Lee Camp: ‘We’re in a New Age of McCarthyism’ Trump Administration Attempt to Quash Youth Climate Suit Fails The Brutal Normality of Switzerland’s Sex Market Some State Election Servers Could Be Exposed to Hackers Trump Administration Reimposes Iran Sanctions Lifted in Nuclear Deal
NOV 02, 2018 TD ORIGINALS Lee Camp: ‘We’re in a New Age of McCarthyism’ Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., presides over a meeting of the Senate Investigations Subcommittee in 1954. (William J. Smith / AP ) Arguably the greatest comedian of his generation , Lenny Bruce appeared on network television just six times . Six times over a career that spanned the better part of two decades. On multiple occasions, he was cited for obscenity—a series of arrests that culminated in his 1964 conviction. (He was posthumously pardoned.) Bruce was found dead in the bathroom of his Hollywood home two years later, a syringe and a burned bottle cap beside him.
Lee Camp knows something about being deemed beyond the pale. In June 2017, he found himself the subject of a bizarre profile in The New York Times that suggested, in so many words, that he was a stooge of Vladimir Putin. “We’re in a new age of McCarthyism,” Camp tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer. “I grew up with people telling me, ‘What a dark time in America’s past! Let’s never go back to such a barbaric way of thinking’ … of guilt by association and letting our cognitive abilities just go by the wayside.”
For the past four years, Camp has hosted “Redacted Tonight” on Russia Today—a comedy show that explores the all-too-familiar ills of American empire: unchecked militarism, Wall Street greed and, perhaps most importantly, the propaganda of our political press. During that time, he has developed a cultlike following among leftists desperately searching for an alternative to corporate media. “I’ve been doing stand-up comedy for 20 years,” Camp says. “It became increasingly political after the Iraq invasion in 2002; you know, that’s when I kind of had [an] awakening as to what was really going on in our world.”
Camp is not the only iconoclast at RT America. The network has featured such prominent independent thinkers as Jesse Ventura, Phil Donahue and the late Ed Schultz—an ex-governor and two former MSNBC hosts, respectively. In November 2017, amid a steady diet of “Russiagate” stories in the national media, the network was forced to comply with the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA)—a bill designed to target lobbyists. “[The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)] is the definition of what they’re talking about,” Camp notes. “It is Israel’s lobbying arm in the U.S. And it has never been forced to register as a foreign agent.”
In the latest episode of “Scheer Intelligence,” the comedian explores the legacies of Richard Pryor and George Carlin, as well as Lenny Bruce, big tech’s capacity to strangle independent media and the freedom of working for a network like RT America. “I’d just given up the idea of ever being on television, because the things I talk about are not generally allowed on corporate media,” he says. “RT America [lets me talk] about infinite war and Wall Street exploitation … and I’ve never been told to say anything or told not to say anything.”
Listen to his interview with Scheer or read a transcript of their conversation below.
Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, someone who’s described as an American comic, but actually I think of as more, dare I say it, a pretty deep thinker about politics. And that’s Lee Camp. But the fact is, the most scurrilous, deceitful, creepy article I’ve ever read in a mainstream newspaper was a hit job on Lee Camp in The New York Times about a year ago. And I couldn’t believe it. I mean, you go through this thing, the guy, because he dares to have a show on RT–and you know, and they couldn’t get anything on Lee Camp, other than that he’s funny; they did admit that he’s very funny. You’ve been a comedian for decades. And so, what’s this all about? You’ve been red-baited, you’re–
Lee Camp: Yeah.
RS: And, you know, what’s going on? It’s kind of a weird, weird atmosphere.
LC: Yeah, that New York Times piece was truly incredible. And yeah, it ended with saying there were Russians outside my show, my standup show in New York. But the guy failed to mention, this so-called journalist failed to mention that there–unrelated, completely unrelated, didn’t even know he was going to be there, there was a Russian, a well-known Russian rapper performing after me at the same venue, like an hour after me. So the people he saw, the Russians he saw in line were Russian-Americans waiting to see this rapper. And apparently, The New York Times couldn’t even dig deep enough to look up at the name in lights that was performing after me. But anyway, yeah, we’re in, you know–and I didn’t live through it, but we’re in a new age of McCarthyism. And you know, I grew up with people telling me, oh man, what a dark time in America’s past! Let’s never go back to such a barbaric way of thinking and guilt by association and being so afraid, and you know, just letting our cognitive abilities just go by the wayside to just point people and say, you know, you’re Russian, you sympathize with the Russians because you want peace, or you stand for something that I don’t necessarily agree with. And we’re all back, it seems like so much, so many Americans are just back there, you know, led by corporate media to just push this ridiculous red-baiting and neo-McCarthyism. And it’s a disgusting time in that sense. And of course I’ve been doing the same stuff for the past 20 years; I’ve been a stand-up comic, talking about these issues; I had a YouTube show before I was at RT; and I’ve been doing my same stuff, talking about the same issues, for 20 years. And only in the past two have people decided, ooh, scary, scary Russian.
RS: The really depressing thing here is the McCarthyites now are my friends. They are people who should know better. And the thing that seems to be driving this McCarthyism–the Russians did it, the Russians did it–is that Hillary Clinton lost the election. I mean, there was a lot of problems with Trump, but the idea that he’s a stooge of Putin–if there was a foreign government that interfered in our election, it was Israel. Why doesn’t anybody dare say it?
LC: I know.
RS: It was Israel! Netanyahu went, spoke to the U.S. Congress, violated all tradition, attacked a sitting president for his deal with Iran, OK–which was, by the way, Obama’s great achievement in foreign policy, and he should be applauded for it.
RS: So you got Israel in an unholy alliance with Saudi Arabia, and you know, backing the Sunnis against the Shiites, and Iran is the great enemy. And what happens with this election is Trump goes over to that position. It’s not only that they influenced the election, but then Trump moves the embassy, you know, to Jerusalem; he embraces Saudi Arabia; and he makes Iran the great enemy. So if you want to talk about influence on this president, it clearly has come from that direction. On the other hand, here’s Putin–if he backed Trump in the way–and I think the documentation is quite light. The main things Putin is supposed to have done is allow us to read or hear what Hillary Clinton said to Goldman Sachs, which Bernie Sanders said we had a right to have, and we didn’t know what she had said. And the other is that the Democratic National Committee was in the business of undermining Bernie Sanders. Those are the two main leaks that came out; maybe we’ll learn more. But the irony is that Trump has done nothing–not only done nothing, he’s tried to savage the Russian economy. He’s increased sanctions, he’s been tough as could be. So you have this really disconnect here, that is alarming, and it’s fed by the same thing that drives MSNBC and others; it’s opportunism, careerism.
LC: I mean, you’re absolutely right. And they made this decision, from what I understand, you know, the internal Clinton people made this decision basically a week after the election. That, you know–because remember, for that first week, they were blaming Comey and the FBI for sinking her chances of winning, because he reopened the investigation or whatnot. And then they realized, well, going against the FBI as the reason we lost this election is not going to be good for us and the democrats. So then, a week later, they shifted to, you know, this–oh, it’s all Russia, Russia did it, and we need to just go after Russia. And Comey became the great hero all of a sudden, of the democrats, which was a stunning–you know, you got to take Dramamine to deal with the amount of spinning they’re doing here. But yeah, it–and Israel was definitely, and continues to definitely be such a p=owerful influence on this government. And you know, the hilarious thing is that RT was the first media outlet, RT America, to be forced to sign up as foreign agents or whatever. I mean, I didn’t personally have to do it, but the company did. And of course, the foreign agent bill, which was initially law, which was initially put in, was designed to–you know, for lobbyists, foreign lobbyists to register as foreign agents, not press agencies. And AIPAC is the definition of what they’re talking about; it is Israel’s lobbying arm in the U.S. And it has never been forced to register as a foreign agent, and it was asked to back in the sixties, and just never did. And so the actual definition of a foreign agent is not registered, but now they’re, you know, forcing this on press agencies; they’re now going after China’s television network, I believe, also had to register. So I guess they’ll just, you know, when are they going to come after BBC and CBC, when are those going to register as foreign agents?
