“Enough Is Enough”

The recent battle over a Canadian high school’s dress code pits a halter dress against a concept: that girls are responsible for the lustful thoughts of boys and men.

The dress code at Harrison Trimble High School in New Brunswick, where 17-year-old Lauren Wiggins is a student, specifies that “shirts” must cover the back and shoulders. By extrapolation, that means dresses (Wiggins’s fell to her ankles) must also employ fabric to cover the wearer’s shoulders and back. Frankly, it’s a reasonable request for health and safety reasons. If something fell on students’ shoulders (hot food in the cafeteria, chemicals in the lab, a bat or ball during physical education class), they would have at least a layer of protection against injury.

Health and safety, however, were not the reasons cited by Trimble High School’s principal, Shane Sturgeon, when he demanded that Wiggins cover her back and shoulders. Instead, he required a change in attire because the halter dress was “sexually distracting” to the male students at her high school.

He said nothing about the potential distraction to lesbian female students. Perhaps he believes they do not exist. Nor did he mention how male students are affected by the sight of bare male shoulder blades and spines. In a game of shirts versus skins, for example.

Shane Sturgeon is a man. He was once a teenage boy. If he makes a strong effort, he might recall that at that age, almost anything was “sexually distracting” to him. The movie he viewed the night before. The girl he would meet in math class, a girl whose body he had never seen but lustfully imagined. His school bus ride over a bumpy road. Anything can set a teenage boy (or a man, for that matter) off on a tangent, because nature cares nothing for individuals or their discomfort. Its focus is on perpetuation of the species.

Calling Wiggins’s dress “sexually distracting” is ridiculous. Sturgeon would be more accurate if he said life is sexually distracting.

This not strictly a North American problem. In the English city of Hull, not far from the North Sea, a male teacher at Bridlington School told a student her uniform skirt was “too short” – for unknown reasons he chose not to summon a female colleague to talk with the girl – and she promptly replied that he should not be looking at her legs. Instead of quoting the dress code, he felt “uncomfortable” and went to the principal with his concerns. (If an apropos comment forces him, “uncomfortable”, to run to authority, perhaps he ought to seek new employment. The rigors of school are not for him.) In response, the principal decided to ban uniform skirts altogether. Parents must now buy trousers for their daughters from the chosen school supplier, who applies a hefty markup over the local store’s price for the same item. Parents are understandably outraged (I expect the mothers recall when they were forbidden to wear “unfeminine” trousers to class) and call the school’s decision “sexist”. Their petition already has 1,100 signatures.

There’s a sinister force at work here, and it creeps close to the idea held in many countries and by fundamentalist religions: that men’s honor is found between the legs of women. What a way to eschew personal responsibility! It underpins the brutality of female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage, family-directed murders, all the horrors of societies whose culture demands the sacrifice of the safety and health of girls and women.

Similarly, in the eyes of Harrison Trimble High School’s principal, girls are made responsible for boys’ lustful thoughts and erectile virginity.

Look, Mr. Sturgeon. The only person responsible for one’s thoughts and reactions is . . . that person. Including you. If you find Wiggins’s dress distracting, that’s on you. You could bury yourself in your work, turn your thoughts to cauliflower, remind yourself that as an adult you are required to view your charges as students, not potential sex partners.

If you find Wiggins’s dress breaches the dress code rules, then it’s on you to say that. Full stop, end of sentence. You might talk about health and safety, as well.

But blaming her is just not on. Piling onto her slender shoulders the burdens of her classmates’ impure thoughts and the condition of their penises is outrageous. Consider that many of those classmates over-stimulated themselves – and reduced their empathy, thus dehumanizing themselves – by watching porn the night before. Those are pixels on a screen. Not human beings in the room. Yet you want to offload responsibility for students’ erections onto their female classmates?

Get real.

Lauren Wiggins wrote to her principal, saying in part, “If you are truly so concerned that a boy in this school will get distracted by my upper back and shoulders then he needs to be sent to be sent home and practice self control.”

Excellent idea. Followed by an in-depth look at personal responsibility and the risks of online porn to one’s brain development – since the frontal lobes of teenagers are still under construction.

There are excellent reasons to require the covering of students’ shoulders and backs, none of which are related to sexuality. Those reasons should be applied across the board. No more skins in boys’ games.

