Investigators Raid Offices of President of U.S. Catholic Bishops

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/28/us/houston-catholic-church-raid.html

By Laurie Goodstein
Nov. 28, 2018

Dozens of local and federal law enforcement officers conducted a surprise search of the offices of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston on Wednesday, looking for evidence in a clergy sexual abuse case that has ensnared the local archbishop, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, who also serves as president of the United States Catholic bishops’ conference.

The raid in Houston is the latest sign of crisis in the church, with prosecutors growing more aggressive in their search for cover-ups of abuse, and the bishops — led by Cardinal DiNardo — hamstrung by the Vatican in their efforts to carry out reforms.

The church is under a barrage of investigations around the country. Attorneys general in at least a dozen states have opened inquiries, and the Justice Department has told bishops not to destroy any documents that could relate to sex abuse cases. Last month, the attorney general in Michigan executed search warrants on all seven Catholic dioceses in that state.

The scene outside the archdiocesan offices in Houston on Wednesday morning was extraordinary, with police cars lined up on the street and about 50 uniformed officers headed inside, some carrying boxes to hold evidence.

As the public face of the American bishops, Cardinal DiNardo has encouraged full cooperation with law enforcement, and his archdiocese struck the same tone as its offices were being searched. The archdiocese said in a statement on Wednesday that “the information being sought was already being compiled,” and that characterizing the search as an involuntary “raid” was unjustified.

But the assistant district attorney in charge of the investigation said that a search of the church offices was necessary because the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston had turned over only a portion of the evidence.

“We anticipate there being a large volume of records,” said J. Tyler Dunman, an assistant district attorney and chief of the special crimes bureau for Montgomery County, who is in charge of the case. “What we’ve been provided is nowhere near what we expect to find.”

Investigators were searching primarily for records on the Rev. Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, who was arrested in September on four felony counts of indecency with a child. “But if we come across additional documents or evidence of criminal conduct,” said Mr. Dunman, investigators would gather those up, too.

Father LaRosa-Lopez worked for the archdiocese for decades. Cardinal DiNardo had assigned him to work in a parish and appointed him as the vicar for Hispanics for the archdiocese, despite knowing that Father LaRosa-Lopez had been accused in 2001 of molesting a teenage girl.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/28/us/houston-catholic-church-raid.html

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An ageing population is good for us and the planet

From Science Nordic:  http://sciencenordic.com/ageing-population-good-us-and-planet

Western society should embrace ageing and declining population growth, argue ecologists in a new scientific opinion article.

By: Nancy Bazilchuk
November 23, 2018

A smaller population can create a more sustainable society, and the costs associated with the world’s ageing population are manageable. That is according to ecologists writing in a new opinion article in the scientific journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

“As the nations of the world grapple with the task of creating sustainable societies, ending and in some cases reversing population growth will be necessary to succeed. Yet stable or declining populations are typically reported in the media as a problem, or even a crisis, due to demographic ageing,” writes ecologist Frank Götmark from Gothenburg University, Sweden, along with co-authors from the US and Australia, in the article.

“Endless population growth would be ecologically impossible,” says Götmark in a press release published at phys.org and ScienceDaily.

“Overpopulation leads to serious problems, including excessive consumption, deadly conflicts over scarce resources, and habitat loss leading to species endangerment,” he says.

The UN population report from 2017 shows that 14 per cent of countries in the world have a declining population, including Japan, the Czech Republic and Estonia. And they estimate that 32 per cent of all countries will have decreasing populations by 2050, according to the press release.

