Alexander Soros: The Hate That Is Consuming Us

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/24/opinion/george-soros-mailbox-bomb.html

Bombs sent to my father, George Soros, and to former President Obama and Hillary Clinton are a result of our politics of demonizing opponents.

By Alexander Soros
Mr. Soros is the deputy chairman of the Open Society Foundations.
Oct. 24, 2018

On Monday afternoon an explosive device was delivered to my father’s home north of New York City. An alert member of our staff recognized the threat and called the police. Fortunately, the authorities were able to detonate the device safely. On Wednesday, the Secret Service said it had intercepted similar devices sent to the offices of former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

We are all grateful that no one was injured, and grateful to those who kept us safe. But the incident was profoundly disturbing — as a threat not just to the safety of our family, neighbors, colleagues and friends, but also to the future of American democracy.

My family is no stranger to the hostilities of those who reject our philosophy, our politics and our very identity. My father grew up in the shadow of the Nazi regime in Hungary. My grandfather secured papers with false names so that they could survive the onslaught against Budapest’s Jews; he helped many others do the same. After the war, as the Communists took power, my father escaped to London, where he studied at the London School of Economics before embarking on what ultimately became a hugely successful career in finance.

But the lessons of his early life never left him. His biggest philanthropic endeavor, the Open Society Foundations, played a leading role in supporting the transition from Communism to more democratic societies in parts of the former Soviet Union and then expanded to protect democratic practices in existing democracies. My father acknowledges that his philanthropic work, while nonpartisan, is “political” in a broad sense: It seeks to support those who promote societies where everyone has a voice.

There is a long list of people who find that proposition unacceptable, and my father has faced plenty of attacks along the way, many dripping with the poison of anti-Semitism.

But something changed in 2016. Before that, the vitriol he faced was largely confined to the extremist fringes, among white supremacists and nationalists who sought to undermine the very foundations of democracy.

But with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, things got worse. White supremacists and anti-Semites like David Duke endorsed his campaign. Mr. Trump’s final TV ad famously featured my father; Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the Federal Reserve; and Lloyd Blankfein, chairman of Goldman Sachs — all of them Jewish — amid dog-whistle language about “special interests” and “global special interests.” A genie was let out of the bottle, which may take generations to put back in, and it wasn’t confined to the United States.

Continue reading at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/24/opinion/george-soros-mailbox-bomb.html

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Erin Parisi Is a Pioneer for Transgender Mountaineers

From Outside Magazine: https://www.outsideonline.com/2354631/erin-parisi-transgender-mountaineering-pioneer

Parisi tackled three of the Seven Summits this year, and now she’s a few steps closer to likely becoming the first publicly transgender person to complete the famous challenge

Katie Coakley
Oct 22, 2018

Erin Parisi’s trek up Mount Kilimanjaro last March wasn’t easy. Recovering from food poisoning and contending with almost continuous rainfall and the aches and fatigue that accompany six days of climbing, she tried to maintain a positive attitude as she sat in her tent at Barafu camp, approximately 15,358 feet above sea level and 36 hours from the summit.

After all, she had done it before. But the first time Parisi ascended the 19,340-foot peak, in 2011, her name was Aron.

In 2017, at age 40, after living as a man her whole life, Parisi came out to the world as a woman, went through a complicated divorce, and underwent facial feminization surgery and larynx reconstruction, the latter of which left her mute for a month. It was during her month of silence, buoyed by the support she received from her family and community, that the Denver resident set herself a new goal. Parisi wanted to complete the Seven Summits, climbing the highest peak on every continent.

Parisi had done her fair share of mountaineering before her transition, summiting fourteeners in Colorado and making winter ascents in Canada. “I don’t consider myself a technical route bagger,” she says. “Being in the mountains is more important to me than keeping a list.”

In March 2018, Parisi also started a nonprofit, TranSending 7, to advance transgender rights and encourage other transgender people in sports. “It’s important for us to show that we have the same goals and aspirations that we had before,” says Emma Shinn, the board chair of TranSending who is also a lawyer, a former infantry leader and judge advocate in the Marine Corps, and a transgender woman. “We may look different, we may sound different, but we’re still the same people underneath.”

