Archive for ‘Equality’

July 23, 2014

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt [voanews.com]

by Anita Powell / voanews.com

The vast majority of AIDS patients are of working age, according to statistics from U.N. AIDS.

And so, as the working population changes, AIDS activists say the workplace also needs to adapt. Many organizations, including the U.N.’s labor agency, have called on businesses to create HIV-friendly policies for the workplace.

But how that will actually play out in the workplace varies widely from country to country.

Some nations, such as Australia, which has a low AIDS prevalence rate of about 0.2 percent, have proactive, federally funded workplace programs and progressive policies. Australians also enjoy national health care, which provides a safety net for employees.

HIV policies

Brent Allan, who is on the AIDS conference’s organizing committee and is based in Melbourne as the head of Living Positive Victoria, says he challenges all workplaces to set up HIV policies.

“This is a policy that caters to the well-being of their employees. If their employees are feeling good, if their employees are healthy, they’re going to be more productive,” Allan said.

In the United States, David Phillips, who works for the government-run National Institutes of Health, says he has had HIV his entire working life – since he was 17.

Phillips says he welcomes one recent development in U.S. policy, the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which he says offers HIV patients the flexibility to change jobs without losing their HIV coverage under their private Insurance plan.

At the office, he offers simple advice to colleagues and bosses.

“I would say the big thing is to try to keep as much normalcy about the situation as possible. In this day and age, people living with HIV, we have pretty much a normal life expectancy,” Phillips said.

“Pretty much the first day I work with a new boss, I sit them down and I tell them about my HIV story and some other medical issues. It’s really to say, that ‘Hey, we can really perform well.’ It’s not like the old days where you were constantly popping out for doctor’s appointments because people were sick,” he added.

That does not mean, Phillips says, that HIV does not affect workers.

“For most people who’ve had HIV a long time, their bodies have been taxed by coping with the virus and the medications, that many people physically feel 10, 15, 20 years older than their chronological age. I’m very fortunate that at almost 50, I feel like I’m 25 most of the time, and the only thing that’s killing me right now are my feet from walking on these hard convention center floors,” he adds, laughing.

Discrimination

But in other nations, particularly within sub-Saharan Africa, which has the world’s highest AIDS rate of about 4.7 percent, working with AIDS is not always so easy.

AIDS patients, who are overwhelmingly female, often face discrimination. Many African governments provide free HIV medication – but patients often have to take time off work to queue for hours at government facilities.

In the southern African nation of Malawi, Safari Mbewe, the executive director of the Malawi Network of People Living with HIV, says AIDS support systems need to come into the workplace, with voluntary and confidential HIV support programs.

“If we could explore the possibility of having these facilities within the workplace. So each and every company, each and every organization should have a facility within their campus that should take care of their employees. So when an employee needs HIV testing, an employee needs ARVs, they don’t have to go elsewhere, because this is what is affecting the productivity as well,” Mbewe says.

“If it’s done, if everything is provided within the same workplace, it means all the employees would have adequate time to concentrate on their work,” he adds.

Mbewe says he’s heard countless tales of workers being fired for their HIV-positive status in Malawi.

Doesn’t disclose status

And so Mbewe, unlike Phillips, does not disclose his HIV status at work. That makes him a bit of an anomaly: in Southern Africa, it is common for workers to put their health status at the top of their resume.

“I think it’s not important. Because my belief is that the employers should be looking at one’s capability to do the job. So whether one is HIV positive or not, it doesn’t make any difference,” Mbewe said.

The conference has dedicated many hours to the discussion of workplace issues, debating issues of privacy, of policies and of workers’ rights across a spectrum of diverse labor laws and workplace cultures.

But throughout, the underlying message around the world is the same: people with HIV want to work.

http://www.voanews.com/articleprintview/1963316.html


 

July 7, 2014

When Belief and Facts Collide [nytimes.com]

by Brendan Nyhan / nytimes.com

Do Americans understand the scientific consensus about issues like climate change and evolution?

At least for a substantial portion of the public, it seems like the answer is no. The Pew Research Center, for instance, found that 33 percent of the publicbelieves “Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time” and 26 percent think there is not “solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades.” Unsurprisingly, beliefs on both topics are divided along religious and partisan lines. For instance, 46 percent of Republicans said there is not solid evidence of global warming, compared with 11 percent of Democrats.

