Monday October 23, 2017

iPhone app to address health issues of LGBT community

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New York: A team of researchers is launching a new study with the help of an iPhone app to look into the health and wellness issues of LGBT people.

A new ‘ResearchKit’ app developed by the University of California at San Francisco will survey a wide range of LGBT folks about health issues like HIV/AIDS, smoking, cancer, obesity, mental issues and depression, macworld.com reported.

Launched last March during Apple’s ‘Spring Forward’ event, the open-source ResearchKit framework has already been used to develop apps to conduct research on diabetes, breast cancer, asthma, cardiovascular disease and Parkinson’s disease using information collected by iPhone sensors and user surveys.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook has called ResearchKit as “perhaps the most profound change and positive impact the iPhone will make on our health”.

The study called ‘PRIDE Study’, is meant to shed some light on the unique health needs of LGBT folks.

“The main question there is, what is the relationship between being LGBTQ — or more broadly a sexual or gender minority person — and mental and physical health?” , Mitchell Lunn, co-director of the PRIDE Study at UCSF, was quoted as saying.

Lunn is hoping that the study will be useful in addressing the health concerns of transgender and bisexual people, an understudied segment of the LGBT population.

LGBT health advocates are optimistic about the vast potential of tapping into the iPhone’s massive user base to gather this vital information.

Finding people to sign up for a medical study and getting them to come to a clinic is very difficult. Now they can simply submit information on their iPhones from their place.

The study will also ask people to suggest which health topics pertaining to the LGBT community they want the study to address and the UCSF researchers will compile that user feedback to create the final survey questions.

(IANS)

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India becoming more Transgender- Friendly: Read this report

Male-to-female "hijras", the most visible group in the transgender community, feature in Hindu mythology and are seen as auspicious oddities whose blessings are sought at weddings and births.

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Transgenders in India
People belonging to the transgender community take a picture with a mobile phone before the start of a rally for transgender rights in Mumbai, India, January 13, 2017. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade - RTX2YSL4
India's Supreme Court gave transgender people "third gender" recognition in 2014.
A growing number of Indian companies are now actively hiring transgender people.
India's 2011 census recorded half a million transgender people, 
but campaigners estimate the number at about 2 million.

By Roli Srivastava

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – During a training session for its first set of transgender recruits, officials from the new metro rail company in the southern Indian city of Kochi asked them if they had any concerns. They had just one: bathroom access.

“The project construction was complete by then and the stations were ready,” said Reshmi Chandrathil Ravi, a spokeswoman for Kochi Metro Rail, a new network in the port city launched at the weekend by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“So we are now turning the big bathrooms for the differently-abled into all-gender bathrooms to be shared with the disabled,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The washroom signs have now been removed and sent for a fresh “inclusive design”. And the company has allowed its transgender recruits to choose a male or female uniform.

Kochi Metro Rail is the first government-owned company to recruit staff from the transgender community as part of Kerala state’s initiative to give the marginalised group better access to job opportunities.

Since India’s Supreme Court gave transgender people “third gender” recognition in 2014, a growing number of Indian companies have actively hired transgender people and drafted policies to ensure they are not discriminated against in the workplace.

India’s 2011 census recorded half a million transgender people but campaigners estimate the number at about 2 million. Less than half are literate and even fewer have jobs, according to the census. Traditionally, transgender people in India have been confined to the margins of society.

Male-to-female “hijras”, the most visible group in the transgender community, feature in Hindu mythology and are seen as auspicious oddities whose blessings are sought at weddings and births.

Male-to-female Hijras are considered auspicious by Hindus. Click To Tweet

This popular perception of transgender people has meant they have struggled to find regular jobs, campaigners said.

But attitudes are slowly starting to change.

“At least 12 to 13 of our member companies already have all-gender bathrooms. This started happening since last year,” said Rashmi Vikram, senior manager with Community Business, a charity that supports firms seeking to be more socially inclusive.

“Some companies have turned the disability restroom to all gender, all-abilities restroom, promoting it in a way that there is no stigma attached to it. It didn’t require a big infrastructural change, but it sent out a positive message.”

BUDDIES AND BENEFITS

A handful of firms have gone beyond ensuring bathroom access.

Global technology firm ThoughtWorks hired a transgender person in its Bangalore office as part of a diversity initiative last year and went on to provide an office buddy and an external counsellor to its new employee to smooth the settling-in period.

And in a first, IBM – named as the world’s most LGBT-inclusive company by Amsterdam-based Workplace Pride Foundation – will from this year cover gender affirmation surgery under its corporate health benefit plan, a spokeswoman for IBM India said.

Another major Indian IT firm that opened a new campus in Mumbai last year ensured at the planning stage it would have a unisex bathroom following requests from transgender employees.

Some firms are also hand-holding transgender staff during the initial employment period and keeping their identities discreet on request, but campaigners say the trend is restricted to big companies.

