Sunday, June 07, 2020

Global Society's Rejects : LGBT Refugees

"Some of us had sold our mattresses, you know. we were so ready.Now it's like, how do we even get to tomorrow?" 
"So, yeah, it's sugar daddies or nothing for many of us. But even that is much harder now. How are you supposed to meet someone if bars are closed and there's a curfew? [during COVID-19 lockdown]."
"And if  you met them, what if you are putting yourself at risk to get the virus? I can't bring someone home [group house for refugees] because that puts the whole house at risk."
Chris Wasswa, (Tina), 26, Ugandan refugee, Nairobi, Kenya
Gay and lesbian activists at Uganda’s first gay pride parade in Kampala in 2012. Photograph: Rachel Adams/EPA
He meant to be out of Kenya by now. And then the global pandemic struck, and borders closed and everything was put on hold. He had been waiting as a UN-designated refugee out of Uganda for four years, for the opportunity to be accepted elsewhere, in the West, as a refugee-victim of oppression against members of the gay and transgender community. He'd booked his airline passage: Nairobi, Frankfurt, destination Toronto.

A gay rights activist in Nairobi, Kenya, at a protest against Uganda’s criminalisation of homosexuality.
A gay rights activist in Nairobi, Kenya. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP
After fleeing the violent reaction and the laws against the LGBT community in his native Uganda, he discovered that his situation had improved only marginally in Kenya where there were laws against being gay or transgender, but the punishment, if applied, wasn't quite so severe. Kenya now hosts close to 500 migrants of the over 3,000 spread out across Africa and 10,000 worldwide, awaiting acceptance as refugees to a third country. All placed on indefinite hold according to the International Organization for Migration.

The IOM, an arm of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, controls the travel of refugees once a country approves resettlement. The processes were suspended on March 17 when the WHO, another body of the UN, proclaimed COVID-19 a global pandemic. More months of waiting for most refugees, but for those of the gay and transgender Ugandan refugees in Kenya, it seemed intolerable, for the sexual minorities persecuted in Uganda which considered the death penalty for gay sex.
A member of the embattled gay community in Uganda’s capital Kampala.
Gay man in Kampala. Photograph: Edward Echwalu/Reuters
One wonders what Mr. Wasswa and his fellow refugees hankering to arrive in Canada's most populous and largest city, Toronto, would think of the fact that the country's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, a defender of LGBTQ-2 rights and who once famously and fatuously proclaimed on Twitter that Canada would accept any and all those fleeing their countries of origin, who had, before the onset of the novel coronavirus, travelled to Uganda to lobby for a committed vote for a seat on the revolving Security Council, saying nothing whatever of human rights to Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni as he tried to ingratiate himself for a UN vote.

Living in safe houses temporarily at their disposal in Nairobi, Mr. Wasswa and others claim that Kenyans will not hire them for work, because they are refugees or because they are effeminate. And so, few of them work to support themselves. Kenya saw hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese and Somali migrants seeking asylum in Kenya, a half million registered as refugees, living in vast camps. 

The UNHCR helps them to apply for resettlement to third countries. In those camps, assaults have driven the LGBT refugees to relocate from Uganada to Nairobi. If you're a refugee, and Ugandan, police in Nairobi assume you're gay, bisexual or transgender, all of which places them under Kenyan law as criminals. 

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An HIV-positive, gay refugee from Uganda stands outside the house he shared with dozens of other LGBT refugees on the outskirts of Nairobi. Jake Naughton

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Saturday, June 06, 2020

Sweden's Mea Culpa

"What every country is trying to do is to keep people apart, using the measures we have and the traditions we have to implement those measures."
"The citizen has the responsibility not to spread a disease."
“If we were to encounter the same illness with the same knowledge that we have today, I think our response would land somewhere in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done."
Swedish public health agency's chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell

"[Tegnell] still can’t give an exact answer on what other measures should have been taken. That question remains, I think."
"For months, critics have been consistently dismissed. Sweden has done everything right, the rest of the world has done it wrong. And now, suddenly, this."
Sweden’s minister of health and social affairs, Lena Hallengren
sweden coronavirus at the bar
People had lunch at a restaurant in Stockholm on April 21, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images
The "this" that Sweden's Minister of Health refers to is a staggering death toll. It is a gamble that failed. Sweden is no further ahead economically, it failed in its goal to establish a country-wide 'herd immunity' effect that would in theory have seen the SARS-CoV-2 virus extinguish itself in exasperation at being unable to infect people because too many were immune to its lethal blandishments. The Swedes, goes the theory, are so logical in their thinking and so capable of independence of thought they would self-protect naturally.

