Falling total fertility rate should be welcomed, population expert says

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/26/falling-total-fertility-rate-should-be-welcomed-population-expert-says

Figures showing declining birth rates are ‘cause for celebration’, not alarm

Wed 26 Dec 2018

Declining fertility rates around the world should be cause for celebration, not alarm, a leading expert has said, warning that the focus on boosting populations was outdated and potentially bad for women.

Recent figures revealed that, globally, women now have on average 2.4 children in their lifetime a measure known as total fertility rate (TFR). But while in some countries that figure is far higher – in Niger it is more than seven – in almost half of countries, including the UK, Russia and Japan, it has fallen to below two.

Such declines have been met with alarm, with some warning that the “baby bust” puts countries at risk of a depopulation disaster.

But Sarah Harper, former director of the Royal Institution and an expert on population change, working at the University of Oxford, said that far from igniting alarm and panic falling total fertility rates were to be embraced, and countries should not worry if their population is not growing.

Harper pointed out that artificial intelligence, migration, and a healthier old age, meant countries no longer needed booming populations to hold their own. “This idea that you need lots and lots of people to defend your country and to grow your country economically, that is really old thinking,” she said.

Having fewer children is also undoubtedly positive from an environmental point of view; recent research has found that having one fewer child reduces a parent’s carbon footprint by 58 tonnes of CO2 a year.

Capping our consumption, said Harper, was crucial, not least because countries in Africa and Asia, where the fastest population rises were occurring, would need a bigger share of resources if global inequality were to be curbed.

“What we should be saying is no, [a declining total fertility rate] is actually really good because we were terrified 25 years ago that maximum world population was going to be 24bn,” said Harper, who has three children herself. She said estimates now predicted the population would reach somewhere between 10bn and 12bn by the end of the century.

Declines in total fertility rate have been seen time and again after national economies develop, public health improves, and infant mortality falls, and women find themselves raising larger families. “This is a natural process,” said Harper, adding that drivers for such declines included huge strides in family planning and women’s education – with girls staying at school and entering the workforce – allowing women to delay childbearing and choose how many children to have – if any.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/26/falling-total-fertility-rate-should-be-welcomed-population-expert-says

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When Anti-Zionism Tunnels Under Your House

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/opinion/anti-zionism-anti-semitism-israel.html

For the people of northern Israel, anti-Zionism isn’t some feckless sally in the world of ideas.

By Bret Stephens
Dec. 13, 2018

In 2002, Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, was said to have given a speech noting that the creation of the state of Israel had spared his followers the trouble of hunting down Jews at “the ends of the world.” The Lebanese terrorist group has prominent apologists in the West, and some of them rushed to claim that Nasrallah had uttered no such thing.

Except he had. Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies tracked down the original recording of the speech, in which Nasrallah carries on about “occupied Palestine” as the place appointed by Allah for the “final and decisive battle” with the Jews. By “occupied Palestine,” he wasn’t talking about the West Bank.

Sometimes anti-Zionists are — surprise! — homicidal anti-Semites, too.

That’s a thought that can’t be far from the mind of anyone living in northern Israel, where in recent days the Israeli Army has discovered at least three tunnels dug by Hezbollah and intended to infiltrate commandos under the border in the (increasingly likely) event of war. Given the breadth of Hezbollah’s capabilities, the depth of its fanaticism, and the experience of Hamas’s excavation projects in Gaza, it’s fair to assume other tunnels will be found.

What would Hezbollah do if it got its fighters across? In 1974, three Palestinian terrorists crossed the border from Lebanon and took 115 hostages at an elementary school in the town of Ma’alot. They murdered 25 of them, including 22 children.

Another infiltration from Lebanon in 1978 left 38 Israelis dead. Given Hezbollah’s long record of perpetrating massacres from Buenos Aires to Beirut to towns and cities across Syria, it’s a playbook it wouldn’t scruple to follow in a war for the Galilee.

All this is to say that Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way than, say, readers of The New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. It’s somewhat like the difference between discussing the effects of Marxism-Leninism in an undergraduate seminar at Reed College, circa 2018 — and experiencing them at closer range in West Berlin, circa 1961.

Actually, it’s worse than that, since the Soviets merely wanted to dominate or conquer their enemies and seize their property, not wipe them off the map and end their lives. Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state — details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it.

Note the distinction: Anti-Zionists are not advocating the reform of a state, as Japan was reformed after 1945. Nor are they calling for the adjustment of a state’s borders, as Canada’s border with the United States was periodically adjusted in the 19th century. They’re not talking about the birth of a separate state, either, as South Sudan was born out of Sudan in 2011. And they’re certainly not championing the partition of a multiethnic state into ethnically homogenous components, as Yugoslavia was partitioned after 1991.

