The Cannabis Capital of the World

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Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 06:45 p.m. DST, 24 June 2014

Marijuana Bud, Photo by Smokers High Life

LAZARAT, Albania -- This past week, the Albanian government waged a war against the large-scale cultivation of marijuana in the small town of Lazarat, which is 140 miles south of the Albanian capital. Lazarat has been called the 'cannabis capital' of Europe, and it comes by this title honestly. International officials estimate that the small village alone produces 900 metric tons of cannabis each year, which brings in over $6 billion annually.

The offensive began last Monday, 16 June, as Albanian special forces donned Kevlar vests and stormed the village in army vehicles designed to withstand automatic weapons and shelling attacks. Their protective gear proved important, as cartel-style gangs defended drug warehouses and weapons caches. The firefight lasted days, and on Wednesday, 18 June, police and rebels reached a ceasefire agreement.

In 1990 and 1997, the Albanian government was overhauled in order to address widespread corruption and centralized wealth. The new socialist administration has sought to join the European Union multiple times in recent years, but their intentions have not translated to EU membership for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most problematic aspect of Albanian admission is the cannabis industry.

For nearly two decades, Lazarat has made Albania the 'cannabis capital' of the European bloc, as their marijuana yield is distributed through nearby Italy and further westward. Armed with weapons seized during the 1990 and 1997 revolutions, gangs in Lazarat were omnipotent until last Wednesday. Similar problems may persist in other rural areas of Albania, but certainly not to the same extent as Lazarat.

While opposition to Albania's inclusion in the EU is centered around the production of marijuana, many Albanians see the industry as useful and profitable. Most in Albania would agree, however, that the gangs in Lazarat and other townships gain tremendous revenue through the distribution of marijuana, and these organized crime vehicles present a threat to residents of Lazarat and nearby locales.

The defensive volley of ammunition and explosives that were discharged from gang controlled safe houses is best explained by what is at stake in the standoff. The $6 billion industry in Lazarat alone totals half of the entire country's Gross Domestic Product. It is astounding that such a small village, located in a relatively small nation, could feed so much of the European marijuana market on its own.

More than marijuana, this move by officials in Tirana signals the eradication of small gang militias, which in a sense own and operate the small village of Lazarat. Those in charge in Tirana believe that the people of Lazarat will be better off without the coalition of gangs running the township, but that will remain to be seen. In the meantime, Albania is one step closer to association with the European Union.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

Redskins' Trademark Cancelled by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

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Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 05:37 p.m. DST, 18 June 2014

"Washington Redskins helmet"  Photo by: Keith AllisonALEXANDRIA, Virginia -- The US Patent and Trademark Office came down hard on the Washington Redskins organization today, 18 June 2014, canceling the National Football League franchise's exclusive rights to the logo and name. Now, the Redskins trademarks will not belong solely to the team, and may be used by a host of marketing and equipment businesses, pending future bargaining.

Several Native American tribes and advocacy groups are hoping that this could be the incentive that owner Dan Snyder needs in order to change the name of the organization. This decision is part of a larger movement in US professional sports to encourage players, owners and coaches to act with common decency.

The decision follows the high-profile controversy surrounding Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the racist statements he made about black people, and the NBA executive decision to pressure Sterling to sell the Clippers franchise. Another recent media blitz centered around Twitter postings made by Miami Dolphins player Don Jones, who made derogatory comments about NFL newcomer Michael Sam, after Sam and his partner were shown kissing during the 2014 NFL Draft.

Washington owner Dan Snyder has made inflammatory comments about the Redskins name being a "badge of honor" for Native Americans. Hold on, Snyder. How can the title "Redskin" be an honorary title, when it is simply an antiquated way of describing an ethnic group by their complexion? While you, Mr. Snyder, see the name as such a privileged distinction, several American Indian tribes and organizations do not. And 26 of these groups are demonstrating today on behalf of the name change.

Snyder has stated his allegiance to the name many times, once saying: "we owe it to our fans and coaches and players, past and present, to preserve that heritage." The words Snyder uses to describe his so-called obligation to the franchise leave me with an uncomfortable feeling, as they do many people. Why he would bring up the "heritage" of a group of sports fans, obviously indicating that this imaginary heritage trumps actual tribal heritage? Why he would choose the word "heritage" in  the first place is beyond me.

To Mr. Snyder, and other people who believe that their interpretation of the Redskins insignia is more important than the Native American people who are a living representation of the Redskins organization: why does the "heritage" of corporatized sports team eclipse the heritage of hundreds of various tribal communities living throughout the United States?

