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They’re called the Little Barbies.

Children, young girls–some as young as 9 years old–are being bought and sold for sex in America. The average age for a young woman being sold for sex is now 13 years old.

This is America’s dirty little secret.

According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, “Children are being targeted and sold for sex in America every day.”

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Sex trafficking–especially when it comes to the buying and selling of young girls–has become big business in America, the fastest growing business in organized crime and the second most-lucrative commodity traded illegally after drugs and guns.

As investigative journalist Amy Fine Collins notes, “It’s become more lucrative and much safer to sell malleable teens than drugs or guns. A pound of heroin or an AK-47 can be retailed once, but a young girl can be sold 10 to 15 times a day.”

Consider this: every two minutes, a child is exploited in the sex industry.

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According to USA Today, adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in the United States.

Who buys a child for sex? Otherwise ordinary men from all walks of life.

They could be your co-worker, doctor, pastor or spouse,” writes journalist Tim Swarens, who spent more than a year investigating the sex trade in America.

In Georgia alone, it is estimated that 7,200 men (half of them in their 30s) seek to purchase sex with adolescent girls each month, averaging roughly 300 a day.

On average, a child might be raped by 6,000 men during a five-yearperiod of servitude.

It is estimated that at least 100,000 children–girls and boys–are bought and sold for sex in the U.S. every year, with as many as 300,000 children in danger of being trafficked each year. Some of these children are forcefully abducted, others are runaways, and still others are sold into the system by relatives and acquaintances.

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“Human trafficking–the commercial sexual exploitation of American children and women, via the Internet, strip clubs, escort services, or street prostitution–is on its way to becoming one of the worst crimes in the U.S.,” said prosecutor Krishna Patel.

This is not a problem found only in big cities.

It’s happening everywhere, right under our noses, in suburbs, cities and towns across the nation.

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At the World Economic Forum meeting last month in Davos, Switzerland, Neil Bruce, president and CEO of Montreal-based design-build giant SNC-Lavalin Inc., was named to co-chair its Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI), a CEO-led anti-corruption effort, the firm said on Jan. 29.

Working with outside groups, PACI will set “industry practices to rebuild and foster trust in business and institutions,” SNC-Lavalin said. It has about 90 corporate signatories. Other co-chairs named are Deloitte global Chairman David Cruickshank and Thomson Reuters USA CEO James C. Smith. Fluor Corp. Chairman David T. Seaton is a PACI steering board member.

Bruce has advanced SNC-Lavalin’s implementation of a more robust ethics and anti-corruption platform for its estimated 50,000 global employees since 2012, when details surfaced of alleged bribes by some executives to win contracts in Canada, Libya and Bangladesh. These incidents occurred before Bruce joined the firm in 2013 and became CEO in 2015; executives involved no longer work for the firm.  

Bruce said in December that SNC-Lavalin reached an agreement with Québec government agencies under the province’s Voluntary Reimbursement Program to settle improper payments over the past 20 years stemming from fraud or fraudulent tactics used to win public contracts. The payment amounts and other terms were not disclosed. 

According to a January online review by Toronto law firm McCarthy Tétrault LLP, SNC-Lavalin, two subsidiaries and two former executives are set for trial in September related to criminal charges for Libya payments. The parent and units have pleaded not guilty to two charges. Other ex-executives’ trials are set for October and next January.

But SNC-Lavalin may be able to settle the charges, as Canada considers enacting a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) approach, which it now lacks, unlike the U.S., the U.K. and other G-7 nations. A DPA would allow firms to settle criminal charges by agreeing to restitution, remedial steps and independent monitoring, among other measures. Bruce has been among the Canadian executives who have testified in favor of DPAs in the just-ended public consultations with federal officials. Later this year, Canada is set to release recommendations on a DPA approach and possible reform of debarment rules for government contractors.

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis announces his retirement Friday, Jan. 26, 2018 in East Lansing, Mich. Hollis is the second university official to step down in as many days amid sharp criticism over the school’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar. (Jake May/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP)

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University’s athletic director retired two days after the university president resigned over the school’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against its disgraced former sports doctor, Larry Nassar.

Mark Hollis, who had been in the job for 10 years, disclosed the move during a meeting with a small group of reporters on campus. He was asked why he would not stay on.

“Because I care,” Hollis said, holding back tears. “When you look at the scope of everything, that’s the reason I made a choice to retire now. And I hope that has a little bit, a little bit, of helping that healing process.”

