Saturday, July 23, 2016

There were 5,700 new cases of female genital mutilation recorded in England in 2015-16, the first annual statistics show

The figures, published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre and covering the period of April 2015 to March 2016, show that in 18 cases the practice had been undertaken in Britain. The age group for which FGM was most common was five- to nine-year-olds, accounting for 43% of the total number of cases where the age at the time of being cut was known. Women and girls born in Somalia accounted for 37% of all newly recorded cases of FGM with a known country of birth. Of the women and girls with a known country of birth, 90% were born in Africa. Of the total number of newly recorded cases, 43 involved women and girls who said they had been born in Britain.

A black police officer in California has been charged with raping five different women while he was on duty

A former northern California police officer was charged with raping five women while on duty. Police arrested Noah Winchester, 31, near his Stockton home after the local district attorney charged him with 22 counts of kidnapping, rape and related charges. He raped the women between July 2013 and October 2015 while he served with the San Mateo Police Department and as an officer for the Los Rios Community College District in Sacramento. Winchester quit the police department in February 2016 after he was put on leave in October 2015 when the criminal investigation was launched. Winchester has been jailed on $3.1 million bail. The Los Rios Community College said that Winchester worked for its police department from January 2009 until January 2015, when he accepted a position with the San Mateo police department. Winchester is accused of raping two women while on duty as a campus police officer and three women while in uniform with San Mateo.

Primitive Africa: In some remote southern regions of Malawi, it's traditional for girls to be made to have sex with a paid sex worker known as a "hyena" once they reach puberty

The act is not seen by village elders as rape, but as a form of ritual "cleansing". Unfortunately, it has the potential to be the opposite of cleansing - a way of spreading disease. Eric Aniva is by all accounts the pre-eminent "hyena" in his village. It's a traditional title given to a man hired by communities in several remote parts of southern Malawi to provide what's called sexual "cleansing". If a man dies, for example, his wife is required by tradition to sleep with Aniva before she can bury him. If a woman has an abortion, again sexual cleansing is required. And most shockingly, here in Nsanje, teenage girls, after their first menstruation, are made to have sex over a three-day period, to mark their passage from childhood to womanhood. Some girls are just 12 or 13 years old. If the girls refuse, it's believed, disease or some fatal misfortune could befall their families or the village as a whole. Aniva appears to be in his 40s and currently has two wives who are well aware of his work. He claims to have slept with 104 women and girls. Aniva has five children that he knows about - he's not sure how many of the women and girls he's made pregnant. He says that he's one of 10 hyenas in this community, and that every village in Nsanje district has them. They are paid from $4 to $7 each time. According to custom, sex with the hyena must never be protected with the use of condoms. It's clear, given the hyena's duties, that HIV is a huge risk to the community. The UN estimates that one in 10 of all Malawians carry the virus. Aniva is himself HIV-positive, but he doesn't mention this to a girl's parents when they hire him.

African-Americans, Latinos and California politics

Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez, in an interview aired on Univision 19, injected race in explaining away President Barack Obama’s endorsement of U.S. Senate rival Kamala Harris, whose father is Jamaican. Sanchez was asked why the president had endorsed Harris in the unusual race between two Democrats. Speaking in Spanish, she noted that Obama and Harris are longtime friends, then added: “She is African American. He is, too.” Sanchez, in a statement after the interview aired, said that she in no way implied or intended to imply Obama endorsed Harris for racial reasons. “I was stating the fact that the endorsement was based on their long-term political relationship,” she said. Her remarks come days after she ripped Obama for endorsing Harris, arguing that he should be focused on helping Democrats win the presidential race rather than inserting himself in a contest between two party members. “California’s Senate seat does not belong to the political establishment – it belongs to the People of California,” Sanchez said, adding she believes that voters will make their own choice in November 2016. Anxieties between African Americans and Latinos have been an underlying, yet seldom discussed, issue in California politics. Sanchez has aggressively courted Latinos in her campaign to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. She has spoken about her Mexican American roots and her ability to speak Spanish. “I think we need a Latina in the U.S. Senate,” Sanchez said in January 2016. She also has tapped the support of Republicans who view Harris as too liberal. Harris, the state’s top law enforcement official and its highest-ranking black elected leader, has increasing waded into the complex tensions between police officers and people of color. Born to a Jamaican father and Indian mother, Harris said after the shooting of five officers in Dallas that she doesn’t know a black man, be he a relative, a colleague or a friend, that has not been subjected to racial profiling or an unfair stop. She also has attributed the rise of hate crimes motivated by religion to a national ratcheting up of anger and division in political discourse. In response to Sanchez’s interview with Univision, Harris’ campaign manager Juan Rodriguez said, “At a time when there is so much divisive rhetoric flowing through our politics, it's especially disappointing to see a Democratic member of Congress make those comments.” Sanchez has been has been criticized for making comments about race and ethnicity in the past. In December 2015, Muslim and immigrant rights activists called on Sanchez to apologize after she said that between 5% and 20% of Muslims want to form a caliphate to target Western norms. The California Immigrant Policy Center accused Sanchez of being “wildly off-the-mark” and said that the claims were irresponsible and dangerous, when “Islamophobic rhetoric is spurring troubling incidents of hate.” Sanchez said that she based the figure on her experiences, talks with world leaders and thoughtful and scholarly discussion about extremist trends in books, articles and surveys. Earlier in 2016, at a political meeting with an Indian American group, Sanchez mimicked a racial stereotype of American Indians, putting her hand to her mouth and making an offensive whooping sound. In 2010, facing a challenge from Republican Van Tran, a Vietnamese immigrant, Sanchez said on Univision that “the Vietnamese and Republicans” were attempting “to take this seat from us … and give it to this Van Tran, who is very anti-immigrant and very anti-Hispanic.” Sanchez apologized for her “poor choice of words” after Tran called it a “racial rampage.” Still, she accused Tran of taking “a cheap political shot.” Obama’s endorsement, which he jointly made with Vice President Joe Biden, credited Harris as being a leading voice for criminal justice reform, challenging old dogma and insisting we be “smart on crime” by ending mass incarceration.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces a furious backlash as the city of Munich mourns its dead in the wake of the horrific shootings by an Iranian Muslim

