Friday, February 28, 2014

Transgender activists: "Time to Step Up for Our Own Advocacy"

Originally Published: February 28th, 2014

In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States saw a cultural shift in its approach to civil rights. African-Americans and their allies finally stood together and demanded change. The movement killed segregation, ignited debate about interracial marriage and helped pave the way for equality among races in the United States. Some argue that battle is still continuing.

In 1969, the Gay Rights movement took off after the Stonewall Riots. Forty-Five years later, same-sex couples can legally wed in 17 states (and counting) and more government agencies are granting domestic partnership benefits. But there's a segment of society that has patiently waited in line for its turn to fight for equality. And that time could be now.

Transgender Americans are finally getting noticed. But that battle for equality could be a good decade or two behind the Gay Rights push. Has the gay community left the transgender community behind, or are the two linked communities actually separate, fighting very different battles? 




Read the original article from Gayapolis here:

http://www.gayapolis.com/cms/display.php?articleid=657 

Sustainable Development Goals: Where do Gender Equality and Women’s Rights Stand?

Originally Published: February 28th, 2014

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Friday File: The eighth session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG8) that took place 3-7 February 2014 in New York is the most recent in the series of consultations with governments and civil society on how to shape a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)[1] to merge with the new post-2015 development framework. AWID looks at the extent to which this intergovernmental process has included gender equality and women's rights in their deliberations, and what areas remain a challenge as negotiations begin.
By Alejandra Scampini[2]
One of the key issues addressed at the OWG8 was “promoting equality, including social equity, gender equality and women’s empowerment”. Women’s rights advocates and organizations, including AWID, participated via the Women’s Major Group[3] (WMG) in delivering key messages and recommendations.[4]
WMG messages[5] and actions
While the WMG supports a stand-alone goal on gender equality, the group continued pushing for conversations to go beyond a discussion on goals and targets, into structural and policy constraints that challenge the achievement of women’s rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment. The group insisted on the need to challenge the neo-liberal economic structure and policies leading to a market-oriented and growth-based development model that promotes the commodification of life and nature through trade liberalization.
Alejandra Scampini from AWID, speaking on behalf of the WMG, says, "We joined these discussions with caution against developing another set of reductive goals, targets and indicators that ignore the transformational and structural changes required to address the failure of the current development model rooted in unsustainable production and consumption patterns, exacerbating gender, race and class inequities. Structural changes require policies that recognize and redistribute the unequal and unfair burdens borne by women and girls in sustaining societal wellbeing and economies, which intensify in times of economic and ecological crises." The WMG insists on promoting an enabling environment to achieve sustainable development through principles of universality, non-retrogression, and progressive realization. Among other recommendations, women’s rights groups called for progressive macroeconomic policies, effective regulation of International Financial Institutions (IFIs), regulation of corporations and businesses, strengthening States capacities, and more balanced power relations within and among countries.
The role and increasing influence of businesses and corporate power in development debates, policy making, and implementation is also a concern for the WMG, who called for strengthened accountability and transparency for corporations and large businesses. In her intervention, Bhumika Muchhala from the Third World Network reminded participants of the serious impacts that debt, intellectual property rights and free trade agreements have on women and girls’ lives in terms of access to resources. She also noted the need to strengthen governance mechanisms to effectively monitor and regulate corporations through binding commitments for equitable and sustainable development.
Conflict prevention and post-conflict peace-building was another focus area of OWG8 to which the WMG voiced concerns about the failure to address the root causes of increased militarism and armed conflict, and the rise of conservative forces including religion fundamentalisms. Women's rights organizations with expertise on connecting conflict resolution and peace-building with women’s rights[6] released an open letter to the co-chairs and participating UN Member States of OWG8 urging them to continue to strengthen the link between the sustainable development processes and the conflict prevention and peace-building agenda from a gender perspective.
Reactions from government representatives
Some delegates voiced high hopes about how debates were moving forward and speeches reflected some consensus on having a Gender Equality goal and made concrete references to the UN women proposal. However, there was emphasis on the need to manage expectations in defining the composition of each goal. Given the challenges ahead, many cautioned about the limits in UN processes as we move into the next level. There is consensus that the main priorities of the SDGs should be to eliminate poverty, address inequalities, and promote social inclusion.  There is call to define a more universal agenda that ensures justice, rights and peace in this process.
Delegates continued to grapple with how to ensure that the SDGs are more transformational than the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) framework. Several government representatives recommended having “faith” in the private sector, using existing tools and thinking of partnerships not only with big companies, but also with small holders.
Room for dialogue and areas of commonality
The series of panels, workshops and bilateral conversations with governments that took place at OWG8 are evidence of room for dialogue and a common understanding of the need to keep the momentum following this 8th OWG session. Some of the specific requests from governments included a call for more new ideas; clarity on the use of terms such as care work, unpaid work; ideas on how to address contentious debates and politics of agenda setting. To help government delegates bridge the intentional and artificial divide between economic justice, environmental justice and gender justice, there needs to be more emphasis on using existing human rights mechanisms such as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the review periods of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
