National Briefs: Study says Internet aids sex trade

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WASHINGTON -- A study to be released today about the world's oldest profession concludes that the lucrative underground commercial sex economy in eight large U.S. metropolitan areas brings in anywhere from $40 million annually to as much as nearly $300 million.

The 340-page study by the Urban Institute, a policy research group, finds that the reach of the Internet has facilitated the flesh trade and made it harder to combat. The report, based on its in-depth interviews with 73 convicted pimps and traffickers, also challenges conventional wisdom on the illicit side of the sex industry.

"We often think about the commercial sex economy as a hustle, where there's no real thought or planning that's involved," said Meredith Dank, the lead researcher on the study funded by the Justice Department. "But we found ... the opposite -- that some pimps and traffickers actually had a business model they followed."

Calif. coastline protected

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Tuesday, using his executive authority to bypass Congress, added about 1,665 acres of "spectacular" Mendocino County coastline to the California Coastal National Monument.

It is the first onshore addition to the to the monument, established in 2000 by President Bill Clinton to protect 20,000 small islands, reefs, rocks and pinnacles off California's coast.

The action, which would prohibit activities such as energy exploration, drew criticism from Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, who called it "an unnecessary use of excessive presidential power."

Clinton, Keystone XL

WASHINGTON -- Wealthy Democratic environmentalists are considering withholding support for a 2016 Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential bid unless she reassures them about their top priority: Killing the Keystone XL pipeline.

"She's kind of a closed book on the environment," said Guy Saperstein, an Oakland-based venture capitalist and former president of the San Francisco-based Sierra Club Foundation. "I, for one, would not support her until she gives us more information."

Mayors want rail safety

WASHINGTON -- The mayor of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where 47 people died in a massive inferno following a train derailment last summer, came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to push lawmakers and regulators for rail safety improvements.

Colette Roy-Laroche was joined by a group of mayors from Canada and the U.S. All were united by the concern that the rail lines in their towns have become pipelines for a North American energy renaissance, and bear the risks that come with it.

Cat that trapped owners

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Oregon owners of a 22-pound house cat that trapped them in their bedroom after attacking their baby say they're not giving up on their pet and are getting it medical attention and therapy.

Two days after police arrived Sunday night to subdue the 4-year-old part-Himalayan cat named Lux, owner Lee Palmer of Portland said he's taking the feline to a veterinarian.

Also in the nation ...

Eric Justin Toth, 32, a former third-grade teacher at the prestigious Beavoir School in Washington, D.C., was sentenced Tuesday to 25 years in federal prison for producing child pornography. ... Someone in Adobe Systems Inc. thought it would be a good idea to send Pentagon personnel solar chargers for their mobile phones. The result was a criminal investigation by the Navy, concerned about malware hidden on devices.

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