The horrifying side to the 'mail-order bride' industry — some men aren't exactly looking for love.

These marriages aren't always a bad thing, but when they are, they really are.

Oksana thought she'd met a kind man when Carl came to see her in the Ukraine.

But by her third month with him in America on a fiancee visa, Oksana Makarova was starting to suspect she'd made a big mistake. He'd begun tracking her ovulation during those first months she'd moved to be with him. He was hell-bent on impregnating her as soon as possible. He dyed her toddler son's blond hair black without her consent. He wouldn't give her a key to the house, reminding her when she asked for one that she had no one to visit and no reason to leave the house.

"Oksana, I thought you'd be obedient. This is the impression you gave me in Ukraine."


Image via iStock.

That's the line he would break out whenever he needed to put her back into her place. And as you can guess, he soon turned violent. Luckily, Oksana's story (told originally and in its entirety in Marie Claire) ended fairly well. She and her children safely moved out on their own, citizenships attained, and with primary custody given to Oksana. But it's not always the case for women who suffer the worst outcomes as "mail-order brides," as they're commonly (if somewhat insultingly) referred to.

The international marriage industry may inadvertently produce circumstances that can position a person as an ideal victim.

As mentioned in the first installment in this look at the international marriage industry, there are some very legitimate, understandable, and downright sweet love stories that can emerge from the practice. But what happens when a disturbed kind of man, put off by what he perceives as independent or hard-to-get women in America, turns to services where he thinks he can procure and isolate a "subservient" woman to yield to his more harmful tendencies?

Before heading to mixers where men assemble with the bride-finding company, hopeful women spend time beautifying. GIF from "Love Translated."

First, let's consider the motivations involved in how men and women meet in these kinds of matchmaking services. In some cases, the women, like Ekaterina from the first installment, can be already in a good place in life and generally happy; they're just seeking love, travel, and adventure. But sometimes, like in Oksana Makarova's case, there are women drawn to the matchmaking services because of a desperate need to provide for themselves and their children or to escape a dire situation in their home country.

That's the first indicator that major power imbalances between the two people are afoot.

That uneven distribution of power comes into focus again when the men and women meet at mixers planned by the matchmaking agencies. The agency Oksana used had the women line up to be evaluated and maybe chosen for an interview by a man.

The courtship, if it proceeds, may continue for awhile with the "bride" communicating long distance from her home country, or she and her suitor may apply for a fiancee visa so that she can go to America. Often, once she is in America, she is quite dependent on a guy she may not know very well and who may very well have been spurred to seek her out in the first place because of misogynistic tendencies.

This is the second obvious marker of that aforementioned power imbalance. There are language barriers, deportation worries, and financial concerns that all serve to place an international bride-to-be in a pretty precarious position.

Furthermore, in a place far away from home, if she's been successfully isolated by her new fiance or husband, it's very difficult for her family and friends abroad to verify her well-being or to report her missing in a worst-case scenario.

These situations have all the precursors to produce the perfect victims for the kind of person who looks to victimize — and like all of us, it's really just a roll of the dice if you will find yourself matched and then entangled with such a person.

There is the story of Gary Swierski, a California man who repeatedly reeled in foreign women through pen pal services and dated immigrants already living in America, serially and savagely abusing one after the other. He was finally turned in by his daughter, whom he'd forced to help dispose of the body of his second wife, Reina Swierski, after he killed her. It caused investigators to reopen the case of a former girlfriend of his who suspiciously drowned during a night out with him more than a decade earlier.

L: Gary Swierski. R: Reina Swierski, Gary's second wife and murder victim. Image from Sunnyvale Police Department/public domain.

After a string of disturbingly similar murder cases involving marriages started through international marriage brokers, the United States passed the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) in 2005. It stipulates that background checks must be run on U.S. citizens before they communicate through the services to potential women. But the law is easy to circumvent — all the company has to do is base itself outside the United States to not have to comply.

The gray area between international marriages and human trafficking gets murky sometimes.

National Organization for Women's Sonia Ossorio told Bloomberg in 2011, "The mail-order bride industry is a softer version of human trafficking."

"You take a beautiful woman from the Czech Republic and you bring her into your home, she does all your cooking and cleaning and ironing. At the end of the day, the [wife's] service is free."

