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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The forgotten stories of Muslims who saved Jews during the Holocaust

Even in the darkest times, there are heroes—though sometimes they may be the people we least expect.

That’s the message a global nonprofit group hopes to spread Friday on Holocaust Remembrance Day, when it displays a small exhibit in a New York synagogue highlighting the little-known stories of Muslims who risked their lives to rescue Jewish people from persecution during World War II.

Though the two religious groups are often presented in opposition, this exhibit is a reminder that they have also shared an important history of cooperation and mutual assistance.

The tales include those of Khaled Abdul Wahab, who sheltered about two dozen Jews in Tunisia, and Abdol Hossein Sardari, an Iranian diplomat who is credited with helping thousands of Jews escape Nazi soldiers by issuing them passports.

The group also recognizes the Pilkus, a Muslim family in Albania who harbored young Johanna Neumann and her mother in their home during the German occupation and convinced others that the two were family members visiting from Germany. “They put their lives on the line to save us,"

Neumann, now 86, told TIME on Friday. "If it had come out that we were Jews, the whole family would have been killed."

“What these people did, many European nations didn’t do," she added. "They all stuck together and were determined to save Jews."

The collection of 15 stories shows how people organically came to protect one another, even in extreme environments of war and conflict, organizers said. “Those stories are very powerful together because they show a different side to humanity. It shows that we can have hope even at a time like the Holocaust,” said Mehnaz Afridi, a Manhattan College professor who specializes in Islam and the Holocaust.

Though the narratives are being exhibited on a day observed by remembering the past, they are also vital to remember in today's world, "given the rise of hatred,” said Dani Laurence Andrea Varadi, co-director of I Am Your Protector, the organization behind the exhibit.
(Top row, left to right) Behic Erkin, King Zog I of Albania, Noor Inayat Khan; (Bottom row, left to right) Mohamed Helmy, Rifat Abdyl Hoxha, Ahmed Pasha Bey  I Am Your Protector

The New York City-based group encourages societies and people to stand up to injustices, and Varadi points as an example to the climate faced by many Muslims around the world and in the U.S. as an example of what can happen when a group of people are seen as a monolith rather than as individuals.

Hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. soared 67% in 2015 from 154 in 2014 to 257, the latest figures from the FBI show. During his campaign, President Donald Trump pledged to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country.

Just this week, Trump’s administration announced new immigration plans, and the White House is expected to order that the U.S. temporarily stop issuing visas to people from several majority-Muslim countries.

“It makes people think it’s legitimate to hate,” Varadi said. “It is natural and normal to be scared and to think that we have to resist or fight, but we can also have a mechanism where we can catch ourselves and say, ‘OK, there are some people who might be problematic, and we can look at them one on one.’”

She added that the historic tales of courage show the impact that can be made when people protect targets of hate in climates of rising fear, suspicion and hatred. Varadi hoped the stories inspire others to follow suit.

“We can speak up, stand up for the other when we witness something, raise our voices in a peaceful, nonviolent way,” she said. “Whenever people think, ‘There’s nothing I can do. I cannot make a difference,’ this is the most dangerous thing to think because it is not true.”

The exhibit debuted in the headquarters of United Nations in Geneva a few weeks ago. I Am Your Protector will revive the display for a one-day commemoration event Friday at New York City's Temple Emanu-El. However, organizers hope the stories have a lasting effect.

“I think history shows that people stand up for each other—and those were the ones who created change. And if there’s enough people who do that, then the whole reality changes,” Varadi said. “When communities come together with that mindset, whether it’s small or big, it becomes a huge force that can basically change the course of history.”

(Source: Time)

10 largely forgotten First World War facts

In these centennial years of the First World war, lets look back at some of the more unknown facts about WW1. Were the Generals leading the troops all incompetent fools and is media manipulation really something new? We will take a look at that and more!

1) Guerrilla Media Tactics
In the first years of the war America wasn’t yet fighting alongside the British and French. In order to draw the US into the fight British agents planted stories in US newspapers stirring up anger against innocent German civilians living in the USA.

2) Enemy Aliens
During the Great War there were over 250.000 Germans living in the USA which were forced to register at a post office and then carry a registration card with them at all times. Of these, over 2000 Germans were arrested and put in internment camps. Many of the interned were the musicians from orchestras and in one camp they were able to perform a piece of Beethoven.

3) No Condoms for Doughboys
The only allied power in the first world war that did not provide its soldiers with condoms was the United States. The comstock laws that were being enforced did not allow any birth control devices nor information to be shipped abroad. As a result over 400.000 US soldiers were infected by STDs.

4) The Red Baron Almost Never Took Off
Manfred von Richthoven who was later to become known as the Red Baron started off in the Cavalry as a lancer but when this unit was disbanded he was transferred to the signal corps. For over a year he spent his days stringing telegraph wires along the western front, even winning an Iron Cross (3rd class) for this. In early 1915 he applied for the Imperial Air Service and became an ace with 80 kills. When he was shot down in April 1918 the British and Australians buried him with full military honors.

5) Truces
Even though there never was an official truce during the first world war they still happened. The most famous one is the 1914 Christmas truce when the British and German soldiers got out of the trenches and talked to each other in no mans land. There are also reports of smaller truces in 1915 and even 1916. In some trenches the soldiers adopted a “live and let live” strategy trying not to fire on the enemy so they would not fire on them. This was countered by the commanders to rotate their soldiers all over the front and with the use of propaganda.

6) Explosions in France were sometimes heard in London
When attacking out of the trenches across no mans land proved to be very costly the war was taken below ground levels. Miners from both sides would build tunnels towards to enemy trenches to infiltrate men, gather information or plant and detonate huge mines. The detonations of mines during the opening of the Somme offensive were so massive that they were heard by by the prime minister in London, 140 miles away.

7) Tanks, Male and Female
When tanks were introduced on the front they came in two types, those with machine guns and those with cannons. The latter were called the males and the former were the females. By the end of World War I tank technology had developed, particularly in British tanks, to a point where it was decided that tanks should be both male and female (i.e. with both heavy armament and lighter machine guns). This has become the standard model for tank designs since World War I and since then the terms “male” and “female” have been disused.

8) Child Soldiers
The youngest British soldier, Sidney Lewis, was just 12 years old when he joined the army after lying about his age. He wasn’t the only one, thousands of underage boys lied about their age to fight at the front. Some were motivated by patriotism, but for others it was an escape from their dreary lives.

9) 9 out of 10 soldiers survived the trenches
It was rare for a British soldier to be in the firing line for long. Between battles, a unit would spent around 10 days per month in the trenches and, of those, rarely more than three days right up on the front line. It was not uncommon to be out of the trench line for a month. The UK mobilized around six million men, of those just over 700,000 were killed.

10) No Generals over the top
The stereotype saying about the British WWI soldiers is lions led by donkeys. The brave soldiers (lions) lead by incompetent generals (donkeys) who lived miles behind the front in luxury and out of touch with reality. The fact was that Generals were not allowed to go over the top as they were to valuable to lose. Even so, more than 200 generals were killed, wounded or captured. Most Generals visited the front lines every day. In battle they were considerably closer to the action than their counterparts are today.