Regarding specific recommendations from a women’s rights perspective, some delegates have shown openness to hearing ideas and reflecting on targets around education, freedom from violence and discrimination, sexual and reproductive health and rights, property ownership, decision-making and quality participation beyond gender quotas in parliaments. All agree that more data is needed to devise targets and indicators to be able to operationalize the new framework.
Gender equality and women’s rights stand in the future SDGs framework
The call for a transformative framework to achieve women’s rights and gender equality comes in the midst of a global conversation about the legacy of the MDGs and next steps after they expire in 2015. Much is being said about assessing and accelerating progress on the MDGs, particularly MDG3 (Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women) and MDG5(Reducing Maternal Mortality and Achieving Universal Access to Reproductive Health). Thefifty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, (CSW58) taking place from 10 to 21 March, 2014, in New York will focus on "Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls" as a priority theme.
Further, the commitments made at the Rio+20 Conference in 2012 cannot be forgotten. The outcome document, which reaffirmed the commitment to CEDAW and the Beijing Platform for Action , called for a new set of SDGs that provide a strong basis for including a comprehensive and transformative approach to gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment. Member States should uphold and fully implement their commitments to ensure women’s equal rights, access and opportunities for participation and leadership in the economy, society and political decision-making.
The current context is one that provides an unprecedented opportunity to infuse women’s rights issues into the global development agenda and contribute to shaping a more just development model that works for all people and the planet.
The Co-chairs summary and concluding remarks of the OWG8 sessionreflects some of the advances in deliberations. It reflects a sense of strong support from governments and civil society for an ambitious stand-alone goal on gender equality and women's rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), as well as addressing redistribution of unpaid work, eliminating gender based violence, and equal access and control of land and resources.
More than 50 countries joined the government of Argentina in a common statement on inequalities and gender equality that was well received by women’s rights organizations participating at the OWG8.
Still some way to go
In terms of official process, Governments can still send in comments to the Co Chairs summary, with Pakistan, Syria, Egypt and Nigeria have already announcing reservations to some points in the proposed conclusion.
For Civil Society it is imperative that goals are aligned with non-negotiables, including women human rights defenders (WHRDS). Learning from MDGS, it is important to keep the aspirations of the goal in a set of indicators and targets that do not water down the achievements and gains already achieved and referenced in various conventions, declarations, etc.  
While discussions showed commonalities, it is also important to be aware of the different contexts and realities, to ensure there is enough policy space for adapting to specific contexts and constraints.
Some of the challenges relate to how to avoid the “silo approach” and not lose sight of the interdependence of gender with other goals in the Post 2015 agenda and that discussions only on the specifics of the GE goal could divert attention from other demands, specifically related to economic justice and SRHR.
And despite the relative openness of certain governments to women’s groups, there is continued omission by governments to address structural issues such as finance, global governance and accountability. There is little reference to the global economic crisis, the neoliberal economic agenda or the policies that have led to privatization, commodification of life and nature.  While a lot is said about the right to development, there is little on how trade, debt and systemic issues may affect this new development paradigm. Market led economies and corporate power control have increased inequalities, but few recognized the interlinkages between inequality, including gender inequality, and macroeconomic policies, so there seems to be a disconnect between the discussions on growth taking place at the OWG, and the issues addressed in the Gender Equality goal, including reducing inequalities, poverty and gender disparities.
Finally, there is the question of how to ensure adequate funding for GE prioritiesAWID’s recently launched compendium of research on funding for women’s rights, including the qualitative study of the Dutch MDG3 Fund, lays out a range of recommendations for Donors from all funding sectors.  It will be important to learn from past experience to ensure that the GE goal sets the priorities for Official Development Assistance and private funding flow to ensure adequately resourced women’s rights organisations and movements.  
[1] One of the main outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, was an agreement by Member States to develop a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs). A 30-member Open Working Group (OWG) of the General Assembly was tasked with preparing a proposal on the SDGs and thus conducted multi-stakeholder consultations from March 2013 to February 2014.
[2]The author gratefully acknowledges Ana Ines Abelenda for her contributions to this article.
[3] The Women’s Major Group comprises 400 organizations and individuals working on sustainable development from a women’s rights perspective at local, national, regional and global levels. See:  http://www.womenrio20.org
[4]Some of these were also captured in a timely policy brief produced by the United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS).
[5] To read the full recommendations by the Women's Major group for OWG8, as well as interventions from the floor by Women's Major Group members, please go tohttp://www.womenrio20.org/policy_statements.php
[6] The drafting team included the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the Global Justice Center (GJC), the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), and the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP).



