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19 July 2017

"Families Like Yours" Documentary Celebrates LGBT Families At World Premiere

Families Like Yours -Movie Poster
The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), the business voice of the LGBT community, is proud to announce the world premiere of Families Like Yours, a powerful documentary exploring the love, compassion, sacrifice, and success of LGBT families in America. Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dk Realizadores, NGLCC, and Wells Fargo underwrote the film's production. Deutsche Bank and Hilton presented the premiere screening in New York City on July 17, 2017.
Through candid interviews and humorous real life stories, Families Like Yours demystifies LGBT families and their lives, showcasing that they are just as loving, busy, and complicated as any other family.  

Families Like Yours follows five families as they attempt to balance work and school, rush kids to sports practice, and deal with diaper duty. From all across the nation and in all different stages of family life, from conception to grandchildren, these families represent a cross-section of the modern American family-- the only difference is that they are LGBT families.
"It has never been more important to showcase the richness of diversity in America. LGBT families are a fixture of every community in this country, and Families Like Yours demonstrates why love, dignity, and respect for all is a virtue that should unite each of us," said NGLCC Co-Founder and President Justin Nelson, who is an Executive Producer on the film along with NGLCC Co-Founder and CEO Chance Mitchell. "This film is dedicated to the brave and inspiring LGBT families across the nation who overcome discrimination and fear as they work hard, give back to their communities, and strive to achieve the American Dream just like everybody else."
Award-winning filmmakers Rodolfo Moro and Marcos Duszczak are the creative team behind a parallel film in ArgentinaFamilias por Igual. The film was widely praised, receiving several prestigious awards that added momentum to Argentina's LGBT equality movement.
Families Like Yours will next be screened at the 2017 NGLCC International Business & Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, ahead of submissions to film festivals and LGBT conferences around the world.
More information and the official trailer can be found at 

SOURCE: National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

18 July 2017

'Chinks In The World-Machine' – On The Casting Of The 13th Doctor Who

File 20170717 6049 m2run3
The Whovian Life via Twitter
By Una McCormack, Anglia Ruskin University

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who dreamed of going into space. She would sit on the floor in the library, cross-legged on the carpet before a big shelf of books and read about a machine that could travel in time and space. She would put on the television, and see the Doctor and the TARDIS, and wish that she could be there too. She wanted to be on the Enterprise, and the Liberator and the Millennium Falcon – and she imagined great adventures, in which she saved the world, the galaxy, and (why not) the universe.

Unfortunately, a Catholic girls’ school in the 1980s was not a great place to harbour such ambitions – and there weren’t many kindred spirits dreaming these particular dreams. They became private stories, told to myself at odd moments, just before falling asleep – but not to be shared. After all, what kind of girl likes Doctor Who? What kind of girl wants to jaunt around time and space?

Doctor Who - The 13th Doctor
At long last! BBC/Colin Hutton

To say that I am delighted at the news that Jodie Whittaker has been chosen to play the 13th Doctor is a huge understatement. I enjoyed the whole media build up immensely. I was greatly entertained watching good friends rapidly bring themselves up to speed on the rules of tennis in order to predict how long a Wimbledon final might be – so that they could make sure they were on hand when the announcement was made. I watched the trailer with refreshed wonder and a whoop of glee at the reveal.

I remembered how happy friends had been when Christopher Eccleston was cast as the ninth Doctor back in 2004, how glad they were that now there was a Doctor who seemed like them. I hoped that they would be glad now that there was a Doctor who was like me.

Remaking the world
For me, science fiction – speculative fiction – is a genre that asks us to think about possibility. All good fiction, of course, asks us to expand our horizons by sympathetically imagining the experience of others. But the apparatus of speculative fiction provides us with particular, useful tools to re-imagine what that “other” might be – and to imagine the kinds of worlds that would be needed in order to make radically different kinds of being possible.

Alien life, yes; but also the kinds of human life and organisation that might be brought about by technological or scientific advance – or the radical re-imagining of how power, authority and resources might be e distributed among us. Its best writers, such as Ursula Le Guin, seem to have the power to remake the world.

Science fiction grows up
Science fiction has not, historically, been generous to women. Mothered by Mary Shelley (in Frankenstein and The Last Man), the genre, throughout the first half of the 20th century, becomes predominantly a form of heroic literature, steeped in fantasies of mastery and conquest.