No need for government to get in the way, to autocratically impose limits on people's freedom of movement. Common sense would prevail. Except, somehow, it failed to. Yes, there were some restrictions imposed; no large gatherings permitted and some schools were closed, while those who were able to work from home were encouraged to do just that. Otherwise, life in Sweden went on undisturbed, nothing out of the ordinary, no routines upended by inconvenient lockdowns.

Restaurants and bars remained open, schools for children under age 16 operated as per usual, in a decidedly calculated move to do things differently, logically, under the guidance of Anders Tegnell, the country's authoritative epidemiologist whose judgement everyone appeared to trust and to revel in. Who just happens to be the very same man who now regrets the immense loss of life in his country; win some, lose some.

He did enjoy the support of those who would have nothing to do with lockdown. And Swedes themselves in general appeared copacetic, confirmed in their belief in themselves and their government. And life went on. Though it stopped for many. Sweden has a death rate that considerably exceeds its neighbours' who did go into lockdown, and this was not the way things were supposed to turn out.

Sweden realized 450- deaths-per-million (for a total of 4,500 deaths), while comparable deaths-per-million for neighbours like Denmark (100), Finland (58), Norway (44) appear almost palatable by comparison, if any deaths at all can be felt to be acceptable under any conditions.That deaths-per-million for Sweden represents one of the worst the world has seen, even in hard-hit Europe. So much for death avoidance; that just didn't pan out.

And then there is the economy. While not the worst that Europe has seen, the country's economy is in fairly dire straits, a reflection of what has occurred around the world. Sweden has a drop in GDP of seven percent projected, commensurate with the same conditions and results seen elsewhere; in other words, nothing whatever gained. For one thing, it is hugely dependent on trade with neighbouring countries and they have been in no position to trade. A forgotten calculus.

Anders Tegnell
Anders Tegnell Photographer: Pontus Lundahl/AFP via Getty Images
Herd immunity? The general consensus is that at least 60 percent of the population would have to be considered immune to have the entire population protectively impacted.Yet by April's end no more than 7.3 percent of the population were seen to have acquired a degree of immunity. Stockholm's eventual figure, according to Mr. Tegnell might reach just over 20 percent, and that most certainly does not equate with effective herd immunity. Another calculus gone kaput.

 

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Friday, June 05, 2020

World Health Agency Like None Other

"The World Health Organization effectively co-ordinated so many different NGOs in a very complicated area."
"While, yes, it took a long time to get the outbreak [West Africa Ebola epidemic] under control, they were able to basically be the point people."
Dr.Srinivas Murthy, intensive-care specialist, University of British Columbia

"I have donated years of my time to organizations like and including the World Health Organization for absolutely no pay -- set up and worked in Ebola treatment and Central Africa with the WHO."
"Because no one else was there."
Dr.Rob Fowler, critical-care medicine specialist, Toronto
A health worker in Democratic Republic of Congo registers temperatures of people in July 2019, during an Ebola outbreak. The World Health Organization played an important role in handling the outbreak. Pamela Tulizo/AFP via Getty Images
According to Dr. Murthy, the disarray in the Democratic Republic of Congo in an effort to control the 2018-19 outbreak of Ebola would have had far worse outcomes even as health workers desperately attempted to save lives within an active and ongoing civil war theatre, had the World Health Organization not stepped in to marshal various medical aid groups while they were under violent attack.

When diphtheria swept through Rohingya refugee camps stationed in Bangladesh after the Muslim minority flooded out of Myanmar where they had been targeted by the military, the WHO played a similar role. Work of that kind on a global scale has convinced medical experts that the world health body will be in critical shape should American funding be withdrawn and the world, particularly the developing world, will be that much worse for its collapse.

The World Health Organization has come under fire repeatedly for the failings attributed to it in its leadership's decision-making most recently with the global pandemic, catering to China rather than objectively making its own informed decisions in alerting the world at large of the contagion of a new virus wreaking havoc wherever it inveigled its presence -- and that turned out to be everywhere, with disastrous consequences. Consequences that would have been less acute had Beijing been more forthcoming and the WHO more critical and assertive.

Much of the world body's work takes place in poorer countries of the world such as in aiding the fight against diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, where countries lack their own public-health infrastructure. The World Health Organization is highly dependent on the willingness of wealthy countries of the world funding its activities, and the U.S. portion of that funding is considerable, corresponding to 15 percent of its total budget.

"The WHO really will be financially in big trouble", director of the Center for Global Health Studies, Yanzhong Huang at New Jersey's Seton Hall University stated, unless another country takes steps to fill the hole the withdrawal of U.S. funding will create. Beijing, in fact, a wealthy nation that has been sprinkling its wealth around the world in its famous 'belt and road' initiative, could fill that role. It is, after all, the Trump administration's feeling that the WHO is in China's hands in any event.