Read the original article from The Thomson Reuters Foundation here:
http://www.trust.org/item/20140228174922-n1u3c/ 

A Social Justice Tour of Oscar Winners Through the Decades

by Christopher Zumski Finke
Originally Published: February 28th, 2014

The upcoming Academy Awards will recognize some of 2013’s best social justice-themed films. Here are some of our favorite past winners. 

12 Years a Slave photo by Helga Esteb
Photo by Helga Esteb/Shutterstock. All Rights Reserved.
2013 was a great year for social justice on the silver screen. We saw films that overturned traditional genres (Pacific Rim), embraced the power of nonviolence (The Book Thief), and highlighted the struggle against racial inequality (Fruitvale Station). Whether you were looking for confrontational historical drama (12 Years a Slave) or surprising inversions of classical Hollywood spectacles (Gravity), you could find it in 2013.
These are films that embrace justice, challenge authority, and move audiences.
Next week, Ellen DeGeneres will host the the 86th Annual Academy Awards ceremony, the industry’s most prestigious awards show. I predict this year’s ceremony will spread the awards around, reflecting the many accomplished films nominated. I think the Best Picture award will go to 12 Years a Slave. I hope so, anyway.
While Steve McQueen’s movie is an important film—there are few films that so forthrightly portray the history of American slavery without relying on the Great Man Theory to provide audiences comfort—it is also a great one: flawlessly executed, movingly acted, and beautiful to watch.
Here are eight other important—and great—Oscar-winning films, from each of the major categories. They are films that embrace justice, challenge authority, and move audiences. Not all are as accomplished as 12 Years a Slave, but each is worth seeing again—or just plain seeing if you missed them the first time around.