For Snyder, the Redskins logo may be a "badge of honor", but to me that term is far from a compliment or a term of respect, since that title has been denounced by countless American Indians as a badge of hatred and racism.

The comments by Snyder are just one aspect in which Native Americans are treated as if they are not living, breathing people, as important and valuable as any human living today. Snyder continues to paint native cultures as a caricature, a simple icon, something bound to the past. All the while, he acts as if the Natives Americans living in the shadow of this logo benefit in any way by their representation. From the merchandise worth millions of dollars, plastered all over various pieces of apparel and jerseys, to the face of the iconic Redskin on the drink koozies of intoxicated ticket holders, I see no way in which this so-called "badge of honor" actually honors the American Indians.

Snyder's obligations to the "heritage" of the Redskins organization are insensitive and wrong. Everybody knows that Snyder's main concern is his revenue and the bottom line. His "heritage" comments seem to me to be a misplaced acknowledgment of his failed responsibility to protect the wishes of the people behind the logo.

Here's hoping that the Patent and Trademark Office's decision today will provide Snyder with enough of an economic incentive to make the proper, principled decision, even if the impetus for the name change comes only in consideration of dollars and cents.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

Albanian Women Swearing Virginity to Live as Men

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KRUJE, Albania -- In Albania, where culture is dictated by patriarchy, some women are taking vows of celibacy and living their lives as men.

These “sworn virgins”, or burrneshas in Albanian, save the honor of their families by becoming a proxy patriarch. As Albania modernizes and women’s rights improve, this dying custom is still being practiced by women in small villages.

The burrneshas, translated as “he-she”, custom is one that has existed historically in Albania, dating back to the fifteenth century. In the Balkan tribal communities, they followed a Kanun law, according to The Huffington Post. They also say, Kanun law is particularly restrictive towards women as it “prohibits women from voting, driving, earning money or wearing pants.”

This law also mandated that tribal clans had to outcast any families without a male figure. Because of internal tribal warfare, however, men in the families were often killed. Women in families then faced a dilemma, how they could maintain their family’s honor. If there was a virginal female in the family, though, they could to assume the role of patriarch and become a man to save the family.

Part of the burrneshas transition to becoming a man means taking an oath of virginity. A photographer who documented burrneshas, Jill Peters, wrote on her website about these women saying, “Becoming a sworn virgin or burrnesha elevated a woman to the status of a man and granted her all the rights and privileges of the male population.” She continued, “In order to manifest the transition, such a woman cut her hair, donned male clothing and sometimes even changed her name. [… ] Most importantly of all, she took a celibacy vow to remain chaste for life.”

Even though these women are faced with the obligation of preserving their family’s honor by living a restricted life, unable to have a family of their own, they do not see it as a burden. Peters told Slate, “None of them had regrets. They’re very proud of their families, of their nephews and nieces.” Because of the sacrifice these women make, they are actually treated as respected individuals in their community.

In many cases, living as a burrnesha is liberating for Albanian women for whom marriages are arranged and lives restricted to the household. Pashe Keqi, a burrnesha, told The New York Times how she felt freer living as a man saying, “I was totally free as a man because no one knew I was a woman.” She continued, “I could go wherever I wanted to and no one would dare swear at me because I could beat them up. I was only with men. I don’t know how to do women’s talk. I am never scared.”

With modernization spreading in Albania, women are gaining more rights and with that the burrnesha tradition is diminishing. Thus, the older generations are believed to be the most authentic burrneshas because they were forced into the lifestyle—as opposed to women today that are not under as much pressure. Qamile Stema, the last burrnesha in her village told The New York Times, “We respect sworn virgins very much and consider them as men because of their great sacrifice. But there is no longer a stigma not to have a man of the house.”

Slate reports that actually only a few dozen burrneshas still practice, mostly in remote areas. As the country continues to modernize progress for women, the burrnesha tradition will become obsolete.

Follow Allyson on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

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International Volunteers Series: Teaching English in Yanji, China

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 2:55 p.m. DST, 1 June 2014

Oliva Elswick

CHINA, Yanji -- For The first in a series of interviews I’m conducting with young volunteers around the globe, I spoke with Sarah Dickhut, an English teacher in Yanji, China. Dickhut graduated from Loras College in 2013 with degrees in Biological Research and Philosophy, and will attend law school at University of Iowa this coming fall, where she hopes to combine law and philosophy to advocate for and raise awareness about major issues in international human rights.

