9-17-21 US man files $1m lawsuit after Michigan teacher cuts child's hair
The father of a seven-year-old girl whose hair was cut by a teacher without parental permission is suing the school district and two staff members for $1m. Jimmy Hoffmeyer's lawsuit says the constitutional rights of his mixed-race daughter have been violated. He has pulled his daughter out of the school. An investigation by the school district concluded in July that while the teacher had broken school policy she had not acted with racial bias. She was reprimanded but allowed to keep her job at Ganiard Elementary School in Mount Pleasant. Jimmy Hoffmeyer told the Associated Press last April that his daughter Jurnee had returned home from school one day with much of the hair on one side of her head cut. A classmate had used scissors to cut Jurnee's long curly hair on a school bus, he said. Two days later, Jurnee returned home from school with the hair on the other side of her head cut - even though she had been taken to a hairdresser who had given her an asymmetrical cut to make the different lengths less obvious. Mr Hoffmeyer said he thought another child had done it but Jurnee told him it was a teacher. "The teacher cut her hair to even it out," he told the AP. The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in west Michigan against Mount Pleasant Public Schools and two teaching staff, MLive.com reports. As well as violating the child's constitutional rights, the lawsuit also alleges racial discrimination, ethnic intimidation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery. The district "failed to properly train, monitor, direct, discipline, and supervise their employees and knew or should have known that the employees would engage in the complained of behavior given the improper training, customs, procedures, and policies, and the lack of discipline that existed for employees," the lawsuit says. No formal response has yet been filed by the defendants and there has been no public comment from the school district.
9-17-21 French anger at viral bullying of 11-year-olds
French education officials have condemned an online bullying trend targeting children born in 2010. The #Anti2010 trend has gained momentum over the past month on the video sharing app TikTok. Posts on the site have gained millions of views, with users encouraged to form an "anti-2010 police". Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer called the cyber-harassment campaign "completely stupid and against our values". It has been causing particular alarm among parents because it is targeting 11-year-old children as they start secondary school. There have been reports of it moving offline and into the playground. Mr Blanquer warned that any pupil behind such bullying would be subject to punishment, and said families could report cases of harassment on an emergency hotline. "It's an essential part of school life, giving sixth-grade students a warm welcome and integrating them through the generosity of classmates and adults," he said in a letter to school heads, as he urged them to be on heightened alert to the issue. In a tweet, the education ministry said "harassment and cyberstalking have no place either in our school or society". The exact origins of the bullying trend are unclear. Some French reports said it appeared to stem from the popular video game Fortnite. Younger gamers were reportedly accused of failing to follow an unwritten code of conduct, while older players labelled them "Fortkids". The bullying intensified after the release last month of a song called Pop it Mania, in which young influencer Pink Lily sings: "We are the queens of 2010". The video on YouTube has prompted 400,000 dislikes, with some older children using it as an excuse to target those born in that year. "In the courtyard, they point the finger at us, shouting 2010! 2010!" one student told the Le Parisien newspaper, adding that more serious incidents such as fights have also emerged. The main federation of school parents has called on the government to develop a new child protection policy on social networks, saying it is "unacceptable that children are victims of an appeal to hate".
9-17-21 Assam shorts: India teenager forced to cover legs with curtain at exam centre
A 19-year-old Indian student who turned up in shorts to take an exam was forced to wrap a curtain around her legs after the teacher objected to her clothes. Jublee Tamuli had travelled 70km (43 miles) from her home for the exam in Assam's Tezpur town with her father, reports in the local press said. Her father rushed to a market to buy a pair of trousers, but she said she took the curtain since the test was timed. She later described it as the "most humiliating experience of my life". "Is it a crime to wear shorts?" she asked reporters outside the exam centre. "All the girls wear shorts. And if they didn't want us to wear shorts, they should have mentioned it in the exam documents." The incident took place on Wednesday during the entrance exam for an agricultural university being held at Girijananda Chowdhury Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, The Indian Express reported. "They did not check for Covid protocols, masks or even temperature… but they checked for shorts," the paper quoted her as saying. Ms Tamuli said the exam documents did not specify any dress code and she was allowed by the security guards to enter the institute, but was stopped from entering the examination hall by the teacher. She said she requested him to speak to her father, but the teacher was unmoved. The incident has evoked a sharp response from many who have taken to social media to express their outrage. Many called the teacher's behaviour "outrageous", "ludicrous" and "height of moral policing". Clothing restrictions, especially for women and girls, are routinely reported from across India and patriarchs routinely blame Western outfits for the moral degradation of youth. In March, the then chief minister of the northern state of Uttarakhand, Tirath Singh Rawat, was accused of "misogyny" when he shamed a woman he met on a flight for wearing "ripped jeans". Such opinions can also sometimes have fatal consequences for women. In July, a 17-year-old was allegedly beaten to death by members of her extended family in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh because they didn't like her wearing jeans.
9-16-21 Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert reaches settlement with man he abused as teenager
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) on Wednesday reached a tentative settlement with a man who accused him of child sexual abuse, suspending an unusual breach-of-contract lawsuit involving the $3.5 million Hastert agreed to pay the man in 2010. Hastert, 79, stopped the hush-money payments at $1.7 million, after the FBI questioned him in 2014 about large cash withdrawals he was illegally concealing, and the man filed suit in 2016, arguing Hastert still owed him $1.8 million from their verbal agreement. "The hush-money deal would eventually lead to a federal criminal case against Hastert five years later and to public disgrace for the a GOP stalwart who, for eight years as House speaker, was second in the line of succession to the presidency," The Associated Press notes. Hastert served 15 months in federal prison, but because of expired statutes of limitation, he will face no criminal charges for allegedly sexually abusing the plaintiff, referred to as James Doe, and three other male students ages 14 to 17 when Hastert taught and coached wrestling at Yorkville High School decades ago. The settlement was announced a day before the civil trial was scheduled to start in an Illinois courtroom outside Chicago. Lawyers for Hastert and Doe declined to give any details on the settlement. "A trial would likely have been emotionally draining for both Hastert and the man he abused, both of whom could have been called to testify," AP reports, and the judge in the case said Doe's real name would have been revealed at the trial. "Frankly, I was looking forward to the trial," Doe's lawyer, Kristi Browne, said after Wednesday's hearing. "I would have loved to try this case. I think it was a good case. ... But this is a resolution my client is comfortable with."
9-16-21 Eric Eoin Marques: Irish man jailed in US for child abuse images
An Irish man described by the FBI as the world's largest facilitator of online child sex abuse has been sentenced to 27 years in prison by a US court. Eric Eoin Marques, 36, from Dublin, operated an anonymous web-hosting service which was used to share millions of images of child abuse. The images were described as being extremely violent and graphic. Marques was extradited to the US by Irish authorities in March 2019. The dual US and Irish citizen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to advertise child abuse images in February last year. He was arrested at his flat on Mountjoy Square in Dublin in August 2013 following a year-long investigation involving the FBI and Gardaí (Irish police). Prosecutors said Marques' web-hosting service contained more than 8.5m images of child exploitation material. Sentencing Judge Theodore Chuang described the crime as "truly despicable" and compared Marques to a kingpin in a drugs case. The judge added it was a "good thing for the world" that he would remain behind bars for a long time. The Garda National Protective Services Bureau said the sentence reflected the harm done to children and the "scale and complexity" of Marques' enterprise. Gardaí Det Ch Supt Declan Daly said a significant number of children had been identified by the FBI in relation to Marques' activities. Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland programme, he said the children had been contacted and were receiving the necessary services. No children in Ireland were identified. Det Chief Supt Daly said there was "a common misconception that child abuse imagery is a victimless crime". "This sentence highlights that child abuse imagery is based on supply and demand," he said. "In response to demand, a child somewhere in the world is sexually abused and therefore all involved are culpable."
9-15-21 Canada federal election: Canadians want reconciliation. Will the election deliver?
The discovery of more than 1,000 unmarked graves in Canada, most believed to belong to indigenous children who attended residential schools, inspired nationwide calls for reconciliation over the summer. But on the federal campaign trail so far, the issue has faded to the background. Leah Gazan, a member of Parliament from the city of Winnipeg, was driving home from Ottawa when she heard there had been a second discovery of unmarked graves in western Canada. It was June. Weeks earlier, the remains of more than 200 people - mostly children, some as young as three - had been found in the province of British Columbia. Now, 751 more graves had been discovered - the largest finding to date - in Saskatchewan. The two burial sites contained the remains of students of Canada's state and church-run residential school system - discoveries that shocked the country and triggered a national reckoning over residential schools. Back in Winnipeg, fighting the exhaustion and grief triggered by the second discovery, Ms Gazan went for a run, taking her typical route over the Provencher Bridge. She found the bridge wrapped in orange ribbon, part of a cascade of makeshift memorials made by Canadians in the wake of the findings. Ms Gazan, a member of Wood Mountain Lakota Nation, ran her fingers along the fabric, moved by the show of support. To date, more than 1,300 unmarked graves have been found in western Canada near the grounds of former residential schools. Flags have been lowered to half mast since the summer and statues of famous Canadians connected to the residential schools have been toppled. But on the national campaign trail attention has been diverted away from the subject onto issues like cost of living, housing and childcare. It seems out of step with Canadian voters, among whom support for reconciliation - repairing the relationship between indigenous people and non-indigenous people and government - is at a recent high.
9-14-21 R. Kelly abused Aaliyah when she was 13 or 14, court hears
R. Kelly sexually abused the late R&B singer Aaliyah when she was 13 or 14 years old, one of his former backing dancers has told a court. The woman, who testified under the name Angela, told Mr Kelly's trial she had seen the chart-topping star perform a sex act on Aaliyah on a tour bus. The alleged incident took place a year before Mr Kelly illegally married the singer, when she was 15. Mr Kelly, 54, denies all the charges against him. They include a single count of racketeering - which paints him as the kingpin of a criminal enterprise whose explicit purpose was "to prey upon young women and teenagers" for sexual purposes. He has also been charged with eight counts of violating an interstate anti-sex trafficking law. The singer, whose full name is Robert Kelly, is not charged with rape or assault, but prosecutors are allowed to present evidence of potential crimes related to the racketeering charge, regardless of when they occurred. Angela's testimony came on the 15th day of the trial, in Brooklyn, New York. She was the 10th accuser to take the stand, and told a story of under-age sexual abuse that echoed many of the previous witnesses. She said she began having sex with Mr Kelly in 1991, when she was still at school. They met at a party at his house when she was about 15. At one point, she said, he invited her to a bedroom and "asked me to climb on top of him". She hesitated, but told the court she ultimately acquiesced to his demands and they had intercourse. Mr Kelly later invited her to become part of her touring entourage. She alleged that the star often pressured those around him into having sex, and would punish those who didn't follow his instructions. The incident with Aaliyah occurred in 1992 or 1993, when Angela and another young woman decided to play a prank on Mr Kelly, she told the court. After pushing open the door to his bedroom, she said: "I saw Robert and Aaliyah in a sexual situation." She added: "I closed the door abruptly and pushed the girl behind me away from the door."
9-7-21 Madhya Pradesh: Minor girls paraded naked in India 'rain ritual'
Six minor girls in central India were stripped and paraded naked as part of a village ritual to summon rains. The incident took place in a drought-parched village in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh state. Videos that went viral on social media reportedly showed young girls walking naked with a wooden shaft on their shoulders which had a frog tied to it. Locals believe the ritual will appease the rain god and bring rainfall to the region. India's National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has sought a report from the administration of Damoh district, where the village is located. The Madhya Pradesh police said they had not received any formal complaint against the event, but added that they had opened an investigation. "Action will be taken if we find the girls were forced to walk naked," Damoh superintendent of police DR Teniwar told news agency Press Trust of India. The video shows the girls, some of them reported to be as young as five, walking together in a procession, followed by a group of women singing hymns. The procession stopped at every house in the village and the children collected foodgrains, which were later donated to the community kitchen of a local temple. "We believe that this will bring rains," PTI quoted a women in the procession as saying. Damoh district collector S Krishna Chaitanya said the girls' parents had consented to the ritual and had even participated in it. "In such cases, the administration can only make the villagers aware about the futility of such superstition and make them understand that such practices don't yield desired results," he added. Indian agriculture largely depends on monsoon rains and in many regions, there are rituals devoted to rain gods depending upon local customs and traditions. Some communities hold yagnas (Hindu fire rituals), others marry frogs or donkeys or take out processions singing songs in praise of the rain gods. Cynics say the rituals merely distract ordinary people from hardship, but cultural experts say the practices are a measure of desperation in those who believe there is nowhere else to turn for help.
9-4-21 Theodore McCarrick: Defrocked US cardinal pleads not guilty to sexual assault
A defrocked US Roman Catholic cardinal has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy in the 1970s. Theodore McCarrick, 91, entered the plea at a court in Massachusetts, where he faces indecent assault and battery charges for the alleged 1974 incident. The former Washington DC archbishop is thought to be the highest-ranking US Catholic to face sex abuse charges. He has previously said he has "no recollection" of any abuse. In a lawsuit filed in July, Mr McCarrick was accused of groping and abusing the boy - who has not been named - for years. The man alleging abuse claimed that one incident took place during his brother's wedding reception at Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1974. The victim alleges that Mr McCarrick led him into a room at the college and fondled him. After the incident, the priest allegedly told the man to recite prayers to be redeemed of "sins". In court on Friday, Mr McCarrick was ordered to not contact the alleged victim or any children. His bail was set at $5,000 (£3,600), with an upcoming hearing scheduled for 28 October. Each of the charges carry penalties of up to five years imprisonment, as well as mandatory registration as a sex offender. Mr McCarrick is one of hundreds of members of the Catholic clergy accused of sexually abusing children over several decades. In 2019, he was defrocked following a Vatican investigation into years of sexual abuse allegations against him. He had also been accused of assaulting a teenager in New York in the early 1970s, as well as forcing men to sleep with him at a home in New Jersey while they studied to become priests. The 450-page report from the Vatican found that the late Pope John Paul II was informed of the allegations against Mr McCarrick, but chose to believe US bishops who had concealed information. It also found that Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned in 2013, likely rejected the idea of an investigation because there were "no credible allegations" of abuse.
9-3-21 Prince Andrew, Bob Dylan, Catholic priests and the Child Victims Act
A change in law in New York has allowed for the filing of more than 9,000 child abuse claims - including cases against Prince Andrew, Bob Dylan and high-profile Catholic priests - previously blocked by the state's statute of limitations. Tom Andriola was 25, standing on the edge of Bryce Canyon in Utah, and an impulse to jump kept flashing through his mind. It had been 14 years since Mr Andriola's adopted older brother sexually abused him, but the memory was still raw. There, on the edge of the canyon, in the seclusion of the park, his wife became the first person he told. "I truly thought if I spoke anything about this, that he was going to come and kill me," Mr Andriola recalled. A few weeks earlier, that same brother had paid them a visit and stayed an extra day. Something during that trip triggered memories of the abuse, making Mr Andriola anxious and impatient for his brother to leave. For years after Utah, he told no one else. But because the abuse happened so long ago, the brother was never held to account. By the time Mr Andriola was ready to publicly disclose his story, the statute of limitations to bring suit in New York state, where the abuse took place, had expired. Though his brother was eventually convicted for molesting another boy, Mr Andriola was not allowed to testify at his trial. "I never got an acknowledgement and apology. The only accountability I got was that he got caught with someone else," he said. Now, thanks to a change in state law, people like Mr Andriola might stand a better chance at justice. New York's Child Victims Act (CVA) suspended the statute of limitations on child abuse cases for two years - allowing potential victims to bring civil suits they couldn't previously have pursued. The law, passed in 2019, gave victims until 14 August 2021 to bring forth claims. By that deadline, more than 9,200 were filed. Among the defendants are senior British royal Prince Andrew and singer Bob Dylan - both of whom deny the allegations. Marci Hamilton, the chief executive of Child USA, a non-profit working to end child abuse, said the nearly 10,000 claims still represented only "a very small" portion of what is thought to be the true scale of abuse in the state. (Webmasters Comment: There should be no statue of limitations on child rape!)
8-31-21 R. Kelly trial: First male accuser testifies to sexual abuse
R. Kelly's sex trafficking trial entered its eighth day on Monday, with a male accuser testifying that the star promised him fame in exchange for sex. The man, who testified under the pseudonym Louis, said he was a 17-year-old when Mr Kelly asked him what he "was willing to do for music". He then described how the singer crawled towards him and performed a sex act, even though "I wasn't into it". Mr Kelly, 54, denies all the charges against him. These include a single count of racketeering - which paints him as the kingpin of a criminal enterprise whose explicit purpose was "to prey upon young women and teenagers" for sexual purposes - and eight counts of violating an interstate anti-sex trafficking law known as the Mann Act. The singer, whose full name is Robert Kelly, is not charged with rape or assault, but prosecutors are allowed to present evidence of any potential crimes related to the racketeering charge, regardless of when they occurred. On Monday, the jury heard from two accusers, both of whom said they were underage when they met Mr Kelly. Louis said he first encountered Mr Kelly in 2006, when he was a 17-year-old working the night shift at a McDonald's in Chicago. He told the court that Mr Kelly slipped him his phone number, and invited him to his house, saying he could perform in his recording studio and receive some tips on the music business. One on such occasion, the star asked Louis if he had ever "had any fantasies" involving men, then allegedly "crawled down on his knees and proceeded to give me oral sex". Afterwards, "he told me to keep between him and me", adding, "we family now, we brothers", Louis alleged. He said Mr Kelly asked him to call him "daddy" - echoing the testimony of several female accusers - and would routinely film their sexual encounters.
8-30-21 China cuts children's online gaming to one hour
Online gamers under the age of 18 will only be allowed to play for an hour on Fridays, weekends and holidays, China's video game regulator has said. The National Press and Publication Administration told state-run news agency Xinhua that game-playing would be only allowed between 8pm to 9pm. It also instructed gaming companies to prevent children playing outside these times. Earlier this month a state media outlet branded online games "spiritual opium". Inspections of online gaming companies will also increase, to check that the time limits are being enforced the regulator said. Earlier rules had limited children's online game-playing to 90 minutes per day, rising to three hours on holidays. The move reflects a long running concern about the impact of excessive gaming on the young. A month prior to the latest restrictions, an article published by the state-run Economic Information Daily claimed many teenagers had become addicted to online gaming and it was having a negative impact on them. The article prompted significant falls in the value of shares in some of China's biggest online gaming firms. In July, Chinese gaming giant Tencent announced it was rolling out facial recognition to stop children playing between 22:00 and 08:00. The move followed fears that children were using adult ID's to circumvent rules.
