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The Almighty Gun

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/05/2022 - 12:38am in

The United States has become a society that practices child sacrifice.

Bouncing Kangaroo. Get

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/05/2022 - 9:01am in


Kids, Children

Bouncing Kangaroo. Get in that thing, bounce around and go crazy, kid. Annandale.

New Mexico Offers Free Child Care to Pretty Much Everyone

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/05/2022 - 11:33pm in

Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

Care package

When it comes to supporting the average parent, no U.S. state has gone as far as New Mexico, which began offering free full-time child care to most of its families this month.

Under the program, families earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level — for a family of four that would be $111,000 per year — are eligible for free child care. The initiative is funded by an endowment sustained by taxes on oil and natural gas production, which is projected to be comfortably flush with $4.3 billion by 2025. Advocates say free child care will help residents get back to work after Covid-related job losses. And some are thinking even bigger, hoping New Mexico’s success could provide a blueprint for other states to finance similar initiatives. 

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“This is the road to a universal child-care system,” said Governor Lujan Grisham. Nationally, the U.S. offers far less support to parents than most wealthy countries. President Biden’s monthly cash payments for parents, part of pandemic relief, dramatically reduced child poverty, but the payments were ended last year by Republican opposition. 

Read more at the Washington Post

Membership’s privileges

Next time you’re checking out a copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn from your local library, you may be able to grab a packet of seeds and grow something yourself. 

libraryCredit: San Jose Public Library

As public libraries reinvent themselves to better serve their communities, some are stocking seeds that members can “check out” to plant in their yards, gardens and pots. The seed offerings sprout from the American Library Association’s charter, which recently added “sustainability” to its list of core values. 

Planting seeds supports that. Native plants are a great way to contribute to biodiversity, and garden vegetables can help combat hunger. “It gets people outside, gets children involved with gardening,” said a librarian at the public library in Mystic, Connecticut, which offers 90 types of seeds that any patron can partake of. “The library has become so much more than just a place to come in and get books.”

Read more at Civil Eats

15 minutes of fame

It finally happened: After years of installing more and more renewable energy, California, the world’s fifth-largest economy, finally — briefly — ran on 100 percent green power.  

The milestone occurred on Saturday, April 30 at 2:45 p.m., at which time the state’s grid was fueled by green energy alone for exactly 15 minutes. About two-thirds of the power was solar, with the rest generated by wind, geothermal and other carbon-free sources. Even after 15 minutes, the grid stayed mostly green, with just three percent non-renewable sources sneaking their way into the mix.

While the event is great news for a state that has pledged (at least informally) to be carbon neutral by 2045, it will take a lot of work before April’s milestone can be achieved year-round. “Now we need to get our state running on 100 percent clean energy for the whole day, the whole week, and the whole year,” said the state director of Environment California.

Read more at Elektrek

The post New Mexico Offers Free Child Care to Pretty Much Everyone appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Meet the ‘Future Generations’ Commissioner of Wales

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/04/2022 - 6:00pm in

Sophie Howe has a uniquely forward-looking job. Since 2016, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales has been tasked with ensuring her country’s public institutions are taking into consideration how their actions affect Welsh citizens who haven’t been born yet. In that time, Howe has intervened on transport planning, education reform, gender and racial equality, and climate change. She has called for a trial of the four-day working week and has been a vocal advocate for a Universal Basic Income, which will soon be piloted by the Welsh Government.

Howe’s role is thought to be the first of its kind worldwide, but after early promising signs other nations are following Wales’ lead. In September 2021, Scotland announced that it, too, was appointing a Future Generations Commissioner, and in November, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres endorsed a proposal for a Special Envoy for Future Generations, which could impact the 193 member states. We spoke to Howe about the impacts so far, and those still to come.

How did your role come about?

When the Welsh parliament was first established, there was something called the Government of Wales Act that had a clause in it that said sustainable development should be a “central organizing principle.” But what that meant in practice was not a lot. They were words, not action. The Environment Minister would present a report to the Senate once a year, and all we were really doing is standing still. 

