Category Archives: NEWS

An Insult To Female Athletes

The state of Connecticut has offered a dismaying picture of the future of female athletics, with two male-to-female transgender runners routinely outpacing the competition at the state track championships.

The two biologically male students, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, finished first and second, respectively, in the 55-meter dash this year, crushing the competition. Miller set a new girls ­indoor record and also won the 300-meter. The year before, the two finished first and second in the 100-meter state outdoor championships.

Connecticut allows students to compete in sports as the gender they identify as, with no further requirements. If fashionable opinion has anything to say about it, this will be the universal trend.

Everyone is supposed to ignore the madness of it. In sports, the supposed fluidity of gender runs up against the ineluctability of sex.

Testosterone, which males get massive doses of beginning at ­puberty, is the original performance-enhancing drug. It makes men bigger, stronger and faster. It is easier for them to add muscle mass. They have bigger hearts (physically, not metaphorically, of course) and greater lung capacity, among other physical advantages.

This accounts for the considerable male-female gap in athletic performance. “This differential isn’t the result of boys and men having a male identity, more ­resources, better training or superior discipline,” Doriane Lambelet Coleman and Wickliffe Shreve of Duke Law School have written. “It’s because they have an androgenized body.”

At the 1988 Olympics, Florence Griffith-Joyner established a women’s record of 10.49 seconds in the 100-meter dash that no one has come close to touching ever since (in fact, there are unfounded suspicions that she was using a performance-enhancing drug).

Her epic sprint was ho-hum for a male. According to the International Association of Athletics Federations, there were 15 men in the United States whose best time was 10.49 in the 100-meter in 2018, and they were merely tied for 217th fastest last year.

Worldwide, there were 35 men whose best was at that time, all tied for 768th fastest in 2018.

This is why we have separate ­female and male competitions to begin with, so women can showcase their bodies and get recognition without being overshadowed by men with inherent physiological advantages. This common-sense reason for separate competitions and separate record books is now falling away.

The Olympic committee has dropped a requirement for sex-reassignment surgery for transgender athletes, and it has set a maximum level of testosterone for transgendered women that’s still high for biological females. Even if biologically male athletes get their testosterone levels down, their bodies are still different.

A former Olympic volleyball player from Brazil, Ana Paula Henkel, made this point in an open letter opposing the new Olympic policy. “This rushed and heedless decision to include biological men, born and built with testosterone, with their height, their strength and aerobic capacity of men, is beyond the sphere of tolerance,” Henkel wrote. “It represses, embarrasses, humiliates and excludes women.”

She cited the example of Brazilian player who formerly competed as a man and now dominates in the women’s league and will probably make the 2020 women’s Olympic team (and deny a spot to a female player who doesn’t have the build of a man).

It now takes courage to raise any such objections. Feminists in good standing the day before yesterday are getting ostracized for insisting that there are differences between men and women that matter and can’t be ignored or wished away.

When the tennis great Martina Navratilova wrote against biological men competing in women’s sports, she was roundly attacked as transphobic and swiftly booted from the board of the LGBT group Athlete Ally. Former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies, from Britain, got mobbed for expressing similar sentiments.

We live in an age when stating the obvious is forbidden, and women’s sport may never be quite the same again.

By Rich Lowry

Legal Prostitution Is a Moneymaker for Thugs

State Sens. Jessica Ramos, Julia Salazar and Brad Hoylman, along with ­Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, announced last week that they are crafting a bill to “fully decriminalize” what they call “sex work” in the Empire State. Their agenda sounds progressive, but it should alarm anyone who cares about women’s rights.

What these lawmakers are really advocating is the legitimization of pimping, brothel-keeping and the buying of sex. That is what full ­decriminalization means.

Wherever it’s fully legalized or decriminalized, prostitution proves to be a disaster for prostituted women, most of whom are pulled into the sex trade by traffickers and pimps eager to seize the massive profits ­legal prostitution offers.

Permitting men to purchase sex with impunity increases demand for prostitution, which makes selling women’s bodies a lucrative enterprise. That, in turn, is a boon to sex traffickers.

A 2013 study in the European Journal of Law and Economics compared data from countries that had legalized prostitution versus those that hadn’t. It found that trafficking and sexual exploitation are “most prevalent in countries where prostitution is ­legalized.” Conversely, the ­researchers found “a causal link from harsher prostitution laws to reduced trafficking.”

What Salazar & Co. propose is a trafficker’s dream come true.

Curious to know what legalizing the sex trade looks like? Look no further than Germany, considered “Europe’s biggest brothel,” where more than a million men purchase sex every day from an estimated 400,000 women, mostly from Eastern Europe and the undeveloped world, sold in more than 3,500 brothels.

In Germany, “sex entrepreneurs” run multimillion-dollar enterprises through online virgin auctions, drive-in sex stalls, outdoor “sex boxes,” mega-brothels and all you-can-consume 24/7 flat-rate sex buffets.

