Most of us know at least a few young teens—15-, 16-,
17-year-olds. A son or daughter. A niece
or nephew. A neighbor or a friend’s
grandchild. We see them around, waiting for the school bus, surfing the
sidewalk on a skate board, hanging out at the mall. Despite what they insist,
teens are only on the cusp of adulthood, and most of us will do whatever we can
to help them make it in the world.
Until, that is, one of those youths gets arrested. Then
all that good will disappears. At least that’s the case in over half the states
which have yet to change their laws prosecuting young teenagers (under the age
of 18) as adults and, if convicted, sending them to adult correctional
facilities. Suddenly that young person becomes
an exile to all the protections and decencies that communities work hard to
provide their children, and she or he enters a world that is blind to the needs
and vulnerabilities of every developing adolescent. (This disenfranchisement is
made starkly clear by the fact that in some states the parents of those teens are
not notified when their children are arrested.)There is nothing nice about a
kid in an adult prison or jail—nothing any of us would wish on the young teens
that we know.
Immigrants, workers, union members and community activists marched on May Day in San Jose. Marchers protested attacks on immigrants, unions and the rights of workers, and called on Congress to pass a just immigration reform. (David Bacon)
—Boston is the home to many firsts: the first public park, the first subway, the first kidney transplant. Could the next first be a literary cultural district? With help of a planning grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Grub Street will refine the concept and pitch the MCC for designation of such a district.
Note: This post is a lightly edited version of remarks given by Carole Joffee upon accepting the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Family Planning in Seattle on October 7. It previously appeared on the RH Reality Check.
My journey as a researcher of abortion provision started in the late 1970s. I had just moved to the Philadelphia area for my first academic job, and I began an ethnography of a Planned Parenthood clinic in that city that was in the midst of incorporating abortion services. My interests at that time were in observing how a social movement issue becomes translated into a health-care “service.” But after immersing myself in that clinic for over a year, I became deeply interested in all categories of abortion providers, broadly speaking—counselors, nurses, physicians, clinic directors—and I have been studying providers ever since.
What I would like to do today is revisit some of the main points of my book, Doctors of Conscience: The Struggle to Provide Abortion Before and After Roe v. Wade. What I attempted in that book was to apply a sociological lens to the work of providers, including an investigation of the “social status” of providers, which is sociological jargon for asking, more simply, how did involvement in abortion work affect both the personal and professional relationships of that first generation of providers whose work spanned the years immediately before and after legalization?
I argued, based on the interviews I conducted with those physicians, that abortion provision early on suffered from a marginality from the rest of medicine. As I put it, “mainstream medicine supported legal abortion but not the abortion provider.” Very briefly, I claimed that within medical circles the legacy of the “back alley butcher” of the pre-Roe era carried over and stigmatized all those who had performed abortions before Roe and went on to do so afterwards—even the “doctors of conscience” I interviewed who had provided, at great personal risk, safe and ethical care before legalization. I also wrote of the personal isolation many felt as a result of engaging in this work.
You may be excused if you failed to notice that last week was National Save for Retirement Week. Promoted by the financial services industry, which profits handsomely from each extra dollar placed in 401(k) and similar retirement savings accounts, the week does not exactly compete with Halloween and Thanksgiving for public attention.
The financial services industry would like for us to believe a number of things. We can save enough for retirement if only we will do it and stop wasting our money on frivolous lattes instead. It is our moral obligation to do this. It will be no one’s fault but our own if we don’t save enough for a secure retirement. It is there to help us be provident as a responsible custodian of our surrendered savings.
I began to question this in the 1990s, long before my own retirement age was imminent. You see, I made the single biggest financial mistake of my life in 1986. In beginning the public university job that I still hold, I was given the choice between a tradition public pension plan and TIAA-CREF, a 401(k)-like plan, that relied on personal stock market investing. Numerous people assured me that the 401(k)-like plan was by far the better choice. But several years later I was in for a rude shock when I compared the actual benefits. Even in the bull markets of the 1990s, the projected benefits of my 401(k)-like plan were half those of the traditional pension plan I had rejected.