Continue reading at:  http://sciencenordic.com/ageing-population-good-us-and-planet

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Trans Military Couple Advocates for Their Community’s Right to Exist

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Torah, From a Transgender Perspective

From The Tablet:  https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/274802/torah-from-a-transgender-perspective

Joy Ladin’s new book, ‘Soul of the Stranger,’ explores her intimate connection with God

By Shoshana Olidort
November 15, 2018

“If I were God, and I wanted to invent religion, and the material I had to work with was a patriarchal society, I would make the religion as patriarchal as I could,” Joy Ladin told me when we spoke by phone recently. This may seem like a surprising comment coming from a transgender Jewish poet and scholar, but Ladin is a person of faith and this stance informs the trans theology at the center of her new book, The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective, in which Ladin offers close readings of key biblical passages to question pervasive assumptions about a religiously mandated gender binary. For Ladin, God is not particularly invested in gender, and the patriarchal language of the Torah reflects a pragmatic rather than an ideological choice, a strategic move motivated by the need to perpetuate religion in a world in which, as she went on to explain, “people won’t transmit texts that deal with gender in ways they don’t understand.” Her statement echoes Maimonides oft-cited assertion that “the Torah speaks in the language of men.”

But while the language of the Torah is fundamentally patriarchal, Ladin’s reading reveals a surprising degree of flexibility and openness in the Torah’s treatment of gender. At the same time, Ladin—who has published 10 books of poetry and a memoir, as well as numerous essays—insists that her reading here does not aim to “queer” the Torah. “My goal isn’t to produce a different Torah,” she said. “I love the Torah as it is, in all of its strangeness, and I strongly feel that the greatness of the Torah is that we don’t have to change it for our perspectives to bring it to life and enable it to grow.”

Ladin’s book is hard to categorize: Neither strictly scholarly, nor purely autobiographical, The Soul of the Stranger defies boundaries as it moves between and across multiple genres, drawing on personal experiences to illuminate sacred texts, and using Torah as a mirror to reflect the complexities of human life. Reading the story of Jonah from a transgender perspective, Ladin suggests that the prophet’s predicament is one that resonates with the experience of transgender individuals who are desperate to “avoid living as the person (in Jonah’s case, as the prophet) they know themselves to be.” But Ladin is careful to point out that the trans experience, for all its particularities, is not something apart from but rather intrinsic to our shared humanity. “Trans experience is human experience,” Ladin said, because “everyone has experiences of not fitting assigned roles and definitions.”

Analyzing the creation narratives in Genesis, Ladin demonstrates that “Adam is human before he is gendered,” and that even when the Torah asserts the gender binary in Genesis 1:26-27, it does so without attaching any meaning, symbolic or otherwise, or assigning specific roles to gender. Ladin’s trans-reading of these texts seeks to foreground what she sees as the Torah’s fundamental ambivalence about the gender binary, a binary she sees “not as a divine decree but as a human invention.” Read through this lens, transgender identities, though they may seem “new and startling,” are in fact, according to Ladin, “direct descendants of the biblical genesis of gender.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/274802/torah-from-a-transgender-perspective

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Federal Ban on Female Genital Mutilation Ruled Unconstitutional by Judge

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/21/health/fgm-female-genital-mutilation-law.html

By Pam Belluck
Nov. 21, 2018

More than two decades ago, Congress adopted a sweeping law that outlawed female genital mutilation, an ancient practice that 200 million women and girls around the world have undergone. But a federal court considering the first legal challenge to the statute found the law unconstitutional on Tuesday, greatly diminishing the chances of it being used by federal prosecutors around the country.

A federal judge in Michigan issued the ruling in a case that involved two doctors and four parents, among others, who had been criminally charged last year with participating in or enabling the ritual genital cutting of girls. Their families belong to a small Shiite Muslim sect, the Dawoodi Bohra, that is originally from western India.

The case, the first to be brought under the 1996 law that criminalized female genital mutilation, has been closely followed by human rights advocates and communities where cutting is still practiced and whose members have moved in growing numbers to the United States and other western countries.

On Tuesday, Judge Bernard Friedman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled that Congress did not have the authority to pass the law against female genital mutilation and he dismissed key charges filed against the doctors and removed four of the eight defendants from the case.

“As laudable as the prohibition of a particular type of abuse of girls may be,” he wrote, prosecutors failed to show that the federal government had the authority to bring the charges, and he noted that regulating practices like this is essentially a state responsibility. He rejected arguments that the law allowed for such a federal prosecution because Congress has a right to regulate commerce or health care or can enact laws to support international treaties that the United States has signed.

