March 1, 2017
PESHAWAR: Two transgender persons, both natives of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), died on Tuesday after being subjected to torture allegedly by Saudi police in Riyadh for dressing up as women in public.
Thirty-five transgender people were arrested by a law enforcement agency for cross-dressing, which is a punishable offence in the kingdom.
A rest house was raided where a ‘Guru Chela Chalan’ gathering, a formal meeting of Khuwaja Sara in which they choose their Guru (leader) and Chelas (Students), was taking place.
Amna, 35, who belonged to the Mingora area of Swat and Meeno, 26, who was from Peshawar died in police custody. The police allegedly packed them in sacks and thrashed them with sticks in prison.
Colonel Fawaz bin Jameel alMaiman, the police’s media spokesperson in Riyadh, told a local news agency that the field-control management had the site under constant surveillance. Women’s clothing and jewellery were also recovered from the rest house.
He added that the 35 people inside had been apprehended.
“Majority of the arrested, belong to K-P and the others from other cities of Pakistan. Torturing humans after throwing them into bags and beating them with sticks is inhumane,” said Qamar Naseem, a transgender rights activist.
While 11 were released later after paying a fine of 150,000 riyals, 22 are still in police custody, Naseem added.
The suffering ended for these two after being physically tortured, however, the rest are still languishing in Saudi jails, he added.
”No one is there to save them as the life of a transgender is not of any value to anyone, not even for our own government,” he lamented.
Naseem said that the National Commission for Human Rights had been contacted and they are awaiting their response.
From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/06/us/politics/supreme-court-transgender-rights-case.html
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would not hear a major case on transgender rights after all, acting after the Trump administration changed the federal government’s position on whether public schools must allow transgender youths to use bathrooms that match their gender identities.
In a one-sentence order, the Supreme Court vacated an appeals court decision in favor of a Virginia transgender boy, Gavin Grimm, and sent the case back for further consideration in light of the new guidance from the administration.
The Supreme Court had agreed in October to hear the case, and the justices were scheduled to hear arguments this month. The case would have been the court’s first encounter with transgender rights, and it would probably have been one of the biggest decisions of a fairly sleepy term.
Proponents of transgender rights said they were disappointed that the court had not taken the chance to decide a pressing national issue.
“Thousands of transgender students across the country will have to wait even longer for a final decision from our nation’s highest court affirming their basic rights,” said Sarah Warbelow, the legal director of the Human Rights Campaign.
Kerri Kupec, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative “Christian” sic group, welcomed Monday’s development.
“The first duty of school districts is to protect the bodily privacy rights of all of the students who attend their schools and to respect the rights of parents who understandably don’t want their children exposed in intimate changing areas like locker rooms and showers,” she said.
There are other cases on transgender rights in lower courts, including a challenge to a North Carolina law that, in government buildings, requires transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificates. The law has drawn protests, boycotts and lawsuits.
The question in the Virginia case was whether Mr. Grimm could use the boys’ bathroom in his high school. The Obama administration said yes, relying on its interpretation of a federal regulation under a 1972 law, Title IX, that bans discrimination “on the basis of sex” in schools that receive federal money.
By George Prochnik
February 6, 2017
The Austrian émigré writer Stefan Zweig composed the first draft of his memoir, “The World of Yesterday,” in a feverish rapture during the summer of 1941, as headlines gave every indication that civilization was being swallowed in darkness. Zweig’s beloved France had fallen to the Nazis the previous year. The Blitz had reached a peak in May, with almost fifteen hundred Londoners dying in a single night. Operation Barbarossa, the colossal invasion of the Soviet Union by the Axis powers, in which nearly a million people would die, had launched in June. Hitler’s Einsatzgruppen, mobile killing squads, roared along just behind the Army, massacring Jews and other vilified groups—often with the help of local police and ordinary citizens.
