The Irony of Susceptibility to Manipulations: Grooming Neurotypicals for Social Ineptitude

Henny Kupferstein

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The stereotypes of autistic people perpetuate a myth that they are socially inept. Yet non-autistics, also known as neurotypicals, portray ineptitudes on the basis of their susceptibility to body language, communication, and perceptual manipulations. How we learn these signals opens the debate for nature versus nurture, and the acquisition of social skill aptitude. Who is more socially equipped? The one who is capable of surrounding himself with pretentious body language, or the one who is mindful of her full spectrum of awareness? A neurotypical who communicates with learned body gestures is currently considered evolved, while the acquisition of those skills are a direct result of the inability to survive otherwise. The autistic who remains authentic in order to adapt to the current environment is potentially most equipped to function in society.

The cycle of life requires attracting a mate, reproduction, and adaptations for exploitation to those who threaten…

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Winter morning energy boost

If you are one of those people who has trouble getting going on dark winter mornings, I have a potentially great tip for you.

Do you have a floor lamp in your bedroom? Do you have one in your main room? And if you work from home, do you have one in your office? Or some kind of other suitable table lamp?

Go find yourself one or more daylight bulbs. Nothing fancy. Just an ordinary daylight bulb, like this one:
Philips LED A60 E27 Edison Screw Cool Day Light Bulb, Frosted, 6500 K, 13 W (100 W)
or this one (bayonet):
Ecozone Biobulb, Energy-Saving Daylight Bulb, Bayonet Cap B22, 25W Equivalent to 100w, 1750 Lumens, Full Spectrum, Daylight White 6500k, Uses 75% Less Energy.
or this one (also bayonet, but this one uses more energy):
AURAGLOW 9w LED B22 Bayonet Light Bulb, Daylight Cool White, 60w EQV
or this one:
Bright Full Spectrum Energy Saver Natural Cool Daylight (6500K) low energy 11w = 55w Edison Screw ES E27good for SAD (Seasonally Affected Disorder) Compact Twisted Spiral Light Bulb.

(No, I am not talking about seasonal affective disorder and I am not talking about the lighting equipment that is available for treating that.)

In the morning, light helps kick shut down our serotonin production and boost our adrenaline. They go through a daily cycle.

Our morning coffee helps – if you are the morning coffee type – but in midwinter, even my morning coffee is not enough to jump-start my day.

Switching on a daylight lamp in the morning makes me feel much more active – alive, no longer sluggish – from the get-go.

Some of us have another challenge throughout the entire year. My office space happens to get little daylight and I started noticing that I would often be off to a great start until I went from my kitchen into the office and sat down at my desk. So in the morning, I now always switch on a daylight lamp there. It helps a lot!

One word of warning. Although it can be tempting, certainly if you notice the boost in your energy level you get from a daylight lamp, do not leave such a lamp on too late in the day as a habit. Because that can end up making you very sleepy!

It’s a matter of balance. Like most things in life.

Don’t buy tuna in cans or tins

Buy mackerel.

Not only is it more sustainable – which I checked with sustainable fisheries expert Edd Hind a few years back – canned / tinned mackerel has all the healthy fish oils. Tuna in cans or tins does not.

In Mexico, undocumented migrants risk deportation to aid earthquake victims


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Undocumented migrants are among those helping to rebuild the hardest-hit areas of Oaxaca state, where federal aid has been slow to trickle down.
Presidencia de la República Mexicana CC-by-2.0, CC BY-SA

Luis Gómez Romero, University of Wollongong

After two earthquakes that left more than 450 dead and 150,000 houses damaged, my home country of Mexico faces huge challenges in recovery.

According to official estimates, the country will need more than 30 billion pesos (around US$2 billion) to rebuild. The resources required for Mexico’s recovery are almost double the country’s annual gross domestic product, according to World Bank figures.

Manpower, at least, has not been an issue. Search-and-rescue teams from several countries – including Chile, Colombia, Israel, Japan, Panama, the United States and Spain – arrived in the days after the earthquakes to dig survivors out of the rubble. Dozens of foreigners who reside in Mexico also joined the Mexican volunteers in their rescue efforts.

Among these international brigades was a group of undocumented Central American migrants who, interrupting their travel northward to the U.S., stayed in Mexico to help clean up debris and assist the victims.

Their efforts have been largely focused in two of the cities most impacted by the historic Sept. 7 quake, Juchitán and Asunción Ixtaltepec, in Oaxaca. But after the Sept. 19 Mexico City earthquake, some members also volunteered to help dig out survivors from the rubble of the nation’s capital.

With anti-immigrant sentiment on the rise in both the United States and Mexico, which is now deporting Central American migrants in record numbers, these undocumented good Samaritans are changing the Mexican narrative on migrants – brick by brick, rescue by rescue.

Layover on La Bestia

The nearly 50 Central American migrants assisting in Oaxaca’s earthquake recovery effort are staying at Hermanos en el Camino (Brothers of the Road), a Catholic-run shelter in hard-hit Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Felipe González, a volunteer at the shelter, told me via telephone that after the urgent rescue efforts ended, they have continued their work, distributing aid among those who lost their homes.

