Horrible People Are Exploiting Cambodia’s Orphanages
Once upon a time, long before Angelina Jolie got a mastectomy, she adopted a Cambodian child. As a result, privileged Westerners of all nationalities flocked to the country’s orphanages in the hope of simultaneously nurturing a child and their own sense of self-worth.
In 2012 alone, Cambodia was visited by 3.5 million tourists, so I guess someone was eventually bound to put two and two together and realize that the hundreds of orphanages throughout the country could be exploited into becoming a tourist attraction for the rising amount of foreign visitors.
The country’s orphanage boom all began in the early 70s, when Pol Pot marauded around the country, intentionally splitting up villages, slaughtering families and imprisoning the educated populace in an attempt to win the civil war. The tactic worked for Pol and his Khmer Rouge regime, but left thousands of children displaced, so NGOs came flooding in to salvage the situation by building orphanages all over the country.
Thirty years later, Cambodia now boasts more than 500 orphanages—a figure that has doubled in the last decade, presumably because the large donations they receive are a much easier way to make money than actually working. Sadly, that nifty little ruse seems to have become public knowledge, and the exploitation of Cambodia’s orphans has turned into a booming, multi-million dollar industry.
Go to Homeschool – My Education Among the Strange Kids of Rural Georgia in the 90s
“To a very great degree, school is a place where children learn to be stupid.” - John Holt
My brother’s first-grade classroom was a repurposed janitor’s closet. There wasn’t enough room for aisles, so he and his 40 classmates would crawl over the tops of the desks to enter and exit the room. They went on exactly one field trip that year, to one of the actual, honest-to-God classrooms the Cherokee County, Georgia, school system was frantically building to catch up to the massive influx of families moving to suburban Atlanta. “You’d better be on your best behavior,” his teacher said, “or we’ll never move into this classroom.” They never did.
I reckon that my fourth-grade classroom, on the other end of the school, didn’t suffer from as many health-code violations. There were a half-dozen leaks in the ceiling, but those would have probably helped if the classroom had ever caught on fire. We didn’t really have aisles either; the desks were arranged in a sort of amorphous jumble to avoid the drips from above.
My parents were more concerned with the curriculum than what the classroom looked like. In third grade up North, I was learning long division, and then we moved to Georgia, where I stepped down to single-digit addition and subtraction. Worksheets featured such problems as 6-2, 3+9, even the occasional 1+1. One day, the kid next to me scooted his desk over. I thought he was going to laugh with me about the 1+1. He spoke in a thoroughly Southern drawl I was still getting used to. “You know how to do this? I don’t get it,” he said as he pointed at the first problem on his worksheet. Eight plus zero.
The following summer, I encountered the term homeschool for the first time. It was on a button my mom had brought home from a conference of some sort, and it read:
Sold. For the next four years, my brother and I were homeschooled.
Jonathan Hobin Recreates the World’s Most Infamous Tragedies with Children
Jonathan Hobin is a Canadian photographer whose series In the Playroom features a range of children reenacting some of the most brutal news stories of our generation, from Jonbenet Ramsey’s death and the Siegfried and Roy tiger mauling to 9/11 and the threat of nuclear war. At first glance it’s hard to tell if the children in the photos understand the horror they’re conveying or if they’re just having a lot of fun. Regardless,many people have reacted strongly. The photos have been described as sick, pure shock, and tasteless, self-indulgent masturbation. Even the children’s parents have been vilified for their involvement.
If you’re in Canada this week, In the Playroom is coming to Toronto for an exhibition at the Gladstone. I gave Jonathan a call at his home in Ottawa to talk about the criticism he’s received, the way kids absorb the news, how his entire series is a criticism of Western media, and whether or not we’re all giant kids playing adults. Oh, and he was nice enough to give us some photos that have not yet been shown anywhere online. So take a look for yourself.
VICE: What kind of feedback have you been getting from the kids in these photos?
Jonathan Hobin: For the most part they just have a lot of fun. They are given permission to do what they are often scolded for doing—acting as crazy as they want. The funny thing is, kids play games where they kill each other all the time. Whenever a kid plays with a water pistol they’re pretending to kill someone. It’s something we see constantly. I’m directly referencing where kids might be learning to do those things and that makes people very uncomfortable
What do the parents think, generally?
I have never photographed a kid without having a clear dialogue with the parents about what the intention is and what I expect the images to be. Some people seem to think that these parents are making money off this in some way, or that they’re fame-seekers. I have yet to really encounter a stage mom. I don’t know if that’s an American anomaly… I’m not sure. I feel like maybe that’s a stereotype and those things aren’t necessarily a factor in Canada. Most of these parents, they’re well-educated, they get the arguments, and they think the photos portray a valid point that they want to participate in.