As a result of surveys like these, scientists and advocates have concluded that many people are not aware of the evidence on these issues and need to be provided with correct information. That’s the impulse behind efforts like the campaign to publicize the fact that 97 percent of climate scientistsbelieve human activities are causing global warming.

In a new study, a Yale Law School professor, Dan Kahan, finds that the divide over belief in evolution between more and less religious people iswider among people who otherwise show familiarity with math and science, which suggests that the problem isn’t a lack of information. When he instead tested whether respondents knew the theory of evolution, omitting mention of belief, there was virtually no difference between more and less religious people with high scientific familiarity. In other words, religious people knew the science; they just weren’t willing to say that they believed in it.

Mr. Kahan’s study suggests that more people know what scientists think about high-profile scientific controversies than polls suggest; they just aren’t willing to endorse the consensus when it contradicts their political or religious views. This finding helps us understand why my colleagues and I have found that factual and scientific evidence is often ineffective at reducing misperceptions and can even backfire on issues like weapons of mass destruction, health care reform and vaccines. With science as with politics, identity often trumps the facts.

Click this link to continue reading the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/upshot/when-beliefs-and-facts-collide.html?smid=tw-share&_r=2

July 7, 2014

Thought of the Day: Success in Life

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

July 2, 2014

Why Solitary Confinement Is The Worst Kind Of Psychological Torture [io9.com]

by George Dvorsky / io9.com

There may be as many as 80,000 American prisoners currently locked-up in a SHU, or segregated housing unit. Solitary confinement in a SHU can cause irreversible psychological effects in as little as 15 days. Here’s what social isolation does to your brain, and why it should be considered torture.

There’s no universal definition for solitary confinement, but the United Nations describes it as any regime where an inmate is held in isolation from others, except guards, for at least 22 hours a day. Some jurisdictions allow prisoners out of their cells for one hour of solitary exercise each day. But meaningful contact with others is typically reduced to a bare minimum. Prisoners are also intentionally deprived of stimulus; available stimuli and the fleetingly rare social contacts are rarely chosen by the prisoners, and are are typically monotonous and inconsiderate of their needs.

As for the jail cell itself, it typically measures 6′ x 10′. Nearly all scenarios for human contact, such as a guard, or medical and family visits, are done through a metal mesh, behind glass partitions, or in hand- and leg-cuffs.

Writing in Wired, Brandon Keim describes the conditions in the cells:

What’s emerged from the reports and testimonies reads like a mix of medieval cruelty and sci-fi dystopia. For 23 hours or more per day, in what’s euphemistically called “administrative segregation” or “special housing,” prisoners are kept in bathroom-sized cells, under fluorescent lights that never shut off. Video surveillance is constant. Social contact is restricted to rare glimpses of other prisoners, encounters with guards, and brief video conferences with friends or family.

For stimulation, prisoners might have a few books; often they don’t have television, or even a radio. In 2011, another hunger strike among California’s prisoners secured such amenities as wool hats in cold weather and wall calendars. The enforced solitude can last for years, even decades.

These horrors are best understood by listening to people who’ve endured them. As one Florida teenager described in a report on solitary confinement in juvenile prisoners, “The only thing left to do is go crazy.”

Prisoners in low and medium security jails are often thrown in the SHU for “just” a few days. But in maximum security prisons, individuals in solitary are held on average for five years, and there are thousands of cases of prisoners who have been held in solitary confinement for decades. Some countries, including the United States, employ the use of Super Maximum Security Prisons, or “Supermax Prisons,” in which solitary confinement is framed as a normal, rather than exceptional, practice for inmates.

Exact statistics are not known, but a 2011 study suggested that 20,000 to 25,000 prisoners in the United States are held in this way. Keim claims that that California holds some 4,500 inmates in solitary confinement, and that there are as many as 80,000 prisoners held in solitary across the United States — more than any other democratic nation.

Lasting Effects

Human beings are social creatures. Without the benefit of another person to “bounce off of,” the mind decays; without anything to do, the brain atrophies; and without the ability to see off in the distance, vision fades. Isolation and loss of control breeds anger, anxiety, and hopelessness.