The organization will also help fund future summit attempts for Parisi, who works at CenturyLink and has so far self-funded her trips. She summited her first peak in February 2018: the 7,319-foot Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest point. She topped out on Kilimanjaro on March 8, International Women’s Day. In June, Parisi stood atop Europe’s highest peak, the 18,510-foot Mount Elbrus.

Since 1983, when American Dick Bass conceived of the idea, hundreds of people have undertaken the quest for the Seven Summits. According to the most recent list, published in 2016, 416 people have succeeded; of those, 71 have been women. It’s hard to say with 100 percent certainty that Parisi will be the first transgender person to complete the Seven Summits, but it is likely. “One factor that makes my push unique is I am pursuing the Seven Summits under the IOC guidelines for a trans athlete to compete in the female category,” Parisi says. “This means I’ve suppressed testosterone and documented those levels for a year. At these levels, the IOC has determined I have no athletic advantage for being pronounced male at birth.”

When Parisi underwent her transition, some people asked if she would still be able to do what she loved—traveling and climbing—now that she’s out as a woman. “Oftentimes, cisgender friends feel like they didn’t really know you, because you had this identity that wasn’t really public,” Shinn says. “People ascribe all of these gender norms immediately to you and say, ‘Well, girls don’t like hiking or backpacking.’ Those gender norms are part of what we’re fighting against. Not just ‘women can be climbers,’ but ‘trans women can be climbers.’”

Continue reading at:  https://www.outsideonline.com/2354631/erin-parisi-transgender-mountaineering-pioneer

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The Rule of the Uber-Rich Means Tyranny or Revolution

From Truth Dig:  https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-rule-of-the-uber-rich-means-tyranny-or-revolution/

Chris Hedges
Oct 22, 2018

At the age of 10 I was sent as a scholarship student to a boarding school for the uber-rich in Massachusetts. I lived among the wealthiest Americans for the next eight years. I listened to their prejudices and saw their cloying sense of entitlement. They insisted they were privileged and wealthy because they were smarter and more talented. They had a sneering disdain for those ranked below them in material and social status, even the merely rich. Most of the uber-rich lacked the capacity for empathy and compassion. They formed elite cliques that hazed, bullied and taunted any nonconformist who defied or did not fit into their self-adulatory universe.

It was impossible to build a friendship with most of the sons of the uber-rich. Friendship for them was defined by “what’s in it for me?” They were surrounded from the moment they came out of the womb by people catering to their desires and needs. They were incapable of reaching out to others in distress—whatever petty whim or problem they had at the moment dominated their universe and took precedence over the suffering of others, even those within their own families. They knew only how to take. They could not give. They were deformed and deeply unhappy people in the grip of an unquenchable narcissism.

It is essential to understand the pathologies of the uber-rich. They have seized total political power. These pathologies inform Donald Trump, his children, the Brett Kavanaughs, and the billionaires who run his administration. The uber-rich cannot see the world from anyone’s perspective but their own. People around them, including the women whom entitled men prey upon, are objects designed to gratify momentary lusts or be manipulated. The uber-rich are almost always amoral. Right. Wrong. Truth. Lies. Justice. Injustice. These concepts are beyond them. Whatever benefits or pleases them is good. What does not must be destroyed.

The pathology of the uber-rich is what permits Trump and his callow son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to conspire with de facto Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman, another product of unrestrained entitlement and nepotism, to cover up the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whom I worked with in the Middle East. The uber-rich spend their lives protected by their inherited wealth, the power it wields and an army of enablers, including other members of the fraternity of the uber-rich, along with their lawyers and publicists. There are almost never any consequences for their failures, abuses, mistreatment of others and crimes. This is why the Saudi crown prince and Kushner have bonded. They are the homunculi the uber-rich routinely spawn.

The rule of the uber-rich, for this reason, is terrifying. They know no limits. They have never abided by the norms of society and never will. We pay taxes—they don’t. We work hard to get into an elite university or get a job—they don’t. We have to pay for our failures—they don’t. We are prosecuted for our crimes—they are not.