"In spite of the rhetoric, the biggest beneficiary of the president's move will almost surely be China", pointed out Dr.Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, an occasional critic of the World Health Organization. Funded by assessing what countries can afford, based on their GDP, accounts for about 20 percent of the WHO budget, over and above voluntary contributions many of which are from non-governmental organizations such as the Gates Foundation, the second largest overall contributor after the US., followed by Rotary International.

China, in point of fact, contributing $85 million to the WHO, was 46th in line as a contributor, lagging even Canada at 14th with contributions of $100 million, as opposed to the 2018-19 funding cycle where the U.S. assessment was $893 million. And then came news, after U.S.President Donald Trump expressed his displeasure with the WHO for aiding China in downplaying the COVID-19 outbreak that has devastated the U.S., that WHO officials themselves became frustrated behind the scenes with China.

Beijing's delays in releasing data on the new coronavirus didn't earn it any praise from WHO officials, beyond its leadership elite. In its eagerness to accept China's initial claim that COVID was not transmitted person to person, arguing against travel restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, WHO officials became increasingly frustrated. The WHO's handling of the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic was considered alarmist; conversely its reaction to the 2013-14 Ebola outbreak, ineffective.

Dr.Huang of the Center for Global Health Studies questions spending priorities at the WHO where Polio eradication absorbed 27 percent of the 2018-19 program budget; close to $1 billion, even as the number of cases narrowed to a few hundred. What redeems the WHO in the opinion of doctors, academics and global health experts is the work done in co-ordinating COVID vaccine development efforts and organizing clinical trials of potential treatments.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivering a speech via video link at the opening of the World Health Assembly virtual meeting from the WHO headquarters in Geneva, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. World Health Organization / AFP



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Thursday, June 04, 2020

Courting the UN Vote, Revealing Unsubtle Bias -- It's The Liberal Way

"All the plans offered to us in the past included renouncing parts of Israel, withdrawing to the 1967 borders and dividing Jerusalem while allowing refugees to enter Israel."
"This plan offers the opposite. We are not the ones required to give up [territories], the Palestinians are."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Canadian Press
"I've been very direct with the Israeli leaders. We deplore such actions, which are going to delay any prospect of lasting peace in the Middle East."
"So, we should be working while respecting the concept of dialogue. And we are very concerned."

"I have highlighted both publicly and directly to Prime Minister Netanyahu and alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz the importance of staying away from measures that are unilateral and our deep concerns and disagreement with their proposed policy of annexation."
"We think that the path forward is a two-state solution reached to by dialogue between the parties involved and anything that is unilateral action by either side is unhelpful in the cause of peace."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

"The comprehensive U.S. Peace Plan is the only viable peace initiative currently on the table trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel has accepted its foundations, despite concessions which will be required on our behalf. However, the Palestinians have rejected it outright, once again closing the door on any option to negotiate a peaceful future."
"While it is dismaying that diplomats would choose to attack Israel rather than try to facilitate dialogue between the two sides — or at the very least urging the Palestinians to return to direct peace negotiations – Israel will nevertheless remain committed to the U.S. peace plan, in hopes that we eventually find a way to resolve our differences."
Ohad Kaynar, chargé d'affaires at the Embassy of Israel in Canada
 
"Annexation of the West Bank is clearly an issue that most UN members disagree with and this is likely to be seen favourably by those states still trying to gauge what kind of Canada they would get on the coveted UNSC [United Nations Security Council]."
Bessma Momani, Middle East expert, University of Waterloo

"Today's comments by the prime minister do not change this long-standing entrenched track record of acting as an asset for Israel."
"Ireland and Norway have not voted against any UN resolutions on support of Palestine during this century."
Karen Rodman, spokeswoman, Just Peace Advocates
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and his wife Sara, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, attend ceremonies at the Arc de Triomphe Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 in Paris. (Francois Mori/The Associated Press)
Peace negotiations? They've stalled, the Palestinian Authority refuses to rejoin Israel at the negotiating table. Time and again. A reasonable proposal was made to carve out areas in Israel with majority Arab-Palestinian populations to transfer them to Palestinian rule, while doing the same with the Israeli 'settlements' in what the world insists on calling the 'occupied' West Bank, an equal measure of territory that would be governed and held by Israel. Made part of a potential plan for peace, that too was rejected by the Palestinians.