1. Boys Don’t Cry: Hillary Swank for Best Actress.

It’s easy to forget how powerful and groundbreaking a film Boys Don’t Cry was in 1999. Remembered mostly for Hillary Swank’s performance as Brandon Teena, the transgender man who was raped and murdered in 1993, Boys Don’t Cry brought to mainstream audiences a story of such power and tragedy that it remains a must-see for anyone interested in human rights, gender equality, or independent cinema.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird: Gregory Peck for Best Actor.
This adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel of empathy and understanding is told through the eyes of the siblings Scout and Jem. But the narrative centers on their father, the lawyer Atticus Finch, and his work defending a black man accused of raping a white girl. Through their father’s work defending Tom Robinson, the Finch children are forced to confront for the first time a world of racism, poverty, and inequality. Gentle yet confrontational, the film does justice to one of the great American novels of the 20th century.
3. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner: William Rose for Best Original Screenplay.
Six months before the release of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in 1967, seventeen U.S. states had laws in effect that made interracial marriage illegal. Then came Loving vs. Virginia, the case that led to the end of anti-miscegenation laws in America. Despite fears that audiences would be fearful of a the story of a black man’s relationship with a white woman, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner was a box-office hit, and remains an important milestone in the evolving acceptance of diverse stories in American cinema.
4. All the President's Men: William Goldman for Best Adapted Screenplay.
All the President’s Men maintains an incredible popular legacy (it’s been named one of the most inspirational films by the American Film Institute), and it deserves that reputation almost 40 years later. This immaculately written film tells the story of journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and their investigation into the crimes that came to be known as the Watergate Scandal. It remains a powerful story of the search for truth.
5. Elia Kazan for Best Director in On the Waterfront.
This story of mob rule, labor rights, and union organizing among longshoreman is in my estimation the height of Marlon Brando’s career. And it too won awards with political drama. After Kazan’s friendly testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952, Kazan would forever be known for his complicity in the development of the Hollywood Blacklist. But his contribution to American cinema cannot be overstated, and none of his films have left a more important legacy than this one.
6. All About my Mother: Best Foreign Language Film.
Complicated and disorienting film experiences can sometimes be the most rewarding, and there’s little doubt that the most beloved film by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar is both complicated and rewarding. Addressing the AIDS crisis, transgender life, and gay and lesbian culture through humor, drama, tragedy, and the rich tapestry that is the history of cinema, All About My Mother is a strange, powerful film that deserves to be seen.
The world that confronts American viewers of Born into Brothels is about as foreign as one can imagine. With cameras provided by the filmmakers, the children of prostitutes tell their own stories by photographing their lives on the streets of Calcutta. The film has courted controversy since its release, some of it deserved, for its portrayal of Indian culture, and the sale of the photos to send the children to boarding schools they were underprepared to participate in. But the experience of the documentary remains an enlightening window into a world few American viewers have likely encountered
8. Gandhi: Best Picture.
The legacy of Gandhi is decidedly mixed. The film is plodding and preachy and has aged somewhat poorly. Some consider it to be among the least-deserving Best Picture winners in the history of the Academy Awards (at the very least, it’s better than Gladiator), and little more than a conventional hagiographical biopic. Still, there can be no denying that the Mahatma Gandhi captured in Richard Attenbourough’s film and portrayed by Ben Kingsley creates a powerful spiritual and emotional experience, especially for viewers interested in the nonviolent independence movements of the past century.




Read the original article from Yes Magazine here:
http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/social-justice-on-the-silver-screen-in-2013 

