Category Archives: On the Table

Hawaii Prisons

My American Studies class at Honolulu Community College recently watched 13th (the documentary) and then were tasked with writing a question to be tweeted to the ACLU in regards to imprisonment in Hawaii. Here are the questions they asked as well as the answers we received! Thank you ACLU Hawaii and Civil Beat for your work on this issue. The images have been taken from CJR_Mass_incarceration2 provided by the ACLU.

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In regards to sexual assault cases @ Kailua women’s prison, why not enhance security? http://bigstory.ap.org/article/20a443611e0347b6b13839e0d76f8fd8/10-women-file-suit-claiming-abuse-hawaii-womens-prison

This is a very good question, and one best put to the Department of Public Safety. The government is required to comply with the U.S. and Hawai‘i State Constitutions in incarcerating people – this includes the 8th Amendment which protects against “cruel and unusual punishment.” Simply put, the loss of liberty is the punishment, the conditions of incarceration (including violence and lax security) should not be the punishment. The ACLU has been trying to improve the conditions in Hawaii’s prison and jails for decades. In fact, we recently filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice over the toxic overcrowding of our jails and prisons. I have attached it here: DOJ_Complaint_as_published. I have also attached a powerpoint presentation on mass incarceration that we recently created: CJR_Mass_incarceration2.

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Is there a diff punishment 4 nonviolent & drug crimes in #Hawaii?

Right now, Hawaii’s jails and prison have three serious issues. First, it is far too easy to be a felon (5 year sentence) in Hawaiʻi. Class C felonies include many non-violent crimes like possession of any drug paraphernalia, theft over $750, possession of any amount of a Schedule I drug, including Marijuana, etc. Class C felons and misdemeanants represent 74 percent of the people in prison. Additionally, Hawaii has a long history of criminalizing poverty, using our facilities as debtor’s prisons. Around 20 percent of the incarcerated population is there, because they cannot pay bail.  Finally, our prisons and jails have become de-facto mental wards and drug treatment facilities, with zero to minimal treatment options. It’s estimated that 80% of our incarcerated person suffer from addiction. This results in a revolving door of incarceration, no rehabilitation, and lifelong consequences in housing, education and employment.

There is a movement across the nation (of which the ACLU is part) called LEAD – Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion – which changes the role of police in the community from “arrest and book” to “assess and divert.” For example, take a mentally ill homeless person disturbing the peace. She usually has it together, but ran out of money for the drugs that help her function. Normally, the police would arrest her, take her to jail, book her and she would be offered bail, which she cannot pay, so they keep her in jail. No (or few) medications or medical treatment are offered. She will likely never see a doctor. On release, she goes right back to disturbing the peace, more ill and confused and angry than before. Under LEAD, the police approach her, assess her needs (shelter, help with her medications, medical attention), and instead of arresting her, offer her the option to see a social worker. They collect her name and information, and she will need to have a meeting with the social worker at a later time – but that is it. No jail, no criminal record. Treatment and help, not arrest. LEAD is very successful at reducing rescidivism. LEAD participants in Seattle were 58% less likely to be arrested. Find out more: https://www.leadbureau.org/

[Plus side note from the blogger that there’s a new bill going through the state legislature as of April 1, 2016 attempting to make drug paraphernalia no longer a Class C Felony but only a $100 fine. http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2017/bills/HB1501_HD1_.pdf]

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Why can’t #Hawaii make $ off prison so less inmates are sent to mainland?

They do. See http://www.staradvertiser.com/2011/02/14/hawaii-news/isle-prisons-become-key-source-of-labor/ [<< This article is incredible! Prisoners on work duty are even tasked with cleaning out homeless encampments, among a waiting list of other tasks.]

 

What about other religions in #Hawaii? http://www.civilbeat.org/2017/02/settlement-protects-religious-rights-for-hawaiian-prisoners/ …

A prisoner’s right to exercise his or her religion is balanced against the government’s interests. The general balancing test is that the government may not impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of prisoners unless that burden (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. You can read more here: https://www.aclu.org/files/images/asset_upload_file78_25744.pdf

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Is #Hawaii liable for safety of its prisoners on mainland?