Dickhut teaches at Yanji International Technical Cooperation High School, a boarding school for about 200 students of Chinese and Korean descent. Situated among farmland and pastures, this school is a quaint relief from the bustling downtown just minutes down the road. With a population of half a million people, Yanji is considered a small town by Chinese standards. Situated on the border of North Korea and Russia, Yanji is a busy transportation and trade link between North Korea and China, and Yanji’s population is largely ethnic Korean.

What prepared you for the job of being an English teacher in China?

I’m currently working as a high school teacher in a technical school, which is a subject area which differs from my degrees, so I haven’t had a lot of job-specific preparation. However, I think service in general has helped a great deal in providing me with a “willing heart,” and frequent consultation with other ESL teachers has been very useful.

Has there been a defining moment in your life that made you decide to take the direction you did in teaching English in China?

I don’t often have “defining moments” where the clouds break and a light from the heavens shines down to illuminate my path in life. My decision to volunteer rose from a gradual recognition of how much I have been given and a desire to give something back. #blessed

What were your thoughts about China before you arrived and how have they changed or stayed the same?

A few people vocally expressed (an unfounded) concern for my safety, which initially cast a little bit of a shadow over my excitement. So after that, I really tried to avoid preconceptions or assumptions about the country.

What is one common misconception people might have about China?

The most common misconception I’ve encountered about China is that it’s extremely dangerous. In reality, as long as you avoid trouble with the government, the threat from other citizens (mugging, murder, kidnapping) is extraordinarily low. The biggest concern is really pickpocketing.

What kind of reception have you been given in Yanji?

The teachers at our school have been very cordial; the most common way I’ve experienced hospitality is through a meal. It’s not uncommon for the English department, or for the whole school to go to dinner together.

How do students usually react to you when you first meet them?

Most students have never seen a foreigner before, so when I first meet a class it usually goes like this: I walk in the door, the students audibly gasp, I say hello, and there’s a few minutes of shyness before I get them talking in English.

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Published: 1 June 2014 (Page 2 of 3)

What is a typical workweek like for you?

I teach conversational English to three different grades of high school students, and based on the Chinese class schedule I have about two classes a day. The government provides a conversational English textbook, but as long as I cover the main topics and grammar patterns I have a lot of freedom to develop creative lessons. Some of the ones I’ve particularly enjoyed teaching include lessons on the psychology of personality, American slang, and a murder mystery game.

How does this compare to the workweek of other teachers in your school?

Because the Chinese educational system is completely controlled by the government, they control the curriculum, number of classes, and number of teachers. The government’s control over teaching jobs causes them to hire as many teachers as possible within one school. Consequently, each teacher has considerably fewer classes per day than the average American teacher—no more than four 40-minute lessons a day. This means that I’m doing approximately half of the work of the average Chinese teacher.

How is your school alike or different from other schools you’re familiar with?

Since our school is a technical school, the prevalent attitude among the teachers is that classes are not so much preparation for future education as they are to help students develop into better people. So there’s a lot more flexibility in grading and the rigor of classwork. Additionally, the school allows students quite a bit of free time; they have an hour and a half for lunch, and at least one free period every day. As I mentioned, the same relaxed attitude seems to apply to the teachers. There is less demand to prepare lesson plans in advance and most teachers have time for a nap every day.

Can you explain the educational system in the part of China you live?

Structurally, our school is designed and painted exactly the same as the other high schools in the area. This system of “equality” is carried out to such an extent that even the color of paint within the schools is exactly the same. Our school does differ, however, in that it is an international endeavor between China and Korea. Basically our school is funded by both Chinese and Korean parties, and there are both Chinese and Korean administrators. The purpose is to help expand job placement for students post-graduation—we send students throughout China and South Korea.

How is Yanji different from other places you’ve visited in China?

I’ve had the privilege of visiting some larger cities, like Shanghai. These populous international cities house a multitude of cultures, so it’s easier to feel at home.

What are the hardest parts about living in Yanji?

Although Yanji is a city of 500,00, by Chinese standards it’s the modern-day equivalent of a rural village. The result is that by living in this city we are cut off from virtually all aspects of western culture.

What is the most rewarding part about living in Yanji?

Total immersion in a new culture, and the lack of English in the city propels me to use Chinese and Korean more frequently.

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Published: 1 June 2014 (Page 3 of 3)

What is your best memory so far?

It’s actually difficult to choose a single best experience…but I think one that stands out in my mind is visiting the local ice festival. It’s similar to the ice festival in Harbin, where builders take immense quantities of ice and snow to build large structures like castles and slides. At night the giant snow-slides are lit up with colored lights. It’s a really beautiful sight.