And no more blaming high school girls’ attire for their classmates’ thoughts and erections.

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Outlander’s Epic Fail

“Outlander’s” Jenny Fraser Murray (Laura Donnelly) and Claire Randall Fraser (Caitriona Balfe)

I first read Outlander years ago, so even though the current series takes liberties with plot and characters, I accept those as the price of bringing fiction to a televised (read: larger) audience. It’s all good. Until it goes sour. Ignoring the laws of nature.

Like, if “Outlander” had the sun rising in the west. Nope, against the laws of astronomy (and probably physics). Or if the writers made rain fall up from the ground. Against the laws of physics, specifically gravity.

On this past weekend’s episode, Claire Fraser and her newly delivered sister-in-law Jenny take horse (imagine what that must feel like to the tender, stretched tissues of a woman who’s just given birth) to track the English soldiers who have captured Claire’s Scottish husband. Along the way, Jenny must relieve her milk-engorged breasts to keep up her milk supply and to prevent infection until she can return to her new baby.

To do that, she simply drops her bodice and squeezes the milk out into a cup. The process is called letdown, and happens as a result of hormonal response. (She could even drink her own milk, as this woman did while lost in the wilderness.) It’s a scene straight out of the book. Messy it might be – as almost everything to do with bairns is, Jenny tells Claire – but essential for her own health and for her continued milk supply. As an experienced mother, Jenny knows what she’s doing.

Unfortunately, her body does not. Defying the laws of anatomy and physiology, the pale milk (at least the color is right) squirts out of Jenny’s nipple in a single proud stream.

No. Just no. That’s not how it works. Not with human breasts.

As every breastfeeding woman knows, human nipples have several openings to the active milk ducts. If a nursing child withdraws from the breast, he’ll be spattered with a fine, whitish shower of tiny drops streaming from multiple ducts. If they catch in his hair, they’ll look like sticky-sweet snowflakes.

The milk thus arrives not in a single jet, but in a spray. It’s an effective way to deliver sweet-tasting milk to the tastebuds of a newborn, encouraging her to drink more.

How hard would it have been for the producers of “Outlander” to have researched the matter? Just call a lactation consultant. Ask any woman on the production team who’s nursed her own child. Relay the information to the props department. “Yo, guys, not one stream, but several tiny ones!” A snap.

It’s too bad “Outlander” did not do that. The scene was a moving one, and amusing and practical for women who’ve had to deal with their own excess milk production. Laura Donnelly, who plays Jenny, said in an interview, “I thought that was probably a first on TV. We’re very used to seeing breasts displayed sexually on-screen, and I thought this was an opportunity to show breasts for what they’re really there for, in a completely nonsexual manner, that really turns the tables. It’s an absolute necessity at that point for her, and she doesn’t think twice about it. It’s not something that should be hidden away in any sense, and it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of.”

Nothing to be ashamed of at all. Except for the way “Outlander” managed the epic fail of mis-portraying the physiology of human breasts.

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Pro-Rape T-Shirt? Clearly, The Wearer Has Never Been Raped

Clearly delusional. And inexperienced as a potential victim.

All sorts of kudos to the people who outed the nasty perv above on social media. No name yet – a matter of hours, presumably – but a cascade of comments on the cruelty shown by the wearer of the t-shirt have erupted on social media.

Designed after similar others (another famous shirt bears the slogan “Eat Sleep Juventus Repeat” – Juventus is a professional football club/soccer team based in Turin, Italy) in what I hope is a one-off, self-created shirt, the tee took ignorance and spiteful brutality and put them on display at the well-attended Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in desert California.

It seems hardly necessary to add that – well, taking a wild guess, I’m betting the designer/wearer of this obnoxious shirt has never been raped himself.

Nor should he be. Though others might applaud the educational value of becoming the victim instead of the perp, rape should not be used as a punishment for sex crimes. An eye for an eye has never been more wrong.

Is wearing the shirt a sex crime? As an incitement to sexual assault, sure. There’s also willful negligence and perhaps a sort of group libel.