With the government shutdown crisis finally over, President Obama has pledged once more to make immigration reform the centerpiece of his second term agenda. But change couldn't come sooner for many immigrant communities, who have seen the battlefront for immigration equality steadily shift from the court rooms and legislative halls to the streets outside their homes, schools, and playgrounds. Mirta Ojito's new book Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town, which went on sale last week, documents the rising tide of hate crimes against immigrants and focuses on one such community that found itself the target of an onslaught of harassment and abuse, culminating in an incident that sent the community reeling and brought the issue of immigration reform right to their doorsteps.
Ojito reenacts the tragic events of that evening in the opening pages of her book:
In 2007, Somali-born Dutch author Ayaan Hirsi Ali published Infidel, an autobiography that documented her journey from repression in Muslim East Africa to the freedom of the Netherlands. To be free, Hirsi Ali claimed, Muslim women must renounce their faith and their cultures. Rife with awestruck veneration of the empowered West, Hirsi Ali's recipe for liberation for Muslim women was eagerly consumed. The book became a New York Times best-seller and its author a celebrity. Not long after, Hirsi Ali collaborated on a film that further pushed her point and featured her naked silhouette in the rituals of Muslim prayer. Extremist clerics in various parts of the Muslim world denounced her as a heretic, bolstering Hirsi Ali's royalties.
In 2013, the world is getting to know Malala Yousafzai, a schoolgirl from Pakistan who has become a champion for girls' education and was a favorite in betting parlors to win the Nobel Peace Prize. On Oct. 8, 2012, Malala, then 15, was a student at one of the few girls' schools in the Swat Valley, in the country's north. On an otherwise uneventful afternoon, Malala, whose family had received threats from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for continuing her education, got into the Toyota van that transported the girls to and from school. Minutes later, it was accosted by Taliban gunmen; they asked for Yousafzai by name and shot her. Her skull was fractured, and she nearly died. Her book, I Am Malala, is the story of that grim afternoon and all that came before and has come after.
—Medical researchers at the University of Mississippi analyzed what makes up a chicken nugget in two restaurant chains. They found that just 40% of the nugget is meat. So, what makes up the other 60%? (Click through if you dare.)
the Indigenous Nations of the Western Hemisphere "Columbus Day" is a
day of mourning. The year 1492 is an abomination. But, October 12 arrives every
year to torture the open sore of genocide, not as a reflective day of mourning
and solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, as it should be. It is celebrated with gusto throughout the
Americas, but no place as enthusiastically as the United States, where it is
one of the ten official federal holidays when all federal offices and banks are
closed. Columbus Day parades and fireworks are the main fare in towns and
cities throughout the country. Counterintuitively, in the liberal city of San
Francisco where I live it is the occasion of the gathering of U.S. warships and
two days of low aerial strafing by war planes (the Blue Angels), a whole week
of mass participation in martial events and patriotic gore called Fleet Week. The
only good thing about the Sequester is that Fleet Week has been canceled this
In the October 5th edition of the New York Times,
columnist Joe Nocera—a self-avowed fracking enthusiast—seeks to
allay environmental concerns about the greenhouse gas emissions from
natural gas fracking operations. He cites a study released last month
by a group of scientists at the University of Texas that found on-site
methane leakage at fracking wells to be lower than previous studies had
assumed. According to this study, only 0.42% of the gas produced by
fracking ends up in the air as "upstream" methane emissions—i.e. gas
releases at and around the wellhead.
I’ve woken up every morning this week thinking about where my family would be in Utah’s Zion National Park at that moment, instead of where we were: at home. I had secured a hard-to-get permit to backpack The Narrows, the 16-mile-long, 2,000-foot-deep, red-rock gorge whose walls close in to just thirty feet apart. We also planned to hike other trails in Zion Canyon and descend a slot canyon that involves eight rappels of up to 120 feet.
Then, on the very eve of our trip, the government of the most powerful nation in the world went off the tracks.
About 10 percent of people are gay or
lesbian. Homosexuals are born that way. All religions condemn homosexuality. There’s no such thing as a gay or trans child. All bisexual men are actually gay; all bisexual women are
actually straight. Coming out today is easier than ever
before. Hate crime laws prevent
violence against LGBT people.