As the horrifying scenes from Germany's third largest city sparked outrage across the world many in Germany pinned the blame directly on the country's leading politician and her open door policy on migrants. Police revealed that the gunman who killed nine people and injured at least 20 others at a Munich shopping mall is an 18-year-old "German" of Iranian descent Ali Sonboly. Now furious Germans, and critics across Europe, are rounding on Angela Merkel and calling on the Chancellor to resign. Chancellor Merkel's ruling party suffered widespread losses to the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland in the recent local elections. And as the nation gets set to go to vote in the national federal elections in 2017, polls are suggesting she could be ousted. Recently, Germany’s interior minister warned of the serious threat from lone wolf attacks in the country and across Europe, telling the public to expect further attacks. The stark assessment of Germany’s security situation follows a warning from the French Prime Minster that his country should learn to live with the threat from Islamist extremists. Speaking in Berlin, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said that the Afghan refugee who attacked train passengers with an ax in the southern state of Bavaria was now thought be from Pakistan. Responding to the incident, which was claimed by Islamic State, the senior German cabinet minster said that similar attacks were highly likely.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Fugitive Breslov rabbi Eliezer Berland, 79, has been successfully extradited from South Africa to Israel, with the Israeli police arresting him upon arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport on suspicion of various sex offenses

Berland has been wanted by the authorities since he fled Israel in February 2013, and was arrested in South Africa in April 2016, leading finally to his extradition back to Israel after a lengthy legal process. Upon his arrest, police took the rabbi for questioning. Depending on the developments of the interrogation, police will ask for court approval of an extension of Berland's custody. Berland, the leader of the Shuvu Banim community of the Breslov Hassidic sect, fled Israel after claims of sexual abuse were made against him by several women, including a 15-year-old girl. He has since resided in Florida, Switzerland, Morocco, Holland, and Zimbabwe along with a band of devoted followers in his efforts to escape extradition to Israel. The rabbi was arrested in Amsterdam in 2015, but escaped before he could be extradited, and made his way back to South Africa, having previously sought shelter there after being expelled from Zimbabwe in 2014. “The completion of the extradition process this morning is an additional expression of the determined and professional work of the Israel Police, the State Attorney’s Office, and the law enforcement agencies in Israel and the close cooperation with global law enforcement agencies, which are not limited by time or place,” the Israel Police said in a press statement following Berland’s arrest.

Why gays should not be allowed to become priests: Former “singing” priest Tony Walsh has been jailed for seven and half years for raping a boy three times, once with a crucifix

