Risks of Harm from Spanking Confirmed by Analysis of Five Decades of Research.

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Risks of Harm from Spanking Confirmed by Analysis of Five Decades of Research.

The more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties, according to a new meta-analysis of 50 years of research on spanking by experts at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan.

The study, published in this month’s Journal of Family Psychology, looks at five decades of research involving over 160,000 children. The researchers say it is the most complete analysis to date of the outcomes associated with spanking, and more specific to the effects of spanking alone than previous papers, which included other types of physical punishment in their analyses.

Elizabeth Gershoff

Elizabeth Gershoff. Photo courtesy of University of Texas at Austin College of Natural Sciences.

“Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors,” says Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. “We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”

Gershoff and co-author Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, found that spanking (defined as an open-handed hit on the behind or extremities) was significantly linked with 13 of the 17 outcomes they examined, all in the direction of detrimental outcomes.

“The upshot of the study is that spanking increases the likelihood of a wide variety of undesired outcomes for children. Spanking thus does the opposite of what parents usually want it to do,” Grogan-Kaylor says.

Gershoff and Grogan-Kaylor tested for some long-term effects among adults who were spanked as children. The more they were spanked, the more likely they were to exhibit anti-social behavior and to experience mental health problems. They were also more likely to support physical punishment for their own children, which highlights one of the key ways that attitudes toward physical punishment are passed from generation to generation.

The researchers looked at a wide range of studies and noted that spanking was associated with negative outcomes consistently and across all types of studies, including those using the strongest methodologies such as longitudinal or experimental designs. As many as 80 percent of parents around the world spank their children, according to a 2014 UNICEF report. Gershoff notes that this persistence of spanking is in spite of the fact that there is no clear evidence of positive effects from spanking and ample evidence that it poses a risk of harm to children’s behavior and development.

Both spanking and physical abuse were associated with the same detrimental child outcomes in the same direction and nearly the same strength.

“We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors,” she says. “Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree.”

Gershoff also noted that the study results are consistent with a report released recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that called for “public engagement and education campaigns and legislative approaches to reduce corporal punishment,” including spanking, as a means of reducing physical child abuse. “We hope that our study can help educate parents about the potential harms of spanking and prompt them to try positive and non-punitive forms of discipline.”

Source: http://bit.ly/1rp2cDl

Churchgoer killed in fight over seat at Sunday service.

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Churchgoer killed in fight over seat at Sunday service.

A churchgoer shot a fellow parishioner in a Pennsylvania church after a fight broke out over a seat in the sanctuary on Sunday, authorities say.

The argument started when a churchgoer told Robert Braxton III, 27, he was sitting in seats reserved for two other church members during Sunday service at the Keystone Fellowship Church, district attorney Kevin Steele said.

He yelled “don’t f—ing touch me” after a church member tapped him on the shoulders to let him know he was in someone else’s seat, an affidavit obtained by NBC Philadelphia said.

Witnesses said Braxton started causing a fuss over the seat, but soon calmed down after talking to a church usher and a pastor.

But the situation soon turned violent when Mark Storms, 46, approached Braxton, carrying a gun in his hand and telling the 27-year-old to get out of the sanctuary.

Mark Storms, 46, flashed a concealed carry badge before opening fire on Braxton, killing him. Montgomery County DA

Mark Storms, 46, flashed a concealed carry badge before opening fire on Braxton, killing him.

The gun-toting suspect then flashed a Concealed Weapons Permit badge, which the district attorney’s office belives was purchased online.

“When he came over, he had a gun out, escalating the situation,” Steele said at a press conference on Thursday. “Braxton then took a swing at the defendant, punching him in the jaw.”

“F— you and your fake badge, get the f— out of here,” witnesses recalled Braxton telling Storms. “That’s not a real gun,” another witness remembered hearing.

Just before punching Storms, Braxton asked, “What are you going to do, shoot me?” according to the court records.

The gunman then opened fire, blasting Braxton once in the chest and again in the right arm.

Montgomery County district attorney Kevin Steele said there was no reason to ever bring a gun to a crowded church. ABC 6

Montgomery County district attorney Kevin Steele said there was no reason to ever bring a gun to a crowded church.

Braxton was rushed to Abington-Lansdale Hospital, where he died from his multiple gunshot wounds.

The 46-year-old gunman was arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment.

“Storms’ shooting of Mr. Braxton was not a reasonable self-defense situation,” the district attorney said.

Steele said Storms had no reason to bring a loaded gun to a crowded church on a Sunday morning, and had no right to confront Braxton, who was in the process of calming down.

He added that an average of 250 to 300 people attend that church’s Sunday service each week.

The Keystone Fellowship Church held a special service on Monday after the deadly shooting. ABC 6

The Keystone Fellowship Church held a special service on Monday after the deadly shooting.

“It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to bring a gun to church,” Steele said.

The victim’s family was outraged that their loved one’s life was ripped away at church.

“You don’t go to church to be killed, you just don’t do that,” Diana Walters, Braxton’s aunt, told WPVI. “He’s a young man. He had his whole life ahead of him.”

The Keystone Fellowship church held a special service on Monday to mourn Braxton’s death.

“Our hearts are deeply grieved over the tragic event that occured Sunday morning, April 24 at our Montgomeryville campus. As a church family, we are shocked and heartbroken over what took place, and our congregation is in prayer for everyone involved,” the church wrote in a statement on Facebook.

At Storms’ arraignment, the alleged killer insisted that he used a weapon in self-defense. His bail is set at $250,000. Storms told police that he was hoping to defuse the situation by showing a gun, which, according to court documents, he’s done in the past.

