Kirstjen Nielsen: Walking a tightrope working for Trump

Kirstjen Nielsen: Walking a tightrope working for Trump

The US homeland security secretary has steadfastly defended a border policy that has provoked condemnation because of its impact on children and families. But why has Kirstjen Nielsen’s style also irked her critics?

During a House homeland security hearing on 6 March, Ms Nielsen said that border agents do not put children in cages in detention facilities. She explained: "If you mean a cage like this." She raised her hands above her head and drew an outline of a small, rectangular-shaped dog kennel.

Democrats disagreed. Regardless of the size of the wire-enclosed areas where children were held, the contraptions were still cages, said Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey.

Ms Nielsen acted as an unwavering advocate for the president’s "zero tolerance" border policy and for other measures during the hearing. She expressed staunch support for his national emergency and his wall and said she was working to ensure that the nation’s borders were fully secure.

In April, Jeff Sessions, the US attorney general at the time, announced that authorities would prosecute anyone who crossed the border illegally. He said this new approach – which ended two months later – was aimed as a deterrent to parents with children but as a result, nearly 3,000 youngsters were separated.

The border policies and her defence of them have been contentious, and some experts believe that her gender plays a role in the controversy.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a New York University professor who studies propaganda, says that Ms Nielsen has been a powerful spokeswoman for the policies in part because she is a woman.

"It’s very important for normalising this kind of inhumane treatment. She’s the soft face of this hard policy." A migrant mother feeds her daughter in a shelter in Tijuana, Mexico Ms Nielsen has embraced the president’s approach to managing PR crises – dig in your heels and face critics in a blunt, no-nonsense manner. As a woman, though, she has been subjected to particularly sharp criticism – Cruella de Vil, said one, describing her as a Disney villain.

Some appeal to her conscience. "How do you sleep at night?" was the cry while she was dining in a Mexican restaurant last year. Trump’s blame game on separating families

Her position as a high-profile, female member of the president’s cabinet is made more difficult by the fact that the president himself seems old-fashioned in his views of women. He often says he loves women and talks about female beauty. Yet few women wield power in the administration: as an Atlantic study shows, twice as many men as women have been appointed to positions.

The dominance of men over women in the Trump administration occurs at a rate that has not been seen "since the Reagan years", says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. The moment a migrant mother is reunited with her son Ms Nielsen is one of the only women who serves in the upper echelon of the administration, and her main issue, border security, is of intense interest to the president. Her job is a high-wire act, and she has done it with steely focus and determination.

Some observers say it is her straightforward demeanour and mastery of the brief – not the fact that she is a woman – that makes her a strong advocate for the president’s strategy.

"She’s thought through all these issues at a policy level," says Raj Shah, a former deputy communications director for Trump, adding that her approach to border security is both "effective" and "humane".

Others point out that the president admires a hard-nosed approach in public discourse, whether in a man or a woman. "He appreciates toughness," says the Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano. "The fact that she might ruffle some feathers – I think he’d find that endearing." Separating children from parents, said Rep Lauren Underwood (left), is "immoral" Getting power and holding on to it is tricky for women in any White House, but the process has been particularly fraught in the current one. Two of the most prominent women, Counselor Kellyanne Conway and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, work primarily as advisers and spokeswomen – not as policymakers.

Aside from Ms Nielsen, only four women – CIA Director Gina Haspel, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Linda McMahon, the head of Small Business Administration – hold positions in the president’s cabinet.

One woman, Nikki Haley, held a position with a cabinet-level rank as ambassador to the United Nations, but she resigned last autumn.

"It’s kind of a double-edged sword," says Heidi Hartmann, president of a non-profit organisation, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. in Washington.

"It really is hard for these women to walk the right line – they are seen as either too strong or not strong enough. I think there’s implicit bias." After the "zero-tolerance" policy was put into effect, migrant children were held at a Texas encampment The 47-year-old Ms Nielsen heads up a sprawling agency with more than 200,000 employees. In their offices in northwest Washington, a heavily guarded constellation of buildings, deputies praise her for her work ethic.

After studying at Georgetown University and University of Virginia’s law school, she worked on homeland security issues in the George W Bush administration.

She got to know John Kelly, a former military commander, during Mr Trump’s presidential transition and worked for him while he was secretary of homeland security. She followed him to the White House when he became chief of staff.

When she took over from him as homeland security secretary in December 2017, she brought considerably less experience to the position than her predecessors, and her views on immigration were relatively unknown. Mr Kelly was known as an immigration hawk, but not her.

Her father, James McHenry Nielsen, a Florida doctor, served in the military, and some of her colleagues say that she is driven by a desire to serve the nation rather than by policy goals. Others are less charitable, saying that she is an opportunist: "There’s a lot of perks that go with being a cabinet secretary." New border migrant separations revealed

Setting aside her motives, Nielsen has had a difficult relationship with her boss.

