Study rejects Internet sex predator stereotype

Sexual_predators Reuters reported on 02/19/08 on a study which appears in American Psychologist which indicates that sexual predators on the internet don't fit the stereotype commonly described. The sexual predators tend to be straight forward, say they are interested in sex, and the teens who respond tend to get involved in several conversations and perceive the virtual relationship as a romance. Here is a brief snippet from the article:

The typical online sexual predator is not someone posing as a teen to lure unsuspecting victims into face-to-face meetings that result in violent rapes, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

Rather, they tend to be adults who make their intentions of a sexual encounter quite plain to vulnerable young teens who often believe they are in love with the predator, they said.

And contrary to the concerns of parents and state attorneys general, they found social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace do not appear to expose teens to greater risks.

"A lot of the characterizations that you see in Internet safety information suggest that sex offenders are targeting very young children and using violence and deception against their victims," said Janis Wolak of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

"Especially since social networking sites became popular, people are suggesting that these offenders are using information to stalk and abduct their victims," said Wolak, whose study appears in the journal American Psychologist.

"We are not seeing those types of cases," Wolak said in a telephone interview.

Obviously, the ability to educate and protect kids from internet sexual predators depends on accurate information. Information, such as collected in this study, is important for effective prevention/education.

Link: MedlinePlus: Study rejects Internet sex predator stereotype.

Those Most Affected Help Analysts Mull Death Penalty

Death_penalty_3 If you are regular reader of this blog you know that I am against the death penalty for a variety of reasons. I am a father of two children killed by a three time drunk driver so I am no stranger to violent tragedy.

The Psychiatric News had an interesting article in the March 7, 2007 issue entitled "Those Most Affected Help Analysts Mull Death Penalty" which reports on a meeting of the New York branch of the American Psychoanalytic Association where two brothers, one of a killer and one of a man killed, discuss their thoughts and feelings about the death penalty. Here is a brief snippet from the article:

At the latest death-penalty session, which was part of the winter meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association in New York City, the brother of a murderer and the brother of a murder victim presented their views on the death penalty. 

One was David Kaczynski, the brother of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski (see Terrible Dilemma: To Tell or Not to Tell?). The other was Alan Pottinger, whose brother was killed in a pub shooting in 1991 by a man named Edward White. White had been serving a 25- to 50-year sentence for a 1989 murder when he escaped. After that, he entered the pub where Pottinger's brother worked as a bartender. White demanded money from everyone in the pub. Pottinger's brother attempted to intervene. White shot him, killing him. 

While Kaczynski's and Pottinger's experiences differed sharply in many ways, they resembled each other in one: each man was tempted to seek revenge for the psychological anguish he was experiencing—Kaczynski against the prosecutor who wanted the death penalty for his brother, Ted, and Pottinger against the man who had murdered his brother. Pottinger's desire for revenge was fueled even more by comments from friends and acquaintances, such as "You ought to kill that sonofabitch."

To understand the death penalty issue from a personal level, I recommend this brief article. To read the whole article, click on the link below.

Link: Those Most Affected Help Analysts Mull Death Penalty -- Arehart-Treichel 43 (5): 6 -- Psychiatr News.

Adult mentors may aid teens in foster care

MentorReuters reported on 02/18/08 on a study in the February, 2008 issue of the journal, Pediatrics, which found that "natural mentors" seemed to provide a protective influence on kids in foster care who might otherwise be at risk for substance abuse problems, teen pregnancy, and delinquency.

The Assett model from the Search Institute has pointed this out for years that kids who have adult role models outside of the immediate family who are involved in the kid's life for 4 years or longer has a very significant and positive influence. These natural mentors such as coaches, teachers, neighbors, youth ministers, scout leaders, etc. are much more influential than other more formal mentoring programs where volunteers are often involved for only a few months or a year or two.

Alice Miller, the Swiss Psychoanalyst, had a wonderful term for this role. She called it "the enlightened witness". This was the benevolent person who validated the child's experience and knew what was going on for the child over the long haul. Are you an enlightened witness in any child's life?

Here is a snippet from the Reuters article:

Teenagers in foster care seem to have a brighter future when there is an adult in their life they look up to, a study suggests.

