecution, experts said. Indeed, in the Knox decision, the court held that defendants could be found guilty if they were aware of the “general nature and character” of images that they bought involving clothed children in sexual poses.

“The child pornography laws would be eviscerated if a pedophile’s personal opinion about the legality of sexually explicit videos was transformed into the applicable law,” the court held.

In their comments on PlayToy’s site, which can be viewed without registering with the company, the subscribers make clear that they are aware these are sites for pedophiles, not legitimate modeling clients.

“I think it would be awesome to have the models start off fetchingly clothed, and then strip down to tops or panties (or thongs!!),” a customer calling himself head2fat wrote on the forum.

Another client, calling himself ludwig66, instead requested that the girls appear in stockings, “ending up removing them to reveal bare feet and legs.” And still another customer, calling himself littlefeet, asked the site owners to pose the girl known as Baby in bare feet with her toes pointed, “so all of those beautiful wrinkles show!!!”

While PlayToy’s management and its members repeatedly assure themselves online about the legality of their images, they did not hesitate to post images from known child pornography sites. For example, when Ms. Sellinger was arrested this year for selling photos of her daughter, PlayToy members — and even the site operator — posted messages of dismay, referring to both mother and daughter by name. They also composed a photographic homage to the girl in the forum discussion, using images from the site that had been deemed illegal.

PlayToy’s sites have been online since October, company records show. But in that short time, the records show, 6,000 people have subscribed to view the images of the girls. Each subscriber is paying $30 a month for each site; that means the operators have collected a minimum of $180,000 in that short time, assuming every subscriber bought only one site for one month.

The cash has been collected either by credit card — processed through a company called Advanced Internet Billing Services, or through Western Union payments — as well as through an online money system called e-gold. A Tortuous Digital Trail

Attempts to learn the identities of the people behind PlayToy suggested many possible locations. Payments through Western Union were processed through Ukraine. An administrative e-mail address suggested the company was based in Russia. Using a commercial software program, The Times traced messages sent by the PlayToy sites back to servers in Germany and obtained what is known as the Internet protocol address of that online host.

An examination of the registration documents for the sites’ names led to a company that is essentially a front, permitting its name to be used as the registrant by people who wish to remain anonymous.

The Times then obtained business records about the site prepared by someone involved in its operation.

If true, the records show the name, address, telephone number and other personal information of a man in Florida who is involved in running the site. An e-mail address listed in the records was traced to postings that appeared in pedophile conversation sites, including comments praising child pornography and images of young girls in thongs. Because of the possibility of identity theft, The Times has elected not to publish the name of that man or of associates who also appear to be involved in the business.

The Florida man did not return a voice mail message left on his cellphone or respond to an e-mail message.

Still, even if the operators of PlayToy are positively identified and compelled to shut their sites, the growing business of model sites would probably continue to thrive. PlayToy’s many subscribers, a large number of whom identify themselves on the site as living in America, could simply drift over to other model sites, all offering similar fare.

There, on each of those hundreds of competing sites, the subscribers will find at least one other little girl who, every few days or so, is dressed in panties or thongs, placed in a bathtub or posed on a bed, while a nearby adult snaps pictures for the delight of a paying audience of thousands.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Addressing Security Concerns

All of you probably already know that security guards in front of malls inspecting your bags, a national ID system, arming the barangay tanod as well as the recent ban of liquids on aircrafts are all ridiculous ways to prevent terrorist acts from happening.

This essay by far articulates it best.


It's easy to defend against what the terrorists planned last time, but it's shortsighted. If we spend billions fielding liquid-analysis machines in airports and the terrorists use solid explosives, we've wasted our money. If they target shopping malls, we've wasted our money. Focusing on tactics simply forces the terrorists to make a minor modification in their plans. There are too many targets -- stadiums, schools, theaters, churches, the long line of densely packed people before airport security -- and too many ways to kill people.

Security measures that require us to guess correctly don't work, because invariably we will guess wrong. It's not security, it's security theater: measures designed to make us feel safer but not actually safer.

Security theater. Best packaging of it yet.

Also, the concrete repercussions of such policies in airports.