By Alex Whiting LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Nicole was aged 17 and her mother was sent to prison for white collar crimes, she met a man on Facebook who offered to take care of her. But instead of looking after her, he sold Nicole to men across the United States from Texas to Washington D.C.. It was only when she was in her early 20s, after being badly injured in a vicious rape, that she was finally able to escape sex work. Nicole's experience is not unique. Traffickers worldwide are increasingly using social media to contact vulnerable teenagers and sell them into sex work, quick to adopt the latest online platforms popular with teenagers that has created new challenges for law enforcement agencies. Once limited to luring victims in the street, traffickers can now message thousands of people through Instagram, Facebook, Kik, Tagged and Twitter, with WhatsApp and Snapchat some of the latest tools in their arsenal. "If just one of them answers ... traffickers can make thousands of dollars off that girl very quickly," said Andrea Powell, founder and director of FAIR Girls, a U.S.-based NGO which helps trafficked girls worldwide, including Nicole. Powell, accompanying Nicole to the Trust Women conference on trafficking and women's rights this week run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said a growing trend in the United States is to use WhatsApp or Snapchat where messages evaporate over time. "In some cases you have really stupid traffickers who leave mountains and mountains of email trails," said Powell. "But most of the time everything's done through different applications on different sites so law enforcement is having to learn how to use these ... It's a whole different ballgame." Europol, the European Union's police agency, said social media and other online technology have not only taken the recruitment and selling process off the streets but also allow traffickers to control victims using remote surveillance. But it does mean traffickers and victims leave permanent traces which can help police to identify them, Europol added. No one at Europol was available for further comment. Britain's National Crime Agency said the use of social media by traffickers is an emerging trend, but the agency does not have hard data of how widespread it is. LURED WITH JOB OFFERS Globally, nearly 21 million people are victims of human trafficking, a $150 billion industry, according to the United Nation's International Labour Organization. An estimated 4.5 million of them are forced into sex work. FAIR Girls said about 90 percent of the people it helped in Washington D.C. and Maryland had been sold online. Most of them had been sexually abused and were in foster care, with traffickers getting a psychological hold on them. Kendis Paris, who runs the U.S.-based Truckers Against Trafficking mobilizing lorry drivers against domestic sex trafficking, said social media was a "massive entry point". Paris, a speaker at the Nov 17-18 Trust Women conference, said children were easy to manipulate, "especially young girls, unfortunately, looking for love". "This kind of thing happens all the time," said Paris, whose network has led to more than 350 trafficking cases since 2011 and identified about 650 trafficking victims. With Facebook alone having more than 1.5 billion users and its online messaging service WhatsApp with 900 million users, social media has opened up a new world for traffickers. In Indonesia most teenagers use Facebook and some Twitter, says ECPAT Indonesia, an NGO fighting child sex trafficking. "Most child traffickers use Facebook to get close to and manipulate their victims," Ahmad Sofian, national coordinator of ECPAT Indonesia, said by phone from Jakarta. They lure them with promises of jobs in restaurants or shops then sell them into sex work, said Sofian, who has researched the exploitation of children via social media in Indonesia. The country's first prosecution of an online trafficking syndicate was in 2010. The traffickers posted photos of children on Facebook, and customers booked them through chat rooms like Yahoo Messenger or mIRC. The children were sold for $45 to $60. The U.S. Department of State's Trafficking in Persons Report 2015 also cited examples of online trafficking by Croatians, Nigerians, Russians, Bulgarians, Brazilians, Japanese, South Koreans and Mongolians. Lawyer Van Ngoc Ta, who works for anti-trafficking charity Blue Dragon Children's Foundation in Vietnam, said young women were often fooled into believing they were in a relationship online but ended up a sex slave after going to meet that man. "The men pretend to love them but sell them into the sex industry in China. These women, ashamed and alone, don't know where to turn," said Van Ta, also a speaker at Trust Women. TURNING THE TABLES ON TRAFFICKERS To combat traffickers, experts say more children should be targeted in public awareness campaigns through social media, and vulnerable children encouraged to speak to trustworthy people. Facebook said its users are encouraged to report content that violates its policies, including any connected to human trafficking, while teenagers are given additional safety and privacy features on their accounts which block public searches. Snapchat has guidelines on staying safe online, and a trust and safety team to deal with reports of abuse. It said it works closely with Thorn, an organization which provides technical innovation to fight the sexual exploitation of children. WhatsApp was contacted for a comment but did not reply. Mark Latonero, who heads the Technology and Human Trafficking Initiative at the University of Southern Carolina, said social media platforms leave traffickers exposed to investigators but the huge volume of posts makes it difficult for police to identify an actual victim, survivor or trafficker. "Traffickers are using the scale and popularity of online services to essentially hide in plain sight," he said. "Even if we identified all traffickers or victims online, law enforcement and social services lack the manpower and resources to effectively respond," added Latonero, who is also a fellow at the U.S.-based Data and Society Research Institute. ($1 = 0.6583 pounds) (Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst in New York, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
- The Independent
18-year-old man from Ohio with assault rifle and wearing gas mask taken into custody
LONDON (Reuters) -Helen McCrory, the "beautiful and mighty" British actress known for playing steely female characters on stage and screen, has died of cancer at the age of 52, her husband, Damian Lewis, said on Friday. The shock announcement drew tributes from author JK Rowling, fellow actors including Michael Sheen and from the artistic director at London's National Theatre who hailed McCrory as "unquestionably one of the great actors of her generation". On screen she starred as Narcissa Malfoy in Harry Potter films, as the matriarch of a crime family in Peaky Blinders and as the wife of former prime minister Tony Blair, Cherie.