"I want her to get much tougher," he said on Fox News Sunday in November. "We’ll see what happens there."

The New York Times reported that she thought about quitting after being on the receiving end of a Trump tirade over the number of undocumented immigrants who cross the border.

He is hard on members of his cabinet, whether male or female. Still many people say that he speaks differently to her.

"Trump felt like he could rip into her in ways that he didn’t feel like he could with Kelly," says David Martin, who worked as a lawyer for the department of homeland security. "It’s partly because she’s a woman." Former White House officials say Nielsen is an effective advocate In response to the president’s criticism, Ms Nielsen has doubled down on her efforts at ensuring security at the border. The number of apprehensions at the border rose from 51,857 in November 2018 to 66,450 in February 2019, according to the US customs and border protection office.

Her strategy seems to be working – she has remained in her job and received praise from the president’s wife. In November Melania Trump said she was "proud" to be with her at a White House event.

But for progressives, Nielsen’s combative style and the fact that she is a female advocate for the president’s policies has struck a nerve.

Carrie Baker, a women’s studies professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, says that she is offended by the way Nielsen argues for policies that could harm women and children.

"They are able to find women to do their evil deeds and defend their misogynist work, and they think that’s a good strategy," Ms Baker says. "I think that’s wrong. Women are seeing through it."

Why so many people leave London

Why so many people leave London

It’s no secret that London has a very successful economy, not just compared with the rest of the UK but with other international cities too.

Over the past decade its economy has expanded by a fifth. Ever more shops, restaurants and bars have opened to serve its residents.

As a result the population of London and the urban area surrounding it has grown significantly, increasing by 1.1 million between 2008 and 2017 to 10 million people.

Yet despite this success story, not everything is going its way.

Many more people pack their bags and leave the capital for elsewhere in England and Wales than make the journey the other way.

Over the past decade, about 550,000 more Britons left London than moved to it.

This trend is not unique to London; it is seen in many big US cities , including New York, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles. So why has the capital’s population continued to grow despite so many people leaving? It can be explained by two factors. The first was its birth rate: 790,000 more people were born in London than died between 2009 and 2017.

The second factor was international immigration. There was an increase of 860,000 between 2009 and 2017, with more than half coming from the EU. By 2017, 3.6 million people living in the city were born overseas.

Of the Britons moving to the capital, a look at their ages reveals a great deal. A large number of people move to London in their 20s, drawn from all corners of the country. This is because of the range and number of job opportunities that the capital offers. Not going ‘home’

But among almost every other age group, the capital sees more people leaving than arriving.

This is most pronounced for very young children, people aged 18-20 and people in their 30s.

A look at where people move to after leaving the capital offers an insight into why this happens. Young families form a wave of people leaving the capital The 18-20 age group spreads out across the country, especially going to cities such as Nottingham, Coventry and Brighton. The most common reason is to start university.

It is safe to assume the other age groups – the children up to four years old and the 30-somethings – are leaving together. Paddington train station isn’t full of unaccompanied toddlers with their suitcases.

These are the young families moving out of the capital, very often in search of homes for less than London’s notoriously high prices .

Yet this does not mean that they are giving up on London altogether and returning "home" to the other parts of the country they first moved from.

Unlike people moving for university, many stay within commuting distance. Two-thirds of these age groups remain in what might be called "the Greater South East" – an area stretching from Southampton up to Milton Keynes and across to Norfolk.

So while they no longer live in the city, they still have the option to work there.

And the 800,000 people who commute into London each day – more than the entire population of cities such as Leeds and Bristol – suggest that many of them do.

Among those Londoners who remain past their 30s more continue to leave than arrive, albeit in smaller numbers.

These flows of people – the arrival of large numbers of young people and the departure of many of those who are older – also explains why London is such a young city.

With an average age of 37, its population is the sixth youngest of any large town or city in the UK . Oxford, Cambridge and Coventry all have populations with an average age under 36, while in Swansea and Sunderland, it is 41. Outside the capital

London’s experience differs to other big British cities.

Places like Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle and Nottingham have also seen their population and economies grow. But the waves of people arriving and leaving are very different.

They see two waves of people leaving – one for those aged 21-30 (many of whom head to London) and a second for people aged over 30.

The inflow and first wave of out-migration is related to universities.

These cities have a number of universities in them and attract many thousands of students from across the country, including London.

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But many of these students leave the cities behind as easily as they moved to them once they graduate.

Taking Liverpool as an example, it sees an inflow of people aged 18-20 from almost every other city in England and Wales. But the opposite trend is seen for 21 to 30-year-olds, with the city losing more of this age group to almost every other city than it gains. However, it is crucial to note that some of these students do stay on.

In the case of Liverpool, one in five of the students who move to the city for university make it their home after graduation. And so the number of highly qualified young people living in the city increases overall.