Source: http://nydn.us/1rmRiOo

Gay Couple Wins Custody Battle Against Thai Surrogate Mother.

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Gay Couple Wins Custody Battle Against Thai Surrogate Mother.

A same-sex American-Spanish couple won a high-profile custody battle Tuesday against a surrogate mother in Thailand who gave birth to their child but then decided she wanted to keep the baby when she found out they were gay.

Bangkok’s Juvenile and Family Court ruled that the legal guardian of the 15-month-old child, named Carmen, is her American biological father, Gordon Lake, said Lake’s lawyer Rachapol Sirikulchit.

“The court has granted legal custody of Carmen Lake to Gordon Lake, my client, and (said) that my client is her only guardian,” Rachapol said.

Lake and his partner, Spaniard Manuel Santos, both 41, have been stuck in Thailand since launching their legal battle after Carmen was born in January 2015.

Santos emerged from the court smiling and with tears in his eyes.

“We won,” he told reporters. “We are really happy. … This nightmare is going to end soon.”

“After 15 months, Carmen will fly to Spain,” where the couple lives, Santos said.

Rachapol said the couple would not be able to take Carmen out of the country right away pending the possibility of an appeal by the surrogate mother, Patidta Kusolsang. She was not in court and her intentions could not immediately be learned.

Lake and Santos celebrated their legal victory on the “Bringcarmenhome” Facebook page set up to support their custody fight.

“There is no way to express with words what we are feeling!” they posted. “We are crying, our family is crying, our friends are crying, and we are sure all the Thai people who showed their love for us during this time are crying too.”

“Today is a huge day for love, for family and for truth. And it is also a big day for LGBT rights,” said their posting, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.

The case was seen as complicated by the fact that Thai law does not recognize same-sex marriages and also by a new law that bans commercial surrogacy, which took effect after Carmen’s birth. Rachapol said the court’s ruling was based on a transitory clause in the law allowing the intended parents of any baby born before the law took effect to request to be the legal parents.

When Carmen was born, Patidta handed over the baby to Lake and Santos, who left the hospital with the infant. But they say Patidta then changed her mind and refused to sign the documents to allow Carmen to get a passport so they could leave Thailand.

Lake, who is from New Jersey, is Carmen’s biological father, while the egg came from an anonymous donor, not Patidta. Neither he nor Carmen were in court Tuesday.

Lake and Santos were told Patidta had thought they were an “ordinary family and that she worried for Carmen’s upbringing,” according to a message Lake posted on a crowdfunding site that has raised $36,000 to help cover the costs of the trial and staying in Thailand.

Lake has said he doesn’t know why the surrogate says she didn’t realize they were gay. He says he was clear about that from the start with their surrogacy agency, New Life, which has branches in several countries.

The Bangkok-based New Life office has closed since commercial surrogacy was outlawed in Thailand in July 2015, following several high-profile scandals. There was a grace period provided for parents whose babies were already on the way.

Carmen has lived since birth with the couple, who also have a toddler son, Alvaro, born to a surrogate mother in India with Santos the biological father.

They said in their Facebook posting that the family will live in Valencia, Spain, but that they love Thailand and promised to come back often.

“Carmen is half Thai and we are very very proud of that,” they said. “Right now, we just want to go back to our normal lives and try to rebuild what we can, so that Alvaro and Carmen can have the wonderful lives that they were always meant to have.”

Source: http://bit.ly/1rloR3d

Serial child molester Dennis Hastert (former Republican house speaker) sentenced to only 15 months in jail for his crimes.

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Serial child molester Dennis Hastert (former Republican house speaker) sentenced to only 15 months in jail for his crimes.

n his 2004 memoir, former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert claimed he was never a good liar. “Maybe I wasn’t smart enough,” Hastert wrote. “I could never get away with it, so I made up my mind as a kid to tell the truth and pay the consequences.”

It took nearly 40 years, but in a packed Chicago courtroom on Wednesday, Hastert finally, reluctantly, admitted to his dark past.

In a raspy voice, Hastert, once the third most powerful elected leader in the country, acknowledged he sexually abused several boys he coached on the Yorkville High School wrestling team in the 1960s and 1970s.

In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin repeatedly slammed Hastert as a “serial child molester” who not only violated the trust of the boys he’d coached but also tried to mislead federal authorities years later by claiming he was being blackmailed by one of his victims.

“Nothing is more stunning than having the words ‘serial child molester’ and ‘speaker of the House’ in the same sentence,” Durkin said.

The two-hour sentencing hearing capped a stunning downfall for Hastert, who rose from humble beginnings as a schoolteacher and coach to become the longest-serving Republican House speaker in U.S. history, a powerhouse in Illinois politics who was revered in the small town of Kendall County he called home.

Dozens of reporters and spectators lined up to get a seat in Durkin’s 14th-floor courtroom, where two of Hastert’s accusers came forward to testify for the first time about his sexual misconduct.

Scott Cross, previously identified in court papers only as Individual D, went public with his account of how Hastert had sexually molested him in an otherwise empty locker room one afternoon in fall 1979 when he was a 17-year-old senior. Cross’ brother, Tom, a former longtime Illinois Republican House leader, had been a Hastert protege.

Also testifying was Jolene Burdge, who recalled in poignant detail how her brother, Stephen Reinboldt, had spent years “running from the pain and turmoil” Hastert’s abuse had caused, afraid to speak out about it because he thought no one would believe him. When she had confronted Hastert about the abuse at her brother’s funeral in 1995, he treated her like an “insignificant annoyance,” she said.

“Now I stand here 20 years later with the truth on my side,” said Burdge, turning and looking directly at Hastert, who did not meet her gaze. “I hope I have been your worst nightmare.”