Anthony Walsh (62) committed the offence at a time when the maximum penalty for this offence, then legally termed indecent assault, was two years. But Judge Elma Sheahan used her discretion to impose consecutive sentences. The Criminal Law (Rape) Amendment 1990 increased the maximum penalty for sexually assaulting a child under 17 to 14 years. He forced the child to have sex twice, once in the parochial house in his parish and on another occasion in a tunnel under the Phoenix Park. He also used a crucifix to rape the boy. Walsh told the jury during the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that he never knew the boy and said that he never assaulted him. Walsh, formerly of North Circular Road, Dublin had pleaded not guilty to five counts of indecently assaulting the boy on dates between January 1980 and December 1982. The boy was aged between 10 and 13 years old at the time of the abuse. Following a three day trial the jury returned verdicts of guilty on all counts after approximately one hour of deliberations. Garda Tara Corrigan told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, at a sentence hearing earlier in July 2016, that Walsh has 17 previous convictions, from 1995 to 2015, for indecently assaulting young children. Walsh fought two trials and pleaded guilty to the other offences. He is currently serving a sentence and is not due for release until 2021. Judge Sheahan had adjourned the case having heard evidence. She said that the rape charges were the most grave and warranted the maximum penalty of two years. She imposed a further 15 months on the two remaining indecent assault charges and ordered that all of the sentences should run consecutively. Judge Sheahan said that she would reduce the total sentence of eight and half years by one year having taken into account the totality of the prison sentence served and to be served by Walsh. She backdated the sentence to Walsh’s recent conviction meaning that he is now due for release in June 2023. The judge said that Walsh’s abuse of the victim had long lasting consequences for the man in his childhood and into his adolescence and adulthood which had “plagued his life to date”. She said that the accused had violated his position of trust in a grievous way and it was difficult to find any mitigating factors considering that he ran “a full and complete defense of denial. There is no indication that he accepts the jury’s verdict and he has shown no expression of remorse,” Judge Sheahan said.

Scientists from King's College London have used a new genetic scoring technique to predict academic achievement from DNA alone

This is the strongest prediction from DNA of a behavioural measure to date. The research shows that a genetic score comprising 20,000 DNA variants explains almost 10% of the differences between children's educational attainment at the age of 16. DNA alone therefore provides a much better prediction of academic achievement than gender or even grit, a personality trait thought to measure perseverance and passion for long-term goals. These findings mark a tipping point in predicting academic achievement and could help with identifying children who are at greater risk of having learning difficulties. Previous research on twin studies has found that 60% of differences between individuals' educational achievement are due to differences in DNA. Whilst this may seem far from the 10% predicted in this study, the authors note that twin studies examine the sum total of all genetic effects, including common and rare variants, interactions between genes, and gene-environment interactions. Twin studies can therefore tell us the overall genetic influence on a trait in a population. Polygenic scores however estimate genetic influence from common variants only, which explains the discrepancy between these DNA-based studies and twin studies (10% vs 60%). As human traits are so complex and influenced by thousands of gene variants of very small effect, it is useful to consider the joint effects of all of these trait-associated variants - and this principle underlies the polygenic score method. The value of polygenic scores is that they allow us to estimate genetic effects for academic achievement, or any other trait, at an individual level, based on a person's DNA. Calculating an individual's polygenic score requires information from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) that finds specific genetic variants linked to particular traits, in this case academic achievement. Some of these genetic variants, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), are more strongly associated with the trait, and some are less strongly associated. In a polygenic score, the effects of these SNPs are weighed by the strength of association and then summed to a score, so that people with many SNPs related to academic achievement will have a higher polygenic score and higher academic achievement, whereas people with fewer associated SNPs will have a lower score and lower levels of academic achievement. This new King's research is based on a recent GWAS that examined almost 10 million SNPs and identified 74 genetic variants that were significantly associated with years of completed education. Years of education was used as a proxy measure for education achievement and related traits. Using the GWAS to guide their selection of DNA variants, the researchers measured academic achievement in Mathematics and English at ages 7, 12 and 16 (GCSE), in a sample of 5,825 unrelated individuals from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS). Their findings show that what makes students achieve differently in their educational achievement is strongly affected by DNA differences; on average those with a higher polygenic score would obtain a grade between A and B, whereas those with a lower score obtained an entire grade below in terms of GCSE scores at age 16. As well as this, 65% of people in the higher polygenic group went on to do A-levels, whereas only 35% from the lower group did so. Saskia Selzam, first author from the MRC Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre at King's College London, said: We believe that, very soon, polygenic scores will be used to identify individuals who are at greater risk of having learning difficulties. Through polygenic scoring, we found that almost 10 per cent of the differences between children's achievement is due to DNA alone. 10 per cent is a long way from 100 per cent but it is a lot better than we usually do in predicting behaviour. For instance, when we think about differences between boys and girls in maths, gender explains around one per cent of the variance. Another example is grit, which describes the perseverance of an individual, and only predicts around five per cent of the variance in educational achievement. Professor Robert Plomin, senior author of the study, also from the MRC SGDP Centre at King's College London, added: We are at a tipping point for predicting individuals' educational strengths and weaknesses from their DNA. Polygenic scores could be used to give us information about whether a child may develop learning problems later on, and these details could guide additional support that is tailored to a child's individual needs. We believe personalized support of this nature could help to prevent later developmental difficulties.

