Drip Drips 19 December 2009

Caught, sloshed:

  1. Indian sort-of-Sikh religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda starts a drive to “to halt the spread of HIV by offering respectable options to sex workers” by finding volunteers to marry them. The Beeb could have made a little effort and contacted organised sex workers to see what they think about this.
  2. On a sort-of-related theme, Prostitution and trafficking – the anatomy of a moral panic by Nick Davies (him of the magnificent Flat Earth News), from October 2009. His article tracks back to source the numbers of trafficked sex workers that various UK political, charitable and governmental groups have used over the last decade. In 1998, researchers found 71 women who had been “trafficked” (according to a very wide definition), and – with strong caveats about lack of sources and accuracy – estimated the prevalence might be 20 times greater: so, 1,420. In 2000, this figure was quoted  as a certainty by a group called Churches Alert to Sex Trafficking Across Europe (CHASTE – oh please) and recycled by Crimestoppers. The Home Office researched the issue again in 2002, and – with suitable warnings about risk and accuracy – published a figure of 3,812 women working against their will in the UK. In June 2006, this was rounded up to 4,000 by Home Office minister Vernon Coaker, a number that was recycled by numerous charities including Care, the Salvation Army, and Anti-Slavery International. The real leap comes in 2007 from Denis MacShane MP, who announced in the Commons “according to Home Office estimates, 25,000 sex slaves currently work in the massage parlours and brothels of Britain”, a figure for which there was no Home Office research at all. The Mirror picked this up. In a later speech, MacShane used the figure of 18,000 from the police’s Operation Pentameter 2 sitrep: the police denied this was anywhere to be found. An leak to the Guardian of further analysis from Pentameter 2 said that after six months of raids on brothels to took for trafficked women, only 11 had been “made safe”. Another remarkable tale of churnalism? Not everyone agrees, accusing Davies of the falling for the trap of suggesting that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. UK groups are not alone in finding data gathering on trafficking hard, as this GAO report outlines.
  3. Moderately interesting linkswap between security geeks Drew Conway and John Robb over a recent piece of research in Nature about power laws and insurgency (which you can’t read, because it’s behind a paywall). The paper itself can be downloaded from the author’s Mathematics of War site (thanks for correcting me on that Neil).
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2 Comments

  1. Neil Johnson
    Posted December 21, 2009 at 10:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Regarding point 3 (insurgency paper in Nature): On the website below, you can find detailed information about our underlying modeling, scrutiny of empirical data, generalizations and robustness of the model, and possible further applications:

    http://www.mathematicsofwar.com

    We would urge anyone interested in our modeling and analysis, to take a closer look at the papers on this page (which can be downloaded freely and includes a draft version of the Nature paper)

    • Posted December 21, 2009 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Neil – updated.

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