But like London, these big cities also experience a second wave of people leaving when they hit their 30s.

And like the capital, these people don’t move very far, once again looking for somewhere for their families to live.

For example, people leaving Birmingham tend to head for surrounding Bromsgrove, Shropshire or Staffordshire. And people leaving Newcastle mainly move to neighbouring Northumberland and County Durham. Stages of life

These patterns show that different places offer different things to people as they get older.

The vibrancy and job opportunities offered by our biggest cities appeal to students and young professionals. This shapes these cities in terms of the shops, bars and other facilities they offer.

But among older residents, the desire for things like more space and a less urban environment grows, and many move out.

It reminds us that cities are not islands, with residents flowing in and out of them depending on their stage of life.

With it comes the challenge of making sure there is the right type of housing where people want to live and the transport to get them about.

About this piece

This analysis piece was commissioned by the BBC from experts working for an outside organisation .

Andrew Carter is chief executive and Paul Swinney is director at the Centre for Cities, which describes itself as working to understand how and why economic growth and change takes place in the UK’s cities.

This piece uses data from the ONS on England and Wales’s 58 largest urban areas. Comparable data is not available for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Edited by Duncan Walker

Holocaust: How Spanish ‘Angel of Budapest’ Sanz Briz saved Jews

Holocaust: How Spanish 'Angel of Budapest' Sanz Briz saved Jews

The diplomatic ID for Angel Sanz Briz issued in 1942 Thousands of Holocaust survivors and their descendants escaped the Nazis thanks to a Spanish diplomat nicknamed "the Angel of Budapest" – yet the late Angel Sanz Briz is hardly known in Spain today.

His improvised heroics in 1944 saved more than 5,000 Hungarian Jews from deportation to Auschwitz.

"He is a hero of greater stature than Schindler," says Eva Benatar. Her mother sheltered her as a baby just weeks old and her brother in one of the safe houses set up by Sanz Briz in Nazi-occupied Budapest.

Oskar Schindler was a German industrialist who managed to save more than 1,000 Jews from the Holocaust. His story was told in the Hollywood movie Schindler’s List. Eva Benatar with one of her grandchildren After the Nazi invasion on 19 March 1944, codenamed Operation Margarethe, the chief SS Holocaust organiser Adolf Eichmann moved to Budapest with a plan to eliminate Hungary’s roughly one million Jews in record time.

Sanz Briz was serving in Spain’s embassy as commercial attaché, before being left in charge of the mission in mid-1944 at the age of 33. He was one of a group of diplomats who decided to rescue Hungarian Jews.

In a matter of weeks the SS deported more than 400,000 Jews to Auschwitz.

One of the Spaniard’s fellow humanitarian conspirators became a household name – Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who issued "protective passports" and saved tens of thousands of Jews.

Wallenberg later disappeared; he was seized by occupying Soviet forces and is widely thought to have died in a Soviet jail. Nazi Germany murdered at least 1.1m people at Auschwitz death camp in Poland The Holocaust year by year

Holocaust hero Wallenberg declared dead

Is this Switzerland’s Schindler?

Auschwitz inmate’s notes from hell finally revealed

Why Sanz Briz took law into his own hands

As reports grew about the escalating Holocaust at Auschwitz and other Nazi killing sites, Sanz Briz started informing the fascist Franco government in Spain about the appalling truth.

A key document he sent was the Vrba-Wetzler report, by two Jewish escapees from Auschwitz .

However, for several months he received no instructions from a regime that had initially backed Hitler in the war. Part of the Vrba-Wetzler report on the Nazi gas chambers at Auschwitz – sent by Sanz Briz to Madrid Remarkably, he began to take the law into his own hands, falsifying consular documents to grant nationality to refugees on the basis of a long-expired 1924 Spanish law aimed at Sephardic Jews, even though Hungary’s Jewish community was overwhelmingly Ashkenazi.

Jews were hidden in the Spanish embassy in Buda, bribes were paid to local officials. Sanz Briz braved the dangers of Nazi and Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross patrols, as well as Allied bombing raids, to shelter Jews at risk. Holocaust row taints Hungary museum project

Israel in Holocaust Danube victim search

"I managed to get the Hungarian government to authorise the protection by Spain of 200 Sephardic Jews. Then I turned those 200 units into 200 families; and those 200 families were multiplied indefinitely, through the simple procedure of not expediting any safe conduct to Jews with a number higher than 200," Sanz Briz wrote in his report for the Spanish government from Berne in December 1944.

"He added letters to each number, using the whole alphabet," explains the diplomat’s son, Juan Carlos Sanz Briz. centro sefarad He was a virtuoso in diplomacy; he put human rights before the law of the land, and was one of the first diplomats to use diplomatic immunity to protect refugees." Juan Carlos Sanz Briz
Son of Angel Sans Briz "It was quite out of character; he was actually a stickler for legality. Diplomats aren’t meant to issue false papers or put the national flag on buildings not part of the diplomatic mission. Safe houses

Sanz Briz’s meticulously recorded final tally came to 232 provisional passports issued to 352 people, as well as 1,898 protective letters, and 15 ordinary passports for 45 Sephardic Jews.

