July 13, 2009
The advice appears in leaflets circulated to parents, teachers and youth workers and is meant to update sex education by telling students about the benefits of enjoyable sex.
The authors of the guidance say that for too long, experts have concentrated on the need for “safe sex” and committed relationships while ignoring the principle reason that many people have sex.
Entitled Pleasure, the leaflet has been drawn up by NHS Sheffield, but it also being circulated outside the city.
The leaflet carries the slogan “an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away”. It also says: “Health promotion experts advocate five portions of fruit and veg a day and 30 minutes’ physical activity three times a week. What about sex or masturbation twice a week?”
Steve Slack, the director of the Centre for HIV and Sexual Health at NHS Sheffield, who is one of the leaflet’s authors, says that instead of promoting teenage sex, it could encourage young people to delay losing their virginity until they are certain they will enjoy the experience.
Mr Slack believes that if teenagers are fully informed about sex and are making their decisions of their own will in a loving relationship, they have an equal right as an adult to an enjoyable sex life.
Anthony Seldon, the headmaster of Wellington College, which recently introduced classes in emotional wellbeing, said the leaflets were “deplorable”.
July 13, 2009
July 13, 2009
Every time I despair of the way women are treated in Muslim countries—and the few syllables Western leaders and op-ed columnists expend on their humiliations, mutilations, harassments, and, yes, murders—I turn to the Web site of Mona Eltahawy. Eltahawy spent her formative years in Egypt and Saudi Arabia:
A couple of years after I stopped visiting, a horrific fire broke out in a school in Mecca, home to the Muslim world’s holiest site. Fifteen girls burned to death because morality police standing outside the school wouldn’t let them out of the burning building. Why? Because they weren’t wearing headscarves and abayas, the black cloaks that girls and women must wear in public in Saudi Arabia.
And here is Eltahawy on a girl’s lot in Egypt:
When I was only four years old and still living in Cairo, a man exposed himself to me as I stood on a balcony at my family’s, and gestured for me to come down. At 15, I was groped as I was performing the rites of the hajj pilgrimage at Mecca, the holiest site for Muslims. Every part of my body was covered except for my face and hands. I’d never been groped before and burst into tears, but I was too ashamed to explain to my family what had happened.
To anyone who, like me, has lived in a Muslim nation, none of this behavior is either singular or surprising. It is the way men in most Islamic nations prefer things to be. We can talk forever about the nature of culture versus faith: how ancient rites and practices like the circumcision of girls (85 percent of all Egyptian girls have endured this procedure), or the tradition of keeping women ignorant and housebound, can corrupt a religion that never intended for these things to happen.
But it is no coincidence that women who must submit to Sharia law find themselves in a very bad place, wherever those women and those places happen to be. This includes France, where only last year a court in Lille upheld the right of a Muslim man to hold fast to his faith and annul his marriage when he discovered his bride was not a virgin. And it includes Germany, where in Berlin in 2005 there were eight murders of young women of Turkish origin, executed by members of their own families. And Australia, where, after a group of unveiled Muslim women were raped, the succinct Mufti Taj al-Din al-Hilali explained away the crime as an attack on “uncovered meat.” And it includes the United Kingdom, where Scotland Yard has probed 109 suspicious deaths of women, also likely slaughtered by relatives. Islam is an easy rider: it travels everywhere and often brings with it a lot of baggage.
Bet let’s start with Islam as it affects women in their home countries. Last year, in a poll of 2,000 Egyptian men, 62 percent admitted harassing women: an activity most of those interviewed insisted was not really their fault as their advances, however intemperate and offensive to their victims, had after all been provoked by the women themselves.
July 13, 2009
July 13, 2009
In February 13, 2006, in a grove of trees behind a suburban rail station fifteen miles south of Paris, a 23-year-old French Jew of Moroccan descent named Ilan Halimi was found tied to a tree, barely alive. Kidnappers had left him there naked, handcuffed, hooded, and gagged, after having cut off pieces of his fingers and his ears, stabbed him repeatedly, and burned much of his body. He died before reaching a hospital. The police soon arrested more than twenty youths belonging to a gang called “the Barbarians,” led by a 25-year-old Muslim immigrant from the Ivory Coast named Youssouf Fofana. They had targeted Halimi, and demanded a ransom of over $600,000 (which his family found impossible to raise), because of a vague belief that all Jews are rich. In the time since his arrest, Fofana has shown no remorse and has adopted the language of Islamic extremism. On trial in April of this year, he declared that “Allah will be victorious,” and gave his name as “African Barbarian Army Revolt Salafist” (Salafism is a strain of Islamic thought grounded in a literal interpretation of the Koran).
To those who see the story of French Jewry as predominantly tragic, the killing of Ilan Halimi foreshadows a dark new chapter. They note that it is only the most horrific of hundreds of anti-Semitic incidents and attacks that have taken place in France over the past decade, ranging from simple vandalism and graffiti to the attempted destruction of synagogues to murder. France, they argue, is fundamentally unsafe for Jews. Michel Gurfinkiel, editor of the conservative magazine Valeurs Actuelles, recently claimed that “things are getting worse and worse” for French Jews, and that “we are witnessing a terrifying chain of events.”