Yes. Even when help in private, for-profit prisons like the Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona housing upwards of 2000 Hawaii inmates, they are held under the authority of the State of Hawaii. The for-profit prison has a contract with the state, and is therefore treated as an agent of the state. That’s why when the ACLU took on two wrongful death cases after two Hawaii inmates were murdered in a CCA facility in Saguaro AZ, both the State and CCA were named as plaintiffs.  https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/in-the-news/2012/hrdc-aclu-of-hawaii-file-suit-on-behalf-of-family-of-hawaii-prisoner-slain-at-cca-prison/

 

What are problems w/ sending #Hawaii prisoners to mainland?

Any time there is profit motive for incarceration, there is a vested interest in keeping more people in jail longer, at lowest cost to the company to maximize shareholder profits.  This is antithetical to justice. See https://www.aclu.org/banking-bondage-private-prisons-and-mass-incarceration. Also, separating inmates from their loved ones is cruel and makes rehabilitation less likely.

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What are the 2016 demographics of #Hawaii prisons by crime?

Crime reports can be found here:  http://ag.hawaii.gov/cpja/rs/cih/ and https://ag.hawaii.gov/cpja/files/2016/12/Crime-in-Hawaii-2015.pdf

Reasons for incarceration can be found here: https://www.prisonpolicy.org/profiles/HI.html [This has some excellent slides on racial and ethnic data in Hawaii’s prisons and Hawaiian prisoners on the mainland, that argue that these graphs don’t even account for some nuances in the actual reality of Native Hawaiians experiences in the prison system. For example:

In 2010, Office Of Hawaiian Affairs released a report The Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System finding that Native Hawaiians were disproportionately sent to out-of-state prisons. The report said that in 2005, “of the people in out-of-state facilities, 41 percent are Native Hawaiians”. The numbers may have gotten worse, as our our analysis of the Census Bureau data for Arizona’s Saguaro Correctional Facility says that that facility is 48% Native Hawaiian alone, and 49% Native Hawaiian alone or in combination with other racial groups.

I’ve included some slides from PrisonPolicy.org here, but you should definitely check it out for yourself.]

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What types of prison labor are instituted in #Hawaii prisons?

This is a great question, probably best answered by the Department of Public Safety. There is a website for the Correctional Industries: http://hawaiici.org/ [This site is really fascinating because it’s from the prison industry’s perspective. The site shows pictures of prisoners doing labor – everything from light construction crews to screenprinting shirts and woodwork. Additionally you’ll find the recent 2016 bill that spells out how prison labor in Hawaii must market itself: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2016/bills/GM1329_.pdf.

You could also contact the Community Alliance on Prisons for a view from outside the system https://caphawaii.wordpress.com/.

 

How are prisons designed in #Hawaii – differences for men, women,  + kids?

We have jails: pretrail detainees, prisons: sentenced and convicted, and youth correctional facilities: for offenders under the age of 18. Wards at youth correctional facilities attend school, they are supposed to have a more rehabilitative focus.

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How many youths are in #prison in #Hawaii?

For someone under 18 to go to prison, they must be charged as an adult, and pose a sufficient danger that they cannot be safely held at a juvenile facility. Then, if held in an adult prison, must be kept separate from the general population. We are not aware of any such situated youths in Hawaii at this time, but the Department of Public Safety could tell you more. Most of the time, youths do NOT go to jail or to prison, nor are they “convicted of crimes” or “inmates.” Youths are held at a Youth Correctional Facility, after being adjuticated (usually in Family Court) of an offense. Then they become wards. Youth correction in Hawaii has been controversial, the ACLU of Hawaii brought a landmark case about brutal treatment of wards who were (or were perceived to be) LGBT by the guards and administration. https://www.aclu.org/news/hawaii-youth-correctional-facility-pay-over-half-million-dollars-relentless-campaign-harassment

 

On average, how long do #Hawaii inmates wait until trial?

Under the Hawaii Rules of Penal Procedure, trials must generally commence within 6 months of arrest. This period can be extended for certain types of delays. A 2004 study found that people charged with felonies in Hawaiʻi spent 216 days in jail awaiting trial. See https://csgjusticecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/JR_HI_Policy_Rollout_Handout.pdf

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How much is the average bail bond in #Hawaii? @acluhawaii

This is a great question, and the answer is, we are not entirely sure. There are currently no ready-made government reports on the subject. It is an area of interest to the ACLcaU, since we’d like to see no-cash bail for many offenses, instead of the large percentage of low level, non-violent offenders sitting in jail because they cannot pay. In fact, we plan to conduct a local study on this in the coming year or so. If you were to ask a government agency, it would be the court system.