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/opinion/anti-zionism-anti-semitism-israel.html

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Catholic Bishops spearhead letter encouraging parents to reject their transgender kids

From Think Progress:  https://thinkprogress.org/catholic-bishops-transgender-bb57ddfdc7e8/

Religious leaders dismiss the legitimacy of transgender identities as a “false idea.”

Zack Ford
Dec 18, 2017

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued a new open letter, signed by many other religious leaders, rejecting the legitimacy of transgender identities. Titled “Created Male and Female,” the open letter asserts that gender and sex “cannot be separated,” calling it a “false idea” that “goes against reason” and “deeply troubling” notion “that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa.”

The letter attempts to simultaneously show compassion to transgender people while simultaneously condemning them. “A person’s discomfort with his or her sex, or the desire to be identified as the other sex, is a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth,” the letter states. Trans people deserve “to be heard and treated with respect,” and when they express “concerns” or discuss “wrestling with this challenge,” religious leaders should respond “with compassion, mercy, and honesty” — but not affirmation.

One section of the letter directly encourages parents to reject their transgender children, claiming that they are “harmed” when they are affirmed in their identities:

Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can “change” their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults. Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of “first, do no harm.” Gender ideology harms individuals and societies by sowing confusion and self-doubt. The state itself has a compelling interest, therefore, in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it.

Contrary to these claims, studies have found that how parents respond to their children’s gender identities can have drastic consequences for their mental health. When families reject their children for being transgender, it can significantly increase their depression and suicidal thinking. But when families affirm their kids in their gender identities, it’s one of the strongest buffers against those consequences, allowing them to be as happy and healthy as their peers who aren’t transgender. Trans kids are not full of “confusion and self-doubt,” and treating them like they are, as these religious leaders recommend, can be remarkably damaging.

In addition to several USCCB officials, the open letter was also signed by leaders from the Anglican Church in North America, the North American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and others. Among the signers was Andrew Walker of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Earlier this year, Walker published a book called God and the Transgender Debate, which essentially laid out a series of religious arguments for rejecting transgender people. In it, he claimed that trans people are responsible for their own suffering for rejecting God, which the USCCB letter also implies.

According to the letter, it’s the people who condemn transgender identities who are the true victims. The “movement” to respect transgender people is “deeply troubling” and “compels people to either go against reason — that is, to agree with something that is not true — or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.” In all of the letter’s talk of compassion, it does not reference the discrimination transgender people experience in employment, housing, health care, education, the justice system, and public accommodations.

This latest rejection of transgender people is not inconsistent with prior Catholic teaching. Last year, Pope Francis called it “ideological colonization to teach that students can “choose their gender.”

Though the Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Convention are the largest denominations in the U.S., there are many religious leaders who advocate on behalf of transgender people, including leaders from both of those denominations.

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A Jazzy Merry Christmas

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Friday Night Fun And Culture: Winter Solstice

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This Is How LGBT Women’s Media Is Fighting Back Against An Anti-Trans Movement

From Buzz Feed:  https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/laurenstrapagiel/lesbian-media-anti-trans-afterellen

A group of publications for queer women is speaking out against anti-trans rhetoric in media.

Lauren Strapagiel
December 18, 2018

The editors of many of the world’s top publications for lesbian, bi, and queer women released a letter Tuesday with an “unapologetic message of support and solidarity to the trans community.”

DIVA, Curve, Autostraddle, LOTL, Tagg and Lez Spread The Word believe that trans women are women and that trans people belong in our community,” the letter states. “We do not think supporting trans women erases our lesbian identities; rather we are enriched by trans friends and lovers, parents, children, colleagues and siblings.”

The letter is signed by the editors, publishers, and founders of the listed publications.

It’s a strong message of solidarity from the biggest names in queer women’s media, but it didn’t come out of nowhere. Although the website is not named directly, AfterEllen has recently come under fire for articles and tweets with anti-trans rhetoric.

For 14 years, AfterEllen was a queer-owned-and-operated platform for entertainment and lifestyle news directed at LGBT women. The site is not associated with Ellen DeGeneres. In 2014, it was sold to Evolve Media. According to a note posted by former editor-in-chief Trish Bendix, the staff was given two years to improve AfterEllen’s profitability. In 2016, Bendix and other staffers were ousted by Evolve, and many of the site’s mainstay writers left with them in solidarity.

Evolve then hired Memoree Joelle to lead the site in November 2016. Since then, there’s been a shift in AfterEllen’s tone. Neither Joelle nor Evolve has responded to requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.

