United States ranks as 3rd worst country in the world for sexual violence against women

A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll of 548 experts focused on women’s issues including aid and development professionals, academics, health workers, policymakers, non-government organisation workers, journalists, and social commentators, finds:

The United States ranked as the 10th most dangerous country for women, the only Western nation to appear in the top 10. The United States shot up in the rankings after tying joint third with Syria when respondents were asked which was the most dangerous country for women in terms of sexual violence including rape, sexual harassment, coercion into sex and the lack of access to justice in rape cases. It was ranked sixth for non-sexual violence. [Continue reading…]

America’s systemic failings

Julian E. Zelizer writes:

The federal government released a devastating report last week documenting the immense economic and human cost that the U.S. will incur as a result of climate change. It warns that the damage to roads alone will add up to $21 billion by the end of the century. In certain parts of the Midwest, farms will produce 75 percent less corn than today, while ocean acidification could result in $230 billion in financial losses. More people will die from extreme temperatures and mosquito-borne diseases. Wildfire seasons will become more frequent and more destructive. Tens of millions of people living near rising oceans will be forced to resettle. The findings put the country on notice, once again, that doing nothing is a recipe for disaster.

Yet odds are that the federal government will, in fact, do nothing. It’s tempting to blame inaction on current political conditions, like having a climate change denier in the White House or intense partisan polarization in Washington. But the unfortunate reality is that American politicians have never been good at dealing with big, long-term problems. Lawmakers have tended to act only when they had no other choice.

It took a brutal Civil War to end slavery. Bankers avoided regulation until the financial system totally collapsed in the early 1930s. Americans saw southern police brutality on their television sets before civil-rights legislation could get through Congress. Widespread dissatisfaction with the health-care system has resulted in only a patchwork solution (the Affordable Care Act). Mass shootings have still not yielded effective gun control. [Continue reading…]

Europe’s Jew hatred, and ours

Bari Weiss writes:

Paris. Toulouse. Malmo. Copenhagen. Brussels. Berlin.

For most people, they are lovely cities where you might happily take a holiday. But for the world’s Jews, they are something else, too. They are place names of hate.

Paris for us doesn’t mean just baguettes and Brie but also this year’s murder of a Holocaust survivor in her apartment in the 11th arrondissement and the 2015 siege of a kosher supermarket during which four people were killed. Toulouse is the place where in 2012 three Jewish children and a teacher were murdered at school.

Malmo doesn’t call to mind the Swedish coast so much as fire bombs planted outside a Jewish burial chapel. Copenhagen? Copenhagen is where a 37-year-old Jewish economist and voluntary security guard was gunned down as he was guarding a bat mitzvah at the city’s main synagogue in 2015. (The notion that synagogues require armed guards has long since stopped making us flinch.)

Brussels is where in 2014 four people were murdered at the Jewish museum. Berlin is a dateline we associate with news of people getting pummeled or harassed, for the sin of wearing a kippah or speaking Hebrew.

And this is to say nothing of the nonviolent attacks, which are impossible to keep up with. The desecration of cemeteries. Swastikas painted on synagogues and schools. Calling Jews “apes and pigs” at anti-Israel rallies.

On Tuesday, a CNN poll about the state of anti-Semitism in Europe startled many Americans — and confirmed what Jews who have been paying attention already knew about the Continent.

Not 74 years since the Holocaust ended, a third of respondents said they knew only a little or nothing at all about it.

The poll, which surveyed more than 7,000 people across Austria, France, Germany, Britain, Hungary, Poland and Sweden, didn’t only discover ignorance. It exposed bigotry. [Continue reading…]

Life expectancy declines in the U.S. but is increasing in most other developed nations

The Washington Post reports:

Life expectancy in the United States declined again in 2017, the government said Thursday in a bleak series of reports that showed a nation still in the grip of escalating drug and suicide crises.

The data continued the longest sustained decline in expected life span at birth in a century, an appalling performance not seen in the United States since 1915 through 1918. That four-year period included World War I and a flu pandemic that killed 675,000 people in the United States and perhaps 50 million worldwide.

Public health and demographic experts reacted with alarm to the release of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual statistics, which are considered a reliable barometer of a society’s health. In most developed nations, life expectancy has marched steadily upward for decades.

“I think this is a very dismal picture of health in the United States,” said Joshua M. Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Life expectancy is improving in many places in the world. It shouldn’t be declining in the United States.” [Continue reading…]

‘Why is Donald Trump so afraid of us?’

Bryan Mealer reports from the migrant caravan:

María Cáceres’s son Javier, who is 15, has Down’s syndrome. He’s a tall, chunky kid, with short dark hair, a missing front tooth, and eyes that are permanently crossed.

María tells me how they fled San Pedro Sula after gang members constantly harassed her family for bribes and “taxes”. When they couldn’t pay, some men burned down their house, then murdered her two brothers. María had just finished burying them when – on 12 October – the caravan formed in the center of town. Traumatized, she left her two other children with relatives and told Javier it was time to go. The two of them joined the exodus with only the clothes on their backs.

The journey has been difficult for Javier, his mother says. In addition to Down’s, he was born with hydrocephalus, a condition where excess fluid collects in the brain. He easily gets dizzy and complains of headaches. Doctors have told María that he needs surgery, but she’s never had the money. He also suffers regular seizures, yet it’s been weeks since they could afford his anticonvulsant meds.

The previous day, Javier collapsed from the heat while walking the highway, and María worries he’ll have a seizure so far from a doctor. She points to his ankles that are swollen from wearing flip-flops, and says the food donated in the camps is making him vomit. He hasn’t been eating, she tells me. “He’s very weak. When he gets tired he just sits down in the road.”

Next to them is Juan Antonio and his six-year-old daughter Lesly, who has severe cerebral palsy. Unable to walk or speak, she’s bound to a stroller that’s too small and showing wear. Her big brown eyes slowly across the room, monitoring the action.

Juan is an aberration in the caravan – a single father traveling with so many women. A soft-spoken man, he hails from the mountains of western Honduras, where he worked in the coffee fields until the crops kept failing and forced his family to the city. In Ocotepeque, he found work as a security guard, but it paid little, and the streets where they lived were ruled by gangs and thieves. “One night they found us,” he says. “When I was at work, a man broke into my apartment and raped my wife.”

Lesly had sat in the room and witnessed the whole thing. For days his wife stayed home and cried. The rapist was a notorious gang member, and Juan knew that he would die trying to avenge her. Instead he called the police, who did nothing. When the man discovered Juan had snitched, there was no choice but to leave – but there was Lesly, who was all but paralyzed since she was two.

He’d recently gotten custody of the girl from her mother, his first wife, after he discovered she wasn’t being cared for properly. So along with his new wife and their one-year old baby, they latched on to the caravan. Lesly didn’t have a wheelchair or even a stroller, so Juan hoisted the long-legged girl in his arms and started walking.

When they reached Mexico several days later, his wife turned around and took their baby home. “It was too difficult for her,” he says. “The lack of food, sleeping on the ground. She went back to her family.” Now it was just him, Lesly, and Juan’s brother who’d joined them. They were trying to join their sister who lives in the United States, yet Juan isn’t sure where. He says this somewhat embarrassed – an admission I’d find common among asylum seekers.

Lesly sits in a stroller that someone had since donated, one of her feet scabbed from getting caught in the wheel. Just then, some kids set off some fireworks outside to celebrate the Día de los Muertos. The explosions send her into spasms. She arches her back and straightens her legs, then opens her mouth and emits a silent scream.

“Loud noises scare her,” Juan says, stroking her hair to calm her.

I look at this group, so fragile and helpless, and think how on Earth are they ever going to make it? [Continue reading…]

‘These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas.’

The Washington Post reports:

A little girl from Honduras stares into the camera, her young features contorted in anguish. She’s barefoot, dusty, and clad only in a diaper and T-shirt. And she’s just had to run from clouds of choking tear gas fired across the border by U.S. agents.

A second photograph, which also circulated widely and rapidly on social media, shows an equally anguished woman frantically trying to drag the same child and a second toddler away from the gas as it spreads.

The three were part of a much larger group, perhaps 70 or 80 men, women and children, pictured in a wider-angle photo fleeing the tear gas. Reuters photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon shot the images, which provoked outrage and seemed at odds with President Trump’s portrayal of the caravan migrants as “criminals” and “gang members.”

Trump officials said that authorities had to respond with force after hundreds of migrants rushed the border near Tijuana on Sunday, some of them throwing “projectiles” at Customs and Border Protection personnel.

The chaos erupted Sunday around the bustling San Ysidro border crossing, which Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said was closed “to ensure public safety in response to large numbers of migrants seeking to enter the U.S. illegally.”

But Democratic leaders, human rights advocates and others focused on the images of the two children in particular. Many pointed to the children left gagging from the gas attack as evidence that Trump’s push against a caravan of asylum seekers from Central America had gone too far.

“Shooting tear gas at children is not who we are as Americans,” tweeted Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “Seeking asylum is not a crime. We must be better than this.”

Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor-elect of California, argued that images of kids sprinting from tear gas run counter to American ideals.

“These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas,” he tweeted. “Women and children who left their lives behind — seeking peace and asylum — were met with violence and fear. That’s not my America. We’re a land of refuge. Of hope. Of freedom. And we will not stand for this.” [Continue reading…]

The chaos behind Trump’s policy of family separation at the border

60 Minutes reports:

This past week, a federal judge struck down the president’s latest immigration order. It’s been a chaotic two years on the border as the administration imposed barriers with little consideration of their legality or consequences. The 2017 ban on travelers from Muslim countries was so abrupt it surprised the officers who had to enforce it. Before the midterm elections, President Trump ordered thousands of troops to Texas to stop what he called “an assault” by a caravan of Central Americans. That caravan is now at the border of California.

But the most tumultuous order of all, was this summer’s separation of children from their parents, which Mr. Trump had to quickly withdraw. Our investigation has found that the separation of families began far earlier and detained many more children than the administration has admitted. [Continue reading…]


How loneliness is tearing America apart

Arthur C. Brooks writes:

America is suffering an epidemic of loneliness.

According to a recent large-scale survey from the health care provider Cigna, most Americans suffer from strong feelings of loneliness and a lack of significance in their relationships. Nearly half say they sometimes or always feel alone or “left out.” Thirteen percent of Americans say that zero people know them well. The survey, which charts social isolation using a common measure known as the U.C.L.A. Loneliness Scale, shows that loneliness is worse in each successive generation.

This problem is at the heart of the new book “Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal,” by Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska. Mr. Sasse argues that “loneliness is killing us,” citing, among other things, the skyrocketing rates of suicide and overdose deaths in America. This year, 45,000 Americans will take their lives, and more than 70,000 will die from drug overdoses.

Mr. Sasse’s assertion that loneliness is killing us takes on even darker significance in the wake of the mail-bomb campaign against critics of President Trump and the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, both of which were perpetrated by isolated — and apparently very lonely — men. Mr. Sasse’s book was published before these events, but he presciently described what he believes lonely people increasingly do to fill the hole of belonging in their lives: They turn to angry politics. [Continue reading…]

You can’t characterize human nature if studies overlook 85 percent of people on Earth

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By only working in their own backyards, what do psychology researchers miss about human behavior?

By Daniel Hruschka, Arizona State University

Over the last century, behavioral researchers have revealed the biases and prejudices that shape how people see the world and the carrots and sticks that influence our daily actions. Their discoveries have filled psychology textbooks and inspired generations of students. They’ve also informed how businesses manage their employees, how educators develop new curricula and how political campaigns persuade and motivate voters.

But a growing body of research has raised concerns that many of these discoveries suffer from severe biases of their own. Specifically, the vast majority of what we know about human psychology and behavior comes from studies conducted with a narrow slice of humanity – college students, middle-class respondents living near universities and highly educated residents of wealthy, industrialized and democratic nations.

Blue countries represent the locations of 93 percent of studies published in Psychological Science in 2017. Dark blue is U.S., blue is Anglophone colonies with a European descent majority, light blue is western Europe. Regions sized by population.

To illustrate the extent of this bias, consider that more than 90 percent of studies recently published in psychological science’s flagship journal come from countries representing less than 15 percent of the world’s population.

If people thought and behaved in basically the same ways worldwide, selective attention to these typical participants would not be a problem. Unfortunately, in those rare cases where researchers have reached out to a broader range of humanity, they frequently find that the “usual suspects” most often included as participants in psychology studies are actually outliers. They stand apart from the vast majority of humanity in things like how they divvy up windfalls with strangers, how they reason about moral dilemmas and how they perceive optical illusions.

Given that these typical participants are often outliers, many scholars now describe them and the findings associated with them using the acronym WEIRD, for Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic.

[Read more…]

The Exhausted Majority needs a break

Sabrina Tavernise reports:

As the country catches its breath after one of the most acrimonious midterm elections in years, it would be easy to conclude that all of America is hopelessly divided — a land where two angry tribes are at each other’s throats and everybody thinks about politics all the time.

But the reality is far less extreme.

A deep new study of the American electorate, “Hidden Tribes,” concludes that two out of three Americans are far more practical than that narrative suggests. Most do not see their lives through a political lens, and when they have political views the views are far less rigid than those of the highly politically engaged, ideologically orthodox tribes.

The study, an effort to understand the forces that drive political polarization, surveyed a representative group of 8,000 Americans. The nonpartisan organization that did it, More in Common, paints a picture of a society that is far more disengaged — and despairing over divisions — than it is divided. At its heart is a vast and often overlooked political middle that feels forgotten in the vitriol, as if the country has gone on without it. It calls that group the Exhausted Majority, a group that represented two-thirds of the survey.

“It feels very lonely out here,” said Jamie McDaniel, a 36-year-old home health care worker in Topeka, Kan., one of several people in the study who was interviewed for this article. “Everybody is so right or left, and you’re just kind of standing there in the middle saying, “What happened?’”

For Ms. McDaniel, who works full time and is raising a young daughter, politics is not a hobby but an obligation to be endured — more dental appointment than ballgame. She does not know her friends’ political persuasions, nor they hers, because it is not part of how they see themselves. Ms. McDaniel voted on Nov. 6, mostly for Democrats, in a church. But in an interview three days later, she said she had not checked to see who won. [Continue reading…]