Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

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Sikh protests at JK Rowling’s ‘mustachioed’ girl are misplaced

From The Guardian UK:

I engage with those who ridicule me as a Sikh woman with facial hair – Rowling’s character embodies this fight against bullying, Tuesday 2 October 2012

Recently, my photograph was unknowingly taken while waiting in a queue, and later posted on Reddit under the subject “I’m not sure what to conclude from this“. Now, I understand that being a baptised Sikh woman with facial hair might confuse some people. But I choose not to change my appearance because, in accordance with the Sikh tradition, I view my body as a gift from the Divine, as a tool for service, as a temple for my spirit.

I am well aware of how I am perceived by others: is she a man? A bearded woman? Transgendered? These perceptions find their roots both in simple curiosity and ignorance of the sheer diversity of the human race. I cannot stop people from forming convoluted first impressions based on what I look like, but I can stop them from turning that ignorance into misplaced assumptions or even hatred. This is why, having been alerted to the posting of the photo, I replied in the thread, and engaged with the posters discussing my appearance. What I learned from this experience is that building bridges between people isn’t really that hard: an honest conversation, a simple exchange of meaningful words that make up our lives, can change people’s opinions and change the world for the better – one step at a time.

JK Rowling’s new book, Casual Vacancy, perhaps aimed to do just that. Her novel, which features a Sikh family and portrays them in a realistic way, required her to do extensive research into my faith. And with the attention that Casual Vacancy has been getting comes the chance to start a dialogue and open our minds and hearts to stories of people different than us, people we did not know about before, people, who, at a second glance, are just like us. Unfortunately, the novel enraged Sikh leaders in India, where it is currently the subject of protests over Rowling’s portrayal of a Sikh girl teased for her body hair.

I hope those protests do not escalate. Violence and anger will only tarnish the image of peace-loving Sikhs, who in the past have only raised their swords when all other avenues have failed. Rowling’s character sheds light on to a reality that the Sikh nation is still struggling to fully understand, acknowledge and accept: a reality of bullying, and superficial impressions. Why can’t we, as a Sikh nation, write our own narratives and read them to the world through our actions, instead of protesting against the perceptions of the outside world?

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What Bullies Can Teach Our Kids—And Us

From Yes Magazine:

Shannon Hayes on the important lesson that can be learned by standing up to a bully.
posted Sep 26, 2012

Saoirse and Ula have a favorite story they are forever asking me to retell. It is about my first encounter with bullies in my kindergarten year. It goes like this: At the end of each day, my older brother and his best friend would pick me up from my classroom, and together we’d walk to our babysitter’s house in town. And each day, the moment we were off school property, a group of three bullies waited for us. They made threats, and we just kept walking. But the afternoon eventually came when fighting ensued. Each of the two older boys took on my brother and his friend. They instructed the youngest to “get the girl.”

I stared at him coming at me. Then I dropped my backpack off my shoulder. It held a metal lunch pail. I kept the strap in my hand. As soon as he was close enough, I closed my eyes and swung in a circle, clobbering the first thing that came into contact with the lunch pail and bag, which was the boy’s head. Golly, did he let out a wail. The cry was loud enough to break up the other two fights, and the three bullies went home to tell on me. No trouble ever came of the incident, and we were able to walk safely to the babysitter’s house after that.

The story is one of my most vivid childhood memories, as it was the end of my fear of bullies. Oh, how innocent it all was back then.

Flash forward to my early twenties, when I was working as a high school English teacher in Japan, with 600 students. As an adult, I never saw the bullying. But one of my students wound up committing suicide over it. Naturally, by the time I had children of my own, the idea of childhood bullying struck me as horrific. And while bully avoidance wasn’t the reason I chose to homeschool my kids, I was perfectly happy to sidestep that part of Saoirse and Ula’s growing pains.

It turns out I didn’t sidestep it as much as I thought.

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UK: BACP warns against gay conversion therapy

From Pink News:

October 2, 2012

Britain’s largest professional body of psychotherapists has warned its members against attempting to “convert” gay people, after discovering practitioners were still offering the “treatment”.

The warning comes after California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed a state bill to outlaw the practice for teenagers last weekend.

Mr Brown said gay conversion therapy had “no basis in science or medicine”.

The Telegraph reports that the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has now notified its 30,000 members of the formal change in policy, advising them that being gay is not a “mental disorder”.

