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Homeless below the Las Vegas Strip: where city’s vices exist in the shadows

Theres an even darker side to the gambling mecca a homeless community in underground tunnels that struggles with addiction

Broken glass crunched under shoes, alerting tunnel dwellers that outsiders had arrived. Deeper in the dark, squat-ceilinged space, 25ft below the Las Vegas strip, Kregg Nattrour rested on a pile of gutted mattress foam.

I wanted to make this my last month down here, he said. I cant handle another month of this.

Matt OBrien, a homeless advocate and writer who visits the tunnels twice a month, said Nattrour looked skinny; apparently casino trips prevented the 54-year-old from eating well. I gambled all my money! he complained.

Our flashlights shone on empty water bottles and jugs of urine on the tunnel floor; fidgeting as he spoke, Nattrour moaned about a man further in who pisses and shits where he sleeps.

Hundreds of homeless people live in Las Vegas flood channels the citys literal underbelly, according to homeless advocates. They include full-time wage workers, panhandlers and self-described hustlers.

They say theres no better place to be homeless than the Strip. Tourists drop money on the ground. Gamblers give winnings away, or leave slot machines loaded with credits. Sometimes people nod off at gaming machines, allowing men like Nattrour to withdraw cash vouchers on the sly.

Yet theres an obvious dark side to trolling Las Vegas for cash round-the-clock access to gambling, drinking and drugs .

I should have been out of here a couple months ago. I just got depressed, Nattrour said. I dont even drink, but I bought a cocktail. And the next thing I know, Im gambling. I spent $60 of my [social security] check on dope and over $600 playing slot machines.

After 16-years as a truck driver, Nattrour moved to Las Vegas when his wife died. Three months later, he was broke and homeless sleeping on, then under, the street. Ive had some problems since Ive been down here, he admitted. Last month I put $400 into a video poker machine, and I never got a four of a kind! It pissed me off so much. I hate losing, so then Im chasing that first forty bucks. I say fuck it, its only money!

OBrien gave him a sandwich, new socks and underwear. In 2007, OBrien published Beneath the Neon, a book about tunnel dwellers that he hoped would inspire the city or a nonprofit to help. Yet neither panned out.

God dont live here. Only me is painted on the wall near John Aitchesons camp near the tunnel mouth. Aitcheson, 59, sleeps there between his shifts at a Strip convenience store.

I could get an apartment, he said. But all my money would go to rent, food, electricity, water … By the time I was done thered be no money left over to do anything.

John Aitcheson sleeps in the tunnel between his shifts at a convenience store. Photograph: Dan Hernandez

Outside, an empty luggage case sat open in the sun. Aitcheson said a bus from California recently dumped two-dozen homeless people at a nearby McDonalds, many of whom headed straight for the shadows.

He and Nattrour both claimed that California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada regularly swap homeless. For his part, Aitcheson says he moved here by choice, from Orlando, to enjoy the citys vices. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, you can gamble, drink, smoke, get hookers, he said. Whatever you want is here in Vegas.

Drug addiction is the most pernicious problem below ground, OBrien said, with tunnels often segregated by whether denizens prefer heroin, crack or meth.

Like Nattrour, Aitcheson prefers gambling. I dont know how many times Ive walked into a casino with $20, hit $600, and spent every dime of it playing every other machine in the house, he said.

Lori Flores, clinic manager at the Problem Gambling Center in Las Vegas, is familiar with that cycle.

At the beginning, before I stopped gambling, it was the only thing that gave me relief, she said, talking about casinos. I went there to not feel. I went there to not deal with anything. I was definitely using it as an escape from problems.

So I would assume as a homeless person, someone that has pretty much hit rock bottom, they dont have anywhere else to turn. In their mind probably, whats the point. What I can do is take this $5 Ive made getting change from people and turn it into a $100,000 and get my home back, get my wife back, try to get my life back on track. But thats not the way it works.

Frank Parenti, HELP of Southern Nevadas behavioral health services manager, said: Its the underlining mental illness that has gone untreated thats the real issue.

There is a disproportionate number of mentally ill who are homeless, and addiction, as a co-occurring disorder, is a part of that. You have people that are using drugs to self-medicate.

At the other end of the tunnel, was a man they called Jazz. His camp was guarded by multiple trip wires, his bed elevated by shopping carts, and his eyes covered by sunglasses, even in the dark. Jazz lost his girlfriend, Sharon, to a flash flood in June one of three people to drown in the tunnels during a late night rainstorm.

Jazz: I make money any way that I can. Photograph: Dan Hernandez

The pair had relied on the credit hustle to get by, which entails finding slot machines with money on them. Jazz continues to survive off casinos by doing one hustle or another, as he put it. Clenching his jaw, he strung words together. I make money any way that I can. Except robbing somebody Im too old for that shit.

We walked out into the sun, where the ex-con said, some days are better than others, and some days are really good. He admitted that hes not above pulling hustles that require fleeing security. If the chase is on they got to catch me, and I got wheels.

Ascending the flood channel embankment required walking past Rest easy Sharon 6-30-2016, which Jazz had spray-painted within sight of a gold-tinted resort glimmering on the horizon. He went back to the tunnel, then, to rest in the dark until nightfall.

