These 4 reasons may be why you haven’t been able to achieve your dream of having a head full of hair:

1. Chill Out about hair growth:

· Problem: If you’re always stressing about your hair growing, it might not actually help.

· Solution: Take it easy. Care for your hair, but don’t obsess over its length. Just let it grow naturally without constant worry.

2. Stick to a hairstyle for a bit:

· Problem: Changing hairstyles too often can strain your hair, especially with different protective styles.

· Solution: Let your hair take a break. If you get braids, keep them for around three weeks to a month before trying something new.

3. Don’t neglect your hair:

· Problem: Leaving your hair alone for too long or neglecting it can lead to breakages and damage.

· Solution: Find a balance. Don’t keep braids for too long, and don’t ignore your hair for extended periods. Get protective styles regularly.

4. Moisturize before combing:

· Problem: Combing your hair too much, especially without moisturizer, can cause breakages.

· Solution: Use a moisturizer before combing your hair. It helps prevent damage and keeps your hair healthy.

In simple terms, relax about your hair, give it a break between styles, take care of it regularly, and always use moisturizer before combing to keep it strong and beautiful.

The surge of migrants entering the United States across the southern border increasingly includes people from a surprising place: China.

Despite the distances involved and the difficulties of the journey, more than 24,000 Chinese citizens have been apprehended crossing into the United States from Mexico in the past year. That is more than in the preceding 10 years combined, according to government data.

They typically fly into Ecuador, where they do not need a visa. Then, like hundreds of thousands of other migrants from Central and South America and more distant locations, they pay smugglers to guide their travel through the dangerous jungle between Colombia and Panama en route to the United States. Once there, they turn themselves in to border officials and many seek asylum.

And most succeed, in turn fueling further attempts. Chinese citizens are more successful than people from other countries with their asylum claims in immigration court. And those who are not end up staying anyway because China usually will not take them back.

In the polarizing debate over immigration, it is a little-discussed wrinkle in the U.S. system: American officials cannot force countries to take back their own citizens. For the most part, this is not an issue. But about a dozen countries are not terribly cooperative, and China is the worst offender.

Of the 1.3 million people in the United States with final orders to be deported, about 100,000 are Chinese, according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the internal data.

The migrants are part of an exodus of citizens who have grown frustrated with harsh restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic and the direction of Xi Jinping’s authoritarian government. The trend has been coined the “run philosophy,” with citizens escaping to Japan, Europe and the United States.

“The largest reason for me is the political environment,” Mark Xu, 35, a Chinese elementary and middle school English teacher, said in February, as he waited to board a boat in Necoclí, Colombia, a beach town in the north. China was so stifling, he added, it had become “difficult to breathe.”

He was among about 100 Chinese migrants setting off that morning to start the journey through the treacherous Darién Gap, the only land route to the United States from South America. Mr. Xu said he learned about the trek from YouTube and through Google searches, including “how to get outside of China” and “how to escape.”

In the last two years, the area has been one of the most difficult portions of a desperate journey for large numbers of migrants seeking to go north. So far, 481,000 people have crossed through the jungle this year, compared with 248,000 last year, according to Panamanian officials.

Most of the migrants have been Venezuelans, Ecuadoreans and Haitians fleeing crises at home, including economic and security problems. But this year, more and more Chinese have embarked on the journey.

So many have crossed that Chinese citizens are now the fourth-largest group traversing the jungle.

Many fly to Turkey before heading to Ecuador and making their way to the United States.

More than 24,000 came to the United States during the 2023 fiscal year, according to government data. Over the previous 10 years, fewer than 15,000 Chinese migrants were caught crossing the southern border illegally.

The historic levels of migration across the southern border are a major political problem in the United States, where President Biden faces fierce pressure to curb the flow; the Chinese migrants are a small fraction.

Most who have come to the United States in the past year were middle-class adults who have headed to New York after being released from custody.

New York has been a prime destination for migrants from other nations as well, particularly Venezuelans, who rely on the city’s resources, including its shelters. But few of the Chinese migrants are staying in the shelters. Instead, they are going where Chinese citizens have gone for generations: Flushing, Queens. Or to some, the Chinese Manhattan.

“New York is a self-sufficient Chinese immigrants community,” said the Rev. Mike Chan, the executive director of the Chinese Christian Herald Crusade, a faith-based group in the neighborhood. Newcomers do not have to speak English because so many speak Mandarin or Cantonese, he added, making it easier to find a job as well. That kind of network helps people find immigration lawyers, housing and other basic needs.