8-27-21 Nigeria: Gunmen free kidnapped schoolchildren
Gunmen in Nigeria have freed a number of pupils who were kidnapped from an Islamic school in May, according to their head teacher. Some 136 students from the school in Tegina, Niger state, were seized by gunmen demanding a ransom. The head teacher said a small number escaped in June. There were unconfirmed reports that six died in captivity. Mass abductions for ransom have become increasingly common across Nigeria in recent months. Head teacher Abubakar Alhassan said he could not give an exact number of how many students had been freed, but "none of the pupils are in captivity". They are now being treated in hospital in the state capital, Minna. Last month, the parents and the school had raised funds to free the pupils but the kidnappers told them that it was not enough. Mr Alhassan said that they then paid more money and even bought motorcycles for those behind the mass abduction to convince them to release the children, the BBC's Ishaq Khalid reports from the capital, Abuja. Fati Abdullahi, whose 18-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son were taken by the group, told the AFP news agency that her children had been freed. "We are anxious to see them," she said. On 30 May, gunmen riding on motorcycles stormed the town and opened fire, killing one person and injuring another. As people fled, the attackers went to the school and seized the children. In July, kidnappers seized a man who was sent to deliver a ransom payment to secure the students' release. Parents and school administrators had sold possessions and part of the school's land to pay the ransom. But they later said they wanted more money. More than 1,000 students have been abducted from schools across northern Nigeria since December last year, although most have since been freed. Authorities there have been criticised for their failure to tackle the country's widespread insecurity including the deepening kidnapping crisis.
8-24-21 R. Kelly trial: Woman says singer pressured her to have abortion
A second accuser took the stand at R. Kelly's sex-trafficking trial on Monday, testifying that the star abused her, knowingly infected her with herpes and ordered her to have an abortion. The woman, identified as Jane Doe No 5, said her five-year relationship with Mr Kelly began in 2014, when she was 17. She alleged that the singer sought to control every detail of her life and would punish her if she did not comply. Mr Kelly, 54, has denied the allegations against him. His lawyers have portrayed his accusers as groupies out for revenge after their relationships with the R&B singer faded. The anonymous woman, now 23, testified that she had met the singer, whose real name is Robert Kelly, when he invited her to his hotel room after a gig in Orlando, Florida. She had hoped to audition for him, but the star would not let her proceed until he performed a sex act on her. "I just wanted to sing," she told the court. "I genuinely wanted his input." Mr Kelly continued to pressure her, saying he would "take care of me for life" if she acquiesced, she said. The woman, who told Kelly she was 18, eventually relented. After their first encounter, she said they began a relationship and Kelly invariably videotaped their sexual encounters. Mr Kelly made her adhere to a strict set of rules, she claimed. If she did not obey, the singer "chastised" her - sometimes spanking her hard enough to make her "skin tear", she told jurors. The physical abuse occurred "nearly every two to three days", she said, her voice breaking with emotion. When she finally told Mr Kelly she was under age, he slapped her but allowed her to remain in his life, she added. At one point, the woman said he "purposely gave me something he knew he had", herpes. Mr Kelly's longtime physician previously testified that the star has suffered from herpes for more than a decade. The woman also told the court how, after she became pregnant in 2017, Kelly urged her to get an abortion she didn't want. "He said, 'You need to look into that abortion stuff because you need to keep that body,'" she said.
8-21-21 R. Kelly aide says he paid bribe for singer to marry Aaliyah
A former tour manager for US R&B singer R. Kelly has testified that he bribed a government worker in 1994 to obtain a fake ID for then 15-year-old Aaliyah - so the singers could marry. Demetrius Smith said he paid $500 (£367) for an ID used by Mr Kelly, then 27, to wed Aaliyah, who was under age. Mr Smith was giving evidence after he was granted immunity from prosecution. Mr Kelly is on trial accused of sexual abuse, racketeering and bribery. He has denied the charges. Speaking at the singer's trial on Friday in Brooklyn, New York, Mr Smith said the decision to obtain the document was made by Mr Kelly's "associates" after Aaliyah had said she was pregnant. He said that when he questioned the idea, pointing out that the teenager - whose full name was Aaliyah Dana Haughton - was "too young", he was asked "whose side I was on". Mr Smith, 65, told the court that he then "went to the welfare office, and I walked in, and I said: 'Hey, want to make some money?'" Earlier court documents reportedly said the bribe was paid on 30 August 1994 - just one day before the marriage licence was issued. The certificate, leaked at the time, listed Aaliyah's age as 18. The marriage was annulled months later. Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001, aged 22. Her debut album, Age Ain't Nothing But a Number, was produced and written by R. Kelly. Mr Kelly, 54, full name Robert Sylvester Kelly, is on trial also accused of being the ringleader of a two-decade-long scheme where he recruited women and underage girls for sex. If he is convicted on all counts he could be sentenced to several decades in prison. The singer is best known for hits including I Believe I Can Fly, Bump n' Grind and If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time. Prosecutors have claimed the singer used bodyguards, drivers, lawyers and accountants to cover up his alleged crimes, and bribed victims by photographing and filming them having sex and then threatening to release the tapes. Even if he is acquitted, Mr Kelly still faces sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota, where he has also pleaded not guilty. He has been in jail for the last two years and was moved in June to Brooklyn from Chicago for the trial.
8-19-21 R. Kelly trial: Singer 'knew I was underage', accuser tells court
The trial of the US R&B singer R. Kelly has begun at a court in Brooklyn, New York. The star is accused of racketeering, sexual abuse and bribery; charges which he has repeatedly denied. Some of the allegations made against the singer - whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly - date back more than 20 years. If he is convicted on all counts he could be sentenced to several decades in prison. The first witness, Jerhonda Johnson Pace, told the jury R. Kelly knew she was underage in 2009 when they had intercourse in Chicago, where the age of consent is 17. Now 28, she testified that she had initially told Mr Kelly she was 19, but had revealed her real age on the day they had sex for the first time. "I felt uncomfortable. I felt like it wasn't right, that I should tell him my age. "He asked me, 'What is that supposed to mean?' and told me to tell everyone I was 19 - and to act 21," said Ms Pace, who admits she had once been a fan of the singer. Mr Kelly faces charges that he was the ringleader of a two-decade-long scheme where he recruited women and underage girls for sex. In her opening argument, Mr Kelly's lawyer Nicole Blank Becker claimed the alleged victims are aggrieved groupies, who originally consented to sex before later becoming "spiteful". "He didn't recruit them. They were fans. They came to Mr Kelly," she told the court, adding that some of the relationships were "beautiful" and "long-term". Ms Becker portrayed her client as a victim of women, saying some enjoyed the "notoriety of being able to tell their friends that they were with a superstar". Prosecutors meanwhile described Mr Kelly as "a man who used lies, manipulation, threats and physical abuse to dominate his victims and to avoid accountability for years". "This case is about a predator," Assistant US Attorney Maria Melendez said in her opening statement. "This case is not about a celebrity who likes to party a lot."
8-18-21 R Kelly trial set to begin in New York
The trial of the Grammy-winning US singer R Kelly begins at a US federal court in New York on Wednesday. The R&B star is accused of racketeering, sexual abuse and bribery; charges which he has denied. Some of the allegations made against the singer - full name Robert Sylvester Kelly - date back more than two decades. If he is convicted on all counts he could be sentenced to several decades in prison. Kelly, 54, is best known for hits including Ignition (Remix), I Believe I Can Fly, Bump n' Grind and If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time. On her way in to court, BBC producer Monica Miller reported: "It's a sticky overcast Wednesday in Brooklyn. R Kelly supporters screamed 'Free R Kelly' as they walked by. "The parents of Jocelyn Savage arrived. She lived with R Kelly and claims to be a victim." Kelly and members of his entourage are accused of recruiting women and underage girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with the singer. The stories go back to the start of his career in the 1990s, with many centring around the alleged predatory pursuit of teenage girls. The 54-year-old is currently facing multiple state and federal charges in the US, with accusations including sexual assault, abuse of a minor, making indecent images of minors, racketeering and obstruction of justice. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. Allegations of sexual abuse are not new for the musician; he has been confronting them for more than 20 years. But the only time he faced criminal charges, in 2008, he was acquitted. Kelly was himself the victim of child sex abuse, and detailed in his autobiography how he was raped by a female family member when he was eight years old. Kelly has been in custody since July 2019, after an application for his bail the following month was denied. In March 2020, prosecutors seized more than 100 electronic devices, including smartphones, iPads and hard drives from a storage facility holding the star's tour equipment. His associates were then accused of tampering with and intimidating witnesses in August of that year, and soon after the singer himself was attacked in his sleep by a fellow inmate in Chicago's Metropolitan Correctional Centre.
8-17-21 Bob Dylan denies sexually abusing girl in 1965
Bob Dylan is being sued by a woman who says the US singer-songwriter sexually abused her in 1965 when she was 12. Her legal case alleges the rock star "exploited his status as a musician to provide [her] with alcohol and drugs and sexually abuse her multiple times", and used threats of physical violence. It says the abuse took place at Dylan's apartment in New York's Chelsea Hotel. Dylan's spokesman told the BBC "the 56-year-old claim is untrue and will be vigorously defended". The Nobel Prize-winning singer, now 80, is accused of assault, battery, false imprisonment and infliction of emotional distress. The accuser, who is now 68 and lives in the state of Connecticut, is only identified by the initials JC. She said the singer had caused her "severe psychological damage and emotional trauma", and is seeking unspecified damages and a jury trial. According to his accuser, the star carried out "predatory, sexual and unlawful acts", which were allegedly "done intentionally by him to her without her consent". She claimed to have suffered "severe mental distress, anguish, humiliation and embarrassment, as well as economic losses". Her legal documents were filed on Friday at the New York Supreme Court under the state's Child Victims Act. The claim was submitted a day before the closure of a temporary legal "look back window" in New York, which allowed historical abuse allegations to be filed. Dylan - who was born Robert Allen Zimmerman - has sold more than 125 million albums around the world during a career spanning six decades. His best-known songs include Blowin' In The Wind and The Times They Are a-Changin'. In 2016, the Grammy and Oscar-winner was given the Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first songwriter to win the prestigious award. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama.
8-10-21 Why Apple's crackdown on child abuse images is no easy decision
Apple will inspect every photo uploaded to the cloud by US users of iPhones and iPads to detect images of child sexual abuse, and will report any found to a nonprofit that investigates cases of child exploitation. The new measure has been praised by child welfare charities but condemned by privacy campaigners, who believe it opens the door to other types of surveillance from authoritarian governments. Rather than examining the photographs themselves, Apple’s neuralMatch software will include an algorithm that creates a string of characters – a hash – unique to each photo on the device. It will then compare these to hashes of known abuse images from child safety organisations. It says that this will be done on the customer’s device rather than company servers so Apple will never see the contents, even when flagged as possible abuse images. Any positive matches will trigger a human double-check of the photo’s hash within Apple and if this confirms a match with the hash of a known image containing child sexual abuse, the information will be reported to the US nonprofit organisation National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which will pass them on to law enforcement to decide whether to make a legal request either to see the images or for information about the device’s owner. The feature will launch later this year in the US as an update to iOS and iPadOS. Andy Burrows at the UK National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children says he would welcome Apple launching the system in the UK, too. While Facebook refers millions of images of child sexual abuse to authorities each year, Apple refers just a handful because its messaging system and image storage systems are encrypted and it cannot tell what content is being sent or stored. “It’s an innovative and very welcome step, and it’s one that we’d like to see extended to the UK as quickly as possible,” says Burrows.
8-9-21 Afghanistan war: At least 27 children killed in three days, UN says
At least 27 children have been killed in Afghanistan in three days amid fierce fighting between the Taliban and government forces, the UN has said. The UN children's agency Unicef said it was shocked by the "rapid escalation of grave violations against children". The Taliban have been making major advances across the country as foreign troops withdraw, taking at least five regional capitals since Friday. They have rejected international calls for a ceasefire. In a statement on Monday, Unicef said the atrocities being committed against children were growing "higher by the day". The 27 fatalities were recorded across three provinces - Kandahar, Khost, and Paktia. Some 136 children were also injured in these areas over the past three days, Unicef said. "These are not numbers. Each one of these deaths and each case of physical suffering is a personal tragedy," the group's Afghanistan representative Hervé Ludovic De Lys said in the statement. "These children are much loved and longed-for daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, cousins and friends. All of them are children whose right to protection, under international humanitarian law, has been disregarded by warring parties." Unicef called on all sides to ensure that children are protected. Violence has escalated across Afghanistan now that US-led forces have all but withdrawn following 20 years of military operations. The Taliban have rapidly captured large swathes of countryside, and are now targeting towns and cities. In their most significant gain since May, the Taliban are now reported to have overrun the northern city of Kunduz. The city of 270,000 people is considered a gateway to mineral-rich northern provinces. It is in a strategically important location close to the border with Tajikistan, which is used for the smuggling of opium and heroin. It also holds symbolic significance for the Taliban because it was a key northern stronghold before 2001. The militants captured the city in 2015 and again in 2016 but have never been able to hold it for long. Afghan officials say security forces are still fighting in the city.
8-7-21 Apple criticised for system that detects child abuse
Apple is facing criticism over a new system that finds child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on US users' devices. The technology will search for matches of known CSAM before the image is stored onto iCloud Photos. But there are concerns that the technology could be expanded and used by authoritarian governments to spy on its own citizens. WhatsApp head Will Cathcart called Apple's move "very concerning". Apple said that new versions of iOS and iPadOS - due to be released later this year - will have "new applications of cryptography to help limit the spread of CSAM online, while designing for user privacy". The system will report a match which is then manually reviewed by a human. It can then take steps to disable a user's account and report to law enforcement. The company says that the new technology offers "significant" privacy benefits over existing techniques - as Apple only learns about users' photos if they have a collection of known child sex abuse material in their iCloud account. But WhatsApp's Mr Cathcart says the system "could very easily be used to scan private content for anything they or a government decides it wants to control. Countries where iPhones are sold will have different definitions on what is acceptable". He argues that WhatsApp's system to tackle child sexual abuse material has reported more than 400,000 cases to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children without breaking encryption. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, has also criticised the move, labelling it "a fully-built system just waiting for external pressure to make the slightest change". But some politicians have welcomed Apple's development. Sajid Javid, UK Health Secretary, said it was time for others, especially Facebook, to follow suit. US Senator Richard Blumenthal also praised Apple's move, calling it a "welcome, innovative and bold step". "This shows that we can protect children and our fundamental privacy rights," he added. (Webmasters Comment: Child Sex abusers are of course behind this opposition!)
8-6-21 Apple to scan iPhones for child sex abuse images
Apple has announced details of a system to find child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on US customers' devices. Before an image is stored onto iCloud Photos, the technology will search for matches of already known CSAM. Apple said that if a match is found a human reviewer will then assess and report the user to law enforcement. However there are privacy concerns that the technology could be expanded to scan phones for prohibited content or even political speech. Experts worry that the technology could be used by authoritarian governments to spy on its citizens. Apple said that new versions of iOS and iPadOS - due to be released later this year - will have "new applications of cryptography to help limit the spread of CSAM online, while designing for user privacy". The system works by comparing pictures to a database of known child sexual abuse images compiled by the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and other child safety organisations. Those images are translated into "hashes", numerical codes that can be "matched" to an image on an Apple device. Apple says the technology will also catch edited but similar versions of original images. "Before an image is stored in iCloud Photos, an on-device matching process is performed for that image against the known CSAM hashes," Apple said. The company claimed the system had an "extremely high level of accuracy and ensures less than a one in one trillion chance per year of incorrectly flagging a given account". Apple says that it will manually review each report to confirm there is a match. It can then take steps to disable a user's account and report to law enforcement. The company says that the new technology offers "significant" privacy benefits over existing techniques - as Apple only learns about users' photos if they have a collection of known CSAM in their iCloud Photos account.
8-5-21 Epstein meetings a huge mistake, says Bill Gates
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has admitted he made "a huge mistake" in spending time with sex offender and disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. Mr Gates told CNN he had "several dinners" about a philanthropy project that did not emerge, and should not have given him "credibility". Epstein hanged himself in jail in 2019 while awaiting a sex-trafficking trial. Mr Gates also discussed his divorce with Melinda French Gates, calling it "a source of great personal sadness". The 65-year-old, who announced in March last year he was stepping down from the Microsoft board, said he and his ex-wife were "going to try and continue" working together on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Mr Gates was also asked whether he had regrets following allegations of workplace misbehaviour - some Microsoft employees have accused him of bullying. He did not respond specifically, saying: "Certainly everyone does [have regrets] but it's a time of reflection, and at this point, I need to go forward." Mr Gates's representatives have previously played down his relationship with Epstein, saying there was no business partnership or personal friendship. He echoed that in the CNN interview, saying: "I had several dinners with him, you know, hoping that what he said about getting billions of philanthropy for global health through contacts that he had might emerge. "When it looked like that wasn't a real thing, that relationship ended." He did not give any timeframe for the meetings, although US media have said they were between 2011 and 2014. That was before Epstein's arrest in 2019 on federal charges of sex-trafficking of minors, but after he had served a jail sentence following conviction in 2008 for other sex offences. Mr Gates said: "It was a huge mistake to spend time with him, to give him the credibility of being there." US media have said Melinda French Gates was furious at his relationship with Epstein and wanted it to end. Speaking of his ex-wife, Bill Gates said she was "a great person, and that partnership that we had coming to an end is a source of great personal sadness".
