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The Oscar Pistorius-Ray Rice Moment September 12, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, South Africa, Sports, Women.
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BY , 12 September 2014, The New Yorker

From the moment that the Oscar Pistorius case began unfolding, with the news, the morning after Valentine’s Day last year, that he had shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, there was the small redeeming hope that it could be a teachable moment. The entire world seemed intensely focused on the story. In part, that was because of Pistorius’s celebrity and the physical challenges he overcame—he was born without fibulas, and his feet were amputated below the knee when he was an infant—and the images of Steenkamp, a smiling law-school graduate and model. He claimed that he had mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar, shooting her multiple times through a bathroom door. But, while one man was on trial for murdering his girlfriend, what many believed would be on trial was the horrific epidemic of domestic violence in South Africa and all over the world, including in this country. Even as Pistorius’s trial wound to a close—he was foundguilty of culpable homicide, a charge akin to manslaughter, though he was acquitted of murder—another story involving an athlete was unfolding in the United States: the release of a video showing Ray Rice, a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, punching  his fiancée at the time, now his wife.

Of course, it’s a coincidence that these two cases are in the public eye at the same moment, thousands of miles apart. No, Ray Rice did not kill his fiancée; he knocked her out cold. But, in this country, as in South Africa, the abuse and, yes, the murder of women is beyond horrendous, and most cases go unpunished or, unless the accused is a big guy with big bucks and a big rep, unnoticed. (And many times even then.) Since the Rice revelations, more women in the U.S. have talked publicly about having been abused by their partner—the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft were the labels for many wrenching stories this week. Many had suffered in silence, not speaking about what was happening to them or pursuing justice in the courts. Often—and this is especially true in South Africa, where the justice system and government services to assist women are inadequate, at best—just going to the authorities doesn’t protect women.

In South Africa, according to the civil-society organization Sonke Gender Justice, three women are killed by an “intimate partner” (the term includes current and former relationships) every day. It happens with such frequency that it has a name:  “intimate-partner femicide.” There is also, in South Africa, the scourge of “corrective rape,” in which men believe that raping lesbians and gay men will “cure” them of their sexual orientation. (I wrote about this crisis for The New Yorker.) And yet there are few prosecutions.

In South Africa, many are so frustrated with the lack of justice, especially the rape victims—and, even more, gay rape victims—that they don’t even bother to report abuse.

But the domestic abuse and murder of women is not limited to a single place, whether South Africa or a hotel-casino in Atlantic City. The World Health Organization calls violence against women “a global health problem,” with its most recent statistics showing that thirty-five per cent of women worldwide have been victims of domestic violence, and thirty-eight per cent of murders of women were committed by an intimate partner. Sonke’s executive director, Dean Peacock, said, “Multiple surveys carried out in nearly all regions of the world have found that the strongest factors associated with men’s use of violence against women are social norms that support men’s collective dominance over women.” Peacock added, “Children’s exposure to violence in the home, alcohol abuse, and easy access to guns all contribute to the unsafe environment women and children find themselves in.”

Those social norms take many forms. Recently, the jihadist onslaught in various parts of the world, which aims to put women back in positions of servitude, has played its part, including in the now almost forgotten abduction of more than two hundred schoolgirls in northern Nigeria. Most are still missing.

One question will be whether the mixed official response in the Pistorius and Rice cases advances any meaningful steps being taken to deal effectively with domestic violence and the murder of women. For many, the Pistorius verdict was a disappointment; though he has still been convicted of a serious crime, with the possibility of up to fifteen years in prison, he escaped the most serious consequences. (“This verdict is not justice for Reeva,” her mother, June Steenkamp,said on Friday.) Before the video came out, Rice had only been suspended for two games, even though it was known that he had knocked his fiancée unconscious; he has now been cut from the team and suspended indefinitely. Just how teachable is this Pistorius-Rice moment, at home and globally? There is hope in there, in the sharing of stories and difficult conversations. There is also a long way to go.

  • Kidnapped Girls Become Tools of US Imperial Policy in Africa May 14, 2014

    Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Central African Republic, Congo, Genocide, Human Rights, Women.
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    Roger’s note: the average North American’s lack of knowledge and understanding of Africa the the United States’ continued role there is astounding, present company included.  Here is a bit of eye opening reporting for the always reliable Black Action Agenda’s Glen Ford.

    In video footage released on May 12, 2014, Boko Haram purported to show dozens of girls recently kidnapped in Nigeria. (Public domain)

    A chorus of outraged public opinion demands that the “international community” and the Nigerian military “Do something!” about the abduction by Boko Haram of 280 teenage girls. It is difficult to fault the average U.S. consumer of packaged “news” products for knowing next to nothing about what the Nigerian army has actually been “doing” to suppress the Muslim fundamentalist rebels since, as senior columnist Margaret Kimberley pointed out in these pages, last week, the three U.S. broadcast networks carried “not a single television news story about Boko Haram” in all of 2013. (Nor did the misinformation corporations provide a nanosecond of coverage of the bloodshed in the Central African Republic, where thousands died and a million were made homeless by communal fighting over the past year.) But, that doesn’t mean the Nigerian army hasn’t been bombing, strafing, and indiscriminately slaughtering thousands of, mainly, young men in the country’s mostly Muslim north.

    The newly aware U.S. public may or may not be screaming for blood, but rivers of blood have already flowed in the region. Those Americans who read – which, presumably, includes First Lady Michelle Obama, who took her husband’s place on radio last weekend to pledge U.S. help in the hunt for the girls – would have learned in the New York Times of the army’s savage offensive near the Niger border, last May and June. In the town of Bosso, the Nigerian army killed hundreds of young men in traditional Muslim garb “Without Asking Who They Are,” according to the NYT headline. “They don’t ask any questions,” said a witness who later fled for his life, like thousands of others. “When they see young men in traditional robes, they shoot them on the spot,” said a student. “They catch many of the others and take them away, and we don’t hear from them again.”

    The Times’ Adam Nossiter interviewed many refugees from the army’s “all-out land and air campaign to crush the Boko Haram insurgency.” He reported:

    “All spoke of a climate of terror that had pushed them, in the thousands, to flee for miles through the harsh and baking semidesert, sometimes on foot, to Niger. A few blamed Boko Haram — a shadowy, rarely glimpsed presence for most residents — for the violence. But the overwhelming majority blamed the military, saying they had fled their country because of it.”

    In just one village, 200 people were killed by the military.

    In March of this year, fighters who were assumed to be from Boko Haram attacked a barracks and jail in the northern city of Maiduguri. Hundreds of prisoners fled, but 200 youths were rounded up and made to lie on the ground. A witness told the Times: “The soldiers made some calls and a few minutes later they started shooting the people on the ground. I counted 198 people killed at that checkpoint.”

    All told, according to Amnesty International, more than 600 people were extrajudicially murdered, “most of them unarmed, escaped detainees, around Maiduguri.” An additional 950 prisoners were killed in the first half of 2013 in detention facilities run by Nigeria’s military Joint Task Force, many at the same barracks in Maiduguri. Amnesty International quotes a senior officer in the Nigerian Army, speaking anonymously: “Hundreds have been killed in detention either by shooting them or by suffocation,” he said. “There are times when people are brought out on a daily basis and killed. About five people, on average, are killed nearly on a daily basis.”

    Chibok, where the teenage girls were abducted, is 80 miles from Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.

    In 2009, when the Boko Haram had not yet been transformed into a fully armed opposition, the military summarily executed their handcuffed leader and killed at least 1,000 accused members in the states of Borno, Yobe, Kano and Bauchi, many of them apparently simply youths from suspect neighborhoods. A gruesome video shows the military at work. “In the video, a number of unarmed men are seen being made to lie down in the road outside a building before they are shot,” Al Jazeera reports in text accompanying the video. “As one man is brought out to face death, one of the officers can be heard urging his colleague to ‘shoot him in the chest not the head – I want his hat.’”

    These are only snapshots of the army’s response to Boko Haram – atrocities that are part of the context of Boko Haram’s ghastly behavior. The military has refused the group’s offer to exchange the kidnapped girls for imprisoned Boko Haram members. (We should not assume that everyone detained as Boko Haram is actually a member – only that all detainees face imminent and arbitrary execution.)

    None of the above is meant to tell Boko Haram’s “side” in this grisly story (fundamentalist religious jihadists find no favor at BAR), but to emphasize the Nigerian military’s culpability in the group’s mad trajectory – the same military that many newly-minted “Save Our Girls” activists demand take more decisive action in Borno.