Their route to Flushing through a South American jungle is what makes the most recent arrivals different. In the past, most Chinese asylum seekers have come on a visa and then applied once they were in the United States. The last time such an influx of Chinese migrants entered illegally, they came by sea in the 1990s. But the current volume is much higher.

“America is the greatest power in the world, isn’t it?” a 29-year-old Chinese migrant who would identify himself only by his nickname and surname, Little Xu, said recently outside a Taiwanese tea shop in Flushing. Mr. Xu was taking a break from his job as a messenger and asked that his full name not be used out of fear of retribution.

He left China, he said, to find work. “I’ve lost hope where I lived,” he said, describing his job as a jewelry salesman in central Hubei Province and how his boss had stopped paying him. Mr. Xu arrived in Flushing in August after a two-month journey from China, which included hiking through the jungle in rain so heavy that his shoes ripped open.

Migrants seeking asylum have to wait about six months after they file their application to get permission to work legally. More recent arrivals will wait years for their cases to wind through the system.

In general, Chinese asylum seekers are more successful in immigration court than most. About 67 percent of applicants from China were granted asylum from 2001 to 2021, according to data analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

And those who are ordered removed are not likely to be deported.

Muzaffar Chishti, a senior fellow with the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, said as long as that happened, the migration trend would continue.

“If you make it to the U.S., then you’re more likely than not to be able to stay,” he said. “So it’s absolutely worth the chance of taking that risk.”

Still, the exodus of Chinese citizens, particularly those of working age, to the United States and elsewhere presents a challenge to China in the long run, according to Carl Minzner, a senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

For the first time in 60 years, China’s population is shrinking, with fewer births than deaths. And its economy is growing at its slowest rate in 40 years.

With other countries that have refused to take back their citizens, the United States has withheld aid money or used similar leverage to gain cooperation. It also has the ability to restrict access to certain visas, as it did in 2017 with Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

But those have not been compelling arguments for China, which receives little U.S. aid. And as its relations with the United States have deteriorated over the years, the issue has not appeared to be a priority.

When Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi met last week during an international summit in San Francisco, for instance, immigration was absent in their discussion. Instead, they talked about fentanyl, American business investment in China and export controls, among other topics.

In the past, American diplomats have tried to work with the Chinese government to persuade it to repatriate its citizens, and the response has tended to be the same.

“They would just plain refuse to acknowledge the person was Chinese,” said Michele Thoren Bond, a former assistant secretary of state who worked on these issues.

“It is not credible that a country that documents and monitors its citizens as closely as China does not have photos of every citizen,” Ms. Bond added.

Reporting was contributed by Mable Chan and Li Yuan New York, Julie Turkewitz in Necoclí, Colombia and Federico Rios in Medellín, Colombia.

The UN chief’s visit comes as the crisis in the Gaza Strip enters its third week following the 7 October incursion by Hamas militants into Israel and Israel’s subsequent declaration of war.

Late last week the UN adopted a resolution calling for a humanitarian truce, but the past few days have seen heavy bombardment and reports of ground operations inside Gaza by Israel.

“I know that even though the conflict in the Middle East is thousands of miles away, it has hit very close to home for the people of Nepal,” said the UN chief at a press conference on Sunday alongside Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

Also expressing best wishes for the safe return of Bipin Joshi, a Nepalese citizen who is missing, the Secretary-General vowed that he would continue to insist on the immediate and unconditional release of all the hostages in Gaza.

“And I repeat my utter condemnation of the appalling attacks perpetrated by Hamas. There is no justification, ever, for the killing, injuring and abduction of civilians,” he stated.

At the same time, Mr. Guterres noted the extremely dire situation in Gaza and expressed regret that instead of a critically needed humanitarian pause supported by the international community, Israel has intensified its military operations.

“The number of civilians who have been killed and injured is totally unacceptable. All parties must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law … which emerged from the tragedy and awful experiences of war,” he continued.

Emphasizing his consistent calls for strict compliance with international humanitarian law, the Secretary-General stated: “The Laws of War establish clear rules to protect human life and respect humanitarian concerns. Those laws cannot be contorted for the sake of expedience.”

Mr. Guterres said that in Gaza more than two million people with nowhere safe to go, are being denied the essentials for life – food, water, shelter and medical care – while being subjected to relentless bombardment.

“I urge all those with responsibility to step back from the brink,” he said calling the situation a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

The Secretary- General reiterated his appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages, and the delivery of a sustained humanitarian relief at a scale that meets the needs of the people of Gaza.

