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Red Flag

Female veterans struggling to get help with PTSD caused by sexual assaults while in service

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© Preston Gannaway/For The Washington Post
Army veteran Kate Weber is a survivor of military sexual trauma who now spends most of her time doing MST advocacy
Thousands of female veterans are struggling to get health-care treatment and compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs on the grounds that they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by sexual trauma in the military. The veterans and their advocates call it "the second battle" - with a bureaucracy they say is stuck in the past.

Judy Atwood-Bell was just a 19-year-old Army private when she says she was locked inside a barracks room at Fort Devens in Massachusetts, forced to the cold floor and raped by a fellow solider.

For more than two decades, Atwood-Bell fought for an apology and financial compensation from VA for PTSD, with panic attacks, insomnia and severe depression that she recalls started soon after that winter day in 1981. She filled out stacks of forms in triplicate and then filled them out again, pressing over and over for recognition of the harm that was done.

The department labels it "military sexual trauma" (MST), covering any unwanted contact, including sexual innuendo, groping and rape.

A recent VA survey found that 1 in 4 women said they experienced sexual harassment or assault. And the problem is growing more pressing because female veterans represent the military's fastest-growing population, with an estimated 2.2 million, or 10 percent, of the country's veterans. More than 280,000 female veterans have returned home from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Comment: Since the military is practically the apex of a patriarchal social system, it shouldn't be surprising that women are finding great difficulty getting any kind of help coping with sexual assault. The military exists to provide cannon fodder to the elites. They care very little for the fodder's quality of life after leaving, as this article shows, despite what the VA spokespeople say.


Green Light

Missouri residents vote to ban speed cameras; city councilmen sue them

speed camera
It should come as no surprise to most drivers, that speed cameras are not being installed on your roadways to make your life easier (and they are your roadways. Your taxes paid for them). As much as the government would like you to think that they have your best interest at heart, these devices do not make our roads safer. If anything they may make intersections even more dangerous, and they really don't serve any purpose beyond generating revenue for the city and the police department.

One Missouri county has had enough, and decided to hold a referendum to ban the use of red light cameras. The measure passed with 73 percent of voters in support of the ban. However, some elected officials aren't happy with the new bill, and have decided to bypass the will of their voters.

Question

Silly controversy or diversion?: World reacts to 'The Interview' release

Interview poster
© AFP Photo / Christopher Polk
In the wake of a massive cyberattack and diplomatic furor, Sony Pictures has released 'The Interview' online after many cinema's opted not to show the film. The reaction to the irreverent flick has been equal parts critical, funny and even patriotic.

The brazen comedy, revolving around a farcical plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is now available through online video portals like Google's YouTube and Microsoft's Xbox Video.

The film's theatrical release had been bumped up from October to Christmas Day, though last week Sony opted to cancel the film's nationwide premier after movie theater chains said they would not run it because of security concerns.

After all the wait and controversy, reaction to the film has ranged from effusive praise to mockery and everything in between.

Comment: Spy-murders are the common method used by every nation and Hollywood glorified it for decades with James Bond-type movies. This controversy over a $44 million dollar movie looks like a simple diversion to the political wrangling going on over CIA torture, as well as good PR for Sony.


Handcuffs

Saudi women drivers sent to 'terrorism' court: Activists

saudi woman
© AFP Photo/Fayez Nureldine
A Saudi woman gets into a taxi in the city of Riyadh on October 26, 2014, as a online campaign continues to call for an end to the driving ban for women in the country
Two women's rights campaigners detained in Saudi Arabia have been transferred to a special tribunal for "terrorism", activists said on Thursday after the women appeared in court.

The ruling came at a hearing in Al-Ahsa, in the kingdom's Eastern Province, according to the activists who declined to be named.

Loujain Hathloul has been detained since December 1 after she tried to drive into the kingdom from neighbouring United Arab Emirates in defiance of a ban.