    The bush to which the Boko Haram retreated with their captives was already a free-fire zone, where anything that moves is subject to obliteration by government aircraft. Nigerian air forces have now been joined by U.S. surveillance planes operating out of the new U.S. drone base in neighboring Niger, further entrenching AFRICOM/CIA in the continental landscape. Last week it was announced that, for the first time,AFRICOM troops will train a Nigerian ranger battalion in counterinsurgency warfare.

    The Chibok abductions have served the same U.S. foreign policy purposes as Joseph Kony sightings in central Africa, which were conjured-up to justify the permanent stationing of U.S Special Forcesin the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, in 2011, on humanitarian interventionist grounds. (This past March, the U.S. sent 150 more Special Ops troops to the region, claiming to have again spotted Kony, who is said to be deathly ill, holed up with a small band of followers somewhere in the Central African Republic.) The United States (and France and Britain, plus the rest of NATO, if need be) must maintain a deepening and permanent presence in Africa to defend the continent from…Africans.

    When the crowd yells that America “Do something!” somewhere in Africa, the U.S. military is likely to already be there.

    Barack Obama certainly needs no encouragement to intervention; his presidency is roughly coterminous with AFRICOM’s founding and explosive expansion. Obama broadened the war against Somalia that was launched by George Bush in partnership with the genocidal Ethiopian regime, in 2006 (an invasion that led directly to what the United Nations called “the worst humanitarian crisis is Africa”). He built on Bill Clinton and George Bush’s legacies in the Congo, where U.S. client states Uganda and Rwanda caused the slaughter of 6 million people since 1996 – the greatest genocide of the post War World II era. He welcomed South Sudan as the world’s newest nation – the culmination of a decades-long project of the U.S., Britain and Israel to dismember Africa’s largest country, but which has now fallen into a bloody chaos, as does everything the U.S. touches, these days.

    Most relevant to the plight of Chibok’s young women, Obama led “from behind” NATO’s regime change in Libya, removing the anti-jihadist bulwark Muamar Gaddafi (“We came, we saw, he died,” said Hillary Clinton) and destabilizing the whole Sahelian tier of the continent, all the way down to northern Nigeria. As BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka writes in the current issue, “Boko Haram benefited from the destabilization of various countries across the Sahel following the Libya conflict.” The once-“shadowy” group now sported new weapons and vehicles and was clearly better trained and disciplined. In short, the Boko Haram, like other jihadists, had become more dangerous in a post-Gaddafi Africa – thus justifying a larger military presence for the same Americansand (mainly French) Europeans who had brought these convulsions to the region.

    If Obama has his way, it will be a very long war – the better to grow AFRICOM – with some very unsavory allies (from both the Nigerian and American perspectives).

    Whatever Obama does to deepen the U.S. presence in Nigeria and the rest of the continent, he can count on the Congressional Black Caucus, including its most “progressive” member, Barbara Lee (D-CA), the only member of the U.S. Congress to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001. Lee, along with Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and fellow Californian Karen Bass, who is the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on African, gave cart blanch to Obama to “Do something!” in Nigeria. “And so our first command and demand is to use all resources to bring the terrorist thugs to justice,” they said.

    A year and a half ago, when then UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s prospects for promotion to top U.S. diplomat were being torpedoed by the Benghazi controversy, a dozen Black congresspersons scurried to her defense. “We will not allow a brilliant public servant’s record to be mugged to cut off her consideration to be secretary of state,” said Washington, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

    As persons who are presumed to read, Black Caucus members were certainly aware of the messy diplomatic scandal around Rice’s role in suppressing United Nation’s reports on U.S. allies’ Rwanda and Uganda’s genocidal acts against the Congolese people. Of all the high profile politicians from both the corporate parties, Rice – the rabid interventionist – is most intimately implicated in the Congo holocaust, dating back to the policy’s formulation under Clinton. Apparently, that’s not the part of Rice’s record that counts to Delegate Norton and the rest of the Black Caucus. Genocide against Africans does not move them one bit.

    So, why are we to believe that they are really so concerned about the girls of Chibok?

    A Military Mom Reflects on Mother’s Day May 9, 2014

    Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War, Women.
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    Roger’s note: Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents do, which is only one of the many ways warfare is obscene; it makes cannon fodder out of our children and the children of those we define as enemies, not to mention the innocent “collateral damage.”  The Obama daughters are approaching the age where they would be eligible for service in the military.  Why do I mention this?  I’m not sure.  It just seems relevant.

     

    May 9, 2014

     

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    As Mother’s Day approaches, conversation and commercial advertising abounds with discussion and advertisements with ideas on what we should buy or do to celebrate Mother’s Day. Every year my own children ask me how I want to celebrate, and for the past decade or so I’ve learned that the one thing that no one knows more than more than mothers is that military moms cannot celebrate this day knowing our children are in harm’s way. It just isn’t possible.

    The one thing so many of us war-weary moms want most in the world can’t be bought; we want the war in Afghanistan to end now. How hard would that be to get after almost 14 years of endless war when, today, according to a CNN poll, 82% of the American people want us out of Afghanistan anyway? Yet, it’s within our reach this year, and it’s so simple that it’s hard for most people to believe. The only thing our president needs to do is absolutely nothing. Really.

    It’s all about the power of the pen that our president has the power to to wield, but if we can just get him to put that almighty pen down, we can all have the best Mothers Day possible and bring all of our troops home from Afghanistan for good. Here’s why…

    Right now, because other impending wars have taken Afghanistan out of the spotlight, and mothers (and fathers of course), fear we might get dragged and lied into yet another war in Syria, N. Korea or even the Ukraine possibly, it’s easy to forget the “original” war still rages on. And why shouldn’t we forget? What with all the presidential messages we’ve been hearing all year long that wars are “winding down” in Afghanistan and that all the troops will be out by the end of this year, why would anyone think otherwise?

    Any sensible person would conclude that the US is in a big rush to wrap up combat operations in Afghanistan and get on with the business of dealing with these other crises around the world. Need I even mention the painfully obvious truth that we can’t even deal with the military’s out-of-control sexual assault cases and untreated incidents of PTSD? So why, we should ask, would the Obama administration even think there is any need to create more traumatized veterans by continuing the war in Afghanistan? Apparently it does.

    We still have over 30,000 combat troops remaining in Afghanistan and our loved ones are still being deployed. But most alarming of all is the undisputed fact that President Obama has been pressuring the incoming presidential candidates in Afghanistan to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement that allows our troops to remain in Afghanistan another ten years!

    And although it may seem perfectly sensible to you and me that we now have the perfect face-saving opportunity to finally get all of our troops out and to leave Afghanistan in the hands of its own people, instead President Obama is practically doing cartwheels and begging the future presidential candidates of Afghanistan to sign the BSA so we can continue to stay mired in a war that never should have happened in the first place and that the American people so plainly do not want.

    Perhaps, then, on this special, nationally recognized day to honor Motherhood, he will read what I want to share with you about the very real experiences of the mothers I have worked, cried, and suffered with over the past 13 plus years. Then maybe, if he hears our stories, he won’t try so hard to get the BSA signed.

    Dede’s “favorite baby” nephew had been killed just a few years before, yet she went with me all the way to DC to invite our congressional representatives to visit the memorial to the fallen that we had spent all day building on the Capitol Mall in DC. This memorial represented the thousands of troops who died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and allowed passersby to visualize and consider the true cost of war. We very optimistically invited my Congressman Rohrabacher, who then proceeded to order us out of his office and call this loving Gold Star Aunty a “traitor”. After looking all over for her in the congressional hallways I found her in the middle of the field of crosses collapsed and sobbing near a pair of combat boots. Betrayed twice.
    We buried Donna’s son last month. Every day her son was in combat was a mother’s nightmare for her. She woke up one morning to the sight of police with guns drawn looking for her son. When he came back alive from his deployment, Donna helplessly watched her son drink excessively and race at high speeds on his motorcycle in his struggle to chase the PTSD demons away. When the Marine’s presented her the US flag, her face was hollow with an indescribable grief only another parent understands. I count three betrayals here.

    Rossana’s son snapped to attention at a family gathering when the flash of a cigarette triggered a full combat mode response in their front yard. It was a horrible scene and just one example of the invisible wounds of war that will forever mar any future celebrations in that close knit family. Double betrayal and for many years to come.

    I would get frantic calls at all hours of the night when Laurie’s son, in the Stryker Brigade, was deployed. Her rants struck deep into this military mom’s heart and were usually followed by pages and pages of emails that were desperate cries from the sheer madness of a mom who hadn’t slept in days and was trying to protect her son who was over 7,000 miles away. Her fear made perfect sense to me.

