Basic Self-Defense Moves Everyone Should Know []

Would you be able to defend yourself and your loved ones if someone were to physically attack you? It’s a question most of us don’t want to consider, but violence is, unfortunately, a fact of life. Thankfully, regardless of strength, size, or previous training, anyone can learn several effective self-defense techniques. Here’s how to prepare for and stay safe in common real-world violent situations.

Prevention Is the Best Self-Defense

First, remember that prevention is the best self-defense. Attackers, whatever their objectives, are looking for unsuspecting, vulnerable targets. So be sure to follow general safety tips like being aware of your surroundings, only walking and parking in well-lit areas, keeping your keys in hand as you approach your door or car, varying your route and times of travel, and otherpersonal security precautions.

Apart from avoiding confrontation, if you can defuse a situation (talk someone down from physically assaulting you) or get away—by handing over your wallet/purse or whatever they want, do that. Hand over your money rather than fight. Nothing you own is worth more than your life or health.

If violence is unavoidable, however, to really defend yourself, you’ll want to know ahead of time how to fight back effectively—it’s possible even against someone bigger or stronger than you. Here are some basic self-defense techniques that can keep you safe:

Get Loud and Push Back

As soon as the attacker touches you or it’s clear that escape isn’t possible, shout loudly (“BACK OFF!”) and push back at him or her (for simplicity’s sake we’re going to use “him” for the rest of the article, although your opponent could be female). This does two things: it signals for help and it lets the attacker know you’re not an easy target. The video at left from Rob Redenbach, a former trainer of Nelson Mandela’s bodyguards, shows why this is the first thing you need to do. It may not dissuade all attackers, but getting loud will warn off those that were looking for easy prey.

The Most Effective Body Parts to Hit

When you’re in a confrontation, you only have a few seconds and a few moves to try before the fight may be decided. Before an attacker has gained full control of you, you must do everything you can—conserving as much energy as possible—to inflict injury so you can get away. (This is no time to be civil. In a physical confrontation that calls for self-defense, it’s hurt or be hurt.) So aim for the parts of the body where you can do the most damage easily: the eyes, nose, ears, neck, groin, knee, and legs.

Su Ericksen, who writes the very helpful Self-Defense for Women website, offers techniques for striking these pressure points so you can defend yourself and get to safety. She writes:

Depending on the position of the attacker and how close he is will determine where you will strike and with what part of your body you will employ. Do not step in closer, say, to strike his nose with your hand, when you can reach his knee with a kick.

When striking a target on the upper half of the body you will use your hand. Effective strikes can be made with the outer edge of your hand in a knife hand position, a palm strike or knuckle blow for softer targets or a tightly curled fist.

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U.S. to Take Another Look at Gay Blood Donation Ban []

By Maggie Fox, National Journal

A policy that bars gay men from donating blood for life is “suboptimal,” advisers to the Health and Human Services Department said on Tuesday, and needs another look.

HHS asked a committee of experts on blood and tissue donations to reexamine the policy and see if there is a way to let at least some gays donate blood.

“If the data indicate that a change is possible while protecting the blood supply, we will consider a change to the policy,” HHS said in a statement.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an HHS agency, has banned blood donation by any man who has had homosexual sex because of the risk of the AIDS virus. Soon after the AIDS pandemic began in the 1980s, people such as hemophiliacs who received frequent blood transfusions or blood products began to become infected with the deadly and incurable virus.

Men who have sex with other men, including gay and bisexual men, have an HIV infection rate 60 times higher than that of the general population, the FDA says.  They have an infection rate 800 times higher than first-time blood donors and 8,000 times higher than the rate of repeat blood donors. Tests cannot pick up a new HIV infection in the blood with 100 percent accuracy; because blood is often pooled, many people may be at risk from a single infected donor.

But the Red Cross, always struggling with blood shortages, and other groups such as gay-rights organizations oppose the blanket policy. They say that there are other ways to screen out donors at high risk of HIV infection. Sen. John Kerry, D–Mass., has also been pushing for a change in policy.

“We’ve been working on this a long time in a serious way, and I’m glad Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius responded with concrete steps to finally remove this policy from the books,” Kerry said in a statement. “HHS is doing their due diligence, and we plan to stay focused on the endgame – a safe blood supply and an end to this discriminatory ban.”

“This announcement by HHS means we’re moving in the direction of finally ending this antiquated and discriminatory policy,” agreed Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill.  “Senator Kerry and I will continue to push for a behavior-based screening process both in the name of fairness and a safer blood supply.”

Some of the questions the Blood, Organ, and Tissue Safety Working Group will ask: What motivates a man who has had sex with other men to donate blood? Can men understand what puts them at high risk of HIV infection? Will donors answer honestly?