In a letter sent to its members the BACP said it opposed “any psychological treatment such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder, or based on the premise that the client/patient should change his/her sexuality.”

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Liberty Counsel Announces Legal Challenge to California’s “Ex-Gay” Ban

From Metro Weekly:

by Justin Snow
October 1, 2012

As LGBT-advocates continue to hail Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of a bill on Saturday that made California the first state to officially outlaw gay “conversion” and “reparative” therapy for minors, the anti-gay Liberty Counsel has announced it will file suit against the historic law.

In a statement released today, Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver announced that the group of social conservatives, which seeks to advance “religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family,” would challenge the California law on the grounds that it imposes a “catch-22” for licensed therapists.

“The California governor and legislature are putting their own preconceived notions and political ideology ahead of children and their rights to get access to counseling that meets their needs,” Staver said in a statement. “A number of minors who have struggled with same-sex attraction have been able to reduce or eliminate the stress and conflicts in their lives by receiving counseling of their choice which best meets their needs and religious convictions.”

According to Staver, who is also dean of the Liberty University School of Law, the bill and the ethical codes of the state’s licensing boards in California are on an “inevitable collision course.” He added that the bill would “harm children, stress families, and place counselors in a catch-22, because they will be forced to violate their licensing ethical codes.”

The legislation signed into law by Brown on Saturday is the first of its kind in the nation and prohibits children younger than 18 from undergoing “sexual orientation change efforts” at the hands of licensed therapists seeking to “cure” them of homosexuality. The law has been lauded by LGBT-advocates as protecting gay youth from abusive practices now deemed by the state to be harmful and dangerous.

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California’s ‘Ex-Gay’ Reparative Therapy Ban Details Sought, Shared In Other States

From Huffington Post:

By Lisa Leff

AN FRANCISCO — Gay rights advocates are making plans to get other states to join California in banning psychotherapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight, even as opponents prepared Monday to sue to overturn the first law in the nation to take aim at the practice.

After months of intense lobbying, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill late Saturday that prohibits licensed mental health professionals from using so-called reparative or conversion therapies with clients under age 18. Brown called the therapies “quackery” that “have no basis in science or medicine.”

Two New Jersey lawmakers already are drafting similar legislation, while groups that helped get the California law passed are sharing research, witnesses and talking points with counterparts in other gay-friendly states, said Geoff Kors, senior legislative and policy strategist for the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“There are lots of folks today who are looking at this, now that the governor has signed it,” Kors said. “We’ll be reaching out to all the state (gay rights) groups, especially in states that have had success passing LGBT rights legislation.”

The law only applies to licensed therapists, not ministers or lay people who counsel teens to resist same-sex attractions.

Two Christian legal groups, meanwhile, said they would sue in federal court in Sacramento to prevent the law from taking effect on Jan. 1.

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Paul Ryan: 30 Percent ‘Want Their Welfare State,’ 70 Percent ‘Want The American Dream’

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A New ‘Year of the Woman’?

From Washington Post:

Katrina vanden Heuvel
on October 2, 2012

A little more than 20 years ago, Anita Hill sat before a panel of 14 U.S. senators, all male, who aggressively questioned her claim that she had been sexually harassed by then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. As the nation watched the hearings, riveted and repulsed, one Washington state senator couldn’t help but ask herself: “Who’s saying what I would say if I was there?”

The answer? No one — there were only two women in the Senate at the time and neither was on the Judiciary Committee. And so, in 1992, Patty Murray, the self-proclaimed “mom in tennis shoes,” laced up and ran for U.S. Senate. The Anita Hill effect spawned the “Year of the Woman,” when 19 women won seats in the House, and four women, including Murray, won in the Senate.

Two decades later, a slew of Republican attacks on women, women’s health and women’s economic futures might just turn 2012 into another “Year of the Woman.” To understand why, it’s worth recapping this year’s parade of anti-women horrors.

News broke in late January that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer foundation would stop providing funds to Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings for low-income women. After facing the wrath of its supporters for politicizing women’s health — while Planned Parenthood was showered with donations — Komen quickly reversed its decision.

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Voter ID Rules Fail Court Tests Across Country

From The New York Times:

Published: October 2, 2012

A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday blocked the key component of a highly contested state law requiring strict photographic identification to vote in next month’s election, saying the authorities had not done enough to ensure that voters had access to the new documents.

