Sunday 30 September 2018

Indonesia tsunami: Death toll could reach thousands, officials say

Aftershocks rattle island of Sulawesi as vice-president warns nation to expect significant rise in fatalities

The confirmed death toll from the earthquake and tsunami that struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has risen to 832, and the vice-president, Jusuf Kalla, has warned it could reach into the thousands.

More than 150 aftershocks followed the 7.4-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Sulawesi on Friday, causing thousands of homes, hotels, shopping malls and several mosques to collapse.

Of the fatalities, 821 were in the city of Palu, with 11 casualties so far recorded in Donggala, the worst-hit area, which is home to 300,000 people. Hundreds of bodies have been found on beaches and authorities fear many may have been washed out to sea.

Speaking at a press conference, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman for the BNBP disaster agency, said the area affected was much bigger than originally thought.

“The deaths are believed to be still increasing since many bodies were still under the wreckage while many have not able to be reached,” said Sutopo, emphasising that access to Donggala, as well as the towns of Sigi and Boutong, was very limited so the final death toll was impossible to predict.

The city of Palu has been completely devastated by the earthquake and tsunami waves, which reached as high as six metres in some areas. In the city, partially covered bodies lay near the shore and survivors sifted through a tangled mess of corrugated steel roofing, timber, rubble and flotsam. One man was seen carrying the muddy corpse of a small child.

“Many corpses are scattered on the beach and floating on the surface of the sea,” one local resident, Nining, told local media. The identified bodies are being buried in mass graves, Sutopo said.

Sutopo confirmed there was no electricity in Palu and Donggala, while drinking water and fuel were running out. There was limited access to heavy equipment needed to help rescue efforts, so the search for people trapped in the rubble was mostly being carried out by hand.

Rescue efforts are continuing for dozens of people still trapped in the collapsed ruins of the eight-storey Roa Roa hotel in Palu, with voices heard screaming from the wreckage. “There are 50 people under the rubble of the building. Heavy equipment is needed for evacuation,” said Sutopo.

There were concerns about the whereabouts of hundreds of people preparing for a beach festival that had been due to start on Friday, a spokesman for the BNBP said.

At least 540 people had been badly injured, the agency said, as hospitals struggled to cope with the influx of casualties, setting up open-air clinics to treat the injured.

Dwi Haris, who suffered a broken back and shoulder, rested outside Palu’s army hospital, where patients were being treated outdoors due to the continuing strong aftershocks. Tears filled his eyes as he recounted feeling the violent earthquake shake the fifth-floor hotel room he shared with his wife and daughter.

“There was no time to save ourselves. I was squeezed into the ruins of the wall, I think,” said Haris, adding that his family was in town for a wedding. “I heard my wife cry for help, but then silence. I don’t know what happened to her and my child. I hope they are safe.”
The Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, who visited the region on Sunday, said earlier the military was being called to the region to help search-and-rescue teams.

One of the first casualties of the earthquake, 21-year-old Anthonius Gunawan Agung, is being hailed a hero after he stayed in the air traffic control tower as the earthquake hit, to make sure that a flight to Bali could take off safely. Agung then jumped from the control tower as it was collapsing, but did not survive the fall.

Many residents slept in makeshift shelters, terrified that the powerful aftershocks could topple their damaged homes.

Villagers view a ship swept ashore by tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Photograph: Rio Mario/AP
Some voiced criticism of the agency that lifted the tsunami warning. The agency said it followed standard operating procedure and made the call to “end” the warning based on data available from the closest tidal sensor, about 125 miles (200km) from Palu.

“We have no observation data at Palu. So we had to use the data we had and make a call based on that,” said Rahmat Triyono, the head of the earthquakes and tsunami centre at BMKG. He said the closest tide gauge, which measures changes in the sea level, only recorded an “insignificant” 6cm wave and did not account for the giant waves near Palu.

The tsunami was triggered by a strong quake that brought down buildings and sent locals fleeing for higher ground as a churning wall of water crashed into Palu. “We all panicked and ran out of the house” when the quake hit, said Anser Bachmid, a 39-year-old Palu resident. “People here need aid – food, drink, clean water.”

Dramatic video footage captured from the top floor of a parking ramp in Palu, nearly 50 miles (80km) from the quake’s epicentre, showed waves bring down several buildings and inundate a large mosque.

About 17,000 people have been evacuated, the BNBP said.

“This was a terrifying double disaster,” said Jan Gelfand, a Jakarta-based official at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “We have heard nothing from Donggala and this is extremely worrying. There are more than 300,000 people living there. This is already a tragedy, but it could get much worse.”

Friday’s tremor was also felt in the far south of the island in its largest city Makassar and on neighbouring Kalimantan, Indonesia’s portion of Borneo island.

The initial quake struck as evening prayers were about to begin in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country on the holiest day of the week, when mosques are especially busy.

Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth. It lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide and many of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

Earlier this year, a series of powerful quakes hit Lombok, killing more than 550 people on the holiday island and neighbouring Sumbawa.

Indonesia has been hit by a string of other deadly quakes including a devastating 9.1-magnitude tremor that struck off the coast of Sumatra in December 2004.

That Boxing Day quake triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 throughout the region, including 168,000 in Indonesia.

(Source: The Guardian)

The abandoned world of 1982

The year Brett Kavanaugh allegedly assaulted Christine Blasey Ford at a party saw the first stirrings of a revolution in how American girls were raised, and how they would regard themselves.

We are invited now to consider the late adolescence and early young manhood of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. It seems to be a trajectory that follows a classic pattern, familiar to us from literature as well as from its pale reflection, life. Call it a very modified version of the Prince Hal–to–Henry V flight plan: from wastrel youth with low companions to hero capable of leading men into battle. Call it something older than that: When I was a child I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things.

It is the judge who has claimed this narrative for himself, choosing august occasions to tell esteemed audiences about his glamorous, rebellious youth. During a 2015 speech at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law, he reflected that three of its graduates had been classmates of his in high school. “Fortunately,” he said, “we’ve had a good saying that we’ve held firm to to this day, as the dean was reminding me before the talk, which is, ‘What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep.’ That’s been a good thing for all of us, I think.” In a 2014 speech to the students of Yale Law School, he fondly remembered “falling out of [a] bus onto the front steps of the Yale Law School at about 4:45 a.m.” It seems almost that he doesn’t even want us to regard his youthful self as Prince Hal, but as Falstaff.

Begin at the beginning, or close enough: the 93 acres of Georgetown Prep, a Beltway school where Kavanaugh’s education was in the hand of the Jesuits, and where academics were rigorous, sports were king, fealty to school and fellows was absolute, and a culture of heavy drinking fit right in with that of the other private academies. In his 12th-grade yearbook, Kavanaugh described himself as the treasurer of the “Keg City Club—100 Kegs or Bust.” These schools were known, then and now, for a parent-sponsored, seven-day bender called “Beach Week” that has made more than one six-figure head of school bash his or her head against the wall. Kavanaugh seems to have reveled in it: According to his yearbook, he also belonged to “Beach Week Ralph Club” and “Rehoboth Police Fan Club.” (What kindness did the officers extend to club members? And were they as generous with town visitors who were not the white sons and daughters of wealthy men? Unspecified.)

There was also—as there always is in top Catholic schools that wish to be considered on the same intellectual and social plane as the great Protestant schools—a constant, grinding, and not misplaced sense of inferiority among many of the students. I emailed a friend—close to my age and to Kavanaugh’s—who grew up in a posh D.C. family and attended the unremittingly soigné National Cathedral School, and asked her to tell me about the reputation of the Georgetown Prep of her youth. In seconds, she fired back the words: “always bad—frat boys, catholic, republican golf Bethesda.” The judgment, so immolating that even the commas had burned up by the end of it, is the chip on the shoulder of the Georgetown Prep boy. A friend who was a teacher at a top D.C. prep school at the time offered a more forensically crushing assessment of the institution: “St. Albans Lite. Upper-Classy Catholic kids, but most of the Kennedys and Shrivers and such preferred St. Albans.” These slight humiliations make the boys fiercer on the playing field, more eager to succeed, and—let my Catholic-school girlhood and memories of my own “brother school” inform this sentiment—determined to cultivate a certain toughness in the face of it. A Catholic-school prep boy might not be a menacing character in the mean corridors of a D.C. public school, but put him against a St. Alban’s boy, and my money’s on the Catholic.