RS: So let me ask you about comedy. Because it’s interesting how taste can be, or matters of taste, can be used to dismiss people. You know, and I want to bring up Lenny Bruce, because I do think he was one of the great, great thinkers as well as comics. And they were able to totally marginalize and destroy this guy, destroy–you’re not funny, you’re beyond the pale. And I get the, a little bit of the feeling that people are doing that with you. You know, that you’re a threat because you actually do have a following, and you are funny. So let me ask you about careerism. Tell me a little bit about yourself, where you came from, how you became a comic, and why you’re not more obviously selling out.
LC: Well, I don’t know that I have the answer to all those questions. But I was born to a military doctor father here at Walter Reed in Washington, D.C., the famous military hospital. And then grew up, most of my younger years, in Richmond, Virginia; went to University of Virginia. I started writing comedy when I was about 12, thought I was going to be a comedy writer because I’d never been on a stage, I had no interest in acting or anything. And then when I got to college, started performing onstage and became obsessed with standup comedy. And immediately after school, went to New York to be a standup comic. And you know, I think like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been doing this for, I’ve been doing standup comedy for 20 years. It became increasingly political after the Iraq invasion in 2002; you know, that’s when I kind of had, continued to have my awakening as to what was really going on in our world. Started reading people like Chomsky and Hedges and yourself, and started to really understand the truth behind the corporate media, that maybe they don’t really want to touch on so much. And I just kind of felt that that is what I wanted to be talking about onstage, even if it made my path a little more difficult, even if it meant that, you know, if you’re playing to a roomful of tourists in New York City, a certain percentage of them are going to be a little turned off. I got pretty good at kind of putting these political ideas in there while still entertaining the entire crowd, even if they were right-wing or something. And that’s, I think, the great gift of comedy, is that people will sit and listen to ideas that they might disagree with, despite finding them a bit appalling or upsetting or uncomfortable or what have you. Whereas if you just lecture somebody and they disagree, they’ll often walk out in the first five minutes. And you know, I think that’s what’s exciting about comedy. But you know, people ask me which came first, the comedy or the activism; and it was definitely the comedy. I just wanted to be a comedian, I wanted to be Seinfeld when I was, you know, 15 or 16. And then the activism and the politics came later. And now I just find I–you know, there are great comedians out there that aren’t saying anything important; there’s absurdist comedians, people like Mitch Hedberg and Steven Wright, that are brilliant. But–or were brilliant. But for me, what I find interesting is really dealing with these deep, dark subjects, and yet inserting the comedy to make them go down a little easier. Because even those who agree can burn out so quickly if we don’t have a bit of a release, a bit of a spoonful of honey to go with the medicine. So yeah, I’ve just been going down that path. And you know, I’d given up–to talk about careerism, I’d given up on the idea of ever being on TV, really. I mean, I’d had little–I’d basically had one interview on each network, because once they saw what I said and realized, oh, that’s not acceptable for our airwaves–I’d been on CNN once, I’d been on MSNBC once, I’d been on [Laughs] all these networks one time. Fox News, you know, had me escorted out of the building. So I basically had appeared on each of these things, they realized I was not acceptable for corporate America; Comedy Central I was on once. And so I’d just given up the idea of ever being on television, because the things I talk about are not generally allowed on your corporate media. And then RT America basically was like, do whatever–do what it is you’re doing. You know, do whatever you want. And I’ve found such freedom there, that I can talk about these issues, talk about infinite war and Wall Street exploitation, and I’m not–I’ve never been told to say anything or told not to say anything. So it is this crazy situation, where I’ve gotten very lucky that I’m doing something that I feel is important, and yet can still be seen by people.
RS: Yeah, it’s interesting about our relation to media, mass media. The great thinker Leonard Cohen had a song, “There’s a crack in everything, and that’s how the light gets through.” And my own feeling, you know, you mentioned a few people–Chris Hedges; well, Chris Hedges wrote for, as you have pointed out, for The New York Times for a long time. He did great work, he was part of a team that won the Pulitzer; he did great work reporting from the Mideast. I think Chris Hedges is the best journalist that we’ve produced in our modern period; Sy Hersh is another great one, worked sometimes for The New York Times, but he also wrote, when I was editing Ramparts magazine–
LC: And how–I actually want to ask you this–how outrageous is it that someone like Sy Hersh has to publish amazing journalism in German magazines? Because they won’t publish it here!
RS: Yeah, but I’m going to tell you, as an older guy, it’s always been that way. There’s always been these contradictions. And you know what, I’m going to take a quick break. I’ve been talking to Lee Camp, a terrific comic–I say “comic” sort of demeans this, although he’ll take exception–I think he’s a big thinker, and it comes out in his comedy, it’s informed by it. But we’ll be right back. [omission for station break] We’re right back with Lee Camp, who’s got a comedy special that we’re going to talk about, coming on Election Day, so you can’t forget it–Election Day. And I want to talk to you about a basic issue about, how do you survive as a writer, as a comic, as a thinker, as an artist. And you know, you’ve had your difficulties, your connection with RT, of course you have connections with lots of things. And what I, the reason I wanted to have you on this interview, I am really ticked off with people who say that going on RT disqualifies you. Why doesn’t it disqualify you if you work for The New York Times and they shamelessly, as you have pointed out in the case of Chris Hedges, they not only shamelessly supported the Iraq War and the lies about it, but they fired Chris Hedges for daring to give a commencement speech criticizing the war, which he had witnessed, on the ground, in person. And yet he was forced out.
LC: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And you can go down the list of people that have been forced out of these networks for being against war, or not standing the corporate line. You know, Phil Donahue pushed out at MSNBC; Jessie Ventura had a giant contract with MSNBC that, once they found out he was against the Iraq War, they paid him a lot of money to get out of the contract, never airing his show; Ed Schultz kind of pushed out because he supported Bernie Sanders. So it is a very fine line of what you’re allowed to say on those corporate airwaves.
RS: Well, you know, my own view is that you are providing a good model of how to survive. Because if you don’t survive and get the word out and get to talk to people, then what are you doing? You’re just [Laughs] you know, proving to your god or something that you’re virtuous. Even that won’t cut it if, you know, the god is discerning; he’ll say, wait a minute, that was a cop-out [Laughter], you just went to some monastery and shut up, that doesn’t do it. So you know, the fact of the matter is, you’re out there with your big mouth and your comedy and your big ideas and everything else. And so what’s happening now? I mean, can you make a living?
LC: [Laughs] Well, yeah. No, I’m doing fine, because I have this TV show, “Redacted Tonight,” at RT America. But other than that, you know, the touring is pretty, is OK; but you know, that’s, you just kind of break even with the live touring. I’m luckily in the situation where I’m excited that I can put out this comedy special on my own without any corporate backers, and I don’t have to deal with that side of things. So I’ve kind of gotten lucky that that is a, you know, now a point of pride, that this thing’s only at LeeCampComedySpecial.com. But you know, I appreciate that, and you know, you brought up other comedians that have walked this line–most of the ones that were allowed to get famous, they got famous doing things that were not overtly political, or at least not too much. You know, if you look at the early stuff of Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, they were not very political in the early days. And once they had that fame, they started talking about more important issues. And then of course, you know, George Carlin was taken all the way to the Supreme Court with the NPR case, right, and Lenny Bruce was basically driven to his death; they made it impossible for him to perform and make money, because anywhere he performed at, he’d get arrested for speech violations or obscenity violations. You know, Carlin said some very important things, and that’s why his legend continues to live on, and I think it’ll just continue to grow. And it’s because he already had that audience, he’d developed a large audience without saying things that threatened corporate America or the, you know, the gatekeepers. And then once he was threatening, it was too late; he was, he had such a massive platform, and was adored by so many people that it was too late. And some of his stuff in the nineties and early thousands is really important thought, for a comedian, at least, on the fact that we’re bombing endlessly, and that we perpetrate war so often, and those type of things that you don’t hear a lot from your entertainment. You know, I’m sure there’s plenty of kind of no-name comedians out there, and if they’re talking about this stuff, it’s not easy to break in.