“We must join forces to end this nightmare for the people of Gaza, Israel and all those affected around the world, including here in Nepal,” he said.

Nepal’s commitment to multilateralism, SDGs

The Secretary- General praised the Himalayan country’s long tradition of championing peace and multilateralism and called on the world to “be a better friend to Nepal”, which is caught in raft of crises not of its own making, including the threat posed by climate chaos.

Mr. Guterres thanked Prime Minister Dahal and said that the UN was hugely grateful to Nepal for its support for multilateral solutions – backed up its enormous contribution to peacekeeping missions worldwide.

At the start of his four-day visit to the country, the UN chief also praised Nepal’s “astonishing progress” over the past two decades, as it had become a republic, established peace, and thrown itself behind the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate action.

‘Graduation’ on the horizon

“And there’s more to come,” Mr. Guterres continued, explaining that “the next few years will be decisive, as Nepal prepares to graduate from Least Developed Country status.”

The Secretary-General was referring to the UN-facilitated process by which the world’s most vulnerable nations, once they meet a set of criteria (on income, human assets and economic and environmental vulnerability), may take phased steps towards ‘graduation’, which represents an important milestone in the development path of LDCs.

The UN chief went on to note that over the Next few years, Nepal would also embark on the final stages of the peace process: transitional justice.

“Transitional justice must help to bring peace to victims, families and communities,” he said, emphasizing that “the United Nations stands ready to support Nepal to develop a process that meets international standards, the Supreme Court’s rulings, and the needs of victims – and to put it into practice.”

‘Blizzard of global crises’

“Nepal is also caught in a blizzard of global crises not of its making: the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, and the enormous threat posed by climate chaos,” said the Secretary-General.

As such, he said, much more international action is needed. Developed countries must step up to support sustainable development, and help developing economies including Nepal to tackle the climate crisis.

The UN chief noted that on this trip, he planned to visit the Himalayas to see first-hand the terrible impact of the climate crisis on the glaciers.

“The situation is dire, and it is accelerating. Nepal has lost close to a third of its ice in just over thirty years. And glaciers are melting at record rates,” he said, adding: “The impact on communities is devastating.”

With this in mind, Mr. Guterres said that he also planned to meet with local people in the Himalayas to hear directly from them about how they are affected.

He is also expected to travel to Pokhara and to Lumbini, to reflect on the Lord Buddha’s teachings of peace and non-violence.

“And I want to explore how the United Nations and Nepal can work together to solve problems, boost prospects, and improve international support. Because though Nepal is a friend to the world, the world must be a better friend to Nepal,” he concluded.

The war in Israel has stirred up plenty of debate, from how much the United States should get involved, to the threat posed against American Jews and the American homeland in general, and whether a two-state solution was ever and will ever be a viable option in the region. Like many international issues of high emotional value, this debate is played out most noticeably on college and university campuses. 

The timing of these questions falls fortuitously as GOP presidential candidates hope to make their breakouts from the pack and start eating into Donald Trump’s massive lead. Former Ambassador and staunch Israel supporter Nikki Haley wasted no time coming out, as almost everyone did, against the horrific attacks on Israel.

But have candidates like Ms. Haley lost sight of what we stand for and what we should be fighting for in their fever pitch to prove their dedication to the Israeli cause? For some, it’s not enough to send billions in taxpayer money and possibly commit American soldiers to the fight.

Goodbye First Amendment

GOP Presidential candidate Nikki Haley blasted the Biden administration on X for not being more firm against antisemitism, writing:

“You can’t fight antisemitism if you can’t define it. Joe Biden and the Left refuse to call anti-Zionism antisemitism.”

This statement by Ms. Haley claims that if you are openly critical of, or believe that the creation of a Jewish state in the Middle East was and is flawed, it is the same thing as hating Jews in general.

She went on to write:

“As president, I will change the official federal definition of antisemitism to include denying Israel’s right to exist, and I will pull school’s tax exemption status if they do not combat antisemitism in all of its forms – in accordance with federal law.”

Her statements are directed at the prevalence of college students demonstrating and, at times, defacing college property in support of Palestine and, in the most extreme cases, in support of the terrorist group Hamas that attacked Israel earlier this month.

But we’ve heard this sort of threat before, and the irony is it was Republicans like Nikki Haley who fought against it.

Free speech unless it’s hateful

Students at George Washington University projected the following phrases onto campus buildings:

“Glory to our martyrs”

“Divestment from Zionist genocide now”

“Free Palestine from the river to the sea”

In response, another GOP presidential contender, Senator Tim Scott, said:

“If this was done by a foreign national, deport them. If the college coddles them, revoke their taxpayer funding.”

