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April 16, 2014
CC BY: R Barraez D'Lucca

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 After Independence, the law was repealed in 1949, but mistrust of the transgender community has continued.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:

But it was also a victory against trying to fit complex cultures into narrow ideological categories. Peter Weber

2:24 a.m. ET

On Feb. 10, a 26-year-old undocumented immigrant from El Salvador collapsed at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Texas, after complaining of headaches. She was brought to Texas Health Huguley Hospital in Burleson, where doctors concluded she had a brain tumor, the woman's lawyers tell The Daily Beast. During her only conversation with her mother, on Feb. 19, the woman, identified only as Sara, said she was bleeding heavily through her nose, convulsing, and suffering some memory loss. She has otherwise been barred from communicating with her family.

The lawyers said they were expecting doctors to operate on Sara soon, but on Wednesday she was reportedly forcibly removed from the hospital without treatment and returned to the Prairieland Detention Center. "She told us they tied her hands and ankles in her condition," Melissa Zuniga, a member of Sara's New Jersey-based legal team, tells The Hill. "She's complaining of a lot of pain." Zuniga said that the hospital "no longer wants to be in charge of her case because they’re getting hounded by calls and a potential lawsuit" — Sara's family said it might sue if she did not receive adequate care — but that doctors gave Sara a CD with her medical records and told her not to turn it over to ICE; it was taken from her as soon as she returned to the detention center.

Sara's sister and her lawyers were flying to Texas on Wednesday night to press for her release, The Hill reports. Sara was detained in 2015 after illegally crossing into the U.S. from Mexico, and after she missed the deadline for filing for asylum, a judge cleared her for deportation in January 2016. She was in detention appealing the ruling when she collapsed. "You are bound to see more cases like this if ICE fulfills the government's orders and dramatically expands detention," Bob Libal, an Austin-based immigrants-rights advocate, tells The Daily Beast. "You are bound to see more stories where people have suffered these kind of medical tragedies in detention."

In the Associated Press video below, about another fraught immigration story in Texas, a member of Libal's organization, Grassroots Leadership, notes that former President Barack Obama deported more than 2 million undocumented immigrants in his two terms. "Obama built this machine, but he left it in the hands of Trump," says Cristina Parker, "and what we're seeing is what that means." Peter Weber

1:25 a.m. ET
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When Lena Draper, 10, needed someone to help her with a math problem, she decided the best person for the job was a police officer.

She messaged the Marion Police Department in Ohio on Facebook, and soon received a response from Lt. B.J. Gruber, who advised her to work within the parentheses first, moving from left to right. Draper's mother, Molly, saw the exchange between her daughter and Gruber, and told CBS News she was "happy, but not surprised" that someone from the department responded so quickly. "They are wonderful with their communication with the community." Molly shared on her own Facebook page the messages between Lena and Gruber, and even though his instructions weren't 100 percent accurate, Gruber hopes everyone remembers "it is truly the thought that counts." Catherine Garcia

12:46 a.m. ET

Their classmates and teachers didn't think it could be done, but J.T. Nejedlo and Aidan Deaven proved them all wrong by building a working roller coaster in Deaven's Delafield, Wisconsin, backyard.

When Nejedlo was a sophomore and Deaven a freshman, they decided it "would be fun" to build a roller coaster, Nejedlo told TMJ4. After lots of trial and error — and assistance from a father who used to be a physics professor — the teens built a coaster that starts inside an old treehouse and weaves its way around the yard. "We had a work schedule," Deaven said. "We would get up at 7 a.m. in the summers and come and work on it."

In their college applications, the teens wrote about their massive undertaking, and it helped them gain admittance to the University of Wisconsin — Nejedlo is a freshman studying business, and Deaven will begin taking engineering classes next year. Catherine Garcia

12:36 a.m. ET

President Trump is moving fast, if erratically, to fulfill his campaign pledges about kicking out undocumented immigrants and building a wall along the Mexico border in an attempt to keep them out. Seth Meyers said he's confused about the rationale for this push, because more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than coming in, and immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the U.S. "And yet despite the reality about immigration, Trump is still moving ahead with his plans to ramp up deportations and build a border wall," he said on Wednesday's Late Night.