Let the committee now be introduced to the person and character of Mark Judge, a close pal of the high-school Kavanaugh, who grew up to be a successful conservative writer and filmmaker, who has struggled mightily with alcoholism and other addictions, and who was, to young Brett Kavanaugh, a Rabelaisian figure, the soul of all merriment and the devotee of vomitous excess. On his 12th-grade yearbook page, Judge included a quotation: “Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.”* If you want to get a sense of the tenor of a boys’ school in the mid-1980s, look no further than the fact that no one—no Jesuit priest or yearbook adviser or teacher—thought this was an inappropriate thing to have printed in a book published by the school. This may be an example of the freedom of expression that made the pre-PC days so halcyon, but it is definitely an example of the fact that in a boys’ school in the ’80s, sexual frustration was combined with a casual misogyny—if not of deed then of word—that the authorities were in no way concerned about. Judge grew up to write a roman à clef about his wild days at Georgetown Prep, in which he revealed himself to be a stone-cold partier and a horrible creator of pseudonyms: We encounter one “Bart O’Kavanaugh” who has puked and passed out in a car, the victim of heavy drinking.

The campus of Yale UniversityMICHELLE MCLOUGHLIN / REUTERS
Life at the top is a constant series of zero-sum games, and Kavanaugh handily won the next one, getting admitted to the Yale University class of 1987. He was clubbable enough, pledging the college’s newly reconstituted chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon, and thereby participating in the great 1980s return to fraternity life. In Joan Didion’s 1970 essay “On the Morning After the Sixties,” she recalls spending a day in 1953 lying on the leather couch in a fraternity house, listening to a man playing the piano. She had been invited to an alumni lunch at the house, and her date had gone off to the football game, but she had decided to stay behind, reading. The point of the anecdote is to suggest to the reader the recently abandoned world from which she had emerged: “That such an afternoon would now seem implausible in every detail—the very notion of having had a ‘date’ for a football luncheon now seems to me so exotic as to be almost czarist—suggests the extent to which that abstract called ‘the revolution’ has already taken place, the degree to which the world in which so many of us grew up no longer exists.”

In the 1980s, however—thank Ron and Nancy, thank the stock market, thank the thousand flowers blooming in the investment banks that were luring so many male Ivy Leaguers to build their fortunes—that world reasserted itself. As A Century and a Half of DKE describes the period: “In the early eighties, the pendulum of American ideals began to sway to the right once again. College students developed a new sense of values and appreciation for tradition as the country finally recovered from the chaos of the sixties. Fraternities in general began to thrive once more.”

In fact, as I’ve written before, fraternities took the chaos of the ’60s—drugs, sexual liberation, communal living that allowed for a high degree of squalor—and combined it with the chaos of the fraternity, including brutal hazing, the sexual conquest of women that often crossed into illegality, and a self-conscious embrace of collegiate machismo of the sophomoric kind. The system soon racked up so many ruinously expensive lawsuits that it eventually created a complex and inflexible risk-management protocol, which at least indemnified the national organizations. But until then, the 1980s were a time of essentially unsupervised, extreme, and often violent behavior.

Yale’s DKE chapter in Kavanaugh’s college years did not have a house, the necessary element for most crimes of fraternity life. Its public face was the public face of all fraternities—the self-consciously upper-class events, and the silly spectacles meant to goose campus pieties. A photograph published by the Yale Daily News in 1985, when Kavanaugh was a sophomore—he is not in the photograph—depicts a moment from a DKE initiation, in which pledges carry a flag made of bras and panties. To one Yale woman, a junior, who wrote a letter to the campus newspaper, the flag looked like “scalps that warriors attach to their belts, relics that advertise their conquest and ward off the enemy as they swing in the breeze.” Then, as now, fraternities provided a big white ass pressed against the glass windows of campus feminism, and in a sense the two are dependent on each other for their ongoing vitality.

The next big test for Kavanaugh? Application and admission to Yale Law School, and the opportunity to distinguish himself as an excellent student of the law. It seems that at some point soon after graduation, he started to become the kind of man he wanted to be—certainly, his proudly told tales of youthful insouciance end there. He earned two prestigious clerkships. (One of them was with former Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, who recently retired after nine female law clerks made allegations of sexual harassment against him. He was accused, among other things, of showing them internet pornography in his chambers; Kozinski explained to the press that he “had a broad sense of humor and a candid way of speaking to both male and female law clerks alike.”)

Kavanaugh soon combined his developing gravitas with his frat-boy inclinations by helping to draft America’s only publicly funded work of extended pornography, the Starr report. (“At one point, the President inserted a cigar into Ms. Lewinsky’s vagina, then put the cigar in his mouth and said: “It tastes good.”). He became a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, made bank, married, and began what he would like us to understand as his life’s great work, the intensive coaching of his daughter’s Catholic-school basketball team, where he is beloved by the players. Perhaps he is salving the primal wound of not making the Yale basketball team as a freshman and having to spend his collegiate years—another humiliation—playing JV and writing about the Bulldogs for the Yale Daily News. Or maybe he’s decided to make an 11th-hour investment in girl power, getting the little girls of Blessed Sacrament to crash the boards like they mean it.

Now he hovers on the edge of having all of this, every bit of it, paid off in a spectacular way by being confirmed to the Supreme Court, or—his defenders insist—of becoming another Robert Bork, the victim of an angry feminism that will casually take a man down on the basis of nothing but its own fantasies. For reasons having to do with my long history reporting on fraternities, I am on an email chain with several members of DKE—none from Yale—who are a couple of decades older than Kavanaugh. Here’s a representative sample of how they’re taking the confirmation process: “As I told one of my correspondents, Φ of ΔKE Brother Brett Michael Kavanaugh, Yale ’87, LAW ’90, appears to be in a #MeToo fem-jam down Wah-hee-tawn way.”

If christine blasey ford—at this writing, the most well known of the women accusing Kavanaugh of assault—is to be believed, she experienced a violent sex crime and then told absolutely no one about it for decades, a prospect that many people find incredible and that President Donald Trump weaponized against her, tweeting: “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place.”

Why wouldn’t a 15-year-old girl tell anyone, not even her “loving parents”? Because Ford did not grow up in today’s girl culture. Christie Blasey was a 15-year-old girl in 1982.

As it happens, 1982 was a seminal year in the history of the way American girls would come to be raised and educated, and in how millions of them would come to regard their life. It was the year Carol Gilligan published her book In a Different Voice and Ms. magazine published an article called “Date Rape: A Campus Epidemic?” A decade later, the ideas expressed in these two works exploded into the mass consciousness, the former in Mary Pipher’s problematic, blockbuster 1994 book, Reviving Ophelia, and the latter in a 1991 Time magazine cover story called “Date Rape.”

Setting aside all arguments—and they are legion—about the manifold and grave problems with Gilligan’s research, and also about the deep injustices that have taken place on American college campuses as a response to the theory of date rape, the fact is that both her research and the theory changed everything for girls in this country. Today, a girl who experienced what Ford says happened to her would find countless resources on the internet to help her, would have been explicitly told by teachers and administrators that there were people she could (and should) talk to if anyone tried to force sex on her, would be immersed in all the elements of popular culture—songs, movies, teen fiction, blogs—explaining to her that what happened was a profound wrong, and that it was not her fault.

But Christine Blasey Ford was not a 15-year-old girl in the present; she was a 15-year-old girl in the past. Unless she was an extremely precocious, niche reader who was tearing her way through the arcane works of the radical feminist Susan Brownmiller, she would literally never have heard the term date rape—neither would her friends, parents, teachers, or school administrators. Cheerful teen movies aimed at the high-school audience—John Hughes films among them—accurately reflected commonly held American attitudes about the male need for sex and the comic nature of the extremes a normal, suburban male would go to extract it from girls, often against their clearly stated wishes.

None of these facts, of course, locates Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford in a bedroom in 1982. None of it is enough to disqualify him from the confirmation that now hangs in the balance. But, for what it’s worth—probably nothing—more and more outside observers are starting to believe Ford. And more and more of Kavanaugh’s supporters are starting to move to the quiet position that he might have attacked her, but that he should not pay a price for it: Banish Falstaff, and banish all the world.

In the midst of it all (the Georgetown Prep way, the frat-boy tradition, the Irish problem—who knows) seems to lie an ocean of alcohol. If there is one common assessment of the D.C. private schools in the 1980s, it is that they were centers of titanic amounts of drinking.