Zweig himself had fled Austria preëmptively, in 1934. During the country’s brief, bloody civil war that February, when Engelbert Dollfuss, the country’s Clerico-Fascist Chancellor, had destroyed the Socialist opposition, Zweig’s Salzburg home had been searched for secret arms to supply the left-wing militias. Zweig at the time was regarded as one of Europe’s most prominent humanist-pacifists, and the absurd crudity of the police action so outraged him that he began packing his things that night. From Austria, Zweig and his second wife, Lotte, went to England, then to the New World, where New York City became his base, despite his aversion to its crowds and abrasive competitiveness. In June of 1941, longing for some respite from the needs of the exiles in Manhattan beseeching him for help with money, work, and connections, the couple rented a modest, rather grim bungalow in Ossining, New York, a mile uphill from Sing Sing Correctional Facility. There, Zweig set to furious work on his autobiography—laboring like “seven devils without a single walk,” as he put it. Some four hundred pages poured out of him in a matter of weeks. His productivity reflected his sense of urgency: the book was conceived as a kind of message to the future. It is a law of history, he wrote, “that contemporaries are denied a recognition of the early beginnings of the great movements which determine their times.” For the benefit of subsequent generations, who would be tasked with rebuilding society from the ruins, he was determined to trace how the Nazis’ reign of terror had become possible, and how he and so many others had been blind to its beginnings.
Zweig noted that he could not remember when he first heard Hitler’s name. It was an era of confusion, filled with ugly agitators. During the early years of Hitler’s rise, Zweig was at the height of his career, and a renowned champion of causes that sought to promote solidarity among European nations. He called for the founding of an international university with branches in all the major European capitals, with a rotating exchange program intended to expose young people to other communities, ethnicities, and religions. He was only too aware that the nationalistic passions expressed in the First World War had been compounded by new racist ideologies in the intervening years. The economic hardship and sense of humiliation that the German citizenry experienced as a consequence of the Versailles Treaty had created a pervasive resentment that could be enlisted to fuel any number of radical, bloodthirsty projects.
Zweig did take notice of the discipline and financial resources on display at the rallies of the National Socialists—their eerily synchronized drilling and spanking-new uniforms, and the remarkable fleets of automobiles, motorcycles, and trucks they paraded. Zweig often travelled across the German border to the little resort town of Berchtesgaden, where he saw “small but ever-growing squads of young fellows in riding boots and brown shirts, each with a loud-colored swastika on his sleeve.” These young men were clearly trained for attack, Zweig recalled. But after the crushing of Hitler’s attempted putsch, in 1923, Zweig seems hardly to have given the National Socialists another thought until the elections of 1930, when support for the Party exploded—from under a million votes two years earlier to more than six million. At that point, still oblivious to what this popular affirmation might portend, Zweig applauded the enthusiastic passion expressed in the elections. He blamed the stuffiness of the country’s old-fashioned democrats for the Nazi victory, calling the results at the time “a perhaps unwise but fundamentally sound and approvable revolt of youth against the slowness and irresolution of ‘high politics.’ “
In his memoir, Zweig did not excuse himself or his intellectual peers for failing early on to reckon with Hitler’s significance. “The few among writers who had taken the trouble to read Hitler’s book, ridiculed the bombast of his stilted prose instead of occupying themselves with his program,” he wrote. They took him neither seriously nor literally. Even into the nineteen-thirties, “the big democratic newspapers, instead of warning their readers, reassured them day by day, that the movement . . . would inevitably collapse in no time.” Prideful of their own higher learning and cultivation, the intellectual classes could not absorb the idea that, thanks to “invisible wire-pullers”—the self-interested groups and individuals who believed they could manipulate the charismatic maverick for their own gain—this uneducated “beer-hall agitator” had already amassed vast support. After all, Germany was a state where the law rested on a firm foundation, where a majority in parliament was opposed to Hitler, and where every citizen believed that “his liberty and equal rights were secured by the solemnly affirmed constitution.”
Zweig recognized that propaganda had played a crucial role in eroding the conscience of the world. He described how, as the tide of propaganda rose during the First World War, saturating newspapers, magazines, and radio, the sensibilities of readers became deadened. Eventually, even well-meaning journalists and intellectuals became guilty of what he called “the ‘doping’ of excitement”—an artificial incitement of emotion that culminated, inevitably, in mass hatred and fear. Describing the healthy uproar that ensued after one artist’s eloquent outcry against the war in the autumn of 1914, Zweig observed that, at that point, “the word still had power. It had not yet been done to death by the organization of lies, by ‘propaganda.’ “ But Hitler “elevated lying to a matter of course,” Zweig wrote, just as he turned “anti-humanitarianism to law.” By 1939, he observed, “Not a single pronouncement by any writer had the slightest effect . . . no book, pamphlet, essay, or poem” could inspire the masses to resist Hitler’s push to war.
“I can already see it now, a lot of our LGBTQ members rolling their eyes — but I wanted to believe him,” Jordan Evans of Massachusetts said last weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), speaking about Donald Trump a day after the president rescinded protections for transgender students. Like Caitlyn Jenner, Evans is a transgender Republican who supported Donald Trump, hoping he’d support trans rights. And she still believes she can change the Republican Party.
