Happy Mardi Gras

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UN calls for FGM zero tolerance after a year in which the world woke up

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/06/un-zero-tolerance-fgm-female-genital-mutilation

Following 12 months of historic change and growing FGM awareness, UN calls for concrete action against cutting girls and women

Friday 6 February 2015

The United Nations has designated Friday a worldwide day of zero tolerance on FGM, and called for concrete action to be taken against the cutting of girls and women. This follows 12 months of historic change and growing awareness of the practice.

The Guardian launched its campaign to end FGM a year ago, joining with activists, media organisations and committed politicians to shape laws, influence policy and transform social attitudes.

In the UK it worked with Bristol student Fahma Mohamed and her colleagues at Integrate Bristol to get information about FGM into schools, gathering the support of more than 230,000 people on her Change.org petition.

Inspired by Mohamed’s petition, Atlanta resident Jaha Dukureh took up the baton in the US, lobbying the government to carry out the first prevalence study into FGM for 17 years and set up a working group to tackle the practice on American soil.

In her home country of the Gambia, Dukureh held the first youth summit to fight FGM, while also confronting her father about the practice, and meeting the woman who cut her.

In Kenya, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon gave his backing to a joint Guardian-UNFPA project that will give reporting grants to African journalists to increase the coverage of FGM and its dangers across the continent.

There was much to celebrate, thanks to tireless campaigning by local and international activists. In London, global dignitaries gathered at the Girl Summit, hosted by prime minister David Cameron, and countries pledged to tackle the issue head on. There have been setbacks too: questions were raised when a doctor was found not guilty of performing FGM in a London hospital in the first UK prosecution, and the movement lost a lifelong campaigner with the death of Efua Dorkenoo. With 130m women and girls thought to be living with FGM across the world, and prevalence rates still high in many of the 29 countries in Africa and the middle east where FGM is still carried out, campaigners still have much work to do.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/06/un-zero-tolerance-fgm-female-genital-mutilation

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When letting your kids out of your sight becomes a crime

From The Washington Post:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/raising-children-on-fear/2015/02/13/9d9db67e-b2e7-11e4-827f-93f454140e2b_story.html

February 13, 2015

Danielle Meitiv lives in Silver Spring.

We all want what is best for our children. We want them to be happy and successful, and we want to protect them from harm. But what if we are protecting them from extremely remote threats while ignoring the things that most endanger their well-being? What if police and child welfare officials, the experts whom we empower to protect our children, are pursuing phantom problems while neglecting those who are truly at risk?

One recent Saturday afternoon, six police officers and five patrol cars came to my home in Silver Spring. They demanded identification from my husband and entered our home despite not having a warrant to do so. The reason for this show of force? We had allowed our children to walk home from a neighborhood park by themselves.

A few hours later, a Montgomery County Child Protective Services (CPS) social worker coerced my husband into signing a “temporary safety plan” for our children by threatening to take the children “right now” — a threat she backed up with a call to the police. In the weeks that followed, another worker from the agency appeared at our door with the police and insisted that he did not need a warrant to enter our home. He also interviewed our children at school without our knowledge or permission.

When did Americans decide that allowing our kids to be out of sight was a crime?

Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of young children being outside without adult supervision. We’re not always comfortable with it, either. We think, however, that giving them an opportunity to learn to make their way in the world independently is the best way to prepare them for adulthood — and that it is safe for them to do so.

Although our fears may tell us one thing about the world, the facts say something quite different. Crime rates across the United States are as low as they’ve been in my lifetime. Stranger abduction, the bogeyman of most parental fears, has always been exceedingly rare. Far more hazardous are the obesity risks and idleness we subject children to if we do not allow them to run outside and play.

Continue reading at:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/raising-children-on-fear/2015/02/13/9d9db67e-b2e7-11e4-827f-93f454140e2b_story.html

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What ISIS Really Wants

From The Atlantic:

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.

Graeme Wood
March 2015

What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing.

Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/

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The Labiaplasty Boom: Why Are Women Desperate for the Perfect Vagina?

More oppression based on the social constructing of gender.  In the social construct of gender, women’s humanity is traded for an idealized image.

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/labiaplasty-boom-why-are-women-desperate-perfect-vagina

One of the U.S., U.K., and Australia’s fastest growing plastic surgeries is propagating the notion that not all vaginas are equal.

By Kali Holloway
February 13, 2015

Throughout the Western world, for much of human history, women’s vaginas have been uber-reliable life partners: timeless companions that, as with all things in nature, wrinkled and drooped with age, but otherwise remained largely unchanged. While cosmetic solutions – from facelifts to liposuction – were used to tauten and tighten various other body parts, vaginas faithfully hung in there, often bravely weathering pubescence, childbirth and menopause. Labiaplasty, the surgery that cuts off “excess” parts of the labia minora, or inner vaginal lips, appeared in medical literature as early as 1971, but solely as a corrective measure for congential abnormalities. Otherwise, vaginas came in all shapes, colors and sizes, and there was no singular mainstream vulvar ideal. If you were into vagina, you were just happy when someone invited you to be near theirs. And if you possessed one, you simply played with the vagina you were dealt.

That began to change in 1984, when the first description of a purely aesthetic form of labiaplasty appeared in a scientific journal. The surgery didn’t immediately become an overnight sensation, but the cultural shifts that likely contributed to its ascent were beginning to fall into place. By the mid-1990s, the Internet had helped take pornography – and its generous close-ups of (overwhelmingly female) genitalia – from shrink-wrapped dirty secret to free and discreet ubiquity. Porn stars of both sexes were increasingly removing their pubic hair, providing fully unobstructed views of the goods, and celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Eva Longoria, and Sex and the City’s fictional Carrie Bradshaw championed the Brazilian wax. Laser hair removal got both better and cheaper. Women’s streetwear expanded to include clothes formerly reserved for the gym, including snug, crotch-contouring items like leggings and yoga pants. Photoshop became an often used, and often overused, tool, literally erasing the line between real and fake “beauty.” Our cultural obsession with youth prompted unprecedented spending on every newly developed, youth-preserving cosmetic surgery. As Dr. Norman Lowe, a Manhattan board certified plastic surgeon told me when I spoke with him, “People have gotten to the point where they’re not just happy with their face being lifted…They want their eyes done, brows done, face done. They want their breasts lifted. They want their arms rejuvenated. They want their labia lifted. They want everything lifted. Everything.”

In 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, more than 5,000 labiaplasties were performed in the United States. That may not seem like a huge number, but it’s an astounding 44% increase over just one year prior, making labiaplasty the second fastest growing plastic surgery that year. (The top gainer, by the way, was butt augmentation.) In the United Kingdom in 2014, the National Health Service reported a fivefold increase in the number of labiaplasties performed over the decade prior – which doesn’t include private practice surgeries, the most common kind. Australia’s national health care system noted in 2012 that claims for labiaplasty in the country had doubled since 2002. Sharon Osbourne discussed her “excruciating” labiaplasty on a talk show, and porn star Houston auctioned off the bits from her labiaplasty for $50,000. (Sydney Leathers, Anthony Weiner’s sexting partner, attempted the same but had trouble attracting buyers.) When I asked Dr. Lowe if he thought the surgery would continue to skyrocket, he suggested it had more recently become “the fastest growing procedure out there.” He added: “I don’t see any stopping it.” Vaginal rejuvenation – which can also include vaginal tightening, perineoplasty (focused on the skin between the vagina and the anus), reduction of the clitoral hood, laser vaginal bleaching, and injections to increase the size and sensitivity of the g-spot – is, officially, a booming business.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/labiaplasty-boom-why-are-women-desperate-perfect-vagina

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