Women were rarely present in this literature, except as trophies or temptations. We survived, in the arresting phrase coined by the great science fiction writer James Tiptree Jr (aka Alice Bradley Sheldon and Raccoona Sheldon): “by ones and two, in the chinks of the world-machine”. A surge of feminist Utopian writing in the 1980s marks the beginning of a shake-up of the genre, which can now delight and surprise in many ways.

Casting a woman as the Doctor seems like something that should have happened years ago. Television is expensive, success is not assured, and risks with a flagship property can be difficult to justify. The incoming production team should be commended for this decision, choosing in Whittaker an actor of great talent whose presence will surely revitalise this ever-changing, fascinating, British institution.

Having a woman as the Doctor will not solve the conditions of vast and cruel inequality under which millions of women live today. It will not alter the grotesquery of the most qualified woman in history being passed over for the job of US president in favour of an overgrown child who wanted a toy and now doesn’t know what to do with it.

But representation and visibility do matter. What I have enjoyed most about this casting news is thinking about how this Doctor – a woman Doctor – was going to be the one that my little girl would grow up seeing. She will be her Doctor. The hero, the adventurer, the person to whom the text turns for moral and intellectual authority – that is a woman now.

The ConversationA little more of the glass ceiling has cracked. A spanner has been thrown into the workings of the world machine. We are reminded that something different is possible.

About Today's Contributor:
Una McCormack, Lecturer, Creative Writing Faculty, Department of English and Media, Anglia Ruskin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation

7 June 2017

Tearing Up Human Rights Law Won't Protect Us From Terrorism

Theresa May - seeking a carte blanche?
Seeking a carte blanche? PA/Stefan Rousseau
By Fiona de Londras, University of Birmingham

Prime minister Theresa May has announced her resolve to tear up human rights law if it prevents her, and her government, from tackling extremism and countering terrorism.

This rhetoric is hardly new. It echoes Tony Blair’s post 9/11 claim that the rules of the game are changing. It’s also a continuation of May’s approach as home secretary. Over her term in that role, she systematically sought to dismantle legal barriers to desired government action. Indeed, it chimes well with longstanding concerns on the part of many Conservatives that human rights law is nothing more than an obstacle to security.

May’s proposal raises questions about what exactly the perceived shortfall in counter-terrorism powers is, why and how human rights law is said to prevent its resolution, and what the evidence for these claims is.

Nobody denies that we need laws to counter terrorism and prevent radicalisation. That includes having powers to investigate potential involvement in terrorist activity and criminal offences that try to ensure the state can intervene to prevent terrorist attacks.

However, one can hardly imagine a legal power that would effectively prevent people from launching low-tech attacks such as those at Westminster and London Bridge. Nor can one seriously claim that the arsenal of counter-terrorism powers is under-stocked. UK law contains extensive provisions to prevent and criminalise all forms of engagement with terrorism, including powers relating to data surveillance, disruption of terrorist financing, criminalisation of travelling for terrorist purposes, and the criminalisation of all forms of support for terrorist activities.

Human rights law has not prevented the UK from developing and implementing these laws. To be sure, there may be some things that the government would wish to do which human rights law has prevented, forcing the state to find other, human rights compliant, ways to achieve the same ends. However, that is hardly a basis for criticising the law – it is, in fact, precisely what human rights law (and all law) is supposed to do.

The whole idea of law is that it restrains not only what we can do as citizens and residents of the state, but also what the state can require us to do, prevent us from doing, and punish us for. If human rights law has forced the state to rethink or restrain some of its activities, that simply means the law is working.

This is the key point here. Human rights law doesn’t prevent the state from countering terrorism, but it does prevent the state from doing so in whatever way it pleases and without limitation.

Who do we want to be?
There is ample space within human rights law for the state to take muscular steps in the name of security. It can prevent people from travelling, adjust normal criminal procedures to protect intelligence, and restrict what people can say publicly in order to prevent the glorification of terrorism. It can limit how people associate and organise to prevent the emergence of terrorist groups, and restrict people’s ability to engage in certain behaviours online.
Shazad Butt and Rachid Redouane, two of the three London Bridge attackers
Shazad Butt and Rachid Redouane, two of the three London Bridge attackers. PA
If a situation is truly grave – to the extent that it “threatens the life of the nation” as it says in article 15 of the ECHR – the state can even derogate from some rights. This means that, for a period of time and in order to restore “normalcy”, the state can limit the extent to which certain rights can be enjoyed. It can take actions that are ordinarily not permitted, provided those actions are limited to what is “strictly required by the exigencies of the situation”.