The uber-rich live in an artificial bubble, a land called Richistan, a place of Frankenmansions and private jets, cut off from our reality. Wealth, I saw, not only perpetuates itself but is used to monopolize the new opportunities for wealth creation. Social mobility for the poor and the working class is largely a myth. The uber-rich practice the ultimate form of affirmative action, catapulting white, male mediocrities like Trump, Kushner and George W. Bush into elite schools that groom the plutocracy for positions of power. The uber-rich are never forced to grow up. They are often infantilized for life, squalling for what they want and almost always getting it. And this makes them very, very dangerous.

Continue reading at:  https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-rule-of-the-uber-rich-means-tyranny-or-revolution/

 

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‘Toxic Christianity’: the evangelicals creating champions for Trump

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/21/evangelical-christians-trump-liberty-university-jerry-falwell

At Liberty University, students and faculty have faith in the president to help ‘create generations of rightwing Christians’ – but some are uneasy

by in Lynchburg, Virginia
Sun 21 Oct 2018

hree times a week, 15,000 students stream into the Vines Center, a huge silver-domed building on the campus of Liberty University for “convocation”, an intoxicating mix of prayer, political rally and entertainment. Thousands more watch a live stream of the event.

The star attraction has twice been Donald Trump, in 2012 and 2016. His first appearance was as a successful businessman and reality TV star, the second as the man campaigning to be the Republican party’s candidate for president. Last year, he made a third appearance at Liberty, to address the university’s graduation ceremony. By then, he was one of the most divisive leaders in the country’s history.

But not at Liberty. The Christian university which dominates the town of Lynchburg, Virginia, has become almost synonymous with Trump. It sits at the heart of the alliance between the president and conservative evangelical Christians – an alliance forged in part by Jerry Falwell Jr, Liberty’s president, Lynchburg’s most prominent citizen and Trump’s close associate.

Falwell was instrumental in delivering 81% of white Christian evangelical voters for Trump in 2016. Ahead of next month’s midterm elections, that support appears to be holding up, although there has been some erosion among evangelical women. A survey published in early October by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 72% of white evangelical Protestants had a favourable opinion of the president.

In Liberty’s coffee bars, random conversations with a dozen or so students found they all backed Falwell’s full-throated support for Trump. But not everyone in the town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains is happy. A minority at the university, along with a few churches in town, are deeply concerned. Some speak of a “toxic Christianity”.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/21/evangelical-christians-trump-liberty-university-jerry-falwell

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Lawyer who fought to ban trans people from bathrooms will lead DOJ civil rights division

From LGBTQ Nation:  https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2018/10/lawyer-fought-ban-trans-people-bathrooms-will-lead-doj-civil-rights-division/

By
Monday, October 22, 2018

An anti-gay lawyer was confirmed to lead the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

In a 52-45 vote, the Senate confirmed Donald Trump’s nominee, Eric Dreiband.

He will now head up the Department of Justice’s efforts to fight racism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination, even though he has spent his life defending discrimination.

Dreiband represented the University of North Carolina in a lawsuit against the school’s decision to enforce HB2, which restricted bathroom access for trans people and banned local governments from passing LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinances.

He also defended R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Bloomberg in discrimination cases, and represented clients looking for religious exemptions to the law.

“Whoever leads the ‘crown jewel’ of the Justice Department must have deep relationships with stakeholders and marginalized communities, and have a deep, abiding faith in our nation’s civil rights laws,” said Vanita Gupta, who headed the Civil Rights Division under Barack Obama.

“They must respect the laws that touch everyone, rights that people have literally died for. They must respect the role of what has been called the conscience of the federal government. In all those regards, Eric Dreiband is woefully unqualified to lead the Civil Rights Division.”

Lambda Legal pointed to the Civil Rights Division’s role in defending civil rights as a reason to be concerned about Dreiband.

“Throughout its 60-year history, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has been a stalwart defender of civil rights in employment, education, housing, voting and many other aspects of life,” said Lambda Legal’s Sharon McGowan, who added that Dreiband was not “a strong leader with a proven track record of defending civil rights.”