(Source: War History Online

Bel Air Police detain woman walking, question her immigration status

Police agencies in Harford County say they don't stop people just to check their immigration status, but the recent experience of a Bel Air woman raises questions about how clearly that's understood by officers on his streets, the town's police chief admits.

Bel Air Police Department Chief Charles Moore, who's led the agency since September 2015, said he's not sure if his department has a policy specifically dealing with questioning a person's immigration status, but added: "If there isn't one, there will be."

In the wake of President Trump's statements on Wednesday that federal grants may be withheld from so-called "sanctuary cities" that don't take enforcement actions against people who are in the United States illegally, Moore and other law enforcement leaders in the county could find they have to walk an even finer line between civil liberties and checking for undocumented aliens.

Trump also is expected to suspend issuing visas for people from several predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for at least 30 days, according to a draft executive order obtained by The Associated Press, as reported Wednesday by Tribune News Service.

On the morning of Dec. 21, Aravinda Pillalamarri was walking in her Bel Air neighborhood, where she walks all the time, when she said she was stopped by a Bel Air Police Department officer.

When she responded to his question about what she was doing – that she was walking – Pillalamarri says the questions continued.

When she asked why the officer was asking her so many questions, he replied because someone had called police.

"Walking while brown?" Pillalamarri said she then asked the officer.

A police supervisor arrived and began to question Pillalamarri, more aggressively, she said, and told her she wasn't free to leave because she "was under criminal investigation."

He asked why she didn't have identification with her.

"Why don't you have ID?" she said the supervisor asked her. "Are you here illegally?"

Once the officers had run her name through their computer system, Pillalamarri said, she was allowed to leave and walked to her home, just a few doors away.

Pillalamarri, 47, has lived in Bel Air for more than 30 years and is a U.S. citizen. Her parents came to America from India when she was a baby. She went to Bel Air High School.

She walks in her neighborhood nearly every day, she said.
Aravinda Pillalamarri of Bel Air shares her story of being stopped by a Bel Air police officer the morning December 21 while walking in her neighboorhood and being questioned about her legal status as a citizen.

She related her story to members of the Bel Air Board of Town commissioners at their town meeting Jan. 17, not to get anyone in trouble, she explained, but to bring to their attention the need to uphold everyone's civil rights.

Color was not on her mind when she was first stopped, Pillalamarri told the commissioners.

"Only when the supervisor asked 'are you here illegally' did my sense of color, and of being unequal, come forth and my interest in my civil rights take a back seat to get out of the situation safely," she said.

"Public safety does not need to come at the cost of civil rights," she continued. "I am sharing this incident here not to ask anyone here to find fault or take sides. We are all on the same side and can use this as an opportunity to learn and improve. The responsibility to uphold civil rights is one that all of us share, and we need to do our part and also expect the police to do their part."

Moore, who was present at the meeting, said his officers do not ask someone's immigration status, particularly during a routine call.

"That's not a concern of ours," Moore said Wednesday. "That's just not the proper protocol that I would take. And my officers, from what I've seen from their performance, I don't see that from them either."

Immigration status could come into play when someone is arrested, Moore said, but he added that would more likely be when they're taken to the Harford County Detention Center.

The Harford County Sheriff's Office, which runs the detention center and is the chief law enforcement agency for most of the county, does not ask for proof of citizenship when stopping or detaining someone. Deputies only ask for identification, according to Cristie Kahler, spokesperson for the agency.

"We do not have a policy that specifically requires deputies to ask for proof of citizenship," Kahler explained via email. "We do ask to see identification as a regular course of action during a motor vehicle or personal stop. Once they provide ID, we query the info through multiple databases. Should one of those databases provide an alert regarding the status of the individual, and indicate they have been flagged by immigration or federal authorities, we then contact that agency. That agency then provides direction on how to further handle the individual and whether or not to detain for further investigation."

"It doesn't matter to me where you're from, who you are, anything else. If you live in the town of Bel Air or you're in my jurisdiction, my position is to protect and serve everyone," the Bel Air PD's Moore said. "I'm not going to question who you are or where you came from. My job is to maintain and build trust among everyone."

In Pillalamarri's case, there had been a call about suspicious activity and the officers responded, he said.

"There could have been more sensitivity on the part of the officer," Moore told the town commissioners.

Pillalamarri said she was uncertain of what her rights were when the officers stopped her.

"Police are training in dealing with people when they stop them on the street, but ordinary people are not necessarily training in interacting with the police," she said to the commissioners. "I did not know when I was stopped whether I had the right to remain silent, whether I was being legally detained or what information I was required to give."

Pillalamarri has since met with Moore, as well as Town Administrator Jesse Bane, who was formerly county sheriff and a career police officer, about the incident.

Moore said at the town meeting the police department could hold an open forum with the community.

"The community needs to be aware of what police are doing. They have to investigate fully," he said. "And on the officer's part, there has to be sensitivity, so it doesn't escalate to the point of being wrong, of things being said they way they're said."

The community needs to be able to trust the police, and work with them, he said.

"That's not going to be the norm to ask someone if they're illegal, or if they're legal. That's not what we want. When you start doing that to people of color, of different origin, different cultures, you start to develop a level of mistrust among those people," Moore said. "That's not what we want in the Town of Bel Air. We want to build trust and a level of cooperation among all our citizens.

(Source: The Baltimore Sun)

Ashton Kutcher has saved 6,000 victims from sex trafficking

Ashton Kutcher may be well known for being silly and funny on television, but he’s recently revealed that his organization, Thorn, which helps find sex trafficking and child pornography victims and their abusers, has helped find around 6,000 victims.

Focusing on online trafficking, Kutcher worked with his ex-wife, to help an amazing 6,000 people regain their life back!

He explained about what their organization does by highlighting that they “build digital tools to fight human trafficking. The purchase and commerce for human trafficking are happening online, just like everything else now, and so we’re building digital tools to fight back against it.”

He continues to explain that they’ve “built a tool to help law enforcement prioritize their caseload and recover victims and find traffickers. And we’ve [sic] found and identified and recovered over 6,000 trafficking victims this year. And we’ve [sic] found, identified, and recovered 2,000 traffickers.”

Kutcher and his ex-wife Demi Moore started the foundation together, and have proven that sexual abuse, along with the rest of the world, has turned to the internet to do its damage.

His latest pledge is to end child pornography altogether, explaining that “Our next battle, my next commitment…I’m going to make a pledge that I’m going to eliminate child pornography from the internet.”

While it can be easy to discount actors and celebrities to be out of touch with the rest of the world. There are a lot of people working hard and using their fame and money to do something more. Kutcher is leading the way in proving that celebrities can help make changes in the world.

(Source: Shareably

Chennai's last big movie library shuts shop

It was the offline IMDb for over three decades, assisting local film-makers by giving them ideas from around the world, sparking lively discussions about films, and, in those old days, even providing a much-needed break for stressed out doctors. But as the medium changed from discs to the internet, ‘Tic Tac movie Rentals’, the haven for cinema buffs here, is finally downing its shutters on Sunday.

