Category Archives: Action

Bangladesh blocks 20,000 websites in anti-porn ‘war’

Pornography photoPopular social media apps such as TikTok and Bigo have also been blocked [File: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP]

Bangladeshi authorities have blocked almost 20,000 websites as part of an anti-pornography “war”, a minister said on Tuesday.

Internet providers in the conservative Muslim-majority nation took down pornography and gambling websites in the past week under orders from the telecommunications regulator.

“I want to create a safe and secure internet for all Bangladeshis, including children. And this is my war against pornography. And this will be a continuous war,” Mustafa Jabbar, the posts and telecommunications minister, told the AFP news agency.

Popular social media apps such as TikTok and Bigo – which authorities believe are misused – have also been blocked in the South Asian nation, Jabbar said.

Most of the blocked sites are foreign, but a few local websites and social media platforms have also faced action under the crackdown, he added.

The crackdown was launched after Bangladesh’s High Court in November asked the government to block pornography websites and publication of obscene materials in electronic forms for six months.

The court acted after a civil society organisation filed a petition stating that a large number of adult websites contain uncensored and obscene content.

Regular monitoring
On Sunday, police reprimanded a rising actress and told her to remove provocative images from her Facebook, Instagram and TikTok pages.

“We are monitoring the local Facebook profiles, YouTube channels and websites, also,” Jabbar said.

“A few of them were taken down for having obscene content. We advised a few others not to post anything that goes against our social norms.”

Bangladesh, a country of 165 million people, has more than 90 million internet users. Porn stars regularly top the list of the most searched names.

Emdadul Hoque, general secretary of the internet service providers association, said they have complied with the order, but many users can still access online porn by using virtual private networks or mirror websites.

“This is a continuous process and it needs regular monitoring. These websites are very well aware of the regulations and they come up with thousands of mirror sites every week,” Hoque told AFP.

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/bangladesh-blocks-20000-websites-anti-porn-war-190219155030486.html

How dangerous is marijuana for young men’s mental health?

marijuana photoWhen it comes to health, we never know as much as we think we do. Illustration: George Wylesol

By Alex Halperin

Just because today marijuana is widely regarded as safer than alcohol doesn’t mean that’s the final word. A bestselling anti-marijuana book is making waves for suggesting that the drug may be far more dangerous than the industry would have us believe. But how much credence should we give it?

Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence, by the former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson, reminds readers that when it comes to health, we never know as much as we think we do.

The most demonstrable health risk associated with marijuana is that for a small portion of users, largely men in their teens and early 20s, the drug may induce psychosis and schizophrenia, sometimes after only short-term use. By highlighting this real, and terrifying, risk of marijuana use, Berenson has done an important public service.

But as others have pointed out, the book overreaches in trying to establish a causal link between cannabis use and violence. And it suffers from Berenson’s refusal to consider marijuana as anything other than a serious threat to a relatively small segment of the population.

Science takes time and is not immune to the dogmas of its era. Today doctors universally recognize the dangers of cigarette smoking, but it took decades – and millions of early, agonizing deaths – before the consensus solidified. The best parts of Tell Your Children document the connection between pot smoking and psychosis, from 19th century Mexico and India to the present day.

The connection hadn’t been a secret. According to a 2013 statement from the American Psychiatric Association, “current evidence supports, at minimum, a strong association of cannabis use with the onset of psychiatric disorders. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to harm, given the effects of cannabis on neurological development”. But Berenson has amplified it more effectively than anyone else.

It isn’t a fashionable argument right now. The for-profit cannabis industry promotes the drug as a nearly harmless “medicine” and it seems to be working. Last year, Canada became the first large country to legalize recreational cannabis. About 90% of Americans favor access to medical marijuana and roughly two-thirds favor full legalization.

The rapid shift in US public opinion towards legalization has been fueled by disgust with the war on drugs and mass incarceration, as well as the largely unproven hopes that medical marijuana can mitigate complex health crises such as the opioid epidemic.

According to Berenson, “the great majority” of teenagers who smoke weed will not be affected by psychosis. But young people who are at greatest risk deserve the best available information. By describing numerous psychotic breakdowns in excruciating detail, the book’s scare tactics could save a few lives. Berenson is also not the first person to soundly argue that the high-potency pot products available now are likely to make the problem worse.

