Jack Diehl

Female Genital Mutilation in the UK

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News of Note: Medics Offered Genital Mutilation, Report Says

As many as 100,000 women in Britain may have been mutilated in the name of culture and religion, a report claims.

Refuges from other countries, particularly from Africa, perpetuate this “procedure” illegally, while practitioners charge more than $1000 to have the clitoris cut and the wound and vagina stitched.

It’s hard to think of anything that better exemplifies the depth of our world’s sexual repression than the serial genital mutilation practiced all over our planet.

There is absolutely no excuse for this practice, and I can only hope that any culture or religion that embraces such immorality is adequately and rapidly purged from this planet. Global sexual freedom activists unite!

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Afghan schoolgirls poisoned in anti-education attack

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News of Note: Afghan schoolgirls poisoned in anti-education attack

Conservative radicals are suspects in the recent poisoning of about 150 Afghan high school girls who drank contaminated water at their high school, and other similar attacks on female students, teachers, and their buildings.

It may be hard to believe that anyone would literally poison school girls to discourage them (and all girls and women) from having an education, but this type of violence is all too common. These conservative groups have forced women to live in constant fear of physical harm, even acid throwing for something as simple as attending school.

I believe it is necessary to identify these violent and sexist teachings, and to actively speak out against them, irrespective of any religious connections. What else can be done to expunge these deeply sexist ideologies?

Anti-gay adverts pulled from bus campaign in London

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News of Note: Anti-gay adverts pulled from bus campaign by Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, has stopped a Christian advertising campaign by the “christian” group Core Issues Trust that promotes the idea that gay people can be converted to heterosexuality and whose leader, Mike Davidson, said “homoerotic behavior is sinful” and that “reparative therapy” will help queer people  “develop their heterosexual potential.”

In the US,  reparative therapy has been deemed “junk science” by the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association. And, this month, California is introducing a bill that would outlaw it for all children and require those over 18 must sign a severe consent form to obtain it.

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t have a shortage of hate groups like Core Issues Trust and PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays) and they are clearly not limited to the United States.

As always, we need to identify and label religiously-motivated discrimination and not let it masquerade as anything else.

Creative Commons image by: Jon Bennett

Maryland Legislature to Employers: Hands Off Facebook Passwords

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News of Note: Maryland Legislature to Employers: Hands Off Facebook Passwords

The state of Maryland just passed the first bill in the nation that bans employers from asking for the social media passwords of job applicants and employees.

Maryland should be congratulated for not only standing up for online privacy, but privacy in general. Logging into someone’s private Facebook account can easily be compared to reading their mail, and may be even more intrusive. I’m very happy to see Maryland taking the first step and hope that this is the beginning of a positive trend.

Facebook privacy protection law shot down by Congress

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News of Note: Facebook privacy protection law shot down by Congress

The US House of Representatives has shot down proposals which would have prevented businesses from collecting Facebook log on credentials as part of their employee vetting procedures.

The law had been proposed by Colorado representative Daniel Perlmutter.

Perimutter suggested that the proposals would have given an important measure of privacy to end users.

“No American should have to provide their confidential personal passwords as a condition of employment,” Perlmutter said.

“Both users of social media and those who correspond share the expectation of privacy in their personal communications.”

We can’t expect job seeker’s private lives to meet the same neutral and public-friendly image that businesses try to maintain within the public sphere. Honesty and authenticity are endearing human traits yet these businesses are not concerned with living truthful lives. When you exist for profit it is both unfair and hypocritical to impose that lifestyle on those that depend on you for survival.

While mega-corporations (looking at you Google) continue to combine every strength the internet has to offer into one all-encompassing hub, culture is being condensed. With the judging eyes of our peers (and employers) sharpening focus everyday, will humanity become less progressive, even mundane?

Creative Commons image by: BlakJakDavy

Censorship in Egypt: From online porn to hugging on television

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News of Note: Intimate scenes to be banned from Egyptian public TV

(AGI) Cairo – A group of Islamic supervisors of the Egyptian Public Broadcaster will be in charge of removing ‘immoral ‘ footage from films the network has in its archives. The ban will apply to scenes featuring hugging, kissing and belly dancing. As reported by the daily Kuwait al-Anba, which quotes sources from inside the Network, such a decision could bring about either the removal of important scenes from movies that are an integral part of Egypt’s cinema or their complete ban from any TV programming.

Anyone that bans hugging from television really needs to get their priorities straight. I didn’t even realize it was possible for a culture to be so sex-phobic that they would consider the most rudimentary forms of human touching “immoral.”

While slightly less shocking (yet still completely counterproductive), the fate of online Pornography in Egypt is also looking grim.

When are people going to realize that a society thrives when people are free? Telling someone that they cannot do something they enjoy does not deter them from doing it, just look at any form of prohibition, or abstinence only education, it just doesn’t work.

I get it, they’re censoring sex because their religious views shun human sexuality, but that’s unacceptable in a free world. Simply put: Intimacy (hugging included) is an inherent need for all human beings and it is disgusting and embarrassing to see countries on this earth treating themselves this way. What is it going to take for all of us to acknowledge and accept sexuality as an essential part of everyday life?

