Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Typhoon Trami: Taiwan on guard as storm builds to super typhoon strength

Taiwan is preparing for the impact of Typhoon Trami, which could be among the strongest storms of the year by the time it hits the island later this week.

As of Monday morning, the storm was still building in strength in the western Pacific near the Philippines and due to reach super typhoon size before the end of the day.

It's expected to hit Taiwan Friday or Saturday at a strength equivalent to a Category 4 or 5 hurricane with winds of up to 270 kilometers per hour (168 mph).

"Trami is currently strengthening and looks to be a super typhoon within the next 12 hours," CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said. "The storm is forecast to continue to move towards the west-northwest and take a turn towards the north -- the timing of the turn is still uncertain since that is a few days out."

Current forecasts suggest the typhoon will affect northern and central Taiwan, as well as Japan's Ryukyu Islands.

Trami's arrival in the western Pacific comes around a week after Super Typhoon Mangkhut wreaked devastation across the northern Philippines and slammed into Hong Kong and southern China.

More than 100 people were killed by the storm in the Philippines, while trees were downed and windows smashed across Hong Kong, as the city struggled to cope with its strongest storm on record, despite huge amounts of money being spent to make it largely typhoon proof.

(Source: CNN)

Sex offenders’ registry in India launched with 4.4 lakh entries

The first-of-its-kind national sex offenders’ registry launched on Thursday has names and details of some 4.4 lakh people convicted for various sexual offences across the country.

The database is for those convicted for sexual offences 2005 onwards. It includes name, address, photograph and fingerprint details of the convict. A Home Ministry statement said the database would not compromise any individual’s privacy.

Protests against rape cases. File  

Following suit
India became the ninth country in the world to have a National Database on Sexual Offenders (NDSO), accessible only to law enforcement agencies for the purpose of “investigation and monitoring”. The proposal to set up a registry was mooted by the UPA government after the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape case in New Delhi.

The database will be maintained by the National Crime Records Bureau, that will also track whether the State police were updating the records on time. The database will include offenders convicted under charges of rape, gang rape, Protection of Children from Sexual Offenders Act (POCSO) and eve teasing.

While launching the database, Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi expressed concern over sexual assaults in children’s shelter homes and increasing incidents of NRI grooms abandoning their brides.

The Minister asked the police force to keep a close watch on such crimes and the arrest of culprits.

She also raised the issue of States not responding to a letter sent by her ministry for procurement specially-designed forensic kits that would help in tamper-proof collection of evidence leading to better conviction in such crimes.

Responding to Ms. Gandhi, Joint Secretary of the Home Ministry Punya Salila Srivastava said as many as 79 lakh rape kits were in the process of procurement and distribution across the country.

“In Muzaffarpur in Bihar, the head of a shelter home allegedly sexually assaulted several children, but he was not arrested immediately. There was a tunnel from the shelter home to his residence. That means the crimes must have taken place in his residence. I appeal to all DGPs to keep a close eye on all shelter homes,” she said.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was present, launched another portal, cybercrime.gov.in, that will receive complaints from citizens on objectionable online content related to child pornography, child sexual abuse material, and sexually explicit material such as rape and gang rape.

Track complaints
“This will not only aid the victims/complainants but also help the civil society organisations and responsible citizens to anonymously report such complaints …The complaints registered through this portal will be handled by police authorities of respective State/UTs. There are other features, such as a victim or complainant can track his/her report by opting for ‘report and track’ option using his/her mobile number,” the statement said.

(Source: The Hindu)

From Bollywood to the great Indian middle class: Why does caste continue to be erased

Prodded by a Marathi friend, I finally watched Sairat while studiously avoiding Dhadak which, as I understand from reviews, elided the question of caste as neatly as the gyrating of hips integral to every Bollywood song and dance routine. It was quite bemusing to note that some people actually expected nuanced social commentary from a Karan Johar-produced, star kid launch vehicle.

Even though I have little patience for naach gaana, I thoroughly enjoyed Sairat, a thought-provoking movie which is subversive in a very smart way. Aside from putting caste front and centre of the plot, the characters and its punch-in-the-gut ending are radical elements that are woven seamlessly into its narrative including the strong, outspoken female lead who doesn’t need to be saved, the disabled friend who, in my opinion, had the most touching scene in this three-hour intelligent drama fest, and the non-glorification of poverty. Radical because in mainstream movies these aspects are rarely portrayed in a thoughtful manner without degenerating into tokenism or a crude attempt to grab awards and critical acclaim.