    That’s how I would feel if I didn’t know if my son was missing, killed or wounded. I often fantasized that my son was off in a chow line somewhere in Afghanistan, but Laurie kept it real by trying to track each battle and figure out night after night if there was a one near her son. If she could have flown into Baghdad, I know she would have done it in a military mom minute. She counts her number of betrayals every day.

    Marselle’s niece was raped while in the military. We all know almost 14 years too late about the one in six military personnel who are sexually assaulted. Will we ever know the depths of that scandal? Who would want to come forward and testify when case after case we learn the perpetrators are rarely reprimanded or see justice? No better example of betrayal than this inside job.

    Though her son Evan was killed in Iraq, whenever Jane sees me she never fails to ask me how my son is and how I am doing. I am so unbelievably moved that she is still willing to be in this fight with those of us who are speaking out against the war. Because of her strength and goodness to move on, the Evan Ascraft Foundation has given thousands of dollars and support to veterans in need.

    Yet, in spite of her “ultimate sacrifice” and all her hard work and success in making something good come out of her unspeakable loss, her name got dragged into a major newspaper about whether her son was in some juvenile trouble before he enlisted and whether he was better off joining the military or not. Really? What mother wouldn’t prefer that her son or daughter wind up even in a solitary confinement maximum security prison rather than dead forever and never to see again? That’s public betrayal and unbelievably callous.

    Vicky’s son, Jonathan was, as she often says, “The center of my universe.” To me and many others, Jonathan represented the unrealized promise of thousands of our youth who died in these wars. Our country will never reap the treasure of their patriotism and talent. In addition to the greatest loss a mother could have, Vicky will never recover from the shock of having seen photos of her son’s body after questions arose about the circumstances of his death. You see, after an explosion, not all body parts can be found and she saw those pictures. We will be connected forever, even though I’m sure our sons never met.

    On one deployment, my son was one of many who had to the retrieve weapons of our dead, some of which he had to wipe clean of those body parts, organs and such so that they could be re-used in battle. “Someone has to do it,” my son explained once. “After all, I’m older and more able to handle it than those 18 and 19 year olds who had those orders.” I doubt it, but that’s an endless cycle of post- mortem betrayal that cannot be erased.

    So here we are 14 Mothers’ Days later and we Moms are still going to be asked what we want on our special day. This Marine Mom asks you to tell all of our families and friends and everyone who will listen, to please call the White House and beg, yes beg, President Obama to do nothing and that please, for every mother’s sake, do NOT sign the Bilateral Security Agreement. Bring our troops, all of our troops home, once and for all.

    This security agreement is set to be signed this summer so let’s do it now while we are all thinking of ways to truly honor our mothers — and especially for Dede, Vicky, Jane, Donna and so many others who will never have a son or daughter to celebrate Mother’s Day with again, but still work tirelessly to make sure I do.

    Pat Alviso & Jeff Merrick
    Military Families Speak Out
    Orange County & South Bay Chapter
    http://www.mfsooc.org
    562-833-8035
    Support Our Troops
    Bring Them Home Now!
    Take Care of Them After They Get Home

    Campus Sexual Violence Strategy Lacks Important Prevention Program: Self-Defense Training May 5, 2014

    Posted by rogerhollander in Gun Control/Violence, Women.
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    By Jocelyn Hollander

    Published: 12:00 a.m., May 5, The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon

    Two weeks ago, an undergraduate woman at the University of Oregon was sexually assaulted. She wasn’t the only one: Statistically, on a campus of 20,000 students, it’s likely that at least 10 women were sexually assaulted that week, and 2,175 of the women currently enrolled will have been assaulted before graduation.

    They are assaulted by friends they trusted, by acquaintances, by classmates, by partners, and, rarely, by strangers. Most of these assaults are not reported to any authority, and most perpetrators suffer no penalties.

    In January, President Obama appointed a task force to begin to address the problem of campus sexual violence, and the task force released their report last week. The report highlights four action items: collecting better data on the extent of the problem, evidence-based prevention programs such as bystander intervention, improved institutional responses, and more effective enforcement. These are all excellent and much-needed steps.

    However, the task force’s suggestions leave out an important prevention strategy, and I believe that by doing so they do women a grave disservice. Here is the problem: What is a woman to do when her friend, acquaintance, date or partner begins to assault her? Is she to sit and wait for a bystander to intervene, or for data to be collected? Or is there something she can do in that moment, or perhaps even earlier, to prevent the assault?

    There actually is something she can do, and it is very effective: She could learn basic skills to prevent and respond to assault. Self-defense classes have been taught in the United States since the 1970s, developed by feminists who saw rape and other forms of violence against women as a key source of social inequality. The best classes are holistic, teaching awareness and verbal self-defense as well as physical self-defense.

    Emerging research on self-defense training is finding that these classes are very effective in preventing sexual assault. They don’t just teach women how to stop assault once they happen ­— they actually prevent assaults from happening in the first place. In addition to reducing women’s risk of violence, these classes are also extraordinarily empowering, increasing women’s self-confidence and decreasing their fear throughout their lives. Self-defense training may also have mental health benefits, such as decreasing depression and anxiety.

    So why not include self-defense training in our portfolio of prevention strategies? Some people simply don’t believe that women can be strong enough to effectively fight back against violence. However, women defend themselves from violence all the time, even without self-defense training, and their resistance often stops assault.

    One recent study found that when women used physical resistance strategies during an attack, there was an 85 percent decrease in the odds of being raped.

    Other critics argue that advocating self-defense implies that women bear responsibility for stopping assault. But regardless of whether they defend themselves or not, victims are never responsible for assault. Indeed, every self-defense teacher I’ve ever seen has taken great pains to make clear that the only ones responsible for violence are perpetrators, and that women should not be blamed if they choose not to resist or if they are unsuccessful in doing so.

    In addition to the important strategies suggested by the task force, college campuses should make self-defense training available to all women. Learning self-­defense doesn’t replace these other strategies — but it ensures that until the other strategies begin to work, women have the backup skills to protect themselves, rather than waiting for someone else to intervene.

    We know that learning self-defense reduces women’s risk of assault. To leave this important strategy out of our college sexual assault plan is to deny women access to information that may protect them from assault — right now, not at some vague time in the future.

     Jocelyn Hollander is an associate professor and head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Oregon.

    Inside the Brutality of Egypt’s New Regime: 2,500 Killed, 16,000 Political Prisoners, Torture Allegations Are Widespread April 23, 2014

    Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Egypt, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Torture, Women.
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    Roger’s note: just to document one more time that the United States doesn’t give a shit about democracy as long as a government is in alliance with its geopolitical objectives.  Emperor Obama declared the Egyptian coup not to be a coup, and that is that.  Egypt’s military government, led by a US trained general, probably as much or more brutal than the overthrown Mubarak regime, continues to support Israel and the isolation of Gaza in accord with US wishes.  And “we wonder why they hate us.”

     

    After a recent CODEPINK delegation to Egypt ended up in deportations and assault, we have become acutely aware of some of the horrors Egyptians are facing in the aftermath of the July 3 coup that toppled Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi. Over 2,500 civilians have been killed in protests and clashes. Over 16,000 are in prison for their political beliefs and allegations of torture are widespread. Millions of people who voted for Morsi in elections that foreign monitors declared free and fair are now living in terror, as are secular opponents of the military regime, and the level of violence is unprecedented in Egypt’s modern history. With former Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sisi set to become the next president in sham elections scheduled for May 26-27, the Egyptian military is trampling on the last vestiges of the grassroots uprising that won the hearts of the world community during the Arab Spring.

    The most publicized case is the trial of the three Al Jazeera journalists and their co-defendants, charged with falsifying news and working with the Muslim Brotherhood. On April 10, there was a ludicrous update in the trial, when the prosecution came to courtpresenting a video that was supposed to be the basis of their case but consisted of family photos, trotting horses, and Somali refugees in Kenya. The judge dismissed the “evidence” but not the charges.

    The high-profile case is just a taste of wide-ranging assault on free expression. The government has closed down numerous TV and print media affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist currents. The Committee to Protect Journalists named Egypt the third deadliest countries for journalists in 2013, just behind Syria and Iraq.

    An incident that shows how the judicial branch is now working hand-in-glove with the military is the horrific March 24 sentencing of 529 Morsi supporters to death in one mass trial. The entire group was charged with killing one police officer. The trial consisted of two sessions, each one lasting less than one hour. Secretary of State Kerry said that the sentence “defies logic” and Amnesty International called the ruling “grotesque.”