8-4-21 Samir Shaheen-Hussain interview: Doctors left children to suffer
Discoveries of mass graves of Indigenous children in Canada have prompted new scrutiny of the residential school system – including the role physicians played in unethical experiments, says paediatrician Samir Shaheen-Hussain.k IN RECENT months, more than 1300 unmarked graves of Indigenous children have been discovered in Canada. They were found at the sites of former residential schools, facilities authorised and funded by the Canadian government to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture. Between the 1880s and 1990s, 150,000 children were taken from their families and placed in these schools, which were largely run by the Catholic church. The recent discovery of these graves has sent shock waves around the world and confirmed what many Indigenous communities have long maintained – that children sent to these schools lived in dangerous and traumatic conditions, and many of them entered never to be seen again. The legacy of prejudice that led to separating children from their parents continues to affect Indigenous communities in Canada today. Until recently, for example, when Indigenous children living in remote areas of Quebec needed emergency evacuation for medical care, their parents were barred from accompanying them. Samir Shaheen-Hussain, a paediatric emergency physician, was part of a successful campaign in 2018 to change that. His participation in activism for Indigenous rights inspired him to look more closely at the residential school system. In his new book, Fighting for a Hand to Hold: Confronting medical colonialism against Indigenous children in Canada, Shaheen-Hussain examines the role that doctors and scientists working at the schools played in perpetuating the system and endangering children’s lives. He writes that not only did they let deadly diseases such as tuberculosis run rampant, but they ran unethical experiments on the children – including certain studies in which they allowed malnourished children to die.
8-4-21 Delhi rape and murder: Indians protest over Dalit girl's forced cremation
Protests are continuing for the fourth day over the alleged gang rape, murder and forced cremation of a nine-year-old girl in the Indian capital, Delhi. The girl's parents have accused a Hindu priest and three others of attacking her when she had gone to fetch drinking water from the crematorium's cooler. Her mother said the gates were shut and she was threatened when she objected to her daughter's cremation. Police have registered a case of gang rape and murder and arrested the men. The girl's parents are Dalits - formerly untouchables - who make a living by begging outside a Sufi Muslim shrine located just across from the cremation ground in Delhi's Nangal area. The girl was their only child. Her mother told me that on Sunday evening, she had sent her daughter to fetch water from the crematorium, just a few metres from their shanty. "When she didn't return for over an hour, I went searching for her. At the crematorium, I found her lying on the ground. Her lips were blue, there was blood under her nose, she had bruises on her hands and arms and her clothes were wet." She said the priest and the three men advised her not to call the police, saying "they would insist on an autopsy and steal her organs and sell them". She alleged that they shut the gates to prevent her from leaving, threatened her and even offered to bribe her. The child's father said that by the time he, along with about 150 villagers, reached the crematorium, their daughter's body was mostly burned. The villagers said they called the police and doused the pyre with water, but could only retrieve her legs - which means a post mortem exam to confirm rape would not be possible. A senior police official said that based on the information from the parents, a case of gang rape, murder and forced cremation had been registered against the accused.
8-1-21 Kris Wu: K-Pop star arrested on suspicion of rape
Chinese-Canadian pop star Kris Wu has been arrested on suspicion of rape. Officers in Beijing said the investigation centred on online allegations that the star, 30, had "deceived young women multiple times into having sexual relations". The first accusation came early this month when a woman said he had assaulted her while she was drunk. Mr Wu, one of China's biggest celebrities, has denied all the allegations of assault. The first to accuse him was 19-year-old student Du Meizhu, who posted on social media that she had met Mr Wu when she was 17. She said she had been invited to a party at his home, where she was pressured to drink alcohol and woke up in his bed the next day. Ms Du said seven other women had told her Mr Wu had seduced them with promises of jobs and other opportunities. She said some were minors. At least 24 more women have since come forward alleging inappropriate behaviour. Mr Wu has denied plying Ms Du with alcohol, and also rejected other allegations that he had enticed girls to have sex in return for benefits, raped girls while they were unconscious, and had sex with minors. Under Chinese law, under-18s are considered minors, while the age of sexual consent is 14. "There was no 'groupie sex'! There was no 'underage'!' he wrote on his social media account after the allegations were made. "If there were this kind of thing, please everyone relax, I would put myself in jail!" His lawyers are suing Ms Du for defamation. The incident comes as awareness of gender-based violence in China has grown, sparked by the #MeToo movement in 2018, where women voiced their experiences of sexual harassment, sometimes involving high-profile figures. Mr Wu first shot to fame as a member of the K-pop boyband EXO. He left in 2014 to launch a successful solo career as a singer, actor, model and talent show judge.
7-29-21 Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick becomes highest-ranking U.S. Catholic charged with sexual abuse
Theodore McCarrick, the former cardinal who was defrocked in 2019, has been hit with sexual assault charges. McCarrick was charged Thursday with three counts of indecent assault and battery in connection with the alleged sexual assault of a 16-year-old boy in 1974 at Wellesley College, The Washington Post reports. This, the Post notes, made him the highest-ranking Catholic official in the United States to be criminally charged over alleged sexual abuse. The charges came after Pope Francis expelled McCarrick from the priesthood in 2019 after he was found guilty of sexual abuse during a Vatican trial, in what was reportedly the first time the church defrocked a U.S. cardinal. McCarrick will be arraigned on Aug. 26, according to NBC News. His attorney told NBC, "We will look forward to addressing the case in the courtroom."
7-28-21 Canadian police reveal decade-long Manitoba residential school inquiry
Canadian police say they have spent over a decade investigating abuse allegations at a former residential school for indigenous children. The government-funded Fort Alexander school in Manitoba was one of dozens of such institutions founded to forcibly assimilate indigenous children. For years, activists and survivors have alleged systematic abuse at the school, which closed in 1970. Police on Tuesday revealed that they had launched a criminal probe in 2011. The Manitoba branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) made the rare comment about the ongoing investigation after an inquiry from a local media outlet. As part of their search for potential victims, police have said they spoke to more than 700 people. Ultimately, a total of 75 witness and victim statements were obtained since the inquiry began. To date, no criminal charges have been filed, as evidence is still being reviewed. The RCMP said it is "imperative" that the privacy of those victims, suspects and witnesses be respected. Chief Derrick Henderson of the Sagkeeng First Nation - the community most affected by the investigation - said that privacy violations "will not only cause further trauma to everyone involved, but also potentially compromise this highly sensitive investigation". Government-run boarding schools in Canada were part of a policy to attempt to assimilate children and destroy indigenous cultures and languages. More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were taken from their families and placed in residential schools between 1874 and 1996. The policy traumatised generations of indigenous children, who were forced to adopt Christianity, drop their native languages and speak English or French. In May, the discovery of 215 unmarked graves near the Kamloops Indian Residential School brought fresh attention to this dark chapter of Canadian history. In the months that followed, the tally of unmarked graves across the country rose to more than 1,300. In July, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the assimilation policy "incredibly harmful". (Webmasters Comment:All those who implemented or enforced this violation of human rights should be in prison.)
7-27-21 The Indian girl killed for wearing jeans
Reports of girls and young women being brutally assaulted by family members have recently made headlines in India. The incidents have also put the spotlight on how unsafe girls and women are within their own homes. Last week, 17-year-old Neha Paswan was allegedly beaten to death by members of her extended family in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh because they didn't like her wearing jeans. Her mother, Shakuntala Devi Paswan, told BBC Hindi that the teenager had been severely beaten with sticks by her grandfather and uncles after an argument over her clothes at their home in Savreji Kharg village in Deoria district, one of the least developed regions in the state. "She had kept a day-long religious fast. In the evening, she put on a pair of jeans and a top and performed her rituals. When her grandparents objected to her attire, Neha retorted that jeans were made to be worn and that she would wear it," her mother said. The argument escalated, resulting in the violence, she claims. Shakuntala Devi said as her daughter lay unconscious, her in-laws called an autorickshaw and said they were taking her to hospital. "They wouldn't let me accompany them so I alerted my relatives who went to the district hospital looking for her but couldn't find her." The next morning, Shakuntala Devi said, they heard that the body of a girl was hanging from the bridge over the Gandak river that flows through the region. When they went to investigate, they discovered it was Neha's. Police have lodged a case of murder and destruction of evidence against 10 people, including Neha's grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and the auto driver. The accused have yet to make any public statement. Senior police official Shriyash Tripathi told BBC Hindi that four people, including the grandparents, an uncle and the auto driver, had been arrested and were being questioned. He said police were looking for the remaining accused.
7-25-21 R. Kelly accused of abusing teenage boy he met in McDonald's
US R&B star R. Kelly has been accused of fresh abuse allegations, including the claim he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old boy. Prosecutors allege the singer abused the teenager after meeting him at a Chicago McDonald's in 2006. They want evidence of this, and other alleged but uncharged crimes, to be heard at Kelly's trial in August. Kelly denies ever abusing anyone, and his lawyers have not responded to the latest allegations. The Grammy-winner, real name Robert Kelly, is set to face trial in New York next month on charges including child sexual exploitation, making indecent images of minors, racketeering and obstruction of justice. The charges involve six unnamed women and girls. Now, prosecutors would also like jurors to hear about about more than a dozen other people they say Kelly abused, threatened or mistreated. They include a 17-year-old boy and aspiring musician, whom Kelly allegedly met at a McDonald's and then invited to his Chicago studio. After offering to help the boy with his music career, Kelly is said to have later propositioned and had sexual contact with him while he was still underage. The prosecutors say the boy introduced Kelly to a male friend, who was either 16 or 17, with whom the singer had a sexual relationship several years later. They also allege the star forced several female sexual partners - including a minor - to have sex with the young man as he filmed them. Prosecutors say the two boys' accounts and those of others will show Kelly's alleged crimes "were not isolated events and were part of a larger pattern". The judge is yet to rule on whether the evidence will be considered. Kelly, who was one of the biggest R&B stars of the 1990s, has been in jail for almost two years as he awaits trial. His New York trial is scheduled to begin on 9 August.
7-18-21 Moment New York mum saves five-year-old from kidnap
A man has been arrested for attempted kidnapping after a five-year-old boy was dragged into a car in broad daylight in New York City. A street camera filmed the moment the boy's mother rescued her son by pulling him through the car window. She had been walking down the street with her three children when the attempted abduction took place in Queens on Thursday evening. (Webmasters Comment: Give him 20 years!)
7-17-21 Daca: Obama programme for child migrants ruled illegal
A federal judge in Texas has ruled that a programme protecting migrants who came to the US as children from deportation is illegal. Judge Andrew Hanen said new applicants should not be enrolled in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca). But he said the ruling does not require the government to deport any Daca recipients. Nearly 650,000 people - known as Dreamers - are currently enrolled in the programme. President Joe Biden has ordered his administration to strengthen the initiative. The US Supreme Court last year blocked a bid by former President Donald Trump to end Daca. In Friday's ruling, Judge Hanen agreed with a group of states that had filed a lawsuit arguing the programme was illegally created by former President Barack Obama in 2012. Texas and eight other conservative states said Mr Obama had acted without due congressional authorisation. Daca recipients are shielded from deportation, granted work authorisation, can have driving licences and apply for education financial aid. This is the second time a federal court in Texas has dealt a blow to Mr Biden's immigration agenda. In January, a judge blocked the Democratic president's attempt to impose a 100-day moratorium on deportations. Democratic US Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey tweeted on Friday it was time for Mr Biden's party, which commands narrow majorities on Capitol Hill, to act. "Congress must seize the moment and any and all opportunities to finally provide a pathway to legalisation for millions of undocumented immigrants," he said. Mr Biden has already proposed legislation that would provide a path to US citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US. According to the Politico website, Democrats plan to create a way to citizenship for Dreamers and other undocumented groups in a forthcoming $3.5tn (£2.5tn) spending bill.
7-16-21 Canada: More unmarked graves likely at former residential school site
A indigenous nation has called on the Canadian government to release residential school attendance records to help identify unmarked graves. In May, the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced the initial discovery of 215 unmarked graves near the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Presenting the full report on Thursday, the nation said they expect more graves to be found as the search continues. An early discovery of children's bones helped guide the search. The initial findings from the Tk'emlúps this spring triggered a national reckoning over Canada's legacy of residential schools. In the months that followed, the tally of these unmarked graves across the country has increased to more than 1,100. These government-funded boarding schools were part of a policy to attempt to assimilate indigenous children and destroy indigenous cultures and languages. Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia was the largest in the country. Opened under a Roman Catholic administration in 1890, the school had as many as 500 students until its closure in 1978. "The residential schools were specifically built to take the Indian out of us," said residential school survivor Evelyn Camille. She became ashamed of her identity, she said. "That's what residential schools taught me." Ground-surveying teams have identified more than 200 potential grave sites after searching two acres near the school. More than 160 acres still require investigations. "There are very likely to be a number of human burials in the area," said ground-penetrating radar specialist Sarah Beaulieu, who presented the findings. "This investigation has barely scratched the surface." The initial area of interest was was chosen after Tk'emlúps elders recalled children, some as young as six, being asked to dig holes there, Ms Beaulieu said. Tk'emlúps te Secwépem Chief Rosanne Casimir appealed to both the federal government and the Catholic Church to release attendance records from the school to help identify the remains. (Webmsters Comment: Because these children were not baptised or saved the church did not consider their lives to be of any value!)
7-16-21 Why Canada is mourning the deaths of hundreds of children
The discovery in May of the remains of 215 Indigenous children - students of Canada's largest residential school - prompted national outrage and calls for further searches of unmarked graves. Since then, more unmarked gravesites have been found, providing previews of investigations by Canada's First Nations into the deaths of residential school students. A rising tally of these graves - more than 1,100 so far - has triggered a national reckoning over Canada's legacy of residential schools. These government-funded boarding schools were part of policy to attempt to assimilate Indigenous children and destroy Indigenous cultures and languages. Here's what we know about the findings so far. In May, Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir announced that the remains of 215 children had been found near the city of Kamloops in southern British Columbia (BC) as part of a preliminary investigation. Some of remains are believed to be of children as young as three. All of the children are believed to have been students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School - the largest such institution in Canada's residential school system. The remains had been confirmed with the help of ground-penetrating radar technology, Chief Casimir said, following preliminary work on identifying the burial sites in the early 2000s. The full report into the remains found is due on Thursday, and the earlier findings may be revised. Indigenous leaders and advocates have said they expect the 215 figure to rise. "Regrettably, we know that many more children are unaccounted for," said Chief Casimir in a statement. Thousands of children died in residential schools and their bodies rarely returned home. Many were buried in neglected graves. To this day there is no full picture of the number of children who died in residential schools, the circumstances of their deaths, or where they are buried. Efforts like those of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and others are helping to piece some of that history together. (Webmsters Comment: Because these children were not baptised or saved the church did not consider their lives to be of any value!)
7-16-21 Canada residential schools: 'Six years old, I was imprisoned here'
As searches for the unmarked graves of the former students of residential schools continue across Canada, survivors like Isadore Poorman reflect on a dark legacy of those institutions.
7-15-21 Larry Nassar: FBI failed to investigate USA Gymnastics abuser, watchdog finds
The FBI disregarded allegations about a prolific USA Gymnastics child abuser and later made serious errors in the investigation, a watchdog has found. The long-awaited report gave a scathing assessment of the FBI's investigation into former team doctor Larry Nassar. Nassar was sentenced to over 300 years in jail in 2018 for molesting gymnasts. Numerous missteps and cover-ups by FBI agents allowed his abuse to continue for months after the case was first opened, the report found. Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of abuse, said that while the US justice department's internal review exposed serious failings, there was a lack of accountability. "This report lays bare the corruption, but its conclusion says 'doesn't matter'. Because nothing happens now," she wrote in a series of tweets. "These agents retire on government pensions while survivors fight to stay alive." In a statement on Wednesday, the FBI acknowledged the findings of the report, calling the handling of the Nassar file "inexcusable and a discredit to this organisation". "We will take all necessary steps to ensure that the failures of the employees outlined in the report do not happen again," the agency said. The 119-page report by the Department of Justice Inspector General found that despite the seriousness of the allegations against Nassar, the FBI field office in Indianapolis dragged its feet in responding. In July 2015, following an internal review into Nassar, USA Gymnastics reported a number of allegations to the FBI in Indianapolis. After some "limited follow-up" that summer, the agency "did not undertake any investigative activity" on the case for more than eight months. During that time, the report said, Nassar's sexual assaults continued. Confronted by their mistakes, two FBI officials lied during interviews to cover up their errors, the report said.
7-11-21 Why Canada is reforming indigenous foster care
The revelations that there are hundreds of indigenous children buried in unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools have shaken Canadians. They have also increased calls for changes to the country's foster care system, where indigenous children are vastly overrepresented. Christine Miskonoodinkwe-Smith, from Peguis First Nation in Manitoba, was taken by child services when she was about a year old, along with her sister, and adopted by a non-indigenous family in the province of Ontario. The loss of family and cultural connections can be devastating to children in care. "Not knowing your culture just drives an anger inside you," says Miskonoodinkwe-Smith, who is of Saulteaux descent. "It separates you from your very own identity in a way, because you have to live in two worlds. You're living in a non-indigenous world, but then you know there's another worldview, which is your culture." Her adoptive parents eventually became emotionally and physically abusive and gave her up when she was 10, but kept her biological sister. She spent the rest of her youth with other non-indigenous foster families and in group homes. She didn't get a chance to learn about her culture until her 20s. "Once I started going to pow-wows and cultural events, it really made me change inside," said Miskonoodinkwe-Smith, now a writer living in Toronto. "It made me more aware of the issues around what indigenous people have been through." The grim discovery of approximately 215 children found buried in unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school near Kamloops, British Columbia in May, and similar discoveries at other sites like at the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, has brought renewed attention to the treatment of indigenous children in Canada. Residential schools operated for over a century, part of an historical programme to forcibly assimilate indigenous youth into white society.