Just to demonstrate how tough it can be for survivors of sexual assault to take the initiative and report what happened to them, take a look at this English video. Filmed in the Tube, it shows the varying sex assaults common on public transportation (one reason for “women only” train carriages in India and other nations). The filmmaker falls down only in showing the same two people repeatedly. Woman of color, well-dressed white man. The producers should have shown other combinations, since white men are not the only scuzzy Tube-riders.

Then there’s this delightful fellow, an architect who while raping a woman he had met on a blind date, told her that “girls say ‘no’ but they don’t mean it”. Poor women, saying words without realizing their true significance. How kind of him to tell us what we mean. That no means yes, the sky is yellow, and other falsehoods.

When it comes to self-control, then, some men (T-shirt guy, dude on the Tube, deluded architect) are permanently out to lunch. Yet current research indicates that self-control is one of the most essential traits parents can teach their children. Without it, they are at the mercy of emotions. Also, as they age, of error-ridden thoughts like “rape is minor” or “I’m entitled to touch another person without permission” or “people who try to stop me don’t really mean it”.

In all the above offenses there is a distinct lack of good cognitive thought. Of sufficient judgment. Of self-restraint.

Let’s hope the t-shirt wearer is soon found, named and shamed. He cannot learn any younger.

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Can Sexual Violence Be Blamed on Genes?

I’m not sure if this is good news except from a scientist’s perspective. Recently, genetic studies in Sweden demonstrated that the propensity to rape is up to five times higher if a man’s brother or father has been convicted of rape.

Because Sweden keeps meticulous records, researchers were able to determine – by comparing half-brothers of different mothers, who generally do not reside together – that up to 40% of the propensity to rape is due to genetic factors. The majority (60%) of the propensity to rape is thus cultural, including a sense of overweening entitlement.

From the article in The Independent: “Scientists said the findings should not be used to excuse sex offending, to restrict the freedom of the male relatives of sex offenders, or to suggest that there are genes for rape or paedophilia. However, they believe the results could lead to better prevention strategies for the sons or brothers of known sex offenders.”

“. . . although sex crime convictions are relatively few overall, our study shows that the family risk increase is substantial. Preventive treatment for families at risk could possibly reduce the number of future victims,” Professor Niklas Langstrom said.

Brave words.

Meanwhile, not only does at least 60% of the propensity to rape derive from cultural factors, we already know what some of those factors are. In a United Nations survey of men in ten Asian countries (not including India), men commonly gave three excuses for why they forced sex on someone who did not want it: boredom, a craving for “excitement” and a sense that they were entitled to force their way into someone else’s body.

Boredom, a search for titillation, entitlement. An unholy trinity, indeed. Add to that the wish to control and humiliate. Though the survey respondents declined to describe themselves that way. Presumably the words cut too close to the bone.

That is where the real work lies, in changing abhorrent cultural attitudes found around the world. There is no difference between a rapist in rural China and one in the US military stationed in New York – except that one wears a uniform and speaks English. Their societies must challenge their views on sexual violence against women, children and men.

There is clearly a role for law enforcement and the courts, as well. The millions of American rape kits languishing on the shelves of police forces nationwide have to be examined. In all countries, law enforcement has to gear up to enforce, well, the laws against rape and sexual violence.

Here’s what can happen when the person in charge declines to take charge: a $3.5 million dollar settlement of a lawsuit. The Arizona sheriff failed to adequately investigate the rape of a 13-year-old. The rapist then struck again, attacking the same child. Now the county must pay up.

It’s a lot less expensive to do the job right the first time. Less painful, less traumatic.

Meanwhile, I look forward to new methods of preventing rape. First, by addressing cultural attitudes. Next, by focusing on genetic profiles, so that boys at risk of becoming rapists are redirected and taught to channel their energies elsewhere.

Finally, we need to learn how to heal the human brain. Genetic markers identified, fine. But those markers do not just sit there in the genome. They affect the brain. In order to neutralize the genes’ influence, we must be able to counter them. Interventions help. Healing the brain – fifty years from now, people will marvel at our current inability to do so – is the only sure way to stop rapists.

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Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Jihadi Brides

Female recruits for the so-called Islamic State

One might think that running away from caring families — from a society where a teenager’s main burdens are reaching school on time and studying for exams — in order to join a desert army of thugs, would be a no-brainer. Of course you’d stay. Duh.