    And if you think that a US passport entitles a prisoner to due process, look at the tragic case of 26-year-old Ohio State University graduate Mohamed Soltan. Soltan served as a citizen journalist, assisting English-speaking media in their coverage of the anti-coup sit-in at Rabaa Square that was violently raided by police and resulted in the death of over 1,000 people. In jail for over 7 months, Soltan has been on a hunger strike since January 26 and is now so weak he can’t walk. His situation in prison has been horrifying. When he was arrested, he had a wound from being shot that had not yet healed. Prison officials refused to treat him, so a fellow prisoner who was a doctor performed surgery with pliers on a dirty prison floor, with no anesthesia. His trial has been postponed several times, and there is no update on when it might actually take place. (Activists in the US are mobilizing on his behalf.)

    Female activists also face dehumanizing experiences. In February, four women who were arrested for taking part in anti-military protests say they were subjected to virginity testswhile in custody–a practice that coup leader Abdel al-Sisi has supported. In addition to the horror of virginity tests, Amnesty International has also reported that women in prison in Egypt face harsh conditions, including being forced to sleep on the floor and not being allowed to use the bathroom for 10 hours from 10pm to 8am every day. Egyptian Women Against the Coup and the Arab Organisation for Human Rights has reported beatings and sexual harassment of female prisoners.

    The internal crackdown may be getting worse, not better. New counter-terrorism legislationset to be approved by Egypt’s president would give the government increased powers to muzzle freedom of expression and imprison opponents. Two new draft laws violate the right to free expression, including penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment for verbally insulting a public employee or member of the security forces. They broaden the existing definition of terrorism to include actions aimed at damaging national unity, natural resources, monuments, communication systems, the national economy, or hindering the work of judicial bodies and diplomatic missions in Egypt. “The problem with these vaguely worded ‘terrorist offenses’ is that they potentially allow the authorities to bring a terrorism case against virtually any peaceful activist,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui of Amnesty International.

    The draft legislation also widens the scope for use of the death penalty to include “managing or administering a terrorist group.” The Muslim Brotherhood was labelled a terrorist group by the Egyptian authorities in December (though no factual evidence was provided that it is engaged in terrorist attacks).

    The US government refuses to call Morsi’s overthrow a coup, and has continued to give Egypt $250 million in economic support, as well as funds for narcotics controls, law enforcement and military training. But the bulk of the foreign military funding of $1.3 billion has been suspended.

    On March 12, Secretary of State Kerry indicated that he wanted to resume the aid and would decide “in the days ahead.” Egypt has long been one of the top recipients of US aid because of its peace treaty with Israel, its control over the Suez Canal and the close ties between the US and Egyptian militaries. To renew the funding, Kerry must certify that Egypt is meeting its commitment to a democratic transition and taking steps to govern democratically. The constitutional referendum was held January 14-15, but opponents werearrested for campaigning for a “no” vote. The May presidential election, taking place under such repressive conditions with the main opposition group banned, will certainly not be free and fair. The same can be said for the parliamentary elections that are expected to occur before the end of July.

    “The question is no longer whether Egypt is on the road to democratic transition, but how much of its brute repression the US will paper over,” said Human Rights Watch Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson. “An accurate appraisal of Egypt’s record since the military-backed overthrow of President Morsi would conclude that, far from developing basic freedoms, the Egyptian authorities are doing the opposite.”

    The Obama Administration should insist that political dissidents be released, laws restricting public assembly be lifted, the Muslim Brotherhood be declassified as a terrorist organization and allowed to participate in all aspects of public life, and criminal investigations be launched into the unlawful use of lethal force and abuse of detainees by security officials. Only when the Egyptian junta lifts its iron curtain should the US consider resuming military aid.

    Kate Chandley is an International Affairs and Political Science student at Northeastern University and intern at www.codepink.org.

    The Return Of The Back-Alley Abortion April 6, 2014

    Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Right Wing, Texas, Women.
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    Roger’s note: some years ago I attended an event designed to discuss the issue of choice with young people who were born after the Roe v. Wade decision.  A retired physician, a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, spoke of his “conversion” to pro life while at the same time not abandoning his faith.  As a young Resident at LA County Hospital he worked on a ward with hundreds of beds for women with septic infections, 99% a result of botched back alley abortions.  That ward disappeared entirely once therapeutic abortion was decriminalized.  He said that from time to time nowadays he is called in to consult on a rare case of septic infection because today’s medical students and physicians almost never see them.  That will soon change in Texas and elsewhere in the United States.  Thanks to the misogynist Catholic Church hierarchy and the right to death bigots and their scumbag allies in state governments.

    In 1969, when abortion was completely illegal in Texas except to save a woman’s life, Karen Hulsey became pregnant.

    She was 20 years old and living in Dallas at the time, and the diaphragm she was using for birth control had failed her. Her boyfriend, she discovered, was married, and refused to help raise or pay for a child.

    “It was just at a time in my life where I knew I couldn’t take care of a child, and he wanted no responsibility,” Hulsey recalled in an interview with The Huffington Post.

    Instead, the man offered to pay for her to travel to Mexico, where he knew of a clandestine abortion provider. She wrestled with the decision and was three months pregnant by the time she agreed to go.

    “I was not only very afraid of the ramifications with God, but very ashamed and embarrassed,” said Hulsey, who was raised Catholic. “I struggled with the decision for a long time.”

    Hulsey left Dallas at midnight on a chartered plane, with no idea where she was going, and landed in a field south of the border in the middle of the night. A woman Hulsey had never met before was waiting for her when she stepped off the aircraft.

    “I was scared to death,” Hulsey said. “Of course, he did not go with me — I went alone,” she said of her boyfriend at the time. “That was the stipulation.”

    From there, things only got worse.

    “A car came and picked us up and took us to what was considered a clinic in a little bitty building with dirt floors,” Hulsey recalled. “Even at that age, I knew this was not a good thing. I had worked as a nurse’s aide at that point in my life, and I knew about sterilization and everything else, so this just mounted my anxiety and fears.”

    Hulsey said the doctor put her feet in stirrups and performed a “very rough,” painful gynecological exam. He then sedated her for the abortion procedure.

    When Hulsey began to wake up, she realized that the doctor was raping her.

    “I was of course very drowsy, and the doctor was on top of me having sex with me,” she recalled. “I had just barely opened my eyes, and he was all involved in what he was doing, and I immediately closed my eyes, because I knew if I acted like I knew what was going on I’d probably get killed, never to be seen or heard of again.”

    After the man finished assaulting her, Hulsey said she cautiously opened her eyes.

    “I went ahead after a little bit of time and acted like I was coming out from under the anesthetic, and he told me I’d had a little boy,” Hulsey said, choking back tears. “I was given a Kotex and taken back to Texas with no further care.”

    Hulsey discovered upon returning to Texas that she had not completely expelled the placenta — a possible complication of surgical abortion. She was rushed to the emergency room, hemorrhaging from the botched procedure.

    Years down the road, when she was ready to have children, she had three miscarriages due to the damage the illegal abortion provider had caused to her cervix. She underwent surgery to make it possible for her to hold a baby inside her body, and even then, her daughter was born two months premature and weighed less than three pounds.

    “I thought that I had sinned and was being punished for having gone to Mexico and done that, and that’s why I had a baby that was so sick,” said Hulsey. “I think that’s baloney now, and that’s why I’m willing to talk about it.”

    Four years after Hulsey’s ordeal, Texas became the original battleground state in the fight for legal and safe abortion. The 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade arose out of a challenge to the Texas law that criminalized the procedure except to save a woman’s life. Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade defended the abortion ban against a 21-year-old pregnant woman using the pseudonym “Jane Roe.” Roe had tried to obtain an illegal abortion near Dallas, where she lived at at the time, but found that authorities had already raided and shut down the clandestine providers nearby.

    The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that states must make abortion legal at least until the fetus is viable, around 22 to 24 weeks into pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization, estimates that before Roe, as many as 1.2 million women a year in the U.S. resorted to primitive, self-induced abortions or sought out illegal, amateur providers. Thousands of women ended up in hospitals each year with severe complications related to illegal abortions, and in 1965 alone, nearly 200 women died from those procedures.

    The proliferation of well-trained, regulated, legal abortion doctors in the last 40 years has led to “dramatic decreases in pregnancy-related injury and death,” according to the National Abortion Federation.

    Now, however, Texas and other states are reversing course. State lawmakers enacted more abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than they had in the previous decade, a trend that appears likely to continue in 2014. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that nearly 300 anti-abortion bills are currently pending in state legislatures.

    The new restrictions have had a significant impact on women’s access to abortion. A Huffington Post survey last year found that since 2010, at least 54 abortion providers across 27 states had either closed or stopped performing the procedure. Sixteen more shut their doors after Texas lawmakers passed some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country last summer. A federal appeals court upheld two of the new restrictions in a ruling last week.