Hours later, the university named its vice president to serve as acting president after the departure of President Lou Anna Simon. Bill Beekman is expected to serve briefly in the role until the board of trustees can hire an interim president and then a permanent leader.

Also, USA Gymnastics confirmed that its entire board of directors would resign as requested by the U.S. Olympic Committee. The USOC had threatened to decertify the organization, which besides picking U.S. national teams is the umbrella organization for hundreds of clubs across the country.

Some of the nation’s top gymnasts, including Olympians Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Simone Biles and Jordyn Wieber, said they were among Nassar’s victims.

At the university board’s meeting, Chairman Brian Breslin said it was “clear that MSU has not been focused enough on the victims.” The trustees, he said, want to resume discussions with those who have sued the school to “reach a fair and just conclusion.” Talks broke down last year.

The board plans to ask an independent third party to review health and safety at the school, and it wants state Attorney General Bill Schuette to consider appointing a neutral investigator to conduct an inquiry of the Nassar matter “to promote bipartisan acceptance of the results.” Schuette, who is running for governor, will further detail his probe in a news conference Saturday.

Trustee Brian Mosallam addressed his remarks toward the victims: “I am so truly sorry. We failed you.”

Beekman is vice president and secretary of the board. He began working at the university in 1995 and previously led the MSU Alumni Association. He has an undergraduate degree from MSU.

“I think our culture here at Michigan State clearly needs to improve,” he said. “We need to be able to make everybody that comes on our campus feel safe.”

Simon submitted her resignation Wednesday after Nassar, a former Michigan State employee, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for molesting young girls and women under the guise of medical treatment.

Several of the 150-plus victims who spoke at his sentencing hearing were former athletes at the school, and many victims accused the university of mishandling past complaints about Nassar.

“I don’t believe that I’ve ever met him,” Hollis said of Nassar. He insisted he did not know about complaints of abuse until an Indianapolis Star report in 2016.

Gov. Rick Snyder said he is mulling an inquiry into the university, depending on whether it would interfere with other investigations such as the attorney general’s. Under the state constitution, the governor can remove or suspend public officers for “gross neglect of duty,” corruption or “other misfeasance or malfeasance.”

“The governor hasn’t seen enough done for the survivors after everything they’ve gone through,” spokeswoman Anna Heaton said. “He wants to make sure that something is being done.”

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos confirmed that her agency is also investigating the Nassar scandal. She said in a statement that what happened at the school is “abhorrent” and “cannot happen ever again — there or anywhere.”

The Education Department was already reviewing separate complaints about the school’s compliance with Title IX, the law that requires public schools to offer equal opportunities to both genders, and compliance with requirements about providing campus crime and security information.

The board expressed support for Simon before her resignation, but she faced pressure from many students, faculty and legislators. While there has been no evidence that Simon or Hollis knew of Nassar’s sexual abuse, some of the women and girls who accused him said they complained to university employees as far back as the late 1990s.

Board members, who are elected in statewide votes, have also come under intense scrutiny. Two announced they will not seek re-election. Another, Joel Ferguson, apologized at the meeting for conducting an interview in which he said there was more going on at Michigan State than “this Nassar thing.”

The university faces lawsuits from more than 130 victims. Ferguson previously had said victims were ambulance chasers seeking a payday. The school resisted calls for an independent investigation before asking Schuette for a review a week ago.

Dozens of Michigan State students gathered Friday evening on campus to protest the school’s handling of the Nassar allegations. Some were expected to march to the Breslin Center where the men’s basketball team was hosting Wisconsin Friday night.

Organizers called for students attending the game to wear teal-colored T-shirts in the “Izzone,” a vocal student cheering section named after head basketball coach Tom Izzo.

In a recent filing, Michigan State asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuits on technical grounds. The school says it has immunity under state law and that the majority of victims were not MSU students at the time of the alleged assaults.

“These arguments can seem disrespectful” to victims, but a defense is required by Michigan State’s insurers, Simon wrote last week in a campus-wide email. She added, “We have the utmost respect and sympathy” for victims.

The board last month authorized the creation of a $10 million fund to offer victims counseling and mental health services.

A Title IX probe conducted by the university cleared Nassar of sexual assault allegations in 2014. He was advised by the school to avoid being alone with patients while treating their “sensitive areas,” but the school did not follow up on and enforce its request.