But it was just two years ago that Senator Scott co-sponsored a Senate resolution that required colleges to:

“…facilitate and recommit themselves to protecting the free and open exchange of ideas.”

The Senator had added at the time:

“Restrictive speech codes are inherently at odds with the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

Senator Scott was right in 2021 when he spoke out against colleges stifling conservative voices opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement, critical race theory, and gender ideology—however, those on the more extreme left political spectrum deemed such activities hateful and downright harmful, and sought to have them banned.

RELATED: 700 Hollywood Stars Sign Open Letter In Support Of Israel

Remember Title IX

The Biden administration has tried to push a rule requiring schools that accept federal funding to interpret Title IX protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Title IX was originally meant to specifically allow for the protection of women in education and sports. 

This new interpretation would force colleges to include someone’s sexuality and personal proclivities on gender identity. Essentially, if a college didn’t allow males to participate in women’s sports, stay in female-only housing, change in women’s locker rooms, and use women’s bathrooms, they could lose federal funding. 

Heritage Foundation legal expert Sarah Perry explained the obvious violation of the First Amendment in this case:

“…it will not only require the adherence to these beliefs. It will force speech. It will compel speech in violation of the First Amendment…”

RELATED: Billionaire Cuts Off Donations To Columbia University Because College Kids Have ‘S*** For Brains’

Sound familiar? It should; it’s what Nikki Haley is proposing to do for colleges that don’t crack down hard enough on students who speak out against Israel, including those who are critical of a dedicated State of Israel in the Middle East. And yes, including those who proclaim, probably in total ignorance, the destruction of the Israeli state.

They are the same in these two scenarios. Just because one instance is less palatable than the other doesn’t make it any less wrong and anti-American. 

The return of black listing

Nikki Haley wrote:

“College campuses are allowed to have free speech, but they are not free to spread hate that supports terrorism.”

Yes, actually, they are. “Hate” is not a crime, and if it were, we’d have to lock ourselves up. In most jurisdictions, inciting violence is already prohibited.

College campuses are allowed to have free speech, period. Anytime we start adding caveats to the allowance of free speech, we start our descent into the destruction of the principles of America, the same principles that make us exceptional. 

The fact that there is a serious consideration for creating black lists for corporations to utilize so they don’t ‘inadvertently’ hire a graduate who participated in anti-Israel sentiment should send shivers down the spines of any freedom-loving American. Who do you think runs those corporations? Conservatives?

Instead of calling for black lists, CEOs should require their human resources and hiring divisions to do a modicum of research on potential new hires.

Companies have a right not to hire people based on their poor college life decisions; they don’t have a right to be lazy about their hiring practices by demanding black lists from universities.

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy said of these black lists:

“It wasn’t great when people wearing Trump hats were fired from work. It wasn’t great when college graduates couldn’t get hired unless they signed oppressive ‘DEI’ pledges. And it’s not great now if companies refuse to hire kids who were part of student groups that once adopted the wrong view on Israel.”

No doubt Ms. Haley will jump on Mr. Ramaswamy’s stance leading up to the next debate, which brings me to the decision voters must consider.

RELATED: Only One Republican Votes Against Resolution Backing Israel, Won’t Condone ‘Open-Ended Promise Of Military Support’

America or Israel First?

Just as criticisms of support for Ukraine saw Americans labeled “Putin sympathizers,” now Americans who criticize support for Israel and their existential fight marks Americans as “antisemites.” What happened to the Ukrainians during the Russian invasion was abhorrent and is still heartbreaking.

The atrocities committed by Hamas on Israeli babies, children, women, and men rightly conjure memories of the Nazi concentration camps. The college students praising Hamas are ignorant fools and a product of our education system and our general cultural and societal decline.

A young 18 – 21-year-old doesn’t arrive on campus and magically get brainwashed into believing killing babies is acceptable; that sort of stupidity and soul rot starts long before college. But if we elect leaders who would rather destroy what makes us American in a misguided attempt to protect Israel – what exactly are we fighting for? 

Satirist P.J. O’Rourke once said:

“My freedom of speech stimulates your freedom to tell me I’m wrong.”

Strangling the speech of those who believe things we find despicable and evil doesn’t solve the problem. One does not change the hearts and minds of the lost by silencing their voices.

More speech is always the answer, not less. Because in silence and darkness hate grows, only in light and open discourse does it ever weaken.