    As a result, researchers and women’s health advocates say, women today are resorting to many of the same dangerous methods they relied on in the pre-Roe era: seeking out illegal abortion providers, as Karen Hulsey did, or attempting risky self-abortion procedures.

    In 2014, four decades after the Supreme Court upheld a woman’s right to choose, pregnant women once again find themselves crossing the border to Mexico and haunting back-alleys in search of medical care.

     

    Pedestrians walk past discount pharmacies in Nogales, Mexico, June 17, 2006. Today, women from the U.S. cross the border to Mexico to purchase misoprostol, a drug that can induce abortions. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

    The situation is particularly dire in Texas. In 2011, the state had 44 abortion clinics, but more than half of them have since shuttered due to new anti-abortion laws. In September, when a state law requiring all abortions to take place in ambulatory surgical centers goes into effect, reproductive rights advocates expect 14 more clinics will have to close, leaving only six facilities to serve the nearly 75,000 women who seek abortions in Texas each year.

    The poorest area of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley near the Mexican border, has no remaining abortion clinics. Women who live there have to drive roughly 240 miles to San Antonio for the nearest clinic, but many of them are Mexican immigrants with restrictions on their work visas that prevent them from traveling that far.

    In addition, the state has slashed funding for family planning, forcing 76 clinics that offer birth control and other reproductive health services but do not perform abortions to shut down.

    “It’s a horrible natural experiment that is taking place in Texas, where we are going to see what happens in 2014 when U.S. women don’t have access to legal, safe abortion,” said Dan Grossman, vice president of research for Ibis Reproductive Health, an international nonprofit.

    Anti-abortion advocates say the idea of back-alley abortions returning is just a scare tactic their opponents use to try to keep abortion legal.

    “That is a statement that’s been purported by those who are anti-life, but in actuality, we haven’t seen any evidence of that taking place here,” said Melissa Conway, a spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life.

    But Grossman, who is part of a research team that is currently studying the effects of the new abortion laws and family planning cuts in Texas, said he is already witnessing the consequences of the new restrictions.

    “It seems like [women] are becoming more desperate to find an option,” he said. “We’ve heard reports of women taking herbs or other substances, or intentionally getting punched in the stomach or beaten up — the same kinds of things they did before abortion was legal.”

    Ironically, in the years following Roe v. Wade, Texas had been a beacon of hope for Mexican women seeking abortions, since the procedure is illegal in most of Mexico.

    “Texas has always been a place where people in Mexico came to get safe abortions,” said Lindsay Rodriguez, president of the Lilith Fund, which helps women in need pay for abortions in Texas. Now, she said, “traffic’s going to start going the other way.”

    Indeed, the lack of abortion access in Texas is already pushing pregnant women back across the border. At Mexican pharmacies, they can purchase misoprostol, a drug with the labeled use of preventing gastric ulcers — but which can also induce abortions.

    In the U.S., misoprostol is available only by prescription from a licensed abortion provider. The drug, first manufactured by Pfizer under the name Cytotec, is prescribed in combination with another medication, mifepristone (labeled RU-486), for abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy. The FDA has approved this combination of drugs for medically induced abortions in the first trimester, which account for almost a quarter of all non-hospital abortions in the U.S. each year, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The medications are extremely safe and more than 90 percent effective when taken together.

    American women are learning that if they don’t have access to an abortion provider, they can obtain misoprostol illegally and take a high dose of it on its own to end a pregnancy. The drug is 75 to 85 percent effective in completing an abortion when taken properly up to nine weeks into a pregnancy, according to Ibis Reproductive Health, but it is relatively complicated to self-administer. A woman has to put 12 pills under her tongue in specific time-intervals, and she needs to have access to follow-up care in case she has complications or the pills don’t work.

    “I’ve seen women who have used 50 pills all at one time,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of Whole Women’s Health, a network of abortion clinics in Texas. “They put them in every orifice of their body, because they had no idea how to use it. That’s the scary part — using any means necessary to self-induce.”

    Taking misoprostol under the wrong circumstances and without medical supervision, doctors and women’s health advocates warn, can lead to life-threatening complications. A woman who takes the pill with an ectopic pregnancy, for instance, risks heavy internal bleeding due to rupturing of the fallopian tube. If a pregnancy does not pass completely, meanwhile, women run the risk of infection, fever and sepsis.

    “Those are the major complications we’re going to be seeing in these communities without clinics,” Miller warned. Hemorrhaging and infection, if not properly treated, can lead to death.

    Still, misoprostol is generally considered a safer and more palatable alternative to more primitive methods of self-abortions, and demand is quickly increasing among women living in areas where abortion is illegal or impossible to access. Rebecca Gomperts, a Dutch physician and founder of Women on Web, a digital community of abortion rights supporters, has published instructions on her website teaching women to take misoprostol properly on their own. She told HuffPost that her team regularly receives calls from women all over the U.S. seeking information about where to find the drug.

    “In the United States there are import restrictions on abortion medications, so we just need to help women get access to them,” she said in a phone interview. “Sometimes that means we refer them over the border to Mexico.”

    The trip across the border is often risky for women because of heavy drug cartel activity on the highways. And Mexican pharmacies have capitalized on the growing demand for misoprostol by marking up the cost to $200 or $300 per box.

    Women in the U.S. can also obtain the pills illegally at flea markets in South Texas, or for about $100 a box over the internet, but Gomperts said the black market is awash in dubious drugs masquerading as misoprostol.

    “There are a lot of fake websites out there, and there are a lot of people who take advantage of women’s desperate need,” she said.

    Women who try to obtain the pills illegally, either online or on the black market, also run the risk of getting arrested. What’s more, women in the Rio Grande Valley who have obtained the pills are too afraid to share their stories, even anonymously, because they don’t want the police to crack down on the places that sell them.

    “When the media first covered the flea market, it got raided by police and people got arrested,” Miller said. “When people start to cover this stuff, then the women can’t even get black market abortions. The culture in [South Texas] is one of extreme fear and caution — the women are so afraid of being put in jail.”

    Women outside of Texas face the same obstacles. Jennifer Whalen, a 38-year-old Pennsylvania mother, was charged with a felony in December after she ordered a package of misoprostol and mifeprestone online from an overseas pharmacy for her pregnant 16-year-old daughter. Abortion is difficult to access in Pennsylvania due to severe restrictions on clinics there, and the closest clinic to Whalen’s town was across state lines in New York.

    Whalen was charged with one count of medical consultation and judgment after her daughter had to go to the emergency room to be treated for an incomplete abortion and a urinary tract infection.

    “We know that prohibition and criminalization will never stop women from having abortions,” said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. “Illegal, self-abortions are a form of civil disobedience. Women will violate unjust laws and bear the health risks and the legal consequences, without causing harm to the people or institutions that make their decisions criminal.”

    In addition to pushing women across the border into Mexico in search of misoprostol or other abortion solutions, the dwindling number of clinics in Texas and elsewhere has also revived the concept of “miscarriage management” — an idea that similarly harkens back to pre-Roe days, when doctors would quietly tell women to figure out a way to induce their own miscarriages so that they could legally intervene to treat the bleeding.

    The New Republic reported that one of the last remaining abortion providers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, Dr. Lester Minto, resorted to the idea of “miscarriage management” when a law went into effect in November that prohibited him from providing abortions. Minto offered treatment to women who had already started their own miscarriages for $400, lab work and ultrasound included. The visit would last two to three hours at most.

    “Nothing here is back alley,” Minto told the magazine. “We do follow-ups with everybody. We still treat them just like we always did.”

    But even Minto’s practice is now closed, leaving women few options for follow-up care when they try to self-abort in the Rio Grande Valley. The treatment Minto was providing would cost $2,000 to $3,000 in a hospital, require a general anesthetic and take up an entire day, Miller told HuffPost, which is out of reach for many poor and uninsured women.

    With so many doors closed to them, back-alley remedies may soon be all that are left for many women.

    “The situation politicians have put women in right now is untenable,” said Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “Making abortion out of reach only pushes women into the shadows.”

    Karen Hulsey is particularly concerned about the situation facing women today. For five years in the 1990s, she worked as a physician’s assistant at an abortion clinic in Brownwood, Texas. There, she helped treat Mexican immigrants who had had traumatizing experiences similar to what she herself went through in 1969.

    “I saw the effects of abortions on girls in Mexico who were raped, and the results of those abortions, as far as the shape of their vagina and their cervix,” she said. “It was just abhorrent, the scarring from the methods that were being used. I would not be surprised if the same thing were going on today.”

    Hulsey, now 65, retired in 2000 after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which doctors said she developed after her abortion and rape in Mexico. Although she has two children now, she said she has had trouble holding down a healthy romantic relationship because of what she went through.