A friend of mine, a recovering alcoholic with several decades of sobriety, said of Kavanaugh, “I can’t tell if he’s a blackout drinker or a convenient forgetter.”

And maybe Christine Blasey Ford is an inconvenient rememberer.

(Source: The Atlantic)

McDonald’s removes artificial ingredients from burgers

Calcium propionate and sodium benzoate disappear from Big Macs and Quarter Pounders, as fast-food chain seeks to project more healthful image

McDonald’s Corp. is stripping artificial ingredients from more food to win over customers who, the burger chain believes, don’t want to eat things with names like calcium propionate and sodium benzoate.

Those and other ingredients found in the buns, cheese and sauce on some of McDonald’s best-known burgers are gone from its U.S. restaurants, the chain said Wednesday. The Big Mac, Quarter Pounder with Cheese and burgers in Happy Meals are now among items free from artificial preservatives, flavors and coloring.

The new recipes are McDonald’s latest attempt to project a more healthful image and reverse a sales slump in its main U.S. market.

McDonald’s this spring started making Quarter Pounders in the U.S. with fresh beef. The company has also replaced high-fructose corn syrup with sugar in its buns, removed artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets and reverted to butter instead of liquid margarine in Egg McMuffins.

McDonald’s this spring started making Quarter Pounders in the U.S. with fresh beef. It also switched the American cheese on its burgers to one made with a naturally derived beta carotene, the ingredient that makes such cheese orange. PHOTO: SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES
The company said that since the changes, McNuggets sales have risen and burger sales have increased.

“This really is meant to serve as another proof point of what we’re doing at McDonald’s to enhance the quality of the food,” said Chris Kempczinski, president of McDonald’s USA. “We hope it’s the cumulative impact of all the changes we’ve been making that will move perception.”

Fresh, natural ingredients are a focus at chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Panera Bread Co. As interest in more wholesome diets has spread, fast-food chains that have taken sales from McDonald’s in recent years have revisited their recipes too.

Chains including Yum Brands Inc.’s Taco Bell and Pizza Hut and Doctor’s Associates Inc.’s Subway have eliminated artificial ingredients from menu items. Wendy’s Co. has eliminated antibiotics also used on humans from its poultry and introduced salads made with fresh berries and tomatoes grown in greenhouses.

McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A have also said they would eliminate such antibiotics from their chicken. McDonald’s has already done so in the U.S. and is working on eliminating antibiotics from its restaurants overseas.

McDonald’s hasn’t shown its improved food can generate the sales growth that investors are expecting. U.S. same-store sales of 2.6% in the second quarter fell short of analyst forecasts of 3% growth.

Mr. Kempczinski said investing in the simpler menu would pay off. McDonald’s didn’t disclose how much it had spent to remove artificial ingredients from its menu.

In the latest changes to its burgers, McDonald’s replaced artificial ingredients with natural ones or removed them altogether. That will mean a shorter shelf life for some products or additional refrigeration, the chain said.

McDonald’s switched the American cheese on its burgers to one made with a naturally derived beta carotene, the ingredient that makes such cheese orange. It also removed the preservative sorbic acid from the cheese, reducing the time it can remain on restaurant prep tables to four hours from seven.

“Even though American cheese with sorbic acid had a very long shelf life, it was really unnecessary because McDonald’s sells a lot of food, and they sell it quickly,” said Mike Haddad, president and CEO of Schreiber Foods, the chain’s American cheese supplier.

Pickles remain a challenge. Executives said it could take them two more years to find a pickle with the same sour taste sans artificial preservatives.

“For us, pickles are extremely important,” said Marion Gross, senior vice president of supply chain management for McDonald’s USA. “We’re not willing to change to a preservative-free pickle that has a different dill profile.”

(Source: WSJ)

Face jail for dressing inappropriately in public in Dubai

Most malls in Dubai have a sign on their gates, asking visitors to dress appropriately.

Residents and tourists who dress "inappropriately" in public places can face up to three years jail time and deportation for "harming the country's public morals", legal experts have warned.

The comments follow a viral video on Twitter of an Arab woman who spoke about how she reported a "woman who was dressed inappropriately" to a mall security in Dubai. The security then provided the woman with an abaya to cover up.

Some Emirati Twitter users supported the Arab woman's move and said that residents and tourists should respect UAE's culture, while, some also said that they had "no problem" with what they were wearing.

"There are no context or law that regulates or controls clothing limits or set penalties for it, but there is the Article 358 of the Federal Penal Code of the State, which says that indecent actions or anything that might be prejudicial to public morals made by a man or woman in public and could be considered as indecency would be punishable by six months to three years and deportation, according to the first paragraph of the Article 121 of the same law," Mohammed Talal Al Tamimi, a lawyer at Tamami & Co,, told Khaleej Times.

Most malls in Dubai have a sign on their gates, asking visitors to dress appropriately.

The UAE government's official website also asks tourists to "dress modestly". "Emiratis dress conservatively in traditional dress and can be offended when people dress inappropriately or not in accordance with Islamic values," the website says.

It adds that both men and women "might feel more comfortable wearing loose-fitting clothes" that cover up the shoulders, arms and legs.

No separate law for men and women
Ashish Metha, managing partner at Ashish Mehta & Associates, a solicitor and legal consultancy firm, told Khaleej Times: "It is the duty of every resident and visitor to dress appropriately in public. Generally, ladies in public places like streets, shopping malls and restaurants etc, should wear shorts, skirts which are of appropriate length and down to the knee or of knee length. The authorities may punish an individual by custody and or impose fine on him or her for wearing indecent, vulgar or inappropriate dress in public. Beach wear and swim suits are only allowed in designated areas of beach or swimming pools."

He added that men should also follow appropriate dressing sense while they are in public. He said men should have shorts that reach to the knees, t-shirt or a shirt.

"In some government offices, especially in court premises/halls there are specific boards/hoardings regarding instructions to wear appropriate/decent dress. Clothing shall not indecently expose certain parts of the body, be transparent or display obscene or offensive pictures, slogans, or gestures and anything that might cause religious or cultural offence, etc. Having said that, if a person's outfit is vulgar and somewhat exposes certain sensitive parts of his or her body in public places amounts to indecency, authorities may take action against such person resulting in punishment by fine or imprisonment," Mehta said.

Follow the guidelines 
Majid Al Futtaim malls across the country have signs in place at the entry gates that warn visitors to dress appropriately.

A spokesperson from Majid Al Futtaim Shopping Malls said in a statement to Khaleej Times: "We welcome diverse visitors, both residents and tourists from all over the world throughout the year. We remind visitors' about the culturally appropriate dress code and behaviour in the UAE with messaging at our malls' entrances. All Majid Al Futtaim's shopping malls follow a courtesy policy, which is in line with the government guidelines on dress code, to help guide our visitors and ensure the comfort of all guests."

(Source: Khaleej Times)

Social media star, a former 'Miss Baghdad,' shot dead

Iraqi social media star and model Tara Fares has been shot dead in Baghdad, security officials confirmed to CNN.

The death of Fares and other recent killings prompted Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to order an investigation on Friday.

The former Miss Baghdad, and first runner-up for Miss Iraq, was killed on Thursday after gunmen opened fire on her in the capital's Camp Sarah neighborhood, according to a statement by Iraq's Interior Ministry, which is investigating the incident.

Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Saad Maan told an Iraqi TV station that two motorcyclists shot Fares while she was inside a vehicle.

The 22-year-old, a Christian whose father was Iraqi and mother Lebanese, was living in Erbil, but visited the capital occasionally. She was famous for her bold clothing and posts on social media.

A black-and-white photo showing Fares pouting was shared with her nearly 3 million Instagram followers shortly after her death, along with the comment: "In a treacherous and cowardly incident, Tara Fares Chamoun, is with God. We asked God to accept her with His great mercy."

A disturbing trend, an ongoing investigation
Fares' death comes just two days after a female human rights activist was killed in the southern city of Basra.

Suaad al-Ali was shot and killed in an outdoor market by an unknown gunman, according to security sources. Officials said investigations were still underway.

And last month, two well-known women in Baghdad's beauty industry also died.

Rafeef al-Yaseri, known as the "Barbie of Iraq," was killed inside her Baghdad home on August 16. Al-Yaseri was a plastic surgeon and organized national programs specializing in medical affairs for women.