Hastert, who his lawyers said nearly died last year from a blood infection, sat in the wheelchair without expression for nearly the entire hearing, his mouth turned down and eyes only occasionally glancing across the room. When it came time for him to speak, he shook as he was helped to his feet by his attorneys and leaned heavily on a walker to approach the lectern at the front of the hushed courtroom.

Looking through eyeglasses at his written notes, the white-haired Hastert apologized for mistreating some of his athletes, but as in past apologies conveyed through his attorneys, he didn’t specify what it was he’d done.

“For 11 months, I have been struggling to come to terms with events that occurred almost four decades ago,” Hastert said. “I wanted to apologize for the boys I mistreated when I was their coach. What I did was wrong, and I regret it. They looked to me, and I took advantage of them.”

After apologizing to his family, supporters, constituents and the government, Hastert wrapped up his remarks by thanking Durkin for listening. But the judge didn’t let him off the hook. As Hastert gathered his papers and moved to take a seat, Durkin said he had a few questions of his own.

“You said you mistreated athletes. Did you sexually abuse Mr. Cross?” Durkin asked.

“I — I don’t remember doing that, but I accept his statement,” Hastert said.

“Did you sexually abuse Victim B?” asked Durkin, referring to another former wrestler who accused Hastert of performing a sex act on him when he was 14.

“Yes,” Hastert replied quickly.

“Alright. And how about Mr. Reinboldt? Did you sexually abuse him?” the judge asked.

After Hastert replied, “That was a different situation,” Durkin said, “If you want to elaborate, now is the time to do it.”

Hastert conferred with his lawyer.

“I — I would accept Ms. Burdge’s statement,” he then said haltingly.

“So you did sexually abuse him?” Durkin asked.

“Yes,” Hastert replied.

Hastert pleaded guilty in October to one count of illegally structuring $950,000 in bank withdrawals to avoid reporting requirements. He admitted in a plea agreement with prosecutors he was making the withdrawals to pay a longtime acquaintance — identified in court records only as Individual A — to hide wrongdoing from his past.

The case against Hastert began to unfold four years ago after a Yorkville bank noticed the suspicious withdrawals. After he was told by bank officials that any withdrawals of $10,000 or more had to be reported to regulators, Hastert began to withdraw cash in $9,000 increments. In all, Hastert took out $1.7 million over 4 1/2 years, paying Individual A in increments of $50,000 or $100,000 in meetings held at a Yorkville restaurant parking lot, prosecutors said.

In December 2014, FBI agents confronted Hastert about the withdrawals at his home in Plano. Hastert told them he was simply trying to keep his money safe, but shortly after that meeting, an attorney representing Hastert called authorities to say the former speaker was a victim of an extortion plot and would cooperate in the investigation.

Hastert claimed in a February 2015 meeting with federal prosecutors that Individual A had falsely accused him of inappropriately touching him decades ago when he was a coach. At the request of authorities, Hastert secretly recorded two calls to Individual A to try to catch him making extortionist threats, but agents soon realized it was Hastert who appeared to be lying.

Agents then decided to question Individual A, who told them about the alleged abuse. He said Hastert had him stay in a motel room overnight with him while returning from a wrestling camp. Individual A had complained about a groin pull, so Hastert said he wanted to check it out and began massaging his groin area after telling him to remove his underwear, prosecutors said.

In all, five former students had come forward to accuse Hastert of sexual abuse. The incidents occurred in empty locker rooms and in motel rooms on summer wrestling trips, often predicated by Hastert offering a massage, according to prosecutors. His victims also told authorities how Hastert would pull up a reclining chair after practices and watch the boys shower.

In asking for probation, Hastert’s lead lawyer, Thomas C. Green of Washington, said Wednesday that Hastert was not attempting to minimize his conduct but wanted the judge to consider the entire arc of Hastert’s life in fashioning a sentence.

Hastert made poor decisions after being confronted by the FBI, retreating to “survival instinct,” Green said. He couldn’t admit his past wrongdoing to himself let alone to prosecutors or victims, he said.

Hastert’s name has been removed from public buildings and his portrait at the U.S. Capitol sent to storage. Green also said he’s been abandoned by many of his friends, some of whom asked that their letters of support be pulled after details of Hastert’s sex abuse crimes were revealed.

Green said Hastert now finds himself sitting alone at home, unable to care for himself and “isolated from society.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Block, meanwhile, requested a sentence within the range called for under sentencing guidelines — from probation to up to six months behind bars.

Speaking to reporters in the courthouse lobby, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon said he was satisfied with the sentence but wished Hastert would have been held responsible for the sexual abuse when it happened decades ago.

“I am frustrated,” Fardon said. “I wish Mr. Hastert would have been called to the carpet in 1968. We all would have been better off today. This isn’t perfect, but it’s what we got.”

Fardon also said he hoped their example would encourage any other potential victims of Hastert’s misconduct to come forward.

In his lengthy remarks, the judge ripped Hastert’s attempts to blame Individual A as “unconscionable.” His lies led the FBI to open an extortion investigation against Individual A, including pulling his bank records, tapping his phone and conducting surveillance on his activities.

“You tried to set him up,” Durkin said. “You tried to frame him …The full weight of the federal government’s investigative resources were thrown at him. And he didn’t deserve it — he was a victim decades ago and you tried to make him a victim again.”

Durkin’s voice choked with emotion as he talked about the trust parents put in teachers and coaches to do right by their children, and how the parents of Hastert’s victims have been left to agonize over how they missed the warning signs. The judge also noted that Hastert took advantage of the desire of many teens to simply fit in and avoid embarrassment in front of their peers.