“I wanted to believe him,” she repeated in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress at the annual gathering of conservative activists at which both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke. “I mean, he was doing things no other Republican candidate has done. Even on the trail, he was doing things that I thought, well, that even if he was doing it for political capital, he was creating a conversation. I was afraid of Mike Pence but Trump strikes me as the kind of guy — he’s a strong CEO. But what happened yesterday [with the Trump administration rescinding guidelines the Obama administration put in place to protect transgender students], that was the litmus test. I was giving him a chance to kind of prove me wrong on this particular issue, and he failed.”
Evans, who described herself as a libertarian, is a veteran of CPAC. But this was the first time she “came out authentically,” and she said it “went surprisingly well and exceedingly well.”
She stood in front of the main ballroom with Jennifer Williams, a New Jersey trans woman, also a CPAC veteran, who held a sign that read, “Proud to be Conservative, Proud to be Transgender, Proud to be American, #SameTeam,” as well as a Gadsden flag, which has become the symbol of the Tea Party movement in recent years. This was the second year Williams has attended CPAC as openly transgender.
What made them stand out from most gay, bisexual or lesbian Republicans at CPAC is that these two transgender women weren’t trying to blend in — they were literally standing there behind a sign — and they were trying to bring attention to transgender rights in a place in which the crowd applauded when it was announced onstage that Trump had rescinded trans student protections. That was shortly before Education Secretary Besty DeVos clarified that she was fully onboard with the administration’s action ― calling President Obama’s guidelines on transgender students an “overreach” ― contrary to media reports that said she’d opposed the decision.
“I felt terrible about it,” Williams said regarding Trump’s action. “Put a pit in my stomach. Two-hundred-thousand Americans, two-hundred thousand trans kids were told that you’re other, that you’re foreign, you’re alien. When the president did this, on Attorney General Sessions’ behalf, or whoever’s behalf, that cut to my soul as a conservative, because that goes against our principles of personal liberty and freedom and determining your own destiny.”
But, she said, many at CPAC were supporting her, and that, she explained, is a marked change from years before.
February 8, 2017
Both men “bluffed” their way into power, confounding an establishment that did not know what to do but normalise them, according to author Ron Rosenbaum.
The Adolf Hitler biographer said he had refused to compare Mr Trump to the Nazi leader during the campaign period for fear of trivialising genocide, but after the election things changed.
“Now Trump and his minions are in the driver’s seat, attempting to pose as respectable participants in American politics, when their views come out of a playbook written in German,” said Mr Rosenbaum, who wrote Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil.
“The playbook is Mein Kampf.”
In an article for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Mr Rosenbaum offers a brief historical look at the rise of the Nazi party, emphasising how Hitler targeted one of the only German newspapers to continually investigate and expose him.
The Munich Post was first ransacked by Nazis in 1923, and was eventually closed down by the party when Hitler came to power in 1933. Many of the local paper’s journalists were disappeared or sent to Dachau concentration camp under Nazi rule.
In contrast, other newspapers, and virtually all politicians, did not know how to handle Hitler, and consequently failed to recognise the extent to which he was a threat, or to meet the need to actively oppose him.
“Hitler used the tactics of bluff masterfully, at times giving the impression of being a feckless Chaplinesque clown, at other times a sleeping serpent, at others yet a trustworthy statesman,” Mr Rosenbaum said.
“The Weimar establishment didn’t know what to do, so they pretended this was normal. They ‘normalised’ him.”
As part of this normalisation — a phenomenon Mr Rosenbaum said also happened with Mr Trump — Hitler and the Nazi party were allowed back onto electoral lists — in an act of “democracy destroying itself democratically”.
“Hitler’s method was to lie until he got what he wanted, by which point it was too late,” Mr Rosenbaum said, adding there is no comparison between Hitler and Mr Trump in terms of scale. But, he said, it was important to see that, like Hitler, Mr Trump is “defining mendacity down” by normalising lies and lowering expectations of truthfulness.
March 1, 2017
When Henry Rousso landed at Houston’s George Bush International Airport on February 22, the Paris-based historian, who studies Holocaust-era Europe, was expecting a smooth entry to the country, where he was scheduled to attend a symposium at Texas A&M University. After all, as an academic Rousso had spent 30 years making international trips for conferences. With universities taking care of the visa requirements that allowed him to collect honorariums for his lectures, he had never encountered trouble with immigration.
