depressing things (research but NSFW)

all the trigger warnings

no seriously

i guess the only the most egregious / likely to win cases get prosecuted. but still depressing

Case 0715 United States of America Sentence Date: 2015-07-01

[] admitted that although he never personally recruited, groomed, or coerced any of the victims, he benefited financially from the sex trafficking operation. …. [] would charge the pimps and sex trafficking co-conspirators higher rates than other motel guests, … learned that members of the sex trafficking conspiracy physically assaulted women they prostituted, including one instance in which a co-conspirator brutally beat one woman with a large piece of wood while she screamed for help, leaving her with multiple lacerations and what appeared to be a broken arm … [] also saw the damage that a co-conspirator caused to a motel room during a beating, including a broken toilet, a damaged sink, and blood on the walls …. [] agreed not to call the police after the co-conspirator paid him for the damage to the room.

Who came in to clean up the blood…?

From human trafficking textbook:

“The spread of HIV/AIDS … offers another significant example of how demand influences the portrait of human trafficking. In those regions where HIV/AIDS is still widespread, the demand for younger and younger girls continues to grow.”

From trafficking conference presentation:

Nazmia Comrie et al.: Hospitality Trafficking: King Case (Florida, 2007)

– Eastern European students on J-1 visas exploited in five-star Hilton resort in Florida Panhandle
– Students had been promised jobs at Disney World
– Instead taken to North Florida and worked as maids in Hilton resort for $2 to $3 an hour
– Perpetrators were Russian organized crime operating with U.S. citizen front man
– Students “recycled” every three to four months
– Hilton places all legal blame on its subcontractor

Then there’s the RM reviews which are also quite awful. One from 2014 was like… “The girl wasn’t enthusiastic about it, and I only got a HJ (handjob) from her. Not recommend.” — and the review indicated he didn’t even pay a tip.

The filthy entitlement of it.

The remaining parts below are less graphic and more just depressing.

I’ve been trying to read up more on labor trafficking cases, since y gut instinct is they might be understudied. Case studies

workers who were paid through a subcontractor often didn’t realize that something was wrong until they received their first paycheck and saw deductions for housing, food, transportation, and in some case medical insurance, and were often left with so little that their earnings would barely make a dent in their debt back home.

also, in many cases, victims had accrued a debt back home (e.g.,bank loans, property collateral)to come to the United States and would face a host of consequences if they were deported and unable to pay that debt back. >>> I’m sure this makes it harder to prosecute..

rather, law enforcement arrived at the traffickers’ household and chose to believe the perpetrators instead of the… The security people show up and of course they’re under orders. … They can stay on the street, but they can’t step over the curb into the curtilage of the residence. So they only stood at the curb … essentially believed everything that he [the trafficker] was telling them. And then they go back in [the] house,and it was that night that he lost his temper and started beating the crap out of her and wound up breaking her finger. … I was like, “Did you ever think about calling the sheriff’s office?” And then he goes. . . “We have to have the homeowner’s permission.” No, you don’t. >>> Well, just, depressing.

of these victims, 46 percent were single and 45 percent were married. Sixty-four percent of the victims had children. >>> Definitely changed my perspective of who is trafficking

With the exception of one worker who was an American citizen, the farm workers were Mexican citizens who entered the country legally in 2019 as H-2A visa holders on a contract to work at Windy Prairie Farm. Plaintiffs’ attorneys said the workers routinely worked long hours but were paid little or nothing and were never reimbursed for pre-employment travel or related expenses. … including allegations that he threatened to strangle the person who complained to the DOL. >>> The extent that a lot of legal visas are used surprised me. One case read “oh, the visa renewal was denied due to low wages specified. then law enforcement went in, investigated, and arrested the workers”…

had no previous encounters with law enforcement in their home countries or in the United States and were law-abiding individuals. Thus, the threat and fear of deportation, or the mere mention of law enforcement or ties to law enforcement, were enough to keep victims from running away or seeking help. >>> this rings true… what is the case for law enforcement to become known in their communities as positive forces?

It’s kind of tiring to deal with this stuff and then on the other hand read about cases that get dismissed by judges who I assume, charitably, don’t deal with this day-in and day-out and can’t see the patterns.