 

Did US govt make $ off Japanese American #internment in WW2? [Learn more about internment in Hawaii during WW2 here: http://hawaiiinternment.org/]

There is a lot of documentation that yes, the United States did rampantly seize and sell the property of Japanese-American citizens as part of Internment. Many resources online about this, including this Economist article: http://www.economist.com/node/788126. To learn even more, including information about the newly established National Monument at Honouliuli, contact our local Japanese Cultural Center. The ACLU was instrumental in bringing to a close this shameful chapter in American history: https://www.aclu.org/other/aclu-history-dark-moment-history-japanese-internment-camps

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An image of Honouliuli Internment Camp in Honolulu – one of many internment camps spread across the islands that housed Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans among other ethnic groups. Read more by clicking on this photo.

Are #Hawaii prisons affiliated with CC or @CorrectionsCorp?

The State of Hawaii pays CCA about $45 million per year to currently house about 1926 Hawai‘i prisoners at their private, for-profit prisons in Arizona.  The ACLU would like to see the State of Hawaiʻi stop using for-profit prisons entirely.

 

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If little girls from Gaza…

Katie Hardiman:

If little girls from Gaza can play among rubble and rockets, I can get out of bed.
If little girls from Syria can depart their homes on ill-equipped rafts headed toward unknown waters, I can wipe my tears.
If little girls from Nigeria can walk miles to school on the same path their kidnapped sisters took, I can go to work.
If little girls from Central America can spend weeks held captive by border patrol agents in detention, I can get through this day.
If little girls from Indigenous populations can study their people’s language and culture in order to keep their sovereignty alive, I can stay true to my convictions.
If little black girls from Flint and Ferguson can believe that their lives matter despite what officers and institutions repeatedly tell them, I can reclaim my self-worth.
If little queer and trans girls from intolerant families and nations can believe that it will get better, I can envision a better tomorrow.
If little girls from America can think they are strong and unstoppable no matter who tells them otherwise, I can be strong too.
If that little girl from Illinois can make it to the top of the ballot and win the popular vote, I can continue to pursue my dreams.
And if little girls from all across the world can continue to rise up, pounding at this seemingly bulletproof glass ceiling and raising their voices as they fight every single form of injustice imaginable- I can woman up and join them.

This week has been so hard for so many of us. My head aches and my skin is sticky from crying off and on for days. My heart hurts for so many others too that are fearful for their lives and those of their family.
It has been especially hard to see a few of my liberal colleagues and friends who did not vote for Trump respond with hatred – encouraging physical attacks against Trump supporters, slut shaming and denigrating Melania as an immigrant (which stings so badly for me), and accusing working-class Trump voters of being uneducated, dumb, un-American, and unworthy of citizenship. We are all actively working to eradicate the racial, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic biases not only in our culture but in ourselves. I know that we can make our communities and this country a better place when we all take a stand for diversity and against structural inequality and oppression. This is going to take a lot of persistence and love – not complacency and fear. And it’s not going to be easy. You can count on me as your ally. #StrongerTogether #Solidarity

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Carving Chinese Gourds as Experiments in Transnational American Studies

I’m currently teaching American Cultural Studies online to both American and Chinese graduate students studying at Tongji University. My American students are both from Hawaii – both “hapa” mixed- studying abroad as part of their architecture doctorate program. The system is an exchange between the two universities in which the American students spend a year at Tongji taking classes and then the following year the Chinese students spend the year in Hawaii.

With language barriers, cultural barriers, and the epic Chinese firewall, it has been tricky to find material and assignments to entertain and engage the entire class. Because the two American students had spent little or no time on mainland US, I’ve tried to focus our attention on 3 themes: 1) Parsing broad generalizations of America, 2) Providing a basic introduction to Hawaii, and 3) Getting the students to share their own reflections on what national identity and culture means. When I first Skyped into the course at the beginning of the fall semester, they were all bright-eyed and eager to soak in everything about each other. We’ve talked about the presidential election and American film genres, but mostly we just fight with the wifi signal and the firewall.

With still a month left in the course, I wanted to begin sharing excerpts of what they had submitted because they’ve been a beautiful self-reflective tool for me to think about American culture and identity.

