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Saturday, January 24, 2004

Sex Slaves On Main Street

The NY Times sends out a provocative warning about on a grim situation. The New York Times Magazine cover story tells a sad story of sex slavers holding "perhaps tens of thousands" of women, girls, and boys against their will in the United States. The story starts not very far from New York City with a vivid description of a police raid:

For tens of thousands of women and girls forced into prostitution around the world, the hell they're living is in the cities and towns of America-

The house at 1212 1/2 West Front Street in Plainfield, NJ is a conventional midcentury home with slate gray siding, white trim and Victorian lines...the police [raid] found a squalid, land-based equivalent of a 19th-century slave ship, with rancid, doorless bathrooms; bare, putrid mattresses, and a stash of penicillin, "morning after" pills and misoprostol, an antiulcer medication that can induce abortion. The girls were pale, exhausted and malnourished.

It turns out that 1212 1/2 West Front Street was one of what law-enforcement officials say are dozens of active stash houses and apartments in the New York metropolitan area - mirroring hundreds more in other major cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta and Chicago - where under-age girls and young women from dozens of countries are trafficked and held captive...
The article goes on to mention an undisclosed website that reportedly sells sex slaves.

Update: Jack Shafer, at Slate.com, has come forward to challenge the veracity of this article by Peter Landesman. Many are left wondering if The New York Times has joined the ranks of the checkout tabloids like The National Enquirer.

Sex Slaves of West 43rd Street [slate.com, Jan. 26, 2005]
Doubting Landesman [slate.com, Jan. 27, 2005]

Update: The NY Times fires back and says that after an investigation the "Sex Slaves" story is "sound".

Times: Sex-slave story 'sound' [NY Daily News]
Assessing Landesman [Slate.com]
Peter Landesman: Badass of 43rd Street [Gawker.com, Jan. 30, 2005]
Photo of Landesman

Update 13-Feb-04: NY Times Magazine journalist Peter Landesman sold the film rights to this story to filmmaker Roland Emmerich.

Sex, Slaves and Videotape [FilmStew.com, Feb. 12, 2004]

Update 29-Feb-04: NY Times Ombudsman (The Public Editor) Daniel Okrent analyzes the Landesman story-"What Do You Know, and How Do You Know It?"

There is now a lengthy Editor's Note and Correction Appended at the end of the original article.

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