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5 Self-Help Books That Got Very Popular Being Very Wrong

In an ideal universe, trained educators and/or leading experts in their field would exclusively write self-help books. Unfortunately, in our universe, self-help books are written by sad sacks of shit for much sadder sacks of shit who buy them as last-minute gifts for the world’s saddest sacks of shit. Let’s discuss a few of them!


Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About Is Borderline-Criminal Insanity

Kevin Trudeau won’t let The Man keep him down. Despite spending two years in a federal prison for impersonating a physician in order to commit credit-card fraud, becoming the only person ever banned by the Federal Trade Commission from selling products on television, and getting kicked out of multiple states for running a pyramid scheme, Trudeau is always able to bounce back. Of course, as of press time, he is back in jail serving another ten years. But surely he’ll rebound soon! Possibly in author form.

See, Kevin decided that a few years of impersonating a physician was basically the same as decades of medical training, so he wrote a medical advice book called Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About. It’s about secret magical cures suppressed by the medical industry, those greedy bastards. But while pharmaceutical companies might do questionable things for money, Kevin certainly does questionable things for money.

For only $10 per month (or a generous $500 lifetime membership), you can subscribe to Kevin’s website and get some hot, hot tips on beating cancer. Luckily, we’ve managed to smuggle some of these carefully guarded tips through his impenetrable paywall. For instance, here’s how you can prevent skin cancer … by avoiding sunscreen:

“Sun block, which is overrated, is a loser. The sun is unfairly attacked by the fake news! Sad!”

You might be thinking, “Duh. Go outside without sunblock to prevent skin cancer. A child knows that. What about my full-blown AIDS?” You’re in luck, AIDS victim, because that shit doesn’t even exist.

“AIDS was invented by the Chinese to make sex less appealing. THIS IS MCCARTHYISM!”

“Drugs are sad losers invented by the Chinese to give AIDS to the sun! BAD (OR SICK)!!!”

You’re starting to get the idea. This is a man who overheard two separate conversations — one about naturopathic medicine, and one about government cover-ups — then mashed them together in his pudding brain, and now believes everyone is lying to everybody, except for a few very specific, very crazy idiots who share his views. Clearly, only a lunatic or a legally elected United States president would think this way, so readers saw through Trudeau’s absurd lies and only bought his books hundreds of thousands of times.


The 48 Laws Of Power Is A Field Guide For Assholes

Who comes to mind when you think of powerful historical figures? Genghis Khan? Joseph Stalin? Conan the Barbarian? Conan the Destroyer? The awkward, pasty author of The 48 Laws Of Power?

That’s Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws Of Power, a book guaranteed to turn you from an aspiring douchebag into a full-blown men’s rights blogger. It’s an extensive practical guide on how to win tiny victories in a social game that only you will be playing. Think of it like masturbation, only it’s less sexual, more lonely, and you can only do it in public (where it still makes everyone uncomfortable.)

It all began when Greene observed that today’s powerful elite had some traits in common with history’s biggest baldest asses. Possibly. If you’re stupid.

For instance, Vlad the Impaler would exert dominance over rivals by going to shake their hand and then yanking on their arm while holding onto them for way too long. We obviously made that up, because that would be a fucking ridiculous, wildly insecure “power” move that no functional human being would ever try. But it is exactly the type of thing Robert Greene made up in his book The 48 Laws Of Power.

Based on little to no research, Greene wrote down the “laws” all historical tough guys must have lived by. It instantly became the go-to handbook for overbearing fucks. It’s beloved by bullies and aspiring rapists, but it’s especially popular in the rap community. 50 Cent and Busta Rhymes both love it, and Mr. Cent even co-authored a book with Greene called The 50th Law. It serves the double purpose of being a 50 Cent biography, as well as a dictionary of “street terms” for hustlers. Because nothing is more street than looking up how to properly call someone a bitch in the present perfect tense.

The book is also big with prisoners, probably because of the book’s celebration of amorality. The laws are so ruthlessly amoral, in fact, that Greene himself doesn’t even follow them. But he’s fine with helping other people act like evil dictators for $13.99 plus tax.

And even aside from the cold malevolence of suggesting readers gain power by “posing as a friend, work[ing] as a spy,” half the laws seem to contradict each other. For example, Greene suggests that you “Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless (Law 30)”, but also “Never Appear Too Perfect (Law 46).” He tells you, “In Victory, Learn When To Stop (Law 47),” but at the same time, “Crush Your Enemy Totally (Law 15).” On its worst day, the book is an idiot’s idea of how to cheat society, and on its best day it’s a list of excuses you can try to use to live with yourself, on the off chance you’re self-aware enough to realize you’re a total shithead.


The 4-Hour Workweek: Exploit Others, Be Born Well-Off! That’s All You Got To Do!

Do you want to get paid for sitting around doing nothing, but hate the hassle of staging workplace forklift accidents? Then The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss is for you!

Ferriss went from being an overworked sports nutrition salesman to a successful author, writing for only the most respectable and upstanding websites. Step one to this plan is writing a book … and hoping no one notices it’s stupid until after they buy it. But Ferriss also gives other valuable tips, like how you should outsource jobs to cheap foreigners. It’s a complicated system, wherein if someone hires you to do something, you keep most of the money and hire less American people to do it.