It was in 1983 that the family of movie buffs, who had all of 72 video tapes, thought they could simply rent them out. Within a few years, Tic Tac at RA Puram went on to have over 35,000 tapes, and along with it came streams of regulars both celebrities and the common man, all connected by their love for films.

“Several movie stars are a part of this shop’s growth. Kamal Haasan’s membership number is 846. He used to come with Saritha. Shankar used to come rent movies from me,” said Prakash Kumar, who counts actors including Ajith, Khushbu, Siddharth, Mahesh Babu and Dulquer Salman among his customers.

And then there were the directors. Prakash could tell what genre a director’s next movie would be. “All I had to do was to look into their rental history. If they were going have a bank robbery scene, I would send all movies with bank robbery scenes through their assistants.”

But the cult was built by the film lovers who thronged the shop. Like Rajamani Rajkumar, now a businessman, who still remembers his introduction with Tic Tac. “May 1985. I remember precisely. We were a bunch of rogues who were going on a trip to Kodaikanal and wanted a few films. But there, I found more than what I wanted.

When I saw Prakash’s enthusiasm for cinema and this library, I took a personal interest. We made it bigger by collecting titles from all over the world, from friends and acquaintances. We even had libraries from other parts of the country like Mumbai who came down to check where the hell these people were sourcing their movies from.”

“It used to be a haven. I used to be so crazy about movies that I even worked there for some time so that I could have free access to films,” said another faithful, Krishnan Arumugan.

Added Chetan Shah, a Chennai-based filmmaker who is a regular to the shop, “I used to meet others film lovers who would tell me what I should not miss. We used to have discussions and formed a network.”

Prakash still remembers his doctor clients who would religiously rent movies every day but not fully. “Oliyum Oliyum on Doordarshan was the only entertainment people had then. So these doctors would rent movies and watch the first half an hour to take their mind off work and go to sleep.”

“When internet had not penetrated deep enough, we were the local IMDB,” Prakash quipped.
What changed the game was the transformation from analogue to digital. The shop that lived through times of video tapes, Laser Disks (LDs) and even VCDs and DVDs, was stopped with the advent of the age of the internet. “Each time a new format came out, we would reinvest on the same movie. We simply had to have James Bond in tapes, LDs and CDs and Blu Rays.” But now, Prakash does not see a new format that could fill the shelves again.

“The entry of Burma Bazaar (pirated copies) and big players like Amazon, Netflix and Hotstar streaming online has pretty much-made movie renting a business with a weak revenue model.” From online booking to free delivery and pick up, Prakash tried everything to build a sustainable business model, only to be confronted by a newer threat to the business.

After the news about the shop shutting down spread, several regulars have been flocking the place to visit it one last time and to take a selfie, leaning on the DVD racks. Prakash is overwhelmed by the number of people visiting him ‘one last time’, only to ask him if there was another way he could run the business. “Some even suggested crowd-sourcing funds using social media. But how long will that go on for?”

“I put my best efforts to sustain the legacy of this shop. Right now, the only thing that lives is the legacy, not really the shop.”says Prakash Kumar.

(Source: The New India Express) 

It's official: Homeopathy doesn't work

There is a huge market in the US for homeopathic remedies. In 2007 alone, it was estimated Americans spent more than $3bn on a controversial system of alternative medicine created in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann, and which has long been dismissed by mainstream science.

Now, the US government is requiring that producers of such items ensure that if they want to claim they are effective treatments, then they need to make available the proof. Otherwise, they will need to point out that there is “no scientific evidence that the product works”.

“Homeopathy, which dates back to the late-eighteenth century, is based on the view that disease symptoms can be treated by minute doses of substances that produce similar symptoms when provided in larger doses to healthy people,” said a notice, filed earlier this month by the Federal Trade Commission.

“Many homeopathic products are diluted to such an extent that they no longer contain detectable levels of the initial substance. In general, homeopathic product claims are not based on modern scientific methods and are not accepted by modern medical experts, but homeopathy nevertheless has many adherents.”

Slate said there was near-unanimous mainstream scientific consensus that homeopathy’s purported mechanism of action - using ultra-highly diluted substances to allow “like to cure like” - runs counter to basic principles of chemistry, biology, and physics.




Health policy expert Timothy Caulfield recently said: “To believe homeopathy works … is to believe in magic.”

Yet, reports suggest the so-called treatments are unlikely to disappear from the shelves of pharmacists’ shops.

The FTC said that a homeopathic drug claim that is not substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence “might not be deceptive if the advertisement or label where it appears effectively communicates that: 1) there is no scientific evidence that the product works; and 2) the product’s claims are based only on theories of homeopathy from the 1700s that are not accepted by most modern medical experts.”

(Source: The Independent)

Banned books that shaped America

The Library of Congress created an exhibit, "Books that Shaped America," that explores books that "have had a profound effect on American life." Below is a list of books from that exhibit that have been banned/challenged.

(To learn more about challenges to books since the inception of Banned Books Week, check out the timeline created by ALA.)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, 1884
The first ban of Mark Twain’s American classic in Concord, MA in 1885 called it “trash and suitable only for the slums.” Objections to the book have evolved, but only marginally. Twain’s book is one of the most-challenged of all time and is frequently challenged even today because of its frequent use of the word “nigger.” Otherwise it is alleged the book is “racially insensitive,” “oppressive,” and “perpetuates racism.”

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X and Alex Haley, 1965 (Grove Press)
Objectors have called this seminal work a “how-to-manual” for crime and decried because of “anti-white statements” present in the book. The book presents the life story of Malcolm Little, also known as Malcolm X, who was a human rights activist and who has been called one of the most influential Americans in recent history.

Beloved, Toni Morrison, 1987
Again and again, this Pulitzer-prize winning novel by perhaps the most influential African-American writer of all time is assigned to high school English students. And again and again, parental complaints are lodged against the book because of its violence, sexual content and discussion of bestiality.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown, 1970
Subtitled “An Indian History of the American West,” this book tells the history of United States growth and expansion into the West from the point of view of Native Americans. This book was banned by a school district official in Wisconsin in 1974 because the book might be polemical and they wanted to avoid controversy at all costs. “If there’s a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it,” the official stated.

The Call of the Wild, Jack London, 1903
Generally hailed as Jack London’s best work, The Call of the Wild is commonly challenged for its dark tone and bloody violence. Because it is seen as a man-and-his-dog story, it is sometimes read by adolescents and subsequently challenged for age-inappropriateness. Not only have objections been raised here, the book was banned in Italy, Yugoslavia and burned in bonfires in Nazi Germany in the late 1920s and early 30s because it was considered “too radical.”

Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 1961
A school board in Strongsville, OH refused to allow the book to be taught in high school English classrooms in 1972. It also refused to consider Cat’s Cradle as a substitute text and removed both books from the school library. The issue eventually led to a 1976 District Court ruling overturning the ban in Minarcini v. Strongsville.

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951
Young Holden, favorite child of the censor. Frequently removed from classrooms and school libraries because it is “unacceptable,” “obscene,” “blasphemous,” “negative,” “foul,” “filthy,” and “undermines morality.” And to think Holden always thought “people never notice anything.”

