The year 2016 was an awful year and yes, in part, because we were confronted with our own mortality by the abrupt and premature deaths of our pop culture icons. However, more importantly, 2016 was an awful year because America’s populace was more uniformed than we’ve ever been; not because we do not have enough information, but because we have too much information. In an age where cable TV news is 24/7 and newspapers are being replaced by instantaneous digital news, it is easy to see how Americans are more prone to reading and accepting what has become known as “fake news” as actual news. [Read more…] about A New Year’s Resolution for America: Enough with The Fake News!
Manhattan Digest has always been an apolitical entity. We don’t take sides in elections. We are a positive media outlet that aims to steer clear of the division and rancor that colors the comments section of websites discussing political matters. Manhattan Digest likes to focus on culture, daily living, celebrity culture, LGBT issues, and other non-political subjects with the goal of bringing out the best in our readers. A difficult task when our current political climate is bringing out the worst in some Americans. However, this election is one where the stakes could not be higher and our nation’s future hangs in the balance. Therefore, in such a consequential election in a consequential time, Manhattan Digest is getting off the sidelines and declaring: We’re With Her. Manhattan Digest enthusiastically endorses former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton for President of the United States. [Read more…] about Manhattan Digest: We’re With Her
From the age of 18, I have been an active voter and a vocal participant in local politics. I have been an enthusiastic campaign volunteer, a starry-eyed city council intern, a party stalwart for my local Democratic Party organization, and even became the first openly gay President of the Young Democrats of Richmond County. Therefore, it should be no surprise that every election season is met with great excitement and anticipation. Every speech, a potential turning point, every State of The Union Address is my super bowl, and even the most boring of debates have captivated more of my attention than perhaps they should. 2016 has been no different. I have read nearly every article on the subject of this election, actively monitored every poll by the minute, and have been a religious viewer of every debate from the primary to the general election. However, recently, for the first time in my life, the most anticipated moment about an election is its end. This is a sentiment that I know many Americans of all political stripes share. [Read more…] about Let’s Shut Up and Vote Already!
I am new to Manhattan Digest, so it’s time I formally introduce myself to our readers. My name is Andrew Savage and for the past six years, I have been a proud high school teacher. It has been my pride and joy to watch students learn, grow, and flourish. I have never doubted that my students learned and considered their experiences in my class valuable. Every measurable indicator such as test scores and observations from peers and supervisors have confirmed this. I love what I do which is why I feel it’s time to stand up for my colleagues and public education here in New York City and across this nation. Our profession is in a state of crisis where the demands and pressures of teaching have overshadowed the joy and fulfillment that we get out of doing our jobs. [Read more…] about Stop the Dehumanization of Teachers
Consider the ongoing debate regards public access to bathrooms for gender non-conformists. We often hear of incidents where men who identify and appear as women are often shamed and chased from women’s bathrooms. There may be a solution, we could continue to segregate our public bathrooms, but in a different way. Rather than being gender focused, we could be age focused.
The Russian Federation outlawed openly advocating any speech “propaganda” in relation to LGBTI topics as propaganda that could damage society. In the wake of this neighboring countries now seem to be following suit. Kyrgyzstan has introduced a similar bill in parliament that would criminalize the promotion of homosexuality. Like in Russia, if passed citizens in Kyrgyzstan could face up to a year of imprisonment for advocating LGBTI issues.
Is this a new wave of anti-LGBTI sentiment, evolving into anti gay propaganda, as long as gay people keep it to themselves they are law abiding citizens?
“The sponsors of this bill define ‘non-traditional sexual relations’ as ‘sodomy, lesbianism and other forms of non-traditional sexual behavior,’” according to the organization. “They justify the amendments as necessary ‘to safeguard and protect the traditional family, human, moral, and historical values of Kyrgyz society.’”
Kyrgyzstan already has a hostile climate towards the LGBTI community and with the potential of this ‘draconian’ bill being put into effect, things look darker for the Kyrgyz LGBTI community. According to the bill those convicted of violating the law would face up to six months in prison and a fine of 2,000 to 5,000 som ($36 to $91). For repeat offenders the maximum sentence would be a year in prison and a fine of up to 6,000 som ($110).