MANY CHALLENGES

Nyra D’souza, a transgender woman, never took a bathroom break when she worked at a Mumbai outsourcing firm – uncomfortable in the men’s washroom and not allowed in the women’s facility.

It meant holding on for 15 hours before she reached home.

At job interviews, she had been told to consider fashion, beauty or films for a job “where I could be myself”.

But when she was interviewed at Mumbai-headquartered Godrej – a leading Indian conglomerate with interests ranging from consumer goods to real estate – she was asked about her work experience, not gender.

This, a Godrej spokeswoman said, was in tune with the company’s policy to make all interactions gender-neutral.

“Such experiences are limited only to big companies, not small,” said D’souza, who finds others from her community struggling to find jobs, or dignity in the workplace if they do.

After the Supreme Court ruling, campaigners said more companies are coming forward to recruit transgender people, but are reluctant to make adaptations.

“Over the past year, we have got nearly 15 requests from companies that wish to hire a transgender, but they retreat when I ask them about bathroom access,” said Koninika Roy of the Mumbai-based Humsafar Trust that works with the LGBT community and tries to match them with jobs.

The trust had one successful placement in the last year.

But Solidarity Foundation, a Bangalore-based rights group that works with sexual minorities, had more success – it placed 15 transgender people over the last year.

“Companies are becoming more open and talking about these issues, but integration is still not part of their DNA,” said Shubha Chacko, executive director of Solidarity Foundation.

Chacko cited the case of a transgender person detained at the office gate by security guards on his first day at work.

“The biggest challenge in India is the mindset. They connect transgender to people who beg on the streets, do sex work or sing at weddings,” said Vikram of Community Business.

“We still have a long way to go. A lot more work needs to be done.”

(Reporting by Roli Srivastava @Rolionaroll; Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)

 

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How did Rainbow Flag attain the Prestige of representing the LGBT Community?

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Gay pride Flag
Rainbow Flag represents LGBT community, VOA
  • Gilbert Baker who is exceptionally multi-talented was commissioned to create a flag by another gay icon, politician Harvey Milk
  • American flag’s constant display of stars and stripes made him realize the cultural need for a similar rallying sign for the gay community
  • The different colors of the rainbow emphasized togetherness

San Francisco, June 3, 2017: Everyone is delighted to see gay pride’s rainbow flags representing LGBT community winding outside of residential areas, hotels, and other public places. Hitching up them to shirts and on the back of hampers is also in trend expressing universal and never-ending love for colors. But have they ever wondered that who created the rainbow flag (also called Gay Flag) and why did it become a symbol of the LGBT community?

Gilbert Baker (also known as Busty Ross)-an exceptionally multi-talented gay activist- was commissioned to create a flag by another gay icon, politician Harvey Milk, for San Francisco’s auspicious annual pride parade. This Vietnam War veteran and then drag-performer designed the rainbow flag in 1978.

During in an interview in 2015, Baker told the Museum of Modern Art that American flag’s constant display of stars and stripes made him realize the cultural need for a similar rallying sign for the gay community. Besides being a struggling drag performer who was accustomed to create his own garments, he was well-equipped to sew the soon-to-be iconic symbol. As the idea of a flag to represent the gay and lesbian community was already hovering over his mind, the decision to enlist Baker proved fortuitous.

At that time, Nazis used betoken of a pink triangle to symbolize the homosexual group and thus, it metamorphosed into an image for the burgeoning gay rights movement. Baker rejected the use of widely accepted symbol because that symbol represented a dark and painful past. He instead opted to use a rainbow as his inspiration.

Choice of colors behind LGBT Flag: The different colors of the rainbow emphasized togetherness. Since LGBT people come in all races, ages and genders, and the rainbow is the agglomeration of all the colors as well as an indicator of both natural and beautiful. The original flag featured eight colors, each having a different meaning. At the top was hot pink, which represented sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow signifying sunlight, green for nature, turquoise to represent art, indigo for harmony, and finally violet at the bottom for the spirit.

Baker was able to construct the first draft of the now world-renowned rainbow flag, with the help of approximately 30 volunteers working in the heart of the Gay Community Center in San Francisco. It was first showcased at San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978.

After the design was unveiled, it imparted a sense of pride among the participants of the parade. In the Paramount Flag Company, the flag was sold in the new altered version where blue replaced hot pink and turquoise for practicality purposes. The assassination of Harvey Milk augmented the rainbow banner only increased. Popularity was hiked again a decade later when a West Hollywood resident sued his landlord over the right to hang his flag outside his residence.

In the years since the rainbow flag has never seen back in popularity. It is unfurled around the globe as a positive representation of the LGBT community. A mile-long version of the flag was created to celebrate the 25th anniversaries of two landmark events; the Stonewall Riots and Baker’s creation of the flag itself.

At the age of 65, Baker died on March 31, 2017, just two years after the legalization of same-sex marriage throughout the U.S. His legacy now remains immortal on in the six-colored flag that flies proudly every Gay Pride month, recognizing the lives and love of LGBT people worldwide.