“It is anticipated that the described studies will yield data for reevaluation of the current deferral policy and potentially establish safety of blood collection from a subset of men who have sex with men or other currently deferred donors (e.g. men with a history of abstinence from MSM behavior for a defined time period),” HHS said.

Other people with potential but unknown exposures to infectious diseases are banned from giving blood in the United States, such as people who lived in Britain in the 1980s, when bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known mad-cow disease, was sweeping dairy herds.

Copyright 2011 – National Journal

Rose-Colored Glasses May Help Love Last []

By Regina Nuzzo, Special to the Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2011

Research suggests that happy delusions help when looking at your partner in a general sense (but be more realistic on the details)

If Cupid wanted to improve his game with science, he’d shoot first, then hand out rose-colored glasses with instructions attached:

To be worn when viewing your relationship and your partner’s personality or body.

For best results, keep using well after “I do.”

Remove carefully at your own risk.

Psychologists have long known that new love can be blind and new lovers delusional. Research has shown that newlyweds exaggerate their partner’s good qualities, forget the bad ones, rate their own relationship with annoying superiority and so on.

But newer research tantalizingly suggests that this myopia is good for more than driving your single friends crazy. Some happy delusions may actually be better for the long-term health of a relationship than hewing to a sober and accurate view of your sweetheart.

Really? After all, common sense (and many a bitter veteran of marriage) would warn that just the opposite was true — that the higher you climb, the harder you fall after the honeymoon wears off. Wouldn’t the starry-eyed, smugly optimistic folks be the most crushed when they wake up and realize that theirCinderella is really a chambermaid, their knight in shining armor actually a fat guy on a pony?

Not according to the evidence. Blinder is often better, it turns out. “Positive biases and happiness seem to push each other along,” says Garth Fletcher, psychology professor at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

Making the Case for Gay Marriage []

The chief of coastal Oregon’s Coquille Indian tribe must, I think, be a good man. His name is Ken Tanner, and when a tribes-woman asked for a marriage license to marry her girlfriend on Coquille land in 2008 – Oregon’s a no on gay marriage, but tribal sovereignty is another kettle of salmon – he moved things forward. Today the Coquille tribe (pronounced “ko-kwel’’) is one of a little more than a half dozen pioneering US entities (and the only Native American tribe) to grant marriage licenses to gay couples.

In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to do so. Since then, we’ve been joined by the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and, quite the recent bombshell, New York. (California is the asterisk: yes for six months in 2008, then no.) So why did the Coquilles take a stand? “Native Americans, more than anyone, know about discrimination,’’ Tanner explained. “Our directive is to provide recognition and respect to all members of our tribe.’’

Recognition and respect: For gays and lesbians, it’s accelerating. More states, including Maine, are taking a look at signing on to gay marriage. And this year, for the first time in history, a majority of Americans (53 percent, according to Gallup) believe same-sex marriage should be legally equal to traditional marriages.

“The river of history has rounded a bend,’’ as the Atlantic’s Jonathan Rauch says in “Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America’’ (Times, 2004). It’s one of the movement’s trailblazing polemics, but since then more research has kicked in. Thus the wonky but fascinating “When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage’’ (New York University, 2009) by M.V. Lee Badgett, a University of Massachusetts Amherst economics professor and research director of UCLA’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy.

Badgett gets her data, mostly, from Europe. We might think we’re wicked progressive here in the Bay State, but Denmark became the first nation to sanction same-sex unions in 1989. Chalk it up to “frisind,’’ a Danish word that means “broad-mindedness, tolerance and social responsibility in securing real equal opportunity for everyone.’’ Ten countries are now in the gay marriage column: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden.

So what does Badgett dig up? The research suggests that legal relationships among gay men in Europe appear to encourage monogamy, resulting in lower rates of HIV and syphilis. Gay couples who marry generally report a feeling of inclusion, which reduces what Badgett calls “minority stress.’’ Also, the more secular a country or state, the more likely it will pass a gay marriage bill.

Apart from the health benefits of wedlock, the legal gains – family leave, Social Security and survivor benefits, joint filing of federal income taxes – are voluminous. According to a 2004 Congressional Budget Office report, married people have 1,138 statutory provisions in their favor. It’s plain wrong that gay couples who want to marry don’t, and the consequences pervade “Gay Marriage, Real Life: Ten Stories of Love and Family,’’ (Skinner House, Books, 2006) by Michelle Bates Deakin.

Take Anne Magro and Heather Finstuen, both academics living in Oklahoma, moms to twin girls adopted in New Jersey, and plaintiffs in a suit to overturn a state law that won’t recognize adoptions by same-sex parents in other states. When one daughter hears a stump speech by then-candidate George W. Bush condemning gay marriage, she breaks into tears. “If Bush is elected president,’’ she sobs, “are they going to take Mommy out of our family?’’

