Bella Books is holding one of its periodic surprise sales. This time the theme is relatively recent ebooks, so if you haven't gotten around to buying Mother of Souls yet (yes, I'm secretly tapping my foot impatiently) it's only $5.99 through this weekend. Plenty of other bargains as well!
They all wanted to hear what Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi had to say about an issue that has brought their country into the eye of an unprecedented storm of criticism: Violence in the country's Rakhine State that has led to an exodus of more than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh.
While Suu Kyi's speech failed to deflect the growing international condemnation of Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya, the mood in Yangon, the country's largest city, was upbeat.
"We, the majority of the people, stand with her and we strongly believe that she can solve this problem," said Phyu Wint Yee, 41, owner of a travel agency, who watched the speech at park in downtown Yangon, where a big screen was specially erected.
It mattered little that Suu Kyi, Myanmar's State Counselor, spoke in English, which meant many didn't understand her public address.
"I'm proud that she's speaking on behalf of us to the world," said Bran San, a trishaw driver, who took a break to watch the speech on television.
Others showed their support by changing their social media profiles to a picture of Suu Kyi, who was a political prisoner for years before coming to power.
Fifty-seven-year-old public servant Khin Maung Maung, like many of the dozen or so people CNN spoke to, blamed the crisis on the international media, which he said was "publishing the wrong information" about Rakhine State.
They say the international media focuses on the minority groups like the Rohingya, while ignoring the plight of Rakhine Buddhists, who are members of the majority religion in Myanmar.
Newspapers carry the government's account of the crisis, casting it in terms of the military responding to attacks by terrorists. There are no references to the accusations of ethnic cleansing or alleged massacres.
Like Suu Kyi herself, few people in Yangon use the term Rohingya, most people refer to the minority as "Bengalis" -- a slur term that is often used as shorthand for illegal immigrants -- and there appears to be little sympathy for the Muslim minority in a country where there has been an upsurge in Buddhist nationalism.
Prejudice against the Rohingya, who are not seen as citizens of Myanmar, is long held and people aren't shy to share their views.
"They are terrorists to the native population," said one noodle seller in Yangon's Lanmadaw district.
Tin Win, who works for the country's Inland Water Transport agency, was until recently based in Sittwe, the state capital of Rakhine, where he lived for more than two years.
He painted a picture of a Buddhist population under threat from Muslims. "They are expanding," he said. "They produce so many kids, so many children."
He also found no fault with the camps or ghettos some 120,000 Rohingya are forced to live in by the state, but said he'd never visited them, as he was told "they were too dangerous for an outsider."
"They can leave under escort. It's not a problem. They come to the public hospital. They can come to shop at the market. "
Some 90% of Myanmar's population is Buddhist but the notion that Islam threatens Buddhism is prevalent, according to a new report from the International Crisis Group, which says the idea often appears in mass publications and popular religious materials.
"The feeling that Islam is especially pernicious ... frustrates Buddhists who believe that their faith has suffered for its tolerance of other religions," the report says.
The religious strife, which has been whipped up by well-known firebrand monks like Ashin Wirathu, isn't only felt in Rakhine state.
Myanmar is home to other Muslim communities and they have had their mosques attacked and schools closed down, according to the ICG report, which warns of potential communal violence across the country.
The animosity towards Rohingya isn't shared by everyone.
"Both sides are suffering and poor so I want a stable situation. I hope she will do the best for both sides," said Liam Ngaio Nuam, 25, a nursing student, who is Christian.
Others said they wished for peace.
The bloodshed unfolding in northern Rakhine State and the humanitarian crisis it has unleashed across the border in Bangladesh feels far away in bustling Yangon, which is enjoying the economic fruits of Myanmar's transition from a military dictatorship to a young democracy led by Suu Kyi.
Ironically, as Suu Kyi's status as a champion of human rights in the West is sullied by her handling of the crisis, the criticism being leveled at her appears to be enhancing her status as a moral hero at home.
"She is walking a tightrope because of all this wrong or fake information," said Nay Win Oo, a tour guide.
In the past, Suu Kyi has referred to a "huge iceberg of misinformation" about the Rohingya crisis that was contributing to the barrage of international complaints.
Suu Kyi's attempts to shape the message within Myanmar seems to have worked.
However, even as State Counselor, she doesn't have full control of the levers of power.
The country's Constitution gives ultimate authority to the military, led by Commander-in-Chief General Min Aung Hlaing.
With little sympathy for the Rohingya among her supporters, there's little incentive for Suu Kyi to condemn the generals' actions against the