If, then, the government is arguing that human rights law is preventing it from countering terrorism it needs to identify what it is that it considers needs to be done. It must state how human rights law is preventing them from doing that. And it must first consider how the desired ends might be achieved through means that are compliant with human rights.

It may be that there are some things the state wants to do that human rights law will not permit – mass internment, expulsion of all non-citizens without distinction, the total shut down of the internet, retention and surveillance of the content of all communications, for example, would all likely fall foul of human rights law. If the government proposed such actions and was, indeed, obstructed by human rights, would we really say human rights law is getting in the way of our security? Or would we acknowledge that it is protecting us from government overreach?

This, of course, leads to the most difficult and fundamental question of all: what kind of society do we want to be? If it’s one where we strive for total security, then of course human rights law might rightly be identified as an obstacle. Total security cannot be achieved in a society where the rule of law, human rights, and democracy are respected and upheld as fundamental principles.

Thanks to these principles we are free to flourish and live in a vibrant, diverse, rights-respecting society. But even without these principles, total security is a myth; no amount of law can protect us from all threats all of the time.

Does this mean the state shouldn’t take steps to prevent terrorism? Of course not. But it does mean that the state should not be able to take whatever steps it considers necessary to prevent terrorism, regardless of the impact on rights.

The ConversationIt is the legal protection of human rights, together with a vibrant civil society and healthy democratic system, that sets the boundaries of permitted action and best equips us to build a resilient society in which terrorism can effectively be countered. Tearing up human rights law would put all of that in jeopardy.

About Today's Countributor:
Fiona de Londras, Professor of Global Legal Studies, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation

26 May 2017

When Trump Met NATO: Blunt Talk And Meaningful Silences


World leaders met in Brussels for the NATO Summit 2017
World leaders met in Brussels for the NATO Summit 2017. AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Poo
By Simon Reich, Rutgers University Newark

Donald Trump’s electoral campaign was notable for his abrasive statements and blunt assessments about a variety of issues. Among his more unforgettable claims was his suggestion that NATO was “obsolete. The Conversation

This comment was largely founded, it seems, on a lack of understanding about what NATO does or how it functions. Since 1949, NATO has been a bedrock of American foreign policy, first in Europe against the Soviet Union and its allies, and then in Afghanistan. Trump’s desire to build bridges with the Russians, and his plain ignorance about NATO’s contribution in the war against the Taliban, largely explains his startling claim.

But what interests me as a keen observer of NATO politics is what Trump’s encounter with the other NATO leaders reveals about their relationship. And what will he claim about that meeting on his return?

A reeducation
As in many other policy areas, some quick tutoring led Trump to completely reverse his position. Key to that education was undoubtedly Defense Secretary James Mattis, who reportedly told the German defense minister soon after Trump’s inauguration that NATO remained the “central pillar” of transatlantic security and commented in congressional testimony that Russia remained America’s number one security threat.

So Mattis himself, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all traveled to Europe in the first 100 days of the Trump administration to reassure NATO allies about the organization’s continued importance. This sentiment was reinforced by General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the current supreme allied commander Europe.

By April, Trump had issued a predictably blunt edict in which he reversed course: “I said it was obsolete. It is no longer obsolete.”

Still, for many of us, a subsequent visit to see those we’d publicly criticized would be awkward. But just like his meeting with Pope Francis, Trump again demonstrated an amazing capacity to shrug off his earlier statements without any outward sign of embarrassment – while simultaneously asserting an authoritative tone.

The discussions in Brussels may have been more symbolic than substantial. But Trump’s ability to assume a claim of leadership – and success – was helped by two developments.

Claiming a victory on NATO financing
Donald Trump delivered a speech at NATO’s new headquarters in Brussels at the beginning of the summit
Donald Trump delivered a speech at NATO’s new headquarters in Brussels at the beginning of the summit.Reuters/Johnathan Ernst
First, Trump chastised other NATO members, reiterating his demand that they contribute more to NATO’s common defense.