Tellingly, the Palestinians with Israeli citizenship living in those areas of Israel that were proposed as transferable to Palestinian rule, themselves rejected the proposal, preferring to live under Israeli governance as opposed to Palestinian. As Israelis, they have their elected Arab legislators, as Members of the Knesset -- the Israeli parliament -- who advocate on their behalf and who also agitate to the extent that some of their actions can be construed as anti-Israel. In contrast, the Palestinian Authority has made it clear that no Israeli Jews will ever live among the Palestinians.

Countries of the European Union, Canada and others who insist that Israel keep sacrificing itself to satisfy the ever-growing demands of the Palestinian leaders have never had to live under the constant threat of a neighbour inciting its people to violence against them. Constant vigilance to ensure that as many of the violent threats that can be apprehended as possible takes its toll, both on the civilians being targeted and the security forces tasked with their protection.

In insisting that Israel maintain its laser focus on a peace settlement without exerting pressure on the Palestinian Authority to do likewise, Israel's critics are satisfied to hold the Jewish state to account for not living up to its critics' expectations, while forgiving the Palestinians all their blatant, obvious efforts to destabilize Israel by attacking its people with knives, vehicles, rockets and suicide attacks, expecting nothing better of them and signalling that whatever they do is justified.

Someone like Justin Trudeau who has mismanaged the governance of a peaceful, prosperous country like Canada to the extent that east and west have become disengaged from one end of the country to the other has nothing whatever to teach a nation of survivors like Israel. Justin Trudeau, as prime minister of Canada, has constantly exhibited himself as a selfish narcissist, a thin-skinned ideological partisan, a hypocrite and vindictive in character.

His personal assault by proxy on the second in command of the Canadian military, Vice-Admiral Norman, his aggravated harassment of the nation's former Minister of Justice to flout the law in favour of a Liberal stronghold in Quebec, his shocking lack of ethics in matters of personal gifts by influential wealthy government lobbyists, his lack of leadership in failing to support a vital energy sector in extracting fossil fuels in part of the country that has traditionally given financial support to economically weaker provinces, all paint a sordid picture of failure.

He and the party he represents have nothing whatever to teach the executive branch of other nations. Not only is Justin Trudeau preciously sanctimonious, flaunting himself as a theatrical superstar, he is also a shallow ideologue, an intemperate egotist whose presence on the theatrical stage would never have done the harm to the country he now governs that his decision-making has caused to national unity, Canadian pride and civil functioning. He has succeeded in destroying the Democratic process in Parliament under guise of a necessary response to SARS-CoV-2.

His ambition to have Canada under his imprimatur be voted a temporary two-year seat on the revolving UN Security Council where he believes he would have access to the movers and shakers of the world as his just due, directs many of his actions in his preoccupation with prestige for himself on the world stage. And his statement regarding Israel's decision to reclaim its heritage rights against the claims of wrongful ownership of Arab 'settlers' on heirloom Judean land is meant to favour Canada's UNSC bid with the voting blocs that the UN's Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group represent.

Amusingly enough, right in Canada he has opposition to his ambition for that UN revolving Security Council seat, with a coalition of 100 organizations and people which collectively support 'justice for the Palestinians', which equates with destruction of the State of Israel, in their demands for 'right of return', to swamp the population of Israel with majoritarian Arabs, over and above the million and a half who now hold Israeli citizenship.

Israeli soldiers taking position as Palestinian demonstrators gather during a protest against the expansion of Israeli settlements, in the West Bank village of Beita, near Nablus, March 2, 2020.
Israeli soldiers taking position as Palestinian demonstrators gather during a protest against the expansion of Israeli settlements, in the West Bank village of Beita, near Nablus, March 2, 2020.  Credit: Majdi Mohammed/AP

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Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Conflicted America

"In normal times, businesses would probably take it in their stride."
"But coming off the back of the pandemic, it's devastating."
Neil Saunders, retail analyst, Global Data Retail
"Since we opened our doors, Target has operated with love and opportunity for all."
"And in that spirit, we commit to contributing to a city and community that will turn the pain we're all experiencing into better days for everyone."
Brian Cornell, chief executive, Target, Minneapolis

"We are as a group, by and large, not people of colour [but are prepared to commit to diversity and inclusion goals]."
"Another black man in America died senselessly on Monday, and it happened only miles from where many of us live."
Best Buy, senior leadership team

"You're not protesting anything running out with brown liquor in your hands and breaking windows in this city."
"So when you burn down this city, you're burning down our community."
Mayor Keisha Lance, Atlanta

"Every single rebellion and uprising has included it [looting, vandalism]."
"I was shocked there wasn't more looting. We're dealing with an economic crisis."
UCLA historian Robin Kelley

"Many of these protests, at least those motivated by the killing of George Floyd, should be understood as black people's refusal to stand by while their brothers and sisters are murdered by the state."
"If the history of this country is any guide, protests like these are often necessary to bring about positive, transformative social change."
Stanford sociology professor Matthew Clair
TOPSHOT-US-POLITICS-POLICE-JUSTICE-RACE
Businesses in American cities, devastated by the lockdown that accompanied the rushing swoop of infections caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, breathed a tentative sigh of relief, hoping for the best, that consumer confidence would return and so would their business and they would be able to sidestep the forced choices circumstances of lost sales performance, financial incentives and collapsed plans taking them entirely out of contention into bankruptcy.