Afghan savagery: Pregnant teen burned to death for Dad's misdeed

After his young daughter had been married off, 45-year-old Mohammad Azam struck a deal with his new in-laws: He'd marry the cousin of his daughter's husband. But the marriage deal went sour and Azam's pregnant 14-year-old daughter, Zarah, ended up paying the price, tortured and burned to death by her own in-laws in a so-called "honor killing". After Zarah's death, Azam made his way to Kabul to seek justice for his daughter because he's not hopeful he'll find it in Ghor province, where her immolation took place. "The culprits should be brought to justice, my daughter's blood must not go in vain," he said. Azam had been promised the cousin's hand in marriage as payment for construction work he had done. Zarah's in-laws then pulled back on the deal when another man offered more money for the cousin, but Azam eloped with her anyway, leading the in-laws to seek revenge.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A master's student at India's MD University in Rohtak was found in the bushes recently, her clothes torn and the victim of an apparent abduction and rape, cops say — and her attackers look to be the same five men who gang-raped her three years ago

Two of the accused had been arrested after the last rape in Bhiwani but were eventually let out on bail, while the other three were never arrested at all. Her family says that she was attacked again because they kept pursuing the case, seeking to have all five put behind bars despite offers to settle the case out of court for a relatively large sum of money. "We were getting constant threats from the accused to reach a compromise outside the court, but we remained firm," the brother of the woman, said to be either 20 or 21 years old, said. The case underscores ongoing struggles with the country's caste system, technically illegal for more than 60 years, but far from disappeared. The young woman is a Dalit, considered the lowest, "untouchable" caste, while at least three of the accused are said to be from an upper caste. The outcry against rape cases involving victims from lower castes is often "muted," and that the region where this most recent rape took place is still held in a patriarchal grip, where, "male-dominated village councils often mete out their brand of misogynistic justice with impunity." The woman's family had moved to Rohtak from Bhiwani after the last assault, fearing that she would be ostracized and because they feared the accused men, who are all in their late 20s. The victim was hospitalized and treated; the five men have yet to be arrested.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Pakistani fashion model Qandeel Baloch, who recently stirred controversy by posting pictures of herself with a Muslim cleric on social media, was strangled to death by her brother in a suspected "honor killing," police say

Her parents told police that one of her six brothers strangled her to death as she slept in the family's home in Multan, a police spokeswoman said. She says that police are searching for the suspect. Baloch, 26, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, recently offended many Muslims by posting pictures of herself with Mufti Qavi, a prominent cleric. She said that the two of them enjoyed soft drinks and cigarettes together during the daylight hours in the holy month of Ramadan, when practicing Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. The pictures and allegations caused a scandal in Islamic Pakistan, and the government removed Qavi from the official committee that determines when Ramadan starts and ends. Recently, Baloch sought protection from the government, saying that she was receiving anonymous death threats. Baloch — who became known nationally after this video of her asking "How em looking" went viral — was nicknamed "Pakistan's Kim Kardashian" and was frequently abused online for behavior deemed immodest and for her criticism of Pakistan's patriarchal society. In one of her final Facebook posts, she described herself as an "inspiration to those ladies who are treated badly and dominated by the society."

More than half of British people believe the United Kingdom will not exist in 10 years time, a new poll has found

The BBC/ComRes poll found that 53% of the 1,000 adults surveyed thought that the union would break up in the next ten years following the vote to leave the European Union. Nearly 72% of British adults do not trust their politicians do a good job in the Brexit negotiations - and 52% believe that civil servants can’t be trusted either. Some 52% expect immigration to fall after the UK leaves but 47% believe that the economy will be worse in two year’s time. Most Britons, 66%, believe that maintaining access to the single market is more important than restricting freedom of movement. But 31% still think that immigration is more important - and 45% said that they will be dissatisfied if the government does not guarantee it. It comes as the new prime minister, Theresa May, told foreign leaders that she will implement the will of the British people. In her conversations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Francois Hollande and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny she reiterated her earlier declaration that “Brexit means Brexit”.

ISIS killer Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel sent his family £84,000 just days before his Bastille Day atrocity, his brother said

The Islamic fanatic persuaded friends to smuggle the bundles of cash back to his family in their hometown of Msaken, Tunisia. Although Bouhlel had been sending small sums of money to his family, his brother admitted that they were stunned by the size of the "fortune". "Mohamed sent the family 240,000 Tunisian Dinars (£84,000) in the last few days," Jaber Bouhlel said. "He used to send us small sums of money regularly like most Tunisians working abroad. But then he sent us all that money, it was fortune. He sent the money illegally. He gave cash to people he knew who were returning to our village and asked them to give it to the family."