Wednesday, November 6th, 2013
A computer-generated digital decoy of a girl its developers call “Sweetie” has successfully lured thousands of would-be predators into asking her to perform sex acts online. Around 250 Americans were among the 1,000 who the children’s rights group Terre des Hommes were able to identify and pass along to Interpol for possible prosecution. The group says thousands more, who were untraceable, made attempts to solicit sexual behaviors from “Sweetie.” More from NBC News:
Overall, almost 20,000 people made approaches to the virtual girl — who was modeled on a 10-year-old — but the charity was unable to track them all down.
“The child predators doing this now feel that the law doesn’t apply to them,” said Hans Guyt, director of campaigns at Terre des Hommes Netherlands. “The Internet is free, but not lawless.”
He added that real children were often forced into remote commercial child sexual exploitation — or “webcam child sex tourism” — by adults or extreme poverty.
“Sometimes they have to testify against their own family, which is almost an impossible thing to do for a child,” Guyt added. “Once a child has become a victim of sexual abuse, rehabilitation can take many years. It is along, painful, and labor-intensive process for children to overcome the trauma.”
Using methods similar to Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator,” the researchers worked from a building in Amsterdam during the summer. “Sweetie” was placed in public Internet chat rooms and the charity’s investigators waited for her to be approached.
“Sweetie” was deluged with requests for sexual webcam performances and while the would-be predators interacted with the virtual girl, researchers gathered information about their identities.
Image: “Sweetie,” via http://www.terredeshommes.org
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Monday, October 7th, 2013
A 9-year-old boy apparently evaded airport security and even gate check-in by slipping unnoticed onto a Delta Airlines flight from Minneapolis to Las Vegas last week. Crew members, who became suspicious during the flight, alerted authorities, and he was turned over to Child Protective Services in Nevada. More from CNN.com:
Delta said it takes the incident “very seriously” and is working with authorities.
The boy traveled Thursday on flight 1651, a Boeing 757 from Minneapolis to Las Vegas.
The airline spells out its policy on children flying solo plainly on its website.
Kids between the ages of 5 and 14 may travel alone as part of the unaccompanied minor program. Someone from Delta pays special attention to the children, walks them on board, shows them their seats and even introduces them to the cockpit crew, time permitting, Delta says, adding, “kids love this part.”
Airport officials reviewed security footage and don’t think the child had a ticket, CNN affiliate KARE reported.
The boy spent a good amount of time at the airport before boarding the plane, KARE said.
He was there the day before, the station reported, citing airport officials. He passed his time by taking luggage from a carousel, bringing it to an airport eatery and then ditching it, asking a server to watch the bag “while he went to the restroom.”
Yet the potential red flags of a 9-year-old, traveling alone and leaving unattended luggage, failed to trigger any action.
The following day the child took the train to the airport, cleared security and nearly made it to Las Vegas without detection.
“Obviously, the fact that the child’s actions weren’t detected until he was in flight is concerning,” [Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport], wrote. Still, 33 million people travel through Minneapolis’ airport every year, he noted. “I don’t know of another instance in my 13 years at the airport in which anything similar has happened,” he said.
Image: Airplane, via Shutterstock
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Friday, October 4th, 2013
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has approved new safety standards for cradles and bassinets, designed to prevent deaths and injuries that can happen in poorly constructed versions. More than 130 children died between 2007 and 2013 because of faulty bassinets and cradles, and the CPSC is aware of 426 incidents involving them. The new guidelines include:
- a clarification of the scope of the bassinet/cradle standard;
- a change to the pass/fail criterion for the mattress flatness test;
- an exemption from the mattress flatness requirement for bassinets that are less than 15 inches across;
- the addition of a removable bassinet bed stability requirement; and
- a change to the stability test procedure, requiring the use of a newborn CAMI dummy rather than an infant CAMI dummy.
The new standards, which define “bassinet or cradle” as a small bed designed primarily to provide sleeping accommodations for infants, supported by free standing legs, a stationary frame or stand, a wheeled base, a rocking base, or swing relative to a stationary base. In a stationary (non-rocking or swinging) position, a bassinet/cradle is intended to have a sleep surface less than or equal to 10 degrees from horizontal. Bassinets and cradles are not meant to be used past the age of 5 months.
A major impetus behind the new guidelines is the prevention of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Check your own sleep safety habits by reading this article by Parents.com’s health director: The Safe-Sleep Rules Parents Break
Image: Bassinet, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, July 25th, 2013
Families are getting more serious about using sunscreen consistently, which is an important practice for skin health. But the US Food and Drug Administration is warning that spray sunscreens, if applied near very hot surfaces like grills or campfires, could become flammable and cause serious injury. No children have reported injuries from spray sunscreen, but the FDA urged parents to read labels carefully and avoid any products that are flammable.
The FDA issued a statement, which reads, in part:
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has become aware of five separate incidents in which people wearing sunscreen spray near sources of flame suffered significant burns that required medical treatment. The specific products reported to have been used in these cases were voluntarily recalled from the market, so should no longer be on store shelves.
However, many other sunscreen spray products contain flammable ingredients, commonly alcohol. The same is true for certain other spray products, such as hairspray and insect repellants, and even some non-spray sunscreens may contain flammable ingredients. Many flammable products have a label warning against their use near an open flame.
You should never apply a product labeled as flammable while you are near a source of flame. In the five incidents reported to FDA, however, the burns occurred after the sunscreen spray had been applied. The ignition sources were varied and involved lighting a cigarette, standing too close to a lit citronella candle, approaching a grill, and in one case, doing some welding. These incidents suggest that there is a possibility of catching fire if you are near an open flame or a spark after spraying on a flammable sunscreen—even if you believe you have waited a sufficient time for the sunscreen to dry and your skin feels dry.
“Based on this information, we recommend that after you have applied a sunscreen spray labeled as flammable, you consider avoiding being near an open flame, sparks or an ignition source,” says Narayan Nair, M.D., a lead medical officer at FDA.
Image: Spray sunscreen, via Shutterstock
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Friday, June 14th, 2013
Formal swimming lessons, conducted by a certified instructor, may be the key to reducing the number of child drownings in the U.S. Drowning is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 19, and although it is established that lessons give children the skills they need to survive in the water, access to those resources is often restricted in lower income and minority communities. More from The New York Times:
Huge numbers of children are unable to swim, which largely explains why drowning is the second leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 19. Three years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its policy, reinforcing its advice that children ages 4 and older should learn to swim but also noting that children ages 1 to 4 are less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming lessons.
Furthermore, very young children who are comfortable in water are likely to be easier to teach to swim when they are ready to learn formal strokes.
According to the USA Swimming Foundation, about 70 percent of African-American children, 60 percent of Latino children and 40 percent of white children are nonswimmers. Lack of access and financial constraints account only partly for these numbers. Fear, cultural factors and even cosmetic issues play a role as well.
“Before the Civil War, more blacks than whites could swim,” Lynn Sherr, the author of “Swim: Why We Love the Water,” said in an interview. “There are many stories of shipwrecks in which black slaves rescued their owners.”
But as Ms. Sherr learned from Bruce Wigo of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, segregation destroyed the aquatic culture of the black community. “Once whites discovered swimming, blacks were increasingly excluded from public pools and lifeguarded beaches,” Mr. Wigo told her.
As a result, many minority parents never learned how to swim. Adults who can’t swim often fear the water and, directly or indirectly, convey that fear to their children.
Image: Child swimming, via Shutterstock
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