7-6-21 Paedophile ring sentenced in Germany
A court in Germany has found members of a paedophile ring guilty of multiple counts of child abuse. The main defendant, a 28-year-old man identified as Adrian V, will spend 14 years in prison. Three other men received terms of between 10 and 12 years, while Adrian V's mother was sentenced to five years for aiding and abetting the abuse. The judge in the case described the actions of the group as "horrific" and "deeply disturbing". Among the allegations the men faced was that they drugged a group of boys and kept them in a building in a garden in Münster over a number of days. They then uploaded the footage to the dark web, according to German media. One of the victims of Adrian V's abuse was his partner's son, now aged 11. Adrian V was found guilty of 29 counts of abuse. He will be kept in preventative detention after his sentence is complete due to the risk of reoffending. He is believed to have met the other defendants, who are from other parts of Germany and are aged between 31 and 43, online. Presiding judge Matthias Pheiler said the trial "clearly showed how paedophiles operate: they trick, they lie, they manipulate those around" the victims. He also expressed his relief that the victims did not have to testify during the trial. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the offences took place, has been rocked by a number of recent scandals, including the abuse of hundreds of children by several men at a campsite. Germany's Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht announced plans to increase sentences for those convicted of child abuse last month. The decision comes a year after German officials announced they were investigating 30,000 suspects in connection with an online paedophile network.
7-5-21 Nigeria kidnap: Gunmen seize 140 schoolchildren in Kaduna state
Gunmen in Nigeria have kidnapped at least 140 schoolchildren in the north-west of the country, police say. At least eight people were also abducted from the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Centre in Zaria early on Sunday morning. Two nurses and a 12-month-old child were among those seized, said a hospital worker. There has been a recent spate of abductions from schools and universities for ransom. On Monday, reports emerged of another mass kidnapping from a school near Kaduna city, about 80km (50 miles) south-west of Zaria. The mother of a 15-year-old girl who was kidnapped from Bethel Baptist School told the BBC that 140 schoolchildren had been seized by a large group of armed men who arrived on motorbikes and broke down the fence. In a statement, police said gunmen "overpowered the school's security guards and made their way into the students' hostel where they abducted an unspecified number of students into the forest". A total of 26 people - including a female teacher - had been rescued, the statement said. A local Christian leader said there were 180 students in the school, only 20 of whom had been accounted for so far. However, he said some of them may have escaped. Police said gunmen involved in the hospital attack in Zaria, thought to be from criminal groups known locally as "bandits", opened fire on a police station in the city. While they were engaged in the shootout, another group attacked the hospital. "The attack on the police station was a distraction whilst another group attacked the dormitories of the health centre workers," a local resident told AFP news agency. The group escaped with the victims into a nearby forest. A hospital worker, who asked not to be named, told BBC Hausa that the gunmen had abducted at least 12 people, including three children under the age of three and a teenager. A local government official said troops were stepping up efforts to find the victims.
7-2-21 The investigation that will change how America thinks about its past
Uncovering the abuses of Indigenous boarding schools will be Deb Haaland's most important legacy. Secretary of the Interior is not one of the sexier Cabinet positions. Unlike the Secretary of State, it isn't a stepping-stone to the presidency; the position has neither the prestige of Defense nor the quiet power of the Treasury. Most Americans don't even tend to be aware of who their Interior Secretary is, even when the bureaucrat happens to screw up so spectacularly that he briefly earns himself a "scandal tracker" on the website of Outside magazine. It was unusual, then, when New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland made national headlines after becoming the first Native American to be confirmed to any Cabinet post. For many environmental- and social-justice-minded onlookers, the appointment of Haaland — a "35th generation New Mexican" and Pueblo of Laguna tribal member — to lead the department that oversees about one-fifth of the stolen land that makes up the United States was an important and long-overdue landmark. But to Haaland, representation alone isn't the be-all-end-all of her mission in the unassuming department. Last week, she announced that for the first time, the United States will search the grounds of its former Indigenous boarding schools for the remains of children who for over a century were forcibly taken from their families and brutally stripped of their culture (including Haaland's grandparents). The move will mean a serious national reckoning among non-Indigenous Americans about the cultural genocide in our not-so-distant past, and the revelations, conversations, and policies that could ensue set Haaland up to be one of the most consequential Interior Secretaries in modern history. The horrors of the boarding school system are an open topic in Canada where, earlier this year, the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found in a mass grave at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. That sickening announcement was followed last week by the report of an additional 751 unmarked graves of children found near a residential school in Saskatchewan. Already this week, another 182 graves were found at a former school east of Vancouver, Canada. In total, an estimated 6,000 children are thought to have died at schools in Canada, while "it's likely that the number of students who died in the United States is much higher," Christine Diindiisi McCleave, the executive director of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), told High Country News. Only, our government hasn't started looking yet. Canada is "probably over a decade ahead of us on this, trying to build some sort of public acknowledgment of just how horrific these schools were for the children who were forced to go there," Nick Martin, a member of the Sappony tribe, explained to The Takeaway recently. And while it now falls under Haaland's jurisdiction to shine a light on this great sin in American history, the great irony is that it was the department she now leads that originally perpetuated these evils; as Megan Black writes in The Global Interior: Mineral Frontiers and American Power, the Department of the Interior carried out the "spadework" of settler colonialism in America, with the responsible Office of Indian Education Programs falling under the department's broad umbrella.
7-2-21 Ten churches vandalised in Alberta on Canada Day
Ten churches have been vandalised in Alberta, Canada, in attacks that police have linked to anger over historic injustices against indigenous people. Investigators in the province said orange and red paint was daubed on the churches in the city of Calgary. The premier of Alberta said the attacks were "appalling". It comes after unmarked graves were found around former church-run residential schools that indigenous children were once forced to attend. The grim discoveries prompted some calls for national celebrations in honour of Canada Day on 1 July to be cancelled. Alberta's Premier Jason Kenney, said on Thursday one of the vandalised locations was an African Evangelical Church in the city of Calgary. He said its congregation was made up entirely of former refugees who fled countries where churches are often vandalised and burned down. "These folks came to Canada with the hope that they could practise their faith peacefully," tweeted Mr Kenney, a Conservative. "Some of them are traumatised by such attacks. "This is where hatred based on collective guilt for historic injustices leads us. Let's seek unity, respect & reconciliation instead." Calgary Police said the incidents happened sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, and that "the locations vandalised are all part of the Christian faith". One of the places of worship had a window smashed so paint could also be thrown inside, they said. The police statement said the paint was daubed in handprints and included the number "215", which investigators are linking to "very dark part of our history" - Canada's residential school system. The government-funded compulsory schools were run by religious groups in the 19th and 20th Centuries with the aim of assimilating indigenous youth. In May the remains of 215 indigenous children - students of Canada's largest residential school - were found in unmarked graves in the province of British Columbia. Several Catholic churches were set on fire last month in the western province in indigenous communities.
7-2-21 Statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II torn down in Canada
A prominent statue of Queen Victoria has been torn down by protesters in Canada as anger grows over the deaths of indigenous children at residential schools. The protesters cheered as the statue at the legislature in Manitoba's capital Winnipeg was toppled on Thursday. A smaller statue of UK monarch Queen Elizabeth II was also upended nearby. Local media say police used a stun gun to arrest at man at the scene but the protest was largely peaceful. The toppling of the statues came on Canada Day, an annual celebration on 1 July that marks the country's founding by British colonies in 1867. The recent discoveries of unmarked indigenous Canadian graves at residential schools had prompted calls for national celebrations to be called off. The British government condemned the toppling of the two statues. "We obviously condemn any defacing of statues of the Queen," a spokesman said. "Our thoughts," the spokesman added, "are with Canada's indigenous community following these tragic discoveries and we follow these issues closely and continue to engage with the government of Canada with indigenous matters." More than 150,000 indigenous Canadian children were taken from their families and forced to attend the schools during the 19th and 20th Centuries with the aim of forcibly assimilating them into society. An estimated 6,000 children died while attending these schools. Students were often housed in poorly built, poorly heated and unsanitary facilities. Municipalities across Canada cancelled celebrations and statues of figures involved with residential schools have been vandalised or removed. In Winnipeg, thousands took to the streets to honour victims of residential schools and rally support for indigenous communities. A group of protesters had marched on the Manitoba Legislature as part of a demonstration against the deaths of indigenous Canadian children at residential schools. British monarch from 1837 until her death in 1901, Queen Victoria was on the throne during the founding of the Canadian confederation. The British Crown negotiated treaties with indigenous First Nations in Canada and the government enacted its residential schools policy during her reign. At the protest in Winnipeg, the statue of Queen Victoria was daubed in red paint while a sign saying "we were children" was left nearby.
7-2-21 Boy Scouts of America: $850m deal agreed over sexual abuse claims
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has reached a $850m (£617m) settlement with some 60,000 people over claims of historic sexual abuse. Lawyers say it will be the largest sexual abuse settlement in US history. In terms of reported numbers, it dwarves similar complaints made against the Catholic Church in the country. The BSA has apologised to victims and filed for bankruptcy last year, saying it would set up a compensation trust for victims of sexual abuse. Back in 2012, the Los Angeles Times newspaper uncovered about 5,000 files detailing allegations against scout masters and troop leaders who had been deemed "ineligible volunteers". Most incidents had not been reported to police. In a statement, the 111-year-old organisation said that its latest agreement was part of "ongoing efforts to reach a global resolution that will equitably compensate survivors and ensure Scouting's future". The settlement needs to be approved by a judge, but may face opposition from insurers who would have to pay out millions of dollars. Under another agreement, expected to be filed on Friday, local BSA councils are expected to contribute $600m towards the settlement fund, according to news agency AP. Ken Rothweiler, one of three lead negotiators for the group of victims, told local news outlet NPR that he was pleased that the BSA and its local councils had "stepped up to be the first to compensate the survivors". But another of the group's lawyer's, Tim Kosnoff, told NPR that it was a "rotten, chump deal". "I don't know how you can characterise this as anything but a failure," said Mr Kosnoff. He said that some men who had been abused for years could get payouts of just a few thousand dollars, describing it as "an insult to all of the men who found the courage to file claims and participated in this process". A handful of insurers for BSA - who would be responsible for payouts - have also accused the organisation of excluding them from negotiations, saying they gave the victims' lawyers too much influence over the final settlement. "With only the fox guarding the hen-house, the outcome is utterly at odds with what BSA itself asserted was necessary for a confirmable (bankruptcy) plan," the insurers said in a statement.
7-1-21 Boy Scouts of America reaches historic settlement with abuse victims
The Boy Scouts of America reached an $850 million settlement with tens of thousands of people who said they were sexually abused as children by leaders and volunteers in the organization. This is the largest settlement in a child sexual abuse case in United States history, NBC News reports. More than 84,000 people are part of the lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America, and attorney Ken Rothweiler's firm represents 16,800 of them. He said that most of his clients are in their 60s and 70s, and were abused as teens. "I am pleased that both the BSA and their local councils have stepped up to be the first to compensate the survivors," Rothweiler said. Last year, amid mounting legal costs, the Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and said there were two things they hoped the organization could do: "equitably compensate victims who were harmed during their time in Scouting and continue carrying out its mission for years to come." Boy Scouts of America also said that 90 percent of the sexual abuse allegations "occurred more than 30 years ago," and there are new safety measures now in place to keep kids safe, including background checks for all volunteers and staff and a ban on one-on-one interactions between Scouts and adults.
7-1-21 Canada Day: Discovery of more unmarked graves fuel calls to cancel holiday
The discovery of unmarked Indigenous graves on the eve of the 1 July Canada Day holiday has prompted calls for national celebrations to be cancelled. The remains of 182 people near the grounds of a former residential school in British Columbia were found by the Lower Kootenay Band on Wednesday. The discovery adds to a rising tally of unmarked grave sites across Canada. Indigenous leaders have said they expect more graves will be found as investigations continue. This most recent discovery fell on the eve of Canada Day, the nation's founding holiday meant to mark the date in 1867 when three British colonies were joined to create the Dominion of Canada. Many Indigenous people in Canada have never recognised Canada Day, a sentiment that has grown in recent weeks as more grave sites were found. Municipalities across Canada have cancelled celebrations and statues of figures involved with residential schools have been vandalised or removed throughout the country. "You can never fully prepare for something like this," said Chief Jason Louie of the Lower Kootenay Band, which is a member of the Ktunaxa Nation. The community of ?aq'am, one of four bands in the Ktunaxa Nation, used ground-penetrating technology to uncover the gravesites close to the former St Eugene's Mission School near Cranbrook, British Columbia. The Indigenous nation said it is too early to say if the remains belonged to former students of the school. Some remains were found in shallow graves, only 3-4ft deep, the Lower Kootenay Band said in a statement. St Eugene's was operated by the Catholic Church from 1912 until the early 1970s. It was one of more than 130 compulsory boarding schools funded by the Canadian government and run by religious authorities during the 19th and 20th Centuries with the aim of forcibly assimilating indigenous youth. Up to 100 of the Lower Kootenay Band were forced to attend, the group said. But the remains were found on the grounds of the ?aq?am cemetery, which dates back to 1865. Burial plots used to be marked with wooden crosses that crumbled over the years.
6-27-21 More churches burn down on Canada indigenous land
Two more Catholic churches burned down in indigenous communities in western Canada early on Saturday. The fires at St Ann's Church and the Chopaka Church began within an hour of each other in British Columbia. Officers said both buildings were completely destroyed, and they were treating the fires as "suspicious". Last Monday two other Catholic churches in the province were destroyed in fires, as Canada marked National Indigenous People's Day. "The investigations into the previous fires and these two new fires are ongoing with no arrests or charges," Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt Jason Bayda said. It comes after hundreds of unmarked graves were discovered at sites of former residential schools in Canada. The government-funded compulsory schools were run by religious groups in the 19th and 20th centuries with the aim of assimilating indigenous youth. Indigenous groups have demanded a nationwide search for more graves. Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Keith Crow told public broadcaster CBC he had received a call early in the morning saying that the Chopaka Church was on fire. It had burned to the ground by the time he arrived half an hour later. "I'm angry," the chief told CBC. "I don't see any positive coming from this and it's going to be tough." Many in the community are Catholic Church members and are very upset about the blaze, he said. In May, the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a school in British Columbia. They found them at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, which was opened under Roman Catholic administration in 1890 and closed in 1978. And on Thursday, the Cowessess First Nation said it had found 751 unmarked graves at a former residential school in Saskatchewan. The Marieval Indian Residential School was also operated by the Roman Catholic Church.
6-26-21 Female genital mutilation (FGM): 'I had it, but my daughters won't'
FGM has been banned in Egypt since 2008, yet the country still has one of the highest rates of the practice in the world. Among some conservative Muslim communities there, women are regarded as "unclean" and "not ready for marriage" unless FGM - the deliberate cutting or removal of a female's external genitalia - is performed. Under the law, doctors can be jailed for up to seven years if found guilty of carrying out the procedure, and anyone who requests it faces up to three years in prison. Here, two victims describe what happened to them, and why they want to protect their own daughters. Layla was about 11 years old when she was subjected to FGM. Nearly three decades on, that fateful day is still fresh in her mind. She had just passed her school exams when it happened. "Instead of rewarding me for my good grades, my family got a midwife, dressed all in black, locked me in a room and surrounded me," she recalls. "They held me down and she cut this part of my body. I didn't know what I had done wrong to these old people - whom I loved - for them to be on top of me and opening my legs to hurt me. It was psychologically like a nervous breakdown for me." Her grandmother and neighbours were among those present. "I wanted to play and feel free but I wasn't even able to walk, except with my legs wide apart," Layla says. When she grew up and got married, she said she understood the consequences of not going through the painful ritual. Layla says that for villagers a woman who has not undergone FGM is "necessarily a sinful woman", while a woman who has is seen as "a good woman". "What does that have to do with behaving well?" The ritual is still often performed under the pretext of "plastic surgery", according to Reda Eldanbouki, a human rights lawyer who heads the Cairo-based Women's Centre for Guidance and Legal Awareness (WCGLA). Out of nearly 3,000 cases filed on behalf of women, the WCGLA has won about 1,800 of them, including at least six FGM cases. The law might have been changed, but getting justice is another thing entirely. Even if they are caught, culprits find the system very lenient, Mr Eldanbouki says. In 2013, a doctor was sent to prison for only three months for performing FGM on a 13-year-old girl. Mr Eldanbouki has met the girl's mother and the doctor who conducted it. "The doctor says there was a growth between her legs, and he did plastic surgery, not FGM," Mr Eldanbouki says. Even after the girl died as a result of FGM, her mother insisted she had done nothing wrong. "We went to the mother and asked, 'If your daughter were still alive, would you still do it?' The mother said, 'Yes, after you do FGM, she is ready for marriage'." Mr Eldanbouki says he faces a lot of harassment in his campaign against the tradition. "When we were doing a workshop, a man spat at me and said 'You are trying to make our girls prostitutes, like in America.'"
6-25-21 Canada: 751 unmarked graves found at residential school
An indigenous nation in Canada says it has found 751 unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan. The Cowessess First Nation said the discovery was "the most significantly substantial to date in Canada". It comes weeks after the remains of 215 children were found at a similar residential school in British Columbia. "This is not a mass grave site. These are unmarked graves," said Cowessess Chief Cadmus Delorme. The Marieval Indian Residential School was operated by the Roman Catholic Church from 1899 to 1997 in the area where Cowessess is now located in southeastern Saskatchewan. It is not yet clear if all of the remains are linked to the school. It was one of more than 130 compulsory boarding schools funded by the Canadian government and run by religious authorities during the 19th and 20th Centuries with the aim of assimilating indigenous youth. An estimated 6,000 children died while attending these schools, due in large part to the squalid health conditions inside. Students were often housed in poorly built, poorly heated, and unsanitary facilities. Physical and sexual abuse at the hands of school authorities led others to run away. Last month, the Cowessess began to use ground-penetrating radar to locate unmarked graves at the cemetery of the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. Thursday's announcement marked the first phase of the search efforts. Chief Delorme said there may have been markers for the graves at one point but that the Roman Catholic church, which oversaw the cemetery, may have removed them. Cowessess First Nation is "optimistic" that the church will work with them in investigating further, he said. It has not yet been determined if all the unmarked graves belong to children, Chief Delorme said. Technical teams will now work to provide a verified number and identify the remains, he said. In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was "terribly saddened" by the discovery in Saskatchewan. He said it was "a shameful reminder of the systemic racism, discrimination, and injustice that Indigenous peoples have faced".