– by Himanshi Goyal of Newsgram. Twitter: @himanshi1104

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Terror Strikes Again: Islamic State Tries to Trigger ‘War of Religions’ in West

The latest issue of IS's online magazine Dabiq, widely read by supporters and sympathizers, focuses on the theme of “Break the Cross”

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A picture of late Father Jacques Hamel is placed on flowers at the makeshift memorial in front of the city hall closed to the church where an hostage taking left a priest dead the day before in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, July 27, 2016. Image source: AP
  • Pope Francis, as well as Orthodox and Coptic church leaders, is among those singled as targets in the 15th issue of Dabiq, released Sunday, July 31
  • The “gray zone” was defined in a January 2015 issue of Dabiq as a “twilight area occupied by most Muslims between good and evil, the Caliphate and the Infidel”
  • French officials were already alarmed before the release of Dabiq at the prospect of IS attacks causing a “war against communities”

The Islamic State (IS) is inciting supporters to mount more attacks on Christians just days after two of the terror group’s sympathizers slit the throat of an 85-year-old French priest as he was celebrating Mass — a killing French officials fear was a deliberate tactic to provoke a Christian backlash in France against Muslims.

The latest issue of IS’s online magazine Dabiq, widely read by supporters and sympathizers, focuses on the theme of “Break the Cross.” In a series of interviews, foreign fighters who have converted from Christianity are used as mouthpieces to urge supporters in the West to destroy “arrogant Christian disbelievers.” They exhort Muslims to “pray for Allah’s curse to be upon the liars.”

Pope singled out as target

Pope Francis, as well as Orthodox and Coptic church leaders, is among those singled as targets in the 15th issue of Dabiq, released Sunday, July 31. IS propagandists mock the Pope, saying the Pontiff only condemned the mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando “because he comes from long line of boy rapists.”

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The Catholic Church condemned forthrightly the Orlando terror attack in June, in which gunman Omar Mateen who had pledged allegiance to IS, killed 49 people and wounded another 53. After the slaughter the Church issued a statement, saying: “The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred.”

Pope Francis followed by a security guard arrives to celebrate a mass at conclusion of the World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, Sunday, July 31, 2016. Image source: AP
Pope Francis followed by a security guard arrives to celebrate a mass at conclusion of the World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, Sunday, July 31, 2016.
Image source: AP

Fighter Abu Sa’d al-Trinidadi, a former Christian from Trinidad and Tobago, references recent terror attacks in the West and urges supporters in a Dabiq interview to “follow the example of the lions in France and Belgium, the example of the blessed couple in California, and the examples of the knights in Orlando and Nice.”

He tells IS supporters in the West that they have the “ability to terrify the disbelievers in their own homes and make their streets run with their blood.” He adds Christians are legitimate targets “due to their mere disbelief,” adding, “for this reason, amongst others, the Islamic State leadership emphasized the importance not to differentiate between disbelieving soldiers and their so-called ‘civilians.’”

Twilight zone

This is not the first time IS has exhorted followers to target Christians in the West — or threaten to destroy Christianity. In February 2015, the terror group released a shocking five-minute video documenting the barbaric mass execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on the shoreline of Libya. In the video a militant spokesman points northward after the killings, saying: “We will conquer Rome by Allah’s permission.”

And the terror group has targeted and terrorized Christians in territory it controls in Syria and Iraq with rapes, abductions, forced conversions, desecration of churches and forced evictions. In 2014 Pope Francis warned, “In Syria, another war is thriving in the shadow of the civil war—the war against the church.”

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But the redoubled focus on Western Christianity now, analysts say, is powered by a highly dangerous, macabre logic. They warn that IS strategists are aiming to provoke an overreaction by Western governments and enraged citizens, hopinAg to drive young Muslims into their arms and away from what the jihadists call the “gray zone.”

The “gray zone” was defined in a January 2015 issue of Dabiq as a “twilight area occupied by most Muslims between good and evil, the Caliphate and the Infidel.”

Last November, in the wake of the Paris attacks anthropologist Scott Atran told VOA that IS is “seeking to provoke deeper divisions between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe, forcing the latter to overreact as the terror becomes ever wilder and more extreme, thereby leaving the former with no choice but to join the jihadist camp.”

And to exacerbate antagonism toward Muslims in Europe, the more outrageous the targets, the more likely the terror will provoke Western governments to overreact or fuel the rise of populist nationalist parties or prompt revenge attacks.

Church attack

The murder last week of Fr. Jacques Hamel in the Norman village of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen differed from previous IS attacks in France. They targeted people and places that symbolized freedom of speech, Western liberalism, the ideals of the French Revolution, and Jews. Some analysts see the killing of Fr. Hamel as the first act of war on European soil against Christianity by IS.

French officials were already alarmed before the release of Dabiq at the prospect of IS attacks causing a “war against communities.” Last week, a French official told VOA that one of the highest priorities of the Élysée Palace is to prevent a clash between Muslims and Christians. (VOA)

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