And national experts agreed. In 2004, before Congress passed IMBRA, John R. Miller (then-director of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons) clearly connected the dots between human trafficking and international marriage practices:

"I want to focus, if I can, on the worldwide perspective here. When you look at the slavery issue, we now have reason to believe that 80 percent of the millions that are in slavery, internal or external traffic victims, 80 percent are women and 50 percent are children. The two biggest categories are sex slavery and probably domestic servitude. I think these are two of the categories of slavery that you frequently have... What do we know about trafficked victims in general? Well, there are two or three characteristics. There is the vulnerability of the victims. ... There is the deception, the key tool of the traffickers, and often there is government complicity and corruption. Well, if you look at marriage brokering, you have these features, particularly the first two features, the vulnerability of the women and the deception involved. These are features that we have to deal with."

Pair that testimony with this excerpt and quote from an international marriage agency founder featured in Bloomberg, and the connection really begins to emerge:

"For some companies, such submissiveness is a selling point. Hand-In-Hand's website trumpets the fact that its females are 'unspoiled by feminism.' Company founder Weiner argues this form of chauvinism — like the mail-order bride business itself — is economically motivated. 'You take a beautiful woman from the Czech Republic and you bring her into your home, she does all your cooking and cleaning and ironing,' he says. 'At the end of the day, the service is free.' Hand-In-Hand estimates the potential savings of a homemaking wife at $150 per week."

And then there are the times would-be brides (and potentially their children) are duped into sex slavery. John R. Miller told of one such case in his 2004 deposition to Congress regarding IMBRA.

"Pou was 17 when a man came to her village and arranged through her sister to marry her. Shortly after the marriage, the man took Pou to a fishing village and sold her to a brothel. After years of abuse and torment, Pou was released by the brothel. Today her body is ravaged by disease, and this woman in her 20s looks decades older than her real age. Yet she wants her story told."

Clearly, there is a very real concern about the welfare of women who participate in international marriage arrangements.

And to be fair, there are also cases reported of the seemingly perfect, caring woman bilking lonely bachelors out of significant money and property and then disappearing. But since that's money, and not physical safety, again the risk-to-reward ratios are highly skewed between them.

Even in the less egregious, non-abusive situations, there is a lot to explore in the dynamics of modern society that cause some men to look to a more transactional, surefire method of selecting a life partner. Some bride-seekers are decent guys with extenuating circumstances that necessitate going outside of traditional dating. But...

Some men really just don't like how feminism is changing their world and all it entails for them.

As noted previously, some men are seriously averse to feminism and the shifting paradigm (or at least the effort to shift paradigms) to more equitable relationships.

To men who may struggle with that shift, the cultural dissonance manifests itself in various ways. There are countless OKCupid and Tinder horror stories from women who "swiped right" on a guy's profile only to have him go from seemingly nice to combative and bitter in minutes, all because she didn't display the desired level of enthusiasm at his advances.

Photo by Paul Zinken/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images.

There are also "pickup artist" (PUA) forums, where men who don't hold with that "feminism crap" convene and share tips for getting women to respond to them.


The prevailing attitude in such virtual meeting places is that women are all similar enough, and universal reactions can be provoked from them if only you employ the right tactics, as if you're entering code into a computer. They even organize in-person events, where they hire marketers to recruit young women to attend, often under the guise that it's a free networking event. All the while, it's really a training ground for men who've paid good money to try out their newly acquired "skills" in manipulating women, with an experienced "guru" to encourage them in the wings. You just have to learn the right combination of psychological buttons to push on a woman to get them to comply with your wishes! It's a sadly reductionist coping outlet for the subsection of men who seem to struggle with one concept: Women are human beings who are complex and don't come with a guarantee — they're not vending machines and love isn't transactional.

None of this even touches yet on the way that toxic and twisted misconception of masculinity manifests when the Elliot Rodgers of the world shoot innocent people because girls reject them, and jilted high schoolers stab girls for saying no to being their prom date.

It's easy to see how a man who hasn't been taught that interacting with women is like interacting with any other human could progress through the various stages of frustration at his ever-calcifying ineptitude. And he might be attracted to a transactional kind of arrangement with a woman he perceives as powerless — his path of least resistance.

A few thousand dollars is easier to pull together than untangling decades of one's societal misogynistic programming, after all.

There's no easy answer to whether the international marriage industry is a net positive or a net negative.


In the end, an online tool or agency of any kind is only as good as the people using it and the safeguards it implements to protect regular users from the worst. In a world where hatred toward women isn't always actively discouraged, and companies don't always play by the rules, it can be a high-risk gamble to look for a love connection across the world in a place where one has no support system.

For some, like Ekaterina and Josh, it pays off and produces a beautiful new life together. But when enough people get unlucky matches with the worst outcomes, we have to evaluate where things went so devastatingly wrong and how it can be changed for the better.


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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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