Wisconsin Train Derailments, Science News Roundup, Sex Work And The Law

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Can holding ourselves to higher expectations lead to better results? We get the answer to that question and learn about more of the biggest science findings from the past month. We also hear from a guest who wants to legalize and regulate prostitution, and get the latest on two train derailments in Wisconsin.

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  • Journalist Says It's Time For U.S. To Decriminalize Prostitution

    Current laws prohibiting prostitution in the U.S. actually make it less safe for the women and men in the trade, according to a journalist who has studied and written about the sex industry.

    Alison Bass, a long-time medical and science writer for The Boston Globe and author of “Getting Screwed, Sex Workers and the Law,” said she believes the U.S. should adopt similar laws to what were passed by the Netherlands and New Zealand. In those countries, prostitution was legalized while strict laws against human trafficking, underage sex workers or coercion remained on the books.

    “Most of the men and women who are doing sex work today are in it by choice,” Bass said.”They are doing it for economic reasons, to pay their way through school, pay down student loans, have the flexibility to raise families.”

    She added, “I’m sure for some people sex work is degrading, but for many of the men and women who do it, they find it empowering. They like what they do.”

    Bass pointed to a recent study by the Urban Justice Institute that found 16 percent of people doing sex work in New York City were trafficked or coerced into becoming sex workers.

    In New Zealand, said Bass, brothels and massage parlors of prostitution require a license, just like any other business. Under this model, inspectors regularly review the conditions of the workplace and are able to intervene if sex workers are found to be exploited. Moreover, Bass said HIV and sexually transmitted disease rates went down significantly.

    Legalizing prostitution isn’t a new concept to the the U.S. and Bass said the American Medical Association advocated for decriminalizing sex work as early as the 1870s, stating that it would lead to better public health. By keeping prostitution illegal, Bass said violent predators can operate with impunity and prey on sex workers.

    “Sex workers are like canaries in the coal mine when it comes to violent predators,” she said. “But because they are afraid of getting arrested, they don’t go to the police.”

    Bass referenced Gary Ridgway, the American serial killer who was convicted of killing 48 people, most of whom were alleged prostitutes, in Washington state throughout the 1980s and ’90s. Several sex workers knew that he was the killer, said Bass, but were either afraid to go to the police, or when a few did go to the police, they were ignored.

  • Wisconsin's Train Derailments And The Businesses Of Shipping Oil By Rail

    Two trains carrying ethanol and oil derailed in Wisconsin recently causing the evacuation of nearby communities. We get the latest on these accidents and take a look at the business of shipping oil by rail.

  • Science News: Facial Recognition Software, How Expectations Determine Results, And Lava

    Facial recognition software is something that police departments and counter-terrorism officers have been using for years, but the technology is starting to filter into our everyday lives, from Facebook photo tag suggestions to other aspects of everyday. We learn about the science of facial recognition software. We also discuss how higher expectations lead to an increase in performace and things you didn’t know about lava in our regular science segment.

  • The Case For Decriminalizing Sex Work

    We speak with a journalist whose new book argues for decriminalization of prostitution and a redistribution of the resources that currently go towards enforcing those laws.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Matt Oleson Producer
  • Amanda Magnus Producer
  • Alison Bass Guest
  • Marcus Stern Guest
  • Gemma Tarlach Guest

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