In “Paradise,” one of Germany’s mega-brothels, around 3,000 men purchase 150 women’s bodies for sex on a daily basis. Josie, a woman working there, told a documentary filmmaker that she had slept with around 15,000 customers: “When I say that, it makes me feel so sad.”

Josie’s make-up bag includes a tube of xylocaine anesthetic gel to numb the physical pain resulting from being used by up to 20 men a day. Last year, a German court convicted the owner of Paradise, Jürgen Rudloff, of abetting human trafficking.

“Sex work” is a clever euphemism preferred by the pimp lobby to whitewash and sanitize the brutalities inherent to prostitution. It’s not a “job” but a system of gender inequality: An estimated 98 percent of the 42 million people in prostitution worldwide are women, while 99 percent of those who buy them are men.

Prostitution is also a form of violence against women. Studies show that 71 percent of prostituted women are physically assaulted on the job; 68 percent experience post-traumatic stress disorder at the same levels as combat veterans and victims of torture; 89 percent wish to escape prostitution.

A 2004 mortality study of 1,969 female prostitutes, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that homicide accounted for roughly half of the deaths. The ­researchers noted: “No population of women studied previously had a . . . percentage of deaths due to murder even approximating those observed in our cohort.”

No wonder many progressives are up in arms over the proposed legislation. As Taina Bien-Aimé, ­executive director of the New York-based Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, told me, “For New York legislators to propose decriminalizing such abuse as long as men pay for it is an abject betrayal of women’s right to equality.”

Governments that claim to care about women’s equality, dignity and safety should never adopt laws that enable exploiters, such as pimps and sex buyers, to operate freely.

A better alternative is the abolition or Nordic model. First ­adopted in Sweden, then in Norway, Iceland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada, France and Israel, the Nordic model protects women in prostitution by offering social services and exit opportunities, while targeting those who use and profit from their bodies: sex buyers, pimps and traffickers.

It is this model that truly dignifies and values women. Salazar & Co. should take heed.

Laila Mickelwait is the director of abolition for Exodus Cry, which works to abolish sex trafficking and the commercial sex industry.

By Laila Mickelwait

JetBlue apologizes after cop-killer featured in Black History Month tribute

JetBlue was forced to apologize Thursday after honoring convicted cop-killer Assata Shakur – mother of Tupac Shakur – as part of Black History Month at a John F. Kennedy International terminal in New York.

The airline removed the poster after an image of the Shakur tribute appeared on social media.

$79.98 Featuring a wonderful, wandering floral print on a refreshing pastel background, this dress feels both festive and romantic. It has an embroidered mesh yoke pan…

“The intention was always to unite our crewmembers and customers around the importance of Black History Month and we apologize for any offense the poster may have caused,” a JetBlue spokesman said in a statement, according to FOX 29 Philadelphia.

The image of Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard, was in the exhibit for 21 days before one flier noticed.

View image on Twitter

Jen Muzio@Jennymz76Jenny

@JetBlue Rumor has it that you are celebrating Black History month at LGA by celebrating Assata Shakur? She is a convicted cop killer. Please tell me this is not true.697:55 PM – Feb 23, 201996 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

“Became the first woman to be placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list after escaping to Cuba from prison where she was serving a life sentence for the 1973 murder of a police officer,” one of the bullet points read.

The tweet posted by Jen Muzio originally said the poster was at LaGuardia Airport, but she later clarified the poster was seen at JFK.

Shakur, a former member of the Black Liberation Army, was convicted of murder for a 1973 shooting that led to the death of a New Jersey State Trooper. She escaped from prison in 1979 and is believed to be living in Cuba.

By Ryan Gaydos

Antifa Activist facing assault charges on U.S. Marines is tied to DNC

Antifa leader Joseph Alcoff

What a difference a year made for Joseph Alcoff.

On Monday, the 37-year-old has a court date in connection with charges he’s facing in Philadelphia that include aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation for allegedly being part of an Antifa mob in November that attacked two Marines, Alejandro Godinez and Luis Torres, both Hispanic. Alcoff and two others charged in the attack have pleaded not guilty.

But while Democratic officials are distancing themselves from Alcoff now, until recently he was a well-connected, aspiring political player in Washington who may have even had a hand in key policy proposals.

His endorsement apparently mattered when several congressional Democrats in February 2018 issued press releases with his quote backing their bill on regulating payday lenders.

As the payday campaign manager for the liberal group Americans for Financial Reform, Alcoff participated in congressional Democratic press conferences, was a guest on a House Democratic podcast and met with senior officials at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from 2016 through 2018.

He was also pictured with now-House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Both committees oversee financial regulatory policies Alcoff was advocating.