This Is What Discrimination Against Pregnant Workers Looks Like

by Bryce Covert
Originally Published: February 28th, 2014

Pregnant worker
CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK
Employers frequently vilify pregnant workers and rely on stereotypes in order to justify firing them, according to an analysis of discrimination lawsuits.
Researchers Reginald A. Byron of Southwestern University and Vincent J. Roscigno of The Ohio State University looked at closed case sex-based discrimination case files from the Ohio Civil Rights Commission between 1986 and 2003, plus an extra handful from 2007 to 2011. They specifically looked at those that had been “verified,” or were deemed to have a preponderance of evidence suggesting discrimination really had taken place.
They write that “our data reveal that cultural stereotypes and statistical discrimination are an important part of the inequality that pregnant women experience.” Employers painted the fired pregnant workers as undependable, despite not holding other employees to the same standards; claimed that an employee quit by virtue of the fact that she wouldn’t take a downgraded position; invoked seemingly neutral leave policies that ran afoul of discrimination laws or penalized pregnant workers; and invoked “business reasons” for letting these employees go. “Although current legal protections should ideally keep pregnant employees from being unjustly fired, the findings in this article suggest significant limitations and persistent vulnerabilities,” the authors write.
The most commonly used tactic, called upon by about 60 percent of employers in both time periods, was pointing to poor performance or attendance or claiming that a worker voluntarily quit. “Performance, in fact, accounted for around 30 percent of employers’ justifications for terminations,” they write, true for both female and male managers. But this feedback usually didn’t surface until shortly after pregnant workers informed their managers of their situation — 75 percent of the time plaintiffs said that’s when they started experiencing differential treatment.
The researchers note that in these cases, “women were compared to themselves before they were pregnant.” For example, Alicia Green, a sorter for a shipping company in 1995, told her employer that she was pregnant, to which he told her not to come to work anymore and alleged she wouldn’t be able to lift 50-pound mail bags, even though she had no restrictions from her doctor. “[A]brupt terminations of pregnant women may be influenced by assumptions about their future selves—assumptions that portray these women as moving even further away from the ideal unencumbered worker,” the researchers note.
About 15 percent tried to paint pregnant workers as undependable thanks to poor attendance or being late too many times, but in these cases, other workers weren’t held to the same standard. In 1993, Melissa Eaton was fired, her employer said, for too many absences in her first six months and showing up late. Yet investigators found “there is no evidence that Melissa Eaton received any written reprimands regarding her alleged poor performance or attendance.” Meanwhile, a male coworker got several such reprimands but wasn’t fired.
Employers also claimed that women had basically quit when they wouldn’t take a downgrade in their positions. This justification may be coming into vogue, as it was used less than 10 percent of the time between 1986 and 2003 but more than a quarter of the time between 2007 and 2011.
Beyond painting pregnant workers as lousy employees, in nearly 20 percent of the cases “managers invoked and amplified seemingly neutral, meritocratic leave policies as a way to dismiss pregnant employees, despite protections arguably afforded by law,” the authors write. They appealed to the company’s policies or standard practices, such as not allowing any leaves of absence, only giving leaves for work-related illnesses or injuries, or work history requirements for granting leave, which were found to run afoul of equal rights laws. Another 10 percent sought to appear neutral by invoking “business needs, profit, and efficiency,” but the author’s deep look at these cases revealed that this excuse “was often a pretense for pregnancy discrimination.” In many cases, employers claimed to be restructuring but in fact hired others for the fired person’s position. In others, they said it would be too costly to hire a temporary replacement. Even worse, some simply said having a pregnant body around would bring a disruption to the space or to customer satisfaction.
The authors note how widespread a problem this is: more than 40 percent of gender-based cases about discriminatory hiring are related to pregnancy, which means pregnancy may be a widespread reason women are being fired. It’s also something that is more likely to impact women in low-wage jobs: more than 45 percent of women who filed complaints about being fired while pregnant were in low-wage service sectors, compared to 31 percent in the high-wage sectors and zero in the public sector, where there are often more protections.
And while this blatant discrimination is relatively widespread, more subtle forms are also commonplace and are more likely to impact low-wage workers. More than a quarter million women are denied requests for an accommodation at work so that they can stay on the job while pregnant, such as switching to duties other than heavy lifting, taking more breaks, or changing schedules so they can get health care. Forty percent of low-income workers in particular can’t decide when they take their own breaks. This has had severe consequences for many women, who have experienced miscarriages after continuing to do heavy work orsuffered financial hardship when they were forced onto unpaid leave or made to leave their jobs altogether.

While the cases the researchers examined were well on their way toward getting a positive outcome for the person who was fired, it’s worth noting that many women may not have the time or resources to bring a complaint, even if they experience these situations. And in the situation of women who are pushed out because they can’t get an accommodation, employers may be on the right side of the law. That has begun to change, however, with new laws that require adapting to the needs of a pregnant worker so long as there is no undue hardship eight states and New York City.



Read the original article from Think Progress here:
http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/02/28/3333461/pregnant-workers-fired/ 

Discrimination, Inc.

