Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Teens & Internet Predators
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Teens & Internet Predators

Rick Coates - March 9th, 2006
Editors note: During the past several weeks Northern Express Contributing Editor Rick Coates has been examining the trappings of the Internet for teenagers. In the course of his investigation he uncovered that several Northern Michigan teenagers have posted sexually explicit photographs of themselves on various Internet sites, posted photographs of illegal activity (underage drinking and drug use), and written in blogs, sexually explicit material detailing their sexual liaisons. We opted not to publish those photographs or blogs and instead selected a sampling from another city, not in Michigan, so as to not expose local teenagers to sexual predators
who traverse the Internet in search
of vulnerable children.
In a couple weeks I will be celebrating
a big birthday; not mine, but my daughter’s. She will be turning 13. She is excited about becoming a teenager. I am excited for her as well, but I am also ner-vous for her.
My daughter is bright, vivacious. She sees the whole world at her feet and speaks daily of the numerous opportunities ahead of her. I am excited about that part. What I am nervous about is the possibility she might put herself out there for the whole world to see as an opportunity for abuse.
Remember the days of going out after dinner and playing with the neighborhood kids? If you were lucky you might scrounge up enough kids for a game of kick-the-can or hide-and-seek. Everyone knew everyone. Strangers were easy to spot. But those were the good old days.
Guess what? The neighborhood just got bigger for our kids.
Try 100 million people on the block and not all of them are kids. Kid games are distant memories. They have been replaced by Instant Messaging, Spooning (a form
of cuddling), Forking (intercourse), Sporking (when three people cuddle together), Dancing Around In Your Underpants,
3-Some Hook Up, Girls Kissing Girls, Boys Kissing Boys, Panty Jacking (where teen boys and girls switch underpants), Blogging (online journaling), and even Cyberbullying (defaming another person through blogging or text messaging), and these are just
some of the many activities in the modern cyber-neighborhood.

All of the above sound like a bunch of porn sites. Guess again. They are all popular teen sites on the Internet where kids go to discuss and participate in these activities in addition to posting provocative pictures. Guess who else is in the neighborhood? Sexual predators.
It is called “social-networking” and it is the hottest craze among teenagers, 20-somethings and those in their 30s trying to hang onto their 20s. The most popular social networking neighborhood on the Internet is MySpace.com; just last week two million Internet users signed up for an account that is free and only takes a few minutes (or seconds if you are a teenager) to register for.
MySpace is nearing 60 million members and has become the fastest-growing business on the Internet since it was started two years ago. At first it was a place where bands posted info and music clips for fans and friends to come and check out. It has become so popular that media mogul Rupert Murdoch (FOX TV) bought MySpace last July for $580 million.
So as my daughter enters her teen years not only do I have to worry about her confronting the temptations my generation faced: having sex, sexually-transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, smoking, drinking alcohol and drug use, but also the trappings of the Internet.

Like with other temptations, social-networking starts with a teen’s peers. One kid comes to school talking about it and the next day 50 kids have MySpace accounts.
Sites like MySpace give teens a chance to network with friends and meet new ones from all over the world. As with many things on the Internet, social-networking is a great tool when used for its intended purpose.
With millions of people online, a kid who is not connecting at school is surely to find friends on the Internet.
But just who are these friends? That’s where the trouble starts.
When teens create MySpace sites they load up photos (even videos) and post their personal information. They often express their thoughts and feelings with blog entries that in my day would have been reserved for one’s private journal. In some cases they put their phone numbers, addresses, their school name and even their class schedules and social events they will be attending online. Making them easy prey for thousands of sexual predators posing as teenagers who also have MySpace sites.
We have safeguards in society that help keep teenagers from the use of alcohol, drugs, gambling and pornography. Yet none of these safeguards exist on the Internet. Access to adult information on the Internet is as simple as typing in a false birth date. Imagine if all your son or daughter had to do at the store was say he or she were 21 to purchase alcohol, or to spout off a fake birthdate to enter an adult movie.

While MySpace and other sites post detailed warnings (MySpace even has a section for parents to learn about protecting their children), many kids simply lie to gain access.
MySpace requires that you be 14 to sign up and the site tells those who are younger that this is not a place for them. But kids are crafty so they type in that they are 14, when they might actually be 11. And when they learn that 14- and 15-year-olds have limited access they suddenly become 16.
That is exactly what several of the kids at my daughter’s school have done. Even with 60 million people at MySpace and despite the fact that everyone creates a nickname it took me only five minutes to find some of her classmates. Once you find one you can find them all because at social-networking sites you link all your friends together. Two dozen of her friends ages 12 and 13 all claimed to be at least 16 in order to create their sites.
My daughter is aware of what her friends are doing but she hasn’t asked yet to create a MySpace site. She already knows the answer. It would be the same one I gave her two years ago when she asked for an e-mail account to IM (instant messaging) with her friends. NO WAY. She knows also not to sneak an account because she would get caught, as her mother is an IT director and very Internet and computer savvy.
I know it is embarrassing for her and maybe her “cool” status at school has diminished, but you can’t be “cool” if you’re dead. Okay so maybe I am being a little overprotective and overreacting. Or am I? I wonder if the parents whose children have been sexually molested and in some cases even murdered because predators tracked their sons and daughters down through social-networking sites wish they would have been more “overprotected.”