The scholar was in for a shock: After what he described as a “random check” by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Rousso was detained at the airport for 10 hours and threatened with deportation.
Now Rousso — who was let into the country after Michael Young, the president of Texas A&M University, was alerted to the situation and asked law professor Fatma Marouf to intervene with CBP — is speaking out about his experience.
“Examining my passport, the policeman noted that I recently received a ‘J1’ visa, granted to academics, having been a visiting professor at Columbia University in New York from September 2016 to January 2017,” Rousso wrote in The Huffington Post. “He concluded that I was returning to work “illegally” in the U.S. with an expired visa.” The authorities interrogated him, he continued, took his fingerprints, conducted a bodily search, and informed him “that I will never be able to enter the country again without a specific visa.”
The Egyptian-born Rousso, who immigrated to France with his family in 1956 after they were exiled as Jews under the administration of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, was troubled by his own situation. He was horrified, though, by that of his fellow detainees, many of whom lacked resources to help them in their plight. When two police officers came to take a man Rousso identified as probably Hispanic to a boarding gate for deportation, he wrote, “they handcuffed him, chained him at the waist, and shackled him.”
From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/06/us/politics/supreme-court-transgender-rights-case.html
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would not hear a major case on transgender rights after all, acting after the Trump administration changed the federal government’s position on whether public schools had to allow transgender youths to use bathrooms that matched their gender identities.
In a one-sentence order, the Supreme Court vacated an appeal’s court decision in favor of a transgender boy, Gavin Grimm, and sent the case back for further consideration in light of the new guidance from the Trump administration.
The Supreme Court had agreed to hear the case in October, and it had been scheduled to be argued this month. It would have been the court’s first encounter with transgender rights, and there was a good chance the case would have been one of a fairly sleepy term’s biggest decisions.
The question in the case was whether Mr. Grimm could use the boys’ bathroom in a Virginia high school.
There are other cases on transgender rights in the pipeline, including a challenge to a North Carolina law that requires transgender people to use bathrooms in government buildings that correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificates. The law has drawn protests, boycotts and lawsuits.
The Virginia case concerned the Obama administration’s interpretation of a federal regulation under a 1972 law that bans discrimination “on the basis of sex” in schools that receive federal money.
The Department of Education said in 2015 that schools “generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.” Last year, the department went further, saying that schools could lose federal money if they discriminated against transgender students. The Trump administration withdrew that guidance last month.
By Michael Barajas
Fri, Mar 3, 2017
The big business argument against the anti-trans bill brewing at the Texas legislature has been that businesses and organizations will stop coming to a state whose leaders openly discriminate against a whole group of people.
While Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick, the bill’s main pusher in Austin, has called those economic concerns “bogus,” San Antonio officials are saying the consequences are already real. Three groups that had been considering San Antonio for conventions or major events have already crossed us off their list. Another eight conventions the city has already booked have said they’ll cancel if lawmakers pass the bill.
That’s according to Visit San Antonio, the city’s agency for conventions and tourism, which told the Express-News on Thursday that we’re out of the running for about $3 million because of those three groups that won’t even consider us anymore. If those eight conventions already booked pull out, the city would lose about $20 million. (City officials recently turned the city’s convention and tourism bureau into VSA, a taxpayer-funded nonprofit that they say will be more “nimble” in going after major events and conventions.)
Local leaders have been pretty unified in their opposition to Senate Bill 6, which would block transgender Texans from using the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. It’s a bill predicated on the baseless, ginned-up fear that equal rights for transgender people would endanger women and young girls in public restrooms – a familiar narrative hard-right conservatives, like Patrick, spun in order to kill a non discrimination ordinance in Houston in 2015.
Still, much of the opposition to the bill from city and business leaders has centered on the potential economic consequences of SB 6, which goes before a senate committee next Tuesday. For San Antonio officials, it’s an easy argument for them to lean on. Consider North Carolina, where near-identical anti-trans legislation triggered a NCAA boycott that cost the state somewhere between $77 million and $201 million in lost tourism. Many think that if Texas passes its version of the law, the NCAA will follow suit and pull the currently scheduled 2018 Men’s Final Four games out of San Antonio, which would cost the city more than $200 million in lost tourism and tax revenue.