    Now that Texas lawmakers are spending so much time trying to limit access to abortion, she said, she is reminded of her trauma constantly.

    “There are very few weeks that I don’t think about the severity of what I went through, especially with it being so up front in the news right now,” she said. “Every time anything like that comes up, I think, ‘Oh you people just don’t have any idea what you’re doing. No clue what you’d be sending girls back to.'”

    Reproductive rights advocates rally at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on July 1, 2013. (Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

     

    CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated Henry Wade’s position at the time of the suit as Texas attorney general; he was district attorney for Dallas County.

    Griner takes aim at fighting bullying April 5, 2014

    Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Sports, Sports, Women.
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    Roger’s note: Confession: I love sports.  I am an unrepentant sports fan.   Blame the golden era of the Brooklyn Dodgers and my father who took me to witness history and Jackie Robinson at Ebbets Field in 1947.  Blame a Rose Bowl appearance in my freshman year at Berkeley (there has not been once since that day in January 1959).  I know this is not politically correct (note that I use the phrase as it was originally intended, to indicate a minor and relatively insignificant aberration of principle [an acknowledgement of human frailty], and not how the phase has been perverted by the radical right to denote someone who is zealous in the pursuit of the principles of social justice).  Every once in a while, rarely perhaps, a story comes out of the sports world that conflates the world of sport with socially positive principle.  Such is the case of Brittney Griner.  I also cannot help pointing out that Texas’s Baylor University, a self-proclaimed “Christian” school with overt and repressive anti-gay regulations for its students, was willing to “overlook” Griner’s lesbianism as long as she kept her mouth shut about it and continued to rake in big money for the school with her extraordinary basketball skills.

    As you will see from reading this article, she is now a wealthy professional basketball player in the WNBA and still feels compelled to share her painful history and re-live that pain so that LGBT youth of today may not have to experience the same degradations that she did.  I consider her a heroic figure, both on and off the court.

     

    By LZ Granderson | ESPN.com, April 4, 2014

     

    Brittney GrinerJennifer Stewart/USA TODAY SportsBrittney Griner’s app will provide resources to school officials looking for ways to aid bullying victims.

     

    It was hard watching Brittney Griner struggle to keep the smile on her face.

    With each breath, it seemed a tiny portion of the joy she came onstage with slowly dissipated, like smoke fleeing the wick of a candle that has recently been blown out. Barely five minutes into the first session of this year’s SXSW’s sports plenary and one of the most accomplished players in NCAA history is broken.

    When I asked her to begin the panel discussion by reading aloud a passage from her autobiography, “In My Skin: My Life on and off the Basketball Court,” I had assumed the 22-year-old was over it.

    The bullying from middle school.

    The teasing from high school.

    The ridicule and isolation that can sometime come when who and what society says you are supposed to be are not reflective of who and what you actually are.

    Because the Venn diagram our culture etches into the national narrative makes happiness a subset of wealth, from the outside looking in, and we naturally assume professional athletes have it all. Griner has a Nike deal and 77-foot banner of her likeness draped over a building in downtown Phoenix before she took a single WNBA dribble. And yet here we are, in a crowded banquet room of an Austin, Texas, hotel, and the only sounds that can be heard are the occasional creaks a chair makes when the occupant shifts his or her weight — and the gentle sobs of someone who is supposed to have it all.

     

    They say it’s important for kids to express themselves, but from the moment kids start to make choices — what clothes they want to wear, what toys they want to play with, what activities they want to pursue — society tries to define them and put them into neat little boxes. Girls are supposed to act this way, boys that way. And any kid who doesn’t fit into one of those boxes gets labeled as weird or strange or different.

    “I really don’t talk about the past that much because it just wasn’t good,” Griner told me later after she had read the above passage from her book at our panel. “Even when I was writing the book I was reliving that pain all over again.

    “There were times when I didn’t want to do the book anymore because of all of the pain. But I felt that if I did it, maybe I could help someone else who was in school right now and having a very hard time.”

     

     

     

    Brittney Griner, who scored 3,283 career points, dunked 18 times and set the NCAA record (man or woman) with 748 career blocks at Baylor, shares her coming-of-age story, revealing how she found the strength to overcome bullies and to embrace her authentic self.

     

    Griner: Book signing, interview

    • Brittney Griner will hold a book-signing session following an exclusive interview with espnW.com’s Kate Fagan, as part of the weekend’s festivities at NCAA Tourney Town. The event begins Sunday, April 6, at 3:30 p.m. local time at Music City Center in Nashville.

     

    In addition to the book, Griner is launching a smartphone app to help bullied teens and provide resources to school officials who are at a loss as to how to help them.

    “The one question I would ask my teachers is, ‘Why?'” Griner said, her voice starting to shake. “‘Why didn’t you do anything to try to stop what was happening to me? Why didn’t you do anything to help me or any of the other kids who were being bullied every day?’

    “But then I wonder if they even knew how to help. Or even if they understood how important it is that they do help. They might think it’s just kids being kids, but really — it’s more. They could save somebody’s life.”

    According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24, with LGBT youth being four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. It’s a statistic that resonates more when familiar faces like Griner’s are attached to it. She spends time in the book discussing what she calls “the dark days” and the time in which she imagined what would happen “if I didn’t exist anymore.”

    Only the most callous of hearts could hear such a statement and not be touched. And usually those hearts have Twitter accounts.

    Despite rewriting the record books, the names directed at Griner, even still, are as demeaning as the ones that began circulating soon after the “High School Girl Dunks” video clip made her a YouTube curiosity while at Nimitz High School. The ridicule via social media remains as relentless as the insults schoolmates would direct her way in the halls of Teague Middle School. Griner said one of her tormentors walked right up to her in the hallway, rubbed on her chest and then yelled, “See, I told you she was a boy.”

    The teachers nearby did nothing.

    “I remember thinking once I got to college I would finally be free,” she said. “And then I get there and I had to stay hidden. My teammates didn’t have a problem with me being gay, but the school did. It was crazy.”

    Whenever an athlete — be it Griner, the NBA’s Jason Collins or NFL draft prospect Michael Sam — publicly talk about their sexual orientation, inevitably the question “Who cares?” can be heard. And in many ways it is a legitimate response. If someone wants to be judged by their on-the-field performance, then why willingly choose to draw attention to one’s private life?

    “In My Skin” is Griner’s way of answering that. In one passage, she writes: “Being true to myself has often been at odds with my desire to please others. I’ve spent years trying so hard to be the version of myself that would make the most people happy. Over time, though, I’ve come to realize that no matter how much I compromise, some people will never understand me. And accepting this truth has given me a new level of comfort and freedom.”

    And by expressing that comfort and freedom, Griner said she hopes to empower young people who, like her younger self, spent many nights feeling hopeless and alone. This weekend she is the Grand Marshall in the Phoenix Pride parade, and, along with Blake Skjellerup — an openly gay Olympic speed skater — will be doing a meet-and-greet at the celebration’s youth zone.

     

    [+] EnlargeBrittney Griner, Rebekkah Brunson, Maya Moore

    AP Photo/Stacy BengsBrittney Griner hired longtime NBA assistant Dean Denomopolis to help her with her game this offseason.

     

    “It was important to Phoenix Pride to showcase individuals whom are not only out, but actively using their celebrity to make the world a better place,” said Dani Logan, the celebration’s program manager.

    “One of the hardest parts about growing up was not having any role models,” Griner said. “I mean I don’t know if that would have stopped kids from bullying me, but it would have given me some strength. … There were a lot of days when I was tired of being bullied, that I didn’t have strength.”

    There used to be a time when the thought of someone who was routinely the biggest kid in class — someone who currently stands at 6 feet, 8 inches and 200 pounds — as not having the strength to fight off bullying was ridiculous. But that was before the environment that 6-5, 312-pound Jonathan Martin had to contend with in Miami came to light, and suddenly the size of victims and bullies was diminished.

    “From the very first day, we clicked,” said Janell Roy, a high school teammate of Griner who remains close to her today. “We were like sisters, but she wouldn’t tell me everything that was going on. I guess because she knew I would try to protect her, but there’s only so much you can do, you know?

    “But I saw some of it. Even in our locker room. They would say she was a guy and talk about her sexuality. Sometimes things would get real tense, and that would be hard for her. She didn’t tell me all that had happened to her in middle school until years later. My sister’s been through a lot.”

    Nearly 82 percent of LGBT students are verbally harassed and close to 40 percent are physically harassed, according to the 2011 National School Climate Survey. And unfortunately, there’s no shortage of faces who fall into those categories.