“Can you imagine the whispers, the finger-pointing, the sideways glances if you’re a 14-year-old boy and you accuse the town hero of molesting you?” Durkin asked.

Throughout the judge’s remarks, Hastert sat in his wheelchair without expression, glasses low on his nose. At one point, as Durkin made it clear that probation was not in the cards, Hastert clasped his hands in front of his face and dropped his eyes.

In her remarks, Burdge talked about how her brother’s life deteriorated after Hastert abused him in high school, the trauma leading him “down a path of high-risk, reckless behavior that ultimately cost him his life.”

Stricken with AIDS, Reinboldt spent his last years wallowing in depression, living in a one-room apartment in Los Angeles, she said. When he died, fear over the AIDS epidemic was rampant, and only one funeral home would come to pick up his body “in the cover of night,” she said.

“You took his life, Mr. Hastert, not because he died of AIDS, but because you took his innocence and turned it against him,” she said. “He was too young and vulnerable to understand that.”

In commending the victims in coming forward, Durkin told Burdge she could rest assured that people finally believed her.

Sitting in the courtroom gallery, Burdge nodded, smiled sadly and whispered, “Thank you.”

Source: http://trib.in/1VWfpA3

The misogynist aspect of Buddhism that nobody talks about.

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The misogynist aspect of Buddhism that nobody talks about.

Hinduism is patriarchal. No doubt about it. So are Christianity and Islam, Sikhism and Shinto, Jainism and Judaism. But Buddhism? It is not the first religion that comes to mind when we talk about misogyny.

The assumption is that Buddhism is rational, modern, agnostic, and liberal in matters of gender and sexuality. Book after book has conditioned us to see the celibate and chaste Buddha as a kind of androgynous, asexual, gentle sage with a beatific smile. Yet, some of the earliest and most systematic documentation of rejection of female sexuality in Indian literature is from Buddhist scriptures, especially the rules of monastic discipline (Vinaya Pitaka), traditionally attributed to the Buddha himself.

Consider this:

There are more rules for nuns (bhikkunis) than monks (bhikkus), 331 as against 227, because while everyone has to control their desires, women have the additional burden of not “arousing the desires of men.”

Monks are advised to sleep indoors, not outdoors, after an incident where women had sex with a monk while he, apparently, was sleeping under a tree. Monks who do not wake up, or do not yield to temptation despite being accosted by women for sexual pleasure, are seen as innocent and not expelled from the monastic order. Monks who voluntarily submit to female charms are declared defeated (parajita).

In the tale of Sudinna, a young monk breaks his vows of celibacy after his old parents beg him to give his wife, whom he had abandoned, a child so that his family lineage may continue. When this is revealed, the Buddha admonishes him thus: “It is better for you to have put your manhood in the mouth of a venomous snake or a pit of burning charcoal than a woman.” “It is better for you to have put your manhood in the mouth of a venomous snake or a pit of burning charcoal than a woman.”

In one conversation, the Buddha states, “Of all the scents that can enslave, none is more lethal than that of a woman. Of all the tastes that can enslave, none is more lethal than that of a woman. Of all the voices that can enslave, none is more lethal than that of a woman. Of all the caresses that can enslave, none is more lethal than that of a woman.”
Buddhist monks, unlike other monks of that period, are not allowed to wander naked for fear they would attract women with their charms, believed to be enhanced because of their chastity and celibacy.

Monks are advised to walk straight, without moving their arms and bodies too much, looking at the ground and not above, lest they get enchanted by “the glance of a woman.” Monks are also advised not to walk with single women, or even sit in the company of men, for it might lead to gossip.

In a conversation with Kassappa, Bakulla says that in 80 years he has not only not had sex, he has not even entertained thoughts of women, or seen them, or spoken to them.
Once a woman laughed and showed her charms to Mahatissa, but he remained unmoved. When asked by her husband if he found his wife unattractive, Mahatissa said he saw no woman, only a heap of bones.

In the story of Sundarasammudha, who leaves his wife to become a monk, the wife approaches the husband and tells him, in what is an allusion to the ashrama system of Hinduism, that they should enjoy the pleasures of marital life till they are old and only then join the Buddhist order together and attain nirvana (liberation through cessation of desires). The monk replies that he would never submit to such seductions which are the snares of death.

The texts repeatedly describe celibate monks as embodiments of dhamma (the path of enlightenment) while the lustful insatiable women are described as embodiments of samsara (the cycle of death and rebirths).

Sangamaji left his wife and son to become a monk. One day, his wife and son come to him and beg him to come back but he does not respond, and shows no sign of husbandly or fatherly instincts and so is praised by Buddha of achieving true detachment and enlightenment. A true monk, for whom “female sexuality is like the flapping wings of a gnat before a mountain” is a vira (hero).

Buddha makes his half-brother Nanda join the monastic order but Nanda is engaged to marry the most beautiful woman in the land and pines for her. So Buddha shows him celestial nymphs who live in the heaven of the 33 gods (Swarga of Hindu Puranas). Buddha asks Nanda if his fiancée is as beautiful as these nymphs, and Nanda says she is like a deformed monkey compared to these nymphs. Buddha says that if he continues to walk the path of dhamma he would be reborn in this heaven and be able to enjoy these nymphs. Spurred by this thought, Nanda actively and diligently engages in monastic practices. By the time he attains enlightenment, all desires for the nymphs and the fiancée are gone. “Of all the scents that can enslave, none is more lethal than that of a woman.”