In fact, it’s one of the few issues in the city’s mayoral race that all sides seem to sort of agree on. At a debate sponsored by KSAT at the Tobin Center Thursday night, Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina did the whole “I haven’t seen all the details and I don’t have all the information” thing, before contending the bill probably doesn’t have a chance and talking about himself in the third person (which, as many have noted, he likes to do): “What I do know is Manuel Medina is pro-equality and Manuel Medina is anti-discrimination.”
Mayor Ivy Taylor, meanwhile, said she’s been working with business leaders and the Bexar County delegation to the statehouse to try to drum up opposition to the bill. Council member Ron Nirenberg used the issue as an opportunity both underscore the discrimination aspect of SB 6 and take a shot at Taylor, saying she didn’t speak up on the issue until she got the thumbs up from the business community. “It’s also a human issue,” he said.
Thursday 2 March 2017
Ivanka Trump and Kellyanne Conway sure are working hard to convince us that the president isn’t a misogynist. While Conway tweets about Trump’s commitment to “women’s health” and covers for his bigotry on the cable news circuit, the first daughter continues her mission to present the softer side of a man whose best-known quote on gender involves “grabbing pussies.”
It would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous. As feminism continues to grow more powerful – millions of women marched against Trump and sexism less than two months ago – conservative women will try to use the rhetoric of the movement to mask Republican misogyny.
In a time when so many misconstrue feminism to mean “anything a woman does” rather than a well-defined movement for justice, this strategy could very well work. The mischaracterization of feminism has been political gold for women on the right: operatives who once called feminists baby-killers and man-haters now claim the label for themselves even as they support stripping American women of fundamental and hard-won rights.
The most dangerous player in all of this is Ivanka herself – poised, polished, telegenic and continually trotted out as salve for her father’s explicit sexism.
Just this week Ivanka tweeted out a picture of her father signing two laws that push for gender parity in STEM fields with the hashtag #ClosingTheGenderGap. In the shot, Trump is surrounded by female staff members, Ivanka and his wife. The photo-op was a clear response to the image that went viral in January of Trump surrounded by men as he reinstated the anti-choice Global Gag Rule. (A mandate responsible for thousands of women’s deaths across the globe.)
Even before the election, Ivanka was trying to convince us that her father isn’t misogynist. Her speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland made Trump seem more like a feminist revolutionary than a man who walks into teenage girls’ dressing rooms. She’s even called him a feminist.
Though Ivanka’s feminist bonafides are shaky at best – the child care plan she pushed doesn’t include fathers, her Women Who Work campaign is more Pinterest than activist, she supports an unrepentant racist misogynist – any criticism of her is positioned as a rejection of feminist ideals. As the Trump brand takes massive hits, for example, conservatives like Tomi Lahren insist that any boycott of Ivanka’s clothing is proof that you are not really a feminist and don’t support women.
Ivanka taking an interest is women’s issues is fine, but using them to cover for her father’s rank bigotry is reprehensible.
By David Ferguson
March 2, 2017
Veteran CBS News anchor Dan Rather wrote on Facebook Thursday that the scandal over Pres. Donald Trump’s and his aides’ personal and political connections to the Russian government is like a bomb with a lit fuse.
“Every once in a while in Washington, the fuse is lit for what seems to be a big scandal,” said Rather. “Much more rarely does that fuse lead to an explosion of the magnitude we are seeing with Russia and the new administration, and frankly the Republicans in Congress.”
With revelations that Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions apparently perjured himself regarding contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, another key Trump appointee appears to be on the verge of going down in flames like national security adviser Gen. Mike Flynn.
Flynn resigned last month after wiretaps on Kislyak’s phone revealed that he and Flynn had multiple conversations prior to the president’s inauguration that Flynn later lied about to the public and to Vice President Mike Pence.
“Sessions is but the latest person close to President Trump who seems to be ensnared in a story that is more worthy of Hollywood melodrama than the reality of the governance of our country. Democrats are calling for Sessions to resign, and this story could move very quickly,” said Rather on Facebook.
He continued, “We are well past the time for any political niceties or benefits of the doubt. We need an independent and thorough investigation of Russia’s meddling in our democracy and its ties to the president and his allies. We don’t know what we don’t know.”
“The press is doing an admirable job,” he wrote. “But there is only so much it can do without such things as subpoena powers. Let’s just make this clear. This is about a foreign and hostile power trying to influence our election while being in contact with close aides to the presidential campaign that the Kremlin wanted to win. Furthermore, there are serious questions about Mr. Trump’s longstanding ties to Russian money and influence peddlers. We don’t know where this might go, but it isn’t going away.”