Sophie Howe, Wales Commissioner for Future Generations. Credit: Matt Horwood

One minister was really frustrated by that and she managed to get commitments that there would be, in the next term, legislation for sustainable development. At the time, the UN Sustainable Development Goals were being developed and we held a conversation with people in Wales where we asked: “What’s the Wales you want to leave behind your children, your grandchildren, and future generations to come?” They came up with a set of long-term goals of what they wanted Wales to look like in the future. And then the act was developed around that. 

What is the crux of the problem you are trying to address?

You can’t have sustainability without looking at the long-term impact of the things that you do. It’s like applying a “good ancestor” test. Are the things we’re doing now going to screw over the next generation or the generation after?

We think Wales has got a model that the rest of the world should follow. It’s all about really addressing short-termism in governance and government. And that short termism is endemic in every government across the world. That’s why we’re in the climate crisis. It’s why you’ve got widening inequality and you’ve got life expectancy in many places plateauing. So we’re saying that we think, across the world, there needs to be stronger mechanisms to force governments to think long term.

What are the biggest issues that need to be tackled?

The big one, of course, is climate change. We’ve put more carbon into the atmosphere knowingly than any other time during human history. We haven’t cared, we’ve done it anyway, mainly because of economic benefits, and we haven’t wanted to make tough decisions. 

With the pandemic situation, we were all kind of surprised by this pandemic. But if you look at the global risk registers of future risk, the risk of a pandemic has been on there for quite a number of years. So we can’t say that we didn’t know it was a risk, but we were completely unprepared for it. We have to have a society that is prepared.

And if you think about the aging population: In Wales, by 2036, we’re going to have double the number of over 65, and over 80s, high numbers of people living with dementia, and so on. Yet we’ve got a care system which already can’t cope with that. Who is thinking about the long term? How are we going to make sure it’s not catastrophic in the future?

When you start joining all of those dots, we should be looking for solutions to these problems in an integrated way.

What exactly do you do day to day?

I spend a lot of time meeting with government ministers and officials to talk through new policy areas they might be exploring. I commission research, such as I’ve done on the reduced working week and universal basic income. Recently I’ve worked with housing associations to try and bring them together with the government to find a solution about how jointly they could fund decarbonization.

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A lot of it is building a movement. When the act first came in, not many people knew about it. They were like: “What is this?” But now, there’s an increasing number of organizations who aren’t even legally required by the duty, but are signing up to its principal. Even parts of the private sector want to get on board with it, because it’s a long-term plan. We’ll be working with the Welsh Football Association, because they want to build their strategy around football’s contribution to the wellbeing goals. A lot of it is providing advice. A local council might want to have a new strategy on food poverty — how would they do that through the lens of each generation back? It’s sort of promotional, a lot of advice and support.

Are current political systems inherently short-sighted?

That is the underlying problem. Politicians are interested in what they’re going to be able to do in the next five years in terms of how it’s going to get them elected or not. So in Wales, our act is trying to to accept that the seven long-term goals don’t change from one political cycle to the next. Our goal of a prosperous Wales takes us away from an obsession with GDP towards the focus on wellbeing.

It talks about a productive, innovative, low-carbon society, one that uses resources efficiently and acts proportionally on climate change. It talks about skills and access to decent work. There are legal obligations on Welsh Ministers to set these objectives which maximize their contribution to these goals. How they go about doing that is what changes during political cycles, but the goal itself doesn’t change. We’ve got as close as I think you possibly can, in a democratic system, to a long-term approach, and we think that’s what’s needed across the world.

What have you achieved since 2016?