At least 12 reported assaults occurred after the investigation ended, according to a university police report that was provided to the FBI for review by the U.S. attorney.

Hollis said he did not know about the 2014 investigation and has told as much to the FBI and campus police.

Former Michigan State rower Cate Hannum, who was treated by Nassar and wrote an open letter criticizing Simon’s handling of the case almost a year ago, said Hollis would not be retiring if he had “approached the situation with integrity from the very beginning instead of adopting a not-my-problem attitude.”

Now it doesn’t matter what Hollis did for MSU athletics, she said, “because he will be remembered for egregiously failing his female athletes.”

Hannum reached out to Nike about the apparel company’s partnership with Michigan State. Nike replied with a letter and a phone call to Hannum, who said she’s pleased with the response.

“We stand in support of athletes and we’ve expressed our deep concerns with Michigan State University,” the letter said. “We are following the details of the rapidly developing events at the university and evolving actions by the Board of Trustees.”

A message seeking comment was left with Nike earlier by The Associated Press.

Before the Spartans basketball game, football coach Mark Dantonio briefly addressed reporters in response to an ESPN report detailing various allegations involving Michigan State football and basketball players.

“I’m here tonight to say that any accusations of my handling of any complaints of sexual assault individually are completely false,” Dantonio said. “Every incident reported in that article was documented by either police or the Michigan State Title IX office. I’ve always worked with the proper authorities when dealing with the cases of sexual assault.”

The fallout also includes former Michigan State basketball player Travis Walton, put on administrative leave by the Los Angeles Clippers, who employ him as an assistant coach with their G League team. Walton had assault and battery charges dismissed and was named in a sexual assault report in 2010, according to ESPN, citing a police report and university document. Hollis said he would conduct his own investigation about sexual assault allegations against Walton, a former Michigan State sexual assault counselor told ESPN.

USA Gymnastics board of directors to resign under pressure

By AP

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The remaining members of the USA Gymnastics board of directors will resign under pressure from the United States Olympic Committee after the USOC threatened to decertify the organization if it didn’t take more strident steps toward change amid the fallout from the scandal surrounding former team doctor Larry Nassar.

The executive board, including chairman Paul Parilla, resigned. USA Gymnastics announced that the remaining 18 board members, who are unpaid volunteers representing various threads of the sport across the country, will leave their positions. The announcement came two days after an open letter from USOC chief operating officer Scott Blackmun called for a “full turnover of leadership.”

USA Gymnastics said in a statement it will comply with the USOC’s wishes.

“USA Gymnastics supports the United States Olympic Committee’s letter and accepts the absolute need of the Olympic family to promote a safe environment for all of our athletes,” the organization wrote in a statement. “We agree with the USOC’s statement that the interests of our athletes and clubs, and their sport, may be better served by moving forward with meaningful change within our organization, rather than decertification.”

One of the crown jewels of the U.S. Olympic movement is reeling following Nassar’s downfall. The longtime team doctor, who spent more than 20 years with the organization before leaving in 2015, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison Wednesday for molesting seven women. Part of the sentencing process included over 100 victim’s impact statements read into the record, several of them high-profile Olympians like six-time medalist Aly Raisman, 2011 world champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber and two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney.

The sentencing hearing that allowed the young women to give a face and a voice to their abuse to millions of television viewers did what nearly 18 months of lawsuits and admissions by some of the most high-profile gymnasts in the country could not: move the needle enough to spur significant action.

USA Gymnastics did force out former president Steve Penny last spring and hired Kerry Perry in November as his replacement. The rest of the power structure, however, remained intact. Rachael Denhollander, the first person to come forward as Nassar victim in the fall of 2016, asked the board’s executive officers to resign last August. Raisman talked repeatedly about the need for a complete organizational overhaul after outlining the abuse Nassar subjected her to in her book released in November. Olympic champion Simone Biles came forward as Nassar victim on Jan. 15 and wondered why she had to continue to train at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas, a place where she said Nassar abused her earlier in her career.

USA Gymnastics announced shortly after Biles’ critique it was ending its long relationship with the Karolyi Ranch. The board’s executive officers stepped down and the rest of the group will now follow suit.

“USA Gymnastics supports an independent investigation that may shine light on how abuse of the proportion described so courageously by the survivors of Larry Nassar could have gone undetected for so long and embraces any necessary and appropriate changes,” the organization wrote. “USA Gymnastics and the USOC have the same goal — making the sport of gymnastics, and others, as safe as possible for athletes to follow their dreams in a safe, positive and empowered environment.”