Alcoff met with then CFPB Director Richard Cordray and other senior CFPB officials on April 2016, again in March 2017 and a third time in May 2017, as first reported by the Washington Free Beacon.

During this time, he reportedly was an Antifa leader in Washington. Alcoff’s former employer had little to say about the matter.

“As of December, Mr. Alcoff no longer works for AFR,” Carter Dougherty, spokesman for Americans for Financial Reform, told Fox News in an email.

Dougherty didn’t answer whether Alcoff had been fired or resigned. He also didn’t answer whether the organization was aware of Alcoff’s associations during his employment.

Alcoff was reportedly also an organizer for Smash Racism DC, the group responsible for gathering and shouting threats outside the home of Fox News host Tucker Carlson in November and for heckling Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and his wife Heidi at a Washington restaurant in September. Reports have not said Alcoff was directly involved in either incident; only that he was associated with the group.

Democrats are hardly eager to be associated with Alcoff now. Most spokespersons for Democratic members of Congress did not respond to inquiries from Fox News, or distanced themselves from Alcoff.

In one appearance, Alcoff dressed up as “Lenny the Loan Shark” at an event last Marchheld outside the CFPB headquarters, which featured Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va.

“The congressman has never interacted with him nor has he taken any financial policy advice from him. Their names have appeared on the same piece of paper,” Beyer spokesman Aaron Fritschner told Fox News. “He appeared at the same press conference, but they didn’t speak to each other. This person was literally wearing a shark outfit.”

In the February 2018 press statement, House and Senate Democrats co-sponsoring the Stopping Abuse and Fraud in Electronic (SAFE) Lending Act, which boosted regulation on payday lenders, issued versions of a press release, most including the Alcoff quote.

“The Consumer Bureau and Congress have in the past understood the way that payday lenders structure loans to catch Americans in a cycle of debt with exorbitant interest rates,” Alcoff said in the press releases. “It is unfortunate that some in Washington would rather open the loan shark gates than continue to think about sensible borrower protections. The SAFE Lending Act would put Washington back on track to stop the debt trap.”

In August, Alcoff was a guest on the House Democrats’ Joint Economic Committee podcast, criticizing the decline of the CFPB under the Trump administration.

“It’s been an incredible kind of erosion [Trump administration actions] recently, but these are really, really important basic functions [CFPB’s mission] that people across the country should be able to look to Washington and expect,” Alcoff said on the podcast.

In connection with the subsequent attack in Philadelphia, the two Hispanic Marines said the Antifa mob of about 10 or 12 attackers shouted racial slurs during the beating. Only three from the mob were identified and arrested. The attack happened at the same time as a right-wing rally in Philadelphia, which Antifa showed up to protest. The Marines who were assaulted said they were not even aware of the rally.

“On one side, you have the Proud Boys, a racist group of Nazi thugs. On the other side, you have anti-racist activists,” Alcoff’s lawyer Michael Coard told Philadelphia Magazine. “Unfortunately, in the mix, there were two Marines who were caught up in the whole thing as innocent bystanders.”

Coard, an African American activist in Philadelphia, also told the magazine regarding the alleged slurs, “The question that I have for the D.A.’s office and the police is this: Does anybody think that I, Michael Coard, would represent a racist? … I would never represent a racist. In fact, if I believed that he was a racist, I would prosecute him myself.”

By Fred Lucas

 

Democracy at Stake: Understanding The Seriousness of the Venezuela Crisis

U.S. vs. Venezuela

Global battle lines in Venezuela

IN one of his most decisive foreign-policy moments, President Trump recognized Juan Guaidó, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as the country’s interim leader. Free countries from the Western Hemisphere, Europe and beyond, including some adamant Trump critics, joined the US in support of Guaidó and against Nicolás Maduro’s crumbling socialist dictatorship.

Dictators’ club: China, Cuba, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah are lining up behind the socialist thug Nicolás Maduro. The US is leading the global pushback.
Yet China, Russia, Iran and others jumped to Maduro’s defense. Cuba — the country that installed Maduro in power in 2013, as Hugo Chavez was dying in Havana — has overseen the vicious crackdowns against impressive pro-democracy rallies.

Since Wednesday, more than 800 anti-Maduro demonstrators have been thrown into Cuba-modeled dungeons.

So the lines are drawn. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the UN Security Council Saturday, every country must now pick sides: “Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem.”

But how does America help the forces of freedom win? It’s about money. And, true, the global antidemocratic club has been bolstering Maduro for a long time, while we’re fairly new to the game. Even so, Washington has the advantage.

China, for one, has offered Venezuela some $65 billion in loans. But Caracas hasn’t made much progress toward repayment, and so Beijing isn’t likely to invest further for now. Sure, China’s communist rulers express public support for Maduro, but cautious Beijing will await the outcome of the current uncertainty. PS: China isn’t looking for additional anti-US fronts.