The earliest test of the legislation was when the Welsh government got powers it didn’t previously have, like the ability to borrow money. There was a proposal to spend the entire borrowing capacity on building a 13 mile stretch of motorway to deal with the problem of congestion around a place called Newport. I intervened in that and asked how the interests of two generations had been applied to that decision. How was it in line with prosperous Wales? How is it aligned with our goals around ecological resilience? The road was going through a nature reserve. And 25 percent of the lowest income families in the region don’t even have access to a car. The government changed its mind on the basis of the Future Generations Act and stopped that road. Instead, what we’re seeing is a new transport strategy for Wales, which puts roads right at the bottom of the priority list. There’s a moratorium on all road building; every scheme that’s been approved has stopped. 

We’ve also reformed the school curriculum, so that it’s in line with the Future Generations Act. So the outcomes from our school curriculum are not to learn Latin, but to create healthy, active and confident learners, ethical and informed citizens, creative and enterprising individuals, because those are the sorts of skills that are going to be critical for the future. 

I’ve been advocating a universal basic income, which was seen as a kind of pie-in-the-sky idea two years ago. But when you start talking about the long-term health impacts of poverty, the changing nature of work, all these people working in the gig economy, and not having a safety net, then a UBI actually becomes quite a sensible conversation. And two weeks ago, the Welsh Government announced their first pilot on a universal basic income. 

We’ve massively increased investment in improving the quality of people’s homes to meet carbon emissions targets, and to improve people’s health and to create jobs in the low-carbon economy. We’ve got a strategy to be a zero-waste nation by 2050. I could go on and on.

What’s been difficult about the job?

I can’t force anyone to do anything or stop anyone doing anything. I’m unelected. My job is to hold to account, as far as the role can, how the act is being implemented. My role is to be their conscience, the conscience of future generations. And to call them out when they’re not thinking about future generations. I have powers of review. I can look at a particular public body or a particular issue, and give recommendations on ways that they should improve, which they are legally required to respond to. But ultimately, it’s up to politicians to operate within the legal framework that they have, because they are the ones who are elected.

What we’re trying to do here is the biggest cultural change program that Wales has ever seen. Everything gone in the past is almost the opposite of what we’re trying to do with the Future Generations Act. So what I’ve spent a lot of time doing is trying to unpick a lot of that stuff, which is the system, which works against us. That’s been the biggest challenge. But actually, we have these new obligations now, and we need to do things differently. That’s quite a slow process. But things are changing. You’ve got to start somewhere.

What’s next, after 2023? Will you run for re-election? Will the role develop?

My term comes to an end next year, and there’ll be a new commissioner. But part of our mission is to take the Future Generation concept to other parts of the world. So at the moment, there’s a private member’s bill going through the UK Parliament to have a Future Generations Act for the UK. There’s also legislation going through the Scottish Parliament. There’s interest from the Irish government in something similar. I’m in Germany at the moment talking to the regional government in Gutenberg about how they could do something similar and the UN Secretary General, we’ve been working with him around a UN declaration on a Special Envoy for Future Generations. I’ll continue on a mission to see how more countries across the world can adopt this approach and an increasing number are really interested.

The post Meet the ‘Future Generations’ Commissioner of Wales appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Cash-Strapped Councils and a Crisis in Children’s Care

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/12/2021 - 11:33pm in

Cash-Strapped Councils and a Crisis in Children’s Care

A perfect storm of rising need, austerity and funding cuts has created a crisis in children’s social care, Sian Norris reports


The horrific death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, who suffered devastating neglect and abuse from his father and stepmother, has put the spotlight once again on children’s services in England. 

Fingers have been pointed at social workers, teachers and police officers for failing to protect the six-year-old who was often forced to stand alone in the hallway of his family home for hours on end. 

The responsibility for the child’s death rests solely with his killers. It is, however, worth examining the impact of a decade of austerity on the same children’s services which have been criticised since his killers were sentenced.

Cuts to local government have put services under pressure over the last 10 years – understanding such pressure can help to avoid another horrific killing and save children’s lives. 

A Decade of Austerity

There are more looked-after children than ever before – 80,850 children in England, including children who have been adopted. 

However, despite the increased need, analysis by the charity Action for Children revealed how funding available for children’s services fell by £2.2 billion between 2010/11 and 2018/19, or a 23% reduction. This included a nearly 46% cut to early intervention services. 