Unfortunately, a number of European teens disagree. They have slipped through the departures net (the UK does not check passports upon departure, just on entrance), often using siblings’ documentation, with enough money – three girls traveling together had stolen and sold their mothers’ jewelry to finance their flight tickets – to make it to Turkey. Once on the ground, they are met by people they’ve been in contact with through their mobile phones. Supplied and paid for by parents, naturally.

Those new friends “guide” them to Syria to join the caliphate. The same way as, in Greek mythology, Charon the ferryman guided the souls of the newly dead across the River Styx.

The IS propaganda machine has cranked up – aided by the estimated $2 billion it acquires every year, much of it by selling people into slavery.

Here is an example of presenting IS as utopia. Five-star lifestyles, children who brandish automatic weapons, so cute! Note that the abaya– and niqab-wearing people are assumed to be female. In reality, they could be small men. No one would know.

The adolescent Western recruits see mobile screens filled with “IS rules!” and “Join the jihad!” weapon-bearing men. And with photos of buff young jihadis, often from a different ethnicity than theirs. Whom, they are assured, will make devoted husbands or colleagues.

Excitement, religious fervor, escape from hovering parents – what could go wrong?

Well, this, for a start. It’s the story of how British schoolgirls are married to IS jihadis – for a week. Then they are sold to another to be “married” for another week. And so on. It’s basically rape for seven days by one man, then a week of rape by another, and another, etcetera. It’s an abuse of the Muslim practice of temporary marriage, Nikah mut’ah – the Quran allows temporary marriage, but the “bride” is supposed to be off-limits afterwards (an abstinence called iddah) so that if she is pregnant, paternity can be determined.

Clearly, if girls are being passed around, the so-called caliphate warriors are breaking their own religious laws. In addition to inflicting pain and terror and pregnancy – itself risky as hell for teens – on adolescents who, two weeks ago, were watching TV with their families. The status of sexual slave was, after all, not what they signed up for. But assuming you can enter jihadi territory and emerge unscathed is like pretending a beer drinker wearing a yellow star in 1944 could stroll into a bar full of storm-troopers and befriend them.

Predators don’t work that way. No matter what they call themselves.

In response to the flow of schoolchildren leaving home, the UK government has removed the passports of girls who have demonstrated interest in traveling to Syria. As this article explains, the passports of some of the parents were taken, as well, when they failed to cooperate with those trying to protect their daughters from a fate worse than death.

Yet it’s not just adolescents, their brains still under construction, acting delusional. Nine British citizens of Sudanese descent – four women and five men studying at a medical school in Khartoum – have vanished on their mercy trip to treat wounded people in Syria. Why enter that country? Hordes of needy Syrians populate the refugee camps of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Presumably, these doctors-in-training wanted to aid the jihad.

In Syria, the male medical workers will be co-opted either as IS medics (often forced to collect blood from sick civilians to fill the veins of wounded jihadis) or as soldiers just as likely to commit murder as the next man. The female med students will be raped and handed round, with or without “marriage”, since as women they are not allowed to treat wounded men – and the needs of sick civilian women and children are low on the IS list.

When some of your best and brightest buy into the 1930s-style claptrap peddled by IS, and when your minors sneak off with dreams of victory and loving marriages – only to be horribly deceived and entrapped – you must take measures to reinstitute sanity. For too long, multiculturalism has waved its own flag, and British police and government agencies have kowtowed for fear of looking racist (note that race and cultural identity are two very different things). Which provides an enormous loophole for people looking to deceive and abuse the vulnerable.

The UK is stirring. A recent op-ed piece by a Muslim woman called veil-wearing “regressive”. Theresa May, the UK home secretary, has declared an end to “tolerating the promotion of sickening and violent ideologies for Islamists and other fanatics” and has called for the “proud promotion of British values” to be at the core of the drive against extremism and terrorism. She also will ban radical preachers and organizations from speaking at schools, which have been fertile places to initiate jihadist recruitment that continues online.

Back in the 1930s, the saying goes, there were two kinds of non-Aryan people in Germany: optimists and pessimists. The pessimists took what they could and moved as far away as possible. The optimists stayed and were killed.

No one was stopping Hitler. No one countered Nazi lies. If Twitter had existed, maybe he would have been undermined earlier.

IS is the new Reich. The time is now to save children from being caught in its devouring jaws.