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Jada Pinkett Smith reveals she and Will Smith have secretly been seperated  for 7-years and living apart after growing

Jada Pinkett Smith has revealed that she and her husband Will Smith have secretly been separated for the last seven years after growing ‘exhausted’ of trying to save ‘fractured’ marriage



The 52-year-old shared the shock news during a new interview with People before also opening up about their situation in detail in a sit-down with NBC News this morning.



Speaking to Hoda Kotb on the Today show, Jada explained why her marriage to Will, 55, broke down, saying: ‘By the time we got to 2016, we were just exhausted with trying. I think we were both still stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be.’





Jada, who admitted in 2020 that she’d had an affair with singer August Alsina,  said she considered a legal divorce but could never go through with it, revealing that she made a ‘promise’ to her husband that she would never give him a ‘reason’ to get divorced.

Jada Pinkett Smith reveals she and Will Smith have secretly been seperated  for 7-years and living apart after growing



‘I made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a divorce,’ she continued. ‘We will work through whatever. And I just haven’t been able to break that promise.’


‘But you still live separately?’ Hoda probed, prompting Jada to confirm ‘we live separately’. 


Speaking to People, Jada admitted the pair were in fact living separately when her husband slapped comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars in 2022 over a joke that had been made about his wife’s bald hairstyle. 

Jada Pinkett Smith reveals she and Will Smith have secretly been seperated  for 7-years and living apart after growing


She noted that no permanent decisions have been made about the future of her marriage, explaining that she and Will are ‘still figuring it out’. 



‘We’ve been doing some really heavy-duty work together,’ she said. ‘We just got deep love for each other and we are going to figure out what that looks like.’



Jada went on to praise her children, Jaden, 25, Willow, 22, and Trey, 30, who is Will’s son from a previous relationship for standing by her during this rocky time in her relationship. 



‘My children, they’re little gurus. They’ve taught me a deep sense of self-acceptance,’ she said. ‘They love every part of me. The level of love, unconditional love that they have for me and their dad. 



‘And it’s one thing to want to be the person that gives that unconditional love. And then there’s, to be the recipient of that.’




This 14-year-old Ugandan girl was forced into marriage by her parents at 8 years old. Credit: UNICEF/Stuart Tibaweswa
  • Opinion by Nandita Bajaj (st paul, minnesota, usa)
  • Inter Press Service

According to the United Nations, at least 12 million girls are married before they reach the age of 18 every year, and more than 650 million women alive today were married as children. Around 257 million women globally face unintended pregnancies due to lack of access to contraception, abortion care, and counseling.

They all peddle pronatalism, a set of norms and policies that exhorts and often coerces women to have more children to raise fertility rates, often coupled with alarmism over alleged “population collapse.”

Pronatalism is on the rise to counter the growing push for gender equality, contraceptive access, and women’s educational and economic empowerment. It is connected to totalitarian policies dictating reproductive choices, the racist Great Replacement conspiracy theory, the religious anti-abortion movement, tech elite futurism.

Elon Musk, for example, is an avowed pronatalist who donated $10 million to population collapse “research” and liked the idea of denying voting rights to childless people. He wanted to attend the Budapest summit, but couldn’t make it so he met last week in Texas with Hungary’s President Novák instead to draw attention to the “demographic crisis.”

Lately, pronatalists are trying to pull a more appealing game face. The Budapest Summit says it wants to support the “psychological health and security of families,” so they can “plan for a secure future.” The Natal conference claims it “has no political or ideological goal other than a world in which our children can have grandchildren.”

The “Birthgap” film purports to help cure an epidemic of “unplanned childlessness” and proposes “re-engineer our societies to reduce many more people would go on to have…children just like parents naturally do.” It conducts tearful interviews with regretful women who lament that their natural drive to have children was thwarted by society, and now it’s too late.

Who could object to standing up for families’ health and security, and for the right of people who want children to have them? Yet behind this innocuous-seeming family-friendly rhetoric lurk unsavory connections to right-wing propaganda, manipulation, and straight-up lies.

The Budapest summit touts Hungary’s achievement of the “highest rates of marriage and childbearing in Europe, while divorce and abortion rates are falling,” a nice way of saying that its right-wing populist leader Viktor Orbán adopted and implemented the Great Replacement ideology, which motivated mass-shooters in the U.S., as state policy. “We do not need numbers, but Hungarian children,” he said. “In our minds, immigration means surrender.”

The Natal conference has demonstrable links to far-right eugenicists and racists. “Birthgap” filmmaker Stephen Shaw is feted by right-wing talk show hosts like Jordan Peterson, Neil Oliver, and Chris Williamson, and presented as a “renowned demographer” despite having no credentials in demography. Shaw and Peterson both gave keynotes at the Budapest summit.