6-25-21 Canada Indigenous group finds at least 600 unmarked graves at former residential school
A search of the former Marieval Indian Residential School grounds in Saskatchewan, Canada, had uncovered at least 600 unmarked graves, leaders of Indigenous groups said Thursday. Ground-penetrating radar had 751 "hits," but "we want to make sure when we tell our story that we're not trying to make numbers sound bigger than they are," said Chief Cadmus Delorme of the Cowessess First Nation. "I like to say over 600, just to be assured." In May, 215 bodies were discovered at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. The Marieval and Kamloops boarding schools were among more than 130 funded by the Canadian government to forcibly assimilate Indigenous children. About 70 percent of the schools, including Marieval, were operated by Roman Catholic missionary congregations, and the Canadian government has acknowledged that physical and sexual abuse were rampant. More than 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in these schools between 1863 and 1998, and an estimated 6,000 of those children died in the squalid facilities. The Marieval Indian Residential School, torn down in 1999, operated from 1899 to 1997. Chief Delorme said it's not yet clear how many of the newly discovered graves hold the remains of children, or if they are all tied to the school, but he said his nation "didn't remove these headstones," which is a crime, "and we are treating this like a crime scene at the moment." According to oral history, he said, the Catholic Church removed the headstones in the 1960s, and he's "optimistic" the church will help uncover the truth. Archbishop Don Bolen of Regina, Saskatchewan's capital, reiterated on Thursday the archdiocese's apology two years ago for the "failures and sins of church leaders in the past," and pledged "to do what we can to turn that apology into meaningful concrete acts — including assisting in accessing information that will help to provide names and information about those buried in unmarked graves." Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that his "heart breaks for the Cowessess First Nation," adding, "We will tell the truth about these injustices." The Canadian government apologized for the forced assimilation program in 2008, after a landmark National Center for Truth and Reconciliation report found the practice amounted to cultural genocide. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said this week her department will search for graves and other "unspoken traumas" at U.S. Indian boarding schools.
6-25-21 Child labour in Uganda: The hidden costs of Covid
With one of the youngest populations in the world, Uganda was already struggling with high rates of child labour. But with the world now facing a wave of economic hardship, NGOs say in a single year, the pandemic has set back any progress made to reduce child labour by 20 years. In Karamoja, north-east Uganda, when all schools closed due to the pandemic, nine-year-old Teddy joined her mother mining for gold.
6-24-21 Canada: Hundreds of unmarked graves found at residential school
An indigenous group in Canada says it has found hundreds of unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan. The Cowessess First Nation said on Wednesday that the discovery was "the most significantly substantial to date in Canada". However the group did not specify the exact number of graves found. It comes weeks after the remains of 215 children were found at a similar residential school in British Columbia. Such compulsory boarding schools were run by the Canadian government and religious authorities during the 19th and 20th Centuries with the aim of assimilating indigenous youth. Last month, the Cowessess began to use ground-penetrating radar to locate unmarked graves at the cemetery of the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. The Cowessess called the discovery "horrific and shocking". The group is set to release further details during a news conference on Thursday. Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations described the finding of the graves as "tragic but not surprising". "I urge all Canadians to stand with First Nations in this extremely difficult and emotional time," he wrote on Twitter. Between 1863 and 1998, more than 150,000 indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in these schools. The children were often not allowed to speak their language or to practice their culture, and many were mistreated and abused. A commission launched in 2008 to document the impacts of this system found that large numbers of indigenous children never returned to their home communities. In 2008, the Canadian government formally apologised for the system.
6-22-21 China fails to meet promises on missing Xinjiang children
Over the past two years, the Chinese authorities have repeatedly promised to help trace any children reported to be missing in Xinjiang, to prove that they haven't been forcibly separated from their parents. Those promises have not been met, reports John Sudworth. The first time China made a public promise to help find Kalbinur Tursan's children was in 2019. "If you have people who have lost their children, you give me the names," China's then-ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, told the BBC in a live television interview in July that year. Mr Liu denied that China's policies in its far-western region of Xinjiang could be leading to the large-scale separation of children from their parents but, he said, if we had any such evidence, he would investigate. "We'll try to locate them and let you know who they are, what they're doing," he said. Kalbinur - a member of Xinjiang's largest Turkic ethnic group, the Uyghurs - now lives in Turkey, working late into the night in her tiny one-room apartment sewing clothes to support what is left of her shattered family. She arrived in 2016, eight months pregnant with her seventh child, Merziye, conceived in violation of China's family-planning laws. "If the Chinese authorities had known I was pregnant they would probably have forced me to abort my baby," she told me. "So, I prepared my body by wrapping my belly to hide the bump for two hours every day and we managed to pass the border control like that." Although Kalbinur had applied for passports for all of her children, China's tough restrictions on travel for Xinjiang's ethnic groups meant that only one - for her two-year-old son Muhammed - was granted. With time running out, she had little choice but to leave the others behind, hoping they could follow with her husband once they'd been given their documents. As she boarded her flight, she had no idea that she wouldn't see them again.
6-17-21 Girls to break centuries-old German male choir school tradition
Girls will be accepted for the first time at a church music school attached to one of Germany's most famous boys' choirs - the Regensburger Domspatzen. The Bavarian city of Regensburg has had a boys' choir at its Roman Catholic cathedral since 975. "Domspatzen" means "cathedral sparrows". Girls trained at the school from next year will join a new girls' choir. The boys' one, which includes men for bass and tenor parts, will remain male-only. Girls will sing at church services too. The decision to open the Domspatzen high school (Gymnasium) to girls in 2022 was taken unanimously by the governors running it, the cathedral's website reports. "The choir for girls and women will be a new, additional musical pillar in Regensburg Cathedral's music," the statement in German said. Regensburg lies north of Munich in south-eastern Germany. Boys cannot sing in the choir unless they attend the cathedral school. The statement, quoting the governors, says "increasingly in recent times good singers have not been enrolling at the high school because they prefer to attend a co-educational school". The Regensburger Domspatzen choir has a female high school head - Christine Lohse - and the musical director is Christian Heiss, both of whom were appointed 18 months ago. The leadership change followed a child sexual abuse scandal which rocked the choir with the publication of an official report in 2017, and two further reports in 2019. However, the first allegations of widespread abuse in the choir surfaced in 2010. The local website Regensburg-digital says the numbers enrolling at the cathedral school have declined continuously since 2010. The abuse inquiry found that 547 choirboys had been abused at the Domspatzen pre-school and high school between 1945 and 1992. Headmasters, prefects and teachers were among the 49 alleged perpetrators.
6-15-21 Canada military's second-in-command resigns over golf game
The Canadian military's second-in-command has resigned after playing golf with the country's former defence chief, who is under investigation for sexual misconduct. Lieutenant General Mike Rouleau said he invited General Jonathan Vance to play golf "to ensure his wellness". In his former role, Lt Gen Rouleau had authority over military investigators looking at the case against Gen Vance. Lt Gen Rouleau said the pair did not discuss details of the investigation. But he admitted that his decision had "intensified recent events and contributed to further erosion of trust" in the military. Gen Vance, who retired in January, has denied the sexual misconduct claims made against him. News about the golf game broke last weekend in local news outlets The Globe and Mail and Global News. In a letter, Lt Gen Rouleau acknowledged that, on 2 June, he played golf in Ottawa with Gen Vance and the commander of the Canadian navy, Vice Admiral Craig Baines. But general said only he should be held accountable, because Vice Adm Baines' attendance was "surely predicated" on his attendance. Vice Adm Baines, in a separate statement on Sunday, has issued an apology for taking part in the game. Lt Gen Rouleau's resignation comes soon after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in on the matter on Sunday, saying that he and Vice Adm Baines had to "answer for themselves". Gen Vance is facing allegations of misconduct against army Major Kellie Brennan and another unidentified woman. Military police are looking at whether his relationship with Maj Brennan, one of his former subordinates, broke military regulations. Earlier this year Maj Brennan delivered a bombshell testimony to a parliamentary committee. She alleged that the general considered himself "untouchable", and that he fathered two of her children but did not support them.
6-13-21 Malaysia deports French conspiracy theorist wanted for abduction
A French conspiracy theorist wanted in connection with the abduction of a young girl in April has been expelled from Malaysia, French media report. Rémy Daillet-Wiedemann and his family are being flown home after overstaying their visas, judicial sources say. The 55-year-old is wanted over the disappearance of a child from her grandmother's home in eastern France. Well-known in French conspiracy circles, he is reported to have been illegally living in Malaysia for years. In April French prosecutors issued an international warrant for his arrest in connection with the abduction case. But Mr Daillet-Wiedemann and his family were later questioned by Malaysian authorities over their residency status. On Sunday a French official told AFP news agency: "I can confirm that they were deported by immigration services." Mr Daillet-Wiedemann, his partner and their three children were handed over to French authorities at Kuala Lumpur airport and placed on a plane, the sources said. The French case centres on the brief abduction of an eight-year-old who had been staying with her grandmother in the Vosges region. Days later, the girl and her mother were found in nearby Switzerland. The mother was detained, along with four men. But investigators turned their attention to Mr Daillet-Wiedemann, who is believed to have provided assistance. Mr Daillet-Wiedemann told French TV at the time that it was not "a kidnapping, but rather the return of a child to her mother at her request". In the 2000s Mr Daillet-Wiedemann was a local politician in south-western France and stood with the centrist Democratic Movement. He was eventually expelled from the party, before moving to the far-right and gaining prominence within the conspiracy movement for videos calling for a "popular coup d'état". "I have decided to take power in France, to restore this country, to give you your freedom," he said in a YouTube video published last year. A manifesto linked to one of his videos repeated conspiracy theories that 5G and face masks are harmful.
6-10-21 Pope rejects German cardinal's offer to quit over abuse failures
Pope Francis has rejected a German cardinal's offer to resign, over the mishandling of the Catholic Church's sexual abuse crisis. Cardinal Reinhard Marx said earlier this month that he should share responsibility for the "catastrophe" of abuse by Catholic priests. Cardinal Marx is Archbishop of Munich, and one of the Church's most influential liberal figures. He is not under investigation himself, either for abuse or for covering it up. Pope Francis said he understood the priest's motivation, but rejected the resignation offer. "That is my answer, dear Brother. Continue as you suggest (in your pastoral work), but as Archbishop of Munich," the Pope wrote in a letter released by the Vatican. Cardinal Marx was previously head of the Catholic Church in Germany, which is facing scrutiny over hundreds of historic abuse allegations. An investigation is currently under way in the archdiocese of Cologne, after a report in March found more than 300 abuse victims - most of them children - in cases from 1975-2018. In his letter to the Pope on 21 May, the cardinal wrote: "It is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades." He said investigations had "consistently shown there have been many personal failures and administrative mistakes, but also institutional or 'systemic' failure." The pontiff echoed that language in his reply, saying "the entire Church is in crisis because of the abuse issue", and "the policy of burying the head in the sand leads nowhere." "Becoming aware of hypocrisy in the way we live our faith is a grace and a first step that we must take. We have to take responsibility for this history, both as individuals and as a community. We cannot remain indifferent in the face of this crime," he wrote.
6-7-21 Egerton Ryerson statue toppled at Canada indigenous school protest
A statue has been toppled at Ryerson University in Toronto at a protest over the recent discovery of a mass grave of indigenous children at a school. Egerton Ryerson is deemed one of the architects of Canada's controversial residential school system. His statue had already been vandalised earlier in the week after the suspected remains of 215 children were found. Growing scrutiny of Ryerson has led to calls to change the university name and remove the statue. It had already been daubed in red paint with slogans like "dig them up" and "land back" painted on the plinth in reference to his links to Canada's treatment of indigenous people. Social media videos from the protest on Sunday showed the statue being pulled down off its pedestal as a crowd cheered nearby. A statement from the university later said more than 1,000 people had taken part in a peaceful protest on Sunday afternoon before a truck arrived about an hour later to help bring the statue down. Mohamed Lachemi, the university's president, said the statue would not be restored or replaced following the toppling. It was already one of the issues being considered by a special task force, set to conclude by September, which is determining how the institution can respond to its namesake's legacy, including a possible rebranding. Local media report that Toronto police are investigating the incident. Ryerson was a prominent figure in the creation of the public education system in Ontario during the 1800s but his role in preparing the ground for separate schools with forced indigenous assimilation has led to growing calls in recent years to reassess his legacy. Students and indigenous faculty members were among those who renewed calls to change the university's branding to "X University" following the discovery of the mass grave at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Webmaster's comment: The US goverenment did the same thing to indigenous children in the US, but you never hear about that!)
6-6-21 Canada's residential schools: 'There's no reconciliation without truth'
Government-run boarding schools in Canada were part of a policy to attempt to assimilate Indigenous children and destroy Indigenous cultures and languages. News of the remains of 215 children found at one such institution has brought new attention to their lasting impact. Canada issued a formal apology to the former students of residential schools in 2008, calling them a "sad chapter in our history". The Catholic church, which ran many of the schools, has not directly apologised. But in an address on Sunday, Pope Francis said that he was pained by the discovery of the remains and urged Canadian political and religious leaders to "cooperate with determination" to shed light on the finding and seek reconciliation and healing. Residential school survivor Geraldine Lee Shingoose spoke to the BBC about the abuse she experienced as a child at an institution in Saskatchewan - and what's needed for reconciliation.
6-5-21 Indigenous schools: Trudeau tells Catholic Church to take responsibility
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has urged the Catholic Church to "take responsibility" for its role in indigenous residential schools. The remains of 215 children were found buried in one school last month, prompting nationwide outrage. Mr Trudeau said requests for the Church to release its records on the schools had been met with "resistance". The government-run boarding schools were set up for the forced assimilation of indigenous children. They were part of official policy, which aimed to destroy indigenous cultures and languages. The children whose bodies were found in May were pupils of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, which closed in 1978. The mass grave was discovered during an ongoing investigation by the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in western Canada into the deaths of residential school students. Some of the children were as young as three. "As a Catholic, I am deeply disappointed by the position that the Catholic Church has taken now and over the past many years," Mr Trudeau told reporters. He described visiting the Vatican in May 2017 and seeking a formal apology from Pope Francis for the abuse of pupils. He also asked for access to Church records to help account for more than 4,100 pupils believed to have died from disease or malnutrition, he said, adding that they are "still seeing resistance from the Church". Asked if the government was considering taking legal action to gain access to the records, Mr Trudeau said: "I think, if it is necessary, we will take stronger measures." But he added: "Before we have to start taking the Catholic Church to court, I am very hopeful that religious leaders will understand that this is something they need to participate in." The Kamloops Indian Residential School was opened under Roman Catholic administration in 1890, and had as many as 500 pupils when enrolment peaked in the 1950s. (Webmaster's comment: They were non-whites and non-christians so their lives did not matter!)
6-4-21 Top German cleric asks to quit over Church sex abuse failures
Germany's top Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has offered his resignation to the Pope over the Church's child sexual abuse scandals. "It is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades," he said in a letter to Pope Francis. He is the Archbishop of Munich. The Pope is still considering his offer. Pope Francis has sent two bishops to Cologne to investigate abuse cases. In 2018, a study commissioned by the Church itself found that more than 3,600 children in Germany had been sexually assaulted by Roman Catholic priests between 1946 and 2014. Only 38% of the alleged perpetrators were prosecuted, with most facing only minor disciplinary procedures. About one in six cases involved rape. Most of the victims were boys, and more than half were aged 13 or younger. In his letter, Cardinal Marx said investigations in recent years had revealed "a lot of personal failure and administrative mistakes" but also "institutional or systemic failure" in relation to child sex abuse. The statement in German on the Munich archbishop's website says his letter was dated 21 May. The Pope has asked him to remain in his post pending a decision on his resignation offer. Cardinal Marx said in his letter that the Church had come to "a dead end". He said that with his resignation the Church could perhaps "make a fresh start, a new departure". "I want to show that it's not the institution in the foreground, but the mission of the gospel." Cardinal Marx has a liberal reputation and has often called for reform of the Church, the BBC's Damien McGuinness reports from Berlin. The German Catholic Church has been rocked by allegations that some Church leaders covered up past child abuse. Conservative Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne, is particularly under fire, our correspondent says.
6-3-21 Why Canada is mourning the deaths of 215 children
The preliminary discovery last week of the remains of 215 Indigenous children - students of Canada's largest residential school - has prompted nationwide outrage and calls for further searches of unmarked graves. Here's what we know so far. The announcement gave an early look at an ongoing investigation by the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in western Canada into the deaths of residential school students. These government-run boarding schools were part of policy to attempt to assimilate Indigenous children and destroy Indigenous cultures and languages. Last week, Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir announced that the remains of 215 children had been found near the city of Kamloops in southern British Columbia. Some of remains are believed to be of children as young as three. All of the children had been students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School - the largest such institution in Canada's residential school system. The remains had been confirmed days before with the help of ground-penetrating radar technology, Chief Casimir said, following preliminary work on identifying the burial sites in the early 2000s. The full report into the remains found is due in mid-June, and the preliminary findings may be revised. Indigenous leaders and advocates have said they expect the 215 figure to rise. "Regrettably, we know that many more children are unaccounted for," said Chief Casimir in a statement last week. Thousands of children died in residential schools and their bodies rarely returned home. Many were buried in neglected graves. To this day there is no full picture of the number of children who died, the circumstances of their deaths, or where they are buried. Efforts like those of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation are helping to piece some of that history together. (Webmaster's comment: The children were not white and were not christians so their treatment and death was not considered important!)
6-1-21 Canada-wide search urged as children's remains found
Indigenous groups in Canada have demanded a nationwide search for further graves after the discovery of the remains of 215 children. The Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced last week that remains were found at a former residential school set up to assimilate indigenous people. The find sparked outrage, prompting some in Canada to lay out tiny shoes at makeshift memorials. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged help but gave few details. "As a dad, I can't imagine what it would feel like to have my kids taken away from me," Mr Trudeau told reporters. "And as prime minister, I am appalled by the shameful policy that stole indigenous children from their communities." While he promised "concrete action" when asked what the government would do he did not offer specific commitments. Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said in a statement the families "deserve to know the truth and the opportunity to heal". "A thorough investigation into all former residential school sites could lead to more truths of the genocide against our people," Mr Bellegarde said. In Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island, a statue of Canada's first Prime Minister, John A Macdonald, is being removed following the discovery of the children's remains. Macdonald's role in residential schools has made him a target for protesters. The children found on Thursday were students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia that closed in 1978. Some were as young as three years old. Canada's residential schools were compulsory boarding schools run by the government and religious authorities during the 19th and 20th Centuries with the aim of forcibly assimilating indigenous youth. Kamloops Indian Residential School was the largest in the residential system. Opened under Roman Catholic administration in 1890, the school had as many as 500 students when enrolment peaked in the 1950s.