RS: Well you know the whole thing is, we’re trying to scratch–to find a little hole in the dike or something, that we can slip something through. Because the fact is, you know, the freedom of press that was guaranteed in our Constitution was a press that pretty much any white male [Laughs] farmer could own. You know, it was the penny–any printer could put out a penny press; that’s what Tom Paine did, he seduced the wife of a printer, and we got, you know, some of these great pamphlets.
LC: Well, and that’s why the information revolution is so threatening to the powers that be, is because it is, everybody does have a voice. And I think you’re seeing that kind of being shut down now, with these, just like week, you know, Anti Media and Free Thought Project all banned, 800 pages banned from Facebook, and their accounts of their editors on Twitter simultaneously suspended. So clearly, Facebook and Twitter discussed that these pages needed to be shut down. And to me, that’s very frightening; that’s, to see that level of conspiring between these large social media platforms to shut out alternative or independent journalism outlets.
RS: So the reality is, OK, these people, the business model is broken for journalism. And the people on the internet who are making the enormous amount of money and becoming trillion-dollar companies are, in the main, robbing your privacy. But it’s not against the Constitution, because the government is involved. And governments all over the world do it. So then, the real issue here is, what are the motives of these companies? And now you have an incredible, Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post–very interesting. I happen to edit a publication that was on a list of publications that The Washington Post–and I know Marty Baron; I worked with him at the LA Times, he knows it’s all nonsense. Most of the people who edit Truthdig worked at the LA Times, a few worked at The New York Times and the Hearst Corporation. And yet, you know, boom–there was some mysterious group, PropOrNot, or something, and they said oh, these people are all bad actors.
LC: Oh, yeah. How ridiculous.
RS: Very similar to what’s happening with Facebook now, and everything. And what they could do–oh, The Washington Post ran that story, you know. Well–
LC: Incredible, yeah.
RS: And you know, they can put you out of business; you know, that’s totally irresponsible. And so–
LC: Well, it actually turns out the pages that were blacked out on Facebook were almost all connected to that PropOrNot.
RS: I want to cut to the chase here about what one should do. Because I’m trying to look for role models, what people can do. And the fact is, we do have space in this society. And people have to use it. And as I say, the freedom of the press that the Founders had in mind was one that pretty much anybody could start, who as I say, was a white male–yes, we all know the limitations, severe limitations–but with very small capitalization. Now that’s not the case. That’s not the case, and it hasn’t been for a long time. And so the people playing in that field have a different, dare I say it, class interest, and a different view of the society. And so I want to end, really, getting to your dilemma right now, the dilemma of Lee Camp. You know, there aren’t too many people doing what you’re doing. Most of them sell out. Most of what we teach in these schools and everything now is, how do you get on the bandwagon? How do you get some crumbs off the table? And so I want to end, really, with this idea of, you know, how do you survive in this society and be a good citizen?
LC: Well, you know, it’s just–I mean, now I’m at the point that I’m, you know, able to make money doing this, and you know, I’ll make money with this comedy special, and I make a little bit of money from my touring, and obviously I make money from the TV show. So it’s not, you know, I don’t want to act like I’m poor or anything. But when I wasn’t making money, you know, right before I got “Redacted Tonight,” and I’d spent probably three, four years with very little income. And what kept me going, and what kept me talking about these issues and not kind of becoming a different style of comedian, was just kind of an inner obligation. I didn’t, I didn’t–I’m incapable, whatever it is in me, I’m incapable of just turning the other way and ignoring the path, ignoring the fact that we–you know, for example, we have eleven years until we’re past the point of no return on climate change. I, to me, I can’t just go onstage in front of a group of people every night and act like that doesn’t exist. Or that we aren’t dropping, you know, somewhere between 50 and 100 bombs a day in our names. And it’s like those type of things just, they don’t go away, and I think they would haunt me if I was ignoring them. And so you know, there may be temptations to do some other style of comedy, or to avoid the things that make people uncomfortable, but I’ve just never been able to really shut that off in my mind. And you know, I’ve–ever since I was little, you know, I wasn’t an activist, but I’ve always been very angry at being lied to or being misled. I, manipulation just makes me furious. And so [Laughs] I think that’s part of what has kept the fire of my anger going, and you know, kept me angry on this latest standup special, is I just hate to see so many people manipulated and then exploited through that manipulation. And I just want to do my part to continue to talk about these things, to continue to get these issues out there. And like I said earlier, to do it in a way that luckily, you know, with throwing a little comedy in there, people can not burn out, and continue to care about these things, hopefully. And obviously, for the information that I then funnel through comedy, I look to the great thinkers and the great journalists that are putting kind of the pure, the pure dope out there; they’re putting the pure facts out there, and then I take that and funnel it through my comedy. And so I hope that that’s what people get from this new comedy special. And you know, I understand I’ve been tremendously lucky to even have a career talking about these things. And it is that–like, I don’t understand people that, you know, get rich or have huge success and don’t–and then turn against those who are being most exploited in our society. It should be the opposite. If you end up getting money or getting success, you should want to help all those that didn’t have that luck, that didn’t have that thing, that didn’t have that door open. And so I have no intent or understanding, even, of people that turn their back on the lowest in our society. And you know, I just want to keep fighting for more equality and a world that can live sustainably and peacefully. And I don’t know how to put it other than that.
RS: The price is not just to individuals. But if we’re afraid, and we can’t bring up certain subjects; if we can’t discuss, you know–I mean, for instance, one that I brought up on the show, which I’m sure I’ll get a lot of angry response to: that it was Israel and Saudi Arabia that successfully meddled in our election. You know, and Israel and Saudi Arabia seem to get along quite nicely, and you got the richest Arab country bombing the hell out of the poorest, in Yemen, and this horrible–
LC: Yemen is awful.
RS: Yeah. And then you know, and the picking on–you know, yes, I’m not for any theocracy, and certainly not for the Ayatollahs of Iran; but I mean, my goodness, it wasn’t Iranian hijackers that were on those planes. And yet you know, we bought that view of the Mideast, and the Palestinians are getting screwed–I don’t know, I’ve stopped watching Rachel Maddow, but does she ever talk about, you know, human rights and the Palestinians?
LC: Well, I can tell you, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found out that in an entire year, ending in this past July, they did zero stories on Yemen, and they did 455 on Stormy Daniels on their main, on their main shows. So, clearly, Rachel Maddow’s not talking about Yemen. [Laughs]
RS: OK, but so let me just end on a point–because you, I noticed in these articles about you and RT and so forth, they say you don’t talk about Putin, and you don’t talk about Russia, and so forth. Which your answer is, that’s not what I’m here, basically, to do; I’m here to talk about American corporations, and so forth.
LC: Well, it’s also not true. I’ve covered Russiagate extensively; I’ve just covered it not in the way they want me to, I’ve covered it the way Chris Hedges and Ray McGovern see it, you know.
RS: The whole problem is intimidation. And that’s the real enemy of journalism, is when you’re intimidated, either by career or fear of a totalitarian state, or you know, the desire to be loved. And I would argue–and I felt this during, watching Jon Stewart, who I have my own issues with. But nonetheless, I felt Jon Stewart, for a period there, did better journalism than the mainstream media. And you can actually get on a stage, as you’re going to do for Election Day–where do people go? LeeCampComedySpecial, it’s all one thing, dot com?
LC: LeeCampComedySpecial.com, and I’m a terrible salesman, but if they use the promo code UncleSam, one word, they’ll get 25 percent off.
RS: Uncle Samdig.com/! Twenty-five–and it’s Election Day. So it’s a good thing to do Election Day. And we’ve had a terrific interview with Lee Camp. If you want to hear more from him, check out LeeCampComedySpecial.com on Election Day. Our producers for this show of Scheer Intelligence have been Josh Scheer and Isabel Carreon. Engineering here at KCRW is provided by Kat Yore and Mario Diaz. And we’ve had an assist from NPR in Washington.