A lot of the book is spent debunking folksy wisdom with different folksy wisdom. For instance, Ferriss writes “People are fond of using the ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ adage as an excuse for inaction, as if all successful people are born with powerful friends. Nonsense.” Ferriss does not tolerate vague adages from people who say things that are only sometimes right, given certain situations! In fact, the people who use adages as an excuse for inaction absolutely molest turtles. If we’re wrong, then defend yourself, people who use adages as an excuse for inaction!

The main problem with the book is the author didn’t seem to arrive at any of this folksy wisdom through industriousness or success. Remember two paragraphs ago, when we mentioned the sports nutrition company he worked for? They sold a thing called BrainQuicken, a hilariously useless snake-oil product that did nothing except separate the gullible from their money. And remember last paragraph when Ferriss talked about powerful friends, and how they’re nonsense? Well, Ferriss comes from a wealthy family and went to Princeton. So maybe he’s right that you don’t need to know anyone to find success, but he made his fortune by being born into money and selling nothing to the stupid.

After a few years of selling placebos to shitheads, Ferriss took a trip to Europe. It was there, on his three-week vacation, that he decided he had learned enough about the struggle for success to write a book about it. It began with a brilliant set of rules. The rules included insights like “cut back on email” and “don’t read newspapers and magazines.” Basically, they were just a list of things Ferriss didn’t like doing, and rules you could only really follow if you were the boss anyway. Obviously, if you’re building a business, ignoring your email is strange advice some of the time, and terrible advice most of the time. Which should be the tagline for this moronic book.

But assuming your rich parents helped you get your snake-oil startup off the ground, this is all fine advice, right? Maybe, but he wouldn’t know. Ferriss doesn’t even come close to working only four hours a week. He is always blogging and self-promoting, and since he sold his awful BrainQuicken company, all his new income is generated directly from this desperate self-promotion. What he’s really saying is that you can work only four hours a week, but you need to spend the rest of your week doing things to make money. So good luck, future millionaires!


The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets For Capturing The Heart Of Mr. Right Is Mostly About Preserving The Male Ego

The year 1995 brought us the O.J. Simpson murder case, the Unabomber, and the saddest guidebook that will ever be written: The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets For Capturing The Heart Of Mr. Right. Nearly two million lonely ladies bought the book, but some of those sales must have come from panicked men wondering which of their mysterious secrets had been revealed to women.

The book (and its countless sequels) all revolved around what women should do to coddle the fragile male ego. It’s not bad advice to “keep your date’s insecurities in mind” or whatever, but The Rules seems to think men will break down and cry at the slightest deviation from gender roles. It gives tips like “you must never offer to pay,” and “remain silently supportive when he can’t remember where he parked.” Seriously, here’s an actual sample from the book:

There’s a lot of advice like this — to shut up and smile while your date is an idiot, and to build your life and personality around his thin skin. It may also help the relationship if you scream when you see his penis, each time fleeing from it like a terrified child meeting Godzilla.

“It! Was! So! Big!” you should tell paramedics, through panicked breaths, before finally fainting from “over-stimulated genitalia.”

The book doesn’t just give great dating advice. It also gives great sex advice … in that you shouldn’t talk about it. And you KNOW the book’s two female authors are experts on men, because they tell you how much men hate horny women. It was one of the best-kept male secrets until this was published:

Of course, the sure-fire way to tell if a man is into you or not is by the gift he gets you for your birthday. Did he get you jewelry? Then congratulations. He wants you to quietly smile while he searches for his car for the rest of your lives. Did he get you something practical, like a pen or a book? Sorry, that’s code for how he has no romantic interest in you. Or not. There are billions of men and the authors of this book haven’t quite fucked all of them. So, like all dating advice books, this one is uncanny in its accuracy … right up until it totally isn’t.


Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man: Relationship Advice From A Twice-Divorced, Sexist Cheater

Steve Harvey has been a rich man and also a poor man. He has been homeless and he has also asked contestants to name the most popular terms for “fart” on Family Feud. He has been an unapologetic, sexist asshole, and also felt qualified to write a book telling women how to behave in relationships.

The book Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man is an absurdly misogynistic collection of advice for ladies from a guy whose main source of female information is hearing Cedric the Entertainer describe booty smells.

And yet somehow it has sold over two million copies, reached #1 on The New York Times Non-Fiction Best-Seller List, and was made into a major motion picture featuring Turtle from Entourage.

All of this from a man currently in his third marriage, who has been publicly accused of serial infidelity. When Steve Harvey kisses his wife hello, six pounds of other women’s pubic hair falls out of his moustache. For his wife’s birthday, he gave her three kinds of hepatitis and both herpes.

Steve’s book, as you might expect, treats women like they’re a pile of sexual currency. You see, all relationships are essentially transactional, and women should date based on their own value. When Steve Harvey says “think like a man,” he mostly means “think like a man buying pussy from an escort service.” Women need to realize that sex — or, as he and Fred Durst, and only he and Fred Durst call it, “the cookie ” — is a thing men need. Well, we’ll let him explain how men think:

They are powerful words from a brilliant mind, and like all great metaphors, it can be stretched in every direction. Does it mean Steve Harvey will sleep with different races of women? Yeah, sure. And does it mean he eats white women? Yes, probably. And does it mean that when the very stupid are paid to list what kinds of cookies they want to fuck, our world is so forsaken it no longer matters who lives or dies? Yes, of course: We are now living in a perpetual madness where meaning is forgotten.