5-29-21 Canada mourns as remains of 215 children found at indigenous school
A mass grave containing the remains of 215 children has been found in Canada at a former residential school set up to assimilate indigenous people. The children were students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia that closed in 1978. The discovery was announced on Thursday by the chief of the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was a "painful reminder" of a "shameful chapter of our country's history". The First Nation is working with museum specialists and the coroner's office to establish the causes and timings of the deaths, which are not currently known. Rosanne Casimir, the chief of the community in British Columbia's city of Kamloops, said the preliminary finding represented an unthinkable loss that was never documented by the school's administrators. Canada's residential schools were compulsory boarding schools run by the government and religious authorities during the 19th and 20th Centuries with the aim of forcibly assimilating indigenous youth. Kamloops Indian Residential School was the largest in the residential system. Opened under Roman Catholic administration in 1890, the school had as many as 500 students when enrolment peaked in the 1950s. The central government took over administration of the school in 1969, operating it as a residence for local students until 1978, when it was closed. The Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation said the remains were found with the help of a ground-penetrating radar during a survey of the school. "To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths," Ms Casimir said. "Some were as young as three years old." "We sought out a way to confirm that knowing out of deepest respect and love for those lost children and their families, understanding that Tk'emlups te Secwepemc is the final resting place of these children."
5-24-21 Children tell of neglect, filth and fear in US asylum camps
The US has a vast system of detention sites scattered across the country, holding more than 20,000 migrant children. In a special investigation, the BBC has uncovered allegations of cold temperatures, sickness, neglect, lice and filth, through a series of interviews with children and staff. It was midnight on the Rio Grande - the imposing river that forms the border between Texas and Mexico - and lights began to flash on the Mexican side. Voices could be heard in the darkness. Figures emerged, got into a small raft, and began to cross the river. As the raft appeared on the US side, the faces of the migrants became visible. More than half of them were children. Over March and April, more than 36,000 children crossed into the US unaccompanied by an adult. This was a record high for recent years. Many children travelling alone set out on their journey hoping to reunite with a parent already in the US. More than 80% of them already have a family member in the country, the US government says. President Joe Biden has opened the border to unaccompanied children seeking asylum, somewhat relaxing former President Trump's policy of turning migrants away due to Covid-19. The children scrambled up the banks, exhausted. Two young cousins held hands. Another youth, Jordy, 17, said he had fled Guatemala because he was afraid of violent gangs operating there. But tonight he was frightened about what might await him in migrant detention centres in the US. He said he had heard stories about them. "They will put us in an icebox and ask us questions," he said. The so-called "iceboxes", notorious among migrants, are extremely cold rooms or cubicles in US Border Patrol migrant processing facilities. Jordy was told to join a line with other children. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) guards were taking the children's shoelaces and belts, a process usually reserved for prisoners to prevent them trying to take their own lives. Jordy and the other children were then taken away by bus into the night. They were to join more than 20,000 migrant children now in US detention, held in a series of extensive camps around the country, at least 14 of which are new. In late March, CBP released disturbing images of cramped conditions within one particular facility it runs in Donna, Texas - a mass of enormous white tents looming above the small town. The facility was designed to hold 250 people but housed more than 4,000 at peak occupancy.
5-19-21 Israel-Gaza violence: The children who have died in the conflict
Of the 219 people who have been killed in Gaza, at least 63 are children, according to its health ministry. Of the 10 people killed in Israel, two children are among the dead, the country's medical service says. Here are the stories of some of the children who have been killed. When an Israeli strike hit al-Wihda street in central Gaza City early on Sunday, at least 13 members of the extended al-Kawalek family are believed to have been killed, buried in the rubble of their own home. Many of the victims were children, with one said to be as young as six months. "We saw nothing but smoke," one of the surviving members of the family, Sanaa al-Kawalek, told Felesteen Online. "I couldn't see my son next to me and I was hugging him, but I could see nothing." The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) described the bombing as "abnormal" and said the civilian casualties were unintended. A spokesman said air strikes had caused a tunnel to collapse, bringing houses down with it. Among those killed were sisters Yara, 9, and Rula, 5. Both had been receiving treatment for trauma from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). The al-Kawaleks were polite girls who always did their homework on time, one of their teachers, who did not want be named, told the BBC. A picture circulating online is said to show 10-year-old Aziz al-Kawalek, the only surviving member of his direct family, sitting by his mother's body. The youngest victim on the Israeli side is thought to be Ido Avigal, a five-year-old boy killed last Wednesday in the southern town of Sderot. Ido was killed inside a fortified room in what the Israeli military described as an "incredibly rare" incident. His mother grabbed him and took him to the fortified room when incoming rocket sirens sounded on Wednesday evening in Sderot, the Times of Israel reports. Rocket shrapnel pierced the protective metal plating used to cover the window of the room he was in, also injuring his mother and seven-year-old sister. He died of his injuries several hours later.
5-19-21 Kabul attack: 'You have to be brave to send your child to school'
Students were streaming out of the Sayed ul-Shuhada secondary school in Kabul on Saturday 8 May, when explosions shook the neighbourhood. At least 85 people were killed in the bomb attack - the majority of them schoolgirls. It follows a series of attacks in recent years, which have hit schools, training centres, hospitals, wedding halls and mosques all in same part of the Afghan capital. The Dasht-e Barchi area of is largely populated by ethnic Hazaras and Shia Muslims in Afghanistan, and the attacks have raised fears for their communities. The families of some of the girls who died told the BBC of the grief and fear they are now living with.
5-11-21 America's child brides
Ellie Flynn investigates the legal loopholes allowing underage girls in the USA to be married off to much older men. In America children can get married legally in most states. Jane O'Brien investigates.
5-6-21 Dominic Ongwen: Former Ugandan child soldier jailed for war crimes
A former Ugandan child solider who became a commander in a notorious rebel group has been jailed for war crimes. Dominic Ongwen, now 45, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for crimes including murder, rape and torture. He is the first former Ugandan child solider to be convicted and sentenced by the International Criminal Court. Ongwen was abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group when he was nine years old and eventually became a feared commander. He was convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in February on 61 of 70 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The crimes relate to attacks on four camps for internally displaced people in Uganda in 2004. More than 4,000 victims provided testimony in the case, which was heard in The Hague. Ongwen was found guilty of sexual slavery, forced marriage and the rape of seven women who were abducted and placed into his household. These charges were in addition to murder, attempted murder and torture. Despite the gravity of the crimes, judges sentencing Ongwen on Thursday said they decided not to give the maximum life sentence because he was abducted as a child on his way to school in the late 1980s and groomed by rebels who had killed his parents. But they found he had knowingly committed serious crimes as an adult during the LRA's two decade reign of terror in the 2000s. "The chamber... is confronted with a perpetrator who wilfully brought tremendous suffering upon his victims," presiding judge Bertram Schmitt said. "However, it is also confronted with a perpetrator who himself had previously endured extreme suffering at the hands of the group." The judges added that they hoped to give him the opportunity to rehabilitate. His conviction means that victims can now start the process of seeking reparations.
5-3-21 Child sexual abuse: Four held in German-led raid on huge network
German police have arrested three men and a fourth is being held in Paraguay for allegedly running one of the world's biggest online networks for sharing images of child sex abuse. The international operation, involving several police forces, targeted a dark net platform called Boystown, which has now been taken down. Officials say Boystown had more than 400,000 registered users. They say some images showed the most serious sexual abuse of young children. The dark net is an internet area beyond the reach of mainstream search engines. The German-led investigation involved law enforcement agencies in the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, the US and Canada. The EU police agency Europol says it will also examine intelligence gained from the operation, and "more arrests and rescues are to be expected globally" on that basis. Several related paedophile chat sites on the dark net were also dismantled, Europol says. German police say three men detained since mid-April are believed to have run the paedophile network: one aged 40 from Paderborn, one aged 49 from the Munich area and a 58-year-old from north Germany who has been living in South America for several years. He was detained in Paraguay's Concepción region under an international arrest warrant, and German authorities have asked for his extradition. The fourth suspect is a 64-year-old from Hamburg who was allegedly one of the most active members, responsible for more than 3,500 posts.
5-3-21 Australian gymnastics inquiry uncovers 'culture of abuse'
An independent inquiry into gymnastics in Australia says it has uncovered a culture of physical, emotional and sexual abuse in the sport. The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) found that bullying and body-shaming were prevalent at elite levels. The report highlighted a win-at-all-costs culture that created a risk of harm and abuse. Gymnastics Australia, which commissioned the review last year, called the findings "confronting". "Gymnastics Australia unreservedly apologises to all athletes and family members who have experienced any form of abuse participating in the sport," it said in a statement. "We also thank the athletes and other community members who engaged in the review process and acknowledge their bravery in doing so." The AHRC said the "athlete population in gymnastics is predominately young and female", creating a power imbalance between gymnasts and coaches in which abuse was able to thrive. "The commission found that unique facets of gymnastics, including the extremely high proportion of young female athletes, contribute to a high-risk environment for abuse and for the maintenance and reinforcement of negative societal stereotypes and ideals around gender," it said. The report said it had identified a win-at-all-costs culture that prevailed across the sport and that created "unacceptable risks for the safety and wellbeing of often very young gymnasts". It said that although many athletes had positive experiences and relationships with their coaches there was "a persistent use of authoritarian or highly disciplinary coaching styles". The AHRC said it heard of a range of experiences of harmful behaviour "including emotional and verbal abuse, physical abuse and medical negligence, sexual abuse, negative weight management practices and body shaming". "The short and long-term impacts of these practices were reported to be profound, with recent former gymnasts and gymnasts who last trained in the 80s, 90s and 2000s sharing their experiences with the review," it said.
4-24-21 Ghislaine Maxwell makes first US court appearance
Ghislaine Maxwell has appeared in court on new charges of sex-trafficking, her first appearance since her arrest last summer. She attended the New York court in person on Friday for arraignment on new charges against her filed last month. Ms Maxwell, 59, pleaded not guilty to the new counts. The British socialite is accused of helping convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein recruit, groom and sexually abuse girls. Ms Maxwell, the daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell, was in a relationship with Epstein in the 1990s. She allegedly introduced him to wealthy and powerful figures including Prince Andrew of the British Royal Family and Bill Clinton. She now faces six counts including sex-trafficking of a minor and sex-trafficking conspiracy. She also faces a further two charges relating to allegations of perjury in 2016. The two new charges relate to allegations that Maxwell recruited a 14-year-old girl to provide Epstein with sexualised massages between 2001 and 2004. The girl was then paid hundreds of dollars in cash in return and was encouraged to recruit other young women. The entire proceeding on Friday lasted less than 10 minutes. Maxwell only spoke three times in order to answer the judge's question about whether or not she had received a copy of the indictment. Jury selection is set for 12 July but the judge is considering a request to delay the trial. Ms Maxwell has previously denied all of the charges. If convicted on all charges, she faces up to 80 years in prison. Epstein killed himself in 2019 as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges, more than a decade after he was convicted for soliciting prostitution from a minor.
3-30-21 Ghislaine Maxwell: Fourth alleged victim added to charges
Two new US federal charges of sex trafficking conspiracy and sex trafficking of a minor have been filed against British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell. The new charges introduce a fourth alleged victim to the case against the ex-girlfriend of convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Ms Maxwell is accused of recruiting an underage girl for sex with Epstein at his home in Palm Beach, Florida. There was no immediate comment on the new accusations from her lawyers. Ms Maxwell is currently in jail in New York awaiting trial. The two new charges in the amended indictment relate to the period 2001 and 2004. Before Monday Ms Maxwell had faced six charges: four relate to the years between 1994 and 1997, when prosecutors say she helped Epstein groom girls as young as 14. The other two are allegations of perjury in 2016. If convicted on the first six charges, which she denies, she would face up to 35 years in prison. Ms Maxwell, the daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell, was in a relationship with financier Epstein in the 1990s. She allegedly introduced Epstein to wealthy and powerful figures including Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew of the British Royal Family. Epstein killed himself in 2019 as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges, more than a decade after he was convicted for soliciting prostitution from a minor. Earlier this month, Ms Maxwell's brother Ian Maxwell told BBC News his sister, who was arrested last year, was being held in "degrading" conditions in jail in Brooklyn. Gloria Allred, a lawyer representing alleged victims, told the BBC that bail should be "out of the question" as it "would be very upsetting to the victims".
3-29-21 US police bodycam video shows officers berating child aged five
Body camera footage has shown US police officers handcuffing and screaming at a five-year-old boy who had walked away from his school. The video, released on Friday by police in Maryland, shows the two officers telling the boy's mother that she should "beat him". The incident from January 2020 is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the child's mother. Her lawyers allege that the child suffered emotional trauma. The officers from Montgomery County Police Department had found the child a few streets away from the school and the body camera video shows him crying in the back of a police car as he is driven back. The officers follow a member of staff and the boy into the school. A female officer is heard to say, "that's why people need to beat their kids." Inside the assistant headteacher's office, the child begins to cry loudly and the video shows one of the officers screaming directly into the boy's face. "Shut that noise up now!" the officer says. "I hope your momma let me beat you." Later the child's mother arrives at the school and the video shows both officers encouraging her to hit her son. "We want you to beat him," one officer tells her. The mother responds that she would be worried about being sent to prison, but an officer responds: "You don't go to prison for beating your child." One officer then handcuffs the child in front of his mother, saying to the boy: "You know what these are for? These are for people who don't know how to listen and don't know how to act." The officer removes the handcuffs after about a minute. Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando - who asked for the video to be released - said the footage had made him "sick", the Washington Post reported. "We all saw a little boy be mocked, degraded, put in the seat of a police car, screamed at from the top of an adult police officer's lungs, inches from his face. This is violence," he said. A statement from the Montgomery County school authority described the video as "extremely difficult" to watch. "There is no excuse for adults to ever speak to or threaten a child in this way," the statement said.
3-29-21 Alabama Shakes drummer Steven Johnson arrested on child abuse charges
Steven Johnson, the drummer for Grammy award-winning US rock band Alabama Shakes, has been arrested on child abuse charges. Johnson was taken into custody at Alabama's Limestone County Jail on Wednesday, news outlets report. A grand jury indicted him on charges of wilful torture, abuse and cruelly beating or otherwise wilfully maltreating a child. Bond is set at $21,500 (£15,580) with an arraignment date set for 7 April. Johnson, 35, previously pleaded guilty in March last year to violating a domestic violence protection order in Limestone County. He received a suspended sentence of a year in jail, with 24 months on probation. Alabama Shakes have been on hiatus since 2018. The roots-rock revivalists won a host of Grammys for their 2012 debut album, Boys & Girls, and its 2015 follow-up, Sound & Colour, before lead singer Brittany Howard launched a solo career.
3-19-21 China sending children of exiled Uighur parents to orphanages, says Amnesty
China has forcibly separated Uighur families by taking young children into state orphanages, according to human rights group Amnesty International. In a new report, Amnesty has called on China to release all Uighur children being held in orphanages without the consent of their families. The charity spoke to parents who left children with relatives in China when they were forced to flee the country. Rights groups say China has detained more than a million Uighurs. The Chinese government has also faced allegations of a wide range of human rights abuses against the Uighur people and other Muslim minorities, including forced labour, forced sterilisation, sexual abuse and rape. The government denies it is holding Uighurs in detention camps in the Xinjiang region in north-western China. It says the camps are "re-education" facilities being used to combat terrorism. Because access to Xinjiang is heavily restricted by the Chinese, Amnesty spoke to Uighurs who were able to flee Xinjiang before the repression of the Uighur people intensified in 2017. Mihriban Kader and Ablikim Memtinin fled from Xinjiang to Italy in 2016 after being harassed by police and pressured to give up their passports, Amnesty said. They left four children in the temporary care of grandparents, but the grandmother was taken to a detention camp while the grandfather was interrogated by police, the charity said. "Our other relatives didn't dare to look after my children after what had happened to my parents," Mihriban told Amnesty. "They were afraid that they would be sent to camps, too." In November 2019, Mihriban and Ablikim received a permit from the Italian government to bring their children to join them, but the children were seized by Chinese police on the way and sent to a state-run orphanage, Amnesty said. "Now my children are in the hands of the Chinese government and I am not sure I will be able to meet them again in my lifetime," Mihriban said. (Webmaster's comment: While America has separated immigrant children from their parents and kept them in steel animal cages!)
3-15-21 Nigeria primary school children abducted in Kaduna state
Gunmen have abducted students and teachers from a primary school in northern Nigeria's Kaduna state, an official and eyewitnesses have said. This is the first time a primary school has been raided by gangs suspected to be carrying out abductions for ransom. Since December about 800 secondary school students have been seized. All of them were later released, but 39 mostly female students are still in captivity following their abduction from a college in Kaduna on Thursday. In the latest attack, gunmen on motorcycles stormed the primary school in Rama village in Birnin Gwari local government area as children were arriving for classes in the morning, eyewitnesses told the BBC. Security forces and local vigilantes are trying to pursue the gang. Kaduna state commissioner for internal security Samuel Aruwan said they were still trying to ascertain the number of pupils and teachers abducted. The abductions have raised concerns about the growing insecurity in northern Nigeria, and the failure to protect schools. Last week's abduction took place from a college, which is located near a military training academy. State authorities say that 180 students and staff were rescued by the army, but 39 students were still missing. Students and teachers are usually released after negotiations with the kidnappers. Many Nigerians believe that ransom payments are made, and this is fuelling the problem, reports the BBC's Ishaq Khalid from the capital Abuja. A recent report released by Kaduna state authorities said nearly 3,000 people in the state were killed or abducted by criminal gangs last year. Last week, neighbouring Niger state announced it was shutting all secondary schools for a fortnight for "risk assessments". Three other northern states - Kano, Yobe and Katsina - have also shut some secondary schools.