Different types of queers (pandakas) are listed who should not be ordained as monks. These include hermaphrodites, transsexuals, eunuchs, cross-dressers, and effeminate gay men. This is done following stories of monks being seduced, or courted, by pandakas, and also because keepers of a nearby elephant stable mocks a monastery because one of its members is a pandaka, who constantly courts them sexually.

Female hermaphrodites, women who dress like men, or those of deviant sexuality or simply those who do not look like women and are “man-like” women cannot be ordained as nuns.

There are rules that refer to bestiality. Monks are warned against too much affection for cows and female monkeys.

The code’s influence

Initially, none of these strictures were codified. There was no Vinaya Pitaka. But as many people joined the monastery (vihara), they started behaving in certain ways that were deemed unworthy of monks and seekers of Buddha-hood. People also started making fun of the Buddhist way. So to protect the reputation of the dhamma and the sangha, Buddha began putting down these rules.

These codes were compiled orally and narrated by Upali (a barber before he became one of Buddha’s 10 chief disciples) in the first Buddhist council, a year after Buddha’s death. This happened 2,600 years ago. A thousand years later, these rules were systemised and codified by one Buddhaghosha who lived in the monastery at Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka.

This code of monks could even be said to have influenced the anti-women stance outside India, too—in Christianity as well. By the time Islam arrived, Buddhism had already waned in most of India. But the Buddhist idea equating women’s sexuality with entrapment and pollution informed Hindu monastic orders (mathas), especially those instituted by Adi Shankara. Shankara was often called a Buddhist with Hindu packaging, by his critics. In his monastic order, he went a step further: there were no nuns.

If we believe the theory that “Jesus lived in India,” this code of monks could even be said to have influenced the anti-women stance outside India, too—in Christianity as well, for while the Buddha abandoned his wife, Yashodhara, Jesus never married at all. Significantly Buddhaghosa lived around the same time as St Augustine of Hippo came forth with his anti-sex and anti-women trope in the Catholic Church.
“Good” Buddhism,“bad” Hinduism

It is interesting that in all writings of patriarchy and misogyny related to India, scholars quote the Ramayana and the Manu Smriti, yet historically these were composed after the Vinaya Pitaka. Buddha lived in pre-Mauryan times while the Ramayana, with its concern for kingship, was written in post-Mauryan times. Arguments of oral traditions and astrology-based dating that place Ram to pre-Buddhist times appeal only to nationalists, not historians. Manu Smriti and other dharmashastras were written in the Gupta era when Brahmins played a key role in legitimising kingship in much of peninsular India. The pre-Buddhist Vedic rituals speak of female sexuality in positive terms as they are concerned primarily with fertility and wealth-generation. The pre-Buddhist Upanishads do not bother much with gender relations and are more interested in metaphysics. Much of Buddhist literature was put down in writing long before Sanskrit texts (Ashokan edicts in Prakrit date back to 2300 years; the earliest Sanskrit royal inscriptions have been dated to only 1900 years ago). This makes Buddhist writings the watershed of Indian literature, after which womanhood came to be seen as polluting, obstacles to the path of wisdom.

The complete silence on the subject of misogyny so firmly entrenched in the Buddhist scriptures, and traced to the Buddha, is quite remarkable. We could, of course, argue that that most educated Buddhists were originally Brahmins and so transplanted Hindu patriarchy into Buddhism, that the Buddha had no such intention. We can insist that Vedas and only the Vedas, are the source of misogyny. This follows the pattern of “good” Buddhism and “bad” Hinduism structure we find in most colonial and post-colonial academic papers.

The complete silence on the subject of misogyny so firmly entrenched in the Buddhist scriptures, and traced to the Buddha, is quite remarkable. Research on this topic is well known but restricted to academic circles. There is Buddhism after Patriarchy by Rita Gross and Bull of a Man’ by John Powers, for example. But there is a strong desire in these books to explain away the patriarchy, rather than put the spotlight on them. It is almost as if the scholars are irritated, even embarrassed, that the facts interfere with contemporary perceptions of the Buddha.

Abandoning sex, which effectively means abandoning women, for a “higher” purpose—be it enlightenment or spirituality or service to the nation—has since become a popular model, embraced by religious sects, as well political organisations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. It has been glamorised and valorised as the ultimate indicator of masculinity and purity. We can trace, at least one major tributary of this idea, to the Vinaya Pitaka of the Buddha, who abandoned his wife, without her consent.

Source: http://bit.ly/1SrPnSB

LGBT Activists killed by Islamists in Bangladesh.

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LGBT Activists killed by Islamists in Bangladesh.

The US ambassador to Bangladesh condemned the killing of Xulhaz Mannan, who also worked at the US embassy.

Another person was also injured when the attackers entered a Dhaka flat.

Since February last year suspected militants have killed several secular or atheist writers and members of religious minority groups.

The two men were murdered two days after a university teacher was hacked to death by suspected Islamist militants.

So-called Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility – but the Bangladeshi government insists there is no IS presence in the country.

Lurching from secularism to sectarian terror?

Who is behind the Bangladesh killings?

“I am devastated by the brutal murder of Xulhaz Mannan and another young Bangladeshi,” said US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat.

“We abhor this senseless act of violence and urge the government of Bangladesh in the strongest terms to apprehend the criminals behind these murders,” she added.

Image caption The other victim, identified by Bangladeshi media as Tanay Mojumdar, also worked at Roopbaan

BBC Bengali Service editor Sabir Mustafa said staff at Roopbaan, a magazine and activist group for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community that had not been condemned by the government and received some support from foreign embassies, had been careful to protect their identities but had not believed their lives were at risk.

Suspected extremists in Bangladesh are gaining a sense of security that they can carry out killings with impunity, he says.