“Federalism concerns deprive Congress of the power to enact this statute,” Judge Friedman wrote. He added in the 28-page ruling, “Congress overstepped its bounds by legislating to prohibit FGM” because “FGM is a ‘local criminal activity’ which, in keeping with longstanding tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress.”

Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for United States Attorney Matthew Schneider in Detroit, said, “We are reviewing the Judge’s ruling and will make a determination on whether or not to appeal.”

Lawyers for the defendants have argued that the Dawoodi Bohra practice is a protected religious procedure and is not mutilation but rather a “ritual nick” that doesn’t remove the clitoris or labia as do some forms of cutting.

Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University and former federal prosecutor, said the judge’s ruling appeared to be solid and that, while 27 states have their own laws criminalizing the practice, other states would need to pass laws or use existing assault or abuse laws if they wanted to bring charges.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/21/health/fgm-female-genital-mutilation-law.html

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TERFs: IT’S TIME TO TALK

From Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/aidancomerfordwriting/posts/943593709179246?__tn__=K-R

Aidan Comerford
Nov. 26, 2018

Us Irish have taken on a lot of British culture – their language, their football teams, their willingness to go into the ballot box and shoot themselves in the feet, stomach and face – but now there is something new rising up in British culture, that we must erect a hard border against: TERFs.

“What’s a TERF?” you ask. It stands for Trans-Exclusionary-Radical-Feminist.
TERFs don’t like the term, and I tend to agree. It’s not a good description, because there is nothing radical or feminist about them. Just as God-fearing Creationism was re-branded as cuddly Intelligent Design, TERFism is just good-old-fashioned transphobia, re-packaged with oh-so-rational bows.

Essentially, what we are looking at here is “Homophobia: Season Two.” Luckily, for Irish trans people, this movement is currently as British as Jacob Rees-Mogg’s monocle, but if the TERFs have their way, this show will soon be coming to an Ireland near you. (I think they might be trying to get us back for the whole “Jedward” thing.)

TERFs are doing cover versions of all of homophobia’s greatest hits. Stop me if you’ve heard these ones before:

– “Beware the trans agenda! Trans-acceptance is a cult!”
– “They’re using social media to groom the kids!”
– “Allowing trans people to use words like “women,” diminishes our womanhood.”
– “Transgenderism is a mental illness that can be cured without transitioning.”
– “No, this isn’t trans-conversion therapy, we’re just teaching kids not to give in to their…urges.”
– “Some of our best friends are trans people, and they agree with us.”
– “If we let boys identify as girls, it’s a slippery slope: should we buy kennels for kids who want to identify as dogs?”

I could on, but those are some of the classics.

TERFs also say that a proposed British “self-id” law, to make legally transitioning a little easier, will turn Britain into a dystopian landscape, with rapists in dresses roaming un-tethered through women’s safe spaces. There’s just a slight problem with that theory: Ireland has had a trans self-id law since 2015, and men continue to not require the right shade of lippy to abuse women.

In fairness to Irish people, unlike our British-Brexit-Brethern we have been doing a bit better in the ballot box of late. When we were warned that accepting gay marriage would turn Ireland into Sodom and Gomorrah, we collectively replied, “Turn Ireland INTO Sodom and Gomorrah?! You’ve clearly never been in a Galway Supermacs at 2am,” and, to our credit, we voted to support the LGBT community.

Now we need to redouble our support: British TERFs are coming to warn us that trans-acceptance isn’t actually decent or sound, it is, in fact, leading us into a misogynistic, patriarchal, fetishistic hellhole. We should answer them loudly, with one voice: “NO! That’s not trans-acceptance. That’s “Athlone” you’re thinking of.”

Unfortunately, to our shame, the current King of British TERFs is an Irishman: Graham Linehan. Yes, THAT Graham Linehan, the writer of “Father Ted.” Graham has mis-gendered and dead-named trans people on Twitter. Dead-naming is calling a trans person by their birth name, and it is equivalent to using the “F” word to describe gay people.

“No, not “fabulous,” Dougal.”

Perhaps, in Graham’s case, we could get the British to continue their fine tradition of claiming our successful writers as their own?

