India's Supreme Court was roundly criticized for reinstating an 1861 ban on gay sex, so it may seem odd that the same high court just made India one of the foremost nations in recognizing transgender rights. The Indian Supreme Court not only created a legal "third gender" category, it also broadly declared that "it is the right of every human being to choose their gender."
The ruling applies only to transgender people, or hijra (a term that also encompasses transvestites/cross-dressers, and eunuchs), not gays and lesbians. But the justices asked the government to consider transgender Indians a "socially and economically backward" class — a classification that sounds like an insult but opens up the possibility of job and education quotas in line with other minority groups.
"Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue," Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan said in his ruling. "Transgenders are citizens of this country and are entitled to education and all other rights." India's estimated two to three million transgender citizens recently were able to check "other" on the gender section of the voter registration form — 28,000 did for the current election — and now they are entitled to the same option on all government forms, plus separate restrooms and equal rights.
How do you square India's conservative laws on homosexuality and liberal embrace of transsexuality? It's partly a cultural thing. Nepal started recognizing a third gender in 2007, and Bangladesh followed suit last year. In fact, the BBC's Geeta Pandey suggests that the current stigmatization of transgender Indians was a British import. "Members of the third gender have played a prominent role in Indian culture and were once treated with great respect," she writes:
Their fall from grace started in the 18th century during the British colonial rule when the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 categorized the entire transgender community as "criminals" who were "addicted" to committing serious crimes. They were arrested for dressing in women's clothing or dancing or playing music in public places, and for indulging in gay sex. After Independence, the law was repealed in 1949, but mistrust of the transgender community has continued. [BBC News]
The ruling was a win for transgender advocate (and film actress) Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, one of the plaintiffs in the case:
I am very happy, today we(Transgenders) have been given same rights as men and women-Laxmi Tripathi,Petitioner pic.twitter.com/ZOu5AT8YjD
— ANI (@ANI_news) April 15, 2014
But it was also a victory against trying to fit complex cultures into narrow ideological categories. Peter Weber
President Trump spent Friday at Camp David meeting with defense and diplomatic advisers to discuss a range of topics centrally including the 16-year war in Afghanistan. Saturday morning, after heading back to his vacation at his golf resort in New Jersey, Trump posted a tweet hinting a decision about the conflict's future had been reached:
Important day spent at Camp David with our very talented Generals and military leaders. Many decisions made, including on Afghanistan.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017
What that decision may be remains to be seen. During his campaign, Trump was skeptical that continuing the war would lead to victory or serve American national interests, though he was inconsistent on the question of whether the 2001 invasion was a mistake. He has mulled options, reportedly including everything from withdrawal to sending thousands of additional U.S. troops, for months.
A Friday statement from the White House seemed to indicate that deliberation process was still underway. "The President is studying and considering his options," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, "and will make an announcement to the American people, to our allies and partners, and to the world at the appropriate time."
The ouster of former chief strategist Stephen Bannon may play into whatever decisions were made Friday; Bannon favored a more restrained approach in Afghanistan while Trump's remaining advisers, most notably National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, are believed to prefer a more activist approach including a troop surge. Bonnie Kristian
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a stabbing attack Saturday morning that wounded eight people in the Siberian city of Surgut, Russia. The attacker reportedly ran down a main street in Surgut, stabbing at random until he was fatally shot by police. The ISIS statement was published several hours later.
Russian authorities have yet to comment on the attacker's identity or motives, though they called for calm and announced four of the injured are in critical condition.
This attack comes close on the heels of multiple other fatal terror attacks elsewhere in Europe this week. ISIS also claimed responsibility for the vehicle rampages in Barcelona and Cambrils, Spain, on Thursday and Friday but has yet to claim Friday's stabbing in Finland. ISIS often claims responsibility for terror attacks with which it has no organizational connection, only ideological affinity. Bonnie Kristian
Police in Finland arrested a man accused of stabbing eight people, killing two and injuring six more, on Friday in the southwest city of Turku. Police reported they shot the 18-year-old Moroccan man in the leg after his alleged attack.