NOV 04, 2018 Trump Administration Attempt to Quash Youth Climate Suit Fails Supporters of the youthful plaintiffs in the case rally outside the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. ( Peg Hunter / Flickr) The nation’s top court on Friday turned down the Trump administration’s latest attempt to put the brakes on a landmark lawsuit brought by a group of young people who charge that the federal government has violated their constitutional rights by actively causing climate instability.
“The youth of our nation won an important decision,” said Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel of Our Children’s Trust and co-counsel for the youth plaintiffs. She said the finding by the U.S. Supreme Court “shows even the most powerful government in the world must follow the rules and process of litigation in our democracy.”
The plaintiffs , aged 11-22, assert (pdf) that the government “continued their policies and practices of allowing the exploitation of fossil fuels,” despite knowing, for 50 years, that doing so “would destabilize the climate system on which present and future generations of our nation depend for their well-being and survival.”
The trial did not begin on October 29 at the United States District Court in Oregon as they’d hoped because the Supreme Court issued a temporary stay while it weighed the federal government’s request for dismissal. In denying an extension of the temporary stay, the new order says the “government’s petition for a writ of mandamus does not have a ‘fair prospect’ of success in this Court because adequate relief may be available in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.” The three-page order also states that Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch would have extended the stay.
While that appeals court previously rejected the government’s requests for a stay, its basis for doing so rested “in large part, on the early stage of the litigation, the likelihood that plaintiffs’ claims would narrow as the case progressed, and the possibility of attaining relief through ordinary dispositive motions. Those reasons are, to a large extent, no longer pertinent,” the order adds.
Still, for the plaintiffs, Friday marked “an important date,” said Philip Gregory, co-counsel for the youth in Juliana v. United States , which first starting winding its way through the courts three years ago. “We just filed a request with [U.S. District Court ] Judge Aiken, hoping the Court sets an immediate pre-trial conference and a prompt trial date. We are extremely pleased that the courthouse doors are re-opened. Plaintiffs are ready to start trial right away.”
Twenty-two-year-old plaintiff Kelsey Juliana says she wants “to trust that we are truly on track for trial without having further delays, but these defendants are treating this case, our democracy, and the security of mine and future generations like it’s a game. I’m tired of playing this game. These petitions for stay and dismissal are exhausting.”
“To everyone who has invested in this case, to those who’ve followed along our journey for the past three years and counting,” she added, “stay with us, in hope and in the pursuit of justice.”
View image on Twitter Our Children‘s Trust @youthvgov BREAKING: United States Supreme Court Denies Trump Administration’s Request for Stay – Juliana v. United States Moves Forward, Again. Read full press release: https://www. ourchildrenstrust.org/s/20181102-SCO TUS-Decision-x539.pdf … # youthvgov # TrialoftheCentury # LetTheYouthBeHeard 2:51 AM – Nov 3, 2018 409 307 people are talking about this Twitter Ads info and privacy According to Thanu Yakupitiyage, communications manager for climate group 350.org, “All of us have a responsibility to double down in supporting the young people holding the U.S. government responsible for perpetuating climate change and threatening our collective future.”
The Brutal Normality of Switzerland’s Sex Market A brothel menu is displayed on Rue Rodo in Geneva. (Julie Bindel) It is 8 a.m. and the rain is coming down in sheets and bouncing off the pavements. The streets are empty except for a dozen women and their pimps. Rue Sismondi, in the heart of the Pâquis district of Geneva , is known for prostitution, drugs and gang violence. It is also home to a number of migrant populations, and often referred to as Geneva’s “global village.”
I am in Switzerland to investigate the sex trade in this liberal country, famous for its perfectionism, precision and punctuality. The Swiss reputation for having a humane asylum system—in which the state recognizes the plight of those coming to Switzerland to escape poverty, violence and degradation—flies in the face of the country’s willingness to see women sold on its streets in broad daylight. These are women from desperately poor regions, such as Moldova, Romania, West Africa and Southeast Asia. The sex trade has been legal in Switzerland since 1942, and its prostitution laws and policies suggest that some forms of slavery are more acceptable than others among its supposedly liberal citizens.
One of the pimps, a young man wearing low-slung jeans and a baseball cap, greets me with a jolly “Bonjour, Madame!” while waving at a man driving a police car. There are regular spot checks by police in the street prostitution areas, but I am told they are checking for drug dealers and ignoring the sexual predators looking for women to buy.
Geneva is the second largest city in Switzerland but has a population of just 200,000. Home to the United Nations, Red Cross and World Health Organization, Geneva is not just a popular tourist location but an important hub for business, trade and political visitors. Well over 2 million people visit the city every year. Many of them are male sex tourists .
I have been researching and writing about the global sex trade for 20 years and have visited numerous countries around the world to do so. But nowhere have I encountered such normalization of prostitution as I saw in Geneva—not even in Germany or the Netherlands.
Until 2013, it was perfectly legal for johns here to pay for sex with 16-year-old girls. That year, however, Parliament raised the legal age to 18, in line with other Western European countries, after pressure from feminists and child protection advocates.
In 2014, inmates of La Paquerette (a social therapy department for prisoners) were allowed to visit prostituted women in a local detention center near Geneva.
In 2016, businessman Bradley Charvet applied to his local municipality in Geneva for a license to open a “fellatio cafe”; Charvet is also involved with the Switzerland-based pimping website Facegirl. The cafe idea has not yet progressed to a venture, but the application stated that for 50 Swiss francs ($50), a customer could choose a woman from photographs on an iPad, then order her to give him a blow job with his cappuccino.
Plenty of organizations and individuals in Switzerland support this laissez-faire approach to prostitution. The largest direct service provider in Geneva, Aspasie, is a Red Umbrella -affiliated organization, which means it supports the decriminalization of the sex trade and is opposed to the abolitionist approach to tackle demand.
There is nowhere in the world where street prostitution has been legalized. However, in Geneva and Zurich, as well as elsewhere in Switzerland, selling sex on the streets is both tolerated and accepted. There are unofficial zones in Geneva where pimps know to take the women and where johns know to go to stalk their prey. The off-street sex trade is also prolific, with numerous brothels, massage parlors and saunas offering women for sale. Unless a complaint is made by a member of the public, the police turn a blind eye.
* * *
On my arrival in Geneva, I stop for something to eat in the gay area, only a short walk from my hotel in the heart of the red light district. I notice a table of lesbians sitting outside, smoking and laughing. As I finish my meal, they beckon me over to join them for a drink. I tell them what I am doing in the city and ask what they know about the local prostitution scene. They are involved with an LGBT rights organization and explain that some of the young gay men in the city are involved in the sex trade. I ask what they think about legalized prostitution and whether it works in Switzerland. “It used to be OK,” says Emma, a civil servant who grew up in the city. “But I understand that those were the days when local women sold sex. Today the problem comes with trafficking. Most of the women are from Romania and other such countries.”
Genevieve tells me that she thinks legalization is the “only way” to properly handle the sex trade: “Why shouldn’t it be treated like any other business?” She says that people in Switzerland consider themselves liberal and tolerant. I wonder if they know exactly what they are tolerating.
After watching activities in the prostitution area in the early hours, I head off the next morning to Venusia, an infamous brothel on the outskirts of town, to request an interview with Madame Lisa, a regular spokeswoman for the benefits of legalized prostitution. The street that houses the brothel is gray, ugly and near a busy road. As I approach the main entrance, two men walk out laughing, one making a sexual gesture to the woman waving them goodbye.
The brothel owner is not in the building, but I am taken into the reception area and asked to leave my name and contact details. I am told that Lisa will be in touch as soon as she returns. It is not quite midday and already the brothel is busy. Several women walk past me in the reception area, some coming to meet johns and others going into the private area beyond. It is difficult to tell the age of some of the women, but certainly none is over 25. Some are significantly younger. Most appear to be North African or Romanian.
Two doors away from Venusia is a smaller brothel. I would have missed it were it not for the john leaving the building, zipping up his jeans. “Au revoir!” shouts the young woman at the door, wearing a corset and impossibly high spiked heels. As she walks back in, I hear her mutter, “Connard.” It means asshole.