In other ex-soviet satellites, the Ukraine considered such a bill but it was not passed, Moldova repealed a ‘gay propaganda’ law last July, a month after it was enacted and a similar bill is pending in Lithuania.
It appears the ex-soviet sphere is in a decline of human rights and equality for LGBTI communities with ever tightening restrictions on their livelihoods and social-inclusion. So far the Russian Federation has met little to no political opposition regards its law which removes certain human rights and freedoms from a minority of its population.
Will the old Soviet Union reunite under an anti-LGBTI “propaganda” law?
Upon scrolling through the articles and postings by Facebook friends this morning, I came across an article from the Gothamist about the items for sale in the gift shop of the 9/11 museum:
In a city known for hustling and making a fast buck, I find very little wrong with entrepreneurial endeavors and sheer capitalistic gain. In fact, this is what makes New York City so remarkable. Sure, there is competition–But there is also opportunity and drive which far exceeds the confines of unattainable growth and apathy found in too many places across our free country. This is why religious zealots hate us. So much in fact, that they attempted to cripple our nation on September 11, 2001. Al Qaeda partially succeeded, having killed approximately 3,000 individuals in Lower Manhattan, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania.
I didn’t fully agree with the prevention of rebuilding the space that occupied the World Trade Center. I am more than sensitive to the fact that family and friends lost one loved ones. Those left behind hoped that the space would remain vacant since it was a heartbreaking remembrance of tragic death . Given that the event occurred in the heart of the financial district, however, would make this infeasible. As difficult and painful as it is, life must continue and the business world must prosper-to reasonable extent. I will elaborate on this further.
In typical bureaucratic fashion, it took years of heated argument and discussion, until a decision was to be made about what would be built in its place. Architect Michael Arad’s concept of falling waters was simple and profound. It offered a quiet, pensive beauty, replete with solemnity and honor. The exhibit opened in 2010 and continues to be a fitting memorial where visitors can attend (free of charge), and read the names of those who perished. Much like the Vietnam and Korean War memorials, such places are intended to offer reflection, gratitude, and hope. And they succeed.
This week, the 9/11 Museum opened. According to its website it offers the following mission statement:
“Demonstrating the consequences of terrorism on individual lives and its impact on communities at the local, national, and international levels, the Museum attests to the triumph of human dignity over human depravity and affirms an unwavering commitment to the fundamental value of human life.”
The purpose of the memorial is well intended as it is extremely costly to maintain. The museums’ yearly operating costs are estimated at 60 million, and it receives no federal or state funding. However, the museum crosses the line of decency by incorporating a gift shop on the premises. In no way does this “attest to the triumph of human dignity over human depravitiy”. What it does attest to is the simple fact that museum owners can make an easy and quick dollar on the backs of voyeuristic tourists, which rather exemplifies human depravity. How does a cheese plate in the shape of the United States, or a stuffed animal puppy with a first responder vest—or even a seemingly innocuous coffee mug- help us to “Never Forget?”. Easy answer: It does not.
Having been a New Yorker on that horrific day and those following, I can unpleasantly recall the requests from visitors “wanting to visit Ground Zero.” It was not out of reverence for the event that had just happened, but rather a morbid fascination and a chance to tell friends and neighbors that they were there. This was all before the dawn of social media. Thirteen years later, you can believe that throngs of people will flock towards Chambers Street, posting selfies of themselves with friends and reassuring us with comments that they are “never forgetting.” After all, on Facebook, we can show the world just how much compassion and care we truly have. Politicians will continue to use this place as a platform for patriotism and will reassure us with their eloquent speeches that we are a “strong and resilient” people. Consequently, the intent and significance which the ground represents will be blinded by displays of self serving bravado and attention.
Carrying cheap tchotchkes to the heartland does not bring honor to anyone who suffered the devastation of 9/11. Carrying their memory in your hearts and minds does. Teaching your children tolerance and respect does. Rejoicing and expressing gratitude in our freedom does. Understanding that capitalism works, but not at the sacrifice of human life does. I will never forget the unspeakable tragedy that unfolded on that infamous day. As for the unspeakably distasteful gift shop—I’ll forget it.