There was one circumstance with the Jonbenet Ramsey photograph where the girl is, essentially, imitating a child murder victim after a sexual attack. We were very cautious in moving forward with that one. The girl was unfazed, but the mother was clearly concerned and clearly cautious about moving forward. But I think any healthy parent would be very cautious with something like that.
Do the kids understand the scenes they’re portraying?
Sometimes the kids just get it. Like the 9/11 picture. Even though they are three or four years old, they saw the twin towers and said, “I’ll hold the airplane, this is where the plane hit the building.” The mother was stunned. These symbols have worked their way into our subconscious. They are so ingrained in our culture, and they’re instantly recognizable. On the other hand, one of the new images is about acid attacks. With those kids, you’d say, “You’re fighting. To hurt that person you pour something that will sting on them.” You talk to them in terms they’re going to understand. And they understand it’s one person hurting another person—that’s the big picture. To start talking about specifics, like bringing in culture, religion… things like that, I think that’s just too big for them to handle. They get the broad strokes. I’m sure it makes for some very interesting conversations on the way home from the photo shoot.
Over the next two months, in celebration of the forthcoming release of Tao Lin’s latest novel, Taipei, we will be featuring a weekly selection of photos taken by the author during his recent trip to Taipei, Taiwan. While there, he took thousands of pictures with his iPhone, pictures which he has divided into albums titled things like “Taipei funny,” “Taipei food,” Taipei babies,” and “Taipei animals,” among others. The images were taken between January and February 2013 during one of his semi-yearly visits to the Taiwanese capital, where his parents live. This first selection is titled “Taipei babies.” All photos and captions by Tao Lin.
I Tattooed Porn Sites on My Face So My Kids Wouldn’t Starve
In 1990, Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, dreaming of a future in which all barriers to communication were torn down and people everywhere could bask in the glory of an interconnected global world. Two decades later, a man had the URLs of multiple porn websites tattooed on his face. It seems as if the internet has reached its logical conclusion.
Call me a prude, but it’s always been a general rule of mine to not tattoo pornographic websites on to my face. But for Hostgator Dotcom—née Billy Gibby—it didn’t take a second thought. Faced with unemployment and a pending eviction, he did what any good father would do: Sold his body, face, and legal name as advertising space to over 40 companies. In that sense, it’s a pretty sad story, and one that’s indicative of how few options America’s poor are faced with these days.
Anyway, when I heard about Hostgator, I thought I should get in touch because, a) I wanted to give him some more coverage to help him make more money to feed his kids, and b) I wanted to know what it feels like to have “Pornhub.com” tattooed on your face. Turns out it doesn’t feel that great.
VICE: Why, Hostgator? Why?
Hostgator Dotcom: Well, I used to just sell tattooed advertising space on my body, but no one was really buying it. I was laid off at the job I had, my family and I were gonna be evicted, and I needed a way for us to survive financially. I didn’t want to do anything illegal and I didn’t have any friends I could borrow money from. I looked for jobs but couldn’t get one, and I couldn’t allow my wife and children to be homeless, so I thought I’d sacrifice my face so that they could have a place to live. I didn’t want to do it—I really didn’t—but I also didn’t want my kids to be homeless.
That’s very noble of you. How many people are you supporting?
Five kids and my wife.
And I’m guessing Hostgator isn’t your given name?
No, I sold my name to Hostgator.com for $15,000 (£9,966).
Wow, I might have to sell my name if you make that kind of money.
I’m actually trying to sell my name again right now. I’m trying to get in The Guinness Book of World Recordsfor the world’s longest name. So if Golden Palace buys my name, then I’ll be Goldenpalacedotcom Hostgatordotcom.
And it flows so nicely off the tongue. Doesn’t that breach your contract with Hostgator, though?
No, because I still have Hostgator.com in my name.
True. What are some of the websites you have on your face?
What do your wife and kids think about that?
My kids are still young and they accept me for me. My wife is OK with it, but she wants me to get the ones on the face removed, so that’s what I’m working towards now.
So you regret getting the porn sites tattooed on your face now?
Yeah. I did it for a good reason, but I wasn’t thinking rationally at the time. I have bipolar disorder, which I’m not trying to use as an excuse, but I wasn’t thinking as rationally as I am today. I take medication now and I’m more rational.
This Guy Makes Life-Size Child Dolls That Wear Lingerie
Trottla is a Japanese company that produces and sells child-sized, life-like dolls. They’re made to feel and look like real children and come with heating instructions and moveable joints. Before you berate me for immediately assuming these dolls are for pedophiles, consider that there is no male counterpart, they wear lingerie, and just look at the fucking pictures.