Steve Harvey feels very, very strongly that a woman should be paid, as if carrying a vagina was highly skilled labor. He says, “KNOW THIS: It is your right to expect that a man will pay for your dinner, your movie ticket, your club entry fee, or whatever else he has to pay for in exchange for your time.” It’s a dating tip that’s both a little bit true, and a little bit like turning sex into a business transaction. He’s not exactly telling you to sell your birth canal’s entrance, he’s just pointing out there is a market value for it, and with some classic money-laundering tricks, you totally could.

Harvey also has a section on how men have a protective instinct towards women. In his case, that means that when his wife is SCUBA diving, he hires a security guard to dive with her, because he can’t swim.

“I have a security guy who can swim,” he says. “So he puts on the snorkeling gear and when she goes down, I tell him, ‘You swim over and just keep an eye on my wife.'”

It’s … look, not all of the book is insane advice on how women should treat their vaginas like relationship currency. Some of it is just insane in general.

Steve Harvey is a flailing dumbass of a comedy writer. Whether or not he’s funny on stage may be debatable, but without his physical timing and practiced expressions, his little musings barely qualify as observational humor. He tells women, “You’re an investigator — can’t nobody find stuff out like a woman. Y’all put the police to shame, make the little investigative tricks they show on CSI and Law & Order: SVU look like counting lessons on Sesame Street.”

With a hilariously huge purple suit and the right bug-eyed expression, that might get a laugh from a drunk crowd. But written down, it sounds like a teenage boy learning to speak English from TV.

He delivers a lot of his thoughts via these pointless analogies. Steve builds elaborate parallels between sex and other activities that only manage to lower the reader’s understanding of each. For instance, “A man fishes for two reasons: He’s either sport fishing or fishing to eat, which means he’s either going to try to catch the biggest fish he can, take a picture of it, admire it with his buddies and toss it back to sea, or he’s going to take that fish on home, scale it, fillet it, toss it in some cornmeal, fry it up, and put it on his plate. This, I think, is a great analogy for how men seek out women.”

So wait, is that to help fishermen understand fucking, or sex addicts understand fish? A-are we supposed to be tossing women in cornmeal? We haven’t been doing that.

Steve Harvey is more careless with his words than he is with the emotional needs of his string of cheated-on wives. He actually blames that cheating on the women themselves. “Men can cheat because there are so many women willing to give themselves to a man who doesn’t belong to them.”

So, who should women give themselves to? The answer may surprise you: It’s four men.

We’ll let Steve explain: “I’ve said over and over again jokingly that the only way a woman can truly be completely satisfied is to get herself four different men — an old one, an ugly one, a Mandingo, and a gay guy. Now the four of them combined? They got you covered.”

Mandingo! Part man, part dingo. We assume that’s what that means. We’re too terrified to look it up.

Jordan Breeding has a blog, a band, and reads self-help books about how to become a radioactive spider. It hasn’t worked yet. Nathan Kamal lives in Oregon and writes there. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs.

Also check out 7 Insane Dick Moves Committed By Famous Self-Help Gurus and 4 Unintentionally Depressing Self-Help Books on Happiness.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out The One Self-Help Group We’d Actually Join, and other videos you won’t see on the site!

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Gear up for a very important mission with The Guardians Of The Galaxy with this adorable Groot tee. Or show off your quiet intensity in this nifty Drax shirt. Hurry, the universe NEEDS you.

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Perez Hilton: The OG Who's Still Killing It 14 Years Later – Forbes


Perez Hilton: The OG Who's Still Killing It 14 Years Later
Long before social media was a thing, he was blogging and giving us our celebrity gossip on the daily. Now … I assigned the books for review for every month and all of the books that weren't going to make the cut; I was selling them on Amazon for money.

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Why mommy blogging is now a big thing—but it has rules –

Why mommy blogging is now a big thing—but it has rules
However, there are issues that come with blogging. Some mothers are too gushy about their kids that they post every activity. How far can they go with their family lives without “oversharenting,” or going overboard on social media? Then there are real

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The juju curse that binds trafficked Nigerian women into sex slavery

Traditional west African healers and Sicilian psychiatrists are struggling to help free Nigerian women forced into prostitution

Every night as dusk falls in Piazza Gastone in the Noce district of Palermo, a tall, imposing Ghanaian woman dressed in traditional west African robes stands before a small congregation sweating in rows of plastic chairs before her.

The Pentecostal Church of Odasani has been converted from an old garage in a backstreet into a place of worship, albeit one unrecognised by any formal faith group. But what many of the congregation – largely young Nigerian women – have come for tonight is more than prayer; it is freedom.

“Nigerian women come to me for help, they have bad spirits that have been put inside their bodies by people who want to make money from them,” says the self-proclaimed prophetess, as she prepares to start her service.