Since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, early spring marks the time for NYC to speak up about a problem that plagues more women and men than most would like to imagine. With statistics that point to approximately 237,868 survivors of sexual assault each year in the United States, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, and a rate of one sexual assault in the U.S. per every two minutes, it’s important that we have a month dedicated to spreading knowledge of such a devastating issue that affects so many.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014, focused on a particular event concerning the month’s overall message. The day gave people a chance to reflect on one of the legal systems many failures to prosecute for sexual assault. Having grown out of a 1998 Italian Supreme Court decision that overturned a rape conviction, “Denim Day” got its name because the victim from the case worse tight jeans on the day of her assault. Thus, the presiding judge decided that the victim must have helped her attacker remove her jeans before he raped her, which, in the court’s mind, indicated consent.
Though we’d like to think that nowadays the courts know better than to equate tight jeans with consent, Denim Day serves as a reminder of such attitudes that help rapists get away with their crimes and re-victimize those who have already been violated. On Wednesday, the 23rd, people were encouraged to wear jeans as a symbol of discontent with the Italian Supreme Court ruling and the thinking that lead to it.
In New York City, Denim Day took a number of different forms. The NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault, in conjunction with St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Crime Victims Treatment Center, Start Strong Bronx, YWCA of Brooklyn, and other organizations from around the city held a Denim Day press conference hosted by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Julissa Ferreras. Located on the steps of City Hall, the conference stressed the importance of men speaking out against sexual assault, which keynote speaker Police Commissioner William Bratton helped support.
Meanwhile, at Beth Israel hospital, a table set up in the main lobby held informational pamphlets, papers, and pins surrounding the day’s message. Glitter glue signs attested to attire, behavior, and time of day never serving as excuses for sexual assault. For example, a sign read something like, “I have the right to walk down the street alone late at night without the fear of getting raped.”
People’s reactions to the information varied. One of the most disappointing came from a man who sympathized with rapists, noting that rape is a stupid action to take because “it could ruin the guy’s life.” As this was certainly not the message passersby were meant to take from the table, it is important to note that the positive responses outweighed such misplaced sympathy. One hospital worker took a pamphlet about services the BI offers regarding sexual assault, planning to share the information with patients of his who had suffered from that particular trauma. Others showed equal enthusiasm, grabbing pins for coworkers and expressing thanks for spreading the message.
Jean brand Guess also showed their support by providing information on their website and requesting people take the pledge to wear jeans on April 23rd. The Columbia University dining hall even served a cake, decorated with roses, in solidarity of the message usually espoused by wearing jeans. Though intentions behind the cake were reportedly positive, the gesture was ultimately deemed inappropriate and the cake was taken away, unsurprisingly untouched. Sporting denim and spreading a message that condemns rapists and those who let them get away with their actions, of course, remain the best ways to show support. With about a week left in April, there’s still time to raise awareness for the month’s cause (and there’s always time to continue to do so indefinitely).
While Marriage Equality continues to spread over the United States of America and Europe like an unstoppable tidal wave, our African brothers and sisters are suffering a wave of anti-gay sentiment and anti-gay laws.
So why are African leaders getting away with laws that in some cases offer nothing but death as an option for being gay?
African politicians are referring to being gay as “learned” behaviors, and being gay as “disgusting” and a “genetic distortion”. The unfortunate effect of leaders using these sorts of negative descriptions for homosexuality is the uneducated populations willingly absorb these connotations and live by them as fact and absolute truth. So what is a peasant farmer in Uganda, who has no access to education, to believe. Would he question his political leaders as being right or wrong? Well the outcome here is the farmer more than likely will adopt the anti-gay rhetoric being publicized as normal by political leaders and more alarmingly spread this anti-gay sentiment and embed it in the minds of the next generation via his children and grandchildren.
The African education system is lacking also as a tool for equality, with teachers being the primary guilty party for truancy, and even if they were present full time would they teach equality in the state run classrooms? The short answer is no. Education for the most part is run by the same anti-gay politicians. So our new African generations will most likely not gain valuable equality information from school either.