One week later, Rasha al-Hassan, owner and manager of Viola Beauty Center in Baghdad, was found dead inside her home. Health Ministry spokesman Seif al-Badr said at the time that al-Hassan had died at her home, where preliminary investigations did not point to a reason for the death.

Al-Abadi ordered the Interior Ministry and Iraq's intelligence department to investigate the assassinations and kidnappings in Basra, Baghdad and elsewhere, the ministry said in a statement.

(Source: CNN)

Beyoncé named music's most powerful woman by BBC Woman's Hour power list

She says she's a "black Bill Gates in the making" who "ain't never seen a ceiling in my whole damn life".

So it's hardly surprising that Beyoncé has been named music's most powerful woman by BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour.

The superstar came first in a list of the industry's 40 most influential women, thanks to her feminism, activism and empowering musical messages.

The star was celebrated for her activism, feminism, business acumen and empowering lyrics
Taylor Swift, Adele and Dua Lipa were also included on the power list, which was unveiled as part of BBC Music Day.

The top 40 didn't just recognise big-sellers and global stars, making room for the unsung heroes who work behind the scenes to champion women.

Third place went to Vanessa Reed who, as director of the PRS Foundation, has persuaded dozens of festivals to sign up to a 50:50 gender balance on their line-ups by 2022.

The top 10 also includes Marin Alsop, who became the first female conductor to lead the Last Night of the Proms in 2013, and Chi-chi Nwanoku, who founded Europe's first professional majority black and minority ethnic orchestra, Chineke!

Gender diversity in the music industry is notoriously poor, especially in technical jobs like engineering and production. And even with artists like Cardi B, Adele and Dua Lipa devouring the charts, recent research shows that men account for 78% of hit singles.

Woman's Hour said it hoped publishing the power list would lead to better representation.

"It's a celebration of 40 incredible women but hopefully it doesn't stop there," said broadcaster Tina Daheley, who led the panel of judges.

"A lot of the people on the list are coming on to the programme, and I think that's where the conversation will start."

Woman's Hour Power List 2018 - The Top 10

  1. Beyoncé
  2. Taylor Swift
  3. Vanessa Reed (PRS for Music)
  4. Adele
  5. Stacey Tang (MD of RCA Records)
  6. Gillian Moore (Director of music at Southbank Centre)
  7. Rebecca Allen (President of Decca Records)
  8. Marin Alsop
  9. Chi-chi Nwanoku
  10. Maggie Crowe (Director of events at BPI)

Daheley said the top 40 was whittled down from a longlist of 100 names, with judges looking for women "who've had an impact over the last 12 months".

Beyoncé "absolutely deserves to be number one", she added.

"She's one of those people who's absolutely in charge of her own destiny and she's using that platform in a way that makes a difference: empowering black people in America, addressing injustice head-on and championing women.

"It's not just the lyrics and activism in her music which, you could cynically say, sells music," she continues. "She puts her money where her mouth is and she's contributed to Black Lives Matter and the people affected by Hurricane Katrina."

Taylor Swift persuaded Apple to reverse a policy that said artists would not get paid for music streamed by users taking advantage of a three-month trial period
Taylor Swift was praised by the panel for standing up to streaming companies like Apple and Spotify over royalties, and for successfully winning a sexual assault case against a US ex-radio DJ, over an incident in 2013.

"When I see young girls and how she empowers them to be strong women, I see how much she's influenced them and her impact on these girls who will be the activists of the future," said judge Jasmine Dotiwala, a music TV producer and columnist.

Daheley was also keen to highlight figures like Fiona Stewart who, at the age of 18, was a single mum living in homeless shelters - but now runs the Green Man Festival.

"Her story's incredible - but it's also her attitude to music festivals. She refuses corporate sponsorship and she won't have a VIP area. She's very impressive. She's lower down the list, but still being celebrated."

The list also includes Sarah Stennett, the CEO of First Access Entertainment, which manages Rita Ora, Ray BLK and Bebe Rexha

The list also includes Rebecca Allen, president of Decca Records, Chi-chi Nwanoku of the Chineke orchestra, and Grace Ladoja, founder of Metallic Inc and Skepta's manager
"I never thought consciously of my gender as something that limited me in any way until this year," Stennett told BBC News.

"I was just too busy trying to push forward and survive in the cut-throat environment of the male-dominated entertainment business.

"It took an essay my daughter wrote on the effects women face from subconscious patriarchal oppression for me to finally stop and realise that it was that oppression itself which was part of my relentless drive not to fail and which has, in fact, helped me achieve a level of success that has enabled me to be part of this list.

"I hope that any success achieved will help other women close the gap on the gender imbalance in business."

Woman's Hour publishes its Power List annually, focusing on a different theme each time.

As well as Daheley and Dotiwala, this year's panel included novelist Jessica Duchen, record producer Catherine Marks and musician Kate Nash.

(Source: BBC)

Indonesia tsunami: Rescuers struggle to reach cut-off city, toll rises to 384

Hospitals struggling to cope as hundreds injured

Rescuers are struggling to reach Donggala, a city of nearly 300,000 people in Indonesia, after a 7.5-magnitude earthquake and a powerful tsunami hit the coast of the country, killing at least 384 and injuring hundreds more.

Power and telecommunications to the region have been cut off and the roads are damaged, leaving officials unable to reach those in need.

Aid is also yet to reach the nearby town of Mamuju, which has been severely affected by the quake.

At least 384 people were killed in the hard-hit city of Palu, Indonesia's disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

A landslide has blocked a major road leading to Palu, the capital of Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province, according to the BBC, and a key bridge crossing a coastal river has also collapsed.

Thousands of homes as well as hospital buildings have been damaged in Palu. Hundreds have been injured, leaving medical staff overwhelmed.

Tens to hundreds of people involved at a beach festival are also missing, the disaster agency said earlier.

More than half of the 560 inmates in a Palu prison fled after its walls fell during Friday's quake, according to the warden, Adhi Yan Ricoh.

"It was very hard for the security guards to stop the inmates from running away as they were so panicked and had to save themselves too," he told state news agency Antara.

Ricoh said there was no immediate plan to search for the inmates because the prison staff and police were consumed with the rescue effort.

"Don't even think to find the inmates. We don't even have time yet to report this incident to our superiors," he said.

The 3m tsunami was triggered by the earthquake and smashed into two cities and several settlements on Sulawesi island at dusk on Friday.

In some places the water rose as high as 6m.

"We got a report over the phone saying that there was a guy who climbed a tree up to 6m high," Nugroho said.

Palu, which has a population of 380,000 people, was strewn with debris from fallen buildings, including a shopping complex and a large mosque.

A mosque in Palu was badly damaged (AP)
Waters from the tsunami left the mosque partially submerged.

The city is the capital of the Central Sulawesi province and is built around a narrow bay which is said to have magnified the force of the tsunami water as it travelled inland.

Indonesian TV broadcast footage, filmed on a smartphone, showing the moment that the wave hit the land, causing people to scream in fear and flee.

Bodies in Palu lay partially covered in tarpaulin and a man carried a dead child through the wreckage.

Mr Nugroho said essential aircraft can land at Palu airport but AirNav, which oversees aircraft navigation, said that the runway is cracked and the control tower damaged.

A 21-year-old air traffic controller was killed in the quake after he stayed in the tower to ensure a flight he had just cleared for departure got airborne safely.

"We hope there will be international satellites crossing over Indonesia that can capture images and provide them to us so we can use the images to prepare humanitarian aid," Mr Nugroho said.

Indonesian president Joko Widodo told reporters on Friday that  he had instructed the security minister to co-ordinate the government's response to the damage.

Residents carry a quake victim through Palu (AP)
He has also called on the country's military chief to assist with the search efforts and evacuations as needed.

United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said UN officials were in contact with Indonesian authorities and "stand ready to provide support as required".

Indonesia is vulnerable to earthquakes because of its location on the Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and faultlines in the Pacific Basin.

On 5 August, a powerful earthquake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people. Most died inside collapsing buildings.

The wave caused buildings to collapse (Reuters)
Another series of strong quakes in mid-August killed at least a dozen people on Lombok and Sumbawa, a nearby island.

In 2004, a huge earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean.

It killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

(Source: The Independent)

Saturday 29 September 2018

Take off your clothes and dance: Vivek Agnihotri had told Tanushree

After speaking about how the #MeToo moment struck Bollywood several years ago, Tanushree Dutta has gone ahead and named her alleged harasser. In an interview with Zoom TV, the actor spoke about the incident which happened in 2008 on the sets of the film Horn 'Ok' Pleassss. Tanushree accused Nana Patekar of wanting to touch her inappropriately and having insisted on shooting an intimate song sequence in the film, even though it was not mentioned in her contract.

Tanushree has also spoken about an incident, in an interview with DNA, where Vivek Agnihotri had allegedly passed a lewd comment on set, but actor Irrfan Khan shut him down.

Tanushree was asked by the director to give cues to Irrfan for his close-up shot where Agnihotri told her, “jao jaake kapde utaar ke naacho, usko cues do. (Go take off your clothes and dance for him, give him cues).”

Irrfan reportedly told Agnihotri, “‘I don't need her to take off her coat and dance for me to give facial expressions’. This was Irrfan Khan. I really appreciated that he actually spoke up like that because it was his close-up shot.” Suneil Shetty, who was also on the set at the time, scolded the director for making the offensive statement, said Tanushree to DNA.

Tanushree Dutta in an interview with Zoom TV, gave a detailed account of the alleged incident with Nana Patekar in 2008.

I want to take names - actor Nana Patekar, producer Sami Siddiqui, director Rakesh Sarang and choreographer Ganesh Acharya. When Nana Patekar misbehaved with me, he said out loud that he would do an intimate step with me as well in the song, which wasn’t mentioned in my contract. It was supposed to be a solo sequence of mine. I would feel very uncomfortable when he would come next to me and try to put his arm around me. He’d grab me and push me around and say, ‘You stand here, you stand there’. Whereas, he shouldn’t have been on the set. And he told the choreographer to stand aside and said, ‘I’ll teach her how to dance’. I didn’t know how to deal with this. This had never happened with me before in Bollywood.
Tanushree Dutta

She also said that when she voiced her concerns, no one on set paid heed. Added to that, not one person from the film fraternity condemned Nana Patekar’s actions, said Tanushree.

When I had complained about the same to the producer director, and told them to ask him (Nana Patekar) to stay away from me, they didn’t pay heed. Just because I was new to the film industry, whether or not it was required, let’s do an intimate scene with her.
Tanushree Dutta

“Everyone has gossiped about this but have never spoken out. People with this kind of character speak like this against the kind of character that I have because they say she does glamorous roles so must be glamorous and all. On the back, they are so dirty. When you are in the industry you hear so many stories about these actors. But these things never surface because they are PR packaged very well. They will give some money to some poor farmers. How much they do and how much they don’t no one knows. But all this is just for show,” she added.

Tanushree said she also had to deal with people who were shaming her for speaking out in 2008. Besides, being subjected to political intimidation.

“Post the incident on the sets of Horn ‘OK’ Pleassss, Nana Patekar called up this political party who has a reputation of vandalism and causing damages on the sets. And the producers called up the media to gain publicity from the whole situation. On one side we had the media and on the other side we had the political party workers. They vandalised my car completely. So, I got off my vanity van and headed towards our vehicle. They had my car vandalised, which is also first degree assault by a mob,” said Tanushree in the interview.

“And when this incident was happening, someone went and told the producers that people are vandalising my car. Instead of stopping them or helping us, the producers had the guards shut the gate so we wouldn’t be able to leave the premises. The gate was opened only when the police intervened. If the police had come even 5 minutes late, I shudder to think what could’ve happened to me or my parents who were accompanying me in the car,” she elaborated.

"This is the culture of our country. The people who should be ashamed are not ashamed of their actions. Instead, people tried to thwart my freedom of speech when I spoke up against him," she asked.

If big stars like Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar continue to work with these kind of people, then what hope is there for any movement to happen?
Tanushree Dutta

“The thing is that our country has become so hypocritical, and people constantly ask why #MeToo movement is not happening in India, it won’t happen unless and until you’ll acknowledge what happened with me in 2008.”

Rakhi Sawant, who replaced me, had the most despicable things to say about me. She once said, ‘Uske shareer pe golden diamonds lage hain kya, jo usko kabhi chhoo nahin sakte?’ (Is she made of gold that no one can touch her?)
Tanushree Dutta

“I got some 30-40 film offers after the controversy, but I was suffering from such major fear that I would not even want to go on a film set. Because when you go through such experience you think everybody is like that. You refuse to believe that I have worked with good people also,” she told News18.

“Till the time I’m given justice, no movement can start over here. I will keep bringing up this issue every time I’m here because I want to expose the hypocrisy of Bollywood that on one hand you are speaking about women empowerment, but everybody had a stoic silence on what happened with me and they have maintained it even today. In fact, they are not only maintaining the stoic silence but they are also working with the perpetrators,” she concluded.

Speaking on her memory of casting couch, she stumbled upon a conversation where a casting director chose lead actresses based on those who would provide sexual favours. The words were, “Deti hai kya.” She further said about the director saying “Aagar deti nahi hai to isko milegi nahi.”

She said, “This is the attitude in Bollywood and all the film industries that are working in the country is because deti nahi ho toh film nahi milegi.”

This is like a brothel running over here.
Tanushree Dutta

In a previous interview with News18, Tanushree spoke about how the Bollywood film fraternity did not stand up for her.

“The entire industry saw what happened but there was not one word of condemnation from anybody. Every single person in this country remembers my incident and this was something on national TV for three days but even today there’s a stoic silence on that. So, my question is, ‘Who is going to believe these hypocrites?’ These are the people who stand up and raise their voice against women empowerment,” she said.

When the incident made headlines in 2008, Nana Patekar had categorically refuted the claims.

“Tanushree is my daughter’s age and I have no clues about what made her say such things about me. I have been a part of this film industry since the last 35 years and haven’t had anyone saying such things about me ever,” said Nana Patekar in a press conference in 2008.

After Tanushree refused to shoot the item song with Nana in 2008, the producers were quick to replace the actor with Rakhi Sawant.

(Source: The Quint)

Why Justice Indu Malhotra, only woman on bench, dissented on Sabarimala

In a four-one verdict, the Supreme Court ended a centuries-old ban on women aged 10 to 50 from entering Kerala's Sabarimala Temple.

Justice Indu Malhotra, the only woman in the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court that ruled today that women of all ages must be allowed in Kerala's renowned Sabarimala temple, gave a dissenting judgment, disagreeing with her peers.

"The practice of age restriction on women entry to Sabrimala temple can't be treated as an essential religious practice," said the court in a majority four-one judgment, ending a ban on the entry of women between 10 and 50 years.

Justice Indu Malhotra, however, said that issues which have deep religious connotation should not be tinkered with to maintain secular atmosphere in the country.

"It is not for court to interfere in religious practices even if it appears discriminatory. Notions of rationality cannot be brought into matters of religion," she said.

Justice Indu Malhotra on Friday said religious customs
were protected by the constitution. (File)
She was of the view that it is not for courts to determine which religious practices are to be struck down except in issues of social evil like 'Sati'.

"An equality doctrine cannot override the fundamental right to worship under Article 25. Notions of rationality cannot be brought into matters of religion," Justice Malhotra said.

She added that the issue in this case not limited to Sabarimala only. It will have far reaching implications for other places of worships, she said.

Reacting to the dissenting view, senior lawyer Indira Jaising said, "While I disagree with Justice Indu Malhotra, she has an opinion which must be read, I am sad though that a dissent in Shabrimalai came from a woman judge."

For centuries, women of menstrual age were restricted from entering the temple as its presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is considered to be a celibate. A number of petitions had challenged the restrictions on the entry of women.

The head priest of Sabarimala, Kandaru Rajeevaru, said: "We are disappointed but accept the Supreme Court verdict on women entry."

(Source: NDTV)

Legend of Sabarimala: Love story that kept women from Lord Ayyappa

Lord Ayyappa set a woman free from a curse that had her living the life of a demon. After having been set free, she wanted to marry Lord Ayyappa. The woman is said to be still waiting for him near Sabarimala Temple.

Women of all age can now visit, worship and offer prayer to Lord Ayyappa at the Sabarimala Temple that is surrounded by 18 hills in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala. The temple is believed to have been founded by Sage Parshuram.