A British photographer who knew Mr Mannan and the other victim, known as “Tonoy” and named in Bangladeshi media as Tanay Mojumdar, said they and other friends had set up Roopbaan with the aim of spreading tolerance.

Homosexuality is technically illegal in Bangladesh and remains a highly sensitive issue in society.

Both men were openly gay and believed that if more gay Bangladeshis came out then the country would have to accept them, the photographer said.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Mannan and another man were killed at his apartment building.

They were also were behind the annual “Rainbow Rally”, held on Bengali New Year, 14 April, since 2014. This year’s rally was banned by police as part of widespread security measures.

“Both were extremely gentle, non-violent and aware that being openly gay and active in their work was a personal danger,” the photographer said.

Their killings were likely to spread fear among Bangladesh’s gay community, he said.

“Until a year ago the only threat to coming out was shame of the family and having to start a new life elsewhere in Bangladesh. Now it’s one of danger,” he said.

Long line of killings

Meanwhile Bangladesh’s best known blogger said he had received a death threat on Sunday.

Imran Sarker, who led major protests by secular activists in 2013 against Islamist leaders, said he had received a phone call warning that he would be killed “very soon”.

Earlier this month, a Bangladeshi law student who had expressed secular views online died when he was hacked with machetes and then shot in Dhaka.

Last year, four prominent secular bloggers were also killed with machetes.

The four bloggers had all appeared on a list of 84 “atheist bloggers” drawn up by Islamic groups in 2013 and widely circulated.

There have also been attacks on members of religious minorities including Shia, Sufi and Ahmadi Muslims, Christians and Hindus.

Two foreigners – an Italian aid worker and a Japanese farmer – have also been killed.

Muslim-majority Bangladesh is officially secular but critics say the government has failed to properly address the attacks.

Source: http://bbc.in/1VUq3XS

Artificial Wombs Are Coming, but the Controversy Is Already Here.

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Artificial Wombs Are Coming, but the Controversy Is Already Here.

Of all the transhumanist technologies coming in the near future, one stands out that both fascinates and perplexes people. It’s called ectogenesis: raising a fetus outside the human body in an artificial womb.

It has the possibility to change one of the most fundamental acts that most humans experience: the way people go about having children. It also has the possibility to change the way we view the female body and the field of reproductive rights.

Naturally, it’s a social and political minefield.

The term ectogenesis was coined in 1924 by British scientist J.B.S. Haldane. He predicted by 2074 only 30 percent of births would be human births. Science has grown much quicker than he realized, and his take is probably much too conservative. Some futurists like myself (I’m also married to an ObGyn) think ectogenesis will be here in 20 years, and widely used in 30 years around the world.

It’s not an entirely speculative concept; scientists are actively working on developing the technology, primarily for medical reasons. In an  article for Reproductive Health and Social Justice, a daily nonprofit publication providing news and analysis on sexual and reproductive health and justice issues, journalist Soraya Chemaly discussed two leading scientists in the ectogenesis field and their projects:

There are two commonly cited endeavors in progress. Focusing on finding ways to save premature babies, Japanese professor Dr. Yoshinori Kuwabara of Juntendo University, has successfully gestated goat embryos in a machine that holds amniotic fluid in tanks.

On the other end of the process focusing on helping women unable to conceive and gestate babies, is Dr. Helen Hung-Ching Liu, Director of the Reproductive Endocrine Laboratory at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at Cornell University. Quietly, in 2003, she and her team succeeded in growing a mouse embryo, almost to full term, by adding engineered endometrium tissue to a bio-engineered, extra-uterine “scaffold.”

More recently, she grew a human embryo, for ten days in an artificial womb. Her work is limited by legislation that imposes a 14-day limit on research projects of this nature. As complicated as it is, her goal is a functioning external womb.

The ectogenesis technology itself is highly complicated, though somewhat simple looking. Basically, it appears as an amniotic fluid-filled aquarium with a bunch of feeding tubes and monitoring cables attached to a live, developing organism. Those tubes bring the nutrients, oxygen, etc needed to grow an organism and help it survive; the cables monitor everything going on inside the tank. There’s certainly a Matrix feel to it all.

While much of the technology for starting to experiment with artificially growing a human fetus already exists, bona fide human trials are likely at least a decade off, largely due to the murky legal and ethical implications of the controversial concept.

No doubt, propagating the species without the need for the human body sounds insanely far-fetched. And even if it’s achievable, there’s the question of whether people would be comfortable using it. I would argue yes, and the reasons are simple: Besides being painful, laborious, and time consuming, giving birth is still medically dangerous to mothers.

Furthermore, the advent of ectogenesis would mean females would no longer have to solely bear the responsibility of childbirth, or ponder the stressful questions often faced while carrying a child in one’s body for nine months: Is there lead in the house water I drink, potentially affecting my child’s neurological development? Will the flu virus I caught at work damage my baby’s forming body? Did the half glass of wine I drank the other night lower my kid’s potential IQ?

But perhaps an even more important reason has to do with the health of the babies themselves. Natural birth is filled with perils, and ectogenesis could potentially offer a safe alternative. The theory is that every heartbeat, kick, and moment of a fetus’s life could be carefully monitored, from zygote to the moment the baby takes its first breath of air. Every nutrient the fetus gets would be measured, every movement it makes would be filmed, every heartbeat would be analyzed for proper timing.

As with all new technology, traditional biological and social customs could give way to newer practices promising safety, efficiency, and practicality. However, if ectogenesis seems like a slam dunk, it’s not. It’s rife with both philosophical and political concerns.