by David Gans
Originally Published: February 28th, 2014

What does anti-LGBT legislation in Arizona and Kansas have to do with a pair of Supreme Court cases out of Oklahoma and Pennsylvania challenging the Affordable Care Act? Quite a lot. The efforts to give businesses a right to deny women access to contraceptive coverage and to legalize discrimination against gay men and lesbians are joined at the hip.
This week, all eyes were on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer as she considered whether to veto a bill that would give businesses in that state a legal right to refuse to serve gay men and lesbians. Her veto and affirmation of the principle of equality for all are worthy of celebration, but the matter is far from over. As other bills are working their way through a number of state legislatures, the issue at the heart of these pieces of discriminatory legislation will be confronted by the Supreme Court next month. For the first time in history, the Court will consider whether secular businesses are entitled to a religious exemption from federal laws that protect the rights of their employees. That's the big question at the center of blockbuster challenges brought by Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood -- an arts and crafts chain and a wood manufacturer -- to a key provision of Obamacare that requires employer group health insurance plans to provide contraceptive coverage. The Supreme Court has never given business corporations the right to exercise religion. It should not start now.
Indeed, in the run up to oral argument, we have had a disturbing illustration of just what it would mean to recognize that corporations have the same rights as individuals to exercise religion. Across the nation, conservatives are seeking to enact new legislation that would recognize religious rights for secular businesses and their employees and allow them to refuse to serve gay men and lesbians on religious grounds. The theory behind Hobby Lobby's and Conestoga Wood's challenge to the contraceptive coverage requirement and proposed state legislation that would give businesses a license to discriminate against gay men and lesbians is the same: that secular businesses can exercise religion and should be exempt from laws that violate their business owners' religious beliefs.
This should come as no surprise. After all, Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Conestoga Wood in the Supreme Court, has been involved in drafting the Arizona legislation that would have given business owners a license to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers on religious grounds. Further, the Becket Fund, which is representing Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court, has defended the rights of a photography business to refuse to take wedding pictures for a gay and lesbian couple in New Mexico in another hugely important case that could soon be accepted for review by the Supreme Court. This case and others like it have provided the impetus for the wave of anti-LGBT legislation we are now seeing. The Hobby Lobby case is the next wave in the conservative attack on civil rights guarantees that protect all Americans from discrimination. If it succeeds at the Supreme Court, we are sure to see a wave of claims that businesses should be exempt from civil rights protections.
Both from the right and left, legislative leaders, business people and concerned citizens have denounced these efforts to legalize discrimination against gay men and lesbians and force them into a second-class status. In Arizona, a full court press was instrumental in convincing Governor Brewer to veto the bill. Civil rights groups, joined by Arizona's Senators, Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake, as well as the CEOs of MarriottAmerican Airlines, US Airways, Delta Airlines and Apple, powerfully made the case that Arizona's bill would legalize discrimination and deal a staggering blow to the business community. Similar arguments were decisive in blocking a similar bill in Kansas. Even in the reddest of red states, conservatives are recognizing that business owners should not be entitled to impose their beliefs on customers and deny them basic rights to equal dignity.
Proponents of Hobby Lobby's challenge to the federal contraceptive coverage requirement and this new spate of anti-gay state legislation have argued that they are simply attempting to preserve the constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion, but the reality is that right to the free exercise of religion has never been a right that secular businesses claimed to possess. It has never been part of religious liberty for a business to foist its owner's religious views on his employees or customers. As the raft of new anti-gay legislation powerfully shows, arming businesses with religious rights would create a dangerous precedent that, in the words of one Republican mayor and Arizona gubernatorial candidate, would "give[] carte blanche for anybody to discriminate under the guise of religion." As the Justices look forward to oral argument in the contraceptive cases next month, they may want to remind themselves that no business should have a license to discriminate.
David H. Gans is the Director of Civil Rights, Human Rights, and Citizenship Program at Constitutional Accountability Center. He is the author of Can Corporations Pray? and co-author of CAC's amicus brief in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.



Read the original article from Huffington Post here:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-gans/discrimination-inc_b_4867634.html 

Improving the health of people with learning disabilities

Originally Published: February 28th, 2014

People with learning (intellectual) disabilities have a lower life expectancy than the general population and are more likely to suffer physical disabilities and chronic conditions.
In the UK concerns about institutional discrimination raised by the charity Mencap in its Death by Indifference report, and the Confidential Inquiry into Premature Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities, have highlighted the importance of tackling these issues.
An article published in Learning Disability Practice describes a UK framework to help professionals tackle the health and social care inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities.
The Health Equalities Framework was developed by the Learning Disability Consultant Nurse Network to measure the contribution health and social care staff make to reducing exposure to determinants of inequality, such as social, lifestyle and poor communication issues.
The article highlights how the framework can be used to demonstrate how reducing exposure to these determinants and delivering services to mitigate their effects, influences life expectancy for the better.
The authors of the article hope the findings will help to inform public health strategy, service planning and commissioning.
They continue to advise health service planners and providers across the UK on how to use the framework and have presented it at a series of conferences.


