Human Trafficking: slavery in your back yard

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Many people believe that slavery in America ended with the Civil War, but thanks to the global industry of human trafficking this is not the case. As the second largest illegal industry in the world, human traffickers bring in an estimated $150 billion every year by exploiting others for labor or sex.

Miss. Republican Senator Roger Wicker is an advocate for policies fighting human trafficking. He backed the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act” in 2015, inspired by his own “End Trafficking Act,” which he introduced in 2014. Senator Wicker calls the fight against trafficking “a daily war fought by young women robbed of their freedom, their dignity, their childhoods, and often their very lives.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act” exists to “combat trafficking in persons, especially into the sex trade, slavery, and involuntary servitude.” There have been three amendments to the Act, all presented by Senator Wicker.

Young women are not the only potential victims of human trafficking, however. While the average age that girls first become victims is 13 years old, the average age for boys is 11. Louisiana-born Mississippian Julie Cantrell is the author of The Feathered Bone, a fiction novel that realistically portrays the world of sex trafficking. Cantrell met with many human trafficking survivors as part of her research, all ranging from age four to age 42.

“I think many people believe that people work in the sex industry (only) by choice or that those who are trafficked are lost causes who will do anything for drug money,” Cantrell said. “Most of those trafficked are lured into the trade at very young ages. By the time they realize the danger they’re in, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, for them to find their way back to freedom.”

Human trafficking is a rapidly increasing problem here in America. Polaris, an anti-trafficking organization based out of D.C., reported that in 2016 there were 7,500 cases of human trafficking reported in the United States. In 2015 there were just under 2,000. The International Labor Organization estimates that hundreds of thousands of the approximately 20.9 million worldwide trafficking victims are in America.

Many Americans don’t know that it is happening, making them unable to look for warning signs when trafficking occurs. Additionally, many victims are unable to help law enforcement catch traffickers, so even when some are saved their abusers continue trafficking new victims.  

Often times survivors who make it out of a trafficking ring are traumatized and want no more to do with it. Other times they are scared of what the trafficker or pimp will do to them or their families in retaliation for speaking to police. Survivors are also hesitant to seek help from the law because before they are rescued, they are technically committing the crime of prostitution. This, as well as a general lack of awareness among the public makes it hard to prevent trafficking in the United States. Unfortunately there is no way to know how many cases of human trafficking are not reported, but many believe there are more cases not reported than cases reported.

This crime is especially increasing in the South. Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Louisiana were all in the top 20 worst states for human trafficking according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. However, police are aware of several routes that are used to transport victims of human trafficking. I-10 and I-55 are two of these routes. New Orleans and Memphis are both national trafficking hubs, so it is no surprise that these highways are used by traffickers regularly.

In February of this year, Darnell Davis, 31, of Hernando was arrested on I-55 for abducting a Memphis teen and transporting her five hours from home to Natchez, Miss. Police believe he was en route back to Memphis with the girl at the time of his arrest.

“It’s very disturbing,” a neighbor (identified as “Zipper”) of the girl told Fox13. “You don’t realize the stuff is going on around you. You never know.”

Just a few weeks later in March, Pierre Braddy, of Jackson, Miss. was sentenced to 20 years in Jefferson Parish, La. after he plead guilty to forcible rape, human trafficking and obstruction of justice. Braddy was being tried for crimes he committed in April 2015 against a 25 year old woman who was found severely beaten after being forced into prostitution in New Orleans.

The woman tried to escape multiple times, and every time Braddy beat her, even forcing other women to beat her until she was unconscious. The victim was rescued by an undercover officer who answered an online ad hoping to catch a prostitute. When he got to the arranged meeting place, he found the woman with extensive injuries.

This woman met Braddy after he responded to her online advertisement. She had become a prostitute to support her drug addiction. However, many victims are trafficked by people they know, sometimes even their own parents.

The act of exploiting humans for money is not a new idea, but as awareness for human trafficking spreads many are calling for harsher and more specific laws to be put into place to deter traffickers from continuing their trade. In her research, Julie Cantrell had the chance to interview a trafficker, or pimp.

“This particular pimp did not mind the idea of his daughters being sold, but he could not tolerate the idea of the same happening to his son,” Cantrell said. “That is something to consider. Why are we more tolerant of sex abuse when it is happening to girls?”