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, 1953
Rather than ban the book about book-banning outright, Venado Middle school in Irvine, CA utilized an expurgated version of the text in which all the “hells” and “damns” were blacked out. Other complaints have said the book went against objectors religious beliefs. The book’s author, Ray Bradbury, died this year.

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway, 1940
Shortly after its publication the U.S. Post Office, which purpose was in part to monitor and censor distribution of media and texts, declared the book nonmailable. In the 1970s, eight Turkish booksellers were tried for “spreading propaganda unfavorable to the state” because they had published and distributed the text. This wasn’t Hemingway’s only banned book – A Farewell to Arms and Across the River and Into the Trees were also censored domestically and abroad in Ireland, South Africa, Germany and Italy.

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936
The Pulitzer-prize winning novel (which three years after its publication became an Academy-Award Winning film) follows the life of the spoiled daughter of a southern plantation owner just before and then after the fall of the Confederacy and decline of the South in the aftermath of the Civil War. Critically praised for its thought-provoking and realistic depiction of ante- and postbellum life in the South, it has also been banned for more or less the same reasons. Its realism has come under fire, specifically its realistic portrayal – though at times perhaps tending toward optimistic -- of slavery and use of the words “nigger” and “darkies.”

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, 1939
Kern County, California has the great honor both of being the setting of Steinbeck’s novel and being the first place where it was banned (1939). Objections to profanity—especially goddamn and the like—and sexual references continued from then into the 1990s. It is a work with international banning appeal: the book was barred in Ireland in the 50s and a group of booksellers in Turkey were taken to court for “spreading propaganda” in 1973.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
Perhaps the first great American novel that comes to the mind of the average person, this book chronicles the booze-infused and decadent lives of East Hampton socialites. It was challenged at the Baptist College in South Carolina because of the book’s language and mere references to sex.

Howl, Allen Ginsberg, 1956
Following in the footsteps of other “Shaping America” book Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg’s boundary-pushing poetic works were challenged because of descriptions of homosexual acts.

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote, 1966
The subject of controversy in an AP English class in Savannah, GA after a parent complained about sex, violence and profanity. Banned but brought back.

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, 1952
Ellison’s book won the 1953 National Book Award for Fiction because it expertly dealt with issues of black nationalism, Marxism and identity in the twentieth century. Considered to be too expert in its ruminations for some high schools, the book was banned from high school reading lists and schools in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington state.

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair, 1906
For decades, American students have studied muckraking and yellow journalism in social studies lessons about the industrial revolution, with The Jungle headlining the unit. And yet, the dangerous and purportedly socialist views expressed in the book and Sinclair’s Oil led to its being banned in Yugoslavia, East Germany, South Korea and Boston.

Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman, 1855
If they don’t understand you, sometimes they ban you. This was the case when the great American poemLeaves of Grass was first published and the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice found the sensuality of the text disturbing. Caving to pressure, booksellers in New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania conceded to advising their patrons not to buy the “filthy” book.

Moby-Dick; or The Whale, Herman Melville,1851
In a real head-scratcher of a case, a Texas school district banned the book from its Advanced English class lists because it “conflicted with their community values” in 1996. Community values are frequently cited in discussions over challenged books by those who wish to censor them.

Native Son, Richard Wright, 1940
Richard Wright’s landmark work of literary naturalism follows the life of young Bigger Thomas, a poor Black man living on the South Side of Chicago. Bigger is faced with numerous awkward and frustrating situations when he begins working for a rich white family as their chauffer. After he unintentionally kills a member of the family, he flees but is eventually caught, tried and sentenced to death. The book has been challenged or removed in at least eight different states because of objections to “violent and sexually graphic” content.

Our Bodies, Ourselves, Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, 1971
Challenges of this book about the female anatomy and sexuality ran from the book’s publication into the mid-1980s. One Public Library lodged it “promotes homosexuality and perversion.” Not surprising in a country where some legislators want to keep others from saying the word “vagina.”

The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane, 1895
Restricting access and refusing to allow teachers to teach books is still a form of censorship in many cases. Crane’s book was among many on a list compiled by the Bay District School board in 1986 after parents began lodging informal complaints about books in an English classroom library.

The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850
According to many critics, Hawthorne should have been less friendly toward his main character, Hester Prynne (in fairness, so should have minister Arthur Dimmesdale). One isn’t surprised by the moralist outrage the book caused in 1852. But when, one hundred and forty years later, the book is still being banned because it is sinful and conflicts with community values, you have to raise your eyebrows. Parents in one school district called the book “pornographic and obscene” in 1977. Clearly this was before the days of the World Wide Web.

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Alfred C. Kinsey, 1948
How dare Alfred Kinsey ask men and women questions about their sex lives! The groundbreaking study, truly the first of its scope and kind, was banned from publication abroad and highly criticized at home.

Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein, 1961
The book was actually retained after a 2003 challenge in Mercedes, TX to the book’s adult themes. However, parents were subsequently given more control over what their child was assigned to read in class, a common school board response to a challenge.

A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams, 1947
The sexual content of this play, which later became a popular and critically acclaimed film, raised eyebrows and led to self-censorship when the film was being made. The director left a number of scenes on the cutting room floor to get an adequate rating and protect against complaints of the play’s immorality.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, 1937
Parents of students in Advanced English classes in a Virginia high school objected to language and sexual content in this book, which made TIME magazine’s list of top 100 Best English-Language Novels from 1923 to 2005.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
Harper Lee’s great American tome stands as proof positive that the censorious impulse is alive and well in our country, even today. For some educators, the Pulitzer-prize winning book is one of the greatest texts teens can study in an American literature class. Others have called it a degrading, profane and racist work that “promotes white supremacy.”

Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852
Like Huck Finn, Of Mice and Men and Gone With the Wind, the contextual, historically and culturally accurate depiction of the treatment of Black slaves in the United States has rankled would-be censors.

Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, 1963
Sendak’s work is beloved by children in the generations since its publication and has captured the collective imagination. Many parents and librarians, however, did much hand-wringing over the dark and disturbing nature of the story. They also wrung their hands over the baby’s penis drawn in In the Night Kitchen.

The Words of Cesar Chavez, Cesar Chavez, 2002
The works of Chavez were among the many books banned in the dissolution of the Mexican-American Studies Program in Tucson, Arizona. The Tucson Unified School District disbanded the program so as to accord with a piece of legislation which outlawed Ethnic Studies classes in the state.

Monday, 30 January 2017

I married the man of my dreams and his parents ruined my life

We all have gone through such a hell in our married life. Even though I have a loving husband, he's helpless when it comes to the emotional blackmailing of his family members. The mental harassment was so strong that my hubby's elder sister-in-law divorced her husband after having a son. I have written posts on this problem in 2011 and 2014: When the child custody dispute haunts divorced couples (Part I)When the child custody dispute haunts divorced couples (Part II)In a whirlpool of lies and deceptions, to name a few.