Read the original article from Medical Xpress here:
http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-02-health-people-disabilities.html 

Rosenthal: MLB's diversity push goes beyond the numbers

by Ken Rosenthal
Originally Published: February 28th, 2014

The percentage -- everyone talks about the percentage.
The percentage always draws attention in April, when the number of African-Americans on Opening Day MLB rosters is revealed. Last season the percentage was 8.5, or 64 out of 750. It does not figure to be dramatically different this season, prompting the usual, "Why is this happening?" handwringing for a day or two. After that, everyone will forget about the percentage until next year.
Well, almost everyone.
Baseball is not happy with the percentage. Baseball wants to do something about the percentage. And the people trying to increase the percentage -- those involved with the sport'€™s On-Field Diversity Task Force, Urban Youth Academies and Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program (RBI) -- are seeing progress at the grassroots level, tangible progress.
The next significant development will be the expansion of the annual Breakthrough Series, a showcase created by MLB and USA Baseball for top high-school players, many of them African-American. The series previously took place at one location. Now it will take place at four.
Approximately 200 players, the most since the inception of the event in 2008, will perform in front of professional scouts and college recruiters from July 19 to 28 in Cincinnati, Compton, Calif., Bradenton, Fla., and Brooklyn, N.Y.
See, it is not enough to get more kids from under-served communities playing baseball, something that the RBI and Junior RBI programs accomplish. Once those kids are ready to graduate high school, they need to be seen by the right people. And everything about youth baseball today, from travel ball to high-school showcases, costs money.
The Breakthrough Series is cost-free for participants, who are selected by invitation only. When Frank Robinson, MLB's executive vice president of baseball development notes, "The ones so far have been successful," he is being modest. Forty-three participants were drafted in the last two years, including four first-rounders, and 90 have been drafted in all.
The expansion of the series "is a positive step --€“ one of many, many steps for us," said Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski, chairman of baseball'€™s On-Field Diversity Task Force. "Our committee talked about a lot of different ideas. Some start slowly. Others can put into place more quickly. This is something that was done more quickly."
Commissioner Bud Selig formed the 17-member task force last April, trying to accelerate baseball'€™s efforts to attract more African-American talent. In 1975, approximately 19 percent of major leaguers were African-American, according to Mark Armour of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). Nearly 40 years later, that percentage was down by more than half.
Part of the decline is due to the influx of players from Latin America and Asia. Part of it also is due to fewer African-American kids playing the game. People ask, why is this a problem? The answer is simple: Every professional sport wants to attract the best athletes and improve the quality of competition.
Baseball features some dazzling African-American talents, from 2012 American League Cy Young winner David Price to 2013 National League MVP Andrew McCutchen. But other potential stars gravitate to football and basketball, and that'€™s where the problems begin.
Dombrowski isn'€™t making bold declarations about what his committee wants to accomplish, or how quickly it might achieve its goals. He recognizes that creating a greater African-American talent pool for baseball is a vast and complex challenge -- and a humbling one, too.
"You can't just say one thing will fix our problem," Dombrowski said. "If that were the case, everyone would rush out and do that. A really comprehensive plan has to be implemented. That'€™s what we'€™re working on --€“ getting a comprehensive plan."
***
Former major leaguer Darrell Miller, MLB'€™s vice president of facility and youth development, is something of a baseball evangelist, believing that the sport teaches lessons in life.
Miller, the former director of the sport'€™s urban youth academy in Compton, is on the front lines of baseball'€™s quest to improve its percentage of African-American players. But the issue, in his view, is not limited to race.
"If you really analyze it, take a look from the 10,000-foot view, this is about making sure baseball is healthy in America, period," Miller said. "I don't care if you'€™re a millionaire. Why should you pay $200 a month to play baseball? I know you can. But why would you do it?"
Equipment is expensive. Travel is expensive. And the "pay-for-play" and "pay-for-exposure" movements, in Miller's view, "drove a stake through the heart of what we were trying to do" to attract kids from less advantaged backgrounds.