I press the intercom as I read the menu on the window. One hundred thirty Swiss francs ($132) buys full sex with two different women, plus a side order of fellatio. I tell the receptionist I am a reporter investigating legalization in Switzerland and ask if anyone would be interested in speaking to me. Both she and the women working there decline.
I have been told by a couple who run a Christian support service for prostituted women in Geneva to visit a Thai restaurant in the Paquis district, which is frequented by pimps and the women they sell. “They [the pimps] will talk to you,” says my contact. “Especially if they think there’s any money in it for them.” He is right. When I arrive at the restaurant at lunch time, the place is almost full—mainly with women wearing coats over classic street prostitution attire: hot pants, micro skirts, boob tubes and “hooker boots.” The women appear to be of a number of ethnicities, including Eastern European and West African. The men are almost all of North African appearance and under the age of 30.
“You want anything, lady?” asks one of the women, her accent strongly Eastern European. “She want something, she can come to me,” says one of the young men, meeting my eye and holding my gaze. “Anything here you like?” he asks me.
Taking advantage of the fact that I am suspected of being a potential sex buyer, I move into my cover story. “I am not here for myself but for my son,” I say. “He has been paralyzed since he was 15 and can’t have sex. He is desperate to have a normal experience with a woman, and I wanted to bring him somewhere where paying for sex is nothing unusual and not illegal.”
I say that my son attends a college in Geneva and that I can bring him to meet one of the women at her convenience. I ask how much it will cost. “Depends on what you want,” says the pimp. “A girlfriend? A fuck? Something special? There are different prices for different girls. Does he want a black one? I can get him a black one.” The pimp introduces himself as Ali, but I figure that’s not his real name. I tell him I will come back and see him after talking to my son about it.
Ali stares at me as I leave the cafe. I feel very uncomfortable. “Don’t go to the street looking for a woman; they all have diseases,” he says. “Mine are all tested. Every month I take them to the clinic and I pay. If you want, you can see their certificates. And these ones have proper documents. Some of the girls don’t even have passports.”
* * *
I walk around Rue Sismondi, the most notorious street for prostitution in the area. It is still raining, although less heavily, and at least 15 women stand on corners or walk up and down looking for trade. I see a commuter in a suit wander up to a very young-looking woman. He stands under her umbrella and smokes a cigarette. The john removes his wallet and points to the alley to the left, which is home to a large “gentleman’s club.” There are red velvet chairs in the windows, and posters showing women in bikinis lining the walls. It looks like a clip joint : an old-style brothel that sells overpriced alcohol, with the pimps regularly extorting money from the sex buyers. Several barely dressed women are sitting on red velvet thrones with a red light shining behind them. I ask the security man hovering outside the door what kind of a venue it is. He tells me it is for “les hommes à venir se détendre”—for “men to come to relax.”
* * *
That night I meet a contact who, for several years, has worked for one of the major human rights organizations based in the city. This person would not only lose his/her job if exposed as a whistleblower, but also would be vilified by colleagues and possibly blacklisted from other jobs within the sector. Under strict instruction not to reveal his/her identity, my contact gives me horrifying details of the prolific sexual exploitation perpetrated by so-called human rights officials within the city.
The whistleblower, whom I will call Jay, tells me that “Friday night is known as ‘ho’ night” within the office of this large organization. “The men in my team literally brag about going to prostitutes,” Jay says. “One of the roles in the team is to raise awareness about trafficking and irregular migration, but these guys go out and abuse them without any thought.”
Jay once confronted a colleague who was bragging in the office about a night he had enjoyed with an “oversexed Romanian,” laughing with another male employee that he was terrified his “dick would drop off.”
Jay asked how the man knew that she was not trafficked or pressured into prostitution. “We don’t have sex with the trafficked ones, just the ones that want to be there,” was the reply. “How do you know whether they are trafficked?” Jay persisted. “We ask them,” he said.
Jay tells me about an instance when several colleagues visited a brothel en masse. “They were bragging that five of them had sex with one woman in this place, and that she could not speak any English. When they were leaving, the woman was crying. One of the men said, without any [self-awareness] whatsoever, that she was probably upset because she wanted one of us to take her home.”
The regular profile of a trafficking victim, Jay says, is that of a young woman who has been promised a good salary, a work permit and the reimbursement of travel costs by an agent in her home country. The reputation of Switzerland as a democratic country with a good human rights record inspires trust in many women from Eastern Europe.
Jay tells me of planning to report these men to a senior manager, adding: “If I lose my job, I will take them to court. But I can’t sit back and let this continue.”
There is very little research on the numbers of men who pay for sex in Switzerland, but one 2008 study found that almost one-quarter (23 percent) of men between the ages of 17 and 45 have done so at least once. I meet Robert, who owns a small business and is originally from Paris. “I didn’t visit brothels when I lived in France,” he says. “But in Geneva, it is acceptable and almost even respectable. The [prostitutes] do things that are not considered nice for wives and girlfriends to do.”
I ask Robert why he pays for sex, aside from being able to demand oral and anal sex from the women, and he tells me something I have heard from johns countless times in numerous countries. “If I take a girl out,” he says, “buy her dinner and do all the flirting and things, but at the end of the evening she tells me she doesn’t want sex, I have wasted my time and a lot of money. So why don’t I just go straight for the sex? That way, she has earned good money and I am happy.”
The legal definition of prostitution in Geneva is “the act of selling sex.” The buyer is invisible, both in legislation and public awareness. Trafficking is increasing, but, according to johns such as Jay’s colleagues and Robert, the assumption is that these women somehow pinpoint Geneva from their tiny villages in Senegal, Hungary, the Dominican Republic, Thailand or Ukraine and flock here to work in the sex trade. Switzerland has some of the most stringent immigration and labor laws in the world, but these women, johns seem to think, miraculously manage to get Swiss “work” permits and then choose prostitution over every other possible source of revenue.
Taina Bien- Aimé is co-director of the Coalition against Trafficking in Women (CATW), a New York City-based international nongovernmental organization. “The Swiss government’s indifference to the suffering of trafficked and prostituted women is abhorrent,” says Bien- Aimé , who was raised in Geneva. “Officials hide behind the notion of choice and a woman’s consent to being bought and sold in the Swiss sex trade. But it would not take rigorous investigations to uncover that a disenfranchised young Nigerian woman from Edo state, for example, would have difficulty finding Zurich or Geneva on a map, let alone purchasing a one-way ticket to a brothel or a ‘sex box’ without a trafficker or pimp owning her fate.”
* * *
Trafficking is a much bigger problem in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand, which have legalized, or “normalized,” sex trades, than in those that have adopted the Nordic model , in which the sex buyer is criminalized and the prostituted person is decriminalized and assisted out of prostitution.
Switzerland is a primary destination for sex traffickers in Europe. Victims originate mainly from Central and Eastern Europe, but also from Thailand, Nigeria, China, Brazil, Cameroon, the Dominican Republic and Morocco.
In recent years, the numbers have increased. The women (and, in far fewer numbers, men) operate using newspaper advertisements, cellphones and apartments rented by pimps. Some pimps accept credit cards as payment—because, after all, this is a legitimate business.
The increase in free movement of people between Switzerland and the EU is often cited as being integral to the increase of prostitution in the country. From what I saw and heard while there, however, it is more likely that because men face no consequences for paying for sex, they are more likely to do so. To meet the increasing demand, traffickers import women from poor and war-torn nations.
According to CATW, around 14,000 women are sold into the Swiss sex trade, with approximately 70 percent coming from other countries. A report estimates that 350,000 men—about 20 percent of the population—purchase sexual acts. The Swiss sex trade reaps an estimated 3.5 billion Swiss francs ($3.5 billion) in profits per year.
Across Switzerland, brothel raids turn up trafficked women from Brazil and Eastern Europe. As in other countries with legal brothels, the illegal side of prostitution does not diminish with legalization. Instead, it often grows .