Halloween:

One of our classes took place on Halloween which is Hawaii’s Mardi Gras. Tens of thousands of costumed adults flock to the streets of Waikiki for a weekend of drunken revelry. Using the help of my two American students, I tried to explain Halloween customs, at least from my experience, as being born out of two cultural fascinations with death in the US: Puritanical fear of witches and the devil via Salem witch trials and Mexican Day of the Dead culture and the honoring of ancestors via playing with skeletal imagery. I told them that I’m sure there are more influences – I mean, every culture has to have a visual and performative way to experience death – but being from Albany, GA, these were the two influences that I grew up knowing about.

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So I give them the gist and tell them that there are essentials to the holiday: You dress in costume (sometimes scary, sometimes funny, sometimes inappropriate), mostly kids walk around with their parents showing off costumes as an excuse to ask for candy (I told them adults by themselves can’t get away with this), and that we also carve faces into pumpkins and put them outside as a decoration at night.

“But WHY do you carve pumpkins into faces and light them?”

Great question. We just do. I’m sure there’s an original reason WHY Americans started doing that, but no one talks about it anymore. Like everything in America, we take an aspect of culture, put our fun DIY spin on it, and then sell tradition as a form of authenticity, self-making, and national consumption. Carving pumpkins is a sticky, wet, smelly process of disemboweling a perfectly good vegetable. You carve a face on it and then make it a lantern for about 3 days until it looks like this:

wrinkly_jackolantern

We have electricity and we now have better ways to create a lantern and scare off pesky tricksters. In this case, it is fun tradition of family-bonding because it often occurs at a kitchen table with siblings (because parents wield knives) with considerable cleanup afterward.  Designing your own pumpkin is fun for both the non-artistic (a few triangles will get the point across) and those that are real designers. Although it is not an experience shared by all Americans due to cost and accessibility like high school prom or white picket fences, jack-o-lantern iconography has become a staple of American ephemera. Years from now, when climate change has killed all the pumpkin fields, our children will look confusingly at the archaeological traces of jack-o-lanterns and say: “But WHY did you carve a face on a pumpkin?” I don’t know kid. Everyone did it.

Trying to orchestrate this familial moment of pumpkin carving with my online class as a form of experiential American Studies was impossible – I couldn’t tell my students living in dorms to walk to campus with a pumpkin, a knife, and cleanup equipment so that we can all huddle around a small screen. Likewise, I’m also teaching the class online while conducting archival research in San Diego, so I would be as equally ill-prepared for such a task. I couldn’t even guarantee that they would find a pumpkin where they buy groceries. In America, we know when to carve pumpkins not because we’re surrounded by fields of ripe gourds, but because the grocery store tells us when to buy them with “on sale” signs. We fetishize the carved pumpkin months before Halloween when you are supposed to display them. You can buy all kinds of candies and baked goods that just look like a carved pumpkin. You can even buy a plastic jack-o-lantern to save you the time of carving it in the first place.

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So the assignment for my students was simple: Go and find literally any fruit that you can disembowel, carve something into it, and light it from inside. Then send me a picture of a before and after shot. And I got awesome submissions! I was surprised that no one took me up on the “any fruit,” but I am so pleased we could share this experience. One student remarked:

I was excited today that I carved a pumpkin for the first time of my life. It took [me] 3 hours to finish but I am proud of it even though I actually did the carving stuff one step by one learning from a video.  Hope you like it, too. Lol.

Here are images of just two that I received – the first from an American and the second from a Chinese student. Compare and enjoy!  More transnational American Studies to come soon.

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PLUS! Here’s another Chinese student’s watermelon jack-o-lantern. The student explained, “The idea comes from the monster eyes of FENDI. I find it evil but cute.”

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Houghluck. It rhymes with "tough luck."

Last year I wrote a post On Loving a Young Black Woman In This World.

Y’all, it’s a year later and I could not be more proud of my now 17-year-old niece and her #BlackGirlMagic. She started college this year through a program that allows qualifying high schoolers to start college in their Junior or Senior year. On top of that, she’s accelerated her high school course program to graduate early.

Did I mention she did all this while working two jobs last year?

Yeah, she’s bada**.

She just started a new babysitting gig. It’s only a couple of times a month which is great because she obviously has a lot of school work to focus on at the moment. She’s got a key to their front door but it sticks a lot. She was chatting with me the other day and told me that two days this week…

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Zombies and Vampires. Bulls and Bears.

Happy Belated Halloween! Wanted to share these reflections on the shifting myths and meanings of zombies over time from my friend and colleague Jaime Hough at Purdue University. Boiler up and zombie down!

Houghluck. It rhymes with "tough luck."