The following bits are a bit more scattered, I really just wanted to vent above. Now just jotting some general thoughts that are criss-crossing my mind.

A lot of the more egregious examples are made possible because of poverty. I guess honestly in my heart I feel the solution to these extremes is figuring out how to get people out of poverty. Reading about all the people involved fighting so hard just makes it so tiring to think about. But if the economic factors can be fixed… I think witnessing and reflecting China’s growth in my pretty short lifetime really drives that optimism. From hand-pulled rickshaws to gleaming metropolis. Plenty of issues but the sheer economic growth and increased standard of living in the last 15-20 years (from when I spent summers with my grandma in elementary school, to visiting post-undergrad undergraduate) is insane.

When I feed the hungry, they call me a saint. When I ask why people are hungry, they call me a Communist

Dom Helder Camara, Brazilian archbishop, as quoted in Peace Behind Bars : A Peacemaking Priest’s Journal from Jail (1995) by John Dear, p. 65; this is a translation of “Quando dou comida aos pobres chamam-me de santo. Quando pergunto por que eles são pobres chamam-me de comunista.”

An interested podcast this week (quite short) on this, as part of Black History Month. I really liked the insight.

Peter says that Lewis’s insight [dual-sector model of development] changed our understanding of the ways that poor countries can raise living standards for their citizens

There’s also a brief phrase that resonates with my experience. Not quite same in transcript, recommend listen.

HENRY: Between 1978 and 2014, when China was going through the most miraculous period of economic growth in history

Also reflecting on my changing views on Africa. I forgot that as a kid, Africa seemed like this continent beset by never-ending amounts of civil wars and then the HIV/AIDS epidemic. To where it is now, a promising candidate for growth. As opposed to the stasis and decay of the last years in the United States, looking at Africa now feels optimistic.

Infrastructure a bigger problem than corruption. The need for agriculture tech vs. current sustenance farming. The hope for the model that drove economic growth in China (cheap labor for manufacturing), interrupted by automation (robotics allowing for manufacturing to return to US / may skip Africa).

Pandemic Diary #34 – 17 Feb

Although overall my mood is okay, compared to the bottoms of 2016, as the 1 year anniversary of moving out comes up, with no end in sight still, I’ve definitely felt a little mopey. I want my parents to get the vaccine, and I want to be paid.

It weighs on my mind that I sit in a room of presumably well paid corporate people, while being unpaid, and because i was the one who brought up oh maybe there are some ethical considerations here, now I am the one who is tasked with writing about it. I guess I have been paid with (access to) data. But the irony is the data is about Asian massage parlors* . So here I am, unpaid while the men in the room are paid, being asked to spend my time writing about the ethics of studying a topic that ultimately involves the power imbalance between men and women.

* which let me tell you, the amount of entitlement in that dataset really makes you feel as you are treading through the muck of civilization

Am I being paid enough for this? Somehow I have both had the privilege to choose my position of continuing my PhD, without being paid, yet also I feel the situation is unjust in some way that’s hard to put my finger on. There is no funding on this topic in academia, compared to e.g. supporting entire labs studying haptics in robotic touch. I don’t ask for industry levels of pay. I would just like to be paid enough to feel comfortable renting a room in Boston.

I don’t know, life is absurd sometimes. It’s no use being too mad about it all the time. Too close scrutiny about power imbalances may just ingrain those power imbalances. Best to just make sure I can rapidly exit this situation in less than 1.5 years.

Pandemic Diary #33 – 15 Feb 2021 – Chinese Progress, Couch to 5k Progress, Birds

Well, Trump was acquitted even though he incited an insurrectionist riot (and the majority of Americans agree he was guilty). People are not surprised – but I feel that’s a self-defeating attitude! It’s just really uncomfortable since Myanmar actually had a coup in the same space of time basically. I’m not so confident that our institutions are so strong that they will withstand this sustained rot – a coup feels way less an abstract idea and far closer to reality now. As well as the realization that, if there really was a coup, what would I do about it? What could we do about it?


Made Anki set of 3k most common Chinese characters as mentioned before. It’s kind of addicting working through them. (In fact I’ve unfortunately given up on my Chinese diaries due to time spent on them). A nice side effect is that, as I watch dramas or read random Chinese material (or even my video games or phone screens), I can recognize the characters I learned the previous day, which is always great. It really makes the progress feel tangible. Stats from Feb 14th: Mature: 367 (learned and know well), Young and Learning: 775 cards, Unseen 1709 hanzi, and Suspended 149 hanzi (I just skipped the first 149 assuming I knew at least those).