It would further unchain women from the home and extend the age women can have children

The most frequent philosophical issue brought up about ectogenesis is how it might change the way society views women. Will the feminine mystique be lost by such an artificial process replacing what’s been long a mainstay of the female domain? My short answer is no; rather, ectogenesis could further unchain women from the home, spare them and extend the age at which women can have children.

Still, some feminists view ectogenesis with skepticism, saying it will hand over women’s sacred birthing ability to science. In an essay in the book Feminist Perspectives in Medical Ethics, Julien S. Murphy, chair of the philosophy department and professor of philosophy at University of Southern Maine, wrote that ectogenesis has sparked “disagreement among feminists.”

The politics are just as complicated; after all, reproductive rights and procreation are some of the most divisive and loaded topics in Washington right now. It’s likely people with conservative social views or certain religious concerns would rally hard against the technology, which threatens to disrupt the symbiotic bond that the sexes have in traditional society.

Some have also suggested an artificial womb leaves a growing fetus without the immediate intimacy its mother’s body provides. Professor and journalist John Nassivera writes in America, The National Catholic Review, “I can tell you that this deprivation is a very serious thing.”

Meanwhile, the pro-ectogenesis argument is that artificial wombs could make life easier and safer for mothers and fetuses, not to mention allow women who have damaged or medically dysfunctional uteruses to bear children. Similarly, some bioethicists have suggested ectogenesis could also free up homosexual couples and single men from having to use surrogate mothers to bear their children.

Regardless what happens in the future, ectogenesis is destined to become one of hottest topics of the transhumanist future, providing a gateway for how our tech-imbued species views itself, and the way our children will enter the sphere of life.

Source: http://bit.ly/1Nv5pLj

A Rare Look Inside The ‘Gigafactory’ Tesla Hopes Will Revolutionize Energy Use.

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A Rare Look Inside The ‘Gigafactory’ Tesla Hopes Will Revolutionize Energy Use.

Outside Reno, in Nevada’s high desert, Tesla is building what it says is the world’s largest battery factory. The Gigafactory, as it’s called, will churn out batteries for the company’s electric cars. But it’s also making something new — a battery for the home.

Tucked away in a dusty valley near Sparks, Nev., the Gigafactory is kind of like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory: It’s mysterious, it’s big and few people have been inside.

Actually, “big” may not do it justice.

“It’s really hard to get a sense of scale. I mean, it’s huge,” JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer, says while standing on the roof of the factory — the 14 percent of the Gigafactory that’s been built, at least.

We’re looking down at a flat stretch of land where the rest of the Gigafactory — with an estimated price tag of $5 billion — will go.

Like Willy Wonka’s factory, there’s a lot of hype around this place. People have been caught sneaking onto the property to see what Straubel says, at 5.8 million square feet, will be a building with one of the biggest footprints in the world.

“I’m not a huge football fan, but I think it’s on the order of around 100 football fields,” he says.

Nevada beat out several states by offering an incentive package worth more than $1 billion. State lawmakers are watching like hawks for the economic benefits, such as making sure Nevadans make up a big part of the factory’s 6,000 workers.

Inside the factory, in room after room after room, workers are welding steel, pouring concrete and installing highly specialized machines, shrouded in plastic.

The production line at Tesla's Gigafactory is already operating for the Powerwall, a battery designed to store electricity from solar panels in average homes.

The production line at Tesla’s Gigafactory is already operating for the Powerwall, a battery designed to store electricity from solar panels in average homes.

One room is filled with huge metal tanks, like an insanely large industrial kitchen. It’s where the raw materials are mixed together. In other rooms, the fully formed pieces of the battery, called the anode and cathode, are baked in huge ovenlike machines, several hundred feet long.

According to Straubel, the equipment in the factory will double the world’s capacity to make lithium-ion batteries. Tesla hopes to produce 35 gigawatt-hours of energy storage annually, which could supply 500,000 of its electric cars.

“It’s not just about building a lot more batteries but it’s about reducing the cost,” Straubel says.

Tesla is known for pricey electric cars, and batteries are a big part of the sticker price. And that, Straubel says, is why this factory is all about scale. Scaling up could drive down the cost of batteries 30 percent or more, he says. Battery packs in most electric cars are estimated to cost more than $10,000 today.

“Our vehicles can be more affordable. More people can have access to them,” Straubel says.

That’s the company’s goal with the new Model 3, Tesla’s first mass market car, announced last month. The Model 3 will start at about $28,000 after the federal tax credit.

“We have today over 325,000 reservations for Model 3, representing this enormous backlog of orders,” Straubel says.

Those are orders that Tesla can’t fill if this factory isn’t up and running.

One room over, part of the factory is running, but it’s making something else: the Powerwall. The flat battery, about 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide, is Tesla’s first battery for residences.

“If someone has solar on their house and they install a Powerwall, what this lets you do is store your surplus solar energy,” Straubel explains.

This is Tesla’s ultimate vision: an electric car in your driveway and a Powerwall — priced starting at $3,000 — in your garage. It’s a future free of fossil fuels, Straubel says.

Tesla is also making a larger version of these batteries called Powerpacks, about the size of a refrigerator, that can be used to store electricity at factories, industrial sites, or by electric utilities.

The Powerwall, a battery designed to store electricity from solar panels in average homes. i

The Powerwall, a battery designed to store electricity from solar panels in average homes.

“That’s changing the transportation landscape. It’s changing the energy landscape. It’s changing the world,” Straubel says.

Severin Borenstein, an energy economist at the University of California, Berkeley, agrees that it would be “a game changer for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” The question, he says, is whether consumers will buy into Tesla’s vision.

Take that $3,000 home battery. Electric rates in many states make it hard to actually save money storing your own electricity.