As the Nazis and Hungarian fascists closed in on the city’s Jews, moving them into confined quarters and killing people in the streets, Sanz Briz rented 11 apartment buildings to house the approximately 5,000 people he had placed under Spain’s protection.

In a 2013 interview for Spain’s RNE public radio, Jaime Vándor (recently deceased), who moved to Barcelona with his family after the war, recalled the squalor of those Spanish refuges.

"There were 51 of us living in a flat with two and a half rooms. We were crowded, hungry and cold, infested with fleas. The hygiene was appalling, obviously, with so many people using one toilet. But the worst thing was the fear, the fear of deportation." This Spanish joint passport got the Vándor family to safety from Hungary Ms Benatar’s mother was one of those granted papers by the Spanish embassy after she brandished a postage stamp from Madrid, where Eva’s grandmother had fled before the Nazi invasion.

Born in a cramped cellar, she never met her father, who died in the so-called death marches in early 1945.

But baby Eva, her mother and brother were able to escape Hungary, ending up in Tangier, then an international city, although the family eventually settled in Spain. In 1998 Spain belatedly celebrated Sanz Briz with these 35-peseta stamps Posthumous recognition

Sanz Briz left Budapest in November 1944, ordered out by his superiors in Madrid, who feared he would suffer reprisals from the approaching Soviet army, due to Spain’s help for the Germans on the Eastern front.

He retreated into a regular diplomatic career, and was not permitted by the stridently anti-Israel Franco regime to receive the honour of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem , Israel’s Holocaust memorial centre, in his lifetime.

He joined the ranks of the righteous in 1966.

An obituary for Sanz Briz published by Spain’s ABC newspaper in 1980 makes no mention of his exploits in Budapest.

"I never talked about this subject with him. It was not something that was discussed at home," says Juan Carlos Sanz Briz. "He must have suffered greatly, but he didn’t tell us that." Spain and the Holocaust

Before Spain returned to democracy in the mid-1970s, the Franco regime had an ambivalent stance on its role in the Holocaust, sometimes claiming that Gen Franco had in fact been a saviour of Jews. centro sefarad Franco needed arguments to improve relations with Israel, and he asked my father to say that he had acted in the head of state’s name. He agreed, but it was completely untrue" Juan Carlos Sanz Briz
Son of Angel Sanz Briz When the Nazis began deporting Jews from France, the Franco regime at first allowed many thousands to flee through Spanish territory, before tightening the policy in 1940.

Jews were refused transit papers, and those caught in the country illegally were rounded up and sent to a concentration camp at Miranda de Ebro.

At no time was any significant number of Jews given the option of refuge in Spain, not even Spanish-speaking Sephardic Jews from the Nazi-occupied Greek city of Thessaloniki.

But there is evidence that Franco began to sense the need to improve his regime’s international image as it became increasingly clear that Hitler was losing the war.

On 24 October, 1944, then foreign minister José Félix de Lequerica sent a telegram to Sanz Briz in Budapest. "On request of the World Jewish Congress please extend protection to largest number persecuted Jews," it said.

Hong Kong subway trains collide amid new signal system trials

Hong Kong subway trains collide amid new signal system trials

The collision was said to have involved a "modernised train" and occurred during a signal trial Two subway trains have collided during a new signal system test in Hong Kong, halting services and threatening travel disruption for millions of commuters.

The incident occurred between the Central and Admiralty stations before the service was open to the public early on Monday morning.

While the trains had no passengers on board, both drivers were taken to hospital.

Rail officials warned that repairs were likely to take "quite a long time".

Network operator Mass Transit Railway (MTR) said sections of the Tsuen Wan Line had been suspended and urged commuters to avoid the route affected and to use other forms of transport if possible. Neither of the two trains involved were carrying passengers at the time MTR said the collision near Hong Kong’s main business districts involved a "modernised train" that had since been returned to its depot for inspection.

An investigation into the incident is now under way.

Further disruption was caused later on Monday morning when a woman fell on to the tracks at Kowloon Tong station, causing a temporary suspension of service in that area.

Hong Kong’s subway network is used by up to six million people during weekdays, Reuters news agency reports.

‘Fake news’ sent out by government department

'Fake news' sent out by government department

A fake copy of the Times from North Korea, with communist propaganda inside British government officials forged documents to produce "fake news stories" during the Cold War, newly released files show.

The Information Research Department (IRD) was the Foreign Office’s secret propaganda unit.

For 30 years it fed information to journalists and had its own news agencies too.