Whenever anyone points to the mistakes or the bias my hubby's family is doing, all they have to say is one word - JEALOUSY. The whole family has practised the word so well that from an 80-year-old to a 10-year-old in that family says others are JEALOUS of them! Some things are so disgusting that they don't even deserve a post to elaborate.

I have been through such a terrible phase that I feel so connected to the below article published on AkkarBakkar. Each and every word and line sounds so familiar that I couldn't resist myself from sharing it with you all:

If only, one woman can make the world a better place to live in for her daughter-in-law, a joint Indian family would be a better place to go to. Show her that you have accepted her, and she will love you back whole-heartedly. Take at least one step forward, and she will give you all her love and kindness, unconditionally.

Give her time, let her adjust, let her feel comfortable, and then see the difference that she creates to your world. Let marriage be a beautiful thing to happen and not a burden that needs to be dragged till the end of an innocent girl's life.

My intention is not to scare anybody. It takes a lot to leave a home you were raised in to go to a brand new house with brand new faces but going to a house full of people just to feel lonely is almost every Indian daughter-in-law's story and this is my story.

 27 years of my life I lived on my terms and conditions, was loved by everybody. I was my mom’s lifeline, my dad’s princess, my siblings’ confidante, a little angel, a punching bag and what not; until one fine day, I was married off and my life took a drastic turn. I packed my bags with my favourite set of earrings and the little black dress I wore for my Conti party and with a heavy heart, I told myself I was going from one home to another. But then, things changed.

I became a wife, a daughter-in-law, and tons of new relations were added to my name, just because I agreed to change my surname.

In our society, be it love or an arranged marriage, you face the same issues, because you love the boy but you get married to the family. As soon as I got done with my saat pheras, I was expected to change and adapt to the lifestyle of a new family, people I didn't even know much about — accept their values.

I was expected to change my name in the wedding hall itself. As an Indian daughter-in-law, you lose your identity in just a moment’s time and nobody cares about how you feel in that moment. If you don't do that, you'll be looked at in a bad light forever.

My question is — does getting married mean that you are now somebody's slave? Nobody will tell you the “rules” of your new house (you are expected to learn them all by yourself OVERNIGHT), else all you will hear is: "This is what your parents taught you". And you are humiliated in front of all — close and distant relatives — because of course, you deserve it.

This is what I left my parents' home for. I get married to your son but I am never made to feel comfortable to adjust to new situations, new circumstances, new environment and everything else that is new to me.

My parents taught me to take baby steps in life, you on the other hand, taught me how to take a shortcut to everything. The situation is even worse in case your in-laws are the “wear only suit” types. Mine are. Early morning it has to be suit, bindi, bangles, payal and what not, and in case you're missing one of these, expect to get another lecture on 'sanskaars'.

If you do not take a dupatta, then people in the family start feeling uncomfortable. Strange, isn’t it. Am I the only female in the family with breasts and aren't my clothes enough to cover them? And in case you get into a serious discussion or try to answer back, EVER, get ready for your own character assassination along with your entire family's insult.

Rules are very different for a daughter and a daughter-in-law in the same family. A daughter can wear anything that she likes, but a daughter-in-law cannot.

She will be snubbed the moment she tries to wear something of her choice.

If a daughter has her period then everybody in the family is asked not to disturb her, as she is “unwell” and she's given a hot water bag and medicines every two hours, but when the daughter-in-law has the same problem, she is made to work. Our body functions don’t change after we get married do they?

I am zapped and I feel lost, I sometimes wonder if my parents would do the same to my brother's wife.

A daughter can go out and work and have the career of her choice, because it is HER life, she has to be independent. But if a daughter-in-law is working/wants to work, she will have to face humiliation every single day of her life. And for those working moms who have kids, all I can say is May God give you some strength! The fact remains that you will remain an outsider for your husband's family all your life, the family secrets and the money matters will all be discussed behind closed doors, but you're asked to 'feel comfortable'.

Another very strange thing that happens here in India is, the moment you get married, the next big question people ask you is to give them a “good-news”, especially women!! And these women already have kids, are they not aware of the fact that it takes nine months to bring a child to this world? It's not an automatic process, it's a responsibility that I'd take when my husband and I are ready.

How difficult is that to understand!

Lastly but sadly, you may have an amazing and understanding husband, but will he ever hear any problem that you are facing at his place — NO. He will also ask you to ADJUST. There is no problem in adjusting from a woman’s point of view (that is what she does all her life) if only the adjustment is for a week, ten days or a month even. But if you have to permanently live with your least understanding in-laws, and a “mamma’s boy”, it's a challenge. It's a challenge I can't share with my parents.

I can't tell them how alone I feel in my new house and not home sometimes. I can't tell them how I feel like calling them up with tears welling up in my eyes and saying — I miss you terribly, take me home.

I am forced to bid goodbye to my freedom and independence everyday because the poor husband is also not at fault because he's stuck between two women he loves the most in his life. A husband might be supporting enough, but he will give up in front of his parents and hence you will be the one feeling secluded and left out, because you are new in the house and you need to ADJUST to everything!

Indian mothers-in-law fail to understand that the bahu is not a villian, here to take away her son. Also, dear mother-in-law when you got married to somebody’s son; did you have the same intention back then, of taking a son away from his mother?

I am sure your son’s heart has enough space to accommodate the both of us. And if you are so possessive about your son, then you shouldn't have ever gotten him married to me. At that time you wanted a “homely, convent educated, beautiful, fair, tall” girl. You were the best person ever with a modern thought process and such a caring attitude, over those pre-wedding phone calls. But you changed drastically as soon as I entered your premises.

If carrying forward the family’s legacy was the only intention, then your son could have adopted one kid and raised the child well, you didn't have to ruin my life.

 Why am I asked to minimize my visits to my parents' place? Why can’t my husband be allowed to come along? I need to accept all his relatives whole-heartedly, but he has all the rights not to do the same. Why? Why do I need to forget my parents, they are also ageing, they treat me well, they still love me and will always do unconditionally, and so will I! They need me as much as my mother-in-law needs her son.

If only, there was somebody who could give me answers to these questions. I cannot object, I cannot say anything; I ought to obey because at the end of the day you have an age old saying that goes like — “ek chup sau sukh” and “apni izzat apne haath mein hai”. I'm still looking for a solution for my unborn daughter...

Author's Note:
There is no end to the list of these atrocities that newlywed women face in India if they live with their in-laws, but my point here is that, why do we cry over feminism then? Majority of the problems that women face is courtesy women. Blessed are the ladies who get a loving family, caring in-laws (maybe, times are changing), but still there is a long way to go in our society. People may be carrying postgraduate degrees, but how many of them have actually brought about a change in their thought process? Why can’t a mother-in-law make the life of her daughter-in-law a little better than what she had to face herself. 

90-yr-old Saudi man sends 31st wife home, holds daughter captive

Shabana Sultana, 38, lived as the 31st wife of a Saudi national in the Gulf after her marriage to the small-time businessman 20 years ago.

While she was forced to return to her home here along with her two sons a year ago when she fell seriously ill, her 90-year-old husband did not allow her daughter to come back.