- Lexington Herald-Leader
The search for survivors continues.
- The Independent
Trump’s post-presidency makeover: Former president losing weight, cutting back on M&Ms and ditching spray tan, report says
‘When I saw him, he looked healthier and in better physical condition than I had seen him in a long time,’ a Trump advisor says
- KCRA - Sacramento Videos
A good Samaritan died Friday night after she was struck by a car while trying to help another pedestrian in a separate crash in Sacramento County, according to the California Highway Patrol. A second woman who had also stopped to help was also hit by the car and suffered injuries. See more above.
Queen Elizabeth bade farewell to Prince Philip at a funeral on Saturday that celebrated his seven decades of service and gave grandsons William and Harry the chance to talk in public for the first time since claims of racism threw the family into crisis. Elizabeth, dressed in black and in a white trimmed black face mask, stood alone, head bowed as her husband of 73 years was lowered into the Royal Vault of St George's Chapel in a service attended by senior royals including heir Prince Charles. Prince Harry, who flew from the United States to attend the funeral, walked and talked with his brother William and wife Kate at the end of the service - the first time they have spoken in public since Harry and his wife Meghan gave an explosive interview to Oprah Winfrey last month.
- The Daily Beast
MIGUEL SCHINCARIOLDoctors in hard-hit Brazil have resorted to tying COVID-19 patients to their hospital beds before ramming ventilators down their throats since they no longer have enough sedatives, according to doctors in Rio de Janeiro. “I never thought that I would be living through something like this after 20 years working in intensive care,” Aureo do Carmo Filho told Reuters. “Using mechanical restraints without sedatives is bad practice... the patient is submitted to a form of torture.”In hospitals where they do still have sedatives, health workers have resorted to diluting them to make supplies go further or using muscle relaxants to calm patients down while they are intubated. “They are awake, without sedatives, and they pop up, with their hands tied to the bed and begging us not to let them die,” one nurse said.The horrific admissions come on the heels of Doctors Without Borders naming Brazil’s response to the pandemic a “humanitarian catastrophe” that is likely to only get worse in the coming weeks. “I have to be very clear in this: the Brazilian authorities’ negligence is costing lives,” MSF international president Christos Christou said Thursday after Brazil’s death toll rose to 362,000.MSF general director Meinie Nicolai directly blamed Brazil’s right-wing leader Jair Bolsonaro, who, like former U.S. president Donald Trump, downplayed the pandemic and his own bout with COVID-19, causing many to take deadly risks by not believing the virus is as dangerous or as contagious as science proves it is.“There is no coordination in the response. There is no real acknowledgment of the severity of the disease. Science is put aside. Fake news is being distributed and health care workers are left on their own,” Nicolai said. “The government is failing the Brazilian people. All Brazilians can tell you that they have people around them that have been buried or intubated in places where there are no drugs and no oxygen. That is unacceptable.”The lack of medical supplies is coupled with resistance by government officials to even recognize the severity of the problem. The P1 variant first identified in Brazil has caused international concern and is now thought to be mutating. France blocked all flights from the country and other countries are now advising against all but essential travel to the beleaguered South American nation.The lack of proper medical supplies is now coupled with a disastrous vaccine rollout built on both denial and corruption. Just 12 percent of Brazil’s population has received a first dose of the Chinese vaccine Coronavac, which Chinese officials recently admitted is not very effective against stopping people from becoming severely sick.Earlier in the week, federal prosecutors in the Brazilian state of Roraima opened an investigation after reports emerged that rogue health workers were exchanging doses of the less-than-effective Chinese vaccine, which is primarily what is currently being offered in the country, for illegally mined gold. An advocate for the indigenous tribes that own the land where the gold is mined said health workers were vaccinating clandestine miners under the cover of nightfall, according to Reuters. “The Yanomami have long complained that materials and medicines intended for indigenous health are being diverted to wildcat miners,” the local leader said in a letter seen by Reuters.More Brazilians are dying every day than anywhere else in the world, with the country logging 3,560 deaths on Thursday alone. Brazil’s health ministry is currently in talks with Spain and other countries to try to get needed supplies to the overwhelmed hospitals. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro continues to fight against regional governments that have tried to mandate masks or institute lockdowns.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Brandon Hole legally bought the rifles despite having had a gun confiscated by police months before.