So where do our new generations of Africans learn about the world, the struggle for equality and the future of societal change?
Cell phones – Africa’s cell phone use has risen to well over 650 million in recent years and is being used for many outreach activities, more noticeably and successfully as a mobile banking system (M-PESA) for the many Africans who have no where to store money or the ability to enact transactions to buy food, materials for survival. These cell phones can access Twitter, Facebook, the internet at large and as we have seen in global development, the information age has spread the societal movement and development faster than ever before. Campaigns spread around the world at incredible speeds and gain support like a typhoon, most memorable was the campaign “Kony 2012”, however ill-fated as it was we are unable to deny the incredible level of support this campaign generated in such a small space of time.
Perhaps Africa will also generate its own whirlwind of online campaigning and support in time via gay equality movements from the local civil society of Africa, and we outsiders to Africa must support, hit our like buttons, comment and create a deafening call of support that African leaders are unable to ignore, so our brothers and sisters in Africa are encouraged to continue fighting for their equal and human rights to love, be free and be who they are open and proud.
The picture below illustrates the current state of anti-gay laws on the African continent.
There are over twenty programs specifically dedicated to providing services for survivors of sexual assault in the five boroughs. Such Rape Crisis Programs provide counseling, advocacy, and other invaluable resources to survivors. With an estimated roughly 7 million survivors of this heinous act living in New York State, these programs play a necessary role in the people of New York’s health.
Unfortunately, Rape Crisis Programs in New York are not getting nearly as much funding as they need to effectively carry out their important services. Rape is the second most expensive crime behind murder in NY, which oddly does not align with service-related statistics. For example, the number of survivors served by Rape Crisis Programs in New York State increased by 65% in the last two years. Meanwhile, statewide funding for such programs went down by 25% since 2007.
Right now, Rape Crisis Programs in the city are struggling to meet the needs of myriad survivors. Beth Israel’s (now in the process of merging with Mount Sinai) program, headed by Carol Sher, specifically voiced the need for at least one additional member to add to their currently overworked staff.
That’s about what the additional funding requested by a New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault’s petition would allow. The petition asks for a statewide budget increase of $4 million, from the current $3.4 to $7.4 million. Spread throughout the entire state, the extra funding would amount to $55,000 per program in need. That means one more staff member to help in the program at the East Village B.I., which could go a long way.
A 2006 article by Rebecca Campbell, Rape Survivors’ Experience With the Legal and Medical Systems: Do Rape Victim Advocates Make a Difference?, showed just how much of an effect RCPs have on a survivor’s time in the hospital emergency department (where the majority of rape survivors first seek care after an assault). The study from the article took statistics from survivors’ experiences at two different hospitals, one that provided an advocate for the survivor through an RCP and one that did not. Survivors with provided advocates were more likely to have law enforcement take their cases seriously, receive information about STD prophylaxis, and get more information about follow-up medical services. Meanwhile, survivors without advocates expressed more feelings of guilt and depression than their advocate-assisted counterparts and ended up being 25% less likely to seek further help after their visit to the hospital.
Not much media buzz is generated in regards to funding for these kinds of programs in NYC, in spite of how often people in the city unfortunately have to use them. Statistics from 2008 show that over $1.7 million went towards almost 2,200 sexual assault forensic exams that year. Based on the increased number of survivors served by Rape Crisis Programs since 2012, it stands to reason that those numbers have grown, too.
The Office of Victim Services in the city (then known as the Crime Victim’s Board) covered those $1.7 million, since hospitals do not charge patients admitted for sexual assault for the forensic exam. However, the figure still helps provide a sense of the overall cost that must go into services for survivors, from medical to social and legal.
Though that particular figure is not equivalent to funding used by a Rape Crisis Program itself, it makes the extra $55k a year that Beth Israel and similar programs seek seem pretty modest. Sexual assault is certainly a reality in Manhattan, and the people who work to help survivors through a very traumatizing experience could always use an extra hand.
For the statistics cited in this article, visit the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault’s website.