Have you found that women are viewed differently than men in Yanji?

In my experience the Chinese state that intellectually women and men are equal, however they hold gender stereotypes for careers, physical ability, and child preference. In terms of careers, I have been told on several occasions that some professions (like engineers) are more suitable for men, and that teaching is the least honorable profession for men as it indicates a fastidiousness of character. Additionally, it’s assumed that in sports, all females are at a disadvantage, so activities are carefully structured to give female players an advantage. Finally, Chinese families still have a strong preference for male children, as the male will care for his parents later in life. When a female is married, she is expected to show preference for her in-laws over that of her own parents (i.e. on family holidays a couple is expected to spend the time with the male’s parents).

What have you discovered about China’s 1 child policy?

While the one-child policy is still enforced, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, ethic minorities (like the Chinese-Koreans in my area) are allowed to have additional children. As a result, because of the high percentage of ethic minorities in my region, I have less experience with the imbalance of genders seen in many other Chinese regions.

How much of a hand do you think the government has in the lives of ordinary citizens?

I guess I can answer that through the example of the typical teacher in my area. A teacher works for the government, and as such is guaranteed a job by the government. Usually upon graduation, the government will place teachers at specific schools, and may move them if deemed necessary. As the educational system is federally run, there is immense pressure for every teacher to be a member of the Communist party—in fact, it’s unofficially necessary for promotion and awards. However, if a teacher is not a member of the Party, they are still exposed to Communist ideals through their co-workers, and “training videos” which are thinly veiled propaganda discouraging religion and political activism. The average teacher likely has a phone and computer, however the government has access to all cellular data, and censors online information including websites such as facebook, twitter, tumblr, google, and virtually all blogs. Donations for natural disasters are derived from the paycheck and are compulsory. Salary and benefits are subject to change without discussion or ability to lobby. It seems the government does everything but assign a police officer to every citizen.

How does being so close to North Korea impact your city?

The proximity to North Korea means there are many North Korean refugees in the city. Additionally, there is a military base which is used for training and to arm the border. The city is also a hub for the transportation of goods into North Korea. All commerce is supposed to be controlled directly by the North Korean government, but as this infrastructure has been weakened significantly by economic hardships, North Koreans have built an extensive black market. Common exports from our city include food, clothing, and unfortunately, methamphetamine.

You spent time in Seoul, South Korea. How similar is Yanji to Korea?

Since there is a large Korean minority living in Yanji, there are tangible influences of both South and North Korean culture in my city. The most obvious is the language; Korean is an official language of the province and many people in Yanji speak Korean (albeit a different dialect). Additionally, there are a few South Korean chain restaurants throughout the city. In terms of pop culture, most residents of Yanji are well-versed in Korean dramas, and Korean pop music, or k-pop.

How does it feel to be an American living in China?

Eventually you just get used to being “strange.”

What is the most interesting thing you’ve observed or been a part of?

Something that I still haven’t adjusted to is other peoples’ reactions to my ethnicity. There are very few people of Caucasian ethnicity in Yanji, so my features can be surprising. People stare openly, sometimes stopping what they’re doing to get a better look at my face. Occasionally people will call out a series of non-related words in English to see if I’ll respond, or if I’m walking they might follow me a short distance to get a better look.

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Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @OCELswick

Elliot Rodger | The Phenomena of Mass Murder

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:13 a.m. EDT, 25 May 2014

N04_The RAF promoted violence, Photo by Jago-jiSANTA BARBARA, California – In the early morning hours of Saturday, 24 May 2014, the tranquility and safety of the community of Isla Vista was shattered forever when one of its own, Elliot Rodger, 22, took to the street shooting indiscriminately out of his BMW at innocent and unsuspecting victims.

The Los Angeles Times broke the story based upon information provided by a police official that Rodger’s shooting spree resulted in 7 dead, including him, while seven others were wounded. He allegedly drove through the streets of the Isla Vista neighborhood of Santa Barbara firing from his car and trying to run down pedestrians.

What makes this story more than a human interest piece is the dynamic between privilege versus the ordinary and what this escalating gun violence says about us as a country.

I could revisit the issue of gun control in America, but the NRA and its powerful lobby, along with the Second Amendment to the Constitution which grants individuals with ‘the right to keep and bear arms,’ makes winning this argument about as successful as winning an Olympic Gold metal while running through wet concrete.