Mothers, put your children’s passports in storage. At a bank, at a neighbor’s – better still, the home of a non-Muslim neighbor. Start monitoring their mobile use (or simply take the mobile away – yes, they’ll scream, but better their scream at your heavy-handedness than your shrieks of sorrow knowing they are forever lost). Who are they talking to? Who is advertising to them? Do the same thing with their computer use. Find out what their friends are doing and saying. Ask their schools to keep a watchful eye. Put your jewelry in safe storage. Don’t keep large amounts of cash in the house. You may think it’s hidden, but a determined adolescent will find it.

Most importantly, talk to your children. Explain bait-and-switch. Tell them how predators lie and cheat and steal. Explore the similarities between World War II Nazis and the current Islamic State. Educate them, for their own sakes. Just because terrorists call themselves Muslim doesn’t mean they are. They’re wolves draping themselves in the skins of “we’re just like you only more holy”.

Mammas, keep your kids from joining up with the thugs. They will thank you later. They will be alive to thank you.

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Dear Oklahoma University and Other Institutions of Higher Learning: Sexism Also Creates a “Hostile Educational Environment for Others”

Tear It Down

A recent story in the UK press relates the challenge of a little girl who was prevented from buying the sneakers she wanted because they were designed “for boys”. At least that’s what she and her mother were told by a Clark’s employee when they went to try on a pair of these shoes, called Stomp Claws. Take a look. Pretty cool, right? Embedded in the heel is a three-toed dinosaur-ish skeleton foot plastic inlay. Stomp the shoes in soft soil, and wow, it looks like a dinosaur (or giant rhea) has been roaming around your schoolyard. What’s not to love?

The prospective purchaser and her mum contacted Clark’s. It turns out Stomp Claws are made for anyone whose feet are small enough to fit children’s sizes. Clark’s apologized and promised to retrain their employee.

If only it were that easy to turn things around when racism and sexism rear their equally ugly heads.

Oklahoma University (OU) is giving changing the former the old college try. Faced with a busload of tanked-up Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) frat boys who sang incredibly offensive songs with racist lyrics – one song dismissively referred to lynchings – the OU president went commando. This article contains a photograph of his letter expelling a member of the fraternity. Note its language. The young man was expelled for his leadership role in “a chant which has created a hostile educational environment for others”.

Goodness.

Bloggers have referenced First Amendment rights. They noted that OU receives federal funding. Others have retaliated, pointing out that free speech has limits. One cannot shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater, for example. And like most universities, OU probably created a handbook of expectations for students, expectations that were most likely explained during orientation or the first weeks of freshman year.

Indeed, the letter itself – one can see the lawyers’ hands here – accuses the student not of words, but of his role in leading a “chant” that “created a hostile environment”. Extrapolating, we might assume that had he led a group of students to create a banner depicting lynching (hanging from a tree until dead) in a lighthearted, LOL manner, he would have been similarly expelled. Even where no words were used. Or necessary.

The OU president has used a swift and sure hammer. He is backed up by popular opinion. Millions of people are outraged by what the chanters said and did. The discovery that (we all knew this, right?) OU’s SAE fraternity has been plagued by long-term institutionalized racism is a series of nails in its coffin. The suggestion that that particular chant emanated from an SAE chapter in Texas simply widens the net.

Here’s the question, though, examining what the students did with a different lens:

If their “chant” was derisive of the rape of women, if instead of using the N-word, they used the C-word, would Oklahoma University’s president have taken the same actions?

He should. Right?

Because it’s just as offensive. It’s just as likely to create anxiety and fear. Also just as apt to “create a hostile educational environment”.

So far, college leaders have not recognized the similarities between racism and sexism. Even when generations of writers have pointed to them. Including when the sexism is fomented by people who have racist slurs thrown at their heads. Just because you happen to be a target of racism doesn’t mean you cannot also be sexist. Often, there is potent use of “bitch”, “ho”, the C-word, and other words used with contempt and a deliberate attempt at insult.

Creating a “hostile educational environment” is not the birthright of racists. Anyone can do it.