The second part of Berenson’s argument, however, has attracted more criticism. He attempts to show that because marijuana can cause psychosis and psychosis can cause violence, marijuana causes users to commit senseless, nightmarish acts of violence. (For rebuttals see here, here, here and here. For a discussion of the issues involved see here.)

Tell Your Children opens with an Australian woman who knifed eight children to death, seven of them hers. Later it tells the story of Jared Loughner, a 22-year-old Arizona man who in 2011 shot six people to death and nearly killed then congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords; Loughner also smoked pot. There’s lots more.

Yet legal marijuana markets don’t seem to have witnessed an uptick in ultraviolence. Berenson suggests the crimes are out there but have not been well-publicized, and that the problem is gestating. Maybe, but the argument suffers from a definition of psychosis which seems to encompass everything from low-level paranoia to fits of homicidal rage.

And while Berenson focuses on questionable concerns over violence, he misses a number of less cinematic, but perhaps more dangerous threats. He could have looked, for example, into the little studied question of whether cannabis use by pregnant women can impair fetal brain development.

Every adult in America, meanwhile, knows someone they think smokes too much weed, not because the user mutilated someone, but because it seemed to diminish their emotional or intellectual capacities. By some estimates, 10% of marijuana users develop a dependency on the drug. Under any legalization scenario, it’s this population, the anonymous problem user, who will weigh most heavily on society.

A better anti-weed book would tell their stories. But this would force questions Berenson has no interest in answering. If 20% of marijuana users have a problem, 80% don’t. Berenson doesn’t want to come off as a prig. He gets that people like to get high and tries not to hold it against them. But he’s uninterested in why people get high, much less able to acknowledge the possibility that there’s any good reason for it.

Like a lot of weed opponents, he says only a small fraction of marijuana users use it to treat a clinical medical need. That’s true. Much about weed invites this kind of easy contempt. But the great bulk of users feel it’s beneficial, because it helps them relax, it improves their sex life or makes it more fun to play with their kids. Maybe it helps them drink less alcohol, which they find more destructive.

And at the other end of the spectrum from the problem users is a population who consider weed something like a performance-enhancing drug. They can be found, among other places, throughout the ranks of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. The last century of music, one might argue, was brought to us by weed.

The book would have been better if Berenson had some understanding of, or curiosity about, the drug’s allure and complexity, or even could put its dangers in context.

“By some criteria, I am dependent,” the journalist Andrew Sullivan wrote in 2017. “Weed most definitely isn’t for everyone. But compared with all the other substances available, and most other avenues to chill and friendship, it remains, it seems to me, a no-brainer to legalize it, and for many sane adults, one of God’s great gifts to humankind.”

 

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/28/how-dangerous-is-marijuana-for-young-mens-mental-health

Holy Cross Sisters help Ugandan women resist domestic violence

domestic-violence photoYoung women chat Nov. 11, 2018, in Mbale, Uganda. The Holy Cross Sisters in eastern Uganda have launched a campaign to end violence against women and girls. (CNS/Doreen Ajiambo)

by Doreen Ajiambo

Not all that long ago, family members and residents of this small town in western Uganda mourned the loss of Sarah Baguma, who was stabbed to death by her husband in a domestic wrangle.

Her cousin, Rachael Nabirye, told police that Baguma was stabbed six times in her abdomen and head.

“My cousin’s husband accused her of returning home late before he began beating her,” said Nabirye, who was staying with the couple at the time of the attack. “They had been fighting every time, and we had advised them to separate. It’s very unfortunate that she had to die.”

The killing highlighted how widespread domestic violence is in the East Africa nation. The situation is so serious that women religious of the Holy Cross Sisters have intervened by launching community discussions designed to increase awareness about the prevalence of family violence.

During discussions, women and other stakeholders are given the opportunity to share their experience and identify the causes and possibly solutions to the violence they face. Participants learn about their legal rights and are encouraged to report any form of violence meted against them to authorities.

Holy Cross Sr. Semerita Mbambu said the order introduced the effort in the hope of reducing, even ending, violence against women and girls. Many women facing domestic violence in their marriages or relationships have been rescued, taken to various parishes and given funds to start a business to generate some income, she said.