The most deprived areas were hit hardest. Austerity measures led to a 60% cut in local authority funding from central government. These cuts meant a 17% fall in councils’ spending on local public services since 2010 – equal to 23% or nearly £300 per person. Almost this entire cut took place before 2015.

Councils have a legal duty to provide children’s services. In order to meet this duty, they were instructed to manage the cuts by making savings, and rely on making up the cuts’ impacts through council tax and business rates. 

Because wealthier regions charge higher council tax and rake in higher business rates, due to their residents’ assets and wealth, they were able to weather the austerity storm more easily. But in deprived areas – which are more likely to have higher rates of looked-after children – making up the funding shortfall has proven more challenging as they generate lower council tax revenues. 

Take Blackpool, one of the most deprived areas in England, with the highest rate of looked-after children of England’s unitary authorities. It has 220 children in care per 10,000 children. Its council tax revenue for this year was worth £64,724,000, to serve a population of 138,380, just under £470 per person. 

In contrast, England’s richest region – the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – has 36 looked-after children per 10,000 children. Its council tax revenue was £117,361,000 for a population of nearly 157,000 – or just more than £700 per person. 

Cities such as Birmingham, which records a large council tax revenue of £402,499,000 has a population of more than two million people – working out at £153.25 per person. The authority records 67 looked after children per 10,000 children. Liverpool, which has 157 looked-after children per 10,000 children, raised council tax revenue worth £199,035,000. It has a population of 906,000 people, or around £220 per person. 

How Vulnerable Children Becomean Investment Opportunity
Katharine Quarmby and Sian Norris

‘Favourable Demographics’

Spending per person on acute children’s services is budgeted to be 2% higher than a decade ago, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Councils have increased their spending by £1.1 billion in the past two years – but this combined with the cuts has led to councils overspending their budgets. Last year eight in 10 ended up overspending by £800 million collectively. The National Audit Office warned that 25 councils are on the cusp of bankruptcy.

There is one area where spending on children’s services has increased. While early intervention and places such as Sure Start centres have been cut, spending on children in care – be that residential or foster – soared by 40% between 2010/11 and 2018/19. This is in part because of the large increase in private provision of both foster and residential care for looked after children – an increase which can be costly for councils and profitable for investors.

Twenty years ago, 40% of children’s homes were privately run – it is now closer to 75%. About a third of children are placed in foster care using private agencies. A report by the Competition and Markets Authority revealed the significant profits private care homes and foster agencies are making, with local authorities paying for private providers to run these services. One pound in every five that English councils spend on private care is banked as profit.

In a November 2020 report published by the Children’s Commissioner, a local authority residential services manager explained how “private homes will charge what the market will allow. It’s not unusual for them to charge £8-9,000 [per week] because they can charge that. You know you’d usually be paying £6,000 [per week] but you’re going to have to take it because it’s Friday afternoon and there are no other options. The Commissioning team can see the cost breakdowns and can challenge this but ultimately if another local authority is prepared to pay that you have to take it because otherwise what do you do in that evening?”

A commissioning services manager shared how “we haven’t got the bargaining power to be able to say: ‘no, we’re not going to pay those prices’ because the next Friday one of us will. This provider popped up they were charging absurd prices, I think it was about £10,000 and we were all like ‘no, no, we’re never going to use that’ and literally within two weeks we were like: ‘can you take our child?’”

Byline Times has reported how the urgent need of children – some of whom will have endured neglect and abuse – to access residential or foster care is being touted by investment advisors as offering a “​​compelling buy and build strategy, favourable demographics, and significant consolidation opportunities”. Among the top 10 providers of children’s homes, seven are now owned by private equity firms. 

As such, vulnerable children are being treated as an investment opportunity by investors keen to make profits out of a perfect storm: austerity, deprivation, and cash-strapped councils. The six largest independent providers of placements made £219 million in profit last year.