A few days ago The Atlantic published a great article by Mike Mariani on zombies. Mariani’s piece discusses the origins of the zombie on colonial sugar plantations and the cultural evolution between sign and signified which has befallen the zombie over the years. I highly recommend you take a look at the piece, which you can find here.*

I found one passage of Mariani’s article particularly fascinating.

For a brief period, the living dead served as a handy Rorschach test for America’s social ills. At various times, they represented capitalism, the Vietnam War, nuclear fear, even the tension surrounding the civil-rights movement. Today zombies are almost always linked with the end of the world via the “zombie apocalypse,” a global pandemic that turns most of the human population into beasts ravenous for the flesh of their own kind. But there’s no longer any clear metaphor. While America may still…

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Double Dutch

This week for my undergraduate American Studies 201 course I’m teaching at Purdue this semester, we read Kyra Gaunt‘s essay in Generations of Youth, “The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip Hop” as part of our unit on “youth and place.”

Have no idea what Double Dutch is (and can’t figure it out from this seemingly complicated drawing)? Click here and Wikihow will give you 11 steps for learning how to double dutch: http://www.wikihow.com/Jump-Double-Dutch

In the essay Gaunt overlaps the histories of Double Dutch and hip hop, with double dutch as a complicated jump rope game originating in the early 20th century. “Double Dutch” signified that it was nearly irrationally complicated, as in the Dutch language ^2.  By the 1970s two police officers organized an official double dutch league, converting vacant lots into sites where kids could practice group jump-roping.  During a time when black men were finding a place in the hip hop industry, double dutch became a site in which black girls could claim an identity by: taking up public space, being part of a proud group of young black female athletes, practicing their version of African American “musicking” through double-dutch’s stomping, clapping, and chanting.  Unfortunately, although black girls were the double dutch stars, the institutionalization of double dutch as a regulated sport required the removal of these cultural aspects of the game which had reaffirmed black girls’ identities.  Now, regulation play prohibited stomping, clapping, and shouting.

Now, reading this article with my students who have NO idea what double dutch is – I’m blown away at how life in Aerican has changed since my youth.  While I loved jumping rope and playing with the “Skip it,” I didn’t live in the inner city and didn’t hang out with girl friends (more like my siblings), but completely respected double dutchers.  In this pre-Bring it On world in which sarcastic sex-loving cheerleaders would become the new cool, double dutch was bad ass.  Have no idea what I’m talking about?  Watch one of the best teams in 1985 free style it:

This clip comes from a PBS documentary by David Hoffman called Black Magic which serves as a window onto an important historical moment for young black girls – when they were being talked about collectively as promising Olympians and breaking Guinness World Records for the most jumps in a row.  Now, seeing the First Lady surprise viewers with her own double dutch skills in this extremely white group, begs the question – where in the heck are young black female athletes?

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#BlackGirlsMatter

I’m working on updating an older paper on high school feminism for publication, and stumbled across this report released in February of this year by the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) called “Black Girls Matter: Pushed-Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected.”

Having heard about yet another murder of a young black transgender woman murdered in Florida this year, I wanted to give myself a refresher on this important study analyzing the intersections of gender, race, class, and age that shape young black women’s identities.  What can we learn from some infographics today?

Lesson 1: As exemplified by schools in New York, black girls are disciplined significantly more than other racial populations in proportion to their numbers of enrollment.

Lesson 2: Black girls are fifty-three times more likely to be expelled in New York City and ten times more likely to be expelled in Boston than white girls.

Lesson 3: Black girls are six times more likely to be suspended than white girls in New York.

And what about the rest of the fifty states?  What’s all of this lack of education and overpolicing do to impact the lives of young black girls across America?

Stereotypes that black girls are dumb, immodest, or belligerent cause young black women to struggle emotionally and economically.  In the words of Thahabu Gordon describing her experiences as a young African American girl,

“As long as I was ‘respectable,’ I was better than more urban girls. By seventh grade, I had internalized those concepts and avoided hanging around black girls who exclusively listened to rap and weren’t afraid of enthusiastically expressing their opinions. I was conditioned to think I was better than them. You would never have caught me in a tight dress or short bottoms because I was trying to distance myself from being volatile and hypersexual—aka, ‘that black girl.'”

Without full access to education, black girls become a nearly minuscule portion of the the black faculty, black STEM majors, black graduate students, black undergraduates, and black professional students that go on to be entrepreneurs, political leaders, and scholars.