Since the end of the Cold War, the size of the U.S. defense budget has varied, but expenditures always stayed above 2 percent of GDP. At the same time, however, most European budget expenditures haven’t. At NATO’s 2014 summit, NATO members agreed to target spending 2 percent of their GDP on defense.

Of the 27 other NATO members, only four currently meet the threshold. And of those, only Britain has a substantial military capability. Most pointedly, Germany has significantly underspent on defense. The fact that the 2 percent threshold doesn’t formally have to be met until 2024 is one of those minor facts that Trump conveniently ignores.

But this issue has been a longstanding squabble. In a rare example of bilateral consensus, Trump echoed the sentiment of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in demanding that they pay more. And, he added,
This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and [from] not paying in those past years.
Trump will surely characterize just bluntly voicing his concerns as a victory. And the vague promises of NATO members, particularly Germany, to increase their contributions to the common defense will reinforce that claim. The outcome, he will insist, is consistent with his campaign pledge – that he is getting a good deal for Americans.

Claiming a victory on terror
The second development in Brussels is an agreement that NATO would focus more on the fight against Islamic terrorism. This was formally reflected in the statement, calling terrorism “a challenge that the international community must tackle together.”

I imagine that Trump will undoubtedly again claim credit.

The Germans and French called this move “symbolic.” And, in some ways, they are right. The British and French are already deeply involved in the fight against terrorism, from Mali to the Middle East. And they have paid a heavy price for that involvement, as events in Paris, Nice, London and Manchester have made abundantly clear. But the assessment of the declaration as being purely symbolic may prove to be wrong in the long term – if a larger-scale Islamic State attack in the U.S. leads to Trump demanding that NATO provide a full-scale combat force to fight in Iraq or even Syria.

What wasn’t said
British Prime Minister Theresa May planned to discuss leaked intelligence about the Manchester attack with Donald Trump at the NATO Summit
British Prime Minister Theresa May planned to discuss leaked intelligence about the Manchester attack with Donald Trump at the NATO Summit. Reuters/Pool
Three major issues were, however, ignored in Brussels.

The first was Russia. Trump’s ambiguous views about Russia contrast with the universal concern of Europeans. But NATO’s coming together around a common condemnation of Russian aggression in Ukraine allowed them all to smooth over their differences.

Second, disturbingly, Trump publicly declined to endorse the key security guarantee that is the foundation of NATO: a commitment that the U.S. would defend any NATO member attacked. In practice that means an attack by Russia.

And finally, little was made of the leaking of critical intelligence about the terrorist attack in Manchester by American sources. Information sharing is at the heart of the fight against terrorism. But British Prime Minister Theresa May’s very vocal complaints were not addressed in Trump’s statement, although he did separately respond by authorizing an investigation into who and how it happened. Still, you can’t coordinate a fight against terrorism if your own services are leaking like a sieve.

The aftermath of Trump’s visit
In stark contrast to recent meetings with Obama, European leaders therefore were left unhappy by Trump’s lack of commitment to the core ideals that have traditionally bound NATO together: an explicit distrust of Russia’s intent and an explicit commitment to the values of democracy, human rights, free trade and free speech.

The fact that he ignored them all highlights the fact that the President Trump we see abroad is very similar to the President Trump we see at home.

About Today's Contributor: 
Simon Reich, Professor in The Division of Global Affairs and The Department of Political Science, Rutgers University Newark

This article was originally published on The Conversation

What The Manchester Attack Leaks Mean For The UK-US Intelligence-Sharing Relationship

Donald Trump and Theresa May
Donald Trump and Theresa May - PA
By Colin Murray, Newcastle University

Just a few hours after the British home secretary, Amber Rudd, issued a stern warning to the US government and intelligence officials about leaking sensitive information, they were at it again. The Conversation

US news outlets had already published the name of the suspect in the Manchester attack before the UK authorities were prepared to make it public. And now not only had more intelligence information been released about the suspects family and their movements, but the New York Times published photographs of bomb fragments and the tattered remains of a backpack.

But while this latest storm over the UK-US relationship and intelligence sharing in the wake of the Manchester attack is far from unique, these leaks are of a different order.

They indicate the febrile state of the administration in Washington. And when the White House gives the appearance of being cavalier with shared intelligence, it is unsurprising when nameless officials ape the commander-in-chief for their own advantage.