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The Doctor Is Out, and These Babies Are Healthier For It

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/12/2021 - 7:00pm in

In the NICU of a remote town in the southern state of Karnataka, a technician fits a speculum onto a premature newborn’s dilated eyes and lubricates them with an anesthetic. Then, carefully, with a wide-field imaging camera, he takes photos of her retina and optic nerve. Examining them for any signs of Retinopathy of Prematurity (RoP) disease, within two to four minutes, he grades the disease and presents a follow-up schedule to the child’s parents

“Since your baby was born several weeks before the due date, the blood vessels in her eyes didn’t get a chance to develop fully,” N. Krishnan, the technician’s colleague and project manager tells the parents. If they don’t grow properly, the child could develop RoP disease and lose her sight, he explains, and asks the parents to bring the baby in again a week later, as her eyes would need frequent screening to monitor the disease.

Krishnan then uploads the images on a telemedicine platform — India’s first, and the world’s largest network of tele-RoP screening services — for a retina specialist to give a diagnosis in real time. 

The process is simple, but nearly unbelievable in impact. Over 3.5 million preterm infants are born in India every year, of which 200,000 are expected to become irreversibly blind from RoP, if untreated. RoP is the leading and most preventable cause of infant blindness across the world. And as neonatal facilities improve in India — where already eight out of 10,000 children are blind — more premature babies are surviving and in need of screening. 

The vast need cannot be met by doctors alone. The entire country has fewer than 24,000 ophthalmologists, which includes just 2,000 retina specialists and just over 200 RoP specialists. It’s unthinkable that the majority of parents of newborn premature babies, often from rural communities, would be able to afford the time and cost of travel with a fragile baby to seek them out simply for screening alone. 

Around 200,000 children in India are expected to become irreversibly blind from RoP, if untreated. Photo: KIDROP

But while the specialists are needed for treatment, the screening itself can be done from afar. That’s where Krishnan and his colleagues come in. 

Krishnan leads one of the five outreach teams of the Karnataka Internet Assisted Diagnosis of Retinopathy of Prematurity (KIDROP) program. Each team makes weekly visits to one of the 30 districts in Karnataka to screen prematurely-born babies for RoP disease with a fairly low-cost and indigenously developed portable wide-field camera. 

Using a technique called “task-shifting,” trained and accredited non-physician imagers in the KIDROP team replace the specialists for the screening — the most crucial and urgent part of the process. If needed, doctors can take over from there.  

“Babies need to be screened within the first month of birth and definitely before discharge from the NICU, if that’s sooner,” says Bengaluru-based Dr. Anand Vinekar, the brain behind the KIDROP program. Up until the second stage of the disease, no treatment is required, and for some babies, the disease resolves without intervention. But once the disease develops further, treatment with laser therapy within 48-hours becomes critical.  

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Because the window of treatment is small, quick diagnosis is crucial for parents, especially those traveling from remote rural areas to a NICU with a preterm child for several tests. They must know their child’s condition and the follow-up schedule before leaving the hospital. “If they don’t have a reason to come again for, say, three weeks, the child could be at a risk of developing RoP irreversibly,” Vinekar says. 

Take the case of K Manjunath, a resident of Mavinahalli village in Karnataka, whose daughter Monica was born three months prematurely in a public hospital. She was screened and diagnosed by KIDROP with RoP in one eye at 15 days old and the other at three months, and got timely treatment for both. “Without regular check-ups in both eyes, the diagnosis may have been missed in the second eye,” Manjunath says.

Today, 70,000 infants have been screened in over 200,000 imaging sessions in 127 NICUS in Karnataka. More than 3,050 have been treated. 

That doesn’t mean that the model is spreading without hesitation. When Vinekar’s students at the Narayana Nethralaya Eye Institute take the idea to their own states, they face resistance from neonatologists who are not convinced about permitting the screening in their facilities, or for babies who might be sick. 

“RoP screening is quick, easy and safe, and the sickest babies get the worst form of the disease, so every child should get it at the appropriate time,” Vinekar says. 