Sultana says her husband Al Sugaihi Ali Abdullah’s family members have confined the girl to a room and are not allowing her even to talk to her mother over phone. Ms Sultana approached MBT leader Amjed Ullah Khan for help and he has, on her behalf, lodged a petition with the Ministry of External Affairs. The matter stands there.

Sultana says when she was 13, her family was residing in Talabkatta. Her elder sister was already married to a Saudi trader and staying in Riyadh. After the sister’s husband died, her brother-in-law approached her for a re-marriage. She rejected his proposal and assured him that she would get her younger sister, Sultana, to marry him.

Initially, Sultana was reluctant to marry a man as old as Al Abdullah but her sister promised that she would be able to live a rich life and that, after his death, “all his property will be hers.”

In March 1996, Al Abdullah married her without providing any official documents related to marriage from Saudi Arabia. After staying with her for 20 days, he flew back to Saudi. Ms Sultana stayed with her parents. Since then, there were no phone calls from him. But he visited her in Hyderabad thrice and she gave birth to two daughters Zahoora Ali, Urooj Ali, and a son, Al Sugaihi Abdul Rehman.

Children’s visas have expired, says woman
In 2015, Al Abdullah called told her to get her and the children’s passports and visas done from the Saudi consulate in Mumbai. Ms Sultana along with her three kids landed in Riyadh in May 2015. There, all of them were confined to a small room. There were times when there was neither food nor water at the room.

“He would come to me once in three days, lock my children in another room and have intercourse with me and leave. If I refused he would assault me and abuse me. I pleaded him to leave me, but he was adamant,” Sultana said.

During her stay in Riyadh, she had visitors who were in the age-group of 25 to 60, identifying themselves as the children of her husband. From them, she came to know that she was his 31st wife. Her younger kids are also at risk as they are on visit visas there, which expired in September 2016. They can be detained by the police.

(Source: Deccan Chronicle)

Why Russia is about to decriminalise wife-beating

SHOULD it be a crime for a husband to hit his wife? In many countries this question no longer needs discussing. But not in Russia, where the Duma (parliament) voted this week to decriminalise domestic violence against family members unless it is a repeat offence or causes serious medical damage. The change is part of a state-sponsored turn to traditionalism during Vladimir Putin’s third presidential term. It has exposed deep fault lines. Many Russians now embrace the liberal notion of individual rights, but others are moving in the opposite direction.

Activists warn that decriminalisation will legitimise abuse. “The overall message to Russian citizens is that domestic violence isn’t a crime,” says Andrei Sinelnikov of the Anna Centre, a violence-prevention charity.

The debate began in 2016, when the government decriminalised battery, the least violent form of assault on the Russian statute books. Russia is one of three countries in Europe and Central Asia that do not have laws specifically targeting domestic violence. Instead it is treated like other forms of assault, ignoring the fact that spouses and children are more vulnerable than other victims. But when it decriminalised battery last June, the Duma decided to exempt domestic abuse, instead making it subject to the same two-year maximum sentence as racially motivated offences.

That pleased civil-society groups that had been pushing for tougher rules. But the Russian Orthodox Church was furious. Scripture and Russian tradition, the church said, regard “the reasonable and loving use of physical punishment as an essential part of the rights given to parents by God himself”. Meanwhile, conservative groups worried that parents might face jail. They argued that it was wrong for parents to face harsher punishment for hitting their child than a neighbour would.

Under pressure from such groups, deputies have put forward a bill that makes the first instance of poboi—battery that does not do lasting harm—an administrative violation carrying a fine of 30,000 roubles ($502), community service or a 15-day detention. It also returns the crime to the realm of “private prosecution”, where the victim is responsible for collecting evidence and bringing a case. Repeat offences would be criminal infractions, but only within a year of the first, giving abusers a pass to beat relatives once a year. Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the Duma, says the bill would help build “strong families”. The bill’s second reading on January 25th won 385 out of 387 votes. It is expected to sail through its third reading and be signed into law by Mr Putin.

He hit me, it didn’t feel like a kiss
Anna Zhavnerovich does not agree that tolerating domestic abuse leads to strong families. A lifestyle journalist in Moscow, Ms Zhavnerovich had lived with her boyfriend for several years and discussed marriage. One night in December 2014 the conversation turned towards the possibility of breaking up. Her boyfriend proceeded to beat her black and blue. She managed to get him convicted after lawyers who read the account she published online came to her aid. “People think it can’t happen to them,” says Ms Zhavnerovich. “They hold on to an illusion of safety.”

Domestic violence has deep cultural roots. An old Russian proverb says: “If he beats you it means he loves you.” “Violence isn’t just a norm, it’s our style of life,” says Alena Popova, an advocate for laws against domestic violence. The scale of the problem is difficult to measure, but according to Russia’s interior ministry, 40% of violent crimes happen within the family. More than 70% of women who call the Anna Centre’s hotline never report their cases to the police. The practice of private prosecution, which forces victims to navigate bureaucratic obstacles, dissuades many. “It’s the circles of hell, it goes on and on,” says Natalia Tunikova, who tried unsuccessfully to prosecute the man she says abused her.

Nonetheless, awareness has been growing, partly thanks to grassroots efforts. “The idea that ‘it’s her fault’ is no longer accepted a priori,” says Ms Zhavnerovich. (Curiously, she supports the new law, believing that more women will come forward if they do not think their partners will be sent to Russia’s harsh prisons.) A social-media flashmob under the hashtag “IAmNotAfraidToSpeak” took off in Ukraine and Russia last year, with thousands sharing tales of abuse.

Russia’s ultra-conservatives are not afraid to speak, either. Elena Mizulina, a senator known for promoting laws against “gay propaganda”, has pushed the latest changes, saying that “women are not offended when we see a man beating his wife.” But decriminalisation fans also argue that family affairs are not the state’s business. “The family is a delicate environment where people should sort things out themselves,” says Maria Mamikonyan, head of the All-Russian Parents Resistance movement, which collected thousands of signatures supporting the measure.

In a country scarred by communism—where the state was once all-intrusive and families had virtually no privacy—such sensitivities are understandable. Some of the opposition to domestic-violence laws stems from a rational fear of allowing Russia’s corrupt police and judiciary more power over family life. When critics charge that conservatives’ views hark back to the Domostroi, a set of household rules popular during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, Ms Mamikonyan objects. What they advocate is not a restoration of “the Middle Ages”, she says, but merely a return to the values “that European civilisation held in the 19th and 20th centuries”. To many Russian women, that still sounds like a giant step backwards.

(Source: The Economist)

Museum of linguistics

The Franklin School in downtown Washington, D.C., has sat vacant since 2008, but the city abandoned the building decades earlier. Designed by Adolf Cluss, the architect who built the Smithsonian Institution’s Castle and its Arts and Industries Building, the revival-style gem survived many efforts to demolish it. More recently, it’s been the focus of everything from mayoral redevelopment schemes to an Occupy demonstration in 2011.

Now another group will take a stab at the historic Franklin School. On Wednesday, the city announced plans to turn the building into a museum of linguistics. Led by philanthropist Ann B. Friedman (wife of New York Times columnist Tom Friedman), “Planet Word” will be an interactive center dedicated to language arts, in the vein of the National Museum of Mathematics in New York, according to the city. (Disclosure: Katherine Brittain Bradley, who sits on the board of Planet Word, is married to David Bradley, the owner of the Atlantic Media company.)

Turning the Franklin School into a museum is a practical use for a gorgeous if quirky space. The building’s historical protections are so thorough they all but rule out a more intensive use. This is, in fact, the second time in just more than two years that a museum concept has won the city’s support for a rehabilitation plan for the building. A cultural use for the space is by far the best outcome: A great public building deserves a great public use. And a closer look at the Franklin School’s rocky road to reuse shows why giving over historic architecture to culture—certainly not the city’s first instinct—could also be in the best financial interests of D.C.

So what does one do at a linguistics museum? It’s not entirely clear yet.

One reason the Franklin School has long sat vacant as the District’s downtown bloomed all around it is the splendor of the building itself. The architecture hails back to D.C.’s Red Brick City era, which Cluss penned nearly by himself. The architect helped to build D.C. up as an architecturally distinctive city in its own right, designing Eastern Market, Calvary Baptist Church, and dozens of other important red-brick buildings.

Many were not saved. As one of the most prominent examples of Cluss’s work, the Franklin School is a National Historic Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also one of about a dozen or so buildings whose interior also has preservation status—making it a poor candidate for adaptation as a luxury hotel or condo building.

In 2014, after years of dithering, the city went a different direction with the Franklin School. Under former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, the city picked a development partnership that planned to turn the Franklin School into the Institute for Contemporary Expression, a contemporary art and performance center. But when D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser came into office the following year, she swiftly scrapped the city’s agreement and started the Franklin School bid process all over again.

The reasons behind that reversal fired up critics locally. Bowser argued in 2015 that fundraising by ICE-DC founder Dani Levinas was too weak to continue. But that fundraising effort had not yet begun. Emails obtained by CityLab under a Freedom of Information Act request show that officials from both the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development as well as the Downtown DC Business Improvement District urged the D.C. Council to confirm the ICE-DC program so that fundraising could begin in earnest. At the time, Levinas had already raised $3 million toward a $15 million goal—a decent start—but Bowser scotched the museum plan before the Council could consummate the deal.

Whatever the reason for the mayor’s about-face, the project’s new team has her support. Dantes Partners, the developer behind Friedman’s Planet Word concept, is a relatively young boutique firm that in recent years has developed hundreds of affordable and supportive housing units. (Buwa Binitie, the founder of Dantes Partners, is a Bowser supporter who contributed $10,000 to her former political action committee and joined her on a recent trip to China.) This new team also has the funds to execute their vision: Planet Word is going to cost more than $30 million, but Friedman won’t have to raise funds for it. According to the city, Planet Word will pay for itself upfront.
Preservation restrictions have made reusing the historic Franklin School a challenge. Will "Planet Word" be the perfect fit?

Finally, the new team has the technical know-how to do a delicate job. SmithGroupJJR, an architecture firm with a lot of historic rehabilitation and adaptation experience, will lead a renovation to rebuild the interior to include a maker space and classrooms as well as an auditorium in the building’s third-floor mezzanine level.

So what does one do at a linguistics museum? It’s not entirely clear yet. On the Planet Word site, founder Friedman invites future visitors to “[i]dentify accents, tell us how you say soda and hoagie, learn tips from professional dialect coaches, and climb a Tower of Babel or tunnel through a prepositional playground.” The museum could potentially occupy the space once claimed by the now-defunct Children’s Museum as the D.C. institution with the kid-friendliest programming.

One thing is clear: Planet World will definitely be unlike anything else in D.C.—or really anywhere. Contemporary art, the program for ICE-DC, might have been a more proven model for the city to choose. In recent years, spectacle-scaled art installations have commanded enormous attention here. The National Building Museum’s architectural follies, from “The Maze” to “The Beach,” draw capacity-straining crowds. More than 732,000 viewers piled into “Wonder,” an Instagram-ready affair at the newly refurbished Renwick Gallery. ICE-DC could have served as a permanent local home for such shows.

Crowds will be key to fixing Franklin Square, one of D.C.’s least-loved parks.  Restoring this space (which is anchored by the Franklin School) is a perennial subject of conversation in the city. ICE-DC planned to host performances and happenings to draw in the office-lunch crowd; if “Wonder” and “The Beach” are any indication, the lines would have snaked around the square. If Planet Word comes up with a similar scheme to draw daytime foot traffic, it will have done the hardest work in revivifying Franklin Square, saving the city money in the long run and boosting the values of adjacent properties (which now include The Washington Post’s headquarters). A private use for the museum, say, as a tech incubator or boutique office space, would not make use of the unique affinity between Franklin Square and the Franklin School—a public space and a public building.

But will crowds really come for Planet Word? If the whole fun-with-linguistics concept doesn’t take off with locals, the museum might face the same tough sell as other non-Smithsonian downtown cultural centers (such as the National Museum of Women in the Arts) that are trying to lure tourists away from the National Mall. Unlike those local attractions, however, Planet Word will debut with one huge advantage: Entrance will be free.

It’s good that the city sees the wisdom (again) in preserving the Franklin School by turning it into a museum meant for residents. Planet Word is bound to do more for the Franklin School, and for the city, than any private building would have. When linguist nerds convene there to talk gerunds and hit up a nearby food truck—or when bored Posties amble over during a lunch break to learn a few things about dangling modifiers—they will be giving Franklin Square a use as well. For the city, a quality museum at the Franklin School is a two-for-one deal.

(Source: City Lab)

There are now only 10 countries in the world that are actually free from conflict

The world is becoming a more dangerous place and there are now just 10 countries which can be considered completely free from conflict, according to authors of the 10th annual Global Peace Index.

The worsening conflict in the Middle East, the lack of a solution to the refugee crisis and an increase in deaths from major terrorist incidents have all contributed to the world being less peaceful in 2016 than it was in 2015.

And there are now fewer countries in the world which can be considered truly at peace – in other words, not engaged in any conflicts either internally or externally – than there were in 2014.

According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, a think tank which has produced the index for the past 10 years, only Botswana, Chile, Costa Rica, Japan, Mauritius, Panama, Qatar, Switzerland, Uruguay and Vietnam are free from conflict.

Brazil is the country that has dropped out of the list, and as one of the worst performing countries year-on-year represents a serious concern ahead of the Rio Olympics, the IEP’s founder Steve Killelea told The Independent.

But perhaps the most remarkable result from this year’s peace index, he said, was the extent to which the situation in the Middle East drags down the rest of the world when it comes to peacefulness.

“If we look at the world overall, it has become slightly less peaceful in the last 12 months,” Mr Killelea said.

“But if we took the Middle East out of the index over the last decade – and last year – the world would have become more peaceful. It really highlights the impact the Middle East is having on the world.”

The index shows that 81 countries became more peaceful in the past year, while the situation deteriorated in 79.

Unlike with previous years, however, the IEP noticed a clear trend where the more peaceful countries improved further while the less peaceful countries got even worse – producing what they called greater “peace inequality” across the world.

“The key reason behind it is our inability to solve the conflicts which are emerging," Mr Killelea said. “The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have been going for well over a decade, then it spilled into Syria in 2011, and afterwards into Libya and Yemen. That [failure] is really the key to the problem.

“If we take battlefield deaths for example, they are up at 112,000 – a 20-year high. But again, if you took out Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, they count for 75 per cent of those deaths.”

The index shows that political instability worsened in 39 countries in the last 12 months, including what the report described as the “striking case” of Brazil.

It has fallen five places to 105th out of the 163 countries included in the study, due to increases in the number of people jailed, the number of security officers deployed by the state and also a slight increase in terrorist activity.

“It is very difficult to say how that will play out in terms of the Olympic Games,” said Mr Killelea. “It’s obviously a very volatile situation.”

Iceland was once again named the world’s most peaceful country, followed by Denmark, Austria, New Zealand and Portugal, the latter improving nine places. Syria was once again named the least peaceful country.
The index suggests the world is less peaceful in 2016 than at any point in the past eight years (IEP)

Asked how the rest of the world can learn from Iceland, Mr Killelea said: “It’s not just Iceland, it’s a whole range of countries which we can learn from. They are practising what we call positive peace, which are factors which create and sustain peaceful societies.”

The IEP tries to define positive peace in numerical terms, giving countries scores for a range of factors including “acceptance of the rights of others”, “low levels of corruption”, “the free flow of information” and a “well functioning government”.

“If positive peace is strong enough, then a country which is presented with shocks won’t actually have a deterioration in peace [as measured by violence],” he said.

Finally, the index identified Europe once again as the most peaceful region in the world, and by some margin, home to seven of the top 10 countries on the list.

Yet the continent is not immune to war – Britain, France, Belgium and others are heavily involved in external conflict in the Middle East, and face a growing threat to peace from international terrorism.

So given all the dire warnings from either side about the security of Europe if Britain leaves the EU, does the IEP foresee a change in the region’s fortunes in the event of Brexit?

“It’s unlikely to have an effect in the short term,” Mr Killelea said. “But the longer-term ramifications, more for Britain than for [the rest of] Europe, would probably depend on what the economic outcome of a British exit would be.

“If the economy was robust Britain would probably maintain its current levels of peace. However, if there’s a deterioration in the economy then that would come back and have a negative impact on peacefulness.”

(Source: The Independent)

Grandma myths about childcare busted

There is no escape from the passage of maternal wisdom. The struggle is real when a new mother is torn between the advice of her maternal bloodline…and the prescriptions of her own doctor.

Here are nine pieces of advice published on Stepfeed you definitely shouldn’t be taking, and that science has decisively rendered myths:

1. A baby shouldn’t leave the house.
This advice only applies when the weather's bad! Otherwise, fresh air is excellent for a baby’s health.

2. Daily showers are a must
Babies don’t sweat like adults do, so they don’t need a bath everyday, unless there’s a major diapers misadventure!

3. Don’t breastfeed when you're pregnant
This is nothing more than an old wives' tale. Breastfeeding while pregnant doesn’t hurt the mother OR her fetus. Unless your doctor says you have a nutritional deficiency and can’t afford to pump out the milk, you can throw this piece of advice out the door.

4. Some babies are allergic to their mother’s milk
There has never been a child that was allergic to their mom’s breast milk. It’s a biological impossibility.

5. Babies not only need milk but water, too
A mother’s milk is the only fluid that a baby needs. Water isn’t supposed to enter his/her system until after 4-6 months of age. This is also when he/she can start eating solid foods.

6.Baby wraps for a straight spine
The habit of wrapping a baby in fabric for a straight spine is one of those grandma myths that have very little empirical support. Legend has it that a baby wrap induces feelings of security in the baby, because it’s a feeling that resembles a return to the womb.

In fact, doctors warn against the practice. It restricts necessary movement from the baby, and this only stunts growth.

7. Babies should wear their left shoe on the right foot and vice versa
Some of our grandmas though that this practice would prevent flat-footedness. Dismiss this completely, my friends, and let your kid roam free, preferably barefoot!

8. Don’t let your kid use their left-hand ... ever
What’s wrong with being left-handed? Let’s get rid of these silly attitudes once and for all.

9. Don’t let your kid get a so-called ‘sugar high’
The only reason you should reduce your kid’s sugar consumption is to prevent tooth cavities, and by prescription from your dentist.

There is no scientific evidence to support that there is any such thing as a “sugar high”. 

10 words that English needs

A young man named John Koenig was trying to write poems. However, some emotions seemed difficult to express in words. He had the idea of creating words for these previously unnamed feelings in a dictionary. Thus, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows was born. He began a website and a web series on YouTube that introduced his words to the world. Now, people everywhere can contribute to the dictionary.

Ten of The Coolest Words
The dictionary has over a hundred entries. Here are ten of the most intriguing invented words. To which of them do you relate the most?

Lachesism is the desire to experience disaster—a hurricane, a plane crash, a shipwreck, etc.—in order to disturb the smooth and predictable path of your life and “forge it into something hardened and flexible and sharp.”

Exulansis is the inclination to avoid relating an experience until the memory begins to feel foreign to you.

Avenoir is the wish that memory could flow backward. The image conjured is of a rower facing backward in order to see the path that he is leaving. So much in life now is anticipation for the future. What if we could anticipate the past?

Altschmerz expresses the weariness you feel with the same old imperfections and worries. After “gnawing” them so long, they become “soggy and tasteless and inert.” Are you so tired of your flaws that you would welcome a fresh issue? You have experienced altschmerz.

Occhiolism is the acknowledgment that your perspective is truly limited, so much so that you can’t make any real conclusions about anything.

Liberosis is the desire to care less. If you worry about strangers crossing the street, whether the postman will bring the mail on time, and if you will still have all your favorite things in five years, you might wish for liberosis.

Vellichor is the odd melancholy and longing of secondhand bookstores. Aren’t they “somehow infused with the passage of time”? Think about it; all the characters whose stories you’ll never read in your lifetime. What thoughts captured will never be set free from their paper prisons?

Rückkehrunruhe describes how you feel after a long journey. The memories are so fresh, but already they are starting to recede as your everyday life rushes in to reclaim you.

Gnossienne is the flash of awareness that you really don’t know the people that you thought you knew best. Your spouse, your friends, your family members have a mysterious side of them that you will never fully discover. It’s like “a door locked from the inside, a stairway leading to a wing of the house that you’ve never fully explored…”

Anecdoche occurs when everyone talks but nobody listens. Each speaker contributes, but none of the pieces add up to anything. Eventually, there’s nothing left to say and anecdoche is over.

Can you relate to these obscure sorrows? Have you experienced your own unique emotions? You need not leave these sentiments unexpressed. If there is no word, invent one and submit it to John Koenig’s website. For those who long to see a book version rather than read about these feelings online, a book version is scheduled to be released in 2017. Wait a minute; is there a word for yearning for the texture of paper in your fingers in these increasingly paperless times?

(Source: Grammarly)