3-12-21 Circle of Hope: Boarding school couple charged after TikTok abuse allegations
The owners of a shuttered religious boarding school in Missouri, USA, are facing dozens of criminal charges after abuse allegations were made on TikTok. Boyd and Stephanie Householder face more than 100 charges, including dozens relating to child neglect and abuse. Attorney General Eric Schmitt said the pair had perpetrated "horrific, sexual, physical, and mental abuse". Their daughter, Amanda, has been vocal about exposing alleged abuse at the Circle of Hope Girls' Ranch they ran. She set up in a TikTok page in 2020 which gave a platform to people voicing allegations about the institution. After the videos gained prominence, the Cedar County Sheriff's Department opened an investigation and about two dozen girls were removed by state authorities. The couple then shut the boarding school, which they started in 2006, and placed the property up for sale, according to local reports. Both pleaded not guilty during their initial court appearance on Wednesday. Boyd Householder, 71, faces 79 felony charges and one misdemeanour charge. The charges include accusations of repeated statutory sodomy, statutory rape and sexual contact with a student under the age of 17. He also faces 56 charges of abuse or neglect of a child and one count of child molestation. Allegations of physical abuse by Mr Householder include incidents where he allegedly slapped, hit and struck girls with objects. He is also accused of pushing a victim's face into manure and pouring hot sauce down a victim's throat, among other offences. The 22 charges against Mrs Householder, 55, do not involve sexual contact but detail allegations of neglect and abuse and the use of restraints - including placing one victim in a "secluded room with no light or sound for an extensive period of time". The Missouri Attorney General said officials had identified 16 victims "so far" and described the case as "one of the most widespread... against young girls and women in Missouri history". More than a dozen former residents of the ranch previously detailed their experiences to NBC's Dateline programme, where they alleged cruel punishments like withholding food and being forced to stand at a wall for hours at time. The couple previously dismissed allegations in an interview with the Kansas City Star newspaper last year, saying the alleged victims "were angry and they're bitter" about their lives.
3-12-21 Nigeria student kidnapping near Kaduna army base
Gunmen have abducted dozens of students from a college in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna, authorities say. The attackers stormed the institution in the town of Mando overnight. State authorities say that 180 students and staff were rescued by the Nigerian army in the early hours of Friday, but about 30 students remain missing. It is not yet clear who was behind the raid on the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, which is located near a military training academy. About 800 students have been seized since December in several raids on schools in northern Nigeria. They have all been released after negotiations with the gunmen. The BBC's Ishaq Khalid in Abuja say this is the first such attack on a college on the outskirts of a major city - most previous abductions from schools happened in remote areas. Our reporter says the audacious attack so close to a military site comes as an embarrassment for the Nigerian authorities, who keep assuring citizens they are trying to tackle the county's insecurity. Both the federal government and the Kaduna state government say they are averse to negotiations with armed gangs, many of whom profit from weak security infrastructure through ransom payments after kidnappings. A recent report released by Kaduna state authorities said nearly 3,000 people in the state were killed or abducted by criminal gangs last year. This week, neighbouring Niger state announced it was shutting all secondary schools for a fortnight for "risk assessments". Three other northern states - Kano, Yobe and Katsina - have also shut some secondary schools. Recent school kidnappings in Nigeria: 11 March - 13 pupils abducted from a school in Damaga in Zamfara state, 26 February - 279 schoolgirls seized in Jangebe, Zamfara state, 25 January - Gunmen kidnap seven children from an orphanage in the capital, Abuja, 17 February - One pupil killed; 42 staff, students and family members taken from Kagara, Niger state, 19 December - More than 80 schoolchildren kidnapped from Mahuta village, Katsina state, 11 December - More than 300 boys abducted from a school in Kankara, Katsina state.
3-4-21 Nigeria kidnapped girls: Shots fired at Zamfara reunion ceremony
A reunion of kidnapped daughters and their parents in Jangebe, Nigeria, turned violent on Wednesday when armed forces reportedly opened fire. At least three people were reportedly shot at the official handover ceremony. It is unclear if there were any deaths. Parents were said to have become frustrated at how long the ceremony was taking and started throwing stones at government officials. The 279 girls were kidnapped by armed men while at school last Friday. They were then freed on Tuesday They were kept in the custody of the Zamfara state government, and given medical treatment in the state capital Gusau, before Wednesday's official handover ceremony. UN experts have called for the traumatised pupils to receive urgent rehabilitation. One mother at the reunion told AFP news agency that parents became angry at the length of the reunion because they wanted to get back home before dark, as the roads were unsafe. The Zamfara state government has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Jangebe in response to the shootings. Authorities also demanded that all market activities in the town stop until further notice, claiming that they had found evidence that such activities were helping criminals operate in the area. The government's spokesperson did not explain how this was connected with Wednesday's incident. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declared a no-fly zone across the state on Tuesday, and banned all mining activities. No group has yet said it carried out the kidnapping. But it is believed to be the work of criminal gangs who often stage kidnaps for ransom in Zamfara, rather than the Boko Haram Islamist group behind the 2014 kidnapping of schoolgirls in Chibok, hundreds of miles away.
3-2-21 Nigeria school abduction: Hundreds of girls released by gunmen
A group of nearly 300 girls who were kidnapped from a school in north-western Nigeria last week have been released, a local official says. The girls were abducted by unidentified gunmen from their boarding school in Jangebe, Zamfara state, on Friday and taken to a forest, police said. The state's governor said on Tuesday that the group had been freed and the girls were now safe. Such kidnappings are carried out for ransom and are common in the north. Dozens of the girls were seen gathered at a government building in Zamfara after they were taken there in a fleet of mini-buses. "It gladdens my heart to announce the release of the abducted students... from captivity," Governor Bello Matawalle wrote on Twitter. "This follows the scaling of several hurdles laid against our efforts," he added. "I enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are now safe." The authorities said 279 girls had been freed, adding that a figure given last week by police that 317 had been kidnapped was no longer accurate. One official told Reuters news agency that the discrepancy was because of the fact that some girls had fled shortly after being abducted. "Most of us got injured... and we could not carry on walking," one of the girls told the BBC. "They said they [would] shoot anybody who did not continue to walk," she added. "We walked across a river and they hid us and let us sleep under shrubs in a forest." The group's release was secured through negotiations between government officials and the abductors, authorities in Zamfara state told the BBC. Mr Matawalle has denied paying for the girls to be released, but last week President Muhammadu Buhari admitted state governments had paid kidnappers "with money and vehicles" in the past and urged them to review the policy. President Buhari said he felt "overwhelming joy" at the news of the girls' release. "[I am] pleased that their ordeal has come to a happy end without any incident," he said.
3-1-21 Nigeria's school abductions: Why children are being targeted
Since December, more than 600 students have been abducted from schools in north-west Nigeria, highlighting a worrying development in the country's kidnap-for-ransom crisis. Friday's kidnapping of 317 students from the Government Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara state, was the second mass kidnap from schools in less than 10 days. Twenty-seven boys and their teachers who were taken from a school in Kagara, Niger state on 17 February were released on Saturday. The authorities say recent attacks on schools in the north-west have been carried out by "bandits", a loose term for kidnappers, armed robbers, cattle rustlers, Fulani herdsmen and other armed militia operating in the region who are largely motivated by money. Many here believe that a weak security infrastructure and governors who have little control over security in their states - the police and army are controlled by the federal government - and have resorted to paying ransoms, have made mass abductions a lucrative source of income. It is an accusation the governors deny. Zamfara governor Bello Matawalle, who in the past has promised "repentant" bandits with houses, money and cars, said people "not comfortable [with his] peace initiative" were sabotaging his efforts to end the crisis. Until now, kidnap victims have generally been road travellers in Nigeria's north-west, who pay between $20 and $200,000 for their freedom, but since the well-publicised abduction in 2014 of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok secondary school by Boko Haram Islamist militants in Borno state, more armed groups have resorted to mass abduction of students. Kidnapping hundreds of students rather than road travellers, guarantees publicity and government involvement in negotiations, which could mean millions of dollars in ransom payments. Security expert Kemi Okenyodo believes that this has made the abductions lucrative for criminal gangs.
2-27-21 Nigeria kidnappings: Hunt for 300 girls as second abducted school group freed
Police in Nigeria have launched a search and rescue operation for 317 girls kidnapped from a school in the state of Zamfara. The operation comes as 42 people kidnapped from a boarding school in a similar incident last week in Niger state were released. The kidnappings are carried out for ransom and are common in the north. President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the latest kidnapping as "inhumane and totally unacceptable". The United Nations Children Fund also condemned the abduction of the girls and called for their safe release. The 2014 kidnap of 276 schoolgirls in the north-eastern town of Chibok by Islamist militants Boko Haram brought global attention to the scourge of raids on schools in Nigeria but the most recent attacks are suspected to be the work of criminal gangs. Nigerian police said in a statement that "a co-ordinated search and rescue operation, involving the deployment of both ground and aerial assets" was under way. Two helicopters have been deployed. Police also appealed for calm. Residents of the town of Jangebe, where the abduction took place, have reacted angrily, attacking vehicles that entered. The Vanguard newspaper said that a convoy of journalists was attacked by a mob. Friday's attack happened at 01:00 local time (midnight GMT) when a group of gunmen arrived at the Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe. Some reports say the girls, aged 12 to 16, have been taken to the Dangulbi forest. Zamfara state has closed all boarding schools. No group has so far admitted carrying out the attack. A total of 42 people including 27 students, kidnapped from a boarding school in Kagara in the north-central state of Niger 10 days ago, have been freed. An armed gang had stormed the school when the pupils were asleep. One boy was killed. The group was also taken to a nearby forest.
2-26-21 John Geddert: Ex-US Olympics coach found dead after sex assault charges
A former US Olympics gymnastics coach has killed himself hours after he was charged with sexual assault and human trafficking, officials say. Michigan's attorney general confirmed the death of John Geddert, hours after outlining 24 charges against him. Geddert was head coach of the women's gymnastics team in 2012 and worked closely with team doctor Larry Nassar. Nassar was sentenced to up to 300 years in jail in 2018 for abusing more than 250 girls from his position. The widespread abuse revelations have caused intense scrutiny of USA Gymnastics and criticism of how it safeguards athletes. Geddert, 63, had owned the training facility in Michigan where Nassar had served as the gym's doctor. A number of gymnasts accused him of abusive behaviour when they testified during Nassar's trial. British gymnasts take legal action over alleged abuse. He was expected to turn himself in on Thursday afternoon but did not appear, the attorney general's office said. "My office has been notified that the body of John Geddert was found late this afternoon after taking his own life," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel later said in a statement. "This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved." Earlier, Ms Nessel had announced 24 separate charges against Geddert that "focus around multiple acts of verbal, physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by the defendant against multiple young women". Two of the counts involved the alleged sexual assault of a girl between the age of 13 and 16. He also faced 14 human trafficking charges for allegedly subjecting "his athletes to forced labor or services under extreme conditions that contributed to them suffering injuries and harm". Geddert "neglected those injuries that were reported to him by the victims and used coercion, intimidation, threats and physical force to get them to perform to the standard he expected," the attorney general's statement said. A lawyer for some of Geddert's alleged victims had earlier welcomed the interpretation of human trafficking laws in the case and said it marked "an important step in child protection" to potentially deter similar actions by others.
2-26-21 Nigeria's Zamfara school abduction: More than 300 Nigerian girls missing
More than 300 schoolgirls have been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen from a school in Nigeria's north-western Zamfara state, police say. Security officers have been dispatched to the town of Jangebe where the girls were seized early on Friday morning. Local officials have confirmed the attack but have not given more details. This is the latest mass abduction targeting schools in recent weeks. Armed gangs often seize schoolchildren for ransom. At least 42 people, including 27 students, who were kidnapped last week in Kagara, in neighbouring Niger state, are yet to be released. The 2014 kidnap of 276 schoolgirls in the north-eastern town of Chibok by Islamist militants Boko Haram brought global attention to the scourge of raids on schools in Nigeria but the most recent attacks are suspected to be the work of criminal gangs. Friday's attack happened at 01:00 local time (midnight GMT) when a group of gunmen arrived at the Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe town with pick-up vehicles and motorcycles, a teacher told news site Punch. Some of the gunmen were dressed as government security forces, the report said, adding that they forced the schoolgirls in the vehicles. But other witnesses have told the BBC that the armed men arrived on foot at the school. The witness told BBC Hausa that more than 100 gunmen entered the school. "They broke the school gate and shot at the security man. Then they moved into the hostels and woke up the girls, telling them it was time for prayers. After gathering all of them, the girls were crying and they took them away to the forest. They were also shooting in the air as they were marching to the forest," the witness said. Distraught parents have gathered outside the school and some have gone out into the bush to look for their daughters, witnesses say. A teacher told the BBC that of 421 students in the school at the time, only 55 had been accounted for.
2-24-21 Ghislaine Maxwell offers to give up UK and French citizenship for bail
British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell has offered to give up her UK and French citizenship in exchange for bail. Ms Maxwell is accused of helping the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein groom young girls, which she denies. She is due to stand trial in July. In a court filing, her lawyers said she had no desire to leave the US. She would be willing to renounce her foreign citizenship "to eliminate any opportunity for her to seek refuge in those countries", the filing added. Her lawyers also proposed that her and her husband's assets be placed in a monitored account, to prevent her being able to use the money to leave the country. Ms Maxwell has been in jail in Brooklyn, New York, since she was arrested last July at her secluded mansion in the state of New Hampshire. This is her third application for bail, after two previous attempts were unsuccessful. In her last bid for bail in December, her lawyers proposed that she be allowed to return home with armed guards to prevent her from escaping. Prosecutors then said there was a risk that, if bailed, Ms Maxwell could use her wealth to flee to France or the UK where she is a citizen and suggested she might try to avoid extradition. Ms Maxwell, the daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell, was in a relationship with financier Jeffrey Epstein in the 1990s. She allegedly introduced Epstein to wealthy and powerful figures including Bill Clinton and the Duke of York, Prince Andrew of the British Royal Family. Epstein took his own life in prison in August 2019 as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges, more than a decade after he was convicted for soliciting prostitution from a minor. Four of the charges against Ms Maxwell relate to the years between 1994 and 1997, when prosecutors say she helped Epstein groom girls as young as 14. The other two charges are allegations of perjury in 2016. She faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted in her trial in July.
2-21-21 Greece #Metoo: Prominent actor Dimitris Lignadis held over rape accusations
Prominent Greek actor and director Dimitris Lignadis has been arrested over underage rape allegations. Mr Lignadis, 56, is accused of raping a 14-year-old boy in 2010, and of a second assault, details of which have not been made public. The former artistic director of the National Theatre of Greece denies all the accusations, his lawyer said. He said Mr Lignadis was arrested after turning up voluntarily at a police station in Athens on Saturday. He is being held in custody pending an appearance before an examining magistrate, according to the Ekathimerini newspaper. Mr Lignadis resigned as director of the National Theatre of Greece earlier this month, complaining about a "toxic climate of rumours, innuendo, and leaks". His arrest comes weeks after former Greek Olympic champion Sofia Bekatorou revealed she had been sexually assaulted by an unnamed Hellenic Sailing Federation (HSF) executive, prompting a #Metoo movement in the country.
2-17-21 Nigeria gunmen raid Kagara school and abduct boys
Gunmen have killed a school pupil and abducted 27 other children in a night-time raid on their boarding school in north-central Nigeria, state governor Abubakar Sani Bello has said. Three members of staff and 12 of their relatives were also abducted, he added. About 600 boys were asleep in their dormitories when the school in Kagara town in Niger state was raided, the principal Danasabe Ubaidu told the BBC. The security forces have been deployed to help with rescue operations. The motive for the attack is unclear, but criminal gangs often carry out kidnappings for ransom in parts of Nigeria, says the BBC's Ishaq Khalid in the capital Abuja. On Monday about 20 people who were returning from a wedding ceremony were abducted after an attack on their bus in Niger state. Their fate is unclear. In December more than 300 schoolboys were seized in the town of Kankara in the north-western state of Katsina. They were later released following negotiations with the gunmen. In the latest attack, the gunmen wore military uniforms and stormed the state-run boarding school for boys in huge numbers, before taking students into a nearby forest, the AFP news agency quoted an unnamed security source and an official as saying. Troops with aerial support were trying to track down the attackers, AFP quoted the security source as saying. Mr Ubaidu told the BBC that some of the children had managed to flee into nearby bushes and were now returning. An uncle of four children at the school said that all his nephews survived, but another pupil was killed. "They told us that some people in military uniforms knocked at the doors of their dormitories and asked them to come out for morning assembly. But the students dispersed in different directions. "One of them said his colleague was shot dead beside him by the gunmen as he tried to flee," the uncle said in an interview with BBC Hausa.
2-8-21 Dutch suspend foreign adoptions after abuses found
The Netherlands is suspending all adoptions from abroad with immediate effect, after an official inquiry found many abuses. The investigation focused on the adoption of children from Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka from 1967 to 1998. Minister for Local Protection Sander Dekker said Dutch governments had failed for years to intervene. The abuses included coercing or paying birth mothers to give up children. The investigative committee found that Dutch government officials were aware of wrongdoing and that some were involved in abuses, though it did not find evidence of bribery. Mr Dekker said officials had failed by "looking away from abuses for years". "The government has not done what should be expected of it and should have taken a more active role in preventing abuse, and that is a painful observation. There are apologies for this. And I therefore offer these apologies to the adoptees today, on behalf of the cabinet." One Dutch woman who is searching for her birth parents in Indonesia told the BBC she welcomed the government's decision, saying the current system had encouraged the trafficking of children. Widya Astuti Boerma, 45, said "Dutch inter-country adoption is still based on a money incentive procedure and this motivates trafficking. "Today, inter-country adoption is still focused on adoption parents who are looking for a child, and this should actually be the other way around." Jerome Wirawan of the BBC Indonesian Service reports that more than 3,000 Indonesian children were adopted by Dutch nationals during the decade until 1984, when Indonesia all but banned the practice. Indonesia - formerly the Dutch East Indies - declared independence from the Netherlands in 1945. The investigative committee led by Tjibbe Joustra, a top civil servant, concluded that things had also gone wrong before and after the period of 1967-1998, on which it had focused. The system was still susceptible to fraud, and abuses still occurred "up to the present day", the report said.
