Representative Tammy Duckworth humiliates witness for claiming Veterans’ Disability Benefit

Rep. Tammy Duckworth is the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress in Illinois, the first disabled woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and the first member of Congress born in Thailand. 

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She served as a pilot in the Iraq War and in 2004, the helicopter she was flying was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Duckworth lost both her legs and very nearly her arm. She currently holds the position of Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In this video, Duckworth sits on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee whilst hearing the case of IRS contractor Braulio Castillo, whose application for veterans’ benefits allowed him to promote his firm as a small business operated by a disabled veteran. His injuries? Twisting his ankle during a football match at military prep school.

For capitalising on his status as an ‘injured veteran’, which may have won him millions of dollars in contract fees, Castillo faces considerable opprobrium from the august politician.

 

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Gordon Parks’ photos of segregation in the South

Gordon Parks was an American photographer and director, probably best remembered for his photo essays for Life magazine and as the director of the 1970s blaxploitation movie Shaft. 

Recently, the Gordon Parks Foundation discovered a series of over 70 unpublished photographs in an old storage box marked ‘Segregation Series’. This never before seen series provide the modern audience with a fascinating insight into the every day lives of African Americans in the 1950s and 60s. The pictures are particularly notable for being in colour which was still fairly uncommon for photographs at that time.

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What’s your jihad?

Back in October, Conservative American blogger, activist and executive director of the American Freedom Defence Initiative, Pamela Geller courted controversy by announcing plans to expand a pro-Israeli, ‘anti-jihad’ advertising campaign from its initial position on three subway platforms to include all of the buses in Manhattan.

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In response, the public education campaign MyJihad has brought its campaign (to share the proper meaning of jihad as believed and practiced by the majority of Muslims) to the buses of New York as well.

Jihad means “struggling in the way of God”. The way of God being goodness, justice, passion, compassion, etc. It is ‘putting up the good fight’ as it were, against whatever odds or barriers one faces in life.

Jihad is a central tenet of the Islamic creed that has been widely misrepresented due, first and foremost, to the actions of Muslim extremists, with the knock-on effect that Islamophobes use these actions to further convince the public that such actions are the true face of Islam. Finally, a selective media understandably focuses on the sensational.

The campaign’s focus is on reclaiming Islam for the majority of Muslims, especially in relation to the public’s wider perception of what this means.

I enjoyed the campaign for its ability to combat such a negative attack so airily.

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Armistice Day

The shirtless young anti-war protester in this photo is Frank C. Plada. He later died in Vietnam.

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Filed under America, Current Affairs, History, Life, Photography, Politics, War

A compilation of Miriam Margolyes’ appearances on the Graham Norton Show

I don’t know why I don’t ever see her on any other chat shows, though I expect it’s because Graham Norton is the only one who would have her but the fact is Miriam Margolyes is one of the funniest people I have ever watched on television.

This week, she appeared on the show for a third time with the American rapper Will.i.am. Within four minutes she had already uttered the kind of phrase only people the same age as Prince Philip can be expected to get away with: ‘I don’t know many black people outside of show business’. It doesn’t stop there and Will.i.am clearly thought she was hilarious, because well, she is.

Every single time Margolyes makes an appearance on Norton’s sofa, she can be relied upon to tell a story that no ordinary person would even dream of imparting. Some of her best bits can be seen below.

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Turn Off The Blue Light – a liberal campaign in a conservative country

Since the 2011 elections in Ireland, law reform on the issue of prostitution became an issue with some support from opposition parties who were likely to become (and later did become) the new Government. Since then, the issue has received as much attention as any social issue would at a time when a country’s economic woes are far more of a concern to the majority of the population.

Last year, a campaign called Turn Off the Red Light was run with a view to ending sex trafficking in Ireland by making it illegal. The campaign is run by over thirty civic organisations and has been supported by a group of well-known Irish men including the singer Christy Moore. It focuses heavily on the need to protect women working in the sex industry from potential abuse.

In rebuttal to this, a counter-attack called Turn Off The Blue Light has been launched by sex workers and supporters in favour of liberalising the laws on prostitution (and general sex work) in Ireland. They accuse the TORL campaign of wanting to impose a moral agenda on the subject.

The advertisement images put forward by both sides are thought-provoking.

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Filed under Ad Campaigns, Culture, Current Affairs, Ireland, Women

Speeches from America’s university commencement season

At this time of year, across the northern hemisphere, graduands are preparing to leave their alma maters and go out into the world as my friends and I did less than a year ago. As tradition dictates, there will be, at nearly all of these ceremonies, a guest who will speak to the graduates and impart advice on what best to do with the lives they are about to embark on. These guests tend to be politicians, notable citizens or community leaders. My favourite ever speech of this kind is the one given by author J.K Rowling to Harvard’s Class of 2008 about the fringe benefits of failure. The remarks given by these speakers, many of which are now filmed and appear in newspapers and on blogs around the world, are an almost endless source of good life advice, not just for young people standing on the brink of adult life but for all people.

This year, in the US, several notable people were invited to speak at various commencement (as they are known in America) events. Here are a few which I thought were worthy of of my readers’ attention.

Aaron Sorkin, one of my favourite media figures, who wrote The West Wing, A Few Good Men and The Social Network spoke to his alma mater, Syracuse University in New York, telling the graduates:

“You’re too good for schadenfreude, you’re too good for gossip and snark, you’re too good for intolerance—and since you’re walking into the middle of a presidential election, it’s worth mentioning that you’re too good to think people who disagree with you are your enemy”.

Barack Obama spoke to the graduating class at Barnard College, a private liberal arts women’s college and member of the prestigious Seven Sisters. There, he told the women:

“Don’t just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table.”

A commencement speech was also given by First Lady Michelle Obama to the graduating class at Virginia Tech, site of the 2007 massacre – the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in US history. She spoke of the school’s tradition of service to others being the key factor in their healing process and beseeched the audience to continue to defy those who tried to define them. It was simple and beautiful and carried the best advice of all.

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Filed under America, Life, University