- Associated Press
John Hunter Nemechek passed teammate Chandler Smith with 17 laps to go and outran team owner Kyle Busch to win the NASCAR Truck Series race at Richmond Raceway on Saturday. Nemechek, already the series points leader, gave Kyle Busch Motorsports its fourth consecutive victory in the series but deprived Busch of a victory at the only track where he hasn't won in the Truck Series. Busch also was trying to become the only driver to win in all three of NASCAR's top series on the 0.75-mile, D-shaped oval.
- Associated Press
Iran named a suspect Saturday in the attack on its Natanz nuclear facility that damaged centrifuges there, saying he had fled the country “hours before” the sabotage happened. While the extent of the damage from the April 11 sabotage remains unclear, it comes as Iran tries to negotiate with world powers over allowing the U.S. to re-enter its tattered nuclear deal and lift the economic sanctions it faces. Already, Iran has begun enriching uranium up to 60% purity in response — three times higher than ever before, though in small quantities.
- The Independent
Post Hill Press, a small conservative publishing house, is set to release a book by Sgt Jonathan Mattingly about the fatal incident
- Kansas City Star
Keith Urban will co-host the ACM Awards with Mickey Guyton, the first Black woman to host the award show.
BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazil needs to cut illegal deforestation by between 15% and 20% every year to eliminate it by 2030, Vice President Hamilton Mourao said on Friday, referring to a goal set by President Jair Bolsonaro in a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden this week. Bolsonaro is set to attend a U.S. climate summit hosted by Biden next week amid international pressure to slash deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, which surged to a 12-year high in 2020 as an area 14 times the size of New York City was destroyed, government data show. Brazil and the United States have been negotiating since February on a possible deal to cooperate on tackling deforestation.
- Reuters Videos
The demonstrators, from protest group Kaputin, were demanding the release from prison of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and denounced the build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine's eastern border.The protesters added a mock golden toilet brush to the effigy's hand and a roll of toilet paper in the other. Inscribed on the stand the words "naked killer".Mock golden toilet brushes were also found hanging next to the entrance sign of the Russian embassy.Toilet brushes became a symbol of pro-Navalny protests in February after the opposition leader published a video in which he and his allies alleged that an opulent palace belonged to the Russian leader.The Kremlin has denied that Putin owned the palace, called the video an information attack on the president and suggested what it described as a "pseudo-investigation" was a scam designed to con gullible Russians into donating to Navalny's organisation.Russia jailed Navalny for two-and-a-half years in February for parole violations he said were trumped up. He was arrested at the border as he returned to Russia from Germany where he had been recovering from a nerve agent poisoning.State prosecutors in Moscow asked a court on Friday to label Navalny's anti-corruption group and regional headquarters "extremist" organisations, a move that would ban them and open up activists to long jail terms.The move, if approved, would mark one of the most serious steps taken by authorities yet to target the network of groups set up by the staunch critic of Putin who is on hunger-strike as he serves his jail term.The protesters also called on the Czech government to keep a pro-Western orientation and not order Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.
- The Independent
Lawmakers spending on protection in wake of 6 January Capitol riot revealed in FEC filings
From Barceloneta Beach in Spain to the US's Miami Beach, people around the world are packing colorful swimsuits and flocking to crowded beaches.
- LA Times
Former Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade has purchased an ownership stake in the Utah Jazz, following a legacy of basketball stars turned owners.
Brazil is also seeking aid from the US in return for protecting the Amazon rainforest.
- The Independent
The Seacor Power vessel capsized on Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico during a severe storm with 19 people onboard. Nine men are still missing
- USA TODAY
The 13-year-old's death from a police bullet has sparked a citywide look at use of force policies in Chicago.