    Faces such as Jack Andraka, the high school whiz kid who in 2012 invented an early detection test for pancreatic cancer at age 15, talks about relentless bullying and thoughts of suicide. His story is not very different from Griner’s. Their stories are not very different from the ones featured in the 2011 documentary “Bully” or the stories regularly heard by volunteers at organizations such as The Human Rights Campaign, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Alliance and The Trevor Project, which the San Francisco 49ers’ Chris Culliver visited as part of his mea culpa for anti-gay statements made during Super Bowl XLVII media week.

    All of it continues to drive Griner.

    “I can’t live my life and pretend as if everything is OK now that I’m a professional basketball player when I know it’s not OK for kids who were like me,” she said.Which is not to suggest her basketball development is taking a back seat to advocacy work.

    Far from it.

    Though fans made her a WNBA All-Star, a knee injury kept Griner from playing in the game. And besides dunking in her first game and hitting a series-clinching jumper over Candace Parker in the first round of the playoffs, Griner’s inaugural season was plagued by foul trouble and overshadowed by Chicago Sky’s Elena Delle Donne, who won rookie of the year honors. There’s work to be done, and she knows it. After signing to play in the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association last summer, Griner hired longtime NBA assistant coach Dean Demopoulos to travel with her to help her develop her game.

    “I don’t know if I taught her anything new,” he said. “When we met, she could pretty much do everything. She had the footwork, she had the touch. She can shoot. And I mean really shoot. I spent two years with Ray Allen, so I know what a shooter looks like — she has a stroke. What we worked on was repetition. Taking the second-guessing out of her game and letting things come naturally.”

     

    I can’t live my life and pretend as if everything is OK now that I’m a professional basketball player when I know it’s not OK for kids who were like me.

    – Brittney Griner

     

    The results? MVP honors in the league’s All-Star game and coming a game short of a finals appearance.

    “She could probably play the 4, the 3 — she’s that agile,” Demopoulos said. “It’s going to be interesting to see just how much better she’s going to get, because she has a big glass and it’s not near full.

    “She got it, by the way — that ‘it’ stuff — she’s got it. That charisma you want your franchise player to have. Only thing is she’s got to change that diet. That girl ate Pizza Hut, KFC and candy for four months.”

    But if you let Griner tell it, that was the best thing on the menu.

    “Let’s just say the food was really interesting,” she said with a smile.

    And it is good to see her smile.

    With high cheek bones, flawless cafe-au-lait-colored skin and shoulder-length locks with tips that appear to have been dipped in honey, the great irony about Griner being harassed for her appearance is that she is really beautiful. Sweet, too. The kind of woman who still smiles when referred to being her daddy’s little girl even as her daddy still wrestles with who his little girl is. Early on, Griner writes that her father never wanted her to play beyond the backyard of their home. And when he learned she was gay, he told her, “I ain’t raising no gay girl in my house! You can pack your s— and get the f— out!” And for two months she stayed at an assistant coach’s home before reconciliation.

    An estimated 40 percent of all homeless youth are LGBT, with nearly half being kicked out of their homes for that reason. Again, statistics resonate more when familiar faces are attached to it.

    “I think we’re getting better,” Griner said. “I still love my family very much. But it’s hard.

    “I guess this is why I thought it was important that I did this book and shared my story. I don’t like thinking about the past and all of that pain. But if talking about it helps just one person — I’ll do it.”

     

    Murphy Criticized Over Paternity Leave April 4, 2014

    Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Sports, Women.
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    Roger’s note: First an openly gay football player in the NFL.  Now Major League baseball players taking paternity leave.  What is this world coming to?  Next thing you know, men will be sharing their feelings.  With other men!  Scary.

    Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg react to the criticism of Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy’s decision to miss the first two games of the season for the birth of his first child; http://www.espn.go.com, April 4, 2014

    NEW YORK — New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy on Thursday calmly deflected talk-radio criticism of his decision to miss the first two games of the season for the birth of his first child.

    “I got a couple of text messages about it, so I’m not going to sit here and lie and say I didn’t hear about it,” Murphy said about the on-air criticism from WFAN Radio of his decision. “But that’s the awesome part about being blessed, about being a parent, is you get that choice. My wife and I discussed it, and we felt the best thing for our family was for me to try to stay for an extra day — that being Wednesday — due to the fact that she can’t travel for two weeks.

     

     

    “It’s going to be tough for her to get up to New York for a month. I can only speak from my experience — a father seeing his wife — she was completely finished. I mean, she was done. She had surgery and she was wiped. Having me there helped a lot, and vice versa, to take some of the load off. … It felt, for us, like the right decision to make.”

    After receiving word about 11:30 p.m. Sunday that his wife’s water had broken, Murphy traveled from New York to Florida and arrived in time for the birth of 8-pound, 2-ounce son Noah at 12:02 p.m. Monday — about an hour before the first pitch of the Mets’ opener against the Washington Nationals.

    The Mets had Tuesday off before resuming the series Wednesday. Murphy remained with his family through Wednesday, as he was placed on paternity leave, and rejoined the Mets in time for Thursday’s afternoon game against the Nats.

    “You’re a major league baseball player. You can hire a nurse,” Mike Francesa reportedly said of Murphy on WFAN Radio during Wednesday’s show. “What are you gonna do, sit there and look at your wife in the hospital bed for two days?”

     

    Daniel Murphy

    AP Photo/Evan VucciSecond baseman Daniel Murphy missed the Mets’ first two games of the season to be in Florida with his wife, Tori, for the birth of their first child.

     

    Murphy said his wife delivered their son by C-section. On another WFAN show, host Boomer Esiason said, in part, that Murphy’s wife should have had a “C-section before the season starts.”

    Esiason issued a lengthy apology Friday at the start of his radio show.

    “I just want to say again on this radio show that in no way, shape or form was I advocating anything for anybody to do. I was not telling women what to do with their bodies. I would never do that,” he said. “That’s their decision, that’s their life and they know their bodies better than I do. And the other thing, too, that I really felt bad about is that Daniel Murphy and Tori Murphy were dragged into a conversation, and their whole life was exposed. And it shouldn’t have been.”

    Mets manager Terry Collins said the criticism was unfair.

    “I’m sure there might be some guy along the way that said, ‘Hey, listen, it’s too far to go. It’s too far to travel. I’ll see you in a few days,'” Collins said. “But you know what? I certainly feel it’s very unfair to criticize Dan Murphy.”

    The collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the players’ association allows for up to a three-day absence after being placed on paternity leave.

    Asked if he was surprised about parental-rights criticism in this day and age, Murphy said: “Again, that’s the choice of parents that they get to make. That’s the greatness of it. You discuss it with your spouse and you find out what you think works best for your family.”

    Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins also went on paternity leave Wednesday.

    “We had a really cool occasion yesterday morning, about 3 o’clock. We had our first panic session,” Murphy said. “It was dark. She tried to change a diaper — couldn’t do it. I came in. It was just the three of us at 3 o’clock in the morning, all freaking out. He was the only one screaming. I wanted to. I wanted to scream and cry, but I don’t think that’s publicly acceptable, so I let him do it.”

    The name Noah, by the way, was selected for the biblical significance, not for flame-throwing Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard, Murphy joked.

    “I told Syndergaard he’s the ‘other Noah’ in my life in spring training,” Murphy said. “The first thing when we decided to do it, I was like, ‘People are going to think I named him after the monstrosity that throws like 1,000 miles per hour.’ We didn’t.”

    Report: Thousands of Iraqi Women Illegally Detained, Tortured, Raped February 7, 2014

    Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Human Rights, Torture, Women, War.
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    Roger’s note: A US invasion of your country to bring prosperity and democracy is a gift that keeps giving.  Iraqi security forces, trained by Americans, have learned to treat women the way that we do in order to earn their confidence and respect.  Of course Iraq continues to be plagued by sectarian violence and the destruction of their infrastructure, which for some reason that no one can understand, has not been reconstructed despite the lucrative contracts given on a no-bid basis to American corporations.  A real mystery.

    Many analysts believe that Iraqi women were better off under Saddam (as brutal as his regime was in other respects).  This report tends to support that conclusion.
        

    Published on Thursday, February 6, 2014 by Common Dreams

    “The abuses of women we documented are in many ways at the heart of the current crisis in Iraq.”

    - Andrea Germanos, staff writer

    Iraqi security forces are illegally detaining thousands of women, subjecting many to torture, abuse, rape, and forcing them into confessions, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch.

    “The abuses of women we documented are in many ways at the heart of the current crisis in Iraq,” says Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch. (Photo: James Gordon/cc/flickr)

    In ‘No One Is Safe': Abuses of Women in Iraq’s Criminal Justice System, HRW reveals a pattern of systemic abuse within a failed judicial system characterized by corruption.