Ironically, these events have taken place just when anti-Semitism among French Christians has declined to its lowest point in modern history. As the sociologist Michel Wieviorka has observed, opinion polls repeatedly show less hostility to Jews in France than at any time in the past, and less than in most other European countries. While the aged Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the xenophobic Front National, continues to engage in deliberate provocations vis-à-vis Jews (most recently calling the Nazi occupation of France “not especially inhumane”), his party generally devotes much less attention to them than to France’s rapidly expanding Muslim population. And with the election of Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, the most philo-Semitic government in French history came to power. Sarkozy himself has one-quarter Jewish ancestry, and a Jewish daughter-in-law. He has improved France’s legendarily troubled relations with Israel, and repeatedly expressed admiration for France’s Jewish community. He has also gone further than any other French leader in expressing repentance for Vichy France’s persecution of the Jews during World War II. In 2008 he even suggested that all French schoolchildren learn the story of—and each “adopt” one of—the 11,000 French Jewish children deported by Vichy to the death camps.
Given this context, it is tempting to see little connection between the new anti-Semitic violence and the long-term history of French Jewry. Perhaps acts such as the killing of Ilan Halimi reflect nothing more than the rage of young, underprivileged, frustrated, and misguided Muslims all over Europe. Significantly, the violence seems motivated less by resentment of French Jews, than by anger at Israel. The number of incidents spiked dramatically during the intifadas, again with the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and yet again this past winter with the invasion of Gaza. Given that France has both the largest Muslim and the largest Jewish populations in Europe (5 to 6 million Muslims and 600,000 Jews), the recent violence may represent what Michel Gurfinkiel calls an “importation of the Palestinian conflict into France.”
July 13, 2009
July 13, 2009
Barack Hussein Obama is making that face again, the one we have all grown rather used to since November 2008. The deal is clinched. The smile is broad and the tiny grey hairs behind his ears are becoming suggestive of the Nelson Mandela coiffure which you can be certain he is aiming for in the long-term. Today Obama is shaking hands with Dmitri Medvedev in Moscow, but the Russian’s face is pulled into an awkward grin, with one cheek pulled a lot higher than the other. It looks almost like a sneer. I find this rather amusing, because if Obama was just a nobody interested in a bit of tourism I would have discouraged him from ever going to Russia.
I had heard rumours about Russian racism: Anti-Semitic slurs graphed onto Synagogue walls, Caucasian immigrants being taunted or attacked as the violence in Chechnya spilled over onto the backstreets of Moscow, foreign students from the third-world subjected to beatings and harassment, and other cruel symbols, revealed by the collapse of “the homeland of Socialism”, of popular attitudes towards race comparable to 1930s France or even 1980s White South Africa. Then there are the statistics: The SOVA Centre, one of Russia’s last functioning human rights centres, estimates that in 2008 over 70 people were killed and more than 260 injured as a result of racially-motivated attacks. But it was only when I started to meet black Russians that I began to understand what it was like to live a life of globalisation gone wrong.
The “Chocolate man,” as he is known by those who pass him daily on Nevsky Prospekt, stands outside the Chocolate Museum in St. Petersburg. I had only been in Russia for a few days when I spotted this Senegalese man decked out in a white wig and a pale 18th century court costume. Under the wig was Jacques. “I hate being a chocolate man. Believe me. It’s degrading. Humiliating. But I ran out of money when studying dentistry here, and my country cannot repatriate me. You’d be a chocolate man if you were in my situation.” His eyes were thick with red micro-veins. After work he puts on his own clothes, rags of the worst imaginable quality. Then he distributes flyers for an R’ and B’ club outside a metro-station. “Most people take the leaflet, but every hour I’ll hear a racist jibe. ‘Nigger,’ usually.” Stuck in Russia with only hideously expensive flights home, Jacques and other black Russians are trapped.
I met Samba when studying at the State University of St. Petersburg in the summer of 2006. We were both eighteen. Samba had been there for a year already, so he showed me the ropes: which far-right students to avoid when they dribbled home late from the vodka bars, how to reach the sealed-off rooftop of the crumbling Khrushchev-era tower-block without falling off. When he learned I was Jewish, he become more sympathetic: “The Russians hate us Blacks, but you Jews are rubbish like us here.”
But Samba wasn’t free from prejudice himself: “Is it true Jews control America? Can you take me there then?”…
We have a lot to worry about these days. We’re worried that we may lose our jobs, that we may lose our healthcare insurance and that we won’t have sufficient retirement savings. We realize that without jobs we can’t make our mortgage payments; we know that our homes have dropped in value resulting in little or no equity, so we can’t afford to stay in or sell our homes.
In California there is one lucky group that doesn’t have those worries: state and local government retirees.
As of May, 2008, there were 4,820 CalPERS retirees receiving annual pensions in excess of $100,000. That didn’t include government retirees in 80 other plans in California—judges, UC, STRS, charter cities, and 1937 Act counties. About half of these retirees were public safety workers: cops, firefighters, prison guards. The remaining half includes former city managers, assistant managers, county executives, district attorneys, engineers, finance officers, personnel directors, computer scientists, and physicists.
Since May 2008, more than 120 new retirees have joined the “$100,000 Club” – each month – every month. That’s been going on for the last 12 months – more than 1,500 have joined that well-paid retirement group ; this rate of increase will accelerate as droves of retired public safety workers who are now in the $90,000 to $100,000 range receive annual cost of living increases.
List of pension recipients can be found here (site reports and documents 5115 $100,000 plus pensions).
July 13, 2009