Instead, there is the question of why Rodger, the son of privilege and heir apparent to Peter Rodger, an assistant director on the 2012 film “Hunger Game,” would feel the need to take such drastic measures by embarking upon his killing spree.

Mass murders have unfortunately become a too often occurrence in our society which has become increasingly fluid, and the community ties that so closely bound the country in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s dissipated, leaving many adrift in despair and loneliness.

This void has been filled with Internet ‘communities’ where people can ‘friend’ and be ‘friended,’ but ultimately what is needed most – human touch and intimate interaction is unavailable. Couple this with increased economic pressures, changes in social mores, and “do anything to anyone so I can get ahead’ attitudes, further complicates matters.

Many people, but not all, increasingly feel isolated. Some of this can be attributed to the effects of income inequality which retards upward mobility, and for others the lack of access to higher education due to the prohibitive costs, also breeds hopelessness.

Add to this the belief, as heavily marketed and promoted by the media, that you can be anything you desire you just have to take it, leaves many feeling inept and in extreme cases impotent.

This is not an excuse for murder, mass killing, or suicide, but I believe it to be a contributing factor to the desperation and isolation that is the pressure cooker churning out more mass murderers decade after decade.

According to Mother Jones’ article, “A Guide to Mass Shootings in America” there have been since 1982 “at least 70 mass shootings across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. Thirty-three of these mass shootings have occurred since 2006.

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Published: 25 May 2014 (Page 2 of 2)

Seven of them took place in 2012, and another five occurred in 2013, including in Santa Monica, California, and at the Washington Navy Yard. The first five months of 2014 brought another bloodbath at Fort Hood, Texas, and mass killings in northern and southern California.”

Then last month, April 2014, in Overland Park, Kansas, Frazier Glenn Cross, who also went by Frazier Glenn Miller, a 73-year-old Missouri resident killed anyone and everyone in his reach, as he acted upon his racist beliefs by trying to kill Jews at a local community center.

With so much violence on television, Internet, and in the movies, and the constant threat of domestic and foreign terrorism, people are becoming inured to these killings, which often capture the public's attention and news cycles for 24 to 48 hours before moving on to the next trending item.

I think that it is important for us to remember that these men are average, they could be your coworker, your husband, your son or boyfriend, and they are becoming the greatest internal threat to the safety of American citizenry since 9/11. This partial list of 2012 mass killers includes average men who but for circumstance, probably would have continue to live anonymous existences.

  • 14.12.12 - Adam Lanza, 20, shot his mother dead at their home then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary school. He forced his way inside and opened fire, killing 20 children and six adults before committing suicide. Total injured and killed: at least 28;
  • 27.09.12 - Andrew Engeldinger, 36, upon learning he was being fired, went on a shooting rampage, killing the business owner, three fellow employees, and a UPS driver. He then killed himself. Total injured and killed: 8;
  • 5.08.12 - U.S. Army veteran Wade Michael Page, 40, opened fire in a Sikh gurdwara before he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound during a shootout with police. Total injured and killed: 10;
  • 20.07.12- James Holmes, 24, opened fire in a movie theater during the opening night of "The Dark Knight Rises"  and was later arrested outside. Total injured and killed: 70.

Today, Rodger has been added to this list, for trying to take out his pain of rejection, isolation, and loneliness on innocent people who may have been suffering the same feelings as him, but chose not to violently act upon them.

He justified his actions in a YouTube manifesto in which he proclaimed that "… I've been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires, all because girls have never been attracted to me. Girls gave their affection and sex and love to other men, never to me...I'm 22-years-old and still a virgin, never even kissed a girl.” (Source: Chicago Tribune)

And now he never will………

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Witchdoctors Mutilating Albino People in Tanzania

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TANZANIA - On May 12, a Tanzanian woman named Munghu Lugata, 40, was viciously mutilated and subsequently died of her injuries in the small village of Gasuma in northwest Tanzania.  Lugata was found with one of her legs sawed off as well as several fingers, according to BBC News. Tanzanian police suspect she had been the target of witchdoctors due to her albinism.

Two practicing witchdoctors, a man and woman named Gudawa Yalema and Shiwa Masalu, were arrested following the attack. This is just one of many attacks that have occurred globally against people with albinism.

People with albinism have been targeted throughout history because of the defect that leaves their skin, hair, and eyes without pigmented. There had been murders of albino people in the province of Simiyu where Gasuma is located; however the targeting of these people is an international issue. In many countries, the organs, skin, blood, and hair of albino people is believed to have curative properties.