“We have realized that the main cause of domestic violence in many families is poverty,” Mbambu told Catholic News Service. “Men don’t want to work and support their wives. They want to drink alcohol the whole day and leave all responsibilities to the women. They beat their wives if they refuse to give them money for drinking alcohol.”

Violence against women and girls is on the rise in Uganda despite stringent laws to protect victims and survivors. Gender-based violence increased from 38,651 incidents in 2015 to 40,258 in 2016, according to Ugandan police. Domestic violence is more common in rural areas than in cities, a report from police said.

Fifty-six percent of women 15 years and older experience physical violence, according to the 2017 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey. The findings show that local police agencies reported 341 women and girls were killed in domestic conflicts in 2015 and 2016.

Authorities have blamed Ugandan culture as the main cause of violence against women and girls. They have called on religious leaders to help society as a whole to understand the consequences of violence and the rights of everyone to live a violence-free life.

“The society believes that a man has a right to beat a woman,” said Solomon Mugisa, a government representative in Kabarole district in western Uganda, where domestic violence has been increasing. “They beat women to maintain the status quo and they are celebrated by members of the society as heroes. I want to tell them that it’s a criminal offense to beat a woman, and we’re going to arrest perpetrators when such incidents are reported to us.”

The Holy Cross Sisters have made it their mission to end violence against women, eliminate poverty and build communities of justice and love.

Recently, the Holy Cross Sisters joined other religious congregations in rescuing hundreds of women facing violence. Those rescued were helped with food and monetary donations and taught about their legal rights.

The sisters also conduct monthly meetings with other religious leaders to create awareness and seek solutions for the women living in dire circumstances.

Mbambu, who has been leading other women religious in a campaign against domestic violence, said empowering women and girls was the only way to protect their rights.

“We need to empower women by helping them start income-generating activities and also encourage young girls to go to school,” she told CNS. “If we do that, our country is going to develop very quickly. We should remember that domestic violence hinders development in the country.”

Joyce Mugasa, 35, said she appreciated the sisters’ work in rescuing her from an abusive marriage and helping her to start a business. Mugasa recounted how her husband used to hit, kick and slap her while he was drunk. She said her husband had been mistreating her, but she had been holding on to the marriage because she had nowhere else to go.

“I want to thank the sisters for helping me and also saving my life,” said Mugasa, a mother of three who now owns a grocery store in the town of Kabarole. “My husband used to beat me mercilessly, but I wanted to stay in marriage and raise my children. But when he threatened to kill me, I was forced to run and seek refuge in one of the parishes. I’m now free, and I thank God.”

Back in Kyenjojo, Nabirye wished her cousin could have sought refuge in a church. She said she wants the government and the church to ensure that no woman goes through the same experience.

“I want to urge Sisters of the Holy Cross family to ensure that no woman dies in the hands of her husband because of love,” she said. “They should help women who are suffering in silence in villages. I don’t want any woman to go through the same situation as that of my cousin.”

 

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/equality/holy-cross-sisters-help-ugandan-women-resist-domestic-violence-55779?utm_source=GSR+digest+1-17-19&utm_campaign=cc&utm_medium=email

Donald Trump’s troubled charity foundation to shut down

Trump photoMr Trump and his three eldest children are accused of using it for private and political gain; AFP

US President Donald Trump’s troubled charity foundation has agreed to close down amid allegations that he and others illegally misused its funds.

The move was announced by the Attorney General of New York State, Barbara Underwood, who will supervise the distribution of its remaining monies.

She has accused Mr Trump and his three eldest children of using it for private and political gain.

The foundation’s lawyer accused her of attempting to politicise the matter.

This is just one of several legal cases currently swirling around Mr Trump and his family. Others include a wide-ranging special counsel investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia headed by former FBI chief Robert Mueller.

What do prosecutors say?

Ms Underwood said the case against Mr Trump and his children Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric would continue.

In a statement, she said there had been “a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation – including unlawful co-ordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and wilful self-dealing, and much more”.

She continued: “This amounted to the Trump Foundation functioning as little more than a chequebook to serve Mr Trump’s business and political interests.”
Under the terms of the deal to shut down the foundation, Ms Underwood said, it could only be dissolved under judicial supervision and could only distribute its assets “to reputable organisations approved by my office”.