By the way, there’s a real shortage of black girls represented in the world of infographics online…I’m going to work on this.  #BlackGirlsMatter

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On the Table, 8/8

The US economy is in shambles, people are starving in Somalia, the European economy is diving as well…but here’s a little slice of the bright side of life.

These are some recent articles from Good Magazine – an online and print medium devoted to social change, and the NY Times:

“Summer is the season for awareness-raising road trips. The latest one we’re excited about is the Food and Freedom Rides, which is spreading the word about our broken food system in communities across the South and Midwest. Kicking off in Birmingham, Alabama with meetings with civil rights leaders today and yesterday, the movement pays tribute to the 50th anniversaryof the anti-segregation Freedom Rides that roiled the South and galvanized the civil rights movement…Along the way, the 12 traveling activists hope to “expose injustice in the food system, and reveal real solutions in both urban and rural communities” by putting a spotlight on local food activism [Read on]….”

Read more:

  • Check out their itinerary here.
  • Learn more about the Freedom Riders by watching this PBS documentary.

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August 6th marked the beginning of Ramadan for the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. “Alas, many Americans are still completely ignorant to Islam’s holiest month of observance. For the next four weeks, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq are out to change that.

Ali and Tariq are the two young Muslims behind the project 30 Mosques in 30 Days. Since August 1, when Ramadan started this year, the duo have been traveling to a new state each day and meeting with a new Muslim community. They then document their experiences with multimedia presentations on their blog. The goal is to hit 30 states and 30 mosques in 30 days, thereby introducing the world to the wide breadth of wonderful people composing Islam, a religion and culture still considered by many to be foreign and scary….” [Read on]

Read more:

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A protest in Santiago, Chile, last month. Students have held rallies of up to 100,000 people and taken control of dozens of schools around the country

“…If the Arab Spring has lost its bloom halfway across the world, people here are living what some have come to call a Chilean Winter. Segments of society that had been seen as politically apathetic only a few years ago, particularly the youth, have taken an unusually confrontational stance toward the government and business elite, demanding wholesale changes in education, transportation and energy policy, sometimes violently.

…The education protests have become ever more creative. There are at least two or three people jogging at all times around La Moneda, the presidential palace, trying to complete 1,800 laps to symbolize the $1.8 billion a year that protesters are demanding for Chile’s public education system. They carry flags that say “Free Education Now.”  Others have held a mass kiss-in, dressed like superheroes, danced as zombies to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and even staged fake group suicides where they fall in a heap of bodies….” [Read on]

Read more:

  • Check out more photos of the protests here.
  • Learn about the leader of the university student group, Camila Vallejo Dowling.  Her blog (in Spanish) is here.  The translated version is here.
  • Learn more about their list of demands here.  The Wiki site is actually pretty informative as well.

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On the Table: Reproductive Health

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the US Health and Human Services Department just announced new guidelines requiring insurance companies to offer free birth control:

Developed by the independent Institute of Medicine, the new guidelines require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services such as well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening, and contraception without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible.

According to the HHS Department website, the following will be included in all health insurance plans at no additional cost by August 1, 2012:

  • Well-woman visits: This would include an annual well-woman preventive care visit for adult women to obtain the recommended preventive services, and additional visits if women and their providers determine they are necessary. These visits will help women and their doctors determine what preventive services are appropriate, and set up a plan to help women get the care they need to be healthy.
  • Gestational diabetes screening: This screening is for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant, and those at high risk of developing gestational diabetes. It will help improve the health of mothers and babies because women who have gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. In addition, the children of women with gestational diabetes are at significantly increased risk of being overweight and insulin-resistant throughout childhood.
  • HPV DNA testing: Women who are 30 or older will have access to high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing every three years, regardless of pap smear results.  Early screening, detection, and treatment have been shown to help reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer.
  • STI counseling, and HIV screening and counseling: Sexually-active women will have access to annual counseling on HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These sessions have been shown to reduce risky behavior in patients, yet only 28% of women aged 18 to 44 years reported that they had discussed STIs with a doctor or nurse. In addition, women are at increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. From 1999 to 2003, the CDC reported a 15% increase in AIDS cases among women, and a 1% increase among men. 
  • Contraception and contraceptive counseling: Women will have access to all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling. These recommendations do not include abortifacient drugs. Most workers in employer-sponsored plans are currently covered for contraceptives. Family planning services are an essential preventive service for women and critical to appropriately spacing and ensuring intended pregnancies, which results in improved maternal health and better birth outcomes.
  • Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling: Pregnant and postpartum women will have access to comprehensive lactation support and counseling from trained providers, as well as breastfeeding equipment. Breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive measures mothers can take to protect their children’s and their own health. One of the barriers for breastfeeding is the cost of purchasing or renting breast pumps and nursing related supplies.
  • Domestic violence screening: Screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence should be provided for all women. An estimated 25% of women in the U.S. report being targets of intimate partner violence during their lifetimes. Screening is effective in the early detection and effectiveness of interventions to increase the safety of abused women. 