Christian Groups Take Issue With Anti-Bullying Laws

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News of Note: Christian Groups Take Issue With Anti-Bullying Laws

Focus on the Family is planning to counter the “Day of Silence,” an annual event to protest LGBT bullying set for April 20, with its own “Day of Dialogue”. The evangelical organization’s aim is to muffle an effort that “crosses the line in a lot of ways beyond bullying into indoctrination, just promoting homosexuality and transgenderism.”

The group has been advocating an anti-anti-bullying message for years. When a California school adopted an anti-bullying rule that mentioned gays and lesbians in 2010, backlash ensued.

“The school introduced anti-bullying lessons, but really they’re teaching elementary school kids about gay marriage,” Candi Cushman, education analyst for Focus on the Family, told ABC. “We think parents should have the right to teach kids about it in their own way.”

Hate groups like Focus on the Family, including Family Research Council (FRC) and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), have a sickness, a disease that continues to infect American schools, politics, and public opinion. They offer nothing more than religiously motivated intolerance and hate. How are such poisonous and miserable ideas able to spread? How and why are they able to relentlessly pursue the condemnation of their fellow Americans, even themselves?

As religious fundamentalists try to drag America back into the dark ages, they are only delaying the inevitable. Truth and reason can not be stopped. I feel some satisfaction knowing that these kids probably have internet access, that somehow they will learn that human sexuality is natural, inherent, and wonderful. While Focus on the Family tries to chain our future generations to the church, through sexual repression and self loathing, their religion will be inevitably remembered for what it is, a disease.

Creative Commons Image by: jglsongs

Arizona bill declares women pregnant two weeks before conception

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News of Note: Arizona bill declares women pregnant two weeks before conception

A new bill up for vote in the state of Arizona would ban abortions for some expectant mothers, but that’s only the start of what lawmakers have in store. If the legislation passes, the state will consider a child to exist even before conception.

Under Arizona’s H.B. 2036, the state would recognize the start of the unborn child’s life to be the first day of its mother’s last menstrual period. The legislation is being proposed so that lawmakers can outlaw abortions on fetuses past the age of 20-weeks, but the verbiage its authors use to construct a time cycle for the baby would mean that the start of the child’s life could very well occur up to two weeks before the mother and father even ponder procreating.

On page eight of the proposed amendment to H.B. 2036, lawmakers lay out the “gestational age” of the child to be “calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period of the pregnant woman,” and from there, outlaws abortion “if the probable gestational age of [the] unborn child has been determined to be at least twenty weeks.”

Conception before a couple even decides to have sex? You can’t declare something has happened before it has happened, much less make that into a law.

I’m getting really tired of seeing these religiously founded ideologies masquerading as unbiased ethical issues. If you think an embryo, zygote, or fetus should have the same rights as yourself, whatever your rationale, it’s subjective and should have absolutely no place in the law books. Punishing non-religious women because you believe their embryos have souls is unfair, unfounded, and intrusive. When are we going to pass some laws that identify and prevent religiously motivated legislature from even making it this far?

Creative Commons image by: Craig Larsen

Anonymous hacks Chinese websites

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News of Note: Anonymous hacks Chinese websites

Messages by the international hacking group Anonymous went up on a number of Chinese government websites on Thursday to protest internet restrictions.

On a Twitter account established in late March, Anonymous China listed the websites it said it had hacked over the last several days. They included government bureaus in several Chinese cities, including in Chengdu, a provincial capital in southwest China.

Some of the sites were still blocked on Thursday, with English-language messages shown on how to circumvent government restrictions. In a message left on one of the hacked Chinese sites, cdcbd.gov.cn, a home page for Chengdu’s business district, the hackers expressed anger with the Chinese government for restrictions placed on the internet.

“Dear Chinese government, you are not infallible, today websites are hacked, tomorrow it will be your vile regime that will fall,” the message read. “So expect us because we do not forgive, never. What you are doing today to your Great People, tomorrow will be inflicted to you,” one of the messages read.

Fighting government censorship by telling the Chinese public how to circumvent their internet firewall, well done Anonymous! It’s worth mentioning that while the article says the hacks were only done in English, that isn’t completely the case. As you can see here, the messages were also displayed in Chinese.

With governments and copyright holders struggling to prolong their grasp on public information, we must continue to fight an endless stream of SOPA-esque (Stop Online Piracy Act) bills. This is just another example of how connectivity and access to information is gradually moving our whole planet towards a more liberated and honest future. Are you ready for a world without barriers?

UK Surveillance: New powers to record every phone call and email

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News of Note: New powers to record every phone call and email makes surveillance ’60m times worse’

The proposals, to be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech, will see a huge expansion in the amount of data communication providers are required to keep for at least a year.

It will allow the police and intelligence officers to monitor who someone is in contact with or websites they visit, although the content of such communications will not be accessed.

Mr Davis said: “What this does is make (existing problems) 60 million times worse. The simple truth is that this is not necessary. What’s proposed here is completely unfettered access to every single communication you make.

England is fairly notorious for mass surveillance and unlike the American Patriot Act, they’re hardly trying to slip this in the back door.

We are literally moving into the dystopian future of our worst nightmares, where all of our private emails, phone calls, and internet activity is recorded and available to law enforcement. Not only is this a monumental loss of privacy, think of how much raw power this turns over to the government.

The motivations for increased surveillance of otherwise law-abiding citizens may have begun because of increased terrorism but when government uses that as the only excuse to watch everything you do it annihilates freedom, a too heavy price to pay.

Creative Commons image by: jonathan mcintosh