She added: “This is an important victory for the rule of law, making clear that there is one set of rules for everyone.

“We’ll continue to move our suit forward to ensure that the Trump Foundation and its directors are held to account for their clear and repeated violations of state and federal law.”

And the Trumps?

In a statement to the BBC, Trump Foundation lawyer Alan Futerfas – signatory to the deal closing the foundation – said: “Contrary to the NYAG’s [New York Attorney General] misleading statement… the foundation has been seeking to dissolve and distribute its remaining assets to worthwhile charitable causes since Donald J Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.

“Unfortunately, the NYAG sought to prevent dissolution for almost two years, thereby depriving those most in need of nearly $1.7m.

“Over the past decade, the foundation is proud to have distributed approximately $19m, including $8.25m of the president’s personal money, to over 700 different charitable organisations with virtually zero expenses.

“The NYAG’s inaccurate statement of this morning is a further attempt to politicize this matter.”

Mr Trump and his eldest children have yet to comment.

Last June, Mr Trump indicated on Twitter that he was not willing to settle the case, insisting the foundation had done nothing wrong.
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46611178

Migration Compact adopted following Pope’s call to action

Compact photo                                 Pope at launch of Share the Journey

Source: CAFOD

More than 160 countries have agreed the UN Global Compact on Migration at a conference in Morocco following calls from CAFOD supporters and thousands of Catholics worldwide.

The migration pact follows the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees by the United Nations General Assembly earlier in 2018. The two agreements set out how governments will work together to help people on the move, particularly those who have been forced from their homes by persecution or poverty.

Catholics around the world have campaigned for governments to agree the compacts as part of a ‘Share the Journey’ campaign launched by Pope Francis in 2017, with CAFOD supporters in England and Wales walking more than 100,000 miles in solidarity with displaced people.

What are the global compacts?

The global compacts on migrants and refugees are the result of negotiations which started following a UN agreement in 2016 called the ‘New York Declaration’. This set out a process for countries to cooperate in dealing with the unprecedented number of people globally who were migrating because of war, the changing climate or in search of a better life.

Both agreements are seen as a step forward because they recognise that many migrants and refugees face common challenges and vulnerabilities.

The migration compact sets out how to assist people at all the stages of their journey – ensuring they can leave their homes without unnecessary danger, reducing the risk of exploitation and trafficking, and helping them to access basic services such as healthcare and education when they arrive in new countries.

The refugee compact seeks to make sure that countries which receive the largest number of refugees are given support. This is something the Holy Father has called for, as the majority of displaced people are living in countries which suffer from high levels of poverty themselves.

The agreement states the need to tackle the reasons why people are forced from their homes, including disasters resulting from climate change and damage to the environment.

The compact also notes that faith groups have an important role to play in helping refugees, including the role that the Church and other religious organisations play in preventing conflict and helping to build peace.

Global Compacts are a ‘testament to Pope’s leadership’

Graham Gordon, Head of Policy at CAFOD, said that the adoption of the agreements showed that “governments have responded to calls from their citizens” to support displaced people, noting that “tens of thousands of Catholics have walked over 100,000 miles in solidarity with people on the move.”

“Pope Francis has said that our response to the needs of migrants will be a ‘test of our humanity’, so the fact that the vast majority of states are joining the Global Compact is a positive sign.

“It’s in everyone’s interests that countries work together to support at every stage of their journey those who have left their homes in search of a better life. This is especially important if we are to prevent people from falling into the hands of traffickers and criminal gangs.”

The Holy See, under the Pope’s supervision, published guidance for governments ahead of the talks which led to the global compacts. These ‘action points’ were based on the support the Catholic Church is giving to refugees and migrants worldwide, including in countries such as Colombia, Nigeria and Lebanon.

Graham Gordon said: “The Global Compact and its sister document on refugees have been a testament to the leadership shown by the Pope and the Church during negotiations. Now we need to ensure that governments put their words into action and implement their provisions.”
https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/36197

IMF warns storm clouds are gathering for next financial crisis

Deputy head David Lipton says global banking system is not prepared for another downturn

IMF photoCrisis prevention is incomplete more than a decade on from the financial crisis, the IMF’s deputy head, David Lipton, said. Photograph: Eddie Mulholland/Rex

Richard Partington Economics correspondent

The storm clouds of the next global financial crisis are gathering despite the world financial system being unprepared for another downturn, the deputy head of the International Monetary Fund has warned.