While most of the pictures and comments posted by my daughters classmates are silly and goofy, some are not. Some of the girls posted pictures of themselves trying to look sexy. One boy wrote about his favorite vodka. I am not blind to the ways of pre-teens and I know hormones are running wild at their age but I am not sure 12-year-olds should be posting pictures of themselves on the Internet “making out.” Each of these sites provided enough information for a sexual predator to track down anyone of these boys or girls.
I decided to go up a few grade levels and see what high school aged kids in the area were putting on their sites. Again, while most teens were posting appropriate photos, several were not. One area teen had posted several photographs of herself and her friends drinking and topless with boys covering the girls breasts so the pictures would be legal for the website. I recognized a star athlete from one of the area’s sports teams in a photograph. I called his coach who immediately brought the team in and warned them.
The girl has since taken the photos down. The boys on the sports team told their coaches that the girls taking the pictures said they would never show them to anyone. But one of the girls had written in her blog about having sex with several of the boys in the same night and had posted the pictures as sort of notches on her belt.

Several teenage girls have posted sexually provocative photographs of themselves. Often just in their bras and panties and in some cases in just a thong with their hands covering their breasts. Some teen boys have posted blogs about masturbating and fantasies about group sex. Some girls, ages 14 and 15, have even claimed to be 21, essentially misleading potential online “friends” or guys that under normal circumstances would not try and contact a minor.
All of this information provides a free psychological profile for sexual predators. Without realizing it, teenagers have done half the work for guys looking for easy prey. According to widespread news reports, online sexual predators spend hours surfing the web looking for victims.
The news program Dateline has aired three shows, with the assistance of Perverted Justice, a group working with law enforcement agencies to catch online sexual predators. The group used MySpace and other sites to lure predators in, resulting in the arrest of 50 men in a three-day period on a recent show. The results were startling. School teachers, spiritual leaders, the “guy next door”-- many were parents themselves, surfing the Internet looking to have sex with 12- and 13-year-old boys and girls.
In a sting operation run in Bloomfield Hills a Northern Michigan man drove all the way downstate because he thought he was meeting up with a 13-year-old. So these online predators are in our backyard.

Recently on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show,” a reporter did a segment about
MySpace. At the end of the story the reporter said, “the downside to it is all the sexual predators, but the upside is all the sexual prey.”
Exactly the reason why my daughter at 13 won’t have a MySpace site at least for now. But when she is old enough and responsible enough my position might change. We can’t keep our kids off the Internet, they need it for school research and it has become an important resource for our world. Instead we have to set boundaries and spend time with them and show them the risks. If we don’t they will find it on their own.
One parent told me that when their son was doing research for a report he Googled the topic and several porn sites came up. He was scared because every time he tried to get out of a site three more pornographic sites popped up. He is a 5th grader and fortunately his father was in the living room and was able to offer help and guidance.
So if your son or daughter is on the Internet, regardless of their age, they are going to come in contact with pornography.
Some schools issue warnings and block students’ access to sites on school computers. Other schools are having problems with students taking pictures of other kids in the locker room and posting inappropriate photos online, or creating sites which defame other kid. This can involve writing all sorts of inappropriate things that will be attributed to an unsuspecting teen who is unaware that he even has a MySpace site.

But other kids are willingly posting sexually provocative photos of themselves on the Internet. One Northern Michigan teenager posted a racy photo of herself and professed to becoming “America’s Next Porn Star.” Her father, a prominent public official was shocked when I called him.
Then there was a photo of a cheerleader in the region who pulled her jean pockets inside out and then put an arrow pointing to her crotch, writing “kiss me between the bunny ears.”
Some teenagers are even creating porn sites and PayPal accounts so they can make money. They promote their porn sites on MySpace and direct visitors to their site where a credit card is required. Even teenagers from Northern Michigan are participating in these sites. One West Coast teen created a group on the MySpace asking girls to post pictures of their butts (while in panties or a thong). Now 18, she has created a “sexiest butt” website and is making $250,000 a year while attending film school.

So as my daughter blows out 13 candles on her cake I am going to be excited for her. But I am going to be scared for her as well. She knows that. We talk about it sometimes when I drive her to school.
The other day we talked about how decisions she makes now will impact her for the rest of her life. As I told her “I loved her,” she responds “I know Dad, you have told me a hundred of times that my decisions will have and impact on my future, but I promise I won’t do anything wrong if I can have an internet account.”
Then we heard a news report about a 13-year-old girl strangled to death out east after a sexual predator lured her in through her MySpace site. My daughter looked at me, smiled and said “ Dad I love you too. I guess I will pass on that MySpace site.”

In part II next week Rick Coates will look at additional teen Internet trappings including pornography, gambling and even sites that help kids commit suicide. He will discuss what local law enforcement agencies; school administrators and counselors recommend for parents as ways to protect their children while they use the Internet.
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