It started with small mentions, like articles that perpetuated the anti-trans myth that trans women are trying to force lesbian-identified women to sleep with trans women who haven’t had bottom surgery. That’s a common refrain from a minority of lesbians who do not see trans women as valid or as able to identify as lesbians.

There have also been several articles in this vein on AfterEllen, such as one defending the exclusion of trans women from a women’s music festival, or another that was critical of trans inclusion in lesbian spaces. One recent article, written by Miranda Yardley, who identifies as transsexual, decries what she calls the “anti-lesbian idea which had wedged itself into the heart of transgender ideology.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/laurenstrapagiel/lesbian-media-anti-trans-afterellen

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Alice Walker’s Anti-Semitism

Over the weekend, Alice Walker revealed a disturbing side to her political views.

In a New York Times article: Alice Walker: By the Book she was asked “What books are on your nightstand?”

One of those books of which she spoke highly is a rabidly anti-Semitic screed cum conspiracy theory.

“And the Truth Shall Set You Free,” by David Icke. In Icke’s books there is the whole of existence, on this planet and several others, to think about. A curious person’s dream come true.

This touched off an immediate negative reaction in the Jewish community, particularly since it is coming on the heels of the Women’s March Inc. leaders admiration of the vicious anti-Semite and notorious anti-LGBT bigot, Louis Farrakhan.

The Tablet was among the first to weigh in:

The New York Times Just Published an Unqualified Recommendation for an Insanely Anti-Semitic Book

The book, recommended by author Alice Walker, repeatedly cites the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ dubs the Talmud ‘among the most appallingly racist documents on the planet,’ and says Jews funded the Holocaust and control the KKK

By Yair Rosenberg
December 17, 2018

Over the weekend, the New York Times Book Review published a full-length interview with Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple. The very first question: “What books are on your nightstand?” Walker replied with four, the second of which was:

“And the Truth Shall Set You Free,” by David Icke. In Icke’s books there is the whole of existence, on this planet and several others, to think about. A curious person’s dream come true.

This passed without comment from the New York Times interviewer, and the publication passed it on to readers without qualification. This is rather remarkable because the book is an unhinged anti-Semitic conspiracy tract written by one of Britain’s most notorious anti-Semites.

A former soccer player turned professional hate peddler, Icke is one of the most influential conspiracy theorists in Europe, and certainly in Britain. Today, he has over 777,000 followers on Facebook, and speaks to audiences around the world. Like many conspiracy theorists, Icke claims that a secret conspiracy controls the world. And like many conspiracy theorists, Icke claims that this secret conspiracy happens to be Jewish. In And the Truth Shall Set You Free, the word “Jewish” appears 241 times, and the name “Rothschild” is mentioned 374 times. These references are not compliments. Indeed, the book was so obviously anti-Semitic that Icke’s publisher refused to publish it, and he had to print it himself.

In the book and elsewhere, Icke draws liberally upon the infamous anti-Semitic pamphlet, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion—a Russian forgery about an alleged global Jewish cabal that is widely considered one of the most influential anti-Semitic works in history. Magnanimously, Icke calls the hate tract by a different name. As he writes in the book promoted by Alice Walker:

In the very late 1800s, a controversial document came to light called the Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion. I call them the Illuminati Protocols and I quote many extracts from them in The Robots’ Rebellion. Some say they were a forgery made public only to discredit Jews, and I use the term ‘Illuminati Protocols’ to get away from the Jewish emphasis. If they were a forgery, something that is quite possible, what were they a forgery of, and by whom? The authors of the best-selling book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, conclude that the original Protocols were indeed authentic.

Realizing that this may not convince readers of his good intentions, Icke attempts to head off charges of anti-Semitism by casting himself as a moderate in the reasonable debate over whether a Jewish conspiracy does in fact control the world:

I believe that researchers over the years who have blamed the entire conspiracy on the Jewish people as a whole are seriously misguided; similarly, for Jewish organisations to deny that any Jewish person is working for the New World Order conspiracy is equally naive and allowing dogma or worse to blind them to reality.

So, is Icke anti-Semitic? Well, here are some other things that he says in the book:

 The Talmud is “among the most appallingly racist documents on the planet.”

 B’nai Brith, the world’s oldest Jewish service organization, was behind the slave trade (an anti-Semitic canard popularized by Louis Farrakhan) and controls the Ku Klux Klan: “B’nai B’rith means ‘Sons of the Alliance’ (Ed: Actually, ‘Children of the Covenant’) and was established in 1843. Many of its speakers openly supported slavery during the American Civil War and it covertly supports and controls the Ku Klux Klan.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/277273/the-new-york-times-just-published-an-unqualified-recommendation-for-an-insanely-anti-semitic-book


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