The findings, taken from a national survey of U.S. teens, suggest that "natural mentors" -- teachers, coaches and other adults who are part of foster children's lives -- can make a difference in their future.

In fact, they may be more important than mentors who are connected to children through formal programs, researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.

This is because, unlike the typically temporary nature of formal mentorships, adults who are naturally part of foster children's lives may be around for the long haul.

Link: MedlinePlus: Adult mentors may aid teens in foster care.

Capital Punishment ... and Sodom and Gomorrah

Capital_punishment The weblog, The Journey, posted a great article on March 4th on Capital Punishment. What if we execute innocent people? And indeed we do.

The article is well worth reading. To access it click on the link below.

Link: The Journey: Capital Punishment ... and Sodom and Gomorrah.

Homeschooling and Parental Rights Under Attack in California

Homeschooling_works The Acton Institute reported today, March 12, 2008, that the Appellate court in California has ruled against homeschooling in that state ignoring research that shows that not only is homeschooling as good as public schooling but actually gets better outcomes. Here is a brief snippet of the article on the Acton web site:

Declaring that “parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children,” the Second District Court of Appeal for the state of California recently issued a ruling that effectively bans families from homeschooling their children and threatens parents with criminal penalties for daring to do so. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HDSLA) this court decision has made “almost all forms of homeschooling in California” a violation of state law. Once again our judicial system moves to restrict religious and personal liberties, severely limit parental rights, and significantly increase the power, scope, and control of the state over our lives.

There are approximately 166,000 homeschooled children in California. With the stroke of a pen the appellate court criminalized the lawful educational choices of tens of thousands of innocent families across the state, subjected them to possible fines, and labeled their children as potential truants. This activist court chose to bypass the will of the people and legislated from the bench based on anecdotal evidence and its own clearly biased and subjective opinions about the constitutionality of parental rights and the quality of a homeschooled education. This decision attacks the freedom of parents to decide on the best educational environment for their children, restricts their religious rights to practice their faith without governmental interference, and violates their freedom to raise their offspring as they see fit without the ideological pollution and atheistic/leftist indoctrination so prevalent in our public school system.

As a parent who homeschooled his children from 1985 - 1993 and as a grandparent who has four grandchildren being homeschooled, I am distressed and alarmed at this move on the part of the appeals court in California. People who truly value freedom and democracy should fight against this move on the part of the government to force our children into government schooling.

Link: Homeschooling and Parental Rights Under Attack in California - The Acton Institute.

No Country for Old Men, the film

No_country_for_old_men A lot of people seem to like No County for Old Men, a movie directed by the Coen brothers, based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy, released in November, 2007, and it has been winning a lot of awards but, while entertaining if you like violent movies, I am not sure of its social worth.

It is the story about a Viet Nam vet Llewelyn Moss who, while hunting, stumbles upon a drug deal gone bad where several men and dogs are killed and he makes off with 2 million dollars to be hunted down by a psychopathic killer Anton Chigurh.

The wise old sheriff Ed Tom Bell played by Tommy Lee Jones has had enough of the carnage and killing over drugs and decides after seeing the slaughter that he is too old to be in this law enforcement game any more and decides to retire.

This could have been a great movie if it had focused more on the wisdom of elders as they reflect on the meaning of life derrived from their life time of experience, but rather this movie focused more on the titillating violence and the socially redemptive message is lost.

It is a shame that this movie didn't have a more morally and socially redemptive message.

If you like movies and are titillated by psychopathic killers stalking their prey, you probably would enjoy this movie, otherwise, it is likely to be disappointing.

Link: No Country for Old Men (2007).

Brain imaging and the criminal justice system

Brain_scans Justice Talking Radio program released an excellent program on 01/14/08 entitled "Neurolaw, The New Frontier" in which various experts discuss the latest brain imaging techniques and how it is being used and could be used in the future.

Some lawyers are using brain scans showing defects to argue that their clients aren’t responsible for criminal behavior. In recent years, this neuroscientific evidence has been increasingly used in our courtrooms. But some scientists argue that the imaging is still new and unreliable, while others question whether juries should be ruling on what counts as a "defective" brain. As neurolaw grows in influence, it could potentially revolutionize our notions of guilt and punishment as criminals say "my brain made me do it." Might we be, one day, just a brain scan away from a form of lie detection and prediction of criminal behavior? Tune in as we examine this new frontier of law on this edition of Justice Talking

The show lasts about 50 minutes and can be listened to on line or downloaded in MP3 format. It is well worth listening to if you are interested in the topic.