Russia might go further. According to Reuters, Moscow is already sending paramilitary troops and contractors to Caracas. The Kremlin uses such mercenaries where it wants to be involved militarily while keeping plausible deniability, as it has in Syria and Ukraine. But while Venezuela may be yet another site to confront America, the Kremlin doesn’t see it as Russia’s hill to die on.

Cuba is most deeply involved. Throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Union financed the Castro regime in exchange for sugar cane. Needing a new sugar daddy after the Soviet collapse, Castro found Chavez. Venezuela supplied all of Cuba’s energy needs, while Havana guaranteed the regime’s survival.

It is the Cubans who train and reinforce Maduro’s notorious intelligence apparatus. Like in Cuba, the top Venezuelan army brass is getting rich through high positions in the country’s oil and other enterprises. Venezuelan generals, like their counterparts in Havana, get to profit from illicit drug and arms deals.

Such clandestine deals are aided by the Iranian regime and its Lebanese-Shiite proxy, Hezbollah. Relations between Caracas and the Mideast’s Iranian-led Shiite axis go back to the early days of Chavez’s rule.

Today the No. 3 official in the Maduro regime’s hierarchy, the Lebanese-born Tareck El Aissami, is “a bagman for Hezbollah,” says Vanessa Neumann, president of the consultancy group Asymmetrica and a leading researcher of Mideast terrorist activities in Latin America.

Hezbollah, along with the Maduro regime, funds much of its operations with the narcotics and arms trades. And that, says the Venezuela-born Neumann, could help the opposition she strongly supports. “With friends like these,” she says, “it makes it easier for us.” The opposition is making the case for the West to place Caracas on the list of terrorist-sponsoring states, leading to automatically imposed sanctions.

The American response has now gone beyond sanctions. On Thursday, soon after Guaidó was sworn in, Pompeo pledged $20 million to help him and the Assembly. That’s small change, but it’s a start.

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced $7 billion in sanctions, including on government-owned oil giant PdVSA. While Venezuelan assets in the US, including oil giant Citgo, will continue to operate, profits will no longer go to Maduro’s cronies. They will be deposited instead in “blocked accounts” designed to benefit the people through the US-recognized Guaidó leadership.

Combined with similar measures by America’s global allies, the latest US move can help turn the tide in Caracas.

Democracy “never needs to be imposed. It is tyranny that needs to be imposed,” Elliott Abrams, Trump’s new point man on Venezuela, said at the UN Saturday. But while Maduro’s allies impose, America can unite the free world in isolating him economically — and win one for democracy.

by BENNY AVNI

Black and Armed in America

Colion Noir

For me, being black and armed in America is intellectually taxing. Add the fact that I am one of the most recognized gun rights advocates in the country, and it can be downright exhausting.

As a black man, some people expect me to say that being armed and black in America is dangerous. My whole life I’ve heard that a black man with a gun is always going to be considered a threat. I’ve also carried a gun for years and have been pulled over many times while carrying a gun with no problems—and I have no plans of stopping.

Guns have done more to keep blacks safe in this country than being unarmed has ever done.

So, do I think it is safe to be black and armed in America? In truth, I think it is unsafe to be black and not armed in America. Guns have done more to keep blacks safe in this country than being unarmed has ever done. I also believe that the more black people arm themselves, the safer it will be to be black and armed.

Just consider: Harriet Tubman carried a revolver to protect against slave catchers and their dogs while she led black slaves to their freedom. Black civil rights activist Robert F. Williams obtained a charter from the National Rifle Association and set up a rifle club to defend blacks in Jonesboro, Ark., from the Ku Klux Klan and other attackers. The Black Panthers followed police around, armed with firearms and law books to police the police. C.O. Chinn was a black man during the civil rights era who was armed to the teeth and provided security to the “nonviolent” sectors of the civil rights movement. The Deacons for Defense and Justice, an armed African-American self-defense group, was founded in 1964 to protect civil rights activists and their families. Black men used guns during the Civil War to fight for their freedom. And countless black Americans use guns every day to protect themselves, their families and others they love.

Guns keep black people safe. It is true that, compared to a lot of their non-black counterparts, gun ownership among blacks can come with a unique set of risks. But I believe it is important to realize that these risks don’t outweigh the benefits.

The first time I carried a concealed firearm, I experienced a wide array of emotions. I waited a long time for my permit to come in, so I was giddy with excitement when the wait was over. I felt empowered knowing that I didn’t need to rely on a police officer magically appearing if I were attacked.

But I also felt anxiety. I was a young black man with a gun, and up until that point, I had been taught that if a cop ever realized I had a gun on me, he’d more likely think I was a criminal than a legal concealed carrier. As a result, I took the painstaking effort to make sure my gun was completely undetectable. I even learned what signs cops look for to determine if someone was carrying a gun and made it a point not to do those things.