But ad hominem objections to the people behind the conferences and the film aside, the assertions they make are discreditable and counterfactual. Decrying imminent “population collapse” while the global population grows by 80 million each year and is projected to hit 10.4 billion in the 2080s is absurd.

To make depopulation seem like a threat, “Birthgap” resorts to lying about data on the reasons for declining birth rates. It cites a 2010 study (which it calls a “meta-analysis”) by Prof. Renska Keizer which the film says indicates that just 10% of women chose not to have children and 10% can’t have them for medical reasons, which “leaves a whopping 80% of women without children childless by circumstance” as opposed to by choice.

But that’s not at all what Keizer’s research says. The 2010 study Birthgap cites is not a meta-analysis, not quantitative, and does not indicate 80% of childless women didn’t choose to be so. In fact a 2011 study by Keizer et al. analyzed a 2006 dataset surveying women in the Netherlands who were childless at age 45, and found that 55% of them were childless voluntarily, while 45% were childless due to medical or other reasons.

Other studies found similar results: 56% of those without children were voluntarily childless according to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey, 72% according to the CDC National Survey of Family Growth, and 74% according to a 2022 Michigan State University study. Researchers working on my organization’s fact-checking project Birthgap Facts found no credible data supporting the film’s claim that 80% of childless women were “childless by circumstance” as opposed to by choice.

What the data does show is that women exercising their right to choose if and when to have children results in delaying childbirth, smaller families, and a decline in teen pregnancy. Those outcomes are beneficial and should be celebrated, not stigmatized.

According to the United Nations, at least 12 million girls are married before they reach the age of 18 every year, and more than 650 million women alive today were married as children. Around 257 million women globally face unintended pregnancies due to lack of access to contraception, abortion care, and counseling.

At current levels of consumption, today’s population of eight billion is driving resource depletion, soil erosion, water shortages, species extinctions, and climate catastrophe. Over a billion children are already at “extremely high risk” from climate change.

High fertility rates and population growth undermine climate resilience and complicate efforts to end poverty and hunger and ensure basic services and infrastructure.

These are the real threats to the future, not some imagined conspiracy to stigmatize reproductive choices and hold fertility rates down. They make Shaw’s proposal of “social engineering” to reverse the imaginary threat of depopulation all the more reprehensible.

By distorting and lying about childlessness, he’s trying to manipulate young people and their governments into prioritizing procreation over education and career. This purports to avoid a dystopian future, yet it would actually usher one in.

Rather than manufacturing a crisis whose remedy entails “social engineering” to roll back progress on human rights and women’s control over their own lives, we should focus on the real crisis fueled by pronatalist pressures from family, religion, and governments that force millions into motherhood against their wishes, often by means of coercion and sexual violence.

The rhetoric of the Budapest summit, Natal, “Birthgap” and their ilk claiming they’re simply trying to help families and alleviate the heartbreak of “unplanned childlessness” is insidious, and we should recognize and call it out for what it is: another arrow in the pronatalist quiver, another weapon wielded against hard-fought gains in gender equality and reproductive autonomy.

Nandita Bajaj is the Executive Director of the NGO Population Balance and an adjunct lecturer at the Institute for Humane Education at Antioch University. Her research and advocacy work focuses on the combined impacts of pronatalism and human expansionism on reproductive, ecological, and intergenerational justice.

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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Kalkani Choolburra, Aboriginal Programs Coordinator at the Botanic Gardens of Sydney, showing the many uses of native plants. Here, she is weaving with a Lomandra leaf. Credit: Neena Bhandari/IPS
  • by Neena Bhandari (sydney)
  • Inter Press Service

The traditional or subsistence hunting of dugongs and turtles has been an important part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous Australians) people’s social and cultural lives. Its meat has been a vital source of protein for these communities, who have sustained themselves on the native flora and fauna for thousands of years.

Now, national and international chefs are incorporating some of these native Indigenous produce – notably Kakadu plum, Davidson plum, lemon myrtle, wattle seed, quandong, finger lime, bush tomato, muntries, mountain pepper, saltbush – into their dishes ranging from sushi and samosa, pizza and pies to cakes and muffins.

These quintessentially native Indigenous ingredients are also being used in condiments, relishes, sauces, and marmalades and infused into chocolates, teas and beverages for their unique flavours and textures.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest and recognition of the nutritive and medicinal properties of native Indigenous plants and fruits. Professor Yasmina Sultanbawa, Director of the ARC Training Centre for Uniquely Australian Foods at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, recalls taking lemon myrtle to her lectures a decade ago. She would crush the leaves and ask her students to smell and identify them.