Lockdown finally lifted. Mere days later, the catastrophe that is COVID-19 became the backdrop to a national uprising in rage at the death of yet another black man at the hands of a municipal police force. There are no acts now so obscure that they cannot be caught by a passerby in a world where everyone is armed with an iPhone the better to document anything and everything that occurs, public and private and combinations thereof.

Minneapolis and St. Paul George Floyd protests

This time it was the private agony of a man whose life-force was being squeezed out of him through the very public physical pressure of a police officer's knee squeezing the man's neck, ending in a violent agony of asphyxiation, and suddenly, George Floyd's name has a ring of familiarity all over the world. The raging refusal to allow the death of another black man to go unnoticed began with silent protests and signage declaring no excuses for sudden death too often visited on black Americans.

From Minneapolis to states all over the U.S.A. protests erupted, beginning their peaceful, law-abiding journeys toward raging violence and chaotic destruction, and finally looting, orchestrated by those forces for whom anarchic defiance of law and order and hatred of government is paramount and purposeful. The looting is the reward offered for those who assent to departing from civility and embracing sociopathy.

Brick-and-mortar businesses, the retail, very visible service industry and all small business owners hoping to pay their way through the American lifestyle, seriously wounded by COVID-19's shutdown, has taken a direct hit by 'protesters'-cum social deviants who see no reason to avoid opportunities to wreak wreckage and disorder, victimizing those who don't resemble them nor echo their opportunistic rampage.

COVID took J.C.Penney and Neiman Marcus out of business, now 'protests' over George Floyd's killing have closed in on both small business and big business across the U.S. Pleading with those marching in their sanctimonious rage over inequity and injustice as a tool to further their ideological scaffolding, the anger of those impacted by inequity and injustice hijacked, business America quails.

Atlanta's mayor tried to shame the rioters and looters emphasizing that over half of the city's business owners, like anywhere else in America represent minority groups. Vandalism and destruction of property is not the work of the demonstrators, those protesting the death of a man that rogue police felt justified in viciously beating for an alleged crime of passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

   Credit...Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press
Looting T-shirts, computers and food, destroying plate-glass, fire-bombing buildings, unmercifully beating small business owners in their futile attempts to beg the marauding thugs to bypass their small business is not the work of mourners of lives lost, but that of conscienceless opportunists using any tools at their disposal to score their goal of upending society and the rule of law.

National, state and municipal lawmakers reflecting their responsibility to those they represent through the ballot box, plead for common sense and a stop to outrage expressing itself as mob violence. Academics who profess to study the  history of a nation built on slavery still struggling to overcome its original human rights abuses, analyze the situation through the lens of 'progressive' studies in righting ancient wrongs.

In a country deeply divided on the avenues to take advantage of in advancing those sometimes elusive rights, content to view themselves as contrite white imperialists, urging everyone to acknowledge their inherited status of white privilege for which no amount of contrition and efforts for rights-restitution will ever be sufficient unto the day.

Downtown Atlanta   Photo: Jenni Girtman/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

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Lonely, Bitter, Self-Pitying, Misogyny Threats

"There are certain players involved with the problem of violent extremism and terrorism and they have specific roles."
"You've got an intelligence-gathering agency and law enforcement agencies, but there is a gap and that gap is related to prevention."
"Counter-violent extremist programming is about trying to prevent the escalation of those who are engaged with some kind of ideology that promotes violence from deciding to get up one day and do something about it -- like Minassian getting into a van."
John McCoy, executive director, Organization for the Prevention of Violence

"Individuals who associate with the incel movement appear more likely than the general population to self-report anxiety, depression and other mood disorders."
"While the violent fringe of the incel movement is being recognized as a threat, it is important to acknowledge the majority of incels are not violent and may be at a higher risk of self-harm than the general population."
"Overcoming these barriers and making support more accessible will be key to preventing further acts of violence."
Organization for the Prevention of Violence Report

"The Toronto van attack in 2018, and the more recent attack in February 2020, have put their capacity for real-world harm beyond doubt."
"It is also clear to anyone who spends time in these communities -- where both suicidal ideation and suicide itself are rampant -- incels also pose a significant threat to themselves."
The first step in understanding how to engage with these at-risk men is to understand how they communicate and share their world view."
Moonshot CVE, British deradicalization company
A tarp covers a body on Yonge Street at Finch Avenue after a van plowed into pedestrians on April 23, 2018, in Toronto. Cole Burston/Getty Image

The term incel describes someone who believes themselves to be 'involuntarily celibate', not a preferred condition, but one imposed upon these men who are unsuccessful in finding a female partner; victims they believe of society, by the order of society in which women have a tendency to be attracted to certain physical male types, leaving other men -- with inner qualities rather than presenting as handsome and masculine -- unattached.