Perhaps inevitably, they resulted in the suspension of information sharing – even if this suspension was just for a matter of hours and limited to this single investigation. And in these times of shifting sands, the prime minister, Theresa May, went from defending the Trump administration’s approach to intelligence sharing to confronting the US president over leaks – all in the space of a single week.

But, for all the air of despondency the Manchester investigation leaks have generated, any damage in the UK-US security relationship is likely to be fleeting. Both countries have gained too much from the relationship. And more than anything, the leaks demonstrate just how quickly actionable intelligence flows between them.

A brief history of leaks

The challenge of effective international co-operation and intelligence sharing has long been a subject fraught with controversy. And it is testament to the durability of the relationship that it has weathered many such storms for the best part of a century.

This prize was not easy won, and it has proven very difficult to emulate reliable intelligence sharing – even where terrorism is at issue. Well into the 20th century many states would zealously guard intelligence. And when information was shared it would be on an ad hoc basis, for geo-political advantage.

For one group of countries, intelligence sharing during World War II changed this approach. The the so-called “Five Eyes” countries – the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – recognised the value of shared intelligence to the allied victory. And, in light of the looming threat of the Cold War, these countries opted to maintain their sharing of signals and communications intelligence under the UKUSA Agreement, which in 1947 set up a top secret, post-war arrangement for sharing intelligence.

But even between these close “Five Eyes” partners, this arrangement did not stop horse-trading of other sources of information – and tensions inevitably arose. To mitigate these problems the partnership developed the “control principle”. This meant that the country which produced the original intelligence could determine whether it was shared with countries outside the partnership, or even if it was to be made public.

The bartering of secrets

That the “Five Eyes” system was maintained in the aftermath of the Cold War was not the product of mere habit. In an era of diffuse and emergent threats there was even – amid talk of a “new world order” – a concerted effort to extend intelligence sharing. And yet, all too often in the wake of terrorist attacks it emerged that different countries’ security agencies held vital information which, if pieced together, could have averted an atrocity.

So, in response to early instances of al-Qaeda related terrorism, Article 15 of the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings obliged signatory states to cooperate in the prevention of terrorist attacks. This was formed in 1997 and required countries to share “accurate and verified information” in such instances.

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks the United Nations Security Council took things even further – enjoining all UN member states to “increase co-operation”. This measure aimed to transform international intelligence sharing in response to terrorism in the hope of preventing the next 9/11. And more importantly, put an end to the bartering of secrets seen within the “Five Eyes” system.

Close to home

But without a mechanism for enforcing co-operation, barter has continued to predominate within counter-terrorism partnerships forged after 9/11. For example, Saudi Arabia threatened to terminate intelligence sharing with the UK if a Serious Fraud Office investigation into bribery surrounding the arms company BAE was not halted in 2006. And, in a similar vein, security cooperation with Pakistan is only maintained in exchange of foreign aid – making it clear that intelligence remains a valuable commodity.

Even established security partnerships, such as the “Five Eyes” arrangement, have struggled to adapt to this new paradigm – in part because the “control principledoes not sit easily with a legal duty to share intelligence which might prevent a terrorist attack, but also because an increased risk of leaks is part of the price for enhanced co-operation.

So, despite the US and UK’s seemingly “back-to-normal” working relationship, in a world of imperfect intelligence the Manchester investigation leaks risk exacerbating the tendency of intelligence agencies to want to keep as much information as possible close to home.

About Today's Contributor:

Colin Murray, Senior Lecturer in Law, Newcastle University

This article was originally published on The Conversation

25 May 2017

New WWF Guide Helps Ships Avoid Vulnerable Arctic Species

Walruses - image via
Walruses - image via
A new WWF-Canada guide designed to help mariners in the Hudson Strait identify and avoid marine mammals is being unveiled at a Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada meeting in Montreal today.
Decreasing summer sea ice has led to growing interest in Arctic shipping operations. Mining, fishing and tourism industries will all contribute to increased ship traffic through the northern corridor, which connects Hudson Bay to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Hudson Strait Mariner's Guide is made up of two large posters to be hung on the ship's bridge: a chart that will help mariners identify whales, seals, polar bears and walrus, and maps of marine mammal habitat in both summer and winter. The guide lists phone numbers so mariners can report sightings and incidents at both the national and community level, and provides operational guidance when close to or encountering marine mammals.
WWF-Canada will be presenting the guide at the Canadian Marine Advisory Council meeting today and tomorrow, and will put copies of the guides directly into the hands of shipping company owners, operators and federal regulators.