“They didn’t know what it was back then, but now they immediately recognise it as lemon myrtle,” Sultanbawa tells IPS. “The market for native Indigenous foods is growing because it is rich in nutrients. For example, the vitamin C content in Kakadu plum is about 75 times more than in an orange; folates (a natural form of vitamin B9 or folic acid) and fibre in green plum is much higher than in a mango; and kangaroo meat has only 2 per cent fat and a high concentration of conjugated linoleic acid and omega 3.”

In a study co-authored with Dharini Sivakumar, Sultanbawa argues that including native Indigenous foods in the diet could help reduce malnutrition.

“Legumes like wattle seed are low in carbohydrates and have a very high content of protein, fibre, zinc and iron comparable to chickpeas. Wattle seed is also a great functional ingredient for adding value to other foods; for example, it can be incorporated into breads made with wheat flour. What makes native Indigenous foods attractive is that you don’t have to add a lot of it to get the nutritional benefit,” she adds.

A 2019-20 market study of Australia’s native foods and botanicals industry by researchers at The University of Sydney, supported by Australian Native Foods and Botanicals (ANFAB), forecasted the native food sector would grow to 40 million Australian dollars (about USD 25,2m) in farm gate value, A$100m (about USD 63,1m) in middle market value and A$160m (about USD 101m) in total retail value by 2025.

Besides being used in traditional and modern cuisine, many of these native Indigenous botanicals are being used in cosmetics, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries. For example, the vitamin C-rich, pink-red native Lilly Pilly fruit has good astringent properties that boosts collagen production within the skin. It is used today in a variety of anti-ageing skincare products.

The COVID-19 pandemic craze for superfoods and television cooking shows, such as Australian MasterChef, has also contributed to the increasing popularity of native Indigenous foods.

They can now be found on grocery superstore shelves. According to a spokesperson for Coles Group Ltd., a leading Australian retailer, “We currently work with nine Indigenous-run businesses that sell products with native ingredients, including Kurrajong Kitchen Oaklees original crackers, Yaru still mineral water and Seven Season Green Ant gin, on our shelves.”

Recently, The Coles Nurture Fund awarded Indigenous-owned family business Walaja Raw Bush Honey a grant of A$330,000 (about USD 208,470) to create a new, medicinal grade, premium Melaleuca honey that is sustainably made in the West Kimberley region on Yawuru Country (Country is a term used by Indigenous Australians to describe the lands, waterways and seas to which they are connected through ancestral ties and family origins).

Although the demand is growing, supply is limited because much of the native Indigenous produce is currently wild-harvested.

“Native foods have never been cultivated to be mass produced. They grow now as they’ve grown since the beginning of their time, culturally and sustainably. It’s best left like that,” says Choolburra, who is the Aboriginal Programs Coordinator at the Botanic Gardens of Sydney.

As Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Joe Morrison says, “Bush foods (food native to Australia and historically eaten by Indigenous Australians) are a fundamental part of Indigenous identity and our traditions that span thousands of years of connection to Country.”

But climate change presents a growing challenge with extreme weather conditions, including frequent storms, soil erosion, salinity in fresh water and ocean acidification threatening the ecosystems supporting native flora and fauna.

Choolburra says, “We (Indigenous Australians) are adapting our sustainability practices to meet the challenges of climate change, which is impacting everything in various ways. For example, many areas now facilitate cultural burns (Indigenous fire practice) in order to manage land and provide nutrients. In many cases, the production or harvesting of native foods is left to local communities in order to sustain the amount of quality produce.”

She occasionally leads the Aboriginal Bush Tucker Tour, which provides visitors from across the world an opportunity to learn about the traditional knowledge and cultural significance of native Indigenous flora and its many innovative uses.

On a cool, wet Sydney day, as we walk along the rich foliage in the Botanic Gardens, she plucks the long, flat green leaf from the native Lomandra plant, a vital source of food and survival and referred to as the ‘corner shop’ in some Indigenous Australians’ cultures and shows us how it can be woven to make baskets.

Pointing at the Dianella bush, she relates the old practice when children were told to hide in it – if they got lost. The Dianella’s sharp-edged leaves would repel snakes, and the children could attract attention by blowing in the hollow base of the leaf to make a whistling sound. The edible blue-purple berries, with tiny, nutty seeds from some of the Dianella species, are rich in vitamin C.