Switzerland legalized its sex trade almost 80 years ago—yet another piece of evidence that normalizing prostitution helps no one except pimps and other exploiters. In 2016, a trafficker was convicted of trafficking 80 women from Thailand , who were sent to brothels in the cantons of Bern, Solothurn, Lucerne, Basel, St. Gallen and Zurich. The women were kept under lock and key and forced to service numerous sex buyers to pay off enormous debts to the pimps who had transported them from their home country.
There are also significant levels of violence committed against the women by pimps and johns. One case in 2017 involved an investment banker who murdered a prostituted woman , stuffed her body in a suitcase and placed the suitcase in a wine cellar in his cellar.
Conversely, to date there has been only one murder of a prostituted person by a pimp or john in Norway, and none in the other seven countries that have criminalized paying for sex .
* * *
On the train from Geneva to Zurich, I talk to Anna, a woman in her 20s who attends a university in the capital. She asks me what I am doing in Switzerland. I tell her I am investigating the sex trade. She is instantly attentive, asking, “Does that include sugar baby stuff?”
So-called sugar-baby hook-ups are largely facilitated by the website Seeking Arrangement , which boasts more than 10 million users across 139 countries, with substantial numbers of Switzerland-based men on its books. Older men—“sugar daddies”—target young students in need of money—“sugar babies”—as “dates.” Many desperate young women even auction their virginity on the site. It is a classic example of the sanitization of the sex trade .
“I have three friends who do this,” Anna tells me on the train, looking upset. “They tell me it is not prostitution, but all of them have had sex with the men they hook up with.” The men are “much older,” and one friend described her date as “repulsive.” Anna seems worried about the safety of “sugar-dating.” Most shockingly, the university her friends attended had “dating websites” on its list of suggested casual jobs for students.
* * *
In Zurich, I stay at a hotel within walking distance of the notorious “sex performance box” zone—or, more accurately, the drive-thru outdoor brothel on the outskirts of the city, near the main railway line in Sihlquai.
As I check in, the hotel manager tells me that men often stay there to “have a good time” in the prostitution area. “They are not Swiss, maybe some English,” he tells me. “Perhaps you don’t have anything like this at home? Here we are very open about sex in Switzerland. Very liberal.”
I had been hearing about the so-called sex performance boxes since they were raised in 2011 as a potential solution to the problems inherent to street prostitution. The following year, just over half (52 percent) of citizens voted in favor of Zurich spending $2 million to set up the zone. The intention was to make street prostitution safer and reduce trafficking and other forms of violence. The boxes opened in 2013; so far, there is no evidence that trafficking or violence has been reduced.
I was told it is impossible to visit the drive-thru brothels without my own car. Later in the evening, however, as the facilities open, I ask a taxi driver who speaks good English—and who appears to be somewhat of an expert on prostitution—to drive me there and to ask the security people if I can speak with the women, or be shown around.
As the taxi driver speaks to members of the outreach team at Flora Dora , a government funded nongovernmental organization that provides condoms and safety tips to the women, I watch cars drive through, counting 22 cars entering—and several leaving—during the 15 minutes we are inside the area.
Some of the women in the outdoor brothel enclosure appear intoxicated, and many are thin and frail in appearance. Prostitution takes a terrible toll on women’s physical and mental health. One survey of 193 prostituted women in Zurich (5 percent of whom were registered with the government) found that more than 50 percent suffered psychiatric ailments such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and psychosis, as well as alcohol dependency. By comparison, 18 percent of nonprostituted women suffer psychiatric ailments.
Prices are around 50 Swiss francs for “hand relief,” full sex is $100; and anal sex is $200.
I watch as the johns drive into the small, circular park, cruise the women from their cars and then wave to whichever woman takes their fancy. The women are standing outside of door-less, alarmed buildings in which they keep their belongings and change into skimpy outfits from their “day clothes.”
Once the john has chosen a woman, she joins him in his car, and he drives into one of the teak-colored wooden garages that surround one side of the cordoned-off area. Each has space for a single car; johns on foot or bikes are not allowed in.
Each of the 10 boxes is lit up in red, green or yellow. A vending machine, which sells condoms, lubricant, soft drinks and chocolate bars, sits at the end of the row, next to an ATM. Posters advocating safe sex decorate the walls.
The boxes contain nothing but a panic button and a waste bin for condoms and tissues. There are no surveillance cameras for the johns to worry about. I assumed the lack of security cameras are due to the fact that johns might be scared off if they were filmed entering and leaving, but I am told by various sources that police and city officials followed advice from those running similar zones in Utrecht and elsewhere, and decided that cameras are inadequate, because a woman will already have been assaulted by the time the footage is viewed, and that an on-site security presence is the best deterrence to violence.
The prostituted women in the enclosure have access to on-site social workers, and police increase patrols around the area to protect the women when they enter and leave. Clearly, the authorities are under no illusion about the dangers inherent to prostitution, even in such a public, monitored space.
I am told that no one from Flora Dora is able to speak to me, and I am not allowed to approach either the women or the johns. I am handed the leaflets the organization gives to the prostituted women, which provide tips on how to identify violent johns. The materials are in Spanish, Hungarian, Bulgarian and Romanian.
Facilitating the “right” of men to pay for sex is an expensive business. The Swiss government spends $800,000 each year maintaining the booths, which includes the on-site security and social services.
The drive-thru brothels were deemed a great success by the Swiss during the summer. But observing the bins filled with condoms and the clinical organization of the area, all I can think about is what a lot of public money is being spent by the Swiss government in order to make it easier for men to pay for sex with financially desperate women. I wonder how many women could be supported out of prostitution with the amount of money spent so far on these facilities.
Roughly 3,000 women are registered as prostitutes in Zurich—a number that continues to increase, although rising competition among the women has led to a sharp drop in “service” prices. The Altstetten district of Zurich and one road where street prostitution was allowed was closed when the drive-thru brothel site opened, and street prostitution is illegal in most areas of the city. The same year the drive-thru brothel opened, street prostitutes in Zurich had to start buying nightly permits, at a cost of 5 francs each, from a vending machine installed in the area. In addition, since 2003, legislation has been put in place to ban “window prostitution.”
After my visit to the drive-thru brothels, the taxi driver takes me to see one of the city’s 300 registered brothels. This one is on Langstrasse (Long Street), the most notorious red-light area in the city. The four-story building has five brightly lit windows per floor, through which young women in underwear are visible. Although the women are clearly being advertised, this is different from what is known as “window prostitution,” which is distinctive in that the women are always on ground level and in single-occupancy brothels, as opposed to multiroomed premises.
“I get many customers asking me to take them there,” says my driver. “The women are out on the streets all day and night, but the ones from that house [the brothel] come out onto the street around 10 p.m. to meet customers face to face and then take them inside.” I ask if the police ever patrol the street, and he tells me, “You see them sometimes, but they are just looking for drugs or violence.”
“This is Langstrasse, very dangerous,” the taxi driver says, on seeing a group of men spill out of a sex club, drunk and shouting loudly at passers-by. “At 10 o’clock at night it’s very dangerous.”
I ask if he knows where the women on the streets are from. “They come from Poland, Italy, France and Romania, Morocco. Swiss ladies, not much.”
The taxi driver tells me that there is “definitely more” prostitution on the street, and more visible customers since the sex boxes were opened. “But it is safer for the ladies,” he says. I ask him how he knows it is safer for the women to be in the drive-thru enclosures rather than the streets. Who has he heard it from? “I don’t know if anyone told me,” he says, “but it must be.”
I head off to meet Ben (not his real name), a British police officer who until recently worked as a consultant for an anti-trafficking organization. Ben knows a lot about prostitution: He has been involved in policing what used to be known as “vice” for 30 years. He has led a number of operations to detect international pimping operations.
We talk in a busy bar close to Niederhof, the cobbled street known to be one of the main street prostitution zones. “The girls are young,” says Ben, “maybe no older than 18, 19. And they are all controlled in one way or another. The pimps are in the building every day. If they call themselves landlords, it still doesn’t alter the fact that they are living off prostitution.
“So Niederhof is a street prostitution area which is always busy,” Ben continues. “Even since the sex boxes. In the street it is dangerous for the girls.”