How ship traffic affects marine mammals:
  • Noise from ships can make it difficult for whales to communicate with each other;
  • Passing ships can disrupt feeding patterns, and will often drive marine mammals away from their usual habitat;
  • Ship strikes can seriously injure marine mammals;
  • In the rare event of a spill, pollution from sewage, greywater, ballast water and fuel could damage marine mammal habitats.
Andrew Dumbrille, senior specialist, sustainable Arctic shipping, says:"This is an opportunity to create a high standard for sustainable shipping practices before we see a major increase in activity in the Hudson Strait due to longer open-water periods. We hope this guide will serve as a tool for mariners to minimize disruptions to important habitat, and increase awareness in the shipping community about the wildlife that share these waters. It will also encourage mariners to work with northern communities who depend on the continued health of marine mammals for their own survival. Sharing accurate, up-to-date information makes the waters safer for all involved."

Praise for WWF-Canada's Hudson Strait Mariner's Guide
Marc Gagnon, director, government affairs and sustainability for Fednav, says:"This guide should be on every ship that passes through the Hudson Strait. We at Fednav do our best to ensure our ships don't disrupt key marine habitats, and being able to properly identify the animals and know when and how to avoid them at different times of the year makes that so much easier. These kinds of tools go a long way to making sure our shipping practices only add value to northern communities."

Captain David "Duke" Snider, CEO of Martech Polar Consulting, says:"As someone who has been on the bridge of ships for more than 35 years, I would say that a guide like this on board will be an invaluable resource to inform mariners on species they may encounter, and help mariners avoid particularly sensitive species and habitats. I would encourage those operating ships through the Hudson Strait to make use of this guide."
WWF-Canada's Hudson Strait Mariner's Guide
The Mariner's Guide for the Hudson Strait includes a chart to assist mariners in identifying marine mammals they may encounter, and provides guidelines on safe distances. (CNW Group/WWF-Canada)

About World Wildlife Fund Canada 
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. 
For more information, visit

Racial Taunts For Chinese Students Haunt The Notice Boards Of UTexas

Protests at University of Texas
Protests at University of Texas (License: Image author owned )
There was a huge uproar over flyers targeting Chinese students that were posted on the University of Texas campus in the first week of April. What was more shocking was that these insults were posted right after the university declared its plans to make the campus more diverse. The offensive posters were categorically directed at the Chinese, accusing them of plagiarism to get high grades. They have been accused of “faking” skills to get plush jobs after graduation.

The President of the University of Texas, Austin, declared that they would be investigating the incident to identify the culprits. He voiced the university’s concern for such an act which he believed was both hateful and biased. It was stated by Fenves the next day that the students responsible had indeed been identified. He assured that the university was evaluating the crisis and appropriate action would be taken thereafter. He argued that every student and faculty member in the university should have total complete freedom to learn and teach others without fear. No one deserved to be made an object of discrimination. However, there is still no proof to suggest whether the student responsible for the heinous act was acting independently or not.

The university’s Chinese Student Association issued a statement highlighting that content of these posters did not rightly reflect the Chinese culture. The student organization referred to the act as one of discrimination. It called upon fellow students to join the organization and learn in-depth about Chinese traditions.

The issue of plagiarism has risen almost always when there have been talks of the Chinese gaining admission in US colleges.  Watch a video here.

A simple Google search on Chinese students and plagiarism will reveal the shocking numbers of Chinese students who have been expelled on this ground. So, Chinese students have been accused of cheating and plagiarism in American institutions over the years. The truth is that the Chinese view of knowledge is quite distinct from the view adopted by other countries in the West. It's also definate that they dont have access to an ultimate referencing guide for assignments.