Almost 2,000 of its files have been transferred to the National Archives since the start of 2019. "Cold warrior"

The files cover the early 1960s – the heyday of the IRD, when it employed between 400 and 600 people, according to Paul Lashmar, author of Britain’s Secret Propaganda War.

In 1978, Mr Lashmar was part of the team of journalists who revealed the existence of the IRD. He says this is the first time their role faking documents has been exposed.

The team was funded by the so-called "secret vote" – where government money not subject to parliamentary scrutiny was used.

Part of the project involved working abroad, but it also fed information to London-based academics and correspondents. The Berlin wall, dividing the east and west of the German city, was a famous symbol of the Cold War Among the newly released files are lists of trusted journalists.

In 1960 that included Neal Ascherson – then a young reporter at the Observer newspaper who was introduced to the IRD by Edward Crankshaw, a more senior Soviet specialist.

"I was taken to a London club and we had a nice lunch with Edward and myself and this gentleman," Mr Ascherson remembered.

"After I’d been looked over and tested… I was allowed to receive the news bulletin of eastern European ‘product’."

The IRD information was delivered by hand and treated as secret – but Mr Ascherson said he "very rapidly discovered it was completely useless", since it contained "stale, out of date" news.

He found the analysis "childish… very cold warrior", and says he never relied on the information. Faked notepaper

According to Mr Lashmar, the officials at the IRD were enjoying the game, competing with the other side.

One complex scheme involved faking a press release from the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFYD), a Communist-backed organisation based in Budapest.

In 1963, African students in Bulgaria made international news. Scores had left the country, claiming racial discrimination, and the IRD decided to use this to "intensify indignation… against Bloc countries". National Archives missing 400 files

Hong Kong-to-NI ‘spoof’ revealed

On fake headed notepaper, the IRD circulated a press release to hundreds of newspapers and opinion formers – sending the releases via the British diplomatic bag which meant they would have the right postmark.

The press release – reprinted in full by a news agency in Zanzibar – included an offensive statement that the Africans "emerging from the jungle darkness of want, [they] were not equipped to understand that food, fuel and clothes were not freely attainable…"

African students were furious. The Nigerian student union said this was a declaration of "white superiority".

Some weeks later, the WFYD insisted it had been a fake release. An image of the faked press release "Trotskyists" in Islington North

Most of the IRD’s efforts were concentrated on foreign news, but occasionally they were employed in the UK.

In 1962 Labour MP for Islington North, Gerry Reynolds, asked for their help.

He feared his local Labour party was being taken over by "a well-organised group of extreme left-wing malcontents, probably Trotskyists", and wanted the IRD to dig up any information on the individuals concerned.

The IRD turned to the security services, which confirmed that Dorothy Hayward had been a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party in 1947; that Sidney Lubin had endorsed a Communist council candidate in 1951; and that Francis Dunne had distributed a Trotskyite newsletter.

This information was "a bit stingy", wrote one IRD officer whose disappointment suggested he had expected more information. Nonetheless, he passed it on to Mr Reynolds, who remained the MP there until 1969.

It is not known what – if anything – happened to those people the IRD had named. Faked posters

The files show the IRD manufactured and distributed statements from the International Institute for Peace in Vienna on several occasions.

It also faked posters from the International Union of Students, replacing the acronym "US" with Chinese characters, to turn an anti-US nuclear campaign into an anti-Chinese one. This is the first time that IRD’s own forgeries have been revealed.

At the time, it was keen to highlight forged documents produced by the Communists. They were known to be prolific: at one point a forged British cabinet paper was being circulated amongst African leaders.

In North Korea and East Germany, such fakes were produced on an industrial scale, according to files recently released.

Mr Lashmar said: "Should a democracy be secretly putting out fake or forged material? No. If totalitarian people are manipulating things… that doesn’t mean we should follow suit."

India’s oldest political party mulls LGBTI rights in election manifesto

India's oldest political party mulls LGBTI rights in election manifesto

Transgender community protesting in Bengaluru (Photo: Facebook) India’s major opposition party the Indian National Congress (INC) is reported to be including LGBTI rights in their election manifesto.

INC will consult on the controversial Transgender Rights Bill. It may also make gender-sensitivity training mandatory for government bodies, according to The Print.

Its manifesto may also include better implementation of India’s landmark decriminalization of gay sex.

The party might also establish a women empowerment and justice department, according to News 18. Section 377

India made history in September last year when it struck down Section 377 of its Colonial-era Penal Code.

The archaic law punished gay sex with up to 10 years in jail. But, the Supreme Court ruled the law was unconstitutional.

But, the LGBTI community has warned, society will take time to change. Homophobia is still rife in the country.

A transgender bill currently in the Upper House of parliament, meanwhile, has riled the trans community.

While India’s Supreme Court recognized a third gender in 2014, transgender Indians remain marginalized.

Trans Indians say the bill enshrines discrimination rather than fights against it.