    The report estimates that over 1,100 women are detained, often without a warrant, in Iraqi prisons or detention facilities. Frequently, the women are arrested not for their won alleged actions but for those of a male relative.

    Sexual abuse during interrogations of women is so common that Um Aqil, an employee at a women’s prison facility, told HRW, “[W]e expect that they’ve been raped by police on the way to the prison.”

    On top of rape, many arrested women are subjected to electric shocks, beatings, burnings, being hung upside down and foot whipping (falaqa).  Following the torture the women may be forced to sign a blank confession paper or one that they are unable to read.

    In the video below published by HRW, one woman reveals her story of abuse:

    The report authors write that the failed criminal justice system revealed in the report shows that “Prime Minister al-Maliki’s government has so far failed to eliminate many of the abusive practices that Saddam Hussein institutionalized and United States-led Coalition Forces continued.”

    “The abuses of women we documented are in many ways at the heart of the current crisis in Iraq,” adds Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement from the organization. “These abuses have caused a deep-seated anger and lack of trust between Iraq’s diverse communities and security forces, and all Iraqis are paying the price.”

     

    COMMENTS

    • Mairead

      If I recall correctly, things were better for women during Sadam’s regime because he kept the pseudo-religious predators mashed flat.

      • Avatar
        tom johnson  Mairead

        You recall correctly.

        Despite all his dictatorial and excessive practices, during the regime of Saddam Hussein, many women played important roles in all facets of Iraqi society (except in the fundamentalist religious groups).

        Also religious sectarianism became muted and people of different religions intermingled, lived together and inter-married frequently creating new Iraqi citizens who recognized the nation, rather than a tribe or sect as their central organizing principle.

        It is ironic (and instructive) that only after it became apparent that his allies in the West were going to terminate Saddam Hussein did he revert to the worst forms of tribalism and adopted the language of religious fundamentalism.

        The lesson is simple and obvious: despite the fact that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, the nation of Iraq was internally strengthening as a nation and eventually the Iraqi people would have ended the dictatorship in their own ways.

        Of course the West could not allow that because it would be a threat to the hegemony of Israel (the forward operations base for US/EURO governments and corporations0 and the control of Iraqi oil.

        And of course Iraqi women and children pay the highest costs for the Western-created insanity.

        see more

        • Avatar
          Le Franco Nord Americain  tom johnson

          one Big Mistake there tom. It was not the West that could not allow that, it was what your President called the “Coalition of the Willing”. It consisted of the U.S., the Brits, the Aussies, Spain and a couple of other bit players. It did not include Canada, France, Germany, Belgium, Scandinavian countries and a host of others. Iraq invasion was NOT sanctioned by the U.N. or NATO. Don’t get confused with UN, NATO sanctioned mission to go after you might remember who in Afghanistan. Too many Americans forget this.
          With his Iraq lies and decision, Bush brought world support for reprisal against Bin Ladden for 9-11 attacks to majority of world identifying U.S. as biggest threat there is to world peace. A distinction the U.S. still holds. Other than lining the pockets of his Corporate friends, creating the world’s biggest private run army (Blackwater), making a mockery of international law and human rights, and destroying democracy everywhere, etc. U.S. public voted him back into Office for a 2nd term and today let’s him sleep in peace making more money on the rubber chicken circuit.

        • Avatar
          cuja1  tom johnson

          The terrible dictator was one of the friends of G.H.W.Bush for 8 years until he refused an order. Bush enticed him to invade Kuwait then told him to get his butt out, ..if you remember the headlines in the paper. The reason being Bush expected Kuwait to be thankful to him, he intended to bring down the Kuwait monarcy, and have the right to put in the oil pipe line… It backfired.
          The reason Bush Sr. did all he could to have his son made president, to illegally invade Iraq out of revenge.

      • Avatar
        belphegor69  Mairead

        Yes I read Riverbend’s book some years back and she said women could wear makeup and dresses, hold civil servant jobs, did not have to cover their heads, and could tell the religious fruitcakes who stopped them on the street to eff off and there wasn’t a thing they could do about it.
        Now of course…not.

      • Avatar
        Really?  Mairead

        You must be wrong, because everywhere the US militarily intervenes, part of the rationale is to help women.

    • Avatar
      plantman13

      I read the official military history of SOG…special operations group…a program designed to infiltrate spys and saboteurs into North Vietnam. The incompetent manner in which the program was run by US Special Forces resulted in 100% of the participating South Vietnamese recruits being killed or captured (and then killed). Upon hearing of the miserable performance of the program one ranking general said we might as well skip all the training, save a few bucks, take them out back and shoot them ourselves. This is what it means to be a “friend” of the US. Much better to be our enemy…at least then one has a fighting chance. Those we “care” about are on the short end of the stick. Look at what a wonderful job we have done in Iraq. I think we surpassed the number of Iraqis killed by Saddam long ago. Our own govt. kills more Americans through various policies than the 911 terrorists could ever dream of.

    • Avatar
      tom johnson

      Made in the USA.

    • Avatar
      Atomsk

      The best way towards religious fundamentalism is to suppress and destroy all the more advanced and complex ideologies by force. This is a direct result of Western persecution of every even remotely left-wing movement and unifying ideology, especially Communism. It is possible – and even easy – to destroy the more complex stuff. It is almost impossible to destroy religion.

    • Avatar
      puja

      good comments below. the only thing to add is an action plan.
      the reasons are obvious. only the plan remains to be implemented.
      the longer the status quo has to improve their machinery of suppression and their technology of spying the more difficult the change will be. talk is cheap. time for everybody, all at once,
      to work together to “throw the bums out”. no more 2 party system.
      vote 3rd / 4th parties if possible or don’t vote and tell anyone who will listen why.

    • Avatar
      Ithurielspear

      100% the responsibility and fault of the us gov and bushies

      • Avatar
        Randy Herrman  Ithurielspear

        There were international interests, notably in energy and banking. Britain holds a large share of the blame as well.

        http://www.caseyresearch.com/c…

        “The Iraq war provides a good example. Until November 2000, no OPEC country had dared to violate the US dollar-pricing rule, and while the US dollar remained the strongest currency in the world there was also little reason to challenge the system. But in late 2000, France and a few other EU members convinced Saddam Hussein to defy the petrodollar process and sell Iraq’s oil for food in euros, not dollars.”

    __________________

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    Fetus in Marlise Munoz case is “distinctly abnormal,” according to attorneys January 24, 2014

    Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Human Rights, Right Wing, Texas, Women.
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    Roger’ note: The question for me is who is really brain dead.  I vote for the troglodyte so-called right-to-lifers and their fetus fetish.  These people who demand that the government keep a brain dead women on life support so that she can incubate a non-viable fetus are the same Neanderthals who rant against government intervention into our lives (for example when it wants to, horror of horrors,  provide universal health care or Medicaid or unemployment benefits). We live in an era when the most absurd and anti-human initiatives are enforced by governments that are held hostage by neo-fascist theocrats.

    The fetus is “is gestating within a dead and deteriorating body, as a horrified family looks on,” attorneys say

    , Salon.com, January 23, 2014

    The fetus of the brain-dead Texas woman being kept on life support despite her end-of-life directive and her family’s protests is “distinctly abnormal,” according to medical records obtained by attorneys for the woman’s family.

    As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, Erick Munoz’s attorneys issued a statement Wednesday on the condition of the fetus. “According to the medical records we have been provided, the fetus is distinctly abnormal,” attorneys Jessica Janicek and Heather King said. “Even at this early stage, the lower extremities are deformed to the extent that the gender cannot be determined.”

    “The fetus suffers from hydrocephalus [water on the brain],” the statement continued. “It also appears that there are further abnormalities, including a possible heart problem, that cannot be specifically determined due to the immobile nature of Mrs. Muñoz’s deceased body.

    “Quite sadly, this information is not surprising due to the fact that the fetus, after being deprived of oxygen for an indeterminate length of time, is gestating within a dead and deteriorating body, as a horrified family looks on in absolute anguish, distress and sadness,” the attorneys said.

    As Salon has previously noted, the legal team representing the Munoz family confirmed Friday that the Texas woman has been clinically brain-dead since she collapsed in her home while 14 weeks pregnant. Munoz’s husband, Erick, has been fighting in court to remove her from a respirator, ventilator and other machines, a decision that Munoz’s parents support.

    “All she is is a host for a fetus,” Munoz’s father, Ernest Machado, recently told the New York Times. “I get angry with the state. What business did they have delving into these areas? Why are they practicing medicine up in Austin?”

    A hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.

    Katie McDonough is an assistant editor for Salon, focusing on lifestyle. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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