The migrants who organized this aid brigade are from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and they have diverse backgrounds, but what they have in common – both with each other and with Mexican earthquake victims – is a history of hardship.

According to a May report from Doctors Without Borders, almost 40 percent of the roughly 500,000 Central American immigrants the organization surveyed in Mexico fled their countries after experiencing physical attacks, threats against themselves or their families, extortion or forced gang recruitment.

The Brothers of the Road shelter is located in Ciudad Ixtepec, one of the stops on the main route that Central American immigrants heading north used to follow through Mexico. Normally, the facility serves to provide relief to immigrants who ride atop “La Bestia” – that is, the Beast, the Mexican network of freight trains – to travel to the U.S.

Normally, any savvy immigrant passing through Mexico hopes to avoid detection. At the behest of the U.S., Mexico has been cracking down on undocumented Central American migrants, policing train tops with drones and increasing travel speeds from 18 to 37 mph. As a result, a new maritime route through the Pacific is now opening up.

Mexico has also stepped up deportations. In 2014, for example, Mexico “returned” 107,814 migrants, the majority of them from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. In 2015, deportations rose to 181,163. In 2016, it was 159,872.

The Trump administration has kept up the pressure. In a letter sent to Congress and Senate leaders on Oct. 8, the U.S. president requested that the Department of Homeland Security be granted broad powers to assist “partner nations” in “removing aliens from third countries whose ultimate intent is entering the United States.”

Tough border enforcement isn’t the only reason that Central American migrants normally aim to hurry through Mexico under the radar. Nearly one-third of women surveyed by Doctors Without Borders in 2014 had been sexually abused during their journey, and 68 percent of all migrants were victims of violence.

Migrants are among the many victims of Mexico’s drug war. In 2010 and 2011, 265 migrants from Central and South America were murdered by the Zetas cartel in the northern Mexican town of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, just 55 miles from Texas.

The North American dream

Even knowing the dangers presented by both the state and the drug lords, the guests at the Brothers of the Road shelter risked everything to pitch into the rescue effort after the quake that hit Oaxaca and Chiapas, two of the poorest states in Mexico, in September.

“We’re immigrants in search of the American dream,” Denio Okele, an Honduran migrant, explained to NBC News. But, he continued, “we arrived in Oaxaca, and an earthquake occurred. We are thus helping the people who need assistance.”

Their reasons for helping range from solidarity and compassion to gratitude. “We have received a lot support from people, so we want to help them,” Wilson Alonso, also from Honduras, told the Spanish newspaper El País.

The sacrifice of this migrant humanitarian aid team has earned them hero status in Mexico. Like other volunteers who dug their neighbors free from the rubble with their bare hands, they have been lauded on social media and interviewed by reporters. And for once, the legal status of a group of Central Americans was not the story.

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As José Filiberto Velásquez, a Catholic priest at the Brothers of the Road shelter, told one Mexican reporter, these migrants have shown Mexicans through their actions that, quite simply, “immigrants are good people.”

Pact of the defeated

The Central American migrants’ story is just one example of the spirit of national solidarity that carried Mexico through the days after the two killer September quakes.

After Mexico City’s Sept. 19 temblor, lines of citizens formed next to collapsed buildings to clear broken pieces of buildings covering victims. Brigades of volunteers offered food, clothing, water and other aid. Restaurants became relief centers.

Social media activists quickly organized, tweeting information on exactly what assistance or supplies were needed, and where, under the hashtag #Verificado19S.

After a frightful year in which citizens also lived through half a dozen high-profile government corruption scandals, one of the world’s highest murder rates and nonstop insults from the president of the United States, Mexico has emerged from its two natural disasters with a renewed sense of national pride.

Even though construction began on eight prototypes of Trump’s proposed border wall in San Diego, Calif., just six days after the second earthquake, the mood in Mexico today is almost optimistic.

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The solidarity on display recalls what Argentinian writer Ernesto Sábato calls “the pact of the defeated.” In a world full of “horror, treason and envy,” Sábato writes in his memoir, “Antes del Fin,” it’s often “the most unprivileged part of humanity” that shows everyone else the path to salvation.

The ConversationRight now in Mexico, earthquake-impacted locals and undocumented migrants alike are working together to rebuild their futures. In facing the years of hard recovery and U.S. antagonism ahead of it, a “pact of the defeated” may be as good a starting point as any.

Luis Gómez Romero, Senior Lecturer in Human Rights, Constitutional Law and Legal Theory, University of Wollongong

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

In Latin America, is there a link between abortion rights and democracy?

Larissa Arroyo Navarrete, University of Costa Rica

Three-quarters of all abortions in Latin America are performed illegally, putting the woman’s life at risk. Together with Africa and Asia, the region accounts for many of the 17.1 million unsafe abortions performed globally each year, according to a new report in The Lancet, published jointly with the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group.

Though worrying, this fact is unsurprising in a region where six countries ban abortion under all circumstances: the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Suriname. Such complete criminalization, even when fetal termination is necessary to save a woman’s life, exists in only two other places in the world: Malta and the Vatican.