But one question remains: Why the hell would I, as a young black man, get a concealed-carry license and carry a gun on me 90 percent of the time if I believed all this? I decided to carry a firearm despite the perceived dangers from the police for the same reasons teenage gangbangers and drug dealers carry guns illegally—they are more worried about being caught without a gun by an enemy than with one by a cop. In the same way, on a subconscious level, I was more concerned about being caught without a gun by a criminal than I was by a cop when I was legally carrying a firearm. 

The anxiety of avoiding the ordeal of being seen as a threat by police if you have to draw your firearm in public is not limited to blacks.

Note, I am not saying that I can’t become the victim of a cop or another armed citizen who, because of my race and the gun I carry, might treat me like a threat instead of another legally armed citizen. What I am saying is that those people are the exception, not the rule.

Since last July, there have been three cases in which a black good guy with a gun was shot and killed by police. At the time of this writing, these cases are still under investigation, so I’m not going to speculate on the motivation behind the shootings. But I will say that the anxiety of avoiding the ordeal of being seen as a threat by police if you have to draw your firearm in public is not limited to blacks. After carrying a firearm for some time, I began researching and learning more about the intricacies of concealed carry. I discovered that the question of what to do so you don’t get shot by a cop if you have to pull your gun in public had been a topic of discussion in the online gun community for years, by gun owners of all races.

Though we are fortunate to have the Second Amendment in this country, we also have a large segment of the country that believes anyone carrying a gun who is not law enforcement is a bad guy. Unfortunately, some who believe this become police officers. I believe threat identification and de-escalation have long been weak points of training in police departments. In a country with the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, learning how to deal with potentially armed citizens at the scene of an active-shooter situation should be a top priority for all police training. Long story short, if you’re going to carry a badge and gun in this country, unless a person is actively shooting at you, shooting at other people who are clearly not a threat, or threateningly presenting a firearm, you should err on the side of the possibility that the person might be a good guy with a gun.

This country’s “mainstream” media machine, in its rabid attempt to vilify guns and sway people away from exercising their Second Amendment rights, has done everything in its power to push the image of bad gun owners as the rule, instead of the exception. Our media have excessively promoted the image of the armed, gang-banging, hyper-aggressive, violent black male, while at the same time pushing the narrative that all white male gun owners are potential mass-shooting domestic terrorists who hate black people. Are we then surprised that there might be incidents in which a good black guy with a gun is prematurely seen as a bad guy with a gun by someone who’s only image of a black man with a gun has been what the media have portrayed?

If such a tragedy occurs, the same media that have mastered the art of sensationalizing these incidents will breathlessly report and speculate about racial motivations, without having any truly relevant information or facts. They do this to insidiously reaffirm the narrative they have been pushing for years—if you are black and carry a gun, you will be shot. Ironically, the same media never talk about racist origins of gun control laws, or how most such laws were designed to keep guns out of the hands of blacks. Nor do they discuss how the very same violent image of black men they push today is the same image that was used in the past to scare unassuming whites, causing some of them to support those racist gun control laws.

Two years ago, I received a message from the mother of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black concealed-carry license holder who was pulled over and killed by officer Jeronimo Yanez when he thought Castile was reaching for his gun. The letter was a scathing critique of my response to the shooting. The part of the message that hit the hardest was her closing line: “You ain’t no exception; the same thing can happen to you.”

Admittedly, the letter made me feel terrible. But what was I supposed to do? Stop carrying my gun? Stop exercising my rights? What happened to Castile was terrible, and, like I said in my open letter about it, it could have been avoided altogether if the officer had conducted the stop the way he was trained to perform a felony stop. Nevertheless, cases like Castile’s are still the exception.

I know one thing is for sure: It has never been safer to be black and armed in this country than it is right now.

I know that’s not a popular thing to say as a black man in today’s political climate, but that’s why these cases are such a big deal when they do occur. And even then, the motivations behind the shootings are never clear-cut—at least not clear-cut enough to say that a cop shot a black guy with a gun just because he was a black guy with a gun, and not for some other reason, justified or not. As a result, these cases send my cognitive dissonance—about what I’ve been told my whole life, what I’ve actually experienced, what the statistics show, and what reality has presented—into a downward spiral where I second-guess myself into oblivion on these issues.

However, I know one thing is for sure: It has never been safer to be black and armed in this country than it is right now. There were times in the past when it was legal to beat and even kill a black person who was found to have a gun, or any other weapon, on him. Today, there are black gun rights groups, social media accounts dedicated to black gun ownership, black firearm instructors and black gun rights advocates. There was a time when it was not safe for blacks to vote, but we continued doing it anyway. Regardless of how dangerous it might or might not become to be black and armed in this country, I’ll continue to exercise my natural rights the same way black people of the past—who faced more significant and more consistent harm—chose to exercise theirs. 

by Colion Noir

 

Chris Pratt Bashed for his Faith and Politics

Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt, the stud in such movies as “Guardians of the Galaxy’’ and “Jurassic World,” who’s shined his Hollywood star on a slew of film and TV roles, has apparently broken from the pack of bland, pretty-boy ­actors — by farming the land, openly worshipping God and observing a brand of personal and political conservatism capable of making progressive heads explode.