Those identifying as incels have a vocabulary that describes their isolation as sexually unpreferred. They call themselves 'beta', as opposed to 'alpha' males; second-grade status, men whom woman bypass as undesirable. The archetypical attractive woman is called a 'Stacy', and sexually successful men are 'Chads' whom the incels consider unintelligent, while the greater mass of men of average appearance are called 'normies'.

The online presence of incels at online sites where they congregate, characterize them as indifferent to life, with suicide viewed as an escape from their discontent. There are frequent referrals to "the rope call" or "suifuel"; an event or something that has the effect of fueling a wish to end life. One forum for incels conducts periodic member polls, and in one recent such poll, 88 percent of respondents claimed to be unhappy.

Toronto Police Const. Kenny Lam is caught on video facing off against van attack suspect Alek Minassian before arresting him on April 23, 2018. Postmedia

That same poll identified 74 percent of incel members with long-lasting anxiety or emotional distress; 77 percent lacking optimism in their future, and 71.5 percent claiming to be on the autism spectrum.
A poll in 2018 discovered 67.5 percent of members had seriously contemplated committing suicide. These men are by and large steeped in a sense of failure to attract women as a result of their genetic inheritance.

On the violence-prone spectrum of the malaise a Toronto resident by the name of Alek Minassian proclaimed that his deliberate ramming of a rental van into pedestrians leisurely walking along Yonge Street on a beautiful spring day, killing ten people and injuring sixteen wee simply casualties of "an uprising, a beta uprising, if you will, against the Chads and the Stacys." The subculture of resentment against dating and sexually active men and women gave this man the impetus to violent misogyny and murder.

Canada now regards incel violence as an act of terrorism. A teenaged man was charged for the first time in an act of terrorism when he used a machete to kill a female Toronto erotic massage parlour worker. The charge levied against him for that act of murder was: "murder -- terrorist activity". The incels, as an ideological group are viewed by mental  health professionals, social workers and anti-extremist activists as lonely men, some of whom can spiral from loneliness to self-loathing to violence.
Alek Minassian, charged with murdering 10 people in the April 2018 van attack in Toronto, is questioned by police detective Rob Thomas after the attack. Ontario Superior Court

The counter-violent extremism associated generally with Islamic jihadists and white supremacists now include incels. Recently, Public Safety Canada, a federal body, funded the British deradicalization company Moonshot CVE to produce a detailed incel study. The report that was released is designed to inform and assist frontline practitioners and social services in their bid to interrupt incel mobilization to violence.

One thing the report revealed of importance is the obstacle in reaching through to incels since, irrespective of their self-declared emotional needs, they have a tendency to refuse any measure of assistance. They tend to evince hostile rejections from any they identify as "normies". To accept therapeutic aid and psychological intervention equates with rejecting the incel dogma under which physical appearance alone is what women care about, rendering pro-social intervention useless.
"They're the ones who adopted the concept of incel, they've taken that on as their own identity, rather than being called something by other people."
"It is a community that has a lot of mental health and social health needs -- a lot of these folks are at a very high risk of harming themselves and no one else."
"It's a trickier movement to work with. It's trickier to understand. They are much more self-aware around who they are and much more self-aware of the fact they are being observed."
"They are quite fascinated with themselves. While most incels really have a lot of disdain for themselves and a lot of self-hatred, they are also really into themselves."
"And incels weird them [hardened, tough-nosed counter-terrorist types and former extremists] out to a degree and in a way that no other movement does. Part of what's so disturbing is it's so relatable -- loneliness and sadness and lack of connection. It's a human experience a lot of us feel and they have felt it in a way that is so far beyond what a lot of us have."
"You can recognize that empathy without having to have any sympathy. You can recognize the human experience that led them to this place without having any acceptability around the misogyny and rejecting it fundamentally."
Micah Clark, Moonshot principal, Ottawa
A woman stops to pay respect at a makeshift memorial to one of the victims being remembered on April 23, 2019, ahead of a vigil held in Toronto's Mel Lastman Square, to commemorate the victims of last year's Toronto van attack by self-described incel, Alek Minassian.
Chris Young/The Canadian Press

