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Newtown, in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, was inundated with so much charity that it became a burden. More than eight hundred volunteers were recruited to deal with the gifts that were sent to the city—all of which kept arriving despite earnest pleas from Newtown officials that charity be directed elsewhere. A vast warehouse was crammed with plush toys the townspeople had no use for; millions of dollars rolled in to this relatively affluent community. We felt their pain; we wanted to help. Meanwhile—just to begin a very long list—almost twenty million American children go to bed hungry each night, and the federal food-stamp program is facing budget cuts of almost twenty per cent.
ur best hope for the future is not to get people to think of all humanity as family—that’s impossible. It lies, instead, in an appreciation of the fact that, even if we don’t empathize with distant strangers, their lives have the same value as the lives of those we love.
Sensible policies often have benefits that are merely statistical but victims who have names and stories.
…the appetite for retribution is typically indifferent to long-term consequences. In one study, conducted by Jonathan Baron and Ilana Ritov, people were asked how best to punish a company for producing a vaccine that caused the death of a child. Some were told that a higher fine would make the company work harder to manufacture a safer product; others were told that a higher fine would discourage the company from making the vaccine, and since there were no acceptable alternatives on the market the punishment would lead to more deaths. Most people didn’t care; they wanted the company fined heavily, whatever the consequence.
…the danger in sex work is greater than in other industries. Newcomers advertising on websites include photos of their faces, their e-mail addresses and offers of risky services in their profiles, says Sophie, the Edinburgh escort, aghast. Moving around in search of clients, prostitutes must deal with unfamiliar and potentially dangerous men. Since July, 310 have contacted Ugly Mugs, a scheme that encourages sex workers to report violence, although only around a quarter went to the police. Sex workers are taking greater risks for smaller returns.
On the streets, where prices are lowest and life is harshest, things are more desperate. Georgina Perry, the service manager for Open Doors, an NHS centre in east London that offers health services to sex workers, says that in the past few years some former prostitutes who had found low-paid work, for example as cleaners, have returned to the sex trade as other jobs have become harder to find. The women are back on the streets, charging £20 at most.
…those who lower their prices sometimes swiftly raise them again, deterred by the kind of customer who is attracted to bargains.
More people are entering prostitution, agrees Cari Mitchell of the English Collective of Prostitutes. Some working women in Westminster say they have halved their prices because the market has become so saturated. In London, and increasingly elsewhere, immigrants provide strong competition. But Sophie, an expensive escort in Edinburgh, says she is seeing an influx of newbies including students and the recently laid-off, many of them offering more for less.
…Vivienne, an independent escort in the south who works part-time to supplement her income as a photographer, says paying for sex is a luxury: “Food is more important; the mortgage is more important; petrol is more important.” She is offering discounts out of desperation, reckoning it is better to reduce prices by £20 ($30) than to have no customers at all. Another woman says that some punters are just as anxious to talk about the difficult job market as they are to have sex.
Like other businesses, massage parlours and private flats are suffering from rising rents and energy costs.