I see dozens of prostituted women, openly touting for johns on the streets. The installation of the sex boxes has clearly not done what the government promised—remove or drastically reduce street prostitution in other areas of the city.
During my time with Ben, I hear about the growth of temporary pop-up salons in subleased apartments or hotels, and Airbnb brothels. According to Ben, legalization provides the perfect cover for the illegal trade. The small owner-occupied brothels in New Zealand, for instance, do not need a license to operate, so long as no more than four individuals sell sex from the premises at any one time. In Zurich, since July 2017, mini-salons with up to two rooms in any one premise are exempt from licensing requirements. These salons are allowed in residential areas where there is currently a ban on licensed brothels.
“Let’s face it,” Ben says, “pimps know where they can make lots of money, and it isn’t going to be in Sweden.”
* * *
The most vocal campaigners for prostitution and trafficking are those who argue for blanket decriminalization of the sex trade and against the Nordic model.
For example, Aspasie is part of the pro-prostitution Global Network of Sex Work Projects , which is funded by the Open Society Foundation, brainchild of George Soros. Based in Geneva, Aspasie campaigns nationwide for the abolition of laws against pimping .
The Don Juan Project in Switzerland was developed and funded by Swiss AIDS Control. It is considered a best-practice model. The education program run by Don Juan in a number of Swiss cantons focused on condom use and “safe sex,” not on dissuading johns to stop paying for sex in the first place, a strategy that has proved successful in Nordic model countries.
Janice Raymond, in her 2013 book, “ Not a Choice, Not a Job ,” wrote about Don Juan’s report of its “success” with its “client re-education” project: “The wording of the Don Juan report is interesting. Of the 800 prostitution users who came into the tent and were found not to use condoms regularly when buying women in prostitution, about two-thirds said they would consider changes in their behaviour. What they weren’t asked to consider was to stop buying women in prostitution.”
But alongside other countries that have legalized their sex trade, such as the Netherlands, Germany and some states in Australia, the feminist abolitionist movement is beginning to emerge.
I meet Ursula Nakamura-Stoecklin at a Zurich train station. She is a retired medical professional and is involved in various women’s groups in and around Basel, which is Switzerland’s third most populous city, after Zurich and Geneva.
“The debate about sex-work versus abolition is boiling in Switzerland at the moment,” she tells me. “In some women’s groups, we dare not take it up, as it may well divide us. In June, the influential coordination of different women’s organizations by Frauenzentrale Zurich (Zurich Women’s Centre) strongly voiced the support of the Nordic model, which decriminalizes those selling sex, whilst criminalizing the johns.”
In June, this small nongovernmental organization launched its campaign for a ban on prostitution, and the introduction of the Nordic model. A video by the group has been circulated throughout Switzerland and beyond. “But still most of the media is against us,” Nakamura-Stoecklin says, “with different organizations that are pro-prostitution, [along with] police, saying it is too expensive to arrest the johns.”
It is difficult to see how much more expensive this strategy would be than the massive expense of maintaining the so-called sex boxes—which constitute merely a fraction of the sex trade across the city.
“These [pro-prostitution] organizations close their eyes to the fact that around 80 percent of the prostitutes are victims of sex trafficking,” Nakamura-Stoecklin says. “I simply cannot understand this blindness. We have one national organization, FIZ, which does an excellent job helping women to get out of the claws of traffickers. They have a specialized migrant section, which gives the women protection. But this organization is a strong advocate of prostitution by arguing that in [countries that have adopted the Nordic model], clandestine crimes against these women have increased.”
It is almost always the same story, Nakamura-Stoecklin says. “We hear it on TV and see it in the newspapers, but still people here think our system works. A poor woman from Moldova or somewhere, she wants to get a better job, be a teacher or something, and was promised a good job in Switzerland. She leaves her family in Moldova and she arrives here, and she lands in a brothel and she cannot get out. Why don’t Swiss people realize what is happening here?”
My trip to Switzerland is coming to an end. The window brothels, sex clubs, strip joints, street procurement and four-story brothels are all operating with impunity, with the numbers of women being procured into prostitution growing, and the traffickers, pimps and johns arrogantly going about their business, with little fear of condemnation or criminalization. I reflect on how little I knew previously about how prevalent and normalized the sex trade is here, despite my years of intensive research and reporting on the global sex market.
The normalization of the Swiss sex trade comes down to entrenched and long-term legalization.
The stereotype is that the Swiss like order, rules and cleanliness. But it is impossible to sanitize prostitution—no government can. The Swiss indifference to harm and violence perpetrated against women in the sex trade comes from a long official history of misogyny and sex discrimination. Swiss women gained the right to vote in federal elections in 1971, and the last canton that granted women the vote on local issues was Appenzell, in 1991. If a government resists seeing women as full human beings deserving of equal voting rights, it will certainly resist looking at the sex trade as a manifestation of inequality and violence against women.
To tackle its prostitution problems, the Swiss must look to France for its law targeting sex buyers and providing protection for prostituted women. Its other neighbor, Germany, is the worst example to follow, where legalized prostitution continues to generate massive human rights violations for the profit of the state, including dozens of murders of prostituted women since 2002.
What my anonymous contacts in the worlds of human rights and law enforcement told me during my trip left me further convinced that legalization of the sex trade results in an increase in both legal and illegal sex markets, which in turn leads to further normalization of prostitution and the devaluation of women in Switzerland. Acceptance of the sex trade is a green light to traffickers and other exploiters, and at the same time, encourages a laissez-faire attitude among the police.
“I can see why [my colleagues] have ended up convincing themselves it is OK to pay for a foreign prostitute,” Jay, from the human rights organization in Geneva, told me. “They probably think it is just the same as being served in a restaurant by a Romanian.”
In the meantime, numbers of women trafficked into and throughout Switzerland increase. The spotlight needs to be firmly on this country. So far, Switzerland has elicited the least attention and outrage from the feminist abolitionist movement than anywhere else in the world.
For all that Switzerland presents itself on the international stage as progressive and humanitarian, its disregard of the human rights abuses being perpetrated every day against prostituted women is nothing short of a disgrace.
NOV 03, 2018 Some State Election Servers Could Be Exposed to Hackers Election officers help a voter with a new machine in 2012 in Elizaville, Ky. (John Flavell / AP) As recently as Monday, computer servers that powered Kentucky’s online voter registration and Wisconsin’s reporting of election results ran software that could potentially expose information to hackers or enable access to sensitive files without a password.
The insecure service run by Wisconsin could be reached from internet addresses based in Russia, which has become notorious for seeking to influence U.S. elections. Kentucky’s was accessible from other Eastern European countries.
The service, known as FTP, provides public access to files — sometimes anonymously and without encryption. As a result, security experts say, it could act as a gateway for hackers to acquire key details of a server’s operating system and exploit its vulnerabilities. Some corporations and other institutions have dropped FTP in favor of more secure alternatives.
Officials in both states said that voter-registration data has not been compromised and that their states’ infrastructure was protected against infiltration. Still, Wisconsin said it turned off its FTP service following ProPublica’s inquiries. Kentucky left its password-free service running and said ProPublica didn’t understand its approach to security.
The states’ reliance on FTP highlights the uneven security practices in online election systems just days before the midterm elections. In September, ProPublica reported that more than one-third of counties overseeing closely contested elections for congressional seats ran email systems that could make it easy for hackers to log in and steal potentially sensitive information.
Some states remain hampered by bureaucratic disagreements, or regard other needs as more pressing. If intruders were able to gain access to election-related server files, for instance, they could prevent people from registering to vote, compromise unofficial tallies or direct voters to the wrong polling place. Those actions could potentially sow chaos on Election Day and raise questions as to whether the vote was legitimate.
“FTP is a 40-year-old protocol that is insecure and not being retired quickly enough,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, D.C., and an advocate for better voting security. “Every communication sent via FTP is not secure, meaning anyone in the hotel, airport or coffee shop on the same public Wi-Fi network that you are on can see everything sent and received. And malicious attackers can change the contents of a transmission without either side detecting the change.”