End Slavery Tennessee is a Christian-based nonprofit dedicated to spreading awareness for and combating trafficking in Tenn. One girl they rescued was sold multiple times a week by her parents from the time she was five years old. The family appeared to be an average, middle class family. Her parents were active in their church and community, so no one ever suspected what was going on.

“If you think it can’t happen to you or your friend, sister, cousin, etc. you’re wrong,” Cantrell said. “If you think it can’t happen in Oxford or at Ole Miss, you’re also wrong.”

What Works 4/25/17

“Safe Haven for Human Trafficking Victims”

First of all, I have a problem with the headline. I think it’s better to refer to people who have been through this tragedy “survivors” instead of “victims” because these people are strong people who have been through something awful. Being called a victim wouldn’t make me feel strong or prepared to reintegrate into society.

It’s the first headline if you google news search “human trafficking Mississippi,” so it’s pretty SEO friendly. The lead is pretty soft, just explaining human trafficking for about 3 paragraphs. It’s also just not written very well. It’s short, but the paragraphs are 2-3 times as long as they should be. Additionally, I felt that a majority of the wording was just awkward or wrong. Literally the first half of the story isn’t even about what the story is supposed to be reporting.

The sources were good, and the video was appropriate, but I think the story would’ve been way better if it had talked about the event it was advancing more than twice in the last paragraph.


Graduate student wins $10,000 in business competition

First, second, and third place winners of the Gillespie Competition pose for a picture with the judges and CIE hosts. (At center: first place winner Lee Ingram; to his left and right are: Sam Bertolet, second place winner, and Austin Darnell, third place winner). Photo Credit: Carly Owen.

By Alexandra Morris and Carly Owen

Last Friday, MA of Accountancy student Lee Ingram won $10,000 to expand his business, Collegiate Tutoring, in the CIE’s annual Gillespie competition.

The competition awards start up money to a student who can come up with the most effective business model.

Ingram’s Collegiate Tutoring, formerly called Higher Learning LLC, is a website students can use to find student tutors who have excelled in the courses they need help in.

“I like having a service that helps students find confidence in their courses,” Ingram said about why he started this business. “The other side of that is that I like finding students that are capable of tutoring and rewarding them for knowing the material well.”

Ingram noticed a social stigma around tutoring.  Making student tutors discreetly accessible helps people who are struggling feel less embarrassed about seeking help. Currently, the options to find a tutor are not nearly as discrete as Collegiate Tutoring. Having to post on facebook group pages, consulting an advisor, or seeking the help of a star student in a course are not ideal. While prices can range from free to $60 an hour, students have no way of verifying the tutor’s qualifications.

Ingram also wanted to help students find a tutor as quickly and easily as possible. The company is also a good way for students who excel to earn some extra money. The starting price for most course is $40, but more advanced courses cost $50 an hour. The tutors hired by Collegiate Tutoring receive half of that.

“It’s kind of like Uber for tutoring,” said student tutor, Jacob Gambrell, a member of Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. “You set your own hours, decide the subjects you want to tutor, and then connect with the students individually. It takes a lot of the unnecessary hassle out of the way.”

Collegiate Tutoring has over 250 customers, as well as a partnership with two Greek houses on campus. Maria Gorla, former academic executive for Kappa Kappa Gamma’s Ole Miss chapter, said working with Collegiate Tutoring made her job much easier.

“It was clear to see how well the business side of Higher Learning (now Collegiate Tutoring) was run,” Gorla said. “All of our members that attended sessions experienced the top-notch quality (of the tutors) firsthand.”

Six student entrepreneurs competed in front of nine judges in the final round of Gillespie. Second prize was $5,000, awarded to Pontus Andersson and Sam Bertolet for their business, Myra Mirrors, a new smart mirror that combines interactive technology with an everyday mirror. In third place was Manaslu Athletics, a casual activewear company created by Austin Darnell. Darnell won $2,500. In addition to winning $10,000, Ingram also received  two iPad Pros and a year of free rent at the Ole Miss Innovation Hub.