She gestures to her devotees, who sit nervously fiddling with their phones as they wait for her to begin. “The spirit is forcing them to remain in a life of prostitution. When they come to Europe and realise they can’t live this life, they come to me and I help free them of this juju forever.”

She says she has spent the past 10 years battling the juju curses that are potentially keeping tens of thousands of Nigerian women under the control of human traffickers across Europe.

The abuse of religious and cultural belief systems in Nigeria has proved a deadly and effective control mechanism for traffickers involved in the recruitment of women destined for the sex trade in Europe. A hugely profitable and well-organised criminal industry has been operating between Italy and Nigeria for more than two decades but the UN’s International Organisation for Migration says it has seen an almost 600% rise in the number of potential sex trafficking victims arriving in Italy by sea over the past three years.

In 2016 its staff registered more than 11,000 Nigerian women at landing points in Sicily, with more than 80% of them victims of trafficking and destined for a life of forced prostitution on street corners and in brothels across Italy and Europe. Before they left Nigeria, many of them will have been made to undergo traditional oath-taking ceremonies involving complicated and frightening rituals often using the women’s blood, hair and clothing. These rituals – which have become known as the “juju” – bond the woman to her trafficker and to any debts she will incur. The rituals make it clear that failure to pay off those debts will result in terrible things happening to the woman and her family.

“This juju might seem like something small or meaningless to people here in Europe, but to the women these curses are real and they are terrifying,” says Princess Inyang Okokon, who runs Piam Onlus, an anti-trafficking NGO and who was herself taken from Nigeria to Italy in 1998. “Using these very old belief systems passed down through generations is a psychological form of control that is much stronger than any violence that can be done to them.”

Psychologists in hospitals across Sicily say they are witnessing a growing mental health crisis in these women among Nigerians who have been persuaded to leave their traffickers by the authorities or NGOs. At the Vittorio Emanuele hospital in Catania, 20 Nigerian women are being treated by the psychiatric department – double the number last year. “These women, who are brought to us by our emergency staff, have been abused, they have been raped, imprisoned and blackmailed. Some of them are as young as 12,” says Dr Aldo Virgilio.

He says that 80% of those coming to the outpatient clinic are asylum seekers. “Already this year we have seen 80 cases of women being brought to us, but many refuse food and treatment, they are afraid something is coming to hurt them. We cannot convince them that this is not the case.

“We can treat their symptoms with drugs but this doesn’t resolve the deep-set psychological fractures that have occurred. So aside from the drugs there is little we can do for them.”

At the Paolo Giaccone hospital in Palermo, Dr Filippo Casadei and Dr Maria Chiara Monti are trying to help five Nigerian women referred by migrant reception centres and shelters.

They say that while they understand the women’s psychotic episodes, hallucinations, panic attacks, insomnia and fits to be the physical signs of post-traumatic stress disorders, the women themselves see them as proof that the juju is coming to punish them for leaving their traffickers and breaking their oaths.

“On top of the terrible abuse they have faced while being trafficked, the juju is a constant source of strain on these women, they feel under constant threat and this creates a kind of psychological dependency and addiction,” says Monti. “So when they leave their traffickers, the pressure of the years of carrying this curse on their shoulders can break them.” Casadei says that they recently had a young patient who had been trafficked from her home town in Edo state and had been referred to the hospital after escaping her traffickers.

Sister Mary Anne Nwiboko has helped more than 300 women who have come to her convent in Syracuse. Photograph: Francesco Bellina / Cesura

“She had been doing so well. We were so proud of her. She’d escaped her captors, had been living independently,” Casadei says. “But then one day she received a package in the post from her home town. She couldn’t tell us what was inside but we knew it was related to the juju curse that she’d been made to undergo before her journey to Europe. She had a severe psychotic episode, a very violent reaction to whatever was in that package and we never saw her again.”

Casadei and Monti admit they are at a loss to know how to help the women. “It is pointless trying to say that these curses are not real, these women need to believe in a treatment or solution and there is an impenetrable wall between our two belief systems,” says Casadei. “Our approach of western psychology is virtually useless in these cases.”

Prosecutors say that the juju’s hold over the women is hindering their fight against the traffickers. “Because of the juju, Nigerian women become the perfect victims of sexual slavery,” says Salvatore Vella, a prosecutor in Agrigento. “Gangs know they can trust them, they know women are not going to report them to the police because they are afraid of the consequences for breaking the juju. And this makes our investigation harder. It is almost impossible to find witnesses among Nigerian prostitutes because of the ritual. Maybe one in 20 is ready to speak out. The rest of them are stuck in a wall of silence and fear.’’

There is also evidence of Nigerian criminal gangs in Sicily being in touch with the traditional priests who conduct the rituals. “They are providing the traffickers in Italy with all the information they need to terrify and control their victims. When the women arrive the traffickers know their names, real ages, names of their relatives, and above all the name of the “priest” who conducted the juju ceremonies. You don’t need to use violence if you have this sort of control.”

Some local African leaders on the island are trying to form a bridge between the authorities and victims to try to break the psychological chains.