I set a goal of two months. (for learning the 3k characters), currently set at 43 new words (and 50 reviews) a day (though, I’m not sure if that’s an equality or a maximum limit). Started on Jan 23rd so I think I’m actually a bit behind schedule? I should probably bump it up to 50 new cards a day, since actually, I need to aim for 1.5 months encountering words as new, and 2 months encountering them as known.

I’ve totaled 717 minutes in the app already… and I’m sure that’s an undercount, it doesn’t seem to count the time I spend looking up examples in Pleco. (Honestly, I should just sit down again and write a script to scrape examples from CC-EDICT, and do it properly. But just haven’t found the time/energy, and maybe it’s useful to look through the words list anyway).

I’m not entirely sure the corpus this frequency list drew from, some characters seem to be higher in the frequency list than I would expect. But that’s fine.


I had a vague new year’s resolution to start running / exercising. It’s going… okay. I have completed six runs! Technically that is two weeks but I have spent a month. I did three runs (using Zombies 5k app) and then my back seriously hurt, so I took a break and switched apps to something a little more gently paced (Just Run), which is a nice minimalist app. In any case, with the zombies, a large part of it was still dead space for running that I filled with watching TV. So switching to Just Run has worked well, so long as I can hear the prompts. And I use Samsung Health app which automatically detects runs and gives me an estimate of how far I ran (my treadmill’s distance feature is broken). I have special Pants with Pockets ™ for exercising for this reason. It unfortunately does not seem to do well, since it thinks I exercised the same amount (distance wise) on the days I did not run.

Set up with treadmill and old computer monitor, TV, and chromecast. I have a monthly $5 donation to local public radio, which it turns out gives me access to PBS shows! I’m watching one called Scarlett and the Duke, which is kind of like female Sherlock Holmes whodunit style TV.

Unfortunately the episodes are longer than a run, so I keep forgetting where I’m at, especially when I take a week long hiatus from running oops.

I should set a goal for this or else I’ll just slack. I think the issue is the length of time – 2 months. Not sure I want to be at home on a treadmill for two months. But I guess I can always start running outside some day (without a TV show! T__T But maybe with AI powered reading of computer science journal articles…).

Chinese + Exercise..?

In a most questionable purchase, I got a Switch and Ring Fit and Just Dance. I think I don’t regret it. It’s a nice social way to exercise with family when it’s cold or rainy out (we used to go for semi-regular 30 min walks). I’ve also learned a lot of different exercises I didn’t know before.

Ring Fit, with Chinese option


I forget if I mentioned. But got a bird feeder, which attracted no birds for a full month. Then got a suet feeder, had birds the next day, and now have birds all the time, and just a few days ago got the first squirrel.

Academic Mood

Pretty terrible. Should be excited to have data. Topic is depressing to work on alone and unpaid.


Thanks Obama. I have semi-reasonable priced health insurance, based on my estimate of my income this year (min. $12,500 needed to qualify). Nominally $380 a month. Also have dental insurance, which is just $10 a month, and I get two cleanings for $10 each. WAY CHEAPER THAN HARVARD which was $575 a year and then rejected my routine cleaning claim. wtf. I’ve literally wasted hundreds of dollars and could have wasted more, because there is no guidance on health insurance options. (I also though my best option for health insurance was paying Harvard $380 a month. Then turned out as a TA I qualified for way cheaper insurance at $150ish a month. And then turns out I qualify for tax credits and should only have been paying $70 something dollars?

With health insurance, I’m much more likely to go do some preventative maintenance things, which might seem like it costs money. However I’m pretty sure it’s actually way more cost effective: that a thousand dollars spent now saves ten thousand dollars down the line.

Side Work

Completed some side work. Mixed feelings, should be doing research. But side works pays when research doesn’t, and also has set deliverables and end state. The unpredictability of research outcomes is so much more tolerable when paid and have health insurance…

The image carousel is even “responsive” , and the site kindaaa works on mobile. More than it did before I put work into it at least.

That’s all for today folks.