More than 900 million Indians are eligible to vote in the Lower House of Parliament elections in April and May. Congress

The INC was founded in 1885 prior to India’s independence.

Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, it became a force in India’s independence from Britain.

INC has already made the headlines this year for LGBTI inclusion.

In January, transgender activist Apsara Reddy became Indian National Congress party’s first transgender office-bearer at the national level.

INC appointed Reddy national general secretary of the party’s women’s wing, known as the Mahila Congress.

‘To be welcomed into one of India’s largest and oldest national parties is hugely emotional for me’, Reddy said.

Last month, India’s first Miss Trans Queen, Veena Sendra , joined the Indian National Congress (INC) party.

‘Today, Miss India ‘Trans Queen’ Veena Sendre joined the party expressing faith in the ideology of Congress’ INC tweeted.

‘When we say we are inclusive. We mean it’ the party also tweeted.

As Parkfield suspends its ‘LGBT lessons indefinitely’ we must all advocate for inclusive education to combat hate

As Parkfield suspends its ‘LGBT lessons indefinitely’ we must all advocate for inclusive education to combat hate

On 14 March, the Guardian reported Parkfield Community School has suspended its “LGBT lessons indefinitely”. It has done so after weekly protests against its No Outsiders lessons which teach pupils “tolerance for diverse groups”. The No Outsiders programme covers “LGBT rights” to challenge homophobia alongside “tolerance” of issues around race and gender.

Personally, I feel this is exactly the type of education we need.

In a world where hate fuels acts of harm, such as the horrific attacks in Christchurch New Zealand on 15 March, and where minority groups such as the LGBTQI+ community might feel like outsiders – impacting on mental well-being – we must all advocate for inclusive education. The UK’s education systems are available to everyone. And these education curriculum programmes should reflect the needs of all. LGBTQI+ language

Before I go any further, I’d like to critique how this story has been covered by the Guardian and the likes. Like some journalists, I share concerns on how this story has been reported in the mainstream media. Using words like “tolerance” or singling out “LGBT lessons” isn’t conducive to inclusive education. It shouldn’t take a specific lesson plan or curriculum to educate on and perpetuate inclusivity and equality. And most noteworthy, the mainstream media should not fall into this trap. Robbing children of an open mind

The government across the UK offers education to everyone. For pupils, education should reflect the needs of everyone. It should include the needs of all minorities. But Parkfield bowing to the concerns of some parents is robbing children of having a more open and accepting mind. I understand why the school must address the concerns of parents. But LGBTQI+ inclusive education won’t influence their sexuality and this ridiculous notion must be put to bed. The UK government should back and champion a UK wide policy to ensure every child has LGBTQI+ inclusive education.

Continue reading below…

As Labour MP Ged Killen said in parliament, LGBTQI+ education, or lack thereof, didn’t make him “any less gay”: “Having no LGBT sex and relationship education didn’t make me any less gay”. Yesterday I asked the Education Secretary to confirm that every child in every school will have an LGBT inclusive education — Ged Killen (@Gedk) February 26, 2019 Time for Inclusive Education Campaign

But in Scotland, the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) Campaign has spearheaded a real aligned and inclusive LGBTQI+ education programme. The campaign aims to ensure “LGBT history, role models & equalities be taught & recognised within all schools” in Scotland. The Scottish parliament “ mandated ” the TIE Campaign’s aims in 2017. It then supported the rollout of this inclusive education programme across all state schools in 2018.

The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, pledged her support for LGBTQI+ education in October 2017: First Minister @NicolaSturgeon supports our campaign for LGBTI-inclusive education & we’re working with @scotgov to deliver it #BeThatVoice — TIE (@tiecampaign) October 22, 2017 Moreover, Sturgeon led Scotland’s largest Pride event in Glasgow as the honorary grand marshal in July 2018. The first minister’s actions show what leading from the front on LGBTQI+ issues looks like.

Although the UK government’s education secretary Damian Hinds “ backed ” Parkfield’s No Outsiders programme, the Scottish approach is how we should be combating homophobia, biphobia and transphobia across the UK. Because a policy like this should be led from the top of government. Let’s be frank, the Conservative Party has bridges to build with the LGBTQI+ community in education after Section 28 . But I also struggle to see Theresa May donning a rainbow flag and marching with LGBTQI+ marchers through any major city in the UK. If indeed she lasts as prime minister until the end of March. We need solidarity

I appreciate what Parkfield was doing. The school only wanted to promote equality and challenge bullying. And even after an investigation prompted by the protests, Ofsted agreed the No Outsiders programme is age appropriate. I am proud of Andrew Moffat, the school’s deputy headteacher who identifies as LGBTQI+, for sticking his neck out for the greater good. But I am so saddened to see he has received abuse – including a targeted leaflet campaign. I am saddened that members of different religious and non-religious communities cannot see the benefit of using education to overcome prejudice – some who may have been victims of hate themselves. What a really sorry state of affairs. The individuals peddling the abuse towards Moffat may have children that are LGBTQI+ and that makes me even sadder.