Lord Ayyappa is the presiding deity at Sabarimala residing in the hilly forest in Naishtik Brahmachari (eternal celibate) state. Till the Supreme Court today struck down Rule 3 (b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 declaring it unconstitutional, women of menstruating age (10-50 years) were not allowed to enter the temple.

There are different versions as to why menstruating women were not allowed to enter the Sabarimala Temple. According to puranic and oral traditions, Lord Ayyappa was born out of the union of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu, when the latter was in Mohini form.

Lord Vishnu took the form of Mohini to have destroyed a deadly demon Bhashmasur and acquire the elixir (amrut) for the gods during the great churning of oceans. Legend has it that Lord Shiva got swayed by the charm of Mohini and Lord Ayyappa was born of their union.

Sabarimala Temple: An estimated 3-4 crore devotees visit the shrine to offer prayer to Lord Ayyappa every year. Now, menstruating women can also worship at the temple. (Photo: PTI)
While Lord Ayyappa was still a minor, a lady-demon had created havoc in the down south. She had got a boon from gods that she could only be defeated by the son born out of the union of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. As it happened, Lord Ayyappa defeated her in a battle.

Upon her defeat, it was revealed that the demon was actually a beautiful young woman who had been cursed to live the life of a demon. The defeat set the woman free who, in turn, proposed to Lord Ayyappa.

He refused saying that he had been ordained to go to forest and answer the prayers of devotees. But, the young woman was persistent. So, Lord Ayyappa promised to marry her the day kanni-swamis (new devotees) stop visiting him with their prayers at Sabarimala.

The woman agreed to wait for him at a neighbouring temple. The woman is also worshipped today as Malikapurathamma at a neighbouring temple. The legend goes further saying that in honour of Malikapurathamma, Lord Ayyappa does not receive any menstruating woman. Also, the women chose not to visit Lord Ayyappa for it would be an insult to Malikapurathamma's love and sacrifice.

There is another story.

According to the other version, Lord Ayyappa is a historical figure. He was born in the royal family of Panthalam, a small kingdom located in Patthanamthitta district of Kerala. Sabarimala Temple is located in the same district.

He grew up in the palace of Panthalam. The relics of the palace still exist. Ayyappa is said to have grown up into a lovable prince for his subjects for he cared for the well being of the people living in his kingdom.

A small continent of intruders led by an Arab commander called Babar or Vavar attacked the kingdom during the time. Ayyappa defeated Vavar, who thereafter turned into his devout follower.

As Lord Ayyappa resides at Sabarimala, Vavar lives in spirit in a shrine at Erumeli, a place situated on the 40 km trek to Sabarimala temple. Vavar is said to protect pilgrims going to visit Lord Ayyappa.

As per this legend claiming historicity of Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity of Sabarimala Temple took a vow to answer prayers to every devotee walking up to his shrine.

Given the arduous task that he undertook, Lord Ayyappa shunned all worldly desires including contact with women. Many believe this was the reason why menstruating women were barred from visiting Sabarimala Temple.

(Source: India Today)

Secrets behind Tipu’s rockets uncovered

Clay, carbon and phosphorus were key ingredients that lent special traits to the ammo
Why did rockets made in Karnataka 200 years ago make the British go all crazy? Tipu’s rockets were an enigma for the armies fighting him. They travelled longer, had metal casing and did not burst prematurely. The British took these rockets to the UK to copy them. It took them more than a decade to come up with anything that could compare. Now, the secret to Tipu’s rockets is finally out.

The rockets discovered from an abandoned well in Shivamogga are helping uncover Indian science from 200 years ago. The casings of 100 rockets like the ones used by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan in their wars against the British in the late 18th Century were discovered in a farm belonging to a farmer Nagaraja Rao in Nagara of Hosanagara taluk in Shivamogga some years ago. In January this year, they were confirmed to be rocket casings.

A few months later, a 1,000 more casings were recovered from the same well. The total count now is 1,700 rocket casing. The Department of Archaeology, Museum and Heritage sent these casings for tests and have unmasked some facts.

Till earlier this year, only five specimens of the Tipu rockets were known to exist, including two in the Woolwich Royal Armoury in the UK. Many of the rockets were taken by the British after the fall of Tipu and they became the basis for the Congreve rockets they developed a few years later. Tipu’s rockets the most advanced of their time but they also baffled the British. Till then rockets were used in battles only for signalling.

Hyder Ali, Tipu’s father, is credited with first using iron casings for rockets instead of wood/bamboo. It became a weapon in the hands of Tipu. Some questions the British could not answer back then were: How was iron rolled into a casing? How was rusting prevented and what prevented the rocket from exploding before reaching its destination? History documents that Tipu spent considerable time and effort on research on the rockets.

T Venkatesh, commissioner of the department, has been handling the research on the rockets. Shejeshwara Nayak of the department had earlier this year concluded that the casings found were those of Tipu era rockets.

The tests conducted on the rocket casings were ferrite microstructure test, spectroscopy and wet chemistry. And this is what they found: The explosive (gunpowder) used in the rockets had 11 per cent carbon, 9 per cent sulphur and 80 per cent nitrate. The fuse made of cotton was of 20 micron.

The rolling of the iron into casing was made possible by mixing carbon as low as 0.2 to 0.5 per cent. The low carbon content in iron made it malleable. Such low carbon levels are not known to have been used before that. Even today, it is a rarity. The rusting of the iron was prevented by using 0.1 per cent phosphorus. Though there is some rusting, the cases have held for at least 220 years.

Another thing that baffled Tipu’s adversaries was how the iron casings held up in spite of the enormous heat. Why did they not blast immediately but only after travelling for a kilometre? Tests have found that a layer of clay was coated on the inside of the iron casing before being filled up with explosives. This prevented it from blowing up the rocket immediately.

(Source: BM)

Psychics who hear voices could be on to something

The ways some “healthy voice hearers” cope might be able to help people with psychotic disorders.

Jessica dorner was lying in bed at her cousin’s house when her grandmother, a “pushy lady” in an apron who had been dead for several years, appeared in front of her. “I know you can see me,” Jessica heard her say, “and you need to do something about it.”

It was a lonely time in Jessica’s life. She was living away from home for the first time, and she thinks her grandmother was drawn by some sense of that. She eventually told her parents what happened, and according to her they were concerned, but not overly panicked. “My parents are probably the least judgmental people I know,” she said.

As Jessica tells it, over the next two years, spirits visited her every now and again. Her brother-in-law’s deceased father began forming before her, ghostlike, just as her grandmother did. And while the experiences were intense and at times made her feel “crazy,” she said, they were infrequent, and insists that they were never a real source of suffering.

Jessica later moved back home and got a job as a pharmacy technician, all the while figuring out how to cope with what was happening to her. At a co-worker’s suggestion, she went to the Healing in Harmony center in Connecticut. In 2013, she says, she enrolled in classes there that taught her to use her “gift.” A self-described psychic medium, Jessica tells me she hears voices that other people do not (in addition to sometimes seeing people others do not see), at varying intensity, and mostly through her right ear.

Meeting others like her at the center gave Jessica a sense of relief. “Just being around people who are going through similar things—that helps a lot, because I could talk to anybody about those things and not feel like I was crazy,” she said.

It was through a friend from the center that Jessica ended up in the lab of Philip Corlett and Albert Powers, a psychologist and a psychiatrist at Yale. In a study published last fall in Schizophrenia Bulletin, Powers and Corlett compared self-described psychics with people diagnosed with a psychotic disorder who experience auditory hallucinations.

“A lot of the time, if someone says they hear voices, you immediately jump to psychotic illness, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia,” Corlett said. But research suggests hearing voices is not all that uncommon. A survey from 1991—the largest of its kind since—found that 10 to 15 percent of people in the U.S. experienced sensory hallucinations of some sort within their lifetime. And other research, as well as growing advocacy movements, suggest hearing voices isn’t always a sign of psychological distress.

The researchers at Yale were looking for a group of people who hear voices at least once a day, and had never before interacted with the mental-health-care system. They wanted to understand, as Corlett put it, those who do not suffer when “the mind deviates from consensual reality.”

What corlett calls consensual reality—the “normative shared experience we all agree on”—is probably not something you spend too much time thinking about. But you know when it’s being violated. The sky is blue, the sun is hot, and as Corlett points out, most would generally agree that people don’t receive extrasensory messages from one another.

Jessica was quite frank with me about the way some people may view her. “We know these experiences are weird and they’re seen as weird,” she said. “You just can’t go into a room and say ‘Hey, I’m a psychic medium’ and people are gonna accept you.”