Comment:
Women's rights in Saudi Arabia

Women's rights in Saudi Arabia are limited in comparison to many of its neighbors. The World Economic Forum 2013 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Saudi Arabia 127th out of 136 countries for gender parity. All women, regardless of age, are required to have a male guardian. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving. Saudi women constitute 18.6% of the country's native workforce as of 2011.
...
According to the Encyclopedia of Human Rights, two "key" conservative Islamic "concepts" that curtail women's rights in Saudi are
  • sex segregation, justified under the Sharia legal notion of 'shielding from corruption' (dar al-fasaad), and
  • women's alleged 'lack of capacity' (adam al-kifaa'ah) which is the basis of the necessity of a male guardian (mahram) whose permission must be granted for travel, medical procedures, obtaining permits, etc.
"It's the culture, not the religion," is a Saudi saying. At least according to some (Library of Congress) customs of the Arabian peninsula also play a part in women's place in Saudi society. The peninsula is the ancestral home of patriarchal, nomadic tribes, in which separation of women and men and namus (honour) are considered central. Many Saudis do not see Islam as the main impediment to women's rights. According to one female journalist; "If the Quran does not address the subject, then the clerics will err on the side of caution and make it haram (forbidden). The driving ban for women is the best example."Another (Sabria Jawhar) believes that "if all women were given the rights the Quran guarantees us, and not be supplanted by tribal customs, then the issue of whether Saudi women have equal rights would be reduced." Asmaa Al-Muhhamad, editor for Al Arabiya, points out that women in all other Muslim nations, including those in the Gulf area, have far more political power than Saudi women.



Pistol

India imposes curfews in Assam after 63 killed In rebel attack

ATTSA activists
© STRDEL via Getty Images
Activists of the Assam Tea Tribes Student Association (ATTSA) shout slogans as they block the road with burning tyres during a protest against attacks on villagers by militants in four different locations, at Biswanath Chariali in the Sonitpur district of northeastern Assam state on December 24, 2014. At least 56 people including children died in a series of militant attacks in Assam, Indian police said December 24, as rebels from the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) dramat
Hundreds of survivors of a brutal rebel attack that killed at least 63 people in northeastern India sought shelter Wednesday in a church and school while security forces imposed a curfew in a bid to contain the latest bout of ethnic violence.

Long-simmering land and ethnic disputes in Assam state erupted in bloodshed Tuesday when authorities said rebels belonging to a faction of an indigenous separatist group called the National Democratic Front of Bodoland attacked tribal settlers known as Adivasi. Most of the Adivasis, whose ancestors migrated to Assam more than 100 years ago, have worked on tea plantations.

At least 100 people, mostly women and children, sought refuge in a church in Shamukjuli village in Sonitpur district, where 26 of the victims died. Another 200 people ran to a nearby school. The Adivasis are a mix of Hindus and Christians and many had been preparing for Christmas when the attack took place, survivors said.

Comment: Big business exploitation of the land and its poor population is one of the causes of the violence. It will be interesting to see what Modi will do to address the problems of much-neglected remote regions of India.

Assam was also plagued by illegal migrations from neighboring countries like Bangladesh and Bhutan.
Land swap to ensure Assam security: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday announced that his government would utilise the land transfer agreement with Bangladesh in a manner that might seem to be an immediate loss to Assam but serve the security interests of the State in the long term.

Addressing Bharatiya Janata Party workers at the Sarusajai Stadium here, Mr. Modi said his government would utilise the agreement to seal all routes across the international border through which "illegal" Bangladeshi immigrants had been entering Assam and creating havoc in the State.

"There will be no compromise on security," he said. "I know the sentiments of the people. We will always protect the interests of Assam and the country."



Handcuffs

Hystericized society: Greene County, Virginia 4-year-old schoolkid arrested, handcuffed and shackled for being upset in class

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Greene County is buzzing this week over a surprising confrontation at one of its schools. A four-year-old kid with attention deficit disorder caused a ruckus in the pre-K classroom, and when the principal could not restore calm, the local sheriff handcuffed the child and took him away in a squad car.

This story began in mid-October when a child at Nathanael Greene Primary School allegedly threw blocks, climbed over desks, hit, scratched, and kicked the principal and the director of special education. A sheriff's deputy assigned to the schools was summoned, and his boss -- County Sheriff Steven Smith - says the student was handcuffed.

"The boy was out of control, basically, throwing his arms around and kicking-- trying to kick the deputy, trying to run away, and the deputy felt that putting the handcuffs on him was for his safety as well as everybody else's.

The child's mother, Tracy Wood, was notified, arriving at school soon after she got the call.

"When you call a parent to get their child, when they get to the school, you expect the child to be there-- especially when you arrive in a timely manner." Instead, she was met by the principal who said the boy had been transported to the sheriff's office. Wood went right over and found her son's legs in shackles.

Comment: From the Nathanael Greene Primary School website:
"We are committed to building self-esteem, fostering the love of learning, tailoring instruction to meet individual needs, and developing healthy lifestyles. In cooperation with parents and community, staff establishes high expectations for all students and provides a safe, nurturing environment where our students have the opportunity to become productive, knowledgeable, and responsible citizens."
And yet it seems that there was no cooperation with the parent, and no safe, nurturing environment for the child.