Indeed, psychologist Terry Kupers says that solitary confinement “destroys people as human beings.” A quick glance at literature review studies done by Sharon Shalev (2008) and Peter Scharff Smith (2006) affirms this assertion; here are some typical symptoms:

  • Anxiety: Persistent low level of stress, irritability or anxiousness, fear of impending death, panic attacks
  • Depression: Emotional flatness/blunting and the loss of ability to have any “feelings”, mood swings, hopelessness, social withdrawal, loss of initiation of activity or ideas, apathy, lethargy, major depression
  • Anger: Irritability and hostility, poor impulse control, outbursts of physical and verbal violence against others, self, and objects, unprovoked angers, sometimes manifested as rage
  • Cognitive disturbances: Short attention span, poor concentration and memory, confused thought processes, disorientation
  • Perceptual distortions: Hypersensitivity to noises and smells, distortions of sensation (e.g. walls closing in), disorientation in time and space, depersonalization/derealization, hallucinations affecting all five senses (e.g. hallucinations of objects or people appearing in the cell, or hearing voices when no one is speaking
  • Paranoia and psychosis: Recurrent and persistent thoughts, often of a violent and vengeful character (e.g. directed against prison staff), paranoid ideas (often persecutory), psychotic episodes or states, psychotic depression, schizophrenia
  • Self-harm: self-mutilation and cutting, suicide attempts

In California, it has been shown that inmates are 33 times more likely to commit suicide than other prisoners incarcerated elsewhere in the state. Disturbingly, solitary confinement beyond 15 days leads directly to severe and irreversible psychological harm. But for some, it can manifest in even less time. What’s more, a significant number of individuals will experience serious health problems regardless of specific conditions of time, place, and pre-existing personal factors.

In terms of prevalence, somewhere between 8% and 19% of American prisoners will experience significant psychiatric or functional disabilities, while another 15% to 20% will require some form of psychiatric intervention during their incarceration. Figures in Europe are comparable. The American Psychiatric Association says that up to 20% of all prisoners are “seriously mentally ill” whereas up to 5% are “actively psychotic at any given moment.” About 4% of inmates have schizophrenia or some other psychotic disorder, nearly 19% suffer from depression, and around 4% have bipolar disorder (Abramsky and Fellner 2003).

Click this link to continue reading the article on io9’s website:

http://io9.com/why-solitary-confinement-is-the-worst-kind-of-psycholog-1598543595

June 30, 2014

Choose Something Like a Star

by Robert Frost

pyrostarkaleidO Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud—
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says, ‘I burn.’
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats’ Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.
June 26, 2014

Field Guide to the Conspiracy Theorist: Dark Minds [psychologytoday.com]

By John Gartner, Ph.D., published on September 01, 2009 – last reviewed on January 13, 2012 / psychologytoday.com

Alex Jones is trying to warn us about an evil syndicate of bankers who control most of the world’s governments and stand poised to unite the planet under their totalitarian reign, a “New World Order.” While we might be tempted to dismiss Jones as a nut, the “king of conspiracy” is a popular radio show host. The part-time filmmaker’s latest movie, The Obama Deception, in which he argues that Obama is a puppet of the criminal bankers, has been viewed millions of times on YouTube.

When we spoke, Jones ranted for two hours about FEMA concentration camps, Halliburton child kidnappers, government eugenics programs—and more. When I stopped him to ask for evidence the government is practicing eugenics, he pointed to a national security memorandum. But I found the document to be a bland policy report.

Jones “cherry picks not just facts but phrases, which, once interpreted his way, become facts in his mind,” says Louis Black, editor of the Austin Chronicle, who knows Jones, a fellow Austin resident. When I confronted Jones with my reading of the report, he became pugnacious, launching into a diatribe against psychologists as agents of social control.

Conspiracy thinking is embraced by a surprisingly large proportion of the population. Sixty-nine percent of Americans believe President John F. Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy, and 42 percent believe the government is covering up evidence of flying saucers, finds Ted Goertzel, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University at Camden. Thirty-six percent of respondents to a 2006 Scripps News/Ohio University poll at least suspected that the U.S. government played a role in 9/11.

We’re all conspiracy theorists to some degree. We’re all hardwired to find patterns in our environment, particularly those that might represent a threat to us. And when things go wrong, we find ourselves searching for what, or who, is behind it.

In his 1954 classic, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, historian Richard Hofstadter hypothesized that conspiracy thinking is fueled by underlying feelings of alienation and helplessness. Research supports his theory. New Mexico State University psychologist Marina Abalakina-Paap has found that people who endorse conspiracy theories are especially likely to feel angry, mistrustful, alienated from society, and helpless over larger forces controlling their lives.