The result, that Pennsylvanians will not have to present a state-approved ID to vote in November, was the latest and most significant in a series of legal victories for those opposed to laws that they charge would limit access to polls in this presidential election. With only a month left until Election Day, disputes around the country over new voter ID requirements, early voting, provisional ballots and registration drives are looking far less significant.

“Every voter restriction that has been challenged this year has been either enjoined, blocked or weakened,” said Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice, which is part of the New York University School of Law and opposes such restrictions. “It has been an extraordinary string of victories for those opposing these laws.”

Voter ID laws have been taken off the table in Texas and Wisconsin. The Justice Department has blocked such a law in South Carolina, which has appealed in federal court. In Florida and Ohio, early voting and voter-registration drives have been largely restored. New Hampshire is going ahead with its law, but voters who do not have the required document will be permitted to vote and have a month to verify their identity.

Strict voter ID laws remain in Kansas, Indiana, Georgia and Tennessee, but they are not seen as battleground states. And while Pennsylvania seems likely to institute a version of its law in the coming year, it will not affect this election.

The Pennsylvania judge who ruled on Tuesday, Robert Simpson of Commonwealth Court, had upheld the law in August when liberal-leaning and civil rights groups challenged it. But the state’s Supreme Court instructed him two weeks ago to hold further hearings to focus on whether enough had been done to ensure “liberal access” to the picture ID cards, which are available at driver’s license centers, or alternatives.

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Breaking News: Todd Akin a Sexist Sillyperson

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Big Finance’s pathology compels the logic of socialised banking

From The Guardian UK:

A Washington state supreme court finding against improper foreclosures is just the latest instance of banks’ malfeasance, Monday 1 October 2012

A long string of socially costly misdeeds by major private US banks have been exposed since the current crisis hit in 2007. The latest concerns an obscure enterprise named Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, or Mers.

Founded in 1995, this private company in Virginia never employed more than 50 people full-time. Big private banks (Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, etc) and housing finance companies, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, founded Mers in order to speed the processing of mortgages into mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Investors were willing to buy these new securities (bundles of Americans’ mortgages). Most importantly, US financial institutions wanted the huge profits from producing and trading MBS.

Different local procedures for registering mortgages and processing the paperwork for trading mortgages had been slow and cumbersome across the US, but financial mega-corporations were impatient – so they created this fast, computerized way of registering mortgages and mortgage trades. Mers achieved its purpose during the housing boom that occurred from 1995 to 2007. But when mortgage defaults precipitated the housing crash and then broader economic crises, banks and lenders used Mers to foreclose on defaulted mortgages.

Mers, it now turns out, was lax and loose, as well as fast, in processing foreclosures. Beyond facilitating mortgage transactions, it often represented ultimate lenders (who alone can legally initiate foreclosures) whose exact identities were sometimes questionable. In so doing, Mers violated state laws that strictly regulate foreclosure procedures.

On 16 August 2012, the supreme court of Washington state voted unanimously that Mers had improperly initiated foreclosures on thousands of mortgages. Victims of such foreclosures can now contest them, and other states are moving to do likewise. The already badly depressed housing market has thus been dealt yet another blow – economic uncertainties multiply with the prospect of US courts becoming further clogged by litigation over these foreclosures.

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Cut deficit, but not on backs of needy

From Politico:

By Sen. Bernie Sanders

Yes. We must address the very serious problem of a $16 trillion national debt and a $1 trillion federal deficit.

But at this pivotal moment in American history, it’s essential that we understand how we got into this deficit crisis in the first place and who was responsible for it. More important, we must address the deficit in a way that is fair and does not balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor — people who are already hurting.

Let us never forget that when Bill Clinton left office in January 2001, this country enjoyed a healthy $236 billion surplus, and the projections were that this surplus would grow by a total of $5 trillion over a 10-year period.

What happened? How did we go from a significant federal budget surplus to a massive deficit? Frankly, it is not that complicated.

President George W. Bush and the so-called deficit hawks chose to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq and put the funding for those wars on our nation’s credit card. By the time the last wounded veteran is cared for, those wars will end up adding more than $3 trillion to our national debt.

During this same period, Bush and the “deficit hawks” provided huge tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans who were already doing phenomenally well. These tax breaks for the very rich will increase our national debt by about $1 trillion over a 10-year period.

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