However, if all minorities had historically stood in solidarity against hate, we just might be living in a society that nurtures positive mental wellbeing. We would not be living in a society where hate crime against LGBTQI+ people is rising and where mental health issues are rampant . But I believe we can get there.

Across the UK the value of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education needs to be recognised in general. But the onus is on all of us, across the political spectrum, to work towards promoting love and unconditional acceptance to young people. And that should start with the Conservative UK government committing to inclusive LGBTQI+ education for all. I feel the rest will follow suit, with hard work and a bit of understanding.

Here’s why LGBTI Jews love the holiday of Purim

Here's why LGBTI Jews love the holiday of Purim

Children participating in a Purim parade show off their costumes. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons) Purim is a Jewish holiday celebrated in the spring. Known for its costumes and triangle-shaped cookies (Hamantaschens), Purim recounts the story of Queen Esther saving the Jewish people from annihilation.

But for many LGBTI Jews, the story of Purim is so much more. It can be seen as an analogy for coming out. The story of Purim

Esther, a young Jewish girl, became Queen of Persia after the king chose her in a beauty contest. Esther was an orphan who lived with her cousin, Mordechai. Not long after Esther becomes queen, the evil grand vizier Haman became offended when Mordechai refused to bow to him. With this, he decides to punish not only Mordechai, but all the Jewish people. He informs King Ahasuerus that the Jews do not obey him. He suggests it would be in the King’s best interest to get rid of them.

In defiance, Esther fasts for three days. She then requests that King Ahasuerus organize a banquet and invite Haman to it. At the banquet, with Haman in attendance, the King asks Esther what she desires.

‘If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life — this is my petition. And spare my people — this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated,’ Esther responds (Esther 7:3).

The King is outraged that anyone would threaten his queen. He asks who is to blame, and she says Haman. The King orders Haman to be executed and gives Esther the power to overturn his orders. She issues an edict allowing all Jewish people the right to freely assemble and protect themselves from harm, which they did.

Queen Esther is celebrated for her bravery in letting it be known she was Jewish despite mounting hatred against the Jewish people.

The holiday is known as Purim because Haman cast the pur (meaning ‘lot’) on the Jews. But he ultimately failed to destroy them. Now, we celebrate in costumes and by eating Hamantaschens, designed after the funny looking triangle hat Haman wore. LGBTI Jews & Purim

In modern eras, LGBTI Jews see something of themselves within Esther and the story of Purim. It’s no wonder why many LGBTI communities host parties . For instance, the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan is hosting its own 12th annual LGBTI Purim Ball .

Many LGBTI Jews see the story of Purim as an allegory for coming out. In the story, Esther ‘came out’ as a Jew in Persia. She was brave in this, despite knowing many powerful people like Haman had it out for her people.

‘Coming out also led me to see a new dimension in the Purim story,’ writes Amram Altzman for Jewcy. ‘It was not only Esther’s fear of taking responsibility that scared her. It was the peeling away of the false identity she had created to conceal her Judaism.’ Coming Out

‘As a child, I had read rabbinic stories of how Esther would light Shabbat candles and practice Judaism in secret, with only Mordechai and a few of her maids aware of her real identity. After hiding for so long, she feared the response to her true self. Would she be rejected by her husband, the king, who had approved Haman’s plan to exterminate her people? What if she couldn’t save her people? And what if the king decided that she, despite being queen, would not be spared?’

‘Like I did when I was coming out, Esther shed her false identity in stages. Initially she does not mention her Jewishness, only that a nation is about to be exterminated. Later, she reveals her affiliation with Mordechai and the greater Jewish community. Ahasuerus becomes angered not at the fact that the Jews are in danger, but that a single minority is in danger. In executing Haman, Ahasuerus sent the message that intolerance of any kind was unacceptable in his kingdom, which was known for its diversity (the beginning of the megillah tells us that the Persian empire included no fewer than 127 distinct nations). Megillat Esther is story about—and a call for—social justice, as much as it is about shedding the false identities we create so as to not be rejected.’ Revealing identities

‘Being queer and being Jewish aren’t the same. But Esther’s courageous decision to reveal a part of her identity, despite the fact that it may not be well-received, is something many LGBTQ people can relate to,’ echoes Josh Goodman for Huffington Post.

‘Esther not only states that she is Jewish, but also behests the King to spare the Jewish people. Her fight for her people is not all too different from fighting for LGBTQ rights today. There may not be a credible plan to wipe out all LGBTQ people (at least, not in the Western World), but there are plenty of people who are working to keep our rights limited. Passively hoping that rights come our way is less likely to be effective than actively making our case for why we deserve equal rights and fair treatment.’ LGBTI inclusion in Purim

Goodman and Altzman aren’t the only ones who see connections between the story of Purim and the plight of LGBTI people. An LGBTI-inclusive children’s book called The Purim Superhero was released a few years ago. In the book, the protagonist comes from a Jewish family with two dads.