Finer points of what counts as reality can change over time, and vary based on geography or culture. For centuries people walked the earth believing the sun orbited around them, which today would be considered unreasonable. Who decides that consensus, and where along its boundaries voice hearers fall, depends on a wide range of circumstances.

The anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann, who has studied voice hearing in psychiatric and religious contexts, has written that “historical and cultural conditions … affect significantly the way mental anguish is internally experienced and socially expressed.” Noting that there is no question psychiatric distress and schizophrenia are “real” phenomena that call for treatment, Luhrmann adds that “the way a culture interprets symptoms may affect an ill person’s prognosis.” Every psychiatrist I spoke to shared the belief that unusual behavior should only enter into the realm of diagnosis when it causes suffering.

Sarah Jung
On the other hand, Luhrmann tells me “it’s a terribly romantic idea” to overinterpret the effects of culture. To say, for instance, that “anybody who would be identified with schizophrenia in our culture would be a shaman in Ecuador” is, in her mind, a clear mistake: “Flagrant psychosis” exists in some form in every culture where anthropologists have looked.

“Goodness knows what psychosis actually is.”

In the past decade, researchers have taken a greater interest in the experience of hearing voices outside the context of psychological distress. In his book The Voices Within, the psychologist Charles Fernyhough traces the way thoughts and external voices have been understood by science and society throughout time.

Reflecting on Fernyhough’s book, Jerome Groopman notes that in the early parts of the Bible, the voice of God gave direct commands to Adam, Abraham, and Noah. It spoke to Moses through the Burning Bush, going by the Book of Esther, making itself known again to the apostle Paul in the New Testament. Socrates, who wrote nothing down, heard a “sign” from childhood. The voices of three saints guided Joan of Arc as she rebelled against the English. Groopman cites Martin Luther King, Jr.’s autobiography, in which he describes “the quiet assurance of an inner voice” telling him to “stand up for righteousness.”

The social context in which these people lived can impact how they’re seen. It’s impossible to say how the prophet Ezekiel was understood within his cultural moment. But in most places today, if a person claimed—as Ezekiel does—that he ate a scroll because the Lord commanded him to do so, some eyebrows might be raised. In a community where a personal, verbal relationship with God is normal, the reception may be different.

Powers and Corlett’s work orbits the idea that schizophrenia is, as Powers put it, an “outmoded” label that describes a cluster of different symptoms rather than a single unified condition, he says.

“Goodness knows what psychosis actually is,” Luhrmann said. “There are clearly different kinds of events in the domain we call psychosis,” and when it comes to the relationship between voice hearing and psychosis, she says, “there’s so much we don’t understand.”

Many now antiquated psychiatric diagnoses reified fear, misunderstanding, or prejudice toward people at society’s margins. At the time of the women’s suffrage movement in London, hysteria was leveled as a charge against women who broke social codes. A Mississippi psychiatrist in the 19th century proposed that slaves who attempted escape suffered from “drapetomania.” And until 1973, homosexuality was considered a disease of the mind rather than an accepted way of being in the United States—and was only fully removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1987.

In his book Hallucinations, the late Oliver Sacks details a controversial experiment in which eight participants showed up at hospitals throughout the U.S. in the early ’70s and complained only of “hearing voices.” All of them were immediately diagnosed with a psychotic disorder and hospitalized for two months, despite reporting no other medical symptoms, family history, or signs of personal distress. The single symptom, Sacks writes, was seen as cause enough.

People with psychiatric disorders do hear auditory hallucinations in relatively high numbers. According to Ann Shinn, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital, 70 to 75 percent of people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and between one-third and one-tenth of people with bipolar disorder report hearing voices at some point in their life.

In the case of voice hearing, culture may also play a role in helping people cope.  One study conducted by Luhrmann, the anthropologist, found that compared to their American counterparts, voice-hearing people diagnosed with schizophrenia in more collectivist cultures were more likely to perceive their voices as helpful and friendly, sometimes even resembling members of their friends and family. She adds that people who meet criteria for schizophrenia in India have better outcomes than their U.S. counterparts. She suspects this is because of “the negative salience” a diagnosis of schizophrenia holds in the U.S., as well as the greater rates of homelessness among people with schizophrenia in America.

The influence of social context was part of what motivated Corlett and Powers: The two were interested in whether the support of a social group can help them understand where disorder and difference intersect. When they set out to design their study, they needed an otherwise healthy group of people who hear voices on a regular basis, and whose experiences are accepted in their social group.

Next, they needed to find some psychics. Corlett told me he got the idea to reach out to a Connecticut-based organization for psychics after noticing the ads for psychics and tarot-card readers on his daily bus route. When the two interviewed those participants, they noticed something striking: The psychics described hearing hearing voices of similar volumes, frequencies, and timbres as the patients. Powers and Corlett took this to mean that the psychics were actually hearing something. The two also vetted their participants with the same techniques that forensic psychiatrists use to determine whether a person is pretending to experience psychiatric symptoms, giving them more reason to believe what they were told.

Compared to their diagnosed counterparts, more of the psychics described the voices as a force that “positively affects safety.” And all of the psychics attributed the voices to a “god or other spiritual being.” The patients, meanwhile, were more likely to consider their voices a torment caused by a faulty process in their brain. Many of them described the voices as “bothersome,” and also claimed that the first time they told anyone what they were hearing, they received a negative response.

Just like Jessica, the psychics were more likely to say that they received a positive reaction the first time they spoke about their experience. Jessica’s mother, Lena, told me she maintained a supportive, nonjudgmental attitude toward her daughter’s accounts, just as she did when her other daughter converted to Scientology. She waited for Jessica to bring them up and discussed them with an open mind. She says she was happy Jessica found the center, adding that her only concern was that Jessica’s experiences did sometimes seem to be distressing her and leaving her “drained.”

When Jessica tells me about the people and things she hears, she describes a range of experiences rather than one consistent phenomenon. Her most meaningful episodes of voice hearing are those like the visits she had from her grandmother and her brother-in-law’s father. But she also describes things like hearing the number a friend is thinking, and the persistent and vivid presence of a childhood imaginary friend (her mother told me Jessica demanded the table be set for him at every meal). To Jessica, these experiences differ in degree rather than kind from the ghosts of the dead who appear in front of her with persistent messages for her and for others. Though these might not all fit into the popular conception of a psychic, she understands them to exist along that same continuum.

In his book, Fernyhough describes a series of experiments meant to provide evidence for the connection between inner speech and hearing voices. In one, participants were played recordings of other people’s speech alongside recordings of their own, disguised and distorted, and told to mark whether the voice was their own or someone else’s. Those who experienced hallucinations were more likely to misidentify their own altered voices. A much older experiment found a kind of unconscious ventriloquism among a group of people with schizophrenia: When participants began to hear voices, researchers noted “an increase in tiny movements in the muscles associated with vocalization.” The voices they heard came, in some sense, from their own throats.

(Sarah Jung)
These experiments suggest that auditory hallucinations are the result of the mind failing to brand its actions as its own. Watching what the brain does during these hallucinations may clarify how that works, and what differences in the brain create these experiences.

“When your brain signals to generate a movement,” Shinn, the psychiatrist at Harvard, told me, “there is a parallel signal [known as an efference copy] that basically says ‘this is mine, it’s not coming from outside.’” This helps creates the sense of where a person is in space, that their hand belongs to them and it is moving from point A to B. In this way, the body labels its motions, and a possible parallel may exist for speech and thought. When people hear voices, they may be hearing ‘unmarked’ thoughts they do not recognize as their own.

Beyond that, Shinn told me, what is understood about the experiences of people who hear voices is limited. She sees Corlett and Powers’s study as part of a growing interest in the lives of “healthy voice hearers”—an interest spurred, in part, by the Hearing Voices Movement. A network of advocacy groups, the Hearing Voices Movement presents an alternative to the medical approach based on the belief that the content of a person’s voices can reflect the hearer’s mental and emotional state. The groups encourage an approach in which, with the help of a facilitator or counselor, hearers listen to, speak back to, and negotiate with the messages they hear in hopes of learning to cope.