The company clearly states that the dolls are not to be used for sexual purposes, but if they’re just kids’ toys, why the hell would you dress them up in matching white lace lingerie sets and give them teeny weeny awkward nipples? The photo galleries used to promote the dolls on the manufacturer’s website are also enough to creep out even the hardiest internet veteran.
Generally, it is legal to produce, sell, and buy these dolls in the UK, though obviously the lines begin to blur when it comes to their usage and how they’re displayed. How is there a loophole in UK law big enough for a life-size child sex doll to fit through? I caught up with Shin Takagi, the owner of Trottla and the guy who makes the dolls, to find out how his business continues to operate.
VICE: Hey guys. So how are Trottla dolls made?
Shin Takagi: We produce most parts of the dolls ourselves because a lot of the parts aren’t available commercially. It requires a lot of time to fully reproduce the movement of the human body. Its skin is soft like a marshmallow and is made of the closest material to human skin. The whole process requires great risk. Our dolls are the only dolls in the world that will substitute a human girl.
Why, though? What are they for?
I cannot be precise in my answer to this. The purpose of the doll differs with each customer and the customer is free to use the doll in any way they wish.
So I’m guessing it’s not for kids… Is it a sex toy?
This is the customer’s choice. However, we do prohibit the dolls being used as sexual objects commercially, as they are very realistic and could be mistaken for real children. We pray for the security of our customers and they may be put in danger if they do not treat the doll with caution.
Meet Syria’s 11-Year-Old Killing Machine
Mohammed Afar is 11 years old. The modified AK-47 assault rifle he carries stretches to nearly two-thirds his height.
Over top of his faded yellow jacket a Free Syrian Army vest holds three extra clips, each full with live ammunition, and a walkie-talkie. An FSA badge sits on one side and a rendering of the Islamic Shahada, in Arabic calligraphy, on the other.
He says he does not miss school or want to stay at home with his mother and two sisters.
“I want to stay as a fighter until Bashar is killed,” he says, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The fighters surrounding him, all claiming to be from Liwa al-Tawhid, pass him a sniper rifle and offer to take him to a frontline, so he can demonstrate his shooting.
“He is a great shot,” says his father, Mohammed Saleh Afar. “He is my little lion.”
Over the course of its grinding 21-month insurgency, Syria’s children have endured numerous abuses.
Caught-up in shelling, airstrikes, and sniping, they have additionally been subject to arbitrary arrest, torture and rape, as reported by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria in August; which, additionally, noted “with concern reports that children under 18 are fighting and performing auxiliary roles for anti-Government armed groups.”
Both the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Children carry provisions that call for not using combatants under the age of 15, while the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute makes it a war crime.
SILENT BUT DEADLY: SCHOOL COPS ARREST STUDENTS FOR TALKING TOO LOUDLY, GRAFFITI, AND… FARTING
Fourteen-year old Kaleb Winston was wearing a “graffiti-patterned backpack” when the Salt Lake City police’s gang unit rounded him and more than a dozen other students up one December school day in 2010. The bi-racial freshman, who at the time held down jobs in the school cafeteria and as a basketball referee, was questioned and then photographed holding a sign reading: “My name is Kaleb Winston and I am a gang tagger.” Found guilty of nothing, the students’ personal information was nonetheless added to a “gang database.”
The National Rifle Association’s call to place armed police officers in schools nationwide in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre has been derided as “revolting, tone-deaf” (Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy) and even a “completely dumbass idea” (Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter). It is all of those things. But what most reports neglect to mention is the fact that armed police are already present in many schools.
“I agree that the NRA’s suggestion is absurd” says Aaron Kupchik, a University of Delaware sociologist whose 2010 book Homeroom Security: School Discipline in an Age of Fear examines the now-commonplace presence of armed police in schools nationwide. “The public is missing the point that we’ve already made schools more into police zones over the past 20 years.”
More than a third of American sheriffs’ departments and nearly half of all police departments have officers assigned to local schools, according to Department of Justice statistics from early last decade. Students today are arrested in school for offenses that include talking back to a police officer, doodling on a desk with an erasable marker, farting, and being an eight-year old throwing a temper tantrum. In other words: criminalizing childhood misbehavior.
In 2011, Southeastern Washington high school students were told to leave class so that a dog could smell their backpacks to see if they had drugs. This far-from-atypical search did not, according to the ACLU, uncover any dangerous drug dealers, nor was it based on any reasonable suspicion that students were using drugs: of two students singled out for a “more invasive search and questioning,” one had, apparently, a marijuana pipe; the other was drug-free. No other drugs were found. And even if they had been…Eviscerating fundamental civil liberties seems like a high price to pay in order to track down a pot-smoking teenager.