Sister Mary Anne Nwiboko, a Catholic nun working in a convent in Carlentini in Syracuse, says she has helped more than 300 Nigerian women escape their traffickers since 1998. A trained counsellor and psychotherapist, she works with the police to help identify and approach potential victims. “I have always battled the juju,” she says. “I do not believe in these ceremonies but I understand the power that they hold over these women.”

In recent months, she says the number of women independently seeking her out to help them escape the juju curses has risen sharply. She says she invites them into her convent and uses prayer and song to try to get them to trust her.

“These women are very far away from their home. I know their language, their world, it helps me explain that they don’t need to be afraid. Behind every one of these ceremonies is money and I try to show this to the women. That this is not magic, it is just a way to keep them under their control.”

The influence of a handful of west African self-styled Pentecostal priests and traditional healers who are claiming to exorcise juju spells is also on the rise.

Small informal churches, like the one in Noce, have sprung up in disused buildings and private homes.

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Dear Christians, We Need to Stop Saying We’re “Blessed”

Ive noticed a trend among Christians, myself included, and it troubles me. Our rote response to material windfalls is to call ourselves blessed. Like the amen at the end of a prayer.

By Scott Dannemiller

I was on the phone with a good friend the other day. After covering important topics, like disparaging each others mothers and retelling semi-factual tales from our college days, our conversation turned to the mundane.

So, hows work going? he asked.

For those of you who dont know, I make money by teaching leadership skills and helping people learn to get along in corporate America. My wife says its all a clever disguise so I can get up in front of large groups and tell stories.

I plead the fifth.

I answered my buddys question with,

Definitely feeling blessed. Last year was the best year yet for my business. And it looks like this year will be just as busy.

The words rolled off my tongue without a second thought. Like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or placing my usual lunch order at McDonalds.

But it was a lie.

Now, before you start taking up a collection for the Feed the Dannemillers fund, allow me to explain. Based on last years quest to go 12months without buying anything, you may have the impression that our family is subsisting on Ramen noodles and free chips and salsa at the local Mexican restaurant. Not to worry, we are not in dire straits.

Last year was the best year yet for my business.

But that is not a blessing.

Ive noticed a trend among Christians, myself included, and it troubles me. Our rote response to material windfalls is to call ourselves blessed. Like the amen at the end of a prayer.

This new car is such a blessing.

Finally closed on the house. Feeling blessed.

Just got back from a mission trip. Realizing how blessed we are here in this country.

On the surface, the phrase seems harmless. Faithful even. Why wouldnt I want to give God the glory for everything I have? Isnt that the right thing to do?


As I reflected on my feeling blessed comment, two thoughts came to mind. I realize Im splitting hairs here, creating an argument over semantics. But bear with me, because I believe it is critically important. Its one of those things we cant see because its so culturally ingrained that it has become normal.

But it has to stop. And heres why.

First, when I say that my material fortune is the result of Gods blessing, it reduces The Almighty to some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy who spends his days randomly bestowing cars and cash upon his followers. I cant help but draw parallels to how I handed out M&Ms to my own kids when they followed my directions and chose to poop in the toilet rather than in their pants. Sure, God wants us to continually seek His will, and its for our own good. But positive reinforcement?

God is not a behavioral psychologist.

Second, and more importantly, calling myself blessed because of material good fortune is just plain wrong. For starters, it can be offensive to the hundreds of millions of Christians in the world who live on less than $1 per day. You read that right. Hundreds of millions who receive a single-digit dollar blessing per day.

During our year in Guatemala, Gabby and I witnessed first-hand the damage done by the theology of prosperity, where faithful people scraping by to feed their families were simply told they must not be faithful enough. If they were, God would pull them out of their nightmare. Just try harder, and God will show favor.

The problem? Nowhere in scripture are we promised worldly ease in return for our pledge of faith. In fact, the most devout saints from the Bible usually died penniless, receiving a one-way ticket to prison or death by torture.

Ill take door number three, please.

If were looking for the definition of blessing, Jesus spells it out clearly (Matthew 5: 1-12).

1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him,

2 And He began to teach them, saying:

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I have a sneaking suspicion verses 12a 12b and 12c were omitted from the text. Thats where the disciples responded by saying:

12a Waitest thou for one second, Lord. What about blessed art thou comfortable, or 12b blessed art thou which havest good jobs, a modest house in the suburbs, and a yearly vacation to the Florida Gulf Coast?

12c And Jesus said unto them, Apologies, my brothers, but those did not maketh the cut.

So there it is. Written in red. Plain as day. Even still, we ignore it all when we hijack the word blessed to make it fit neatly into our modern American ideals, creating a cosmic lottery where every sincere prayer buys us another scratch-off ticket. In the process, we stand the risk of alienating those we are hoping to bring to the faith.

And we have to stop playing that game.

The truth is, I have no idea why I was born where I was or why I have the opportunity I have. Its beyond comprehension. But I certainly dont believe God has chosen me above others because of the veracity of my prayers or the depth of my faith. Still, if I take advantage of the opportunities set before me, a comfortable life may come my way. Its not guaranteed. But if it does happen, I dont believe Jesus will call me blessed.

He will call me burdened.

He will ask,

What will you do with it?

Will you use it for yourself?

Will you use it to help?

Will you hold it close for comfort?

Will you share it?

So many hard choices. So few easy answers.