The movie got me thinking about this curious fact that while mainstream Bollywood has often featured love stories highlighting the Hindu-Muslim divide, caste has rarely got the same treatment. The former has featured A-listers in films such as Raanjhanaa, Gadar, Veer Zara, Ishqiya, Bombay, Jodha Akbar, My Name is Khan, Ek Tha Tiger. Now, religion may not have been critical to the plot in all of those movies but the fact that such movies exist without anyone batting an eyelid, especially those with happy endings in a world where love jihad is apparently a real problem, could be a minor cause for pop culture celebration.


No such love is given to caste though. Aside from a few arthouse movies like Ankur and a Saif Ali Khan hamming about reservations in Aarakshan, Bollywood has rarely bothered with the caste question, preferring to ignore it just like it evades plausible character arcs and logical plots.

Convenient Caste-Blindness
One of the reasons I could think of for this wilful oversight is that people find it easy to acknowledge religious differences unlike caste which is an issue that most middle and upper class Indians would rather sweep under the carpet and purport to be blind to it while practising it in several insidious ways. This myth of a post-caste society is propagated by even supposedly progressive intellectuals like Shashi Tharoor.

One need only dip the smallest toe in any online discussion on caste to realise that bhakt and urban naxal epithets aside, people get supremely touchy when accused of being casteist. The othering of Muslims is acceptable, even encouraged but caste throws a spanner in the works of a united Hindu front (Project Akhand Bharat these days) and indirectly proves that Hinduism is less a religion and more a system of segregation.

Even for millennials who like to think of themselves as socially liberal proved in part by their token Muslim and Dalit friend, consumption of content generated by “woke” outlets like Humans of Hindutva and AIB, and championing of #MeToo on social media, get defensive on the subject of caste privilege and their complicity in it, willful or not. It is why they can get away with condemning the Dalit protests after the violence in Bhima Koregaon and pass it off as ‘riots’. For them, caste annihilation has already happened in the cities – the Indian version of “I don’t see colour”. Can we then expect any better from our movies that have only recently started to feature gay men as more than a crude, deplorable, effeminate joke?

Poverty and Tribal People Don’t Sell
Then there’s the fact that caste is dehumanising in so many ways and most people avoid grappling with its implications, forget engaging with it sensitively. Bollywood would rather show poverty in a palatable manner in its poor-rich love stories. But caste demands acknowledgement of its inherent ugliness and gratuitous violence – an indictment of our society’s gross inequalities and hypocrisies.

Deepak in Masaan works in cremation ghats, Parshya in Sairat is from the fishing community, they don’t live in cutesy, idyllic homes where the dirt and poverty of their slums or villages is noble and incidental, hovering sheepishly in the background. Their work, their locations, their communities are integral to who they are and how it shapes them. Bollywood understands that ugly doesn’t translate well on big screens in multiplexes, unless one is gunning for Oscars glory which likes its occasional, apposite dosage of poverty porn.

Mainstream representation of adivasis and tribal groups from North-East India is even worse. Since they look different and are perceived as “backward”, they are subjected to the worst kinds of stereotyping (if featured at all), relegated to blink-and-miss roles, and their voices and cultures blatantly appropriated without much backlash from mainstream media and mainland liberals. This is why a Priyanka Chopra can gleefully play Mary Kom and a Shahid Kapoor has no compunctions accepting the role of Dingko Singh.


Bollywood is savarna-dominated – the characters are mostly savarnas, the mass audience may be filled with DBAs but the elites that it caters to are savarnas. In a certain sense, Bollywood is merely a heightened, diegetic reflection of our society. It is why our movies rarely reflect caste realities, why we have such uninformed, antipathetic discourses on reservations, and why endogamy in this country is so normalised that no one even talks about it. Somehow we have brought into the narrative favoured by Hindutva ideologues that caste doesn’t matter at the same time as our obsession with the neo-liberal shibboleth of individual excellence against all odds has reached a fever pitch. How can then, we ask, caste be a differentiator?

For Bollywood, it’s much easier to do a rich girl-poor boy narrative and show how love conquers all, or at least peddle that liberal fantasy in the case of Hindu-Muslim couples. But even in modern day India’s silver screen, love is subservient to caste barriers and so, caste continues to be erased and invisibilised.

(Source: FII)

The Brett Kavanaugh case shows we still blame women for the sins of men

From Anita Hill to the victims of Cosby and Weinstein, women are disbelieved, powerful men excused. When will we learn? asks Rebecca Solnit, the author of Men Explain Things to Me, and The Mother of All Questions, in The Guardian. Read on: 

We have been here before. We have been here over and over in an endless, Groundhog Day loop about how rape and sexual abuse happen: offering the same explanations, hearing the same kind of stories from wave after wave of survivors, hearing the same excuses and refusals to comprehend from people who are not so sure that women are endowed with inalienable rights and matter as much as men – or, categorically, have as much credibility. We are, with the case of Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s nominee for the US supreme court, who has been accused of sexual assault, revisiting ground worn down from years of pacing. Kavanaugh denies Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that he forcibly held her down and assaulted her when both were at high school. We have only the accounts of the participants, and these, it seems, will always contradict each other. The allegation and the denial put us back in a familiar scenario.