“I’m not gonna talk right now. ... I still have to live this human life.”
The hearing-voices advocate Eleanor Longden has said she considers her voices “a source of insight into solvable emotional problems” rooted in trauma rather than “an aberrant symptom of schizophrenia.” As Longden tells it, that’s how her own experiences with voices were understood when she first sought treatment for anxiety. Her psychiatrist told her how limited her life would be by her voices, she says, and the voices grew more adversarial.

Many mental-health-care providers—Shinn, Corlett, and Powers included—seem receptive to the Hearing Voices Movement’s critiques, including an overemphasis on medication and an imperative for patient-focused treatment. Shinn credits the network with encouraging an approach that treats voice hearing as more than a checklist item adding up to a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and helping to reduce the stigma attached the experience of voice hearing.

But “there are certainly a lot of people for whom that will not be enough,” she says. For some patients, voices can be impossible to reason with, and the burden of other symptoms of psychosis—disordered thought, delusions, the inability to feel pleasure—can be too great. And Powers and Corlett expressed concerns that the Hearing Voices Network may promote a false divide: the idea that the voices’ perceived roots in trauma—rather than some accident of biology—means hearers should avoid medication. Biology and experience, they say, can’t be so neatly separated. (Longden has written that “many people find medication helpful,” and that the International Hearing Voice Network advocates for “informed choice.”)

While Powers and Corlett don’t believe the psychics and patients are experiencing the exact same thing, the two are cautiously hopeful that about a potential lesson in the greatest difference between those groups: the ability to control the voices they hear, which is something the psychics, including Jessica, showed in greater number than their counterparts. “When I’m in certain situations, I’m not open,” Jessica said. For instance, when she’s at work, the voices “can come in,” she says, they “can hang out, but I’m not gonna talk right now. ... I still have to live this human life.”

While learning control was a major part of Jessica’s experience, so was learning to summon the voices she heard. Before training as a medium, she heard voices sporadically, she says, and began to hear them every day only after intentionally practicing at the center. Powers and Corlett acknowledge this general trend in their study: The psychics they spoke tended to seek out and cultivate the voice-hearing experiences.

In her work, Luhrmann has come across groups of people who—unlike Jessica—hear voices only as a result of practice. She gives the example of tulpamancers: people who create tulpas, which are believed to be other beings or personalities that co-exist along inside a person’s mind along with their own. “Somebody in that community estimated to me that one-fifth of the community had frequent voice hearing experiences with their tulpas, that their tulpas talked in a way that was auditory or quasi auditory,” Luhrmann said, a practice that she was told takes two hours a day to develop.“That’s connected to work. Psychosis is not connected to effort. It happens to people.”

Longden, the Hearing Voices Network advocate, describes how she later learned to extract metaphorical meaning from the sometimes disturbing messages the voices had for her. Once when the voices warned her not to leave the house, she thanked them for making her aware that she was feeling unsafe, and firmly reassured the voices—and by extension, herself—that they had nothing to fear.

Though Jessica has a different understanding of her voices’ source, it’s hard not to hear echoes of Longden’s account when she speaks about the sense of control she’s developed. Longden talks to the voices as aspects of herself that call for a response, while Jessica addresses them as visitors who need to learn the rules.

Instead of tying these experiences to a discrete diagnosis, Powers and Corlett imagine a new kind of frame for voice hearing. Drawing a parallel with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the two are interested in the extent to which the psychics they saw “might occupy the extreme end of a continuum” of people who hear voices. “Much of what we perceive and believe about the world is based on our expectations and our beliefs,” Corlett said. “We can see hallucinations as an exaggeration of that process, and the psychics as a sort of way-station on that continuum, and slowly but surely we can creep towards a better understanding of the clinical case and therefore better treatment. We haven’t had new treatment mechanisms in schizophrenia for many years now.”

The two freely admit the gaps between their ambitions and what they know so far. The study is preliminary, qualitative work—a follow-up brain-imaging study is in the works—and they did only interview a small number of people. Psychics, they say, are not so easy to come by.

Luhrmann speculates that most of the psychics are experiencing something separate from psychosis: “I think it’s also true that there are people who have psychosis who manage it such that they don’t  fall ill and avoid this stigma and who really function effectively.” This difference aside, she says, “it may still be possible to learn from people who have more control over their voices. .... to think about how to teach people.”

At least as subtext, Powers and Corlett’s study might suggest a kind of chicken-or-egg question: Were the psychics insulated from suffering because they were socialized to accept and cope with their voices, and were the psychotic patients suffering because they weren’t? The better question is: to what extent were the two groups experiencing the same thing?

Shinn believes the fact that far fewer diagnosed participants were employed at the time of the study (25 percent, versus 83 percent of the psychics), and that the diagnosed participants experienced more symptoms of psychosis, suggests that they were suffering beyond the point of being useful comparisons. She thinks, rather, that a “constellation” of symptoms—not just auditory hallucinations or the stigma associated with auditory hallucinations—explain the difference in functionality. “The Powers study provides interesting results with potentially helpful clinical implications,” she added, “but they compare very different groups.”

Shinn, Powers, and Corlett are all adamant that people who hear voices and experience psychological distress shouldn’t turn away from conventional psychiatric treatment, and that a “symptom”—in this case, voice hearing—only calls for clinical attention if it is a cause of suffering. But for those who are distressed, the level of understanding of their experience and the treatments available to them are still lacking. As Powers notes, many of psychiatry’s more effective drug treatments were developed by accident. Shinn likens the current body of knowledge of schizophrenia to a group of people describing different parts of an elephant while looking through a high-power lens: There are robust bodies of work on the trunk, the tail, and the ear, but no clear picture of the entire animal.

Shinn’s all too aware of the ways in which the diagnosis can overshadow the patient. “There have been psychiatrists,” she says, “who will tell a patient: You have a diagnosis of schizophrenia and you need to modify or adjust your goals in life, forget grad school, forget that Wall Street career,” Shinn said. “And that absolutely can be compounding and impairing. I don’t disagree that that’s a problem.”

As Luhrmann put it: “Are those cultural judgments the cause of the illness? Absolutely not. Do those cultural judgments make it worse? Probably.”

Jessica doesn’t live near the center anymore. While she’d love to find fulltime work as a medium, she says, she’s focusing on her graduate studies to become a dietitian for now.

Still, she’s grateful for the community she found at the center, she says, and for the help they gave her. “I cannot imagine having no control over this,” she told me. “I don’t know, if I never went to the center, maybe I’d be diagnosed with schizophrenia.”

(Source: The Atlantic)

Friday 28 September 2018

Devotion not subject to gender discrimination, Sabarimala temple open for all: Supreme Court

Today's verdict is the latest in a recent series of landmark Supreme Court decisions, including the decriminalisation of gay sex and adultery.

The Supreme Court on Friday removed a ban that prevented women between 10 and 50 years of age from entering Kerala's Sabarimala temple -- the latest in a recent series of landmark decisions, including the decriminalisation of gay sex and adultery.

The Sabarimala shrine, located northeast of Pathanamthitta in a tiger reserve, is dedicated to the Hindu deity Ayyappan. Devotees consider Ayyappan to be an eternal celibate.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar, who delivered one of four judgments, said devotion can't be subject to gender discrimination.

Justices Rohinton F Nariman and Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud concurred with Misra and Khanwilkar. Justice Indu Malhotra dissented.

Chandrachud said religion can't be used as a cover to deny women the right to worship, and that to treat women as the children of a lesser God was to blink at constitutional morality.

The Sabarimala shrine, located northeast of Pathanamthitta in a tiger reserve, is dedicated to the Hindu deity Ayyappan. (Photo: Facebook/SabarimalaOfficial)
Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said the "wonderful" judgment "opens up the way forward for Hinduism to become even more inclusive and not a property of one caste or one sex."

Kandararu Rajeevaru, the head priest at Sabarimala, said the verdict was "disappointing" -- -- but that the 'Tantri [head priest] family' would accept it.

The Congress, currently an Opposition party in Kerala, said it welcomed the verdict.
Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone woman on the bench, said it wasn't for courts to determine which religious practices should be struck down -- except in issues of social evil, like Sati.

Issues which have a deep religious connotation, she said, shouldn't be tinkered with to maintain a secular atmosphere in the country.

In recent weeks, the Supreme Court has delivered a series of historic judgments. It partially struck down one colonial-era law and scrapped another to decriminalise sex between consenting adults of the same sex and adultery.

In another verdict, it said Aadhaar -- a biometric database on more than 122 crore Indians -- was valid, but imposed curbs.

(Source: India Today)