In 15 countries there have been more than 200 reported cases of attacks against people with albinism between 2000 and 2013. “Under the Same Sun” (UTSS), an advocacy group that promotes anti-discrimination of people with albinism claims that most of the harvested albino body parts from Tanzania are being exported outside of the country. In one case reported by the UTSS, a Tanzanian trader was stopped carrying an albino infant head to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, claiming that he planned on selling it to a businessman there.

In Tanzania, witchdoctors promote the use of these parts of albino people for “success, wealth and election victory”, according to the Herald Sun. All Africa reports that at least 73 people with albinism were targeted for murder in Tanzania since 2000 and about as many have been targeted in vicious attacks. UTSS claims that murder rates could be much higher than this as most of the murders go unreported. UTSS also notes that describing these attacks as results of witchcraft only began in 2006, despite these types of attacks existing “beyond memory”.

Because of the severity of these crimes against albino people and it being a global issue, the United Nations is beginning to get involved. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, commented on the Lugata murder in a news release saying, "This killing and the terrible circumstances surrounding it sadly demonstrate that the human rights situation of people with albinism in Tanzania and other countries remains dire.” Pillay continued by expressing the widespread of the issue, "All over the world, people with albinism continue to face attacks or suffer terrible discrimination, stigma and social exclusion.”

The dangers that albino people will face are only worsening in Tanzania. In October local elections are held in the country. Because witchdoctors prescribe magic potions made from albino people for good luck, they will be in more danger than ever. The UTSS warns, “the black market demand for the body parts of people with albinism escalates during these times.”

Efforts to improve the discrimination against people with albinism have been made by the Tanzanian government and human rights groups. There have been movements to end the practicing of witchdoctors, who BBC News says receives certificates to practice from the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Also, a few years ago an albino Member of Parliament was appointed. However, as the discrimination of albino people persists, they will continue to be targeted by witchdoctors and black market traders.

Follow Allyson on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

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Could You Murder Her? Some Say Yes

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LOS ANGELES, CA - This post is neither for nor against the difficult choice some people face as they attempt to exercise their right to self-determination. We are, however, emphatically for human rights and against injustice.

We encourage everyone who weighs in on this issue to remember the old Native American saying, "Do not judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccassins.'

Life is not easy anywhere, and it is exponentially challenging in countries with stagnant or emerging economies. Female infanticide occurs most often in countries where females are perceived as a drain on finite economic resources, and this burden serves as justification for aborting or killing a girl.

According to Palash Ghosh in a September 2013 article titled "A Deadly Preference For Male Offspring: The Killing Of Baby Girls In India And Pakistan," there is an ancient preference for male offspring in South Asian society and other parts of Asia and the Middle East.

This preference, according to Ghosh, resulted in the horrendous murder of a one-and-a-half year old Pakistani baby girl who was drowned by her father in front of her mother because he wanted a son.

Amazingly, less than a year later, in April 2014, India's supreme court in a landmark ruling declared that "It is the right of every human being to choose their gender," as it granted rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female.

According to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project, 2013 marked "the highest number of murders of minors in the five years it has been keeping statistics. Since the beginning of that year, 22 trans people were reported killed. Eleven of these were under the age of 18.

These include a 13-year-old trans girl strangled in Macaiba, Brazil, on June 9; a 14-year-old trans girl strangled in the city of Ibipora, Brazil, on Oct. 15; and 16-year-old trans girl murdered by a mob at a house party in St. James, Jamaica, on July 22.

Since 2008, Transgender Europe has documented 1,374 murders of trans people in 60 countries worldwide. Of these, 108 victims have been under the age of 20." (Source: Buzzfeed)

Given those circumstances, and the fact that men in general enjoy greater economic prowess, freedom to chart their own destinies, and a host of other intangible benefits; it is a wonder that any person born male would opt to live as a female.

Thus, when people learn about the beautiful transgender child pictured above and in the video below, the bias against females is tossed out, but an often less defined, but more visceral response is evoked. Unlike millions of transgender people around the world, the angelic child whose name is Jazz Jennings has the full support and love of her family, which has often been the only thing standing between her and the people who desire to physically harm her.

I Am Jazz: A Family In Transition, aired on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, and presented a transparent view into the life of Jazz and her family; thus transmuting her from the status of "the other" to that of "human." We may not understand. We may even feel from a cultural or religious standpoint that she is anathema. But, at the end of the day, not one human has a heaven or a hell to send someone to, and we would do well to remember that despite our individual struggles we are all God's creatures.