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Monday, June 01, 2020

COVID Stress, as Universal as the Pandemic

"[It's vital to identify environmental threats from a] fitness survival perspective."
"We only became predators much later in evolutionary history [leading us to over-interpret risks to survival because the human mind is poor at probability-estimating; a heritage of our hunter-gatherer brains]."
"[With COVID-19, there is uncertainty] because the medical news changes every day."
"...Generation Z and millennials were already very vulnerable, they were already prone to anxiety and depression and for many of them, I fear the confinement has made it much worse."
"We're still not sure what happened, where the virus came from and COVID conspiracy theories are spreading."
"Just the simple act of being able to share food and stories with your friends has become very special."
"The constant state of anxiety and uncertainty, the isolation, the lack of meaning and purpose, these are all things that are accompanied with negative affect, which make us more prone to being victims of our own emotions."
"We're constantly missing out in these tiny little micro actions, but these micro actions eventually amount to us becoming better persons for the sake of others. Doing things that people had lost track of because of the rat race of our daily lives."
Samuel Veissiere, anthropologist, assistant professor of psychiatry, McGill University
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"We don't really know, especially because we don't have that comparator to say, this is how many would be experiencing lifetime anxiety prior to the pandemic."
"But it's important for people to understand that if you are experiencing those symptoms, you're not alone. This is an unprecedented time."
Tara Elton-Marshall, scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
"These are stressful times and there are things to be concerned about. But a healthy level of anxiety gives people agency."
"It's when the feelings start to impair functioning in your ability to work, to parent, to be present in a healthy way in your relationships, that a  health professional needs to be involved."
Dr.Valerie Taylor, chief, department of psychiatry, University of Calgary
Experts in the field of mental health swiftly became concerned about the impact of fear, isolation and pandemic policies on the human psyche when the global pandemic was declared, the series of shut-downs in various countries in response to the invasion of the SARS-Cov-2 virus which began to spread COVID-19 in populations, altering peoples' lives in ways never before encountered, taking an unheard-of toll on society in general, on the business world, on governments and the international community.
Worry, Gratitude & Boredom: As COVID-19 affects mental, financial health, who fares better; who is worse?
Our vulnerabilities, once the scaffolding of civilizational norms and our habitual place in the order of things were suddenly reversed and social-isolation mandated, struck people with a sense of total helplessness and uncertainty how to respond, in a growing sense of psychic dislocation. "It's sad, but not surprising", to see that outcome, commented Dr.Veissiere, co-director of the Culture, Mind and Brain Program at McGill, of the fact that a new national survey indicates a sizeable number of people have been severely affected psychologically.
One quarter of Canadians, according to the survey results, experienced moderate to severe levels of anxiety, another quarter experiences occasional or frequent loneliness, and 20 percent reported depression. Close to a quarter of the 1,005 survey participants reported at least once-weekly binge-drinking. Women, parents with young children, 18- to 39-year-olds appear to be faring worse than others, and notable numbers report being nervous and edgy, unable to relax.
People are irritable, readily annoyed, with a problematical number of days spent concerned that "something awful might happen", over the coronavirus hanging over society, like a Damaclean Sword. This survey represents the first in a planned series by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, collaborating with Delvinia, a research tech and data collection company, offering access to the survey data "to help mental health professionals get ahead of what's coming".
covid19 mental health
Angus Reid
Within any population there are people whose minds are geared to accept or struggle against situations, so that "if you're a 'no-big-deal' kind of person, you'll find the information confirms that bias", while catastrophizers who believe something is far worse than it actually is, react otherwise. When the World Health Organization first declared the death rate of COVID-19 at 3.4 percent, that data caused a frisson of fear. 
The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention this week released their 'best estimate', placing the overall death rate at 0.4 percent, a more reasonable, less fear-inducing figure for those who show symptoms, at the same time estimating 35 percent of infected people will never develop symptoms. Because of the shut-down conditions Canada imposed in an effort to 'flatten the curve', two million jobs were forfeited in April.
Resulting in a large segment of the population left to struggle with feelings of boredom, frustration and fear. Younger adults appear to be the most anxious, with people 60 and older less so, even as it is the older population that is more susceptible to the more serious effects of COVID than the younger demographic in one of those peculiar twists of irony in human nature. Experts hazard the opinion that people given to anxiety under normal circumstances now stressed under COVID have simply become more anxious.
According to the survey, it is women more than men who have ended up struggling more over the conditions they now find themselves in. More likely to have lost employment, to be shouldering child and elder care, and for many women home isn't quite the haven it should be. "We're seeing an increase in domestic abuse", notes Dr.Valerie Taylor. A 50 percent increase in texts and calls has been reported by Kids Help Phone, a national support service for youth.
covid19 mental health
Angus Reid
Anxiety represents uncertainty about what might happen. The more one thinks about possibilities and dwells on worst-case scenarios, the likelier they are to have heightened anxiety and depression. The very fact that SARS-CoV-2 remains a universal planetary threat speaks to our susceptibility and uncertainty. And when people feel helpless to avoid disaster fear and panic can set in, and spread. The antidote to that is to find comfort, reassurance, to restore feelings of safety.
And those can be found in re-establishing contact with those who have a meaningful impact on our lives, in a relaxation of the shutdown, and opening up of opportunities to once again be together with people we know and care about. To share experiences, meals, the meaning of life as social creatures dependent for our happiness and satisfaction on our contact with others, deriving pleasure from ordinary things that under normal circumstances are taken for granted.
anxiety
A woman wearing a mask talks on her phone during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Riots, Looting and Sacking