“Sure, there’s always one,” your Ma would say, and she would have been right, I think, except that this week Channel 4 aired a documentary called “Trans Kids: It’s Time To Talk,” by Stella O’ Malley, an Irish psychotherapist and writer.

Like me, Stella grew up in the 70s and 80s in Ireland. Like me, she thought she was a boy. She said, though, that around her mid-teens, her “gender confusion” was finally fully cured…by a good haircut – “it changed my life,” she says herself. (I’ve always had a bad haircut, which must be why I still feel like I’m a boy.)

Stella worried aloud that if she were growing up now, with all this new-fangled trans-acceptance, she would probably have transitioned, and then had to de-transition, even though kids’ haircuts are WAY better now.

Continue reading at:  https://www.facebook.com/aidancomerfordwriting/posts/943593709179246?__tn__=K-R

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“Man Made,” a Film About Transgender Bodybuilders, Upends the Traditional Documentary Gaze

From The New Yorker:  https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/man-made-a-film-about-transgender-bodybuilders-upends-the-traditional-documentary-gaze

By
November 26, 2018

On a Friday evening in October, before the New York première of “Man Made”—a documentary about the world’s only all-transgender bodybuilding competition—the film’s creators gathered at a tin-ceilinged bar in Chelsea called Underballs. (The bar is situated beneath a meatball shop.) T Cooper, the film’s forty-six-year-old director and co-writer, in a blue-velvet blazer and a neat beard, cast around for the small plates of meatballs that were arriving from upstairs. “I went with the chicken,” he said, before conversation turned to vegetarianism. The party grew noisy as film types and activists arrived, though there was also an undercurrent of tension. Five days earlier, the Trump Administration had released a memo announcing its intention to revoke federal recognition of trans and intersex people. Guests alluded darkly to “the news” and “this week.” Andrea Jenkins, a Minneapolis city councilwoman and the first trans person elected to public office in America, wore a shirt bearing the word “HUMAN.” Taj Smith, an activist who had been campaigning to uphold an anti-discrimination law in Massachusetts, in the midterms, said, “It takes about seven conversations for people to actually be able to identify that this is about something that’s bigger than bathrooms.”

Cooper had arrived in New York from a film festival in Tennessee, but the journey to Underballs began four years earlier, when he moved with his wife and co-writer, Allison, to Atlanta. A friend posted a photograph online from a nascent bodybuilding competition, which was open to anyone who identifies as a trans man. The image showed five participants posing at a bar in the city—the inaugural venue. “I hate the word bravery, ’cause when people tell me I’m brave I want to give them the finger,” Cooper said. But he was awed by the participants’ bravery, and by “how many versions of masculinity, and trans masculinity, were celebrated and welcomed.” Cooper is a novelist, TV writer, and a journalist, and he initially considered writing about the competition. But he eventually concluded that it should be filmed, even though he had never made a feature-length documentary before. His friend Téa Leoni, an actress and an executive producer of the film, recalled that, after speaking with him for about twenty minutes, “I thought, Somebody’s got to do this. And T knew—and I knew—that it should be T.”

“Man Made” begins where it ends: at the 2016 Trans FitCon competition. It opens in the “pump-up room”—a storage area at a hotel in Atlanta—where the men wear tight briefs and lift weights, waiting to be called onstage. The film then flashes back, and follows four contestants as they prepare for the contest. It is ostensibly a competition documentary, but its real attention is on the subjects’ personal lives. Early in the film, Dominic Chilko, a twenty-six-year-old Minnesotan with a roguish smile, undergoes a long-awaited top surgery. Afterward, groggy from the anesthesia, he tells his mother that it feels strange not to have breasts anymore. His mother, with Midwestern pragmatism, replies, “But you didn’t want ’em. So . . . there you go.” Later, Chilko, who is adopted, drives to meet his birth mother, psyching himself up in the car the way he would at the gym. They share a microphone-crushing hug, their expressions identical. “This beats, like, every fuckin’ moment I’ve ever had, like, including my top surgery,” he says. “And everybody knows my top surgery was my shit.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/man-made-a-film-about-transgender-bodybuilders-upends-the-traditional-documentary-gaze

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