Ingram had been continuously working and adjusting his business plan with Adjunct Instructor of Management in the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration and CIE, Owens Alexander, and Professor of Management, Dr. Clay Dibrell.

“I heard about Lee’s business that he started from scratch,” Alexander said. “So, I met with him and then got him set up with one of our student consulting teams to help him work on scheduling, his website, and other procedural things.”

Although Ingram is graduating this spring, Alexander said CIE plans to continue to work with him, given that he is such “a great representative of this university.”

Dr. Dibrell added that he will also provide assistance to Ingram beyond graduation because “we want him to be successful.”

Ingram’s company’s first-year plan is to expand his service to five campuses, including Ole Miss.

Planning Commission Meeting 4/10/17

Oxford’s Planning Commission met this Monday at 5 p.m. The meeting started with the committee introducing the city’s new Code Enforcement officer. After this, the committee began presenting requests to the Board on behalf of citizens.

The Planning Commission exists to maintain the historic and “small town” integrity of Oxford. These are the people who hear requests regarding additions to homes and other property. For example, the day’s first applicants wanted to add a swimming pool and pool house to their existing property. These were each a separate request, as the pool house would have a bedroom and bathroom, making it a full residence.

Most of the requests were small, well thought out, and got approved by every board member. The first to get any downvotes was a request from Oxford Manor Condominiums. The owner, Mr. Yates, wanted to install an iron fence with an electronic sliding gate. Being a block from the square, the condos have had a problem with nonresidents taking advantage of the open (but private) parking lot. Square patrons have left their cars for days at a time, and they’ve often left a trail of trash as well.

“We’ve tried everything,” Yates said. “Numbered parking spots, parking tags… We really don’t like to tow. We hate to do that to people.”

Two board members voted against the fence. They felt it would promote anyone with a driveway to install a sliding gate, making Oxford seem like a less welcoming town. However, the motion passed with four votes in favor.

The most controversial permit sought at the meeting was a sidewalk permit at Rosemont housing complex. There were sidewalks for the outside portion approved in 2005 and installed in 2007, but now the developer wants to have the homeowners pay for and install additional sidewalks. The audience for the meeting was mostly members of the Rosemont homeowner’s association. The majority of these homeowners did not want the sidewalks, mainly because they did not want to pay for and install new sidewalks in their front yards.

“It’s a safety concern,” the property developer said. “We would add crosswalks… We just want to improve the property.”

The motion did pass in the end, but with conditions. Only about half of the sidewalks applied for were permitted, and the homeowners and developers left the meeting predominantly content with the compromise.

The Board is comprised of Oxford citizens who are actively involved in the community. Meetings occur on Mondays at 5 p.m., and any Oxford resident wanting to expand property can submit a request to the Planning Committee at City Hall.

What Works 4/11/2017

The lead for this story was straightforward; a hard news lead. The Alabama governor resigned while facing impeachment for using state resources to hide a Clinton-esque affair with an aide (among other things).
I found the story through Apple News. I got a notification for this story as well as coverage of the same topic by Fox News and the Washington Post. I picked this one to read first because I prefer CNN to either of the other outlets. To test the SEO of the story, I googled “Alabama governor” and this story was the third link to pop up. The first was a buzzfeed story about this (sad because they’re a tabloid- the actual news comes after the gossip). The second was a bio of the newly sworn in Kay Ivey, Alabama’s second female governor. This was the third article, so you could say it’s pretty SEO-friendly.
The writer didn’t really need to draw the reader in. The facts were interesting enough to make someone continue reading. However in the first paragraph after the lead the reader finds out that (now former) Governor Bentley has been incarcerated, so that is shocking new information that peaked my interest.
The media included was a clipped version of Bentley’s resignation announcement. I suppose CNN included the important parts, but I think in luring the entire address would’ve been more effective. The parts included just showed Bentley saying he has made a mistake but that he respected his office, and that he was going to focus on other issues now. I’d have liked to see more, because his charges include using campaign money for personal use; so it’s clear that he didn’t really respect his office. There was also a picture of Bentley that was honestly creepy as hell and made me vastly uncomfortable, so I’m lead to believe CNN included those parts of the speech ironically.
I noticed that the article did not mention that Ivey is Alabama’s second female governor. I guess it doesn’t have anything to do with the story, and being second isn’t very newsworthy, but all they had to do was include “, Alabama’s second female governor” after her name. I find that pretty interesting. I believe other readers would like to know as well. Many states (including Miss.) have never had a female governor, so it’s pretty cool that somewhere like Alabama has now had two.