2-6-21 French couple jailed after boy's fatal beating revealed accidentally in call
A French couple have been jailed over the death of the woman's toddler - from a beating she inadvertently revealed in a call to emergency services. Loïc Vantal, 28, got a 20-year sentence for dealing the blows that killed three-year-old Tony in November 2016. The mother, Caroline Létoile, aged 19 at the time, called emergency services to report that the boy was unconscious. While on hold, and unaware the call was being recorded, she told her partner: "I said he fell down the stairs." Létoile was also heard saying: "The stair will do, right? The stairs to the apartment… And I'm hiding all the stuff from the argument." When medics arrived at Létoile's flat in the eastern city of Reims, they found the child's lifeless body covered in bruises. He was pronounced dead later that night at the hospital. When police confronted Vantal, he admitted hitting the child repeatedly since he had met Létoile three months earlier. On Friday, after a week-long trial in Reims, he was convicted of using "deliberate violence leading to death". Létoile received a three-year jail sentence for "failing to report physical abuse".
2-5-21 Gregory Dow: US missionary jailed for sex crimes in Kenya orphanage
A US man has been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for abusing underage girls in an orphanage in Kenya. Christian missionary Gregory Dow set up the orphanage with his wife in 2008. "Gregory Dow was the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing," said the FBI's Michael Driscoll. Last year, Dow pleaded guilty in the US to four counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor in a foreign place. The orphanage was partly funded by churches in Lancaster county in the US state of Pennsylvania and was in operation for almost a decade before Dow fled in 2017. Kenyans were outraged when it emerged that Dow had left Kenya soon after the abuse allegations came to light. How he had managed to flee? This is one of many questions this abuse scandal has brought up. People asked why someone who had been previously convicted of similar crimes was allowed to open an orphanage. Given that he was jailed in the US, some are now questioning Kenya's ability - or willingness - to bring foreign sex offenders to justice. The FBI acted on a tip-off and Mr Dow was charged in July 2019. That tip-off was from a Kenyan woman living in the US who had returned to the area near the orphanage to care for her mother, reports the Washington Post. The newspaper says Margaret Ruto found her family's village "in uproar" after two girls, aged 12 and 14, had escaped the orphanage and shared stories of sexual abuse. She "turned detective" and took down the testimonies of the abused girls herself. Acting on the information provided by Ms Ruto, the FBI confirmed that Dow had sexually abused at least four teenage girls between 2013 and 2017. "Two of the girls were as young as 11 years old when the abuse began. "The defendant's wife even transported the victims to a medical clinic to have birth control devices implanted into their arms, which allowed Dow to perpetrate his crimes without fear of impregnating his victims," the US attorney's office said in a statement after Dow was sentenced. Dow was already a known sex offender before he started the orphanage. In 1996 he pleaded guilty to assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, for which he received two years' probation and was ordered to register as a sex offender for a decade.
2-3-21 The migrant girl, 9, detained by US for 531 days and counting
A mother and her daughter, both from El Salvador, have spent more than 500 days at an immigration detention centre in the US, despite a rule limiting the detention of under-age migrants to a maximum of 20 days. Luisa* has the sweet voice of a nine-year-old girl, but she sometimes sounds wise beyond her years. She has had to write letters to legislators, asking authorities to release her and Ariana*, her mother, from a US government detention centre for migrant families. (*Both "Luisa" and her mother, "Ariana", are under assumed names in this report. They have asked to stay anonymous because they are at risk of deportation.) As of 2 February, she has spent 531 days in US government custody together with her mother, as they try to avoid deportation following an unsuccessful asylum request. According to legal aid organisations operating in the country's three migrant family detention centres, Luisa, who is from El Salvador, is currently the migrant child who has spent the longest time in the custody of ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement). She has spent almost all that time at the South Texas Family Residential Centre, in Dilley, Texas. "All my friends left already. Me and my other friend, we are the only ones left," she says over the telephone. According to existing US rules, migrant children must be released after spending a maximum of 20 days in detention by ICE, following the so-called Flores Settlement Agreement of 1997. However, Luisa and four other children aged 3 to 16, together with their mothers, have spent more than 500 days at the same facility. Luisa could have left the detention centre to stay with another relative in the US. But mother and child decided to stay together while they fight in the courts against government efforts to deport them. Ariana says: "Nobody can replace a mother. I can't leave my daughter with them [her relatives in the United States]. My daughter is very young, she needs me to take care of her. How could I leave her?" Immigration lawyers and advocates say that ICE should release the families instead of putting them in a position to decide to separate from their children while detained and at risk of deportation. During the past electoral campaign, US President Joe Biden spoke against family detentions and demanded in June that migrant children and their parents be released "immediately". Luisa's case shows the complications of an immigration policy that has often been described as "dysfunctional".
1-27-21 The child environmentalist receiving death threats in Colombia
An 11-year-old boy who received death threats after calling for better access to education during the Covid-19 pandemic has been recognised by the UN for his activism. Francisco Vera is well-known in his native Colombia for his environmental campaigns and defence of children's rights. On 15 January he received a death threat from an anonymous Twitter account after posting a video urging the government to improve internet connectivity for children studying online. Now the UN has hand-delivered a letter to Francisco, congratulating him for his pioneering work in the South American country where it is not uncommon for environmental activists to be killed. In an interview with the BBC, the school student says he welcomes criticism but that violent threats are unacceptable. The incident sparked outrage in Colombia, where violence against human rights activists and environmental leaders is on the rise. It also renewed calls for more civility on social media. "These type of threats are common in Colombia and they often go unpunished," said Lourdes Castro from Somos Defensores, a group that documents attacks against community leaders. "But to threaten an 11-year-old just shows you that we have reached new levels of intolerance and lack of respect for freedom of speech," she explains. In a letter signed by Michelle Bachelet, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, the organisation thanks Francisco for his activism and says that the world needs more young people with his "passion to protect the planet". "We also agree with you that internet connectivity needs to be improved for boys and girls around the world," the letter adds. It was delivered personally to Francisco by Ms Bachelet's delegate in Colombia. Francisco said he was happy to get recognition and hopes to continue working with his peers on environmental projects this year, including a campaign to ban single-use plastics in Colombia. "Criticism is part of life, and I welcome it as long as it is constructive and respectful," the student told the BBC. "But there is obviously no place for insults and threats."
1-25-21 Malka Leifer: Israel extradites ex-principal accused of child sex abuse in Australia
Israel has extradited to Australia a former principal accused of sexually abusing girls at a school in Melbourne, following a six-year legal battle. Malka Leifer, who is wanted in Australia on 74 sexual assault charges, went to her native Israel in 2008 after allegations of abuse surfaced. She fought her extradition, claiming she was mentally unfit to stand trial, but Israel's Supreme Court rejected her final appeal last December. Ms Leifer has denied the charges. An organisation representing her alleged victims said it was "an incredible day for justice". Ms Leifer, who is in her 50s, faces dozens of charges of child rape and abuse relating to the period when she was headmistress of the Adass Israel School for ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls. Photographs published by Israeli media appeared to show prison officials leading Ms Leifer to a plane at Ben Gurion airport early on Monday. The Ynet news website reported that her ankles and wrists were shackled, and that she was met on board by Australian law enforcement officials. She is flying to Melbourne via Frankfurt, Germany. Israel's justice ministry and Ms Leifer's lawyer later confirmed that she had been extradited. A spokesman for Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter said that the Australian government "does not comment on logistics involving extradition arrangements against individuals until the extradition process has been concluded", according to Reuters news agency. Voice against Child Sex Abuse (VoiCSA), an Australian organisation representing her alleged victims, said in a statement: "So many people have been involved to ensure this day would finally arrive. "Regrettably, many have also been involved in trying to ensure this day would never arrive - despite their significant efforts, they have failed. "We can now truly look forward to Leifer facing justice in Australia on the 74 charges she is facing."
1-19-21 Olivier Duhamel: French incest allegations prompt victims to speak out
Tens of thousands of people have responded to a social media campaign in France designed to shed light on the problem of sexual abuse within families. The campaign, featuring the hashtag #MeTooInceste (after the #MeToo movement) was started over the weekend by NousToutes, an organisation battling sexual violence in France. Incest in French is used to mean sexual abuse by relatives, including those who are not related by blood. It followed accusations against a prominent political commentator, Olivier Duhamel, who has been accused by his stepdaughter of abusing her twin brother 30 years ago. Mr Duhamel has described the allegations as "personal attacks". The Twitter campaign began late last week with a message by a 67-year-old NousToutes activist known as Marie Chenevance. "It was now or never to break the omerta [code of silence] around this issue," Marie said. In earlier years, she said, activists had met a "wall of silence" when they shared their stories of family abuse. More than 80,000 people have responded to the campaign since Saturday, the organisation says. Mié Kohiyama was one of those who shared her story, alongside a drawing she made when she was five years old. The picture shows a child with no mouth, alongside the words "Help Me" ("au secours", which she spelt "o scour"). Back then, it was her way of speaking about the abuse, she said, but no-one heard the message. "On Saturday, when I posted this tweet," she told me, "it's strange to say, but I was proud of the little girl who drew this picture. "I tell myself that now people can understand these kinds of drawings. Forty years before, it was not possible." Part of the reason the accusations against Mr Duhamel have had such an impact, activists say, is that the account of his stepdaughter Camille Kouchner in her book La Familia Grande describes not just the alleged behaviour itself, but the culture of secrecy that she says surrounded the family. Muriel Salmona, a leading psychologist specialising in sexual violence, says that the issues raised by Mr Duhamel's stepdaughter along with the launch of the new hashtag opened up a "safe space" for victims to speak out. Historically, she says, there has been "almost-total impunity in France" for family abusers, with less than 1% of rape cases against minors ending up in court. "The figures on violence against children are bad for most of Europe," Dr Salmona explained. "But in France there is a current that tolerates sexual violence against children."
1-12-21 Irish government to apologise over mother-and-baby homes
The Irish government is to apologise after an investigation found an "appalling level of infant mortality" in the country's mother-and-baby homes. Established in the 19th and 20th centuries, the institutions housed women and girls who became pregnant outside marriage. About 9,000 children died in the 18 institutions under investigation. The government said the report revealed the country had a "stifling, oppressive and brutally misogynistic culture". Taoiseach (Irish PM) Mícheál Martin said the report described a very dark and difficult chapter in Irish history. "As a nation we must face up to the full truth of our past," he said. The greatest number of admissions was in the 1960s and early 1970s. Many children born in the homes were adopted or taken to orphanages run by Catholic nuns. The report said "the women and children should not have been in the institutions" and that many women suffered emotional abuse. The investigators say it appears there was "little kindness" shown to the mothers and "this was particularly the case" during childbirth, which many of the women found "a traumatic experience". The Irish government will apologise for the hurt experienced by the residents of the homes. Mr Martin said "one hard truth" was that "all of society was complicit" in the scandal. "We did this to ourselves as a society - we treated women exceptionally badly; we treated children extremely badly," he said on Tuesday. "We had a completely warped attitude to sexuality and intimacy and young mothers and their sons and daughters were forced to pay a terrible price for that dysfunction. "As a society we embraced judgementalism, moral certainty, a perverse religious morality and control which was so damaging. "But what was very striking was the absence of basic kindness. Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman said the report showed that for decades a "pervasive stigmatisation of unmarried mothers and their children robbed those individuals of their agency and sometimes their future".
11-10-21 Albania races to rescue children from jihadist camp
Eva's pale, triangular face glows in the frame created by her coal-black shawl and hood. Her pale brown eyes gaze straight into the camera. Now 16, she was kidnapped by her father Shkelzen and taken to Syria when she was nine. After seven years of war and then captivity, she looks like she is from another world, capable of nothing, or anything. We cannot print her photograph because it might endanger her life. She is still in the al-Hol camp in northern Syria, where she was taken with over 70,000 other orphans and widows of jihadist Islamic State fighters, when Barghuz, the last IS stronghold, fell in March 2019. Her brother Endri, 14, is luckier. He was brought home from Syria by Albanian special forces in late October 2020, with a woman and three other children. Frail, thin as a rake, he grins with his uncle Xhetan, who is barely able to believe he can hold his nephew again in his arms. "That camp," Albanian Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj tells me, "is hell on Earth, as witnessed by our police officers." In the UK, the al-Hol camp is better known as the temporary home of former London schoolgirl and "IS bride" Shamima Begum, who joined the jihadists in 2015 and later had her UK citizenship revoked. The interior minister in Tirana says it is currently home to 30 Albanian children and 10 Albanian women - and the bottom line for Albania is to get all the children home in the next few months. "We think there is a moral obligation to repatriate at least the kids, because they are not terrorists, they are victims of their irresponsible parents," he told the BBC. "But they could be raised up into real monsters if we leave them in the camps and ignore them." Their mothers, on the other hand, should face trial, he believes. Negotiations are going on with both the Kurdish authorities, who run the camps, and the mothers to allow repatriation.
1-5-21 South Korea: Child rapist's release sparks demand for change
The reduced sentence and subsequent release of a man convicted of brutally raping a child has raised fresh debate around South Korea's legal system, reports BBC Korean's David Oh. Twelve years ago, on the morning of 11 December, an eight-year-old girl was walking to school in Ansan, south-west Seoul, when she was kidnapped by Cho Doo-soon, a 56-year-old ex-convict. He took her to a toilet in a nearby church, where he brutally beat and raped her. Na-young - not her real name - survived. But she still suffers physical injuries and mental trauma from the attack. And now, she has had to move: her rapist has been allowed to return to Ansan, where he committed the crime. Cho's new residence is less than 1km (0.6 miles) from Na-young's house. "We didn't want to run away but had no choice. I also wanted to deliver a message that the government did nothing but forced the victim to go into hiding," her father told me just days after Cho was freed, having served a reduced sentence of 12 years. He added that Na-young was reluctant to move because she did not want to leave her close friends. The family were also afraid of exposing their identities by moving. But they felt that it was still their only option. "Many years have passed but still nothing has changed. The burden still falls entirely on the victim," he said. Cho's case sparked massive criticism of the country's judicial system for being lenient on sex offenders. He was initially sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. But an appeal court later reduced the term to 12 years, as he claimed he was drunk when he raped the girl. That's because in South Korea, penalties for crimes committed under the severe influence of alcohol carry far more lenient punishments. The country's criminal code, Article 10 (2), also known as "Sim Sin Mi Yak", says a court can reduce a sentence when a person "who, because of mental disorder, is unable to make discriminations or to control one's will". Meanwhile, the law "Joo Chi Gam Hyung" states that "substance abuse" impairs a person's mental state. (Webmaster's comment: Her life was destroyed! His life should also be destroyed!)
1-4-21 Outcry as 'bean dad' forces hungry child to open tin can
A dad in the US who boasted about his parenting skills after telling his hungry nine-year-old daughter to open a tin of beans or go without food has caused outcry on social media. After six hours the child successfully opened the tin and was finally allowed to eat, he said in now-deleted tweets. The dad, a podcaster, claimed it was a victory for "good parenting". But other parents accused him of neglect, while some suggested he invented the story to get attention. Twitter users nicknamed the father "bean dad" as the incident caused another heated debate on social media, where parenting methods are a frequent cause of disagreement. John Roderick, who is also a musician, shared the story on Saturday on Twitter, explaining that it began when his daughter asked him to make baked beans. After she brought him a tin-opener and can of beans, he asked her how she thought a tin-opener worked, he said. When she said she didn't know, he said he realised "a teaching moment just dropped into my lap". "Apocalypse dad was overjoyed," he added. Explaining that he wanted his daughter to learn how to open a tin of beans, he said she tried for six hours. "She was next to me grunting and groaning trying to get the thing. I should say that spatial orientation, process visualization and order of operation are not things she… intuits. I knew this would be a challenge," he said. Eventually she opened the tin and ate the beans, he explained. The tweets were quickly shared widely as other users condemned the incident, suggesting it was poor parenting. "I feel like it's super valuable to teach kids that they're not alone in the world and that there's no shame in asking other people for help and support," wrote journalist Jason Schreier. Another user suggested Mr Roderick's approach was "ridiculous" - and that he should simply have fed his daughter, and then showed her how to use a can opener.
1-4-21 Nóra Quoirin: 'Misadventure' verdict for girl found in Malaysian jungle
A girl whose body was found in a jungle during a holiday in Malaysia died by misadventure, a coroner has recorded. Nóra Quoirin, 15, from Balham, south-west London, was discovered dead nine days after she went missing from an eco-resort in August 2019. The family said they were "utterly disappointed" with the verdict, which ruled out any criminal involvement. They believe "layers of evidence" that were heard at the inquest point towards Nora having been abducted. The family were staying in Sora House in Dusun eco-resort near Seremban, about 40 miles (65km) south of Kuala Lumpur, when they reported Nóra missing, the day after they had arrived. Nóra, who was born with holoprosencephaly - a disorder which affects brain development - was eventually found by a group of civilian volunteers in a palm-oil plantation less than two miles from the holiday home nine days after vanishing. The Quoirins, whose lawyers had asked the coroner to record an open verdict, said in a statement after the ruling that they have a number of reasons for the abduction theory. These include: Professionally trained canines were unable to follow Nóra's scent. There was an opened window to the chalet with unidentified fingerprints found on the outside. Nóra had "neither the cognitive, nor physical means" to leave the chalet by the window on her own. Hundreds of people relentlessly searched the surrounding area, including where Nóra was found, on the day of or immediately preceding the day of her death. They found no signs of human life. There was a "lack of major physical damage" to Nóra's body despite her "inability to handle terrain as complex as the Seremban jungle". In the statement, issued through the Lucie Blackman Trust, the family said they witnessed 80 slides presented in court as the verdict was given, adding that none of them "engaged with who Nóra really was - neither her personality nor her intellectual abilities". They said: "The coroner made mention several times of her inability to rule on certain points due to not knowing Nóra enough. "It is indeed our view that to know Nóra would be to know that she was simply incapable of hiding in undergrowth, climbing out a window and making her way out of a fenced resort in the darkness unclothed."