Some solar customers are paid by their electric utilities for the extra solar power they put onto the grid, a policy known as “net energy metering.” That creates little incentive to store solar energy at home.

A battery could help someone save money if his electricity costs a lot more at night than it does during the day. Borenstein says few states have those kinds of electricity prices.

“Average households are not going to get much or any value from these batteries,” Borenstein says.

Early adopters may not care, though.

“They’re people who like that and feel good about it and they’re mostly pretty darn rich,” he says.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is betting that cheaper batteries will make everyone else want a home battery and electric car, too, which could finally lead the company to profitability.

“Is Elon Musk far-seeing and investing in the future?” Borenstein asks. “Or is he making big bets that could all collapse at once?”

The Gigafactory is exactly that gamble. If Tesla stays on schedule, it’ll be fully open in four years.

Source: http://n.pr/1U9q9tm

Were Jews ever slaves in Egypt? The evidence doesn’t seem to add up.

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Were Jews ever slaves in Egypt? The evidence doesn’t seem to add up. 

It’s one of the greatest stories ever told:

A baby is found in a basket adrift in the Egyptian Nile and is adopted into the pharaoh’s household. He grows up as Moses, rediscovers his roots and leads his enslaved Israelite brethren to freedom after God sends down 10 plagues against Egypt and parts the Red Sea to allow them to escape. They wander for 40 years in the wilderness and, under the leadership of Joshua, conquer the land of Canaan to enter their promised land.

For centuries, the biblical account of the Exodus has been revered as the founding story of the Jewish people, sacred scripture for three world religions and a universal symbol of freedom that has inspired liberation movements around the globe.

But did the Exodus ever actually occur?

On Passover last Sunday, Rabbi David Wolpe raised that provocative question before 2,200 faithful at Sinai Temple in Westwood. He minced no words.

“The truth is that virtually every modern archeologist who has investigated the story of the Exodus, with very few exceptions, agrees that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all,” Wolpe told his congregants.

Wolpe’s startling sermon may have seemed blasphemy to some. In fact, however, the rabbi was merely telling his flock what scholars have known for more than a decade. Slowly and often outside wide public purview, archeologists are radically reshaping modern understanding of the Bible. It was time for his people to know about it, Wolpe decided.

After a century of excavations trying to prove the ancient accounts true, archeologists say there is no conclusive evidence that the Israelites were ever in Egypt, were ever enslaved, ever wandered in the Sinai wilderness for 40 years or ever conquered the land of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership. To the contrary, the prevailing view is that most of Joshua’s fabled military campaigns never occurred–archeologists have uncovered ash layers and other signs of destruction at the relevant time at only one of the many battlegrounds mentioned in the Bible.

Today, the prevailing theory is that Israel probably emerged peacefully out of Canaan–modern-day Lebanon, southern Syria, Jordan and the West Bank of Israel–whose people are portrayed in the Bible as wicked idolators. Under this theory, the Canaanites who took on a new identity as Israelites were perhaps joined or led by a small group of Semites from Egypt–explaining a possible source of the Exodus story, scholars say. As they expanded their settlement, they may have begun to clash with neighbors, perhaps providing the historical nuggets for the conflicts recorded in Joshua and Judges.

“Scholars have known these things for a long time, but we’ve broken the news very gently,” said William Dever, a professor of Near Eastern archeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona and one of America’s preeminent archeologists.

Dever’s view is emblematic of a fundamental shift in archeology. Three decades ago as a Christian seminary student, he wrote a paper defending the Exodus and got an A, but “no one would do that today,” he says. The old emphasis on trying to prove the Bible–often in excavations by amateur archeologists funded by religious groups–has given way to more objective professionals aiming to piece together the reality of ancient lifestyles.

But the modern archeological consensus over the Exodus is just beginning to reach the public. In 1999, an Israeli archeologist, Ze’ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University, set off a furor in Israel by writing in a popular magazine that stories of the patriarchs were myths and that neither the Exodus nor Joshua’s conquests ever occurred. In the hottest controversy today, Herzog also argued that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, described as grand and glorious in the Bible, was at best a small tribal kingdom.

Dever argued that the Exodus story was produced for theological reasons: to give an origin and history to a people and distinguish them from others by claiming a divine destiny.

Some scholars, of course, still maintain that the Exodus story is basically factual.

Bryant Wood, director of the Associates for Biblical Research in Maryland, argued that the evidence falls into place if the story is dated back to 1450 BC. He said that indications of destruction around that time at Hazor, Jericho and a site he is excavating that he believes is the biblical city of Ai support accounts of Joshua’s conquests.


Woman in India cuts off rapist’s penis and takes it to police station.

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Woman in India cuts off rapist’s penis and takes it to police station.

A 32-year-old Indian woman cut off her brother-in-law’s penis and handed it to police, claiming he had sexually assaulted her.

Accompanied by her three children, the woman went to a police station in the Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh in central India, where she told officers her brother-in-law had raped her, the Times of India reported.

Police attempted to send medical support to the man, but he was found to have committed suicide.

His body was reportedly found hanging from a tree near their house.

The woman had been living with her brother-in-law because her husband worked more than 700 miles away, in Nashik, Maharashtra.

She reportedly told police that she had used a sickle to cut off her brother-in-law’s penis as it was the only way to stop him attacking her.

According to Sidhi police spokesman Abid Khan, the woman has been charged with attempted murder.

“This is a rare case and has to be investigated for a proper charge sheet,” he said.

There has been an increasing media focus on rape in India since the fatal gang rape of a student on a Delhi bus in December 2012.

The number of rapes in India rose by 9 per cent to 33,707 in 2014, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau.

Source: http://ind.pn/22PoKsp

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