Students Get Paid to Sign Last-Minute Leases

By Alexandra Morris and Carly Owen

With the school year coming to an end, most returning students have already signed new leases for the fall. However there are still some who are unsure where they will live, and the numerous student housing rental offices in Oxford are left to fight over the few remaining lease-signers. One seemingly effective approach is to give students free stuff.

Many apartment and housing complexes in Oxford are offering incentives to encourage students to sign. Whether they’re giving away free gifts or offering fee reductions, commercial residencies in town are doing their best to rope in renters – as many as they can, and as quickly as they can.

The incentives range from a waived signing fee to a free two-person cruise to anyone who signs. University Trails is even offering a raffle to a free trip to Vegas and a $1,000 gift card. Most of these promotions last about a month, and the residencies usually change their offers each year.

“This week we’re doing a ‘pick-your-perk’,” Highland Square Community Assistant Marti Poole said. “If you sign by Friday you can pick your gift (from a list of various options), and if anyone comes in and signs a lease during that time they’ll get their signing fees waived.”

The Retreat in Oxford, a housing complex for students, falls under the management of EdR Collegiate Housing, based in Memphis, Tenn. Craig Wack, Public Relations Coordinator for EdR, explained that these perks do not affect the tenants’ cost, but that the promotions come out of the company marketing budget. He also said that incentives under EdR management are only offered at locations that still have a substantial amount of spaces available.

“There are some places that fill up,” Wack said. “We’ve got a property with over 1000 beds in Connecticut that got like 700 applications on the first day, so at that place we don’t necessarily have to do incentives.”

Some commercial rentals offer incentives even to those who aren’t yet committed. Kathleen Balmes, a junior at Ole Miss, signed a lease at the Hub a week after winning a raffle for an Apple Watch.

“I wasn’t sure where I wanted to live, so I went to the housing fair (on campus) where I entered the Hub drawing,” Balmes said. “Then when I won the watch, I showed up and decided to take the tour. I was leaning towards it anyway, but the watch definitely put me in a position where I got super invested and couldn’t imagine touring anywhere else.”

Some places are even offering incentives to their current lease holders if they refer a friend who signs a lease there. Places like Molly Barr Trails and Uncommon Oxford promise $300 to any resident who can convince a friend to sign. Christina Rick renewed her lease at Molly Barr Trails last semester, but she also recently referred someone to the apartment complex.

“My friend wasn’t sure where she wanted to live, so I told her about Molly Barr,” Rick said. “I like living here and would recommend it regardless, but getting $300 just for telling someone that was a nice bonus.”

None of these perks will offset the rising cost of rent in Oxford, but they might help ease the pain.

Mallory Kelley, the Community Manager at the Retreat, explained it very simply. “People always want something.”

What Works 4/4/2017

“Bill Requiring Fla. Schools Teach About Human Trafficking Dangers Passes First Senate Panel”

As a hopeful activist in the fight against human trafficking, I like to stay updated on what’s going on in the world, but more specifically in the country, involving this topic. If you just google search “human trafficking,” you get basically a full page of ads. After the ads you get a few more pages of “help this way,” “do this,” “here’s what we’re doing,” type articles – not actual news.

This was the first headline under the “news” google search of “human trafficking,” so it is SEO friendly, at least when I looked at the article first. The article was only an hour old when I found it.

The lead is pretty straight-forward. It’s essentially the headline paraphrased. The writer pulls in the reader by listing topics already required in Florida schools, all of which seem (in my opinion) less important than human trafficking. Maybe not less important, but definitely less relevant to current life. I mean it’s not like the Holocaust is going on right now in each and every one of our hometowns. Human trafficking IS. So that got me fired up, and it made me want to keep reading. There wasn’t really an effective nut graph.

The writer interviewed a Florida senator, the Bill set forth by a Florida high school student, and the representative of the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women. The sources were all pretty effective and relevant, each contributing valuable information to the story.