So my prayer today is that I understand my true blessing. Its not my house. Or my job. Or my standard of living.


My blessing is this. I know a God who gives hope to the hopeless. I know a God who loves the unlovable. I know a God who comforts the sorrowful. And I know a God who has planted this same power within me. Within all of us.

And for this blessing, may our response always be,

Use me.

Since I had this conversation, my new response is simply, Im grateful. Would love to hear your thoughts.

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Dortmund attack: man arrested on suspicion of share-dealing plot

Police believe 28-year-old German-Russian national attacked bus in hope of profiting from consequent fall in clubs stock

After the explosives attack on the Borussia Dortmund football team, police followed leads pointing to radical Islam, far-right hooligans and leftwing activists.

In the end, their investigations led them to an entirely new category of extremism: terror fuelled by financial greed.

On Friday, German police arrested a 28-year-old German-Russian national on suspicion of having carried out the explosives attack on Dortmunds team bus in order to collapse the clubs share price so he could profit from stock market speculation.

Sergej W is also accused of having left behind several copies of a faked letter that tried to frame the attack as an act of Islamist terror.

The suspect was arrested by special operation officers on his way to his workplace at the University hospital in the southern town of Tbingen at 6am on Friday. On the day of the attack, 11 April, he had bought a put option an option to sell assets at an agreed price on or before a particular date on Borussia Dortmunds shares, giving him the right to sell the shares for a specified price at a predetermined date.

Had the explosives killed a member of the team and the clubs share price dropped, the value of his put option would have increased significantly.

According to German media reports, Sergej W bought 15,000 put warrants for 78,000(65,300) and could have gained up to 3.9m as a result of a large drop in Dortmunds shares.

As outlandish as such a plot may first appear, it would explain why Borussia Dortmund became the first football team to be directly targeted by what looked like a terrorist attack: Dortmund is the only club in Germany to float shares on the stock market.

If the clubs share price had dropped by more than half after the attack, a speculator could have got a return of 1m on an investment of a couple of thousand euros.

Dortmunds share price did drop temporarily after the incident, but only by 5%. After the suspects arrest on Friday, the clubs share price rose by 4%, from 5.46 to 5.58.

Police were first alerted to unusual activity on the stock exchange only a day after the attack, but had initially dismissed the lead. Employees of Comdirect, an online broker attached to the German bank Commerzbank, later contacted police about Sergej Ws unusual purchase over suspicions of money laundering.

Because Sergej W had purchased the put options online from his hotel room, police were able to identify him via the hotels IP address.

The team bus was heading to their stadium for a Champions League match against Monaco last Tuesday when three explosions occurred, wounding the Spanish defender Marc Bartra and delaying the match by a day.

The professional nature of the attack initially led investigators to suspect a terrorist dimension to the attack.

Three identical printed statements found near the crime scene one attached to a post, the other placed inside the hedge where the explosiions occurred had mentioned last Decembers Islamist terrorist attack on a Berlin Christmas market and referenced the caliphate, initially seeming to corroborate investigators suspicions of a radical Islamist motive.

Two other statements then appeared online, claiming the attack was driven by far-left and far-right motives. But after consulting terrorism experts, investigators increasingly began to doubt the authenticity of the three statements.

The possibility that a stock-market speculator was behind the assault on the lives of one of Germanys popular football teams would at that stage have required a lively imagination.

Sergej W, who grew up in the town of Freudenstadt in the Black Forest and whose parents are originally from the Ural mountains, is seen as the likely sole architect of the attack. Germanys criminal prosecutor said on Friday there was no indication that the 28-year-old had any accomplices.

It remains unclear how the suspect was able to get hold of the explosives used in the attack. According to news magazine Der Spiegel, Sergej W had carried out his military service in 2008, where he worked as a electrician supporting an army medical unit.

Other reports in the German press pointed out that Sergej W has completed an apprenticeship prize as a electronics technician, winning an educational prize for technical engineering in July 2015.

Newspaper Bild quoted anonymous investigators who said Ws above-average knowledge in the field of electronic engineering could have allowed him to install and trigger the explosives remotely on his own. Police are searching four separate apartments in connection with the attack.

The suspect had first booked a room at L`Arrive hotel, where the Dortmund team typically stays for home matches, in mid-March. He had also booked a room for the periods of 9-13 April and 16-20 April, at a stage where it was unclear whether Dortmunds home match against Monaco would be in the first or second leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

During check-in, the suspect reportedly rejected the first room offered to him because it did not have a window pointing facing the road where the explosives had been installed. His second room, in the attic, had a clear view of the location.

According to Bild, L`Arrive employees had become suspicious of Sergej W shortly after the explosion: while other guests ran around the hotel in a panic, he walked calmly into a restaurant and ordered a steak. His hotel bill showed that he had later ordered a massage.

In a press statement on Friday, Germanys criminal prosecutor said the faulty installation of the explosive devices may have saved the players lives. While the first and last of the devices had been installed near ground level, the middle one was placed roughly one metre above the ground too high to cause maximum damage, according to police.

Metal pins fitted to the devices 70mm wide, 6mm in diameter and weighing 15g each were found 250 metres from the site of the explosions. One was found lodged in the headrest of a seat in the back row of the bus.