"Now, there are still many questions about Trump's wall, including who will build it," Meyer said. "And apparently before he even took office, Trump started reaching out to private developers to see if they'd be interested." One developer, Jorge Perez, a longtime friend and business partner of Trump in Miami, was underwhelmed by the offer he received to build the border wall, telling Bloomberg, "The wall is the most idiotic thing I've ever seen or heard in my life." "And for someone who has known Donald Trump for years, that's a high bar," Meyers said.

Then there's the shifting definition of what constitutes a "wall," with the barrier sketched out by Trump officials much different (and less solid) than the giant, "beautiful" wall Trump talked about during the campaign, and some Republicans, especially in Texas, are balking at Trump's wall plans. "So Trump wants to spend as much as $20 billion on a wall that even some Republicans think won't work, but don't worry, Trump adviser Stephen Miller said there's no need to worry about who will pay for the wall," because the wall will somehow pay for itself, Meyer said. "Look, these immigration policies are cruel, they're unnecessary, and ineffective — even many Republicans think so." He introduced a game called "douchebag charades" to illustrate what those Republicans and Democrats can tell Trump. Watch below. Peter Weber

February 22, 2017

Unable to reach their congressional representatives the old-fashioned way — by phone, email, and in person — Americans across the country are getting creative.

This week, Republican lawmakers like Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.) have faced angry constituents who peppered them with questions about everything from repealing the Affordable Care Act to President Trump's ties to Russia. Some of these representatives might run away from their meetings as fast as humanly possible, but at least they're showing up — the same can't be said for House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), and Rep. Paul Cook (Calif.), according to their constituents, who want to know why their congressmen aren't holding town halls or even letting people inside their offices.

In Wisconsin, the residents of Janesville are concerned over Ryan's whereabouts, so much so that they have placed a missing-person's ad in the Lost and Found section of the Madison Craigslist. "We had been planning on having an intervention at his recess town hall meetings, because he seems to be addicted to power, but he fled sometime in and around January 20, 2017, and hasn't been seen since," the ad states. To make sure people know who to look for, they included helpful photos of Ryan lifting weights while donning a backwards hat, a much different look than in this billboard in Wisconsin:

And last week, after a tussle at Rohrabacher's Huntington Beach office involving activists seeking a town hall meeting, one of his staffers, and a door, the California congressman accused the citizens of being "engaged in political thuggery, pure and simple." Here is an example of said thuggery on a local beach:

The search is also on in California's 8th District for Cook, who last appeared at an in-person town hall on Sept. 5, 2013. Anyone with any information is urged to visit www.WhereIsPaulCook.com. Catherine Garcia

February 22, 2017
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Tom Cotton on Wednesday became the latest Republican lawmaker to face fired-up constituents at a town hall meeting, this time in the conservative stronghold of Springdale, Arkansas.

At least 2,000 people attended the event, with many carrying signs asserting that they were not paid protesters and others chanting "Do your job!" Dozens of people waited in line to ask questions, and Cotton was confronted by constituents like Kati McFarland of Springdale, who told the senator that without the Affordable Care Act, "I will die." Cotton said the Republicans are working on a replacement plan that will keep her covered, but when she pressed for details, Cotton didn't have any. Cotton was also asked to take a closer look at ties between President Trump and his associates and Russia, and one protester carried a banner that read, "If Hillary [Clinton] did this, you would have already locked her up."

It wasn't all combative — one woman praised Cotton and said a majority of residents support him. A majority of the room disagreed, as she was drowned out by boos and jeers. Catherine Garcia

February 22, 2017
Larry W. Smith/Getty Images

Police in Indiana are hopeful that the public will recognize the man heard in a grainy cellphone video taken by a young murder victim.

Liberty German, 14, and Abigail Williams, 13, disappeared on Feb. 13, and their bodies were found a day later in a wooded area outside Delphi, near the trail they planned to hike. During a press conference Wednesday, Indiana State Police announced there is a $41,000 reward for finding the killer, and played a clip from the video shot by German, featuring a man saying "Down the hill."

"She had the presence of mind to have the phone on and to capture video as well as audio," Capt. David Bursten said. Investigators are not certain if the man heard in the video is the same man seen in a photograph German also snapped from her phone; police say the man in the photo is the main suspect in the murders. Catherine Garcia

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