Which brings to mind another mother, sweet, flinty Judy Sobiesk, whose son is the edgy advice columnist Dan Savage. He and his former partner and now husband, Terry, have a young son, and Savage is also the founder of the It Gets Better video project to help gay teens, plus the author of “The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family’’ (Dutton, 2005). It’s the most personal of the books mentioned here, and by far the funniest (Oh, their snark at the Seattle Wedding Expo!). At one point, Sobiesk gives an impassioned speech to Dan and Terry, who are waffling about getting married (their only choice is Canada, since it’s not legal in Washington, their home state). “It seems crazy to me that your father and I had our relationship blessed legally and by the church and you guys can’t,’’ she says. “You’re being robbed. But you’re robbing yourselves, too, of publicly saying ‘I care about this person as much as I care about myself,’ and having everyone around you applaud that and promise to support you.’’

Applauding and supporting; that’s what history now demands of us. And this goes out to the other 43 states. Or as they say in Coquille: K’wen ‘inish-ha? Have you heard the news?

Katharine Whittemore is a freelance writer based in Northampton. She can be reached at

Gov. Brown signs bill requiring teaching of GLBT accomplishments []

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Thursday that makes California the first state in the nation to require the inclusion of the contributions of gay, lesbian and transgender Americans in school history lessons and textbooks. The legislation addresses omissions in history books, according to Gil Duran, a spokesman for the governor.

Brown issued a statement in which he called the legislation an “important step forward for our state.’’ “History should be honest,’’ Brown said. “This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books.’’

“It’s an important step forward for the state of California,’’ Duran said. “It revises existing law to make sure people are not excluded from history books. History should reflect reality.” The bill by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) had sparked hot debate in the Legislature where it was pushed through by the Democratic majority. Republicans argued it forces a “gay agenda” on students, but Leno said it would reduce bullying by educating young people about the accomplishments of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, community. “Today we are making history in California by ensuring that our textbooks and instructional materials no longer exclude the contributions of LGBT Americans,” Leno said. “Denying LGBT people their rightful place in history gives our young people an inaccurate and incomplete view of the world around them.’’

The governor’s decision was criticized by Benjamin Lopez of the Anaheim-based Traditional Values Coalition, who said the schools should be focusing on doing better on important skills such as reading, writing and math. “It’s a sad day for the state of California,’’ said Lopez, legislative analyst and advocate for the group. “We have failed at our core educational mission and yet we are now going to inject gay studies into the classrooms. It’s absurd and offensive.’’

Hate crimes against gay, transgender people rise, report says []

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report says violent crimes against people in the LGBT community rose 13% in 2010, and that minorities and transgender women were more likely to be targeted.
By Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times

July 13, 2011

An 18-year-old gay man from Texas allegedly slain by a classmate who feared a sexual advance. A 31-year-old transgender woman from Pennsylvania found dead with a pillowcase around her head. A 24-year-old lesbian from Florida purportedly killed by her girlfriend’s father, who disapproved of the relationship.The homicides are a sampling of 2010 crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people compiled by a national coalition of anti-hate organizations.

The report, released Tuesday, showed a 13% increase over 2009 in violent crimes committed against people because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity or status as HIV positive, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.Last year’s homicide count reached 27, up from 22 in 2009, and was the second-highest total since the coalition began tracking such crimes in 1996. Of those killed, 70% were minorities and 44% were transgender women.The data are compiled by the coalition’s 43 participating organizations and are not comprehensive. They include crimes reported to the groups by victims who did not seek help from law enforcement. In fact, 50% of the 2010 assault survivors did not make police reports, with minorities and transgender people the least likely to come forward, the report said.

Among the cases was an April 2010 attack on Cal State Long Beach transgender student Colle Carpenter, who was cornered in a campus restroom by an assailant who carved “It” on his chest. Jake Finney, project manager with the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, said campus police initially “were not clear that the word ‘It’ was a slur and indicated anti-transgender bias.” The center contacted the FBI, which assisted in the investigation, and the crime was ultimately classified as hate-motivated, Finney said.

The 2010 murder count is second to the 29 logged in 1999 and 2008. Among the 2008 fatalities was gay Oxnard junior high school student Larry King. The classmate charged in that killing, Brandon McInerney, is on trial.

Coalition members said hate crimes tended to increase after other high-profile attacks and when civil rights advances for the LGBT community were publicly debated.

“As we move forward toward full equality, we also have to be responsive and concerned with violence that may run alongside of it,” spokeswoman Roberta Sklar said. “We don’t want to go back into the closet to avoid it.”