"It is time to rebuild."
"Rebuild the city, rebuild our justice system and rebuild the relationship between law enforcement and those they're charged to protect."
Tim Walz, state governor, Minnesota

"We cannot continue to allow this destruction to continue. It is very much complete chaos, or it was."
"It's very much a spiralling situation."
"It's disrupting innocent people's lives. It's putting innocent people in harm's way."
Andrea Jenkins, Minneapolis City Council

"This shouldn't be 'normal' in 2020 America. It will fall mainly on the officials of Minnesota to ensure that the circumstances surrounding George Floyd's death are investigated thoroughly and that justice is ultimately done."
"But it falls on all of us to work together to crate a 'new normal' in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts."
Former President Barack Obama
Video shows Minneapolis officer kneeling on black man's neck
Video shows Minneapolis officer kneeling on black man's neck
Four days of mass protests that have turned into violent conflagrations, looting, and total disorder in Minneapolis have spread to Chicago, New York, Denver, Los Angeles and Oakland. Authorities have been pleading for public order, for orderly demonstrations in respect of the law, and people have responded by enlarging the protests, complete with higher rates of violence, leaving a number of police stations virtually destroyed and burnt out, along with neighbourhood shops, local businesses looted, glass fronts smashed.

Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, since discharged, has now been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter for his having deliberately held down George Floyd, a 42-year-old black man under arrest, pressing his knee on the prostrate Floyd's neck, asphyxiating him, even as the victim pleaded for air, repeatedly groaning and stating "Please, I can't breathe". Three other officers present at the scene were also fired --Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J.Alexander Kueng and may face charges as well.

"That's less than four days. That's extraordinary. We have never charged a case in that time frame", stated the Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner. And if authorities hoped that by speedily firing the four officers, and charging the major perpetrator of the murder of the black man it would serve to soften the fury of the Minneapolis protesters, they were mistaken. As another fire was set at a police station in close proximity to the crime scene, protesters cheered.

Nearby St.Paul saw dozens of fires set there as well, with close to 200 businesses damaged and looted. Many business owners had placed handmade signs in their windows with messages such as "This is a black-owned business", and "This is a community-owned business", to little avail. Thugs among other protesters were on a rampage of rage and would not be appeased; appeals to civic spirit and respect for the rule of law abased by what the law had just done.

While the mob caroused and destroyed and looted, nothing was done to apprehend them. Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis defended the city's response, which was effectively to do nothing to further inflame the rioters, with the explanation that the situation had become too dangerous for police to be seen doing their legitimate duty. Louisville, Kentucky saw gunfire breaking out. Minneapolis saw black smoke rising above its skyline, where the state governor finally deployed some 500 soldiers to restore the peace.

Soldiers blockaded the streets surrounding the most heavily damaged areas of the city, armed with assault-style rifles. Firefighters worked putting out blazes. Tuesday's  airing of a bystander's video of the unfolding event, with George Floyd's appeal to the police officer whose knee was jammed into the man's neck, sent the city into paroxysms of rage. According to Andrea Jenkins, both men knew one another prior to Mr. Floyd's arrest. They had both worked as security staff at the same nightclub. 

Non-violent protests also took place in Minneapolis by hundreds of people genuinely outraged on George Floyd's behalf in the belief, through long experience, that what happened to Mr. Floyd was distinctly connected to his race, that this means of controlling an arrested suspect would be unlikely to take place had the man arrested been white. Whatever an investigation will ultimately reveal about the relationship between the two men it will not go far in explaining why yet another black man in America met an untimely end.

George Floyd #5, (left) with other teammates and his coach, George Walker (far right)
George Floyd #5, (left) with other teammates and his coach, George Walker (far right)

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