How dare he! Perhaps more ­remarkable considering all of the above, in 2015, Pratt was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world on the annual Time 100 list.

And yet that didn’t stop Kaitlin Thomas from going after him in a snarky piece published by TV Guide last week as part of the magazine’s “12 Days of Chris-Mas’’ feature — a celebration of 12 dudes named Chris, including Chris Pine and Chris Tucker, even Ludacris. Pratt comes in fifth place, but only after a sound drubbing.

The piece — headlined, “How to Love Chris Pratt Without Hating Yourself: He’s Definitely the Most Divisive of the Chrises” — is so petty and mean-spirited, it could only have been intended to turn fans against its subject. This, even as the author asserts that “many people” — maybe in Tinseltown — share the author’s distaste for Pratt’s way of life.

“When you take a deeper look at Pratt the man and not necessarily Pratt the actor, some of the shine wears off,” Thomas wrote. And then she goes at Pratt for, apparently, trying to give away his family’s aging cat via Twitter in 2011. The cat found a good home, and crisis was averted. But that was only Thomas’ first gripe.

Next, she attacks Pratt because he and his then-wife, Anna Faris, tried to get rid of the family’s pet Chihuahua five years later (the couple’s son was allergic), resulting in the pooch for a while wandering the streets of Los Angeles.

Horrors! The beastie was ­returned to a loving home. But of all the animal-cruelty complaints against Pratt, the most wickedly ­unfair is Thomas’ diatribe about his love of hunting — a responsible and clean method of feeding his family. (And I would never kill an animal.)

Writing about the lambs he raises on his farm on an island off the coast of Washington state, Thomas condemns Pratt for a video he posted to Instagram this year, in which he said: “They are the happiest lambs on the planet, they are so sweet and then one day they wake up dead and they’re in my freezer.” The writer doesn’t ­divulge if she eats meat.

Pratt then comes under fire for joking about the “outrage culture’’ that has engulfed society, which the TV Guide piece, I would venture, illustrates perfectly. He also takes licks for telling Men’s Health in 2017 that stories about his kind of blue-collar upbringing are ­under-represented in Hollywood. Well?

“The idea that Pratt doesn’t see himself — though he may come from a working-class family and spends most of his time on a farm, he’s also a successful, straight white man at the heart of two ­major film franchises — as being represented in television or film is ridiculous,” Thomas writes. “But the truth is, the reason Pratt’s comment enraged so many people is because it ignored the fact there are a number of communities ­actually struggling for better representation.’’

Perhaps to fend off people coming for him with pitchforks, Pratt actually apologized for making this “stupid’’ comment about the lack of characters like him in Hollywood fare.
He shouldn’t have bothered.

Thomas makes clear that her main grievance against Pratt is with something over which he has no control — he’s a “straight white man.” As much as she might ­resent Pratt’s skin color, his sexual orientation and his success, she can’t just wish him away.

Then there was the egregious Instagram post in which Pratt told people to “turn up the volume” and not just “read the subtitles” — which apparently could offend the hearing impaired. Whatever.

One thing not expressly referred to in TV Guide is Pratt’s deep Christian faith, a rarity in amoral Hollywood. And something I ­applaud. You are free to hate Chris Pratt’s hunting, his conservatism, even his acting. But don’t hate him. He is to be praised, not scorned, for the way he lives. This is one good and humble man.

By Andrea Peyser

In Search of Leonard, my Martyred Ancestor

Murder of Christians

Eastern Turkey had a large and thriving community of Christians a little over 100 years ago, but since then most have been dispersed or killed. The BBC’s Eli Melki went to look for traces of a relative, who was martyred at the age of 33.

One evening in June, I sat in the sunset among the Roman ruins of Zirzawan hill, in south-east Turkey. This is where it’s said the remains of one of my ancestors are buried in a mass grave. Leonard Melki was about 33 years old at the beginning of World War One, and his fate was determined by his Christian faith.

At that time, between a fifth and a quarter of the inhabitants of eastern Turkey – then part of the Ottoman Empire – belonged to an array of Eastern denominations of the Christian Church, including the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Syriac Church, the Church of the East (Nestorians) and the Chaldean Church.

Leonard Melki
Leonard Melki’s beatification began in 2005

All except the Armenians worshipped in Syriac – a dialect of Aramaic, the language of Christ.

They lived among the empire’s Muslim majority and, while many prospered, at some times and in some places they were subject to outright persecution; in World War One, it went far, far beyond that.