But the movement is growing: nine other Indian states and 13 countries including Nepal, Mexico, Lebanon, Australia and Thailand have adopted KIDROP’s “task-shifting” outreach model. 

Dr. Hemant Anaspure, a pediatric ophthalmologist based in Aurangabad in western India, noticed that pediatricians in his city did not have the time to counsel parents to screen their babies in the absence of firm evidence of the child developing the disease. Inspired by KIDROP, he started his outreach program privately with two other ophthalmologists in January 2018, without any state funding. “Earlier, parents did not see the point of traveling 100 to 200 miles frequently with a fragile, premature baby, susceptible to infection to diagnose a disease, which may or may not develop,” Anaspure says. “But now when an outreach technician explains everything to them with the images, they are convinced.”

The post The Doctor Is Out, and These Babies Are Healthier For It appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Should We Protect Children or Privacy?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/12/2021 - 7:00pm in

A year can seem unending. For an entire year, Julie Cordua tracked a man who regularly posted new images and videos online of him raping and torturing a very young girl. The predator was smart enough to hide any hints that might reveal his identity. “I felt increasingly angry and helpless,” Cordua says. She only knew about the case because two FBI agents had called her and asked for her help identifying the girl. “And I couldn’t help them, couldn’t do anything to stop the abuse,” Cordua remembers. “This is the type of failure that keeps you up at night, and it’s the type that clarifies our purpose.”

This life-changing case occurred seven years ago. As the CEO of the nonprofit Thorn, Cordua is now at the forefront of helping tech companies and law enforcement curb the online epidemic of children’s sexual abuse materials (CSAM). It took an entire year for the FBI to find and free the girl. Herself a mother of three, Cordua couldn’t get the images out of her mind. “I understood that this girl is not an isolated case,” she says from her office in Los Angeles. 

Thorn was founded in 2009 by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, originally under the name DNA. Its goal was to stop sex trafficking by using software to match online ads on infamous sites like with missing children. Cordua, 45, was a marketing expert for Bono’s RED program, fundraising $160 million for his AIDS work in Africa, before becoming CEO of Thorn. The experience with the FBI made it clear to her that the face-recognition technology Thorn had used was not enough, and she became determined to stop CSAM. She refocused Thorn’s mission on developing online tools that can help identify abusers as well as educate law enforcement, tech companies, parents and children. The foundation was renamed Thorn: “Just like thorns protect a rose, and the roses here are our children and their future.”

The foundation claims to “house the first engineering and data-science team focused solely on developing new technologies to combat online child sexual abuse.” Its flagship software program, Spotlight, is available to law enforcement at no cost. According to Thorn, it has reduced the time to find abused kids by 65 percent and identifies an average of nine vulnerable kids per day. Cordua says more than 17,000 children have been identified in the last five years with the help of Thorn’s software, which is now being used in 55 countries.

Cordua confides what is hardest for her is knowing that tech solutions exist but governments and tech companies would have to mount a unified effort to actually implement them. For instance, new tech tools let platforms flag problematic images automatically, eliminating the need for an underpaid worker to watch hours of traumatizing videos. Comparable to a virtual alarm button, these tools could alert platforms or police as soon as an image of a new abuse victim is uploaded so the case can be prioritized and the images prevented from going viral. But so far, most tech companies, from Dropbox to Apple, don’t scan uploads for illegal images. U.S. law requires them to report abuse material immediately, but not to look for it. 

When they do, they often face criticism. This August, when Apple announced updated features to curb the epidemic spread of CSAM, including an upload filter and scanning iCloud photos, a backlash ensued, and Apple postponed the introduction. “Make no mistake,” Princeton professor and computer science expert Jonathan Mayer warned, “Apple is gambling with security, privacy and free speech worldwide.”

