TRUMP AND HILLARY SCORE BIG ON SUPER TUESDAY
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton moved closer to a presidential face-to-face, with each winning seven of the 11 states holding primaries on the so-called Super Tuesday. Trump took home Republican primary wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia, while Clinton won Democratic contests in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
On the Republican side, Ted Cruz won his home state of Texas and Oklahoma while Marco Rubio garnered his first victory in Minnesota. Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders won his home state of Vermont along with Colorado, Minnesota and Oklahoma. So far, 15 states have chosen their candidates, and 35 are yet to vote.
Read more about the winners and losers from Super Tuesday on the Washington Post.
BIN LADEN LAST WILL REVEALED
The U.S. intelligence community has released 113 documents seized during the 2011 raid on al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Ladenâ€™s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, TIME reports. One of the letters revealed Tuesday was described by intelligence officials as a last will, in which Bin Laden requests $29 million of his fortune to be used in the global jihad. According to national intelligence translators, the one-page letter states â€œI hope, for my brothers, sisters, and maternal aunts, to obey my will and to spend all the money that I have left in Sudan on jihad, for the sake of Allah.â€ In another letter addressed to his father in August 2008, the al-Qaeda leader expressed worries about being assassinated. â€œIf I am to be killed, pray for me a lot and give continuous charities in my name, as I will be in great need for support to reach the permanent home.â€
Photo: Bill Ingalls/NASA/ZUMA
The Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft touched down near Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, bringing Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos back to Earth. Kelly and Kornienko completed a record year-long mission aboard the International Space Station. Volkov returned late Tuesday night after spending six months on the station.
GULF STATES: HEZBOLLAH â€œTERRORISTâ€ GROUP
Deepening the divide between Shia and Sunni Muslims, the Sunni-dominated regimes of the Gulf States have officially labeled the pro-Iranian Shia group Hezbollah a â€œterroristâ€ organization. Read more from Al Arabiya.
When legendary 87-year-old film composer Ennio Morricone finally won his first Oscar, he chose to speak in his native language. It was a subtly powerful message back home in Italy, Massimo Gramellini writes for Italian daily La Stampa: â€œ... even if his knowledge of the language of Shakespeare and Tarantino was limited, he would have had no trouble getting someone else to help jot down a few lines. Instead, he chose to use Italian. He did so with self-knowledge and without any sort of ostentatious pride, but also with no sign of that inferiority complex typical of many provincial Italians, who jump at the chance to use any word with a whiff of foreign exoticism, or of certain politicians who fill their mouths with phrases such as â€œstepchild adoption,â€ botching the pronunciation and not knowing the meaning. It was striking to hear our language in the temple of the Hollywood gods, from Charlize Theron to Steven Spielberg, and to see them all rise to their feet to honor the Maestro.
Read the full article, Ennio Morricone, The Other Italian.
U.S. CAPTURES ISIS OPERATIVE
U.S. Special Forces have captured a highly ranked ISIS operative in Iraq. U.S. defense officials describe the capture late yesterday as a crucial development in the effort to curb the threat of ISIS, but it also raises questions about how to manage a plausibly growing number of detainees, reports the New York Times reports. Due to the recently deployed 200-member Special Operations team in Iraq, the Pentagon is now faced with the prospect of handling more detentions and interrogations.
ON THIS DAY
From the Romanov Dynasty to the first NBA All-Star Game, here is your 57-second shot of history!
CHINESE SHIPS SEIZE DISPUTED ATOLL
Philippine officials report that China has stationed several ships near a disputed atoll in the South China Sea, blocking Filipino fishermen from accessing traditional fishing waters, Reuters reports this morning. China had deployed coast guard boats and five warships to Jackson Atoll, said Eugenio Bito-onon Jr, the mayor of a nearby Philippine-administered Island in the Spratlys. The Spratly Islands are a highly contested archipelago in the South China Sea, a resource-rich region and critical shipping lane linking North Asia to Europe, South Asia and the Middle East. The U.S. has expressed concerns about China militarizing the islands which may threaten the freedom of navigation in the South. â€œChina must not pursue militarization of the South China Sea,â€ U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in a speech in San Francisco on Tuesday. â€œSpecific actions will have specific consequences.â€
MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
ONLINE SOLAR ECLIPSE
Unless you live in Indonesia, you wonâ€™t be able to see todayâ€™s total solar eclipse. Thankfully, the Slooh robotic telescope will livestream the whole event here.
The confinement experience could turn brutal for those forced to live with relatives who would not tolerate a member of the family living their sexual orientation openly as a young adult. Here are stories from urban and rural India.
Abhijith had been working as a radio jockey in the southern Indian city of Thiruvananthapuram when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, 2020. When the government imposed a nationwide lockdown, Abhijith returned to the rural Pathanamthitta district , where his parents live with an extended family, including uncles, cousins and grandparents.
Eighteen months later, he recalled that the experience was "unbearable" because he had to live with homophobic relatives. "Apart from the frequent reference to my sexual 'abnormality', they took me to a guruji to 'cure' me," Abhijith recalled. "He gave me something to eat, which made me throw up. The guru assured me that I was throwing up whatever 'demon' was possessing me and 'making' me gay."
Early in 2021, Abhijith travelled back to Thiruvananthapuram, where he found support from the members of the queer collective.
Inspired by their work, he also decided to work towards uplifting the queer community. "I wish no one else goes through the mental trauma I have endured," said Abhijit.
Abhijith's story of mental distress arising from family abuse turns out to be all too common among members of India's LGBTQ+ community, many of whom were trapped in their homes and removed from peer support groups during the pandemic.