The German interior minister, Thomas de Maizire, on Friday described the attack as driven by a particularly abominable form of greed.

Borussia Dortmund, whose club name references the New Latin word for Prussia, became the first German football to float on the stock market in 2001 an experiment that brought the club to the brink of bankruptcy.

After a euphoric stock market launch that earned the club 140m, Dortmund invested heavily in new players but failed to turn its new spending power into sporting success. In July 2004, several players complained they had not received their wages, and by 2005, the club had racked up debts to the tune of 118m.

Under a new management, Borussia gradually repaid its debts and eventually returned to sporting glory, winning the Bundesliga title under current Liverpool coach Jrgen Klopp in 2011 and 2012. The bad hangover of the mismanaged stock-market launch seem to have been banished.

Few would have imagined that after nearly killing off the club once, the stock market would literally drive its first team to a brush with death years later.

The put option

The suspect in the Borussia Dortmund bomb attack allegedly aimed to turn a profit from the collapse of the clubs share price after a terrorist attack.

His efforts appear to have failed. Anyone wanting to make money from a fall in share prices has two obvious strategies: short selling or buying a put option. Short sellers sell a share they have borrowed with the hope of buying it back at a cheaper price when the shares have fallen in value. Buyers of put options are striking a deal to be able to sell a share at a predetermined price.

German prosecutors allege that the suspect behind the Borussia Dortmund bomb attack was using the latter to try to turn a profit.

Sergej W is said to have bought 15,000 put options on 11 April. The shares in the club had closed that day at 5.61, before the attack took place. The shares fell as low as 5.50 the following day.

According to Bloomberg, the strike price on the put options was 5.20. If correct, the suspect was a long way from making any money because the share price had not fallen very far. He could only turn a profit if the shares fell below that level by 16 June, when the option expires.

German police have not said how much money they believe the suspect stood to make or confirmed the level at which the options were priced.

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Help Fill The Void In Music Journalism: You Don't Need Permission To Start Writing About Music –

Help Fill The Void In Music Journalism: You Don't Need Permission To Start Writing About Music
The Grey Estates has become a tight online community, and I'm often asked how I got started or how others can go about creating a music blog. This piece is my advice to you. I should preface this by saying that if you're looking to make money doing

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10 predictable headlines from the Cowboys big win in San Francisco – Blogging The Boys (blog)

Blogging The Boys (blog)

10 predictable headlines from the Cowboys big win in San Francisco
Blogging The Boys (blog)
Blogging The Boys Blogging The Boys, a Dallas Cowboys fan community. Log In or Sign Up · Log In · Sign Up · Fanposts · Fanshots · Sections; Library; Cowboys · Odds · Shop · About · Masthead · Community Guidelines · StubHub; More. All 319 blogs on.
San Francisco 49ers Football News, Schedule, Roster, Stats – SB NationSB Nation

all 617 news articles »

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“Coffin Torpedoes Were Invented During The 19th-Century’s Wave Of Grave Robberies

Grave robbing was a bit of a problemafter the American Civil War. Weirdly enough, most of these body-snatchers were not just looking for riches and jewels. Often, medical schools were looking for fresh cadavers to dissect and research.

Fortunately, a coupleof inventors had a solution.Philip K Clover of Columbus, Ohio, developed a device he called the coffin-torpedo. His invention even received a patent in 1878 (below). In his words, it was a device created to prevent the unauthorized resurrection of dead bodies.”

It involved a system of triggers and springs that detonates an explosion of lead balls ifthe casket lid isopened after burial. Despite its name, the coffin-torpedo is more comparable to a landmine than an underwater missile.

Eager to jump into this expanding market, other budding entrepreneurs followed Clover in developing their own renditions of the device. Judge Thomas N Howelladvertised his revisionof the coffin-torpedo with the catchy slogan: Sleep well sweet angel, let no fears of ghouls disturb thy rest, for above thy shrouded form lies a torpedo, ready to make mincemeat of anyone who attempts to convey you to the pickling vat.

Philip K Clover’s patent for his bizarre invention. Public Domain via Google Patents

However, it doesn’tappear thatthese deviceswere frequently used. Atlas Obscura chatted to anthropologist Dr Kate Meyers Emery, who said: For the most part, these devices seem to have been used very little.They were definitely oddities designed to make money off of the widespread fear about body snatching.

But the question remains: Why was there such a spate of grave robbers during this time?

Despite anti-robbing laws implemented in multiple states, dozens upon dozens of these crimes occurred in the late-19th century, especially in Ohio. The most famous of which was the son of the former-US President William Henry Harrison and Ohio Congressman John Scott Harrison.

Following the Civil War, medical schools were beginning to become more widespread, withan increasing demand for dead bodies to dissect. This cadaver black-market was eventually resolved when a law was passed allowing doctors to collect and dissect unclaimed bodies from the workhouses where the poor were sent. Arguably, that’s even grimmer.

The extent of the snatchings might be overstated, as newspapers were quick to jump on the sensationalist stories, prompting a fair amount of public hysteria. However, as you’ve seen, there were also a fair few inventors keen to jump on the bandwagon and earn a few pennies.

[H/T:Atlas Obscura]

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