Link: Justice Talking.

Supreme Court to consider shield for drug, cigarette firms

Cigarette_warning_label The LA Times reported on January 19, 2008 that the Supreme Court may hear a case in which cigarette companies and drug companies argue that they cannot be sued in state court because the Feds already approved their consumer warnings.

I am reminded in reading this about the joke: "What's the three biggest lies ever told?"

"I'll still love you in the morning. The check is in the mail. I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."

The Supreme Court signaled Friday that it may be ready to shield drug companies and cigarette makers from lawsuits from consumers who say they were not fully warned of the dangers of the product. The justices voted to hear a pair of appeals from industry lawyers that, if upheld, would erect a new barrier to lawsuits. Related -Supreme Court of the United States Related Stories -Ruling limits reach of investor suits -Justices uphold ban on test drugs for the dying -High court to hear TV judge's case -Justices to decide whether murder victims' prior statements are admissible For many years, lawyers for the pharmaceutical industry and cigarette makers have argued that their products should be shielded from suits if they have been approved for use by a federal agency -- such as the Food and Drug Administration -- and a warning label is included. For example, most prescription drugs come with labels that indicate they may be safely used under certain conditions. Consumers are also warned against overdosing or using the drug for other purposes. Industry lawyers say these federally approved warning labels should "preempt" or block lawsuits in state courts from consumers who say they used the drug as prescribed but were badly hurt by it. They say the FDA, and not jurors, should have the role of deciding when drugs can be used safely.

Link: Supreme Court to consider shield for drug, cigarette firms - Los Angeles Times.

Youth are sentenced to life without parole in California

Youth_in_prison As I get older I am amazed at the distorted view that most Americans have of themselves and their country. Our constitution says that we should not engage in cruel and inhumane punishment and yet California sentences kids to life in prison without parole. California's State Senate is predicted to pass a law this month outlawing this practice.

To read a report from Human Rights Watch on this topic click on the link below.

Link: "When I Die, They'll Send Me Home": Youth sentenced to Life without Parole in California.

Witness Against Torture

Witness_against_torture What kind of a nation have we become under the Republican Bush Administration? A nation that violates the Geneva Conventions by engaging in torture, extraordinary rendition, eliminating the right of Habeas Corpus, and engaging in the unconstitutional activity of surveillance on its citizens suspending their rights to privacy.

It appears that Osama bin Laden is winning as the United States suspends the civil liberties of its citizens and decreases their freedoms, engages in behavior alienating other countries around the world, and increasingly becoming a Christian Nationalist Fascist State.

Fortunately, some brave citizens are standing up for freedom even as they are being branded traitors and criminals by the current administration. On January 11, 2008 there was a demonstration in Washington, DC against torture which was either not reported or underreported in the news because the corporate media supports the current administration because war is good for business. Here is a brief snippet from the Witness Against Torture web site:

January 11, 2008 – Early this afternoon, 80 activists organized by Witness Against Torture delivered a message to the U.S. Supreme Court demanding the shut-down of the U.S. prison at Guantánamo and justice for those detained there. About 40 activists were arrested inside the Court building and another 40 on the steps. The arrests followed a solemn march from the National Mall of 400 persons that included a procession of activists dressed like the Guantánamo prisoners in orange jumpsuits and black hoods – part of an International Day of Action that was endorsed by over 100 groups and that included 83 events around the world.

Where does your favorite Presidential candidate stand on protecting our constitutional rights, our civil liberties, human rights around the world, and the use of torture and pre-emptive war? Hillary's record is not good. McCain's record is not good. The best Democratic candidates on these issues are Obama, Edwards, Kucinich. The best Republican candidate on these issues is Ron Paul. Watch them all closely and discuss these concerns with your friends and neighbors. We can be a far better country than we have been, and it will require new leadership and new values than what we have been subjected to the last 8 years.

Link: Witness Against Torture | campaign to shut down Guantánamo.