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis announces his retirement Friday, Jan. 26, 2018 in East Lansing, Mich. Hollis is the second university official to step down in as many days amid sharp criticism over the school’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar. (Jake May/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP)

HORSE RACING: With Rockhampton’s Capricornia Yearling Sale fast approaching in April, it seems appropriate that most interest at today’s Callaghan Park races will centre around, for want of a better expression, “youth”.

Equine youth that is, in the $30,000 QTIS 2YO CL 2 (1100M) and the $36,200 QTIS Jewel 3YO Qualifier (1100m).

Visiting Townsville trainer Bill Kenning and Mackay’s Lyle Wright seemingly hold the keys to the outcome of the juvenile race.

Kenning will start his unbeaten (Falvelon-Flinders Command x Commands) filly, the aptly named Flinders Highway, to be ridden by 1.5kg claiming apprentice Rhiannon Payne.

Wright runs Cyclone Topgirl (Changeintheweather (USA) -Aleysa Khan x Kanoot), a two times winner and runner-up to Flinders Highway on debut at Townsville on October 28.

In a four-horse field the Capricornia Yearling Sales is represented by last year’s graduate, the Tom Button and Al Grimshaw-owned Ruby Georgie (Sidereus-Little Pin Up Girl (NZ) x Pins).

Ruby Georgie impressively won the lucrative Rockhampton Breeder’s Plate (1050m) at his first attempt on November 17 before resuming with a fighting second to Tambo’s Vixen at Callaghan Park on January 25. The other starter is the Krystle Johnston-trained colt Craiglea Rubble which is anything but a slouch judging by a Mackay win on December 14.

It makes for an enthralling race, particularly so with senior jockeys Nathan Day aboard Cyclone Topgirl and Nigel Seymour riding Ruby Georgie.

Day is in superb form and has few peers in this neck of the woods on a two-year-old.

With his distinctive low crouch in the saddle in the barriers, Day has the happy knack of getting youngsters to jump brilliantly, thus positioning them in key roles in their races.

Jockey Nathan Day will saddle up on Cyclone Topgirl at today's race meeting in Rockhampton.

Jockey Nathan Day will saddle up on Cyclone Topgirl at today’s race meeting in Rockhampton. Marty Strecker Photography

It will be crucial he does so with Cyclone Topgirl, who flashed home brilliantly in just going under to Flinders Highway by 1.5 lengths at their Townsville clash.

It’s a fact the canny Kenning knows only too well as he commented on arrival in Rockhampton with Flinders Highway after traversing the Bruce Highway at 11am on Tuesday.

“My filly travelled well but it is I suppose a trial and error test for her in the Rocky race,” he said.

“She hasn’t been away from Cluden (Townsville) racing and she won’t want to be a tearaway leader down the long run-in at Callaghan Park in Rockhampton.

“She has gotten away with that hit the ground and run style of racing at Cluden where you can do it. Not so here,” Kenning said.

The 3YO QTIS Jewel Qualifier (1100m) is an even more intriguing race.

Among its five starters are the simply amazing record-breaking Rockhampton filly Paradis Imperial – only once out of the prize money in 18 starts, amassing $343,650 for a race average of just over $19,000.

Ever conservative, her trainer – this racing scribe – admits her task is arduous given she is handicapped on 64kg but will carry 61kg, but then again she is honesty personified.

However, Paradis Imperial hesitated at the start, bringing about her loss to Wicked Express here on January 11, and she should have definitely finished second at the Sunshine Coast at her subsequent defeat.

Brisbane trainer Paul Butterworth (Wonder Boom) is quoted in a Queensland Racing website article as saying “I can’t see him getting beaten” which is a bold statement and an even bigger tip for punters.

Then there is Tom Button’s Wicked Express, who under the light weight of 55.5kg has a huge advantage with Nigel Seymour aboard which is worth at least another three kilograms in value.

The knockout could be Ross Shannon’s Astral Odyssey, who produced an amazing effort to come to from the clouds for a flashing third to Wicked Express on debut.

It was tantamount to a simply amazing feat rarely seen and if Astral Odyssey performs similarly today the race could be his as he will only carry 52.5kg, getting 8.5kg off Paradis Imperial, 6kg off Wonder Boom and 3kg from Wicked Express.

Remember, it is not always the best horse that wins the race but the best weighted.