The media included is a picture of the lead senator and the student who drafted the Bill. I think that’s pretty effective. I wish there had been a little more meat in the story. A lot of what the readers learned was stuff I already knew – facts about human trafficking and what a real problem it is. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good and validating read. However the journalist didn’t even include the date the vote occurred or what the next step will be. I guess it did mention that the House had to have a hearing, but that isn’t very informative if the reader doesn’t know much about policy making.

Park Rangers Tighten Ship at Sardis Lake

By Carlyle Owen and Rachel Lambert

Spring has arrived and brought warm weather with it, and many Oxford citizens and Ole Miss students plan to spend their time at Sardis Lake.

Sardis is a staple in the Oxford community, and community members and students alike go there to have fun. Sometimes this fun can include alcohol, and Brian Johnson, a supervisory ranger for the Army Corps of Engineers which sets the rules, warns against its consumption at Sardis.

“Of course we don’t allow alcohol on our property and Lafayette county is a dry county,” Johnson said. “The people know this, but it’s hard to catch everyone.”

Johnson listed illegal operation of ATVs (mainly to do with helmets, or lack of), alcohol consumption, shooting guns and littering as the main violations rangers run into at Sardis. While these may seem like small offenses to some, when combined they can be a recipe for dangerous situations.

“We’ve had ATV accidents where helicopters have to come,” Johnson said. “We don’t carry weapons, and we get calls about people out shooting. People are just trying to walk their dogs and have bullets flying by their heads.”

Last spring, the Corps implemented concrete blockades at the County Road 314 or “road’s end” entrance, deterring cars from accessing the beach. This was done to help prevent accidents, and there is a dirt and gravel-filled area designated for parking.

“The parking lot was added to curb some of the illegal activity,” Johnson said. “When you have  a group out drinking and shooting they won’t go 20 feet away from their trucks, because they want to be able to hide it if they see us coming. So when we prevent them from getting to the shoreline they won’t want to carry their coolers and guns that far away from the vehicles.”

The Corps did not install these blockades to keep students out, as many have speculated. Pedestrian access is still allowed.

“It’s not just students who break the rules, it’s all ages,” Johnson said.  “And the parking lot is not a punishment; it’s an improvement. It has helped us a lot.”

The Corps’ goal with the addition was to create a safe environment and to make the lake more enjoyable for visitors. Despite the goal, some students still do not see it that way. Brazel Crocker, of Biloxi, Miss believes the blockades take away from the experience.

“A day at Sardis is a tradition that my parents had that I don’t believes we get to experience any longer,” Crocker said. “The blockades have made Sardis inaccessible; the experience isn’t even an experience any longer and only reminds me of the amazing times we can’t have anymore.”

Ranger Johnson believes it is still possible to have fun and be safe. He also offered advice to people who want to enjoy Sardis.

“Alcohol and water don’t mix. Always try to leave the lake better than you found it,” Johnson said.

The rules and regulations are displayed on signs at each entrance to the lake, but they are also posted online. Oxford resident Drew Chiles sees the importance of rules, but questions some.

Everyone should follow the rules,” Chiles said. “But the rules should also reasonably reflect the culture. Lots of people who are not students go to the lake to drink beer, listen to music and shoot guns. It’s Mississippi, ya know?

What Works

First of all, this story is a little appalling because the only reason leggings were ever considered inappropriate is because the public felt they were too “revealing.” That is, you could see the outline of girls’ butts. So WHY are we sexualizing ten-year-olds????

Anyway as far as the actual story, it is well written and well covered. It is one of the first stories to pop up when you google “United leggings” so it is very SEO friendly. The lead starts right into the story, telling the reader exactly what is happening at the beginning. To learn the details you keep reading. A lot of the reader appeal here is linked to the celebrities who are speaking against the issue.

The journalist didn’t get very many sources outside of quotes from twitter and other social media. I suppose it wasn’t really necessary, the story was told and the reader will finish it with little to no questions. Still, it would have been nice to read something different and not just the same quotes I get on my twitter timeline.

I think a video of the United press conference would have been a really nice addition to this story. I know they did speak to the press outside of just the initial statements, and I have a hard time believing Fox News wasn’t there. But again, the story isn’t lacking, I just believe that could have made it better.

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