Leonard, my great-grandfather’s cousin, was born a member of one of the Eastern churches – the Maronites – but later became a Capuchin friar, and in his mid-20s he was sent to run the order’s school in the city of Mardin, close to what is now the border between Turkey and Syria.

At this point Christians represented between 35% and 40% of Mardin’s inhabitants. The Capuchin monastery, where Leonard taught boys the rudiments of the Christian faith, stood alongside a Franciscan monastery in a prominent position in the city centre.

To find out more about Leonard, I spoke to his great-nephew, Fares Melki, who has set up a website dedicated to Leonard and other missionaries from Baabdat, the small town near Beirut where we were both born. As we sat under our family oak tree, he told me that Leonard was born Yusuf (Joseph in Arabic) in about 1881, one of 11 children. As a boy he would have tilled the land around where we were sitting.

Baabdat oak tree

Fares showed me some yellowed letters and photographs Leonard sent to relatives and to his superiors. They reveal a young man dedicated to his faith, attached to his sister Tamar, and eager – despite problems with his health – to embark on a mission 1,000km from his picturesque and prosperous home in Mount Lebanon.

In one letter, written in 1912, he wrote about young Muslim men from Mardin being sent to fight in the Balkan Wars.

“Poor souls, I pity them. They are marching like sheep to the slaughter, poorly trained and equipped, but displaying an admirable courage despite of it all. Lacking everything – even bread – they end up by devastating everything and terrorising people wherever they set foot. May God put an end to all this misery, and grant peace and tranquillity to the land.”

But not long afterwards, World War One did the opposite, and the nationalist Young Turks then in control of the Ottoman Empire began to fear a possible alliance between the local Christian populations and Russia, which had quickly gone on the offensive.

 

The decision was taken to deport the Armenian population into the interior provinces – though in practice men were often simply executed, and women and children forced into convoys that morphed into death marches.

While these actions were directed against the Armenians, they had the effect of signalling that all Christians in the region had lost the protection of the state. The result was a wave of pogroms, carried out both by the local Ottoman authorities and some Kurdish tribesmen.

Some Syriac Christian churches are estimated to have lost up to half their congregation in the violence. They call this Seyfo, the Year of the Sword, and Leonard was one of the victims.

Today, almost nothing remains of Mardin’s ancient Christian heritage. There is no trace of the Capuchin monastery in Mardin, though by chance I met a local historian – possibly the last Armenian living in the city – who was able to point out the precise location of the neighbouring Franciscan monastery. Using old photographs and the memoirs of her grandmother – once a pupil at the girls’ school run by Franciscan nuns – she has been able to pinpoint exactly where each arch of the building stood. Today the site is a busy and noisy car park among the narrow shopping streets of this Turkish city. It’s hard to imagine now the sounds of the schoolyards and the monastery bells.

The car park in Mardin

But below ground level, in a former public bath building, my Armenian guide showed me an archway, a remnant of one of the two defunct monasteries. And suddenly in my mind’s eye I could see Leonard and his pupils passing by – or being dragged along after his arrest.

Leonard was seized in June 1915, when the authorities rounded up a number of clergymen and other notables of the city on trumped up charges of collaboration with the enemy, usually the French. Christians had widely come to be seen as a fifth column of the Western powers, and the missionaries treated as enemy agents.

We walked along the winding old main street referred to by a Dominican monk, Jacques Rhétoré, in his account of the arrests.

Capuchin friars in Mardin and the Franciscan monastery
Capuchin friars in Mardin and the Franciscan monastery

“Father Leonard, a Capuchin, was in front of the convoy of detainees, between two students of Saint Francis’s school. As he passed by his convent, he looked upward, in a last salute to the holy house where he lived in the bliss of doing good deeds. There, the soldier flanking him dealt him a blow on the head with a club, yelling at him: ‘Walk straight you dirty Fraranji (Frenchman)!'”

The convoy, one of many, was led towards the city of Diyarbakir, where the detainees were to be tried for treason. However, in the middle of the journey, the column of detainees, now in a sorry state, was led to the hill of Zirzawan.

The motorway at the bottom of Zirzawan hill
Looking down from Zirzawan: The old road along which the detainees were driven is to the left of the new motorway

Their final hour was recounted by another Dominican, Hyacinthe Simon.

“They were killed by groups of four, with knives, daggers and scimitars, or clubbed to death, then their bodies were thrown in the wells. The old fortress still holds their bones and the secret of their last moments,” he wrote.

Sitting on Zirzawan hill, I wondered what must have gone through Leonard’s mind as his life was about to end. Did he remember our peaceful hometown, the family land with its majestic oak tree, his fellow friars, his beloved sister?

For me, Leonard personifies the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of mostly innocent and unarmed people, who were were killed during the fateful spring and summer of 1915 in the eastern part of the Ottoman Empire. It helps me to fathom the enormity of this disaster.