The last five years have been an exhaustive and exhausting crash course in how abusers and rapists (and attempted rapists) and their victims behave, and how they are perceived and treated, but the learning curve of the wilfully oblivious resembles the period at the end of this sentence.

 We know that there is virtually nothing that a straight white man can do to discredit himself
We know why victims don’t report rapes. We know that a minority of rapes are reported; and of those, a small percentage result in arrests; and of those arrests, a small percentage result in prosecutions. Only a very small percentage result in convictions and sentences. We know that the woman who accused the basketball player Kobe Bryant of rape years ago received death threats and extensive character assassination, as did some of Judge Roy Moore’s accusers, one of whom had her house burned down after she spoke up.

 Illustration: Matt Kenyon
We know that women have been portrayed, ever since Eve offered Adam an apple, as temptresses, more responsible for men’s acts than men themselves are, and that various religions still inculcate this view, and in recent times various judges and journalists have acceded to it, even blaming female children for “seducing” their adult abuser.

We know that we – well, some of us – are just beginning to emerge from an era of women being routinely discredited, shamed, blamed, and disbelieved when they speak up about sexual assault. We are, of course, seeing it again with Professor Ford. Her credibility and character were being preemptively attacked even before we knew who she was; she was promptly doxxed when the Washington Post revealed her identity. We know why the more than 60 women who say Bill Cosby sexually assaulted them, from the 1960s through recent years, mostly didn’t speak up before 2014, and how those who did were disbelieved and punished while Cosby’s career sailed on. We know why Harvey Weinstein’s alleged victims didn’t speak up, and how a whole apparatus existed – of threats, lawyers, spies – to keep them silent. We know that the teenage victims of the gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar who spoke up were, for the most part, not believed by the school, by the police or even by their parents. We know that a groundswell of feminism made it possible for many women to be heard for the first time, starting last October with the cataclysm of testimony we call #MeToo. Why should we now expect an ordinary schoolgirl to have succeeded where Olympic athletes and Hollywood actors failed to get a hearing or justice?

We have seen this all before. We saw it 27 years ago with the discrediting and harassment of Anita Hill. Hill was called “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty” for testifying against the supreme court nominee Clarence Thomas, and that one of the ways she was smeared was as a fantasist: “Do you think it a possibility that Professor Hill imagined or fantasised Judge Thomas saying those things she has charged him with?” said Senator Arlen Specter. “Her story’s too contrived. It’s so slick it doesn’t compute,” said Senator Orrin Hatch, blaming her for being coherent, as he would have undoubtedly done for being incoherent, and then he offered some truly loopy reasons why he thought she fabricated her reluctantly told tale. Some of the same people – notably Hatch – are now gearing up to attack Ford.

We know that the worst things that happen to us can be among the most indelible, so the argument that the accuser can’t possibly remember events from the early 1980s doesn’t hold up. In the late 1990s, I knew a Marine lieutenant colonel who was haunted by the civilian he had, under direct orders from a general, shot during the Korean war more than 40 years before, in circumstances he described in detail to me. A few years ago, a woman in her 60s, moved by the feminist conversation we’re having now, wrote to me in detail of her rape in the 1960s – the first time she had unpacked the trauma she couldn’t escape.

I asked David J Morris, the Marine corps veteran and author of The Evil Hours, a powerful book on PTSD, about trauma and memory, and he replied: “Most men have no idea how truly traumatic sexual assault is. The science on the subject is pretty clear: according to the New England Journal of Medicine, rape is about four times more likely to result in diagnosable PTSD than combat. Think about that for a moment – being raped is four times more psychologically disturbing than going off to a war and being shot at and blown up. And because there are currently no enduring cultural narratives that allow women to look upon their survival as somehow heroic or honorable, the potential for enduring damage is even greater. A traumatic event like the one Christine Blasey Ford is alleging fractures the self, destroys one’s sense of time and place in the universe and generally changes a person completely. It is literally an encounter with death. To suggest that she wouldn’t remember it flies in the face of reason. No sane person would suggest that someone wouldn’t remember the time they were in an airplane crash. From a neuroscientific standpoint, being raped is more traumatic than war, not to mention plane crashes.” Ford reports fearing she might be killed in the conflict.

We know that as a society we hold people responsible for “youthful indiscretions”. The same Republican politicians who have been trying to dismiss an allegation of sexual assault against Kavanaugh as boys-will-be-boys stuff support a president who, in 1989, placed full-page ads in four newspapers calling for the death penalty for the five non-white boys – two of them 15, one 14 – falsely convicted of the 1989 Central Park jogger rape and beating. (Donald Trump even asserted they were guilty in 2016, long after their exoneration.) We treat many juveniles accused of crimes as adults, sentence some to life without parole, and saddle them with felony convictions and/or put them on registers of sex offenders for life. We do not excuse them for being drunk or high. The infamous Stanford rapist Brock Turner was 19 when he was arrested for felony sexual assault, banned from the Stanford campus, and given a six-month sentence and a lifetime on the sex offenders registry.

We know that too many men are full of empathy – for perpetrators, not victims – when stories such as Kavanaugh’s emerge, and that apparently they cannot imagine what it is like to be a woman who has been assaulted, because they’ve never tried. We know that Kavanaugh is not facing punishment for a crime, just consideration of whether he deserves not only a reward but power over the lives of all Americans. This week in the Atlantic, the writer Caitlin Flanagan told of her own near-rape. It was an exceptional story – in that the perpetrator approached her to apologise wholeheartedly when they were both still young. Her story was about an incident in the late 1970s that she remembers with painful clarity – and she says that she believes Professor Ford. I believe in redemption and forgiveness – as things that must come after atonement and transformation.

We know who lies about rape, routinely, regularly: rapists. Criminals tend to deny their crimes. Which doesn’t mean everyone accused is guilty, only that claiming innocence is a habit of the innocent and guilty alike, so it doesn’t tell us much. We know that, on the other hand, false rape accusations are extremely rare (and that they are often lurid stories about recent events, not about a fumbling attempt decades ago). We know this witness was reluctant to come forward and that she was essentially forced out by the journalists pursuing her after details of her letter emerged. We know multiple people vouch that she told the story long before Kavanaugh’s nomination.

We know there is virtually nothing a straight white man can do to discredit himself, especially if he has elevated status. We routinely see plagiarists, domestic violence perpetrators, liars, thieves, inappropriate masturbators, gropers, and incompetent men put forward as reliable sources and respectable citizens. Ken Starr took sexual assault very seriously when he let the Whitewater investigation into Bill Clinton veer over into Clinton’s sexual misconduct. Yet he overlooked sexual assault when, as president of Baylor University, he was responsible for protecting female students. In 2016 the university fired him after an independent report showed a “fundamental failure” to respond to student sexual assault allegations. Now, on Kavanaugh, Starr is treated as a credible source. He told a news site: “I’ve known him since 1994. I’ve worked alongside him – this is so wildly out of character.”

We’ve heard men testify like this before – for example, in 2011, Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s pal Bernard-Henri Lévy asserted, “the Strauss-Kahn I know, who has been my friend for 20 years and who will remain my friend, bears no resemblance to this monster” his victim described. Other women came forward to report being sexually assaulted by the monster Lévy had not met. We have been here before.

We are going to go there again, when the case goes to a Senate hearing. Let us proceed to that drama with what we have learned.

Mom’s illustrations perfectly capture the ‘crazy parenting roller coaster’

Helen Weston’s irreverent drawings get real about motherhood.

As the mother of a 4-year-old girl, Helene Weston is all too familiar with the trials and tribulations of parenting.

When she’s not working her part-time marketing job at a children’s clothing company, the British mom enjoys illustrating her everyday parenting experiences.

“I’ve always loved drawing and painting, so on my days off work I try to ignore all the housework that needs doing and be creative,” she told HuffPost.

Weston, who lives in Falmouth, Cornwall, used to draw mainly animals, but joked that she shifted gears after welcoming her “own human pet.”

“My first ‘mum-themed’ drawing was one of me in my PJs looking absolutely knackered,” she explained. “I hoped that other mums could relate.”

Weston shares her motherhood illustrations on her website and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where she’s amassed nearly 7,000 followers.

“The response has been amazing so I’m really chuffed!” said the mom. “I absolutely love doing them, and it’s great that other people enjoy them.”

As she’s gained a following, Weston has received many positive messages from fellow parents.

“Some say that my little illustrations have entertained them whilst doing the 3 a.m. feed, which is brilliant to hear!” she said.

“I just hope my illustrations make them realize that they’re not alone on this crazy parenting rollercoaster, that parenting is bloody hard and that it’s OK to admit it,” the mom added. “And also if your kids drive you batshit crazy and you hate Play-Doh, that’s fine too!”

Keep scrolling and check out Weston’s Instagram for more relatable parenting illustrations.

(Source: HuffPo)