We’ve all heard (and repeated) statements like these
before. But, are any of them actually true? According to Michael Bronski, Ann Pellegrini, and Michael Amico, these are common myths and misconceptions about lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender life and people. And in their new book, "You Can Tell Just by
Looking”: And 20 Other Myths about LGBT Life and People they take us through some of the most enduring myths, providing historical background and examining the
social and political factors that gave rise to and inform each myth. The myths covered here aren't just those that have been used to justify discrimination against and
oppression of LGBT people, but the authors also examine those that have been embraced by the LGBT community and their allies. We hope the book will challenge readers to question their own beliefs and dispel some of the false assumptions many of
us (even some of us at Beacon) have been carrying around for years.
Read on to see what the authors have to say about ten of the myths covered in "You Can Tell Just by Looking."
Every year in September, people across the country celebrate Banned Books Week to raise awareness about the problem of censorship. In 2012 alone, there were 464 challenges to books reported to the American Library Association's Office of for Intellectual Freedom. Common complaints include content being unsuitable for an age group, the use of offensive language, sexually explicit material, violence, homosexuality, and religious viewpoints. At Beacon, we support the freedom to read, so we asked staff to recommend some of their favorite banned and challenged books. Read on to find out how they were influenced by these books. Happy Banned Books Week!
—Last week's devastating molasses spill in
Hawai'i killed thousands of fish, but there is some "good" news. Grieg
Steward, associate professor of oceanography at the University of
Hawai'i at Manoa says, "a molasses spill can be cleaned up faster by
natural processes, not only because molasses dissolves in water, but
because so many bacteria can digest sugars. Only specialized types of
bacteria can break down oil."
week, in the midst of sorting out some business matters, I emailed one of the
sisters in Thich Nhat Hanh’s community, Plum Village, and asked if we could
have a quick call. She emailed back that the sangha (community of practice) had just landed in Boston
and suggested I join them the following day. So, I found myself at the Park
Plaza Hotel in downtown Boston with over a thousand people who had come to hear
Thich Nhat Hanh (called Thây by his students) talk about “Healing the Heart with Mindfulness.” Afterwards, he led us on a silent walking meditation
out of the hotel, down Hadassah Street, across Boylston Street, and into the Public
Garden. We sat under trees near the swan boats on an exquisitely clear
day and meditated. I was struck by how Thây kept his eyes open, and seemed to
be drinking in the beauty of the trees and their gentle movement in the wind.
It was powerful to sit peacefully in this familiar place and find serenity in
the heart of the city. One of Thây’s great teachings is that the present moment
is the only one we have.
the event, the Harvard School of Medicine honored Thây for his great
contributions to public health. One of the graphs in the program book showed that
the number of publications that mentioned mindfulness grew from a handful in
the early 1980s to almost 500 last year. Clearly a new idea has found its way deep into
1976 Beacon Press published the book in which these ideas were first fully
articulated, The Miracle of Mindfulness: A
Manual on Meditation*. As part of its mission “to
affirm and promote world community with peace, liberty, and
justice for all,” Beacon was publishing other
books on Buddhism at the time including Philip Kapleau’s Three Pillars of Zen, as
well as books that grew out of the anti-war movement on which Thây
had such impact. These included Howard Zinn’s Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawaland,
of course, The Pentagon Papers. In this spirit, Beacon also published Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr.s’ Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?
He was a big man, a presence to be reckoned with on any football
team. Dressed in a pressed shirt and colorful tie, he spread his arms
out and gestured around the room. “I’m a new teacher here. How do I do
this?” he asked.
I knew what “this” was—a room with only a few windows, thick-paned
and laced with heavy gauge wire, designed to keep what’s in, in; a
locked industrial metal door; the squawk of walkie-talkies in the
hallways. It was a classroom much like the one in the county jail where I
taught high school students for ten years. But this classroom was in
the Judge Connelly Center Education Program in the Greater Boston area, a
residential adolescent treatment program for adjudicated young
offenders, kids who had been in and out of the child welfare and justice
systems, some for much of their young lives. I was there to talk with
teachers and support staff about my own experiences working in
I could have answered by talking about curriculum and the importance
of choosing materials that were culturally relevant. As an English
teacher, I was always looking for readings with characters and situations
that the young guys I taught could identify with. I could have
explained how I pushed them to go beyond cultural relevance and to begin
to develop the critical skills they needed to tackle state mandated