The Breakthrough Series is one way to level the playing field and make the sport less elitist in the U.S. Miller talks of increasing the number of showcases from four to a much greater number. He notes that six urban youth academies are operational (Compton, Houston, New Orleans), set to open in 2014 (Cincinnati, Philadelphia) or announced (Hialeah, Fla.). In Miller'€™s perfect world, there would be 36.
Efforts like this require bold vision, even dreamers. But why shouldn'€™t Miller and others think big? As Dombrowski'€™s task force formulates its plan, some major developments already are taking place, most notably in the rise of the Junior RBI program for boys and girls 5 to 12.
The RBI program for 13- to 18-year-olds is in its 26th year. The Junior RBI program, entering only its sixth year, began when baseball recognized that, "You can't have kids putting on a glove for the first time at 13," program director David James said.
More than 213,000 participated in RBI leagues throughout the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America in 2013, James said. Of those, about 135,000 were in the Junior RBI program, an increase of 80 percent from 2012.
"We are growing by leaps and bounds," James said.
James attributed part of the growth to the commitment of major-league clubs -- all 30 support RBI, and 18 either operate leagues or provide them with a significant amount of resources. Another reason for the uptick, James said, is a surge of interest in the rural South.
"Those kids deal with a lot of the issues that kids in the inner cities are dealing with," James said. "We want them in the program."
The majority of RBI leagues do not charge registration fees, and no player is excluded because he or she cannot afford to play, James said. African-Americans remain the core demographic, but the program is inclusive, not exclusive. James said that even some middle- and upper-class youths are registering, drawn by the idea of playing with kids from different backgrounds.
Truth be told, RBI is not even solely about baseball. James talks about creating, "major-league citizens, major-league people," participants who in five to 10 years may go onto successful business careers and talk about what RBI meant to them.
Of course, some of them will continue playing baseball, too. Carl Crawford, CC Sabathia and Justin Upton are among the notable RBI alumni who made it to the majors.
The bigger the numbers, the wider the base of talent. The wider the base of talent, the greater the chances that the program will produce additional major leaguers.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Upton, who was in the RBI program, hit 27 homers last year.
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Yet, there is another aspect of this, an aspect outside of baseball'€™s control. College scholarships are scarce, adding to the difficulty in luring African-Americans to the sport.
The NCAA allows Division I schools only 11.7 scholarships in baseball, compared to 85 in football and 13 in basketball. Those scholarships are incredibly valuable for those pursing a career in baseball; the majority of American major leaguers come from those schools.
"It's all about, 'How many (African-American) kids can we get to college?'" Miller said. "If we get college participation for minorities to the next level, then we are guaranteed long-term success."
An increase in the number of baseball scholarships obviously would help, and the Diversity Task Force includes two college representatives, Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir and Southern coach Roger Cador. But, with or without increased flexibility from the NCAA, baseball is going forward.
Seven African-Americans were selected in the first round of the 2012 draft, the most by total and percentage since 1992. Another six went in the first round last year.
Keith Law's 2014 list of the top 100 prospects on ESPN.com featured 17 African-Americans. Jonathan Mayo's list on MLB.com featured 14. Those numbers include the No. 1 prospect on both lists, Twins outfielder Byron Buxton.
The percentage, everyone talks about the percentage of African-Americans in the majors. Baseball deserves to be held a high standard; Selig himself frequently acknowledges the sport'€™s social responsibility. But the task is immense. Progress is slow. And more always can be done.
"There is a lot that is involved," Dombrowski said. "We've been able to identify a number of issues and problems, and we'€™re tackling them now with our committee. We'€™re getting close to putting a couple of ideas in play."
The expansion of the Breakthrough Series is one such idea. Dombrowski is not ready to reveal the others, but the momentum is evident.
Baseball recognizes that it cannot simply wish away this problem. The percentage is too frustrating to be ignored.



Read the original article from FOX Sports here:
http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/rosenthal-mlb-s-diversity-push-goes-beyond-the-numbers-022814