Oppressive home situations
As India continues to reel from a pandemic that has claimed more lives (235,524) in three months of the second wave (April-June 2021) than in the one year before that (162,960 deaths in March 2020-March 2021), the LGBTQ community has faced myriad problems. Sexual minorities have historically suffered from mainstream prejudice and the pandemic has aggravated socio-economic inequalities, instigated family and institutionalized abuse, apart from limiting access to essential care. This has resulted in acute mental distress which has overwhelmed queer support infrastructure across the country.
Speaking to queer collective representatives across India, I learned that the heightened levels of distress in the community was due to longstanding factors that were triggered under lockdown conditions. Family members who are intolerant of marginalized sexual identities, often tagging their orientation as a "disorder" or "just a phase", have always featured among the main perpetrators of subtle and overt forms of violence towards queer, trans and homosexual people.
Calls from lesbians and trans men to prevent forced marriages during lockdowns.
Sappho For Equality, a Kolkata-based feminist organization that works for the rights of sexually marginalized women and trans men, recorded a similar trend. Early in the first wave, the organization realized that the existing helpline number was getting overwhelmed with distress calls. It added a second helpline number. The comparative figures indicate a 13-fold jump in numbers: from 290 calls in April 2019-March 20 to 3,940 calls in April 2020-May 2021.
"Most of the calls we have been getting from lesbians and trans men are urgent appeals to prevent forced marriages during lockdowns," said Shreosi, a Sappho member and peer support provider. "If they happen to resist, they are either evicted or forced to flee home. But where to house them? There aren't so many shelters, and ours is at full capacity."
Shreosi says that the nature of distress calls has also changed. "Earlier people would call in for long-term help, such as professional mental health support. But during the pandemic, it has changed to immediate requests to rescue from oppressive home situations. Often, they will speak in whispers so that the parents can't hear."
Lack of spaces
Like many of his fellow queer community members, life for Sumit P., a 30-year-old gay man from Mumbai, has taken a turn for the worse. The lockdown has led to the loss of safe spaces and prolonged residence at home.
"It has been a really difficult time since the beginning of the lockdown. I am suffering from a lot of mental stress since I cannot freely express myself at home. Even while making a call, I have to check my surroundings to see if anybody is there. If I try to go out, my family demands an explanation. I feel suffocated," he said.
The pandemic has forced some queer people to come out
Sumit is also dealing with a risk that has hit the community harder than others – unemployment and income shortage. He's opened a cafe with two other queer friends, which is now running into losses. For others, pandemic-induced job losses have forced queer persons from all over the country to return to their home states and move in with their families who've turned abusive during this long period of confinement.
Lockdowns force coming out
According to Kolkata-based physician, filmmaker and gay rights activist Tirthankar Guha Thakurata, the pandemic has forced some queer people to come out, succumbing to rising discomfort and pressure exerted by homophobic families.
"In most cases, family relations sour when a person reveals their identity. But many do not flee home. They find a breathing space or 'space out' in their workspaces. In the absence of these spaces, mental problems rose significantly," he said.
Not being able to express themselves freely in front of parents who are hostile, intolerant and often address transgender persons by their deadname or misgender them has created situations of severe distress, suicidal thoughts and self-harm.
Psychiatrist and queer feminist activist Ranjita Biswas (she/they) cites an incident. A gender-nonconforming person died under suspicious circumstances just days after leaving their peer group and going home to their birth parents. The final rites were performed with them dressed in bangles and a saree.
"When a member of our community asked their mother why she chose a saree for someone who had worn androgynous clothes all their life, she plainly said it was natural because after all, the deceased 'was her daughter,'" Biswas recalls.
The Indian queer mental health support infrastructure, already compromised with historical prejudice, is now struggling
In India, queer people's access to professional mental healthcare has been "very limited," according to community members such as Ankan Biswas, India's first transgender lawyer who has been working with the Human Rights Law Network in West Bengal.
"A large majority of the psychiatrists still consider homosexuality as a disorder and practice 'correctional therapy'. It's only around the big cities that some queer-friendly psychiatrists can be found," Biswas said. "The pandemic has further widened the inequalities in access to mental health support for India's LGBTQ community."
Biswas is spending anxious days fielding an overwhelming amount of calls and rescue requests from queer members trapped in their homes, undergoing mental, verbal and even physical torture. "We don't have the space, I just tell them to wait and bear it a little longer," he said.
Medical care is dismal
Anuradha Krishnan's story, though not involving birth family, outlines how the lack of physical support spaces have affected India's queer population. Abandoned by her birth family when she came out to them as a trans woman in 2017, Anuradha Krishnan (she/they), founder of Queerythm in Kerala who is studying dentistry, had to move into an accommodation with four other persons.
Isolation triggered my depression
"I am used to talking and hanging around with friends. Isolation triggered my depression and I had to seek psychiatric help." Living in cramped quarters did not help with quarantine requirements and all of them tested positive during the first wave.
What is deeply worrying is that the Indian queer mental health support infrastructure, already compromised with historical prejudice, is now struggling, placing more and more pressure on queer collectives and peer support groups whose resources are wearing thin.
During the 10 months of the first wave of the pandemic in India in 2020, Y'all, a queer collective based in Manipur, received about 1,000 distress calls on their helpline number from LGBTQ+ individuals. In May 2021 alone, they received 450 such calls (including texts and WhatsApp messages) indicating a telling escalation in the number of queer people seeking help during the second wave.
As India's queer-friendly mental health support infrastructure continues to be tested, Y'all founder, Sadam Hanjabam, a gay man, says, "Honestly, we are struggling to handle such a large number of calls, it is so overwhelming. We are also dealing with our own anxieties. We are burning out."
Sreemanti Sengupta is a freelance writer, poet, and media studies lecturer based in Kolkata.
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