Yet the problem urgently needs addressing. Some 21.7 million reports of CSAM were filed with the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) last year alone, a 28 percent increase from 2019 (and most reports contain several cases, so this amounts to roughly 80 million cases, and that’s only the ones that get reported). The distribution of CSAM has increased 10,000 percent in the last ten years, and 60 percent of the images show children under 12 years old. “A lot of them are what we refer to as preverbal, meaning they can’t talk, very young children whose abuse and assault and rape is documented on images and videos,” Cordua told the New York Times. Behind every CSAM file is a child in need of support, or a survivor whose trauma continues to spread online for many years after their escape. Since the internet is the most important “market” for predators, that is the place where they have to be beaten, say experts, with tech tools. 

child abuseSource: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

I assumed most of the horrific images would be hidden on the dark net. But according to Cordua and other experts, predators have little to fear when they upload abusive content to their cloud on Amazon or Apple. Extensive research by the New York Times shows that “cloud storage services, including those owned by Amazon and Microsoft, do not scan for any of the illegal content at all, while other companies, like Snap, scan for photos but not videos.” Anybody could store brutal abuse images in their digital cloud without worry of being unmasked. But it’s not just the Big Five that avert their eyes. Cordua shares several examples of small businesses that had no idea their platforms were being used to hide CSAM. “When they upload our software, it usually only takes a few hours before the first CSAM are flagged. The owners are always shocked.”

A fragmented system

The distribution of child pornography was nearly eliminated in the 1980s, simply because it became too risky for predators to send the materials by mail. The anonymity of the internet led to an explosion of CSAM, often with online pressure from abusers to upload increasingly graphic images. 

So companies use codes called “hash” to identify problematic images automatically, without the need to review each one individually (or peek into users’ private messages). But each platform uses its own system. Facebook and Google, for instance, couldn’t support each other in discovering CSAM because their systems weren’t compatible. They also didn’t have a way to distinguish old images from images of children who were currently being abused, whose rescue needs to be prioritized. 

This is where Thorn comes in. “Our first, most basic premise is that all of this data must be connected,” says Cordua. Thorn developed a program called Safer for platforms to sync their codes because CSAM are marketed internationally. Thorn is now working with more than 8,000 companies worldwide, and Safer has helped tech platforms identify over 180,000 CSAM files this year alone. Cordua is hesitant to reveal how the software works because she does not want to tip off abusers.

“We know that discovering how to defend children from sexual abuse while maintaining user privacy is difficult,” Cordua acknowledges. “To be successful we need companies like Apple and many others to continue to collectively turn their innovation and ingenuity to this issue, creating platforms that prioritize both privacy and safety.”

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The EU’s new guidelines for platforms highlight how complex striking this balance can be. In Germany, for instance, platforms currently store data for seven days, which means that even when an abuser’s IP address is identified, most data has already been erased before law enforcement can act. Reiner Becker, a former police officer and head of the nonprofit German Children’s Aid, accuses the platforms of protecting abusers’ identity. “I used to be fiercely against storing data. But when someone has abused children, they have foregone their right to privacy.” 

Privacy advocates often disagree. When Google identified an abuser in 2014 through his private emails and alerted law enforcement, the tech community protested. (Google automatically scans emails for keywords, usually for targeting ads.) But Cordua believes abuse victims also have a claim to privacy under this logic. “What about the privacy of the children?” she asks. “We know that it is extremely traumatizing for survivors to know that the images of their abuse are shared online for years and decades.” 

Does allowing online monitoring for one crime, child abuse, raise the risk that such surveillance could then creep into other aspects of our online lives? What about depictions of other crimes, like drug use? “Everybody wants to talk about the slippery slopes of ifs, buts, maybes, but the other slippery slope is an absolute that we know about,” Ashton Kutcher recently commented in a New York Times podcast. “And that slippery slope is these kids and the evidence of their rape being syndicated online.” He acknowledges that the software could be used “nefariously,” and that addressing the issue means “walking a tightrope between privacy and morality.”

Watching online abuse continue unabated for more than a year, as Cordua initially had to do, left her with one conviction: “Inaction is not an option. Every child whose sexual abuse continues to be enabled by Apple’s platforms deserves better.” 