Complete article at:  https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2018/10/lawyer-fought-ban-trans-people-bathrooms-will-lead-doj-civil-rights-division/

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Trump Administration Effort to Erase Transgender Americans Will Not Stand

From Lambda Legal:  https://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20181022_trump-administration-effort-to-erase-transgender-americans-will-not-stand

By Diana Flynn, Litigation Director
October 22, 2018

Yesterday, transgender Americans received confirmation of what we had long suspected – namely, the Trump-Pence administration was literally trying to write them out of the law by defining them out of existence.

This effort, spearheaded by anti-LGBTQ extremists in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), not only willfully ignores the long line of federal cases protecting transgender people but also inexplicably disregards the vast consensus of medical authority.

Yesterday’s New York Times story was based on a draft memo that the newspaper reported has been circling since last spring. According to the story, in its memo, HHS proposed that for purposes of Title IX, “Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth. The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.

If the New York Times story is accurate, the sheer breadth of what HHS is proposing is jaw-dropping. HHS would be calling on the federal agencies that enforce parts of Title IX – including the Departments of Labor, Justice and Education in addition to HHS – to accept its completely arbitrary definition of what constitutes a person’s “sex” for purposes of applying federal antidiscrimination law in aspects of life ranging from education to employment to health care.

This is clearly another ideologically-driven attempt by the Trump administration to marginalize transgender people and force them into the shadows. They have neither law nor fact on their side, and we will not accept this shameless attempt on the part of our government to erase the very existence of transgender members of our community.

Let us be clear: For years, courts across the country have recognized that discriminating against someone because they are transgender is a form of sex discrimination, full stop.

If this administration wants to try and turn back the clock by moving ahead with its own legally frivolous and scientifically unsupportable definition of sex, we will be there to meet that challenge.

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Sex Redefined: The Idea of 2 Sexes Is Overly Simplistic

From Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sex-redefined-the-idea-of-2-sexes-is-overly-simplistic1/

Biologists now think there is a larger spectrum than just binary female and male<

By Claire Ainsworth
Nature magazine
October 22, 2018

As a clinical geneticist, Paul James is accustomed to discussing some of the most delicate issues with his patients. But in early 2010, he found himself having a particularly awkward conversation about sex.

A 46-year-old pregnant woman had visited his clinic at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia to hear the results of an amniocentesis test to screen her baby’s chromosomes for abnormalities. The baby was fine—but follow-up tests had revealed something astonishing about the mother. Her body was built of cells from two individuals, probably from twin embryos that had merged in her own mother’s womb. And there was more. One set of cells carried two X chromosomes, the complement that typically makes a person female; the other had an X and a Y. Halfway through her fifth decade and pregnant with her third child, the woman learned for the first time that a large part of her body was chromosomally male. “That’s kind of science-fiction material for someone who just came in for an amniocentesis,” says James.

Sex can be much more complicated than it at first seems. According to the simple scenario, the presence or absence of a Y chromosome is what counts: with it, you are male, and without it, you are female. But doctors have long known that some people straddle the boundary—their sex chromosomes say one thing, but their gonads (ovaries or testes) or sexual anatomy say another. Parents of children with these kinds of conditions—known as intersex conditions, or differences or disorders of sex development (DSDs)—often face difficult decisions about whether to bring up their child as a boy or a girl. Some researchers now say that as many as 1 person in 100 has some form of DSD.

When genetics is taken into consideration, the boundary between the sexes becomes even blurrier. Scientists have identified many of the genes involved in the main forms of DSD, and have uncovered variations in these genes that have subtle effects on a person’s anatomical or physiological sex. What’s more, new technologies in DNA sequencing and cell biology are revealing that almost everyone is, to varying degrees, a patchwork of genetically distinct cells, some with a sex that might not match that of the rest of their body. Some studies even suggest that the sex of each cell drives its behaviour, through a complicated network of molecular interactions. “I think there’s much greater diversity within male or female, and there is certainly an area of overlap where some people can’t easily define themselves within the binary structure,” says John Achermann, who studies sex development and endocrinology at University College London’s Institute of Child Health.

Continue reading at:  https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sex-redefined-the-idea-of-2-sexes-is-overly-simplistic1/

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