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June 30th, 2011
09:44 PM ET

To be, or not to be...the question is: Is this Shakespeare?

William Shakespeare is, arguably, the most well-known name in literature. With such a legendary reputation, it's hard to believe there are disputes among scholars about which painted portrait of him is his real likeness.

There are many copies of his face stippled onto canvas, but though they may be labeled as photos of the man, they all have differences.   Nick Glass speaks to Shakespearean experts who are still unsure about what William Shakespeare looked like.

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Filed under: backstory • The Revealer
Gang Sex Trafficking and the Internet
Photo Credit: Anoek De Groot/AFP/Getty Images
June 29th, 2011
06:36 PM ET

Gang Sex Trafficking and the Internet

Traci Tamura, CNN Producer

In April of this year, the Oceanside Police Department in California led an 18-month multi-agency investigation that resulted in the indictment of 38 suspected Crips gang members, their alleged associates and two hotel owners. The indictment asserts that the Oceanside Crips organization was “engaged in a variety of illegal activities, including but not limited to the prostitution of minors and adult females, attempted murder, robbery, and narcotics trafficking.”

After hearing about this case, Thelma Gutierrez and I set out to delve into the world of traditional street gangs moving into the world of prostitution and sex trafficking as part of the CNN Freedom Project’s initiative to End Modern Day Slavery.  And what we found was eye-opening.

See Thelma and Traci's full report here.

We headed to the coastal community of Oceanside,California to talk with some law enforcement officials who were part of the investigation. They described the Oceanside Crips gang as a sophisticated "enterprise" that brought formerly warring Crips gang members together in the business of prostitution and sex trafficking. Authorities say the gangs were drawn in by the potentially huge profits from using the Internet to exploit their female victims – some of whom were minors – and from forcing the women to sell themselves online for sex.

According to law enforcement, the Internet has become such a portal for sex trafficking that it’s moving prostitution off the street corners to the underground world of cyberspace.  One local police official told us how challenging this type of crime is to enforce when you can’t visually see it. Also, with the budget constraints most cities face, police simply don't have the staffing to dedicate officers to just sit on a computer and monitor the activity on a daily basis.

Thelma talks with BackStory about her experience reporting this story, and takes us on a ride-along with Oceanside Police Sergeant Adam Knowland

When reporting our story, we spent some time with "Jessica”, who is a former prostitute, who had a gang member as her pimp. She told us her "Guerilla" pimp - one who controls his prostitutes by intimidation and physical abuse – raped her when she first came into contact with him and that she was treated like a modern-day slave.  "Jessica" revealed how she lived in constant fear for her life and was forced to prostitute herself just to survive. She told us how she was made to post ads selling herself online, and how all it took to book a "date" at a local hotel room was a simple click of a key and a phone call to a prepaid cell phone. It's all done anonymously.  The women never even having to leave their hotel rooms to make their average quote of $1,000 to $3,000 dollars a day. But the girls never saw a penny of the "donations" they earned. Instead, they simply worked to be fed, avoid beatings and stay alive.

Luckily, "Jessica" finally escaped with a couple other girls, after convincing one of their "customers" that their lives were in danger. The customer finally agreed to help them.  He kept his word to take them to another hotel, but he still got his "payment" in sex before he allowed the girls to call the police. "Jessica" is now free from what she describes as a life of being a sex slave.  And with the help of support groups – like the San Diego-based Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition – she is currently rebuilding her life and her relationship with her mother.  But “Jessica” says still worries about all the other vulnerable women and girls who remain enslaved by their pimps.

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Filed under: backstory • CNN Freedom Project
"The Revealer" – Clue #2: A Storytelling Legend
June 29th, 2011
06:35 PM ET

"The Revealer" – Clue #2: A Storytelling Legend

You most certainly know his name. You may have even read his stories. But his actual image is one that is shrouded in mystery and some degree of controversy.

On Thursday's segment of "The Revealer" we will examine how a relatively-recent discovery is raising new questions about this legendary writer.

Can you guess who it is?

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Filed under: backstory • The Revealer
June 29th, 2011
03:35 PM ET

Unraveling the Massacre in Jisr al-Shugur

One of the biggest unanswered questions of the uprising in Syria is what really happened in the town of Jisr al-Shugur.  The Syrian government says troops were ordered into the area when armed gangs tried to take over.  But the opposition says dozens of peaceful protesters were killed.  Arwa Damon tried to get to the heart of story during a recent trip into the town.

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Filed under: backstory • Syria
June 29th, 2011
03:28 PM ET

Olive Grove Battlefield

While politicians argue over the lines of a future Palestinian state, protesters have been trying to move the borders on their own.  Battle lines are being drawn in the dusty West Bank town of Bilin.  An Israeli court recently ordered the military to move a fence separating the town from its olive groves.  But the relocation isn't happening quickly enough for many Palestinians, who filled the streets with demonstrations this past Friday.  Journalism Kareem Khadder was there, and filed a report for BackStory.