David Lipton, the first deputy managing director of the IMF, said that “crisis prevention is incomplete” more than a decade on from the last meltdown in the global banking system.

“As we have put it, ‘fix the roof while the sun shines’. But, like many of you, I see storm clouds building and fear the work on crisis prevention is incomplete.”

Lipton said individual nation states alone would lack the firepower to combat the next recession, while calling on governments to work together to tackle the issues that could spark another crash.

“We ought to be concerned about the potency of monetary policy,” he said of the ability of the US Federal Reserve and other central banks to cut interest rates to boost the economy in the event of another downturn, while also warning that high levels of borrowing by governments constrained their scope for cutting taxes and raising spending.

Lipton said the IMF went into the last crash under-resourced before it was handed a war chest worth $1tn (£790bn) from governments around the world, while adding that it was important that national leaders had agreed to complete a review of the fund’s financial firepower next year.

“One lesson from that crisis was the IMF went into it under-resourced; we should try to avoid that next time.”

Speaking to an audience at Bloomberg in London, Christine Lagarde’s deputy called on China to take urgent steps to open up its economy to global competition.

Against a backdrop of Donald Trump engaging in a bitter trade dispute with Beijing, he said China needed to lower trade barriers, while also impose tougher rules to protect intellectual property – a key complaint of the US president.

Lipton suggested that Chinese trade policies that were once considered acceptable when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 as a $1tn economy may now be inappropriate as it had become a $16tn international superpower.

However, he did warn that the US should not take an overly heavy-handed approach to reform, adding: “China has many reforms that it could carry out that would be in its own interest and in the interest of countries around the globe. But China feels they can’t take those steps, as they put it, with a gun to their head, in the midst of trade tensions.”

The warning from the IMF marked the latest intervention from the Washington-based fund as the outlook for the global economy deteriorates, with particular flashpoints being the US-China trade dispute and central banks raising interest rates.

Global growth is forecast to slow as a result of the trade war, while financial markets have also been rattled in recent weeks. The FTSE 100 recorded its worst day since the Brexit vote last week, prompted by fears over the dispute, wiping more than £56bn off the value of the UK’s leading companies.

After almost a decade of low interest rates, the total value of global debt, both public and private, has risen by 60% to hit a record high of $182tn, so if central banks raise borrowing costs that would create difficulties for businesses and governments.

Lipton warned that sustained trade conflict between the US and China would be likely to trigger “far-reaching and long-lasting consequences” for the global economy, with a risk that Trump’s rhetoric could encourage China to shift its economy away from the rest of the world.

“Trade barriers if they are sustained could lead to a fragmentation of the global economy.”

“If this [trade dispute] leads to stalemate, China may decide to reorientate its economy not to trade with the US. To accept sustained trade barriers … could lead to a slowdown [for the global economy],” he said.
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/11/imf-financial-crisis-david-lipton

Suicide, drug overdose rates bring US life expectancy down

Lethal_injection

Credit: Oleksandr Lysenko/Shutterstock.

Washington D.C. (CNA/EWTN News).- The suicide rate in the United States is at its highest in at least 50 years, and is contributing to a decrease in the nation’s life expectancy, the federal government said Thursday.
Life expectancy for the U.S. population declined to 78.6 in 2017, down from 78.7 the previous year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a new report.

“Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the Nation’s overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable,” said CDC director Robert Redfield in a Nov. 29 statement.

The United States saw more than 47,000 suicides in 2017, an increase of more than 2,000 from the previous year.

In addition, there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths last year, a 10 percent rise from 2016. Deaths from heroin and prescription opioids remained steady from the previous year, while fentanyl deaths drastically increased.

Other findings in the CDC report included an increase in gun deaths, totaling almost 40,000. Deaths from heart disease – the top killer in the U.S. – are no longer declining, while deaths from flu and pneumonia increased by 6 percent.

While U.S. life expectancy had been rising for decades, the country is now seeing its longest period of generally declining life expectancy since World War I, according to the Associated Press.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/suicide-drug-overdose-rates-bring-us-life-expectancy-down-52239