Jones insists he had a “Leave It to Beaver childhood.” I couldn’t confirm such an idyllic past. When I asked if I could interview his family or childhood friends, he insisted his family was very “private” and he had not kept in touch with a single friend. When I asked if I might look them up, he became irritated. He doubted he could “still spell their names,” and besides, I’d already taken up enough of his time. “I turned down 50 or 60 requests for interviews this week,” he wanted me to know.

The number sounded wildly inflated. Conspiracy theorists have a grandiose view of themselves as heroes “manning the barricades of civilization” at an urgent “turning point” in history, Hofstadter held. Jones has a “messiah complex,” Black contends. Grandiosity is often a defense against underlying feelings of powerlessness.

Even well-grounded skeptics are prone to connect disparate dots when they feel disempowered. In a series of studies, Jennifer Whitson of the University of Texas and Adam Galinsky of Northwestern demonstrated that people primed to feel out of control are particularly likely to see patterns in random stimuli.

Might people be especially responsive to Jones’ message in today’s America, marked by economic uncertainty and concerns about terrorism and government scandals? “There is a war on for your mind,” Jones insists on his Web site, infowars.com. He calls his listeners “infowarriors.”

Information is the conspiracy theorists’ weapon of choice because if there’s one thing they all agree on, it’s that all the rest of us have been brainwashed. The “facts” will plainly reveal the existence of the conspiracy, they believe. And while all of us tend to bend information to fit our pre-existing cognitive schema, conspiracy theorists are more extreme. They are “immune to evidence,” discounting contradictory information or seeing it as “proof of how clever the enemy is at covering things up,” Goertzel says.

Conspiracy theories exist on a spectrum from mild suspicion to full-onparanoia, and brain chemistry may play a role. Dopamine rewards us for noting patterns and finding meaning in sometimes-insignificant events. It’s long been known that schizophrenics overproduce dopamine. “The earliest stages of delusion are characterized by an overabundance of meaningful coincidences,” explain Paul D. Morrison and R.M. Murray of the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London. “Jumping to conclusions” is a common reasoning style among the paranoid, find Daniel Freeman and his colleagues, also at the Institute of Psychiatry.

Indeed, there are no coincidences in Jones’ world. In a scene from The Obama Deception, Jones dives “into the belly of the beast,” the hotel where purported conspirators will be meeting. As he begins a telephone interview, the fire alarm goes off. “The bastards have set us up,” he says.

Jones says that he has been visited by the FBI and the Secret Service but can’t discuss the interviews. It may be that federal agents, in fact, wanted to evaluate whether he is a threat to the president. There’s no reason to believe he is—but the same can’t be said of his listeners. In 2002, Richard McCaslin, carrying an arsenal of weapons, entered the Bohemian Grove, a campground in California that annually hosts a meeting of the political and business elite. He told authorities he had been planning his commando raid for a year, after (he says) hearing Jones claim that ritual infant sacrifice was taking place there.

The “war”continues. In a video promoting The Obama Deception, Jones urges, “We know who they are. We know what they are. We know what has to be done.”

John Gartner is an author and PT blogger. Read his blog now: The Roving Psychologist.

Connect the Dots

How susceptible are you to conspiracy beliefs? Rate your agreement with the statements below, from 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree.

  1. For the most part, government serves the interests of a few organized groups, such as business, and isn’t very concerned about the needs of people like myself.
  2. I have trouble doing what I want to do in the world today.
  3. It is difficult for people like myself to have much influence in public affairs.
  4. We seem to live in a pretty irrational and disordered world.
  5. I don’t trust that my closest friends would not lie to me.

Answer key: 5-11: weakly, 12-18: moderately, 19-25: strongly (Adapted from a scale developed by Patrick Leman)

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200909/field-guide-the-conspiracy-theorist-dark-minds

June 24, 2014

Trans Woman of Color Murdered, Set on Fire, Then Dumped in Trash [jezebel.com]

by Kat Callahan / jezebel.com

transwomanfloridakilledburnedIn horrific news out of Fort Myers, Florida, a trans woman of color has been murdered, and her body set on fire, then dumped in a garbage bin. I just can’t right now, I just can’t even.