"The act had been investigated as murder, but during the night we received additional information which indicates that the criminal offences are now terrorist killings," authorities said Saturday.
Eyewitness reports of the incident offer conflicting accounts; some say the suspect was heard yelling "Allahu akbar," but others say the screams were people saying "watch out" in Finnish. Bonnie Kristian
Tucker was on a delayed honeymoon to Spain with his wife, Heidi Nunes, celebrating their one-year anniversary. He stepped away from her to go to the bathroom when the vehicle attack began. "Next thing I know there's screaming, yelling," said Nunes. "I got pushed inside the souvenir kiosk and stayed there hiding while everybody kept running by screaming." The next morning, Tucker was identified among the 13 people killed.
— Eyewitness News (@ABC7NY) August 18, 2017
"It's been bitter, but I don't know what my feelings are," said Tucker's father, Dan Tucker. "I'm not angry so much as I just don't understand it. My wife's in shock." A widely circulated photo of Tucker and Nunes, shown in the tweet above, was taken a mere hour before the attack.
Investigations are ongoing Saturday as authorities have linked the Barcelona attack to incidents in Cambrils and Alcanar on Friday and Wednesday, respectively, which bring the total killed by the three acts of terrorism to 15. Bonnie Kristian
Two police officers, Matthew Baxter and Sam Howard, were shot in Kissimmee, Florida, Friday night while responding to a report of suspicious activity. Baxter was killed and Howard remains in "grave critical condition." The suspected shooter is in custody and three other people have been detained; details about their identities or the motives behind the attack have not been released. Kissimmee police are still searching for one more person.
— Kissimmee Police (@kissimmeepolice) August 19, 2017
President Trump promptly tweeted after news of the attack broke:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017
Four other police officers were also wounded on duty Friday night, two in another part of Florida and two in Pennsylvania. One is in critical condition, while the other injuries are less serious. Bonnie Kristian
Boston city officials have announced a heavy police presence will be on hand to contain potential violence at competing protests scheduled Saturday in Boston Common, the city's most historic park.
What those officers — and protesters — will encounter is unclear. The event started with a permit for up to 100 people with the stated purpose of demonstrating for free speech, but counter-protests were planned when other local activist groups, including Black Lives Matter, noticed two of the scheduled speakers have ties to the alt-right, and one of those two attended the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
"We're expecting about 20,000 to 30,000," said one counter-protest organizer, Monica Cannon. "We plan to send a really strong message that ... you don't get to come here and do this."
A previous demonstration by Boston Free Speech, the group that applied for the original permit, was organized in a different park in Boston earlier this year. Also billed as a pro-Constitution event, many attendees were affiliated with alt-right and white supremacist groups, and speakers included one Augustus Invictus, who told his audience to prepare themselves to fight a second Civil War. Boston Free Speech abridged Saturday's schedule in response to the planned counter-protests. Several of the more controversial speakers, including Invictus, are no longer on the docket. Bonnie Kristian
Investor Carl Icahn announced Friday that he had stepped down from his advisory role to President Trump. Icahn was counseling the president regarding regulatory reform issues, but he said he was announcing his resignation after a conversation with Trump earlier Friday in which the president "agreed" with his decision.
In a letter to Trump to "confirm" their conversation, Icahn emphasized that he "never had a formal position" with the White House. "I chose to end this arrangement (with your blessing) because I did not want partisan bickering about my role to in any way cloud your administration," Icahn wrote. "I sincerely regret that because of your extremely busy schedule, as well as my own, I have not had the opportunity to spend nearly as much time as I'd hoped on regulatory issues."
JUST IN: Carl Icahn says he will "cease to act as special advisor to the President on issues relating to regulatory reform." pic.twitter.com/JNCRrs9zdq
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 18, 2017