  • The Chinese pedagogy has been primarily influenced by Confucian thoughts. These encouraged students to worship knowledge-givers and to avoid questioning established ideas. So, Chinese school-going students are actually encouraged to memorize texts, whether they are learning Math or Science or Humanities. No student is allowed to produce original work or nurture original ideas.
  • Secondly, Chinese students have been taught that knowledge belongs to the entire society and not to any particular person. It is assumed that the Chinese students may actually have been told that citing sources is disrespectful. So, by informing their readers about the source, they may well be implying that the reader is ignorant of the source. 
  • For the Chinese students, another major problem is that English is their second language. Learning this foreign language and using it to express complex ideas turns out to be challenging for them. At the same time, this is a necessity when you are writing an academic essay or assignment. So, very often the Chinese students tend to copy-paste texts without trying to rephrase the explanations in their own words. They resort to patch writing techniques to enhance their writing skill.
Chinese learning English
Chinese students learning English (License: Image author owned)
  • It can be argued that the Chinese may not be genuinely aware of why it is immoral to indulge in plagiarism. They may not understand the reasons why the western culture treats this kind of patch writing as plagiarism. They fail to realize that the west views plagiarism as equivalent to dishonesty, cheating and stealing. So, there may not be a deliberate intention to cheat the professors.
  • Students do not always cheat because of ignorance, according to a University of St.Thomas counselor. There are students who resort to copying in desperation because they do not know anyone who they can approach for help. In fact there are lot of open source tools which are useful for a student to do their assignment.
  • Students often tend to put off their essays and assignments till the deadline approaches. Writing an essay at the last minute may be very challenging for someone who lacks proficiency in English. This also becomes the reason why students are late in their assignment submission. This is one of the biggest reasons why foreign students tend to plagiarize content. For instance, a student from Vietnam in a US college with little experience in writing essays or researching on topics will find it hard to start off an essay. The Vietnamese are encouraged to memorize answers and now show creativity.
Chinese Meme
Chinese Meme (License: Image author owned)
In this way, plagiarism is something that is not specific to the Chinese students alone. It is an issue of grave concern which needs to be explained to students during orientation. The incident at the University of Texas is not the first of its kind. Following President Trump’s ban on the entry of people from seven Muslim-majority nations, posters targeting Muslims had been put up. The time has come for American universities to handle this kind of racial discrimination with an iron hand.

Protest (License: Image author owned) 
About Today's Contributor:
This post is written by Bella Williams , who is private tutor in Information Technology at ExpertAssignmentHelp and loves working with students to help them out with IT assignments and software packages for their capstone projects. She has also helped many students to write books and market their books in most creative ways.

24 May 2017

Kickstarter-Backed Gallery Turns Art into Charity Dollars

A woman washes her hands in clean water from a well in India.
A woman washes her hands in clean water from a well in India.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Compassion Gallery, a newly established fine art gallery, says a picture is worth a thousand lives, and then some. Coming on the heels of a successful Kickstarter campaign, Compassion Gallery captures the emotions of people who have a combined love for beautiful images and helping others. Their business model: Sell beautiful limited-edition fine art photography prints, and donate 100% of the after-tax profits to charity.
The concept of selling fine art photography isn't new. Photographers like Steve McCurry ("Afghan Girl" / National Geographic) and Peter Lik have already tapped into the multimillion-dollar industry by selling their prints to art-loving consumers. In fact, the New York Times reported in February 2015 that Lik alone had sold more than $440 million dollars in prints.
So can Compassion Gallery run with the likes of Lik and McCurry? Only time will tell, but they're off to a positive start. Founders and photographers, Ray Majoran and Brian Klassen, tested the waters through Kickstarter to see if their photos and idea would hold up. Not only did it hold up, but they were featured by Kickstarter as a "Project We Love." That meant prime-time viewing on a site that gets millions of visitors each week, and has raised over $2.7 billion for independent projects (source:
"Our hope is to marry Compassion Gallery with people who love art and want to make a difference in the world," says Majoran. "We believe that hanging something on a wall is about more than just d├ęcor; it's about making a statement. And if hanging something on your wall helps some of the world's most vulnerable people, then that is quite a statement."
Compassion Gallery sells all of its work online. Recognizing the dilemma of not being able to touch a physical piece of art before it's purchased, they developed a virtual reality Room Preview tool. Using the VR tool, customers can preview any piece of art in multiple rooms, frame styles, wall colors and sizes, before they buy it.
Virtual reality room preview tool. Customers can preview any Compassion Gallery art in multiple rooms, frame styles, wall colors and sizes, before they buy it.
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23 May 2017