The post Should We Protect Children or Privacy? appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Book at Lunchtime: Iconoclasm as Child's Play

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 09/11/2020 - 5:24pm in

Dr Joseph Moshenska, Associate Professor and Tutorial Fellow at University College, discusses his new book, Iconoclasm as Child's Play. Drawing on a range of sixteenth-century artifacts, artworks, and texts, as well as on ancient and modern theories of iconoclasm and of play, Iconoclasm As Child's Play argues that the desire to shape and interpret the playing of children is an important cultural force. Formerly holy objects may have been handed over with an intent to debase them, but play has a tendency to create new meanings and stories that take on a life of their own.

Joe Moshenska shows that this form of iconoclasm is not only a fascinating phenomenon in its own right; it has the potential to alter our understandings of the threshold between the religious and the secular, the forms and functions of play, and the nature of historical transformation and continuity.

Panel includes: Dr Joseph Moshenska is Associate Professor and Tutorial Fellow at University College. Joe grew up in Brighton, and as an undergraduate he read English at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. After graduating he went to Princeton, initially for a year as the Eliza Jane Procter Visiting Fellow, and stayed there to complete his PhD. From 2010 to 2018 he was a Fellow and Director of Studies in English at Trinity College, Cambridge. Joe joined the Oxford Faculty in 2018. In 2019 he was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize. Professor Lorna Hutson is the Merton Professor of English Literature and Director of the Centre for Early Modern Studies. She was educated in San Francisco, Edinburgh and Oxford and has repeated that pattern in her career, having taught at Berkeley, St Andrews and now Oxford. Professor Hutson is a Fellow of the British Academy and works on English Renaissance literature. She has written on usury and literature, on women’s writing and the representation of women, on poetics and forensic rhetoric and, most recently, on the geopolitics of England’s ‘insular imagining’ in the sixteenth century.” Professor Alexandra Walsham is Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge. She currently serves as Chair of the Faculty of History. She was an undergraduate and Masters student at the University of Melbourne before coming to Trinity College, Cambridge, for her PhD. After a Research Fellowship at Emmanuel College, she taught at the University of Exeter for fourteen years before returning to Cambridge in 2010. She was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2009 and of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 2013. She was appointed a CBE for services to History in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2017. Professor Kenneth Gross is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Rochester. His critical writing ranges from Renaissance literature, especially Shakespeare, to modern poetry, theater, and the visual arts. His books include The Dream of the Moving Statue, Shakespeare’s Noise, Shylock is Shakespeare, and most recently Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life, winner of the 2012 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. He’s also the editor of John Hollander’s 1999 Clark Lectures at Cambridge, The Substance of Shadow: A Darkening Trope in Poetic History. Gross has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Bellagio Study Center, the Princeton Humanities Center, and the American Academy in Berlin. Gross has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Bellagio Study Center, the Princeton Humanities Center, and the American Academy in Berlin.

Professor Matthew Bevis is Professor of English Literature and Tutorial Fellow at Keble College. He is the author of The Art of Eloquence, Comedy: A Very Short Introduction, and, most recently, Wordsworth’s Fun (Chicago University Press, 2019). His recent essays have appeared in the London Review of Books, Harper's, Poetry, and The New York Review of Books. He’s currently working on Knowing Edward Lear for Oxford University Press, and a book On Wonder for Harvard University Press.

Inequality from the Child’s Perspective: Social mobility in pandemic times

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/08/2020 - 12:22am in

Watch my presentation about the three ways the disruptions and stresses of the COVID19 pandemic threaten the future prospects of children, the implications they have for the conduct of public policy, and the possibilities for future research.

This presentation was offered to the “Inequality by the Numbers” virtual workshop organized by The Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. The workshop includes a host of other presentations by my colleagues at The Stone Center and the affiliated fellows. Check them all out at this link:

Children in Care Falling Behind Most Benchmarks: Research

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 27/08/2015 - 1:41pm in


research, Children