‘Purim is an event which brings people together, symbolizes the concept of ve’nahafoch hu [things turned on their head], ad deloyada [not being able to distinguish between opposite notions], the idea of gender fluidity and transforming our understanding of things and putting them into a different perspective. These are all themes that connected to LGBTQ experience and identity,’ Sarah Weil, executive director of the Women’s Gathering community of LGBTQ women, told the Jerusalem Post in 2016.

This year, Purim falls on Wednesday, 20 March. See Also:

This bisexual teen is urging Mitch McConnell to ban conversion therapy nationally

This bisexual teen is urging Mitch McConnell to ban conversion therapy nationally

A protest sign reading ‘Self-hatred is NOT therapy.’ (Photo from Wikimedia Commons) Shane* is an 18-year-old bisexual from New Jersey. He is currently petitioning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to ban conversion therapy across the United States. Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell, a Republican Senator from Kentucky, is known for his opposition to LGBTI rights and protections. Last May, McConnell appointed anti-LGBTI activist Tony Perkins to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. He also sought to confirm numerous anti-LGBTI judges to district courts around the country.

Still, Shane set up a petition urging Senator McConnell to reconsider his position. The petition

‘Fourteen states have banned conversion therapy for young people. [It is a] dangerous religion-based procedures which try to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. “Ex-gay therapy” has been linked to suicide, depression, isolation and anxiety. [It] has been condemned by nearly every medical and psychological body as dangerous, destructive and something no person should be forced to undergo,’ Shane writes on the petition page.

‘And yet in 36 states, “ex-gay therapy” remains a practice that’s largely legal. But there is national momentum as more and more states move to ban [it] and protect minors from attempts to “cure” them of their sexual orientation.’

‘Fourteen states banning this false therapy is far from enough. LGBTQ+ kids are still facing dangerous “ex-gay therapy” attempts in more than 30 states around the country.’ Why it matters to Shane

GSN spoke with Shane about the petition and his hopes for it moving forward.

‘A few months back, I met a couple of friends I’m close with through a gaming server,’ Shane explains. ‘Most of the folks in said server are LGBT+, so it’s a pretty supportive environment.’

‘At one point, one of my friends came to us and told us that she (MtF trans and bisexual, lives in a very right-leaning area) was being forced into conversion therapy by her Catholic private school counselor. She told us how terrified she had been of it, and her troubles were a wake-up slap to me.’

‘I’ve always lived in an accepting neighborhood. And I’m fairly open about my bisexuality, and don’t feel like I have to be worried for my welfare. Learning that there were people in the majority of the country like myself who weren’t allowed the same security disgusted me. After talking to a counselor, who told me a story about one of her other students who was forced into a traditional “pray the gay away” camp, I decided to start the petition. I’ve found a lot of support along the way from smaller groups and friends. I’m hoping that one day, I will have enough signatures to get a legislation passed to end conversion therapy in the States permanently.’

To keep up with Shane’s petition progress, follow him on Twitter: @rainbowprole

*A pseudonym was used at the request of the interview subject See Also:

Janelle Monáe will induct Janet Jackson into the 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Janelle Monáe will induct Janet Jackson into the 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Janelle Monáe (left) will induct Janet Jackson into the 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Photos from Wikimedia Commons) The 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees include female performers who are allies to the LGBTI community. One such inductee is the legendary Janet Jackson. And what’s more: pansexual music icon Janelle Monáe will be the one inducting Jackson.

‘In a fabulous display of one generation honoring the former that inspired them and their own work, Janelle Monáe will be presenting Jackson with the coveted honor,’ writes Tonja Renée Stidhum for The Root. ‘Talk about giving flowers to those who came before you and paved the way—Monáe is a perfect choice, as the sex positivity displayed in her latest work Dirty Computer is somewhat reminiscent of Control-era Jackson’s self-actualization.’

Janelle Monáe, who came out as pansexual last year, dedicated her recent Grammy nominations to her ‘trans brothers and sisters.’ She will soon delve into acting as well, with her role as iconic feminist Dorothy Pitman Hughes in the upcoming Gloria Steinem biopic. 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony

According to HBO’s press release, the complete lineup for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony is as follows:

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, presenting for The Cure
Brian May of Queen, presenting for Def Leppard
Janelle Monáe, presenting for Janet Jackson
Harry Styles, presenting for Stevie Nicks
David Byrne, presenting for Radiohead
John Taylor and Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, presenting for Roxy Music
Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles, presenting for The Zombies

HBO will be exclusively airing the 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The show airs on 27 April at 8:00 PM EST. It will also be available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand, and other partnering streaming services. See Also: