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Two major federal actions against transgender rights in the US - Nov. 23, 2018

On Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, the Trump administration made two major moves against transgender rights.Proposed U.S. ban on transgender soldiers may jump over appeals court and go directly to Supreme CourtOn Friday, the administration "asked the Supreme Court to bypass the usual legal process to take on...President Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from military service." (Washington Post, Nov. 23, 2018) Trump proposed the ban in July 2017 via Twitter. He ordered Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to develop a plan for implementing this ban, which Mattis did. The ban was challenged, however, in part on the basis that Trump's directive was groundless ("the result of discrimination, rather than a study of how allowing transgender personnel affects the military"). Jennifer Levi of GLAD said that "the open service policy that was thoroughly vetted by the military itself and has been in place now for more than two years. Lower courts upheld those challenges. …

Climate change will reduce U.S. GDP by 10 percent by the end of the 21st century

In the New York Times on Nov. 19, 2018:"Reports of the threats from a warming planet have been coming fast and furiously. The latest: a startling analysis from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicting terrible food shortages, wildfires and a massive die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040, unless governments take strong action."And the New York Times on Friday, Nov. 23:"A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday [today] presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end.The report, which was mandated by Congress and made public by the White House, is notable not only for the precision of its calculations and bluntness of its conclusions, but also because its findings are directly at odds with President Trump’s a…

On Jewish, Black, and transgender hate crime statistics

About this new statistic that's floating around. Here it is in a recent article in the New York Times:"Contrary to what are surely the prevailing assumptions, anti-Semitic incidents have constituted half of all hate crimes in New York [City] this year, according to the Police Department. To put that figure in context, there have been four times as many crimes motivated by bias against Jews — 142 in all — as there have against blacks. Hate crimes against Jews have outnumbered hate crimes targeted at transgender people by a factor of 20."- "Is It Safe to Be Jewish in New York?" by Ginia Bellafante, New York Times, Oct. 31, 2018This statistic excites some people, perhaps because they like to show that their group is more oppressed than others. But, of course, we should not perceive hate crimes statistics as a competition; the desirable rate for all groups is zero. As someone who is both transgender and Jewish, I do not feel better—neither more assured of my own s…

Zayn Malik doesn't identify as Muslim: "I don't believe any of it"

In the British Vogue,Giles Hattersley writes of Zayn Malik:...it’s a simple “Zayn” these days, ever since the 25-year-old boyband survivor from Bradford with perfect hair and poptastic falsetto dispensed with his surname and went fully Cher. That was a year after he fled One Direction, in March 2015, when the world’s most successful group was at the hormone-addled apex of its fame. For a brief moment, Zayn was the YouTube generation’s answer to John Lennon (or Geri Halliwell, at least), devastating millions of fans across the globe with his shotgun exit, then thrilling them a year later with a record-breaking, Billboard-topping debut album. He moved to the States, clocked up billions of streams, dueted with Taylor Swift, shot campaigns for Versus and endured the peculiar menace of having a dozen paparazzi camped outside his door every day. He also became an international figurehead for biracial success and anti-Islamophobia. And I mentioned the hair, right?While he's "routine…

LGBT people struggle to survive a purge in Tanzania

In Tanzania, the Dar es Salaam regional commissioner has asked the public to report gay people. "Give me their names," he said on Oct. 29. "My ad hoc team"—a committee of 17 police and media officials—"will begin to get their hands on them" in just one week. The next day, he reported that he'd already received over 100 names in over five thousand messages. Although the Tanzanian government clarified that this regional effort does not represent the national government's official policy, it was not clear if the national government intended to stop the Dar es Salaam regional purge.The organization Jinsiangu, supported by the International AIDS Alliance (donate), has helped people relocate internationally to Nairobi, Kenya for their personal safety.BackgroundTanzanian law, an inheritance from British colonialism, punishes men who have sex with other men with 30-years-to-life in jail.CNN reported:"According to 2014 UNAIDS data, 17.6% of men who ha…

Ways one oughtn't respond to anti-Semitic domestic terrorism

On Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, eleven Jews were murdered while worshipping in a synagogue in Pennsylvania. The President tweeted this:...This evil Anti-Semitic attack is an assault on humanity. It will take all of us working together to extract the poison of Anti-Semitism from our world. We must unite to conquer hate.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2018Later that evening, the President appeared at a self-promotional rally and joked about nearly having canceled it — not because he believed the morning's tragedy warranted more attention or solemnity from him, but because standing in the rain to give a news conference about the attack had caused him to have a "bad hair day."To cap off the evening, he tweeted:Watching the Dodgers/Red Sox final innings. It is amazing how a manager takes out a pitcher who is loose & dominating through almost 7 innings, Rich Hill of Dodgers, and brings in nervous reliever(s) who get shellacked. 4 run lead gone. Managers do it …

Logical errors in 'Gender Identity and the Invisible Pasta God'

Some words about Stephen Measure's satirical short story Gender Identity and the Invisible Pasta God.Measure currently sorts his writing into three topics on his website."Same-sex sexuality," further explained thus: "Sexual identity is an anti-moral weapon, nothing more.""Gender identity," defined as "a religious belief that I don't believe in.""Dehumanization," or, what he fears the people he opposes will do to him.If these sentences are a little difficult to parse, just use the takeaway that his position is basically anti-LGBT. He maintains that everyone (or nearly everyone) is physically either male or female, that people cannot or should not claim a gender identity based on their subjective feelings rather than their physical sex, and that people should not engage in sexual activity with members of the same sex. He doesn't seem especially interested or curious in LGBT people's beliefs or lives, and his main concern …

Sen. Collins' speech in favor of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh

Immediately after Sen. Susan Collins delivered a speech explaining why she would vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Mark Joseph Stern wrote for Slate:"The Republican senator declared herself undecided until the last possible minute, but it now appears that this very public ambivalence was a charade. Collins’ address started as a bad-faith attack on Democrats, then transformed into an astoundingly naïve defense of Kavanaugh’s jurisprudence. It concluded with a condescending sop to Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, suggesting that she’d misidentified her alleged assailant. The speech might as well have been written by Mitch McConnell and Ed Whelan. It was an embarrassment and a travesty." Stern made the following key points in his article.He explained that "the Judicial Crisis Network, a dark-money group funded largely by a single anonymous donor" which previously spent $7 million to oppose Obama's Supreme Court pi…

U.S. on trial for responsibility for climate change: 'Juliana v. United States'

On Oct. 29, "a judge in Oregon will begin hearing a case brought against the United States government on behalf of 21 young people, supported by the non-profit organization Our Children’s Trust, who allege that the authorities’ active contributions to the climate crisis violate their constitutional rights," as Peter Singer wrote for Project Syndicate in 2018.Singer said:"The first climate litigation to win a positive decision was Urgenda Foundation v. The State of Netherlands, in which a Dutch court ruled, in 2015, that the government must ensure that the country’s emissions are cut by one quarter within five years. In response, the Dutch government did step up its actions to reduce emissions, but it also appealed the judgment. In October, The Hague Court of Appeals will deliver its verdict on that appeal.Important as Urgenda has been, Juliana v. United States is by far the most significant climate case to date.* * *If we take the view that every person on this planet i…

Evangelicals disappointed in Trump's character

President Trump is perhaps the least demonstrably Christian U.S. president ever. When he and First Lady Melania Trump attended the funeral service for George H. W. Bush on Dec. 5, 2018, they did not recite the Apostle's Creed that was printed in the program. Seated next to them, Barack and Michelle Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton recited the prayer.But how do contemporary Christians perceive him?It can be tricky to pin down what evangelicals think of Trump, in part because it's an impermanent demographic based on self-identification.First, it's important to note the decline in Christian influence in the United States. Many commentators have suggested that Christians are making a kind of "deal" with the man who happens to have gained power, someone who — just perhaps — they otherwise would not have admired.Nina Burleigh wrote for Newsweek on April 16, 2018 that white evangelicals have experienced a sharp demographic decline over the last decade. Burleigh attrib…

Highlights of Bob Woodward's 'Fear: Trump in the White House'

In his book Fear, Bob Woodward's interviews with White House insiders fill in the backstory to many publicly embarrassing moments of the Trump presidency. The title, Fear, refers to Trump's concept of what "real power" is. He also believes, however, that personal rapport matters more than strategy. Thus, Trump acknowledges that China is an "economic aggressor" and President Xi may be "using" President Trump to meet some agenda, but Trump nevertheless feels that he is powerful in this situation insofar as he feels he has a friendship with Xi. According to Steve Bannon, however, Trump did not have any "genuine friends."MilitaryAfghanistanAs the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 were traced to Afghanistan, U.S. policy for the past 17 years has centered on preventing another major terrorist attack from launching from that specific place. U.S. funds were poured into the pockets of Afghan warlords with the idea that they will help fight terrorism even…