However, she warns that like anything consumed in large quantities, some of the popular nutritious plants, such as warrigal greens, used as a substitute for common spinach, and the sandpaper fig could cause diarrhoea or vomiting if eaten too much.

As the native Indigenous food industry grows, experts say, there is a need to enhance Indigenous communities’ participation to ensure they reap the benefits. “Australia needs to brand and market native Indigenous foods as its authentic cuisine. This will foster cultural knowledge about our Indigenous heritage and biodiversity,” Sultanbawa tells IPS.

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Transgender people often entertain at weddings and other events, but they increasingly face violent acts, especially since part of an Act ensuring their rights was recently struck down. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS
  • by Ashfaq Yusufzai (peshawar)
  • Inter Press Service

Gul, a resident of Charsadda district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), left her house at 16 when her mother asked her to or face being killed by her father.

“I was born as a boy, and my name was Abdul Wahid, but when I came to Peshawar and joined a transgender group, I got a female name, Pari Gul. Since then, I have been going to weddings and other festive ceremonies to dance,” she says. “Dance is my passion.”

However, she has often been the brunt of discrimination and violence.

“During my five-year career, people have beaten me more than 20 times. Each time the perpetrators went unpunished,” she told IPS in an interview.

Trans people are often targeted in KP, one of Pakistan’s four provinces.

On March 28, a man shot dead a transgender person in Peshawar. It was the third incident targeting transgender persons in the province in less than a week. Despite the violence, violent attacks on transgender people aren’t considered a major crime.

Khushi Khan, a senior transgender person, says lack of protection is the main problem.

“People have developed a disdain for us. They consider us non-Muslims because we dance at marriages and other ceremonies,” she says.

“We had lodged at least a dozen complaints with police in the past three months when our colleagues were robbed of money, molested and raped but to no avail,” Khan, 30, says.

Last month, clerics in the Khyber district decided they wouldn’t offer funerals to transgender persons and asked people to boycott them.

Rafiq Shah, a social worker, says that people attack the houses of transgender, kill, injure and rob them, but the police remain silent “spectators”.

“We have been protesting against violence frequently, but the situation remains unchanged,” Shah said.

Qamar Naseem, head of Blue Veins, a national NGO working to promote and protect transgender people, isn’t happy over the treatment meted out to the group.

“Security is the main issue of transgender persons. About 84 transgender persons have been killed in Pakistan since 2015 while another 2,000 have faced violence, but no one has been punished so far,” Naseem says.

The lack of action by the police has emboldened the people.

“Health, transportation, livelihoods and employment issues have hit the transgender (community) hard. Most of the time, they remained confined to their homes, located inside the city,” he says.

There are no data regarding the number of transgender in the country because the government doesn’t take them seriously, he says.

In May 2023, the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) dealt a severe blow when it suspended the implementation rules of the Protection of Transgender Persons Protection of Rights Act.

Farzana Jan, president of TransAction Alliance, says that FSC’s declaration that individuals cannot alter their gender at their own discretion, asserting that specific clauses within the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018 contradict Islamic law, has disappointed us.

The FSC declared un-Islamic sections 3 and 7 and two sub-sections of Section 2 of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018, five years after the law was passed, the FSC rolled back key provisions granting rights to Pakistan’s transgender community.

Some right-wing political parties had previously voiced concerns over the bill as a promoter of “homosexuality,” leading to “new social problems”.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018, is against the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and will cease to have any legal effect immediately, the verdict stated.

Amnesty International said the verdict was a blow to the rights of the already beleaguered group of transgender and gender-diverse people in Pakistan. It said some of the FSC’s observations were based on presumptive scenarios rather than empirical evidence. The denial of essential rights of transgender and gender-diverse persons should not be guided by assumptions rooted in prejudice, fear and discrimination, AI said.

“Any steps taken by the government of Pakistan to deny transgender and gender-diverse people the right to gender identity is in contravention of their obligations under international human rights law, namely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to which they are a state party,” it said.

The government should take immediate steps to stop the reversal of essential protections, without which transgender and gender-diverse people will be even more at risk of harassment, discrimination and violence, AI added.

On July 12, 2023, transgender representatives from all provinces held a press conference at Lahore Press Club, where they vehemently condemned the recent decision by the FSC against the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018.

Arzoo Bibi, who was at a press conference, said it was time to stand united for justice and equality.

“Militants don’t threaten us, but our biggest concern is the attitude of the society and police,” said Arzoo.
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According to experts, size and length don’t matter when it comes to satisfying a woman in bed, instead, how skillful the man is at using the penis.

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