"The Revealer" Returns: Photo Clue #1
June 27th, 2011
07:38 PM ET

"The Revealer" Returns: Photo Clue #1

Several years ago, a remarkable painting was discovered.  It was thought to be the only known portrait of one of the most iconic figures in the world of literature.  But some wondered if it was actually a true likeness of the legendary artist.  Now another copy of that image has been discovered, that some believe should quiet age-old controversies surrounding the writer.

This photograph offers a clue as to the subject of this week's edition of The Revealer.  Think you know what it is?  Post your guess in the comments section.  The first person to get it right will have his or her name read out on Thursday's show, in the Revealer segment!

Filed under: The Revealer • Uncategorized
What's really going on in Gadhafi's Tripoli?
June 23rd, 2011
07:21 PM ET

What's really going on in Gadhafi's Tripoli?

By David McKenzie 

At first glance, "Mahmoud" would seem the perfect candidate to be a supporter of Moammar Gadhafi.

He has prospered during the Libyan leader's 41-year reign, first as a professional and later taking care of his deceased father's businesses.

But, as with many things in Tripoli, a first glance can be deceiving.

"Ninety percent of the people in Tripoli hate Gadhafi," Mahmoud told me over sips of espresso at a corner coffee shop this weekend. "All his people do is tell lies. If anyone tells you different they are just afraid."

CNN is withholding his real name for his own safety.

On an almost hourly basis, regime officials and government minders tell foreign journalists that Tripoli is a stronghold of Gadhafi and that dissent has vanished in recent months.

CNN, like other media here, is under severe government restrictions. But I recently managed to slip away from government minders to talk directly to several Libyans.

And according to several eyewitness accounts, major demonstrations were held against Libya's strongman as recently as last week.

And in the Souq al-Juma neighborhood of the capital, where anti-Gadhafi protests first erupted in February, the government's propaganda bubble is quickly burst.

While international journalists including me were ferried by government minders to a pro-Gadhafi rally at Green Square on Friday afternoon, multiple sources tell CNN that several Tripoli neighborhoods were wracked by running battles between protesters and security forces.

"They were protesting right around the corner. They streamed out of a mosque and onto the small square," said Mahmoud. "Almost immediately Gadhafi forces fired at them with live rounds."

Mahmoud and other sources say that the group was several hundred strong. He claims that three people were killed and that the area was put under lockdown by government security.

Other people in the area confirmed the death toll, but it is impossible for CNN to independently verify this account.

The government has repeatedly denied any anti-Gadhafi protests in Tripoli in recent weeks, including on Friday.

A taxi driver in his 20s also said that he took part in one of the protests in Souq al-Juma on Friday. CNN is calling him Jamal - not his real name - to protect his safety.

"We came out after afternoon prayers," he said, "we were unarmed and peaceful and they just shot at us."

He says he a bullet grazed his arm. Jamal says that unlike the rebels in the East, they don't have easy access to weapons to fight.

But he says, "I am not afraid. Even though we were unarmed, I am doing this for the future of my country."

Another protest was fired upon in a seaside neighborhood of the capital, Jamal says, citing friends who said they were at the demonstration.

Speaking to journalists in Tripoli is risky. Gadhafi's vast spying network means that almost anyone on the street could be an informer or worse.

Residents of Souq al-Juma say that hundreds, if not thousands, have been summarily arrested by the dreaded intelligence "brigades." They are never heard from again.

And it seems nowhere is safe.

Jamal says that recently, a family he knows pinned up a rebel flag out of sight in their home. Somehow the intelligence services found out.

"They stormed into the house, pulled down the flag, and arrested every man in that house," says Jamal.

But the worst indignity of all, people here say, is they can't bury their dead.

"The Gadhafi men. They come out and shoot you like cats," Mahmoud told me. "they hold their guns over you like this and shoot you like cats. We are not people to them."

Regime officials will often then take the dead away, he says, not affording people a proper burial.

"If we bury them, we must do it in secret."

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June 21st, 2011
09:37 PM ET

On Rory McIlroy's Home Course

Long before Rory McIlroy sank his final record-breaking putt at the U.S. Open, his hometown of Holywood, Northern Ireland already knew he was a winner.  Our Dan Rivers spent the day on the budding golf legend's home course, and came across a young man with a familiar name... and a pretty wicked stroke.

June 16th, 2011
10:03 PM ET

Hitchcock: The Man Behind the Movies

He's been called the master of suspense. But Alfred Hitchcock isn't without a bit of mystery of his own. A rare collection of Hitchcock sketches was recently discovered in England.

They were storyboards from one of his movies. And they seem to offer some fascinating insights into the legendary director's creative mind. Nick Glass has the details in this week's edition of "The Revealer."

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Filed under: backstory • Hitchcock • The Revealer
"The Revealer" clue for this week, revealed
June 16th, 2011
08:50 PM ET

"The Revealer" clue for this week, revealed

He is the master of suspense, yes some of you guessed right. We're still not going to stay his name until "The Revealer" airs live on Back|Story on the day of this posting. Be sure to watch the show where we name who guessed correctly first. You're going to love this fine piece from Nick Glass and producer Deborah about this famous director who's curious working methods are examined.

And we'll tell you new details about the way he created motion pictures that you may not have known before.

Filed under: backstory • The Revealer
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