This historic victory for women’s rights (almost 4 decades after the invention of the birth control pill), came with its critics.  

Colbert comically sums up the retort to the new initiatives:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

CNN reports about the guidelines and their conservative critics:

The decision to offer contraception at no additional cost was not supported by everyone. For example, the Family Research Council claims the decision “undermines the conscience rights of many Americans.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of Committee on Pro-Life Activities with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says “pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible.” They feel the decision forces people to participate who may have moral or religious convictions that oppose contraception use.

The Obama administration released an amendment to the prevention regulation that allows religious institutions offering health insurance to their employees the choice of whether or not to cover contraception services.

Here’s a link to the guidelines, with pdfs at the bottom.  Happy Friday!

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On the table, 7/28

Today I got to volunteer for a couple of hours at the Boys and Girls Club.  It was really awesome!  Those girls totally schooled me on playing pool!  They also, sadly, were out of ping-pong balls, so I’m going to donate some this week.  If you find yourself taking old board games to Goodwill, take them to your local youth club instead.

I have lots of stuff for you this week!  Here it goes:

Read more:

  • Christie Thompson at Ms. Blog argues that the new ads not only condescendingly argue that “strong women douche” (while adding to the tradition that vaginas are dirty), but also essentialize women by using racial stereotypes.
  • At AdWeek, Stan Richards explains Summer’s Eve’s defense: “After listening to thousands of women say they want straight-talk and lighthearted communication on a historically-uncomfortable topic, Summer’s Eve gave us license to be bold, irreverent and celebratory across a multitude of mediums and to different audiences….” [Read the rest of Tim Nudd’s article here.] 
  • Nudd later reported that in light of bad press, the company decided to pull the online videos: “Richards PR executive Stacie Barnett told Adweek that the criticism had begun to overshadow the message and goal of the larger campaign—to educate women about their anatomy and break down taboos in talking about it—and that the online videos had to go….” [Read on]

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  • Slut Walks
Slut Walk London

Read more:

  • Raymond Kwan at York Univesity’s student paper Excalibur describes how a Toronto cop told a group of college students women could deter rape by not dressing like a slut.
  • Needless to say, women have responded in droves in the form of Slut Walks – a march to decalre women’s “constitutional right to a freedom of expression and a freedom of assembly,” according to Slut Walk Toronto.com.
  • The movement has even expanded transnationally – making a profound impact in India says Nikita Garia at The Wall Street Journal.
  • Some feminists, however, have responded questionably.  Rebecca Traister at the NY Times makes a great argument: “To object to these ugly characterizations is right and righteous. But to do so while dressed in what look like sexy stewardess Halloween costumes seems less like victory than capitulation (linguistic and sartorial) to what society already expects of its young women. Scantily clad marching seems weirdly blind to the race, class and body-image issues that usually (rightly) obsess young feminists and seems inhospitable to scads of women who, for various reasons, might not feel it logical or comfortable to express their revulsion at victim-blaming by donning bustiers. So while the mission of SlutWalks is crucial, the package is confusing and leaves young feminists open to the very kinds of attacks they are battling….” [Read on]

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a battery of tests and evaluations to go through before it will again allow gay men to donate blood. As midsummer shortages hit the nation’s blood supply, BBJ health care reporter Julie Donnelly writes that the process should proceed expeditiously.  [Read more here.]

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See the video here, or read the transcript below.

“Every empire in history has either failed or faltered, but for some reason – be it our arrogance, our hubris, or our nationalism disguised as patriotism – we turn a blind eye to the growing chasm between the have gots and the have nots. One percent of the population owning and controlling more wealth than ninety percent of Americans, is both dangerous and unsustainable.  At the heart of the problem is political cowardice….” [Read on]

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