Something is very wrong when a place of learning resorts to calling law enforcement because they cannot handle a small, upset child.


Cowboy Hat

US court rules you need to be dumb to be a cop

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Can a person actually be "too smart" to be a cop in America?

A federal court's decision back in 2000 suggests that, yes, you actually can be.

Robert Jordan, a 49-year-old college graduate, scored a 33 on an intelligence test he took as part of the application process to become a police officer in the town of New London, Connecticut. The score meant Jordan had an IQ of 125.

The average score for police officers was a 21-22, or an IQ of 104. New London would only interview candidates who scored between 20 and 27.

Jordan sued the city alleging discrimination, but the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld that it wasn't discrimination. "Why?" you might ask. Because New London Police Department applied the same standard to everyone who applied to be a cop there.

And the theory behind it?

"Those who scored too high could get bored with police work and leave soon after undergoing costly training," ABC News reported back then. While at least acknowledging the basic fact that such a policy might be "unwise," the court deemed it had a "rational basis" because it was put in place to lower cop turnover.

Arrow Up

Walmart forced to raise minimum wage at one-third of stores due to state mandates

walmart
Walmart, America's largest private employer, is being forced to raise its minimum wage payments for workers. The move could improve the lives of roughly one-third of its 1.3 million employees and reduce the burden on the government.

Since 21 states have adopted minimum wage increases either via legislative pressure or ballot initiatives, Walmart must now adjust base salaries at a third of its locations, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters. The memo sent to store managers this month said the wage hikes are due to come into effect on January 1.

Walmart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan told Reuters that the company is making the changes to "ensure our stores in the 21 states comply with the law."

Thirteen states lifted the minimum wage in 2014, up from 10 states in 2013 and eight in 2012. The minimum wage increased 17 percent in South Dakota, to $8.50, and rose two percent in Arizona, to $8.05.

Comment: A recent legislative ruling has forced Walmart to recompense employees for lost wages, and another judge has ruled in favor of employees who were unlawfully intimidated for striking to protest low wages. Hopefully the tide is turning against Walmart's egregious labor policies, it's way past time!


Bomb

Five injured in Christmas Day arson attack on Swedish mosque

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© Reuters / Pontus Stenberg
Firemen work as smoke billows from the windows of a mosque in Eskilstuna December 25, 2014.
An arsonist has set a mosque ablaze in the southeastern Swedish town of Eskilstuna. The Christmas Day attack comes amidst heightened anti-immigration sentiment in the country.

Up to 20 people, including children, were in the mosque at the time of the attack, which occurred in a residential area of the medium-sized town on Thursday.

The fire erupted after 1 p.m. local time, in a prayer room which was housed on the ground floor of a tower block, after an attacker threw an incendiary device through the window. The space was reportedly used by the city's Somali association.

Comment: It is a disgrace to see people channel their anger against innocent people where they should be looking at their own governments for creating these situations where Muslims need to seek asylum in the first place.


Christmas Tree

Christmas in America: Growing poverty, unemployment and homelessness in the world's richest country

There's no way like the American Way
© Margaret Bourke-White
Washington is the grinch that stole Christmas. Bah Humbug defines its agenda.

Unprecedented in modern times. Privileged Americans never had it better. Ordinary ones face lump of coal harshness. Hard times keep getting harder.

Reflected in institutionalized inequality. Growing poverty. High unemployment. Multiples higher than phony Labor Department numbers. An epidemic of underemployment persists.

Jobs paying poverty or sub-poverty wages. With few or no benefits.

Households need two or three to get by.

Growing millions face "one impossible choice after another," according to Poverty USA. "(B)etween food and medicine(s), getting to work or paying the heating bill."

Census data show around half the population living in poverty or bordering it. In the world's richest country.

Affecting nearly 60% of children. America has a higher percent of working poor than any other industrialized country.

Human suffering is real. Neoliberal harshness is official policy. Force-fed austerity reflects it. Social injustice is rife.

Bipartisan complicity supports it. Ordinary people are increasingly on their own out of luck.

America's social contact is targeted for elimination. Disappearing when most needed. Monied interests alone are served.

Inequality is appalling. A race to the bottom persists. Class warfare defines it.

Most working Americans get by from paycheck to paycheck. One missed one away from possible homelessness, hunger and despair.

Inflation adjusted median household income keeps dropping. Americans have less to spend on increasingly more expensive goods and services.

People who eat. Drive cars. Pay rent. Service mortgages. Have medical expenses. Heat and/or air-condition residences.