The mere presence of superfluous services on a public server, such as FTP, raises the risk of a hacker gaining access to sensitive configuration details about the server, Hall said. “Unnecessary services like FTP,” he said, can be used to cripple a server by bombarding it with traffic — known as a distributed denial of service attack — or allow hackers to break into other computers on the same network. Secure FTP services, or SFTP, which were introduced more recently, should be used instead, Hall said.
In March 2017, the FBI warned of “criminal actors” targeting FTP servers that allow access to anyone on the internet without a password. This year, the website DataBreaches.net said a security researcher discovered an FTP server was configured in a similar manner and accidentally exposed the details of more than 200,000 patients.
Using a list of internet addresses for websites run by each state’s election agency, ProPublica scanned them for open “ports,” or virtual doors, which allow any computer on the internet to access them. Those ports can reveal some of the software a server is running, such as a website or FTP.
The FTP server in Wisconsin required a password. Kentucky’s didn’t. In addition, ProPublica found Maine’s FTP service on the same internet address as a state website that directs voters to their local polling places. But Kristen Schulze Muszynski, a spokeswoman for the Maine secretary of state, said the FTP service ran on a computer server separately from the lookup tool. It “never jeopardized Maine’s election process, and at no time was voter data at risk of being manipulated,” she said.
Several other states appear to have open FTP ports that weren’t operating. In one of those states, West Virginia, Chief Information Officer David Tackett said FTP services are protected behind a firewall.
Cyberattacks on state election systems marred the 2016 campaign. For example, special counsel Robert Mueller charged 12 Russians this past July in connection with an unspecified breach that Illinois officials say was very likely an attack on its voter registration database that exposed the personal details of thousands of people. A hacker’s ability to alter unofficial or early voting results was “a very real threat” ahead of the 2016 election, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified in March before a Senate intelligence panel.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission revealed in September 2017 that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified it of an unsuccessful Russian hacking attempt the previous year that involved scanning for computer system vulnerabilities. Commission spokesman Reid Magney said the Russians did not scan the state’s “commercially-hosted agency websites,” including the commission’s site.
Major search engines like Google often prominently post voting results gathered automatically from state election commission sites. Magney said Wisconsin’s website ran an FTP service for years because the hosting provider, Cruiskeen Consulting, never turned it off. Cruiskeen is a mostly one-person operation that sometimes uses freelance consultants, according to its website.
Asked if Cruiskeen has ever alerted officials about suspicious activity or unauthorized access attempts, Magney said: “Cruiskeen does a lot of monitoring for unsuccessful login attempts and blocks them at the firewall. They also check the logs regularly for suspicious activity.” The same internet address previously hosted commercial websites like BoutiqueLiquidators.com.
Cruiskeen did not return phone calls or messages from ProPublica this week seeking comment. Magney said the owner is retiring soon, and the state plans to transfer the election-results website to a state-run computer system.
As of late Wednesday, Kentucky’s voter-registration server still allowed users to browse a list of files without a password. Even the names of the files contained clues that could conceivably help an intruder. For example, they indicated that Kentucky may use driver’s licenses on file in its motor vehicle software to verify voters’ identities.
Bradford Queen, a spokesman for Kentucky’s secretary of state, declined to say if running an FTP server was problematic. “We are constantly guarding against foreign and domestic bad actors and have confidence in the security measures deployed to protect our infrastructure,” he said.
“ProPublica’s claims regarding Kentucky’s website lack a complete understanding of the commonwealth’s full approach to security, which is multi-layered. Defenses exist within each layer to determine and block offending traffic.”
Mike Tigas and Ken Schwencke contributed to this report.
Jack Gillum and Jeff Kao / ProPublica https://www.truth
NOV 02, 2018 Trump Administration Reimposes Iran Sanctions Lifted in Nuclear Deal Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (Iranian Presidency Office / AP ) WASHINGTON—The Trump administration on Friday announced the reimposition of all U.S. sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, ramping up economic pressure on the Islamic Republic as President Donald Trump completed the unraveling of what had been one of his predecessor’s signature foreign policy achievements.
The sanctions, which will take effect on Monday, cover Iran’s shipping, financial and energy sectors and are the second batch the administration has reimposed since Trump withdrew from the landmark accord in May. The rollback ends U.S. participation in the nuclear deal, which now hangs in the balance as Iran no longer enjoys any relief from sanctions imposed by the world’s largest economy.
Shortly after the announcement, Trump tweeted a movie poster-like image of himself walking out of what appears to be fog with the phrase “Sanctions are Coming, November 5.”
With limited exceptions, the sanctions will hit countries that do not stop importing Iranian oil and foreign firms that do business with blacklisted Iranian entities, including its central bank, a number of private financial institutions, and state-run port and shipping firms, as well as hundreds of individual Iranian officials.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the sanctions are “aimed at fundamentally altering the behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He has issued a list of 12 demands that Iran must meet if it wants the sanctions lifted. Those include ending support for terrorism and military engagement in Syria and a complete halt to its nuclear and ballistic missile development.
“Our ultimate aim is to compel Iran to permanently abandon its well-documented outlaw activities and behave as a normal country,” Pompeo told reporters in a conference call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “Maximum pressure means maximum pressure.”
Pompeo said eight nations will receive temporary waivers allowing them to continue to import Iranian petroleum products for a limited period as they move to end such imports entirely. He said those countries, which other officials said would include U.S. allies such as Turkey, Italy, India, Japan and South Korea, had made efforts to eliminate their imports but could not complete the task by Monday.
The waivers, expected to be announced Monday, will be valid for six months, during which time the importing country can buy Iranian oil but must deposit Iran’s revenue in an escrow account. Iran can spend the money but only on a narrow range of humanitarian items. Pompeo said two of the eight countries would wind down imports to zero within weeks.
Mnuchin said 700 more Iranian companies and people would be added to the sanctions rolls. Those, he said, would include more than 300 that had not been included under previous sanctions.
“We are sending a very clear message with our maximum pressure campaign: that the U.S. intends to aggressively enforce our sanctions,” he said.
Iran hawks in Congress and elsewhere were likely to be disappointed in the sanctions as they had been pushing for no oil import waivers as well as the complete disconnection of Iran from the main international financial messaging network known as SWIFT.
One group that has been highly critical of the deal welcomed the new sanctions but said there should be no exceptions.
“We encourage the Trump administration to fulfill the promise of a maximum pressure campaign — no exceptions — until Iran permanently and verifiably changes its behavior,” United Against a Nuclear Iran said in a statement. “Oil and gas firms, including those from friendly countries like India, South Korea and Japan, should not be granted sanctions waivers. Similarly, financial entities — including SWIFT — must sever ties with Iranian banks and financial institutions.”
Mnuchin defended the decision to allow some Iranian banks to remain connected to SWIFT, saying that the Belgium-based firm had been warned that it will face penalties if sanctioned institutions are permitted to use it. And, he said that U.S. regulators would be watching closely Iranian transactions that use SWIFT to ensure any that run afoul of U.S. sanctions would be punished.
Pompeo, meanwhile, defended the oil waivers, saying U.S. efforts to cut Iran’s petroleum revenue had already been successful. He noted that since May, when the U.S. began to press countries to stop buying Iranian oil, Iran’s exports had dropped by more than 1 million barrels per day.
Pompeo and Mnuchin both said the sanctions will have exceptions for humanitarian purchases.
The 2015 nuclear deal, one of former President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy achievements, gave Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, which many believed it was using to develop atomic weapons. Trump repeatedly denounced the agreement as the “worst ever” negotiated by the United States and vowed to withdraw from it during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump and other critics of the deal said it gave Iran too much in return for too little, allowed Iran to gradually resume nuclear activity that could eventually be used for weapons development and did not address any of the country’s other problematic activities.
Obama-era officials as well as the other parties to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union — have vehemently defended it. The Europeans have mounted a drive to save the agreement from the U.S. withdrawal, fearing that the new sanctions will drive Iran to pull out and resume all of its nuclear work.
Matthew Lee / The Associated Press https://www.truth