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Stop Assuming They Think Like Adults

A recent fight within the UK and between that nation and Turkey – a country that seeks admittance to the EU, even though only the small portion of it actually belongs in Europe; the majority is in Asia – has to do with teenage girls from Muslim families. Three of them left the UK the other day. The eldest had stolen her older sister’s passport. The UK does not keep track of who leaves the country. Although the rules state that minors may leave only when accompanied by a parent, the girls (one aged 16, the other two 15) were able to fly to Turkey all by themselves.

Why were they going? To cross Turkey into Syria, there to become the latest in a series of adolescent girls scammed and persuaded to become “jihadi brides”.

It appears now that they have entered Syria, despite their parents’ pleas and the Foreign Service tracking. Turkey, blamed for facilitating both female and male Isis devotees’ border crossing, has in turn become rather stroppy itself, complaining that the UK lost three days in informing Turkish officials of the girls’ intention.

Even the girls’ school has had to defend itself from finger-pointing, noting that it does not permit extremist doctrines and strives to teach its students to accept others. The three girls, it says, were not radicalized on its grounds.

That’s probably true. There are too many places online to read radical Islamist philosophy – who needs a brick-and-mortar school?

The parents, rather than accepting responsibility for teaching their daughters that what Muslim men want is more important than the desires of Muslim women, wants the UK to keep track of exits as well as entries. Not a bad idea.

The girls’ aim is to marry terrorists and murderers. Not the actions of sane, healthy women. And even Isis points out that jihadi brides must prepare to be jihadi widows – which means they will in turn be traded off, potentially sold into sexual enslavement, and almost certainly will die (of beatings, suicide, complications of pregnancy and childbirth) in Syria, probably within five years. The parents will never see their daughters again.

There may be good reasons for keeping them from the UK, as escapees from Isis have been indoctrinated in terrorism. Even when their primary role has been support and childbearing, creating more children to be molded into mini-terrorists.

But now comes the argument in The Guardian that the UK should let its adolescents leave because, well, look, they’ve made their decisions. Let them lie in it. Don’t stop them, even if they’re under 18 years old and legally minors to be protected. We’re better off without them. They want to support brutal and murderous regimes? Fine. They’re old enough to know better.

Except they’re not.

What that Guardian writer fails to understand is that although adolescents may look mature, inside they’re still growing. They certainly aren’t mature when it comes to childbearing, which is hugely more risky for teenagers than for women over 20. Even sex is risky, since their bodies have not finished developing. An immature vagina should not be entered by anyone’s engorged penis, including that of a jihadi “husband”.

And we have evidence that inside these girls’ brains, there is a whole lot of re-assembly going on. Dr. Jay Giedd of the US National Institutes of Health, among others, is engaged in longitudinal research on brain development. What he has found through fMRI examination of healthy people is that teenagers’ brains are entirely different from those of adults. The area really should be cordoned off with “Caution: Undergoing Construction” tape. Teens literally cannot think the way grown-ups do, and it’s wrong to blame them when they don’t.

As Giedd has said, “It’s sort of unfair to expect them to have adult levels of organizational skills or decision-making before their brains are finished being built.” Meaning, just because a brain has acquired adult size in terms of its weight does not mean it’s ready for full and complete use. That’s like saying a house that’s just been put under roof — meaning the slates or shingles are attached – is ready to be moved into. Wait a minute. What about walls? Plumbing? Electrical wiring, floor finishes, paint, all the other things we expect of a house? Not there! Well, it’s not freakin’ done, then, is it. Back to work!

No one in their right mind leaves to support Isis. We don’t see long lines of mature women ready to give up their freedom and families, do we? These girls are just the latest in a series from different Western countries who have been groomed and seduced online, who wish to exchange a fairly restrictive family existence for an entirely restrictive and ultimately painful and fatal one, while imagining they are more holy for doing what terrorists bid them do.

Prime Minister David Cameron has urged that more attention be paid to online radicalization by people promoting the “poisonous ideology” of terrorism, and Europol is enhancing cooperation among agencies to connect the dots between extremist recruiters and those who finance their activities.

Families need to make their children’s passports unobtainable. In a deposit box or held by a non-Muslim friend or colleague. In addition, they must have serious chats with their children in order to teach them of the risks of extremism. Also, the UK ought to be keeping track of the people who leave its shores, especially where they look young.

Because kids and adolescents do not, cannot, think like adults.

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