The So-Called Islamic State Group Has Weaponized Children

A girl leaves flowers for victims of an attack at Manchester Arena
A girl leaves flowers for victims of an attack at Manchester Arena. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
By Mia Bloom, Georgia State University

In claiming responsibility for the attack in Manchester at an Ariana Grande concert on May 22, the so-called Islamic State group has sunk to a new low. The Conversation

We have seen terrorists target venues where young people congregate before – shopping malls, discos and schools. If IS was indeed involved, they have now deliberately targeted young children, tweens and teens and their parents in a horrific attack that has killed 22 as of this writing and wounded 59. The attacker used a nail bomb to maximize the carnage.

Through my research I have gained access to the Islamic State’s encrypted online propaganda platform, Telegram, where last night in the aftermath of the attack, IS supporters disseminated images of dead children from Mosul, saying, “The West’s children would not be safe if their (children) were not.”

This echoed a sentiment I heard many years ago when writing my book “Dying to Kill” about suicide attackers. In August 2001, a Jordanian woman named Ahlam al Tamimi researched a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem to select a time in which the maximum number of families were present. In her attack on the restaurant, 15 people were killed, including seven children and a pregnant woman. Palestinians justified the attack, saying: “If our children are not sacrosanct, neither are theirs.”

As shocking as this attack was, it follows a tradition in which terrorists target children or venues specifically to maximize killing the greatest number of young people.

Children in IS propaganda
The IS propaganda machine uses graphic images of dead children to whip up their base and motivate people from around the world to join their so-called caliphate. These images of children are intended to persuade people that moving to the IS strongholds of Raqqa, Syria or Mosul, Iraq is the only way to halt Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s slaughter of children.

During the course of research for my forthcoming book, “Small Arms: Children and Terror,” I have found that the group has also increasingly been using children as terrorist operatives, on the battlefield in mixed commando units they call Inghimasi, as propaganda disseminators, building munitions and, since December 2014, as suicide bombers.

Akram Rasho Khalaf, 10, was captured at the age of 7, trained and sold into servitude by Islamic State militants. AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo

According to a report on children and armed conflict, “In rural Aleppo, Dayr al-Zawr and rural Raqqa, the U.N. found military training of at least 124 boys between 10 and 15 years of age. The use of children as child executioners was reported and appeared in video footage in Palmyra and specific executions.”
IS has used children as young as four to execute prisoners using a remote control, and recently disseminated a video of a four-year-old shooting a prisoner in the head.

One cannot emphasize enough that there is no childhood in IS. The terrorists do not recognize the innocence of the victims at the Ariana Grande concert. The terrorists likewise do not subscribe to the notion that children have, need or deserve an idyllic period of their life in which they are to be protected and cherished.

In fact, Ali Akhbar Mahdi, a professor of religion at California State University at Northridge, argues that the word “teen” has no equivalent in Middle Eastern languages. Instead, they refer to pre-puberty, pre-youth or pre-adult. In most contexts, childhood is simply understood to be a period of time characterized by the absence of reason (‘aql).

Killing children: New norm
Terrorist targeting of children has been more common than most people realize.

For example, from Sept. 1-3, 2004, Chechen terrorists held School Number One in Beslan, Russia hostage for three days. There were 1,100 hostages in the school, including 777 children. By the end of the crisis, 384 people were dead, among them the terrorists and more than 350 civilians.
This is not exclusively a Jihadi tactic. The Oklahoma City bombing of the FBI Murrah building included a day care center. “Of the 21 children who were inside the day-care center on the morning of April 19, the morning of the bombing, 15 died, including all four of the infants by the window.
While IS has opportunistically taken credit for the attack, we do not yet have evidence to determine whether it was a directed or inspired attack. We do know, however, that the terrorist group has manipulated, brainwashed and exploited children for their own purposes and will continue to do so.

The average age for IS suicide bombers and executioners is skewing younger and younger, and they appear to be normalizing the use of children across its affiliates. For example, the terrorist group Boko Haram has used children against soft targets, civilians and marketplaces.

IS has gone from using children to inspire adults, to manipulating children and their parents to fight alongside adults, to targeting children instead of adults. They do not consider what they have done to be truly evil, although we know it to be.

About Today's Contributor:
Mia Bloom, Professor of Communication, Georgia State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. 

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