In the distance, I could still see the sprawling new city of Mardin. The old road taken by the death march has now been replaced by a motorway, emblematic of a resurgent Turkey, a country where the two-millennia-old Christian presence has been reduced to the ruins of places of worship. And to about 2,500 Syriac speaking people, who still cling, against all odds, to a handful of towns and villages in the nearby region of Tur Abdin, the “Mountain of the Worshippers”.

What was once one of the most ancient and dense Christian presences in the world now stands on the brink of extinction.

Amnesty International criticised for not including antisemitism in landmark abuse report

 

Amnesty International antisemitism

The study analysed millions of tweets but human rights campaigners claimed they lacked the data to explore Jew-hate

Amnesty International has been criticised for not including antisemitic abuse of Jewish women in the largest ever study of abuse of female politicians and journalists on Twitter.

The study analysed millions of tweets received by 778 journalists and politicians from the UK and US who were selected by researchers concluded that black women were “disproportionately targeted” by “abusive or problematic tweets.”

But the human rights campaigners insisted they “didn’t have enough data” to explore antisemitic, misogynistic abuse of MPs like Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth, despite the fact the issue is so pressing it prompted a parliamentary conference on addressing it three weeks ago.

Claudia Mendoza, the Jewish Leadership Council’s director of policy and public affairs, condemned the abuse against MPs like Diane Abbott but said: “Amnesty International may wish to look further into the antisemitic abuse aimed at prominent Jewish women including MPs so prevalent on Twitter.

“This is even more important considering that such abuse has occurred from within their own organisation.”

This refers to how, in 2012, Amnesty campaigns manager Kristyan Benedict tweeted an antisemitic joke about three Jewish MPs.

Mark Gardner, the Community Security Trust’s director of communications, referred to a previous Amnesty report into Twitter abuse against women – published in September 2017.

He told the JC: “This is the second time in just over a year that Amnesty has released reports on misogyny, racism and social media that utterly ignores antisemitism, despite the widely documented Jew-hatred that so many female Labour MPs have suffered in recent years.

“It typifies the way in which antisemitism is ignored by Amnesty and many other groups, from whom we still instinctively – but very wrongly – expect solidarity.”

Publishing the results of their Troll Patrol project on Tuesday, Amnesty produced a diagram illustrating the ethnic background of those receiving abuse did differentiate between women of Black, Latinx, Asian, Mixed race and White background.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said their survey backs up “what women have long been saying – that Twitter is endemic with racism, misogyny and homophobia.”

Danny Stone, chief executive of the Antisemitism Policy Trust (APT), criticised the failure to include analysis of antisemitic abuse.

Three weeks ago, research commissioned by the Community Security Trust and the APT showed Jewish women in parliament face a disproportionate amount of antisemitic abuse online.

Mr Stone told the JC on Tuesday: “This (Amnesty) report makes for shocking reading, it is appalling the extent of the abuse women experience online.

“Last month, we helped organise the Sara Conference, to shine a light on the growing and frightening overlap of misogyny and antisemitism, particularly online. That conference marked the beginning of a conversation which, judging by the omission of Jewish women from this report, is evidently very much required.”

One MP, who asked not to be named, said it was “beyond comprehension” why Amnesty had not identified abuse directly aimed at Jewish women in their study.

“Study after study in recent years has highlighted the issue of antisemitic abuse directed at Jewish women,” the MP added. “It is beyond comprehension why Amnesty were unable to look at this problem themselves.”

Amnesty said its findings were the result of a collaboration between Amnesty International and Element AI, an artificial intelligence software product company.

They surveyed millions of tweets received by 778 journalists and politicians from the UK and US throughout 2017  across the political spectrum.

Using cutting-edge data science and machine learning techniques, they said they were able to provide a quantitative analysis of unprecedented scale of online abuse against women in the UK and USA.

An Amnesty spokesperson told the JC: “Despite our best efforts, we didn’t have enough data about the Jewish background of the women in our sample – this was publicly available for women MPs in the UK but not for the journalists in our study.

“It was a level of analysis we were keen to make, together with disaggregation of abuse by women’s sexual orientation but that meta-data is much harder to research.

“That is why we are reinforcing our calls to Twitter to release meaningful data on how it responds to reports of abuse, in particular abusive tweets that direct hate against a protected category.”

Amnesty’s study found black women were 84 per cent more likely than white women to be subjected to abusive tweets. One in 10 posts mentioning black women contained “abusive or problematic” language.

Ms Abbott, the shadow home secretary, urged Twitter to take action over “highly offensive racist and misogynist” abuse on the platform.

Milena Marin, senior advisor for tactical research at Amnesty said: “Although abuse is targeted at women across the political spectrum, women of colour were much more likely to be impacted, and black women are disproportionately targeted.

“Twitter’s failure to crack down on this problem means it is contributing to the silencing of already marginalized voices.”

by Lee Harpin