According to a local media outlet, the victim was identified as Yazmin or Yaz’min Shancez, which was the woman’s preferred name according to her family, although the police reported that her documents had not yet been changed to reflect this. The same report quoted Fort Myers Police Lt. Jay Rodriguez as saying the police have not determined a cause of death, and are not investigating the homicide as a hate crime.

We have no indication at this time to say this was specifically done because it was a male living as a female or anything like that. If you really think about it, a hate crime is killing someone for a specific reason, being black, Hispanic, gay. We’re investigating as we would any other homicide.

…I’m sorry, Officer Rodriguez, but are you trying to suggest here that killing someone because they’re transgender isn’t a specific enough reason? Or maybe that the reason doesn’t count because it’s not on your official “hate crime” cheat sheet? If I really think about it? Jesus fucking Christ, sir, I think about it constantly. Do you typically see non-hate crime related homicides that end with burning the already dead body and then dumping it like worthless refuse in a garbage bin? Is this a pattern in Fort Myers which makes it like “every other homicide?”

Her father, identified as Harvey Loggins, said that he and his family left balloons and stuffed animals in the small private drive in an industrial area of the city where the garbage bin was located.

With the exception of her father (who continued to use male pronouns, despite his daughter’sidentity), the majority of her family appears to have accepted her decision to live as a woman, which she apparently began to do in 2004. Her aunt, Beatrice Loggins, spoke lovingly of Shancez, citing her uniqueness as a person.

Nobody deserves that. Straight, gay, purple, pink, white, black. Nobody…There will never be another T, you couldn’t clone her, couldn’t mold her.

Cousin Jasmine Weaver seemed at a loss to understand the crime (you and me, both, Jasmine, you and me both).

We don’t know of any person who would do something like that to T. It’s mind-boggling. You’d never think that would happen to your family.

Mind-boggling? Horrific. Abhorrent. And an altogether too common reality for transgender people, especially trans women of color. I’d love to shout from the rooftops that this is so horrible because it is incredibly rare. Well, it’s not. It happens all the goddamned time.

And if this story could get any worse, if that’s at all possible when dealing with such a terrible crime, this is a second heartbreak for the family. They have already lost one child, as Shancez’s 15-year-old little sister was also murdered, gunned down in a drive-by shooting almost exactly two years before.

I hate everything right now.

http://roygbiv.jezebel.com/trans-woman-of-color-murdered-set-on-fire-then-dumped-1595108365/+burtreynoldsismyspiritguide1

June 14, 2014

What’s At Stake For Birth Control In Upcoming SCOTUS Decision [kaiserhealthnews.org]

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2014/June/13/Supreme-Court-Hobby-Lobby-contraception-birth-control.aspx

June 12, 2014

Anti-conformity Research Led to Freud’s Best Sarcastic One-Liner [io9.com]

by Esther Inglis-Arkell / io9.com

There are plenty of tests that study conformity, but measuring anti-conformity is a tougher proposition. How do you measure something that is only evident after you make your influence felt? Researching this led to some interesting experiments, and the best line ever delivered by Sigmund Freud.

Conformity experiments have revealed some horrible truths about human nature. Anti-conformity experiments have just revealed, for the most part, only the annoying truths. Then again, anti-conformity is tough to measure. Not only has a person got to go against the grain of the group, it has to be shown that their only reason for doing so is to keep themselves from fitting in. How do you set up an experiment to prove that?

Michael Argyle, a psychologist, attempted the first experiment meant to measure anti-conformity in 1957. He had volunteers come in, and pair up, in order to engage in a little art critique. Unbeknownst to one half of each pair, their partner was actually Argyle’s assistant. The assistant was there to reject the participant’s view of the painting they were evaluating – which, by the way, was The Poet Reclining, by Marc Chagall. (If anyone is wondering about my opinion, I am not a fan, although I like the colors in the sky, and the piggy. Have at me, anti-conformists!)

Whatever view the participant expressed of the painting, Argyle’s stooge rejected it. The participant was then given another chance to evaluate the painting. Fifty-eight percent of the participants didn’t change their ideas. Around thirty-five percent adjusted their opinions towards those of their partners. Eight percent went the other way. They exaggerated the differences between their opinions and the opinions of their supposed partner. Argyle dubbed these people anti-conformists.

Click here to continue reading the article: http://io9.com/anti-conformity-research-led-to-freuds-best-sarcastic-o-1589769720

June 2, 2014

The Road Less Traveled

TrubucoCanyonSunsetTwo roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

~ Robert Frost

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