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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A nationwide sting focused on underage prostitution has freed 105 sexually abused youths and netted 150 pimps, the FBI announced.

Most of the minors rescued during the three-day operation in 76 cities are aged 13 to 16, said Ronald Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Our goal is that child trafficking is openly discussed,” Hosko told reporters. “We are trying to take this crime out of the shadows and put a spotlight on it… to put them [the children] out of the cycle.”

The sweep took place in conjunction with local, state, and federal law enforcement, as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

NCMEC CEO John Ryan said the sting, dubbed Operation Cross Country, “demonstrates just how many of America’s children are being sold for sex every day, many on the Internet.”

San Francisco agents freed a dozen children and arrested 17 pimps, while the FBI’s Detroit team rescued 10 children and took 18 pimps into custody. In Atlanta, two youths were recovered, while 17 pimps were detained.

The busts typically began by targeting truck stops, casinos, as well as websites that advertise dating or escort services, the FBI said. The detained often ended up helping uncover wider networks of prostitution that cross state lines, turning it into a federal crime.

The operation was part of the bureau’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, which, since its launch in 2003, has been involved in the rescue of more than 2,700 sexually exploited children.

One girl freed in an earlier operation, identified only as Alex in an interview posted on the FBI’s web site, was 15 when she left a difficult home situation, and 16 when she turned to prostitution.

“At first it was terrifying, and then you just kind of become numb to it,” she said of her experience on the streets. “You put on a whole different attitude — like a different person. It wasn’t me. I know that. Nothing about it was me.”

She ultimately contacted the FBI, which, with her help, arrested two pimps and rescued several other minors.

FBI agent Kurt Ormberg, involved in that operation, said vulnerable children tend to be seeking to fill a void, often related to problems at home.

“Too often,” he said, “these young victims don’t think they have anywhere else to turn.”

There have been 1,350 convictions from the Innocent Lost initiative’s investigations, resulting “in lengthy sentences, including 10 life terms and the seizure of more than $3.1million in assets,” the FBI statement said.

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]