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Numerous studies confirm that restrictive laws do not in any way prevent women from seeking or getting abortions. And in the vast majority of Latin American countries – including Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and, since August 2017, Chile – this medical procedure is legal, though it generally requires specific justification, such as maternal health or rape.

Not so in Central America, home to three of the eight countries in the world with total abortion bans. As I am a Costa Rican lawyer and feminist, to me, it’s no small matter that women in many neighboring countries lack access to this basic health service.

Why does this region so studiously avoid recognizing women as full individuals entitled to their own human rights? In my view, there’s a clear link in Latin America between the state of a country’s democracy and the reproductive rights of its female citizens.

Neighbors Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador are among the few countries in the world with total abortion bans.
Cacahuate/Wikimedia, CC BY

Honduras: Land of inequality

In Honduras, for example, it was only after the 2009 coup d’état that ousted President Manuel Zelaya – a huge democratic setback that ushered in an era of violence – that the country passed a total ban on abortion.

Today, women must carry to term even a pregnancy that endangers their life, and emergency contraception is heavily penalized. These restrictions were reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in 2012.

Despite efforts by human rights defenders and official statements by the United Nations, independent experts and NGOs like Amnesty International, there has been no material progress in advancing the reproductive rights of Honduran women.

In some ways, this is not surprising. In post-coup Honduras, human rights violations – ranging from violence and poverty to impunity – are routine fare for the entire population. Rampant gender inequality is just another symptom of this dismal situation.

Nicaragua and El Salvador: Dangerous setbacks

The situation in Nicaragua, just to the south, is similar. There, “therapeautic abortion” – the common parlance for ending a pregnancy for health-related reasons – was acceptable from 1837 until relatively recently. But starting in 2007, President Daniel Ortega, who has modified the Constitution to end term limits, began passing legal amendments to ban abortions completely, without any exceptions.

Ortega supported abortion rights during his first presidency, in the 1980s. But he has since embraced the Catholic Church’s position of strong opposition, with deadly consequences for Nicaraguan women.

In 2010, for example, a pregnant woman who went by the pseudonym of “Amelia” was refused treatment for metastatic cancer because the state ruled that the regime of chemotherapy and radiotherapy – which her doctor had urgently recommended – might trigger a miscarriage.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ultimately issued injunctions for Amelia, but the damage was already done. She died in 2011.

Impossible though it may seem, women fare worse in El Salvador, a civil war-torn country rife with violence, unpunished crimes and criminal infiltration of the police. In 1999, El Salvador constitutionally mandated that human life starts at the moment of conception.

This legal argument is now used to uphold a full criminalization of abortion, even under the most extenuating circumstances, such as when a woman’s life is at risk, the pregnancy is the result of rape or the fetus is severely malformed.

Anti-abortion sentiment is so virulent in El Salvador today that even miscarriages may be investigated on suspicion that they were self-induced. This persecution has had lethal consequences: Women who’ve spontaneously lost a pregnancy have been accused of murder, sometimes by even their own law-abiding relatives.

In 2016, Sweden offered political asylum to a Salvadoran woman who was sentenced to 40 years of prison for the aggravated homicide of a fetus miscarried before she even knew she was pregnant.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women has requested that El Salvador decriminalize abortion, saying that the fact that most women prosecuted and sentenced for this crime are among the country’s most vulnerable citizens – young, uneducated, jobless and single – represents a powerful social injustice.

Women’s citizenship

Though there are great economic, cultural and political differences between these three countries, across Central America the connection between the lack of rule of law and women’s restricted reproductive rights is noteworthy.

That’s because denying women the ability to make decisions about their own bodies means that a woman’s life matters only to the extent that she is the custodian of a potential future life, rather than as a life worthy of protection.

The Constitutional Court of Colombia agrees. In 2006, it stated in its legal justification for decriminalizing abortion, “The dignity of women does not permit that they be considered mere receptacles.”

In Chile, which recently legalized abortion after nearly a half-century of its total prohibition, history shows a similar relationship between democracy and women’s rights. In 1931, the Chilean Congress approved the voluntary interruption of pregnancy for medical purposes if the woman’s life was endangered or the fetus was not viable.

This exception remained in place until, in 1973, under the dictatorship of Augustin Pinochet, abortion became illegal. In 1980, the Chilean Constitution established that the law protected the life “of the unborn,” indicating that the life of a woman was worth less than that of an embryo.

Feminists in Chile celebrated three new exceptions to the abortion ban – mother’s health, fetal health, rape – but also wondered what took so long.
Corporación Miles Chile

Even after democracy was restored to Chile, in 1991, this ban remained in place. It was not until August 2017, some 26 years later, that the country adopted a more sensible approach, focused on protecting women’s lives and health. The Chilean case demonstrates that once women lose their value as individuals in the eyes of the state, it is difficult to win back.

What’s at risk in the Latin American regimes where abortion is still forbidden, then, are not only women’s lives but also the political systems of Central American society itself. Can democracy exist in places that don’t recognize women as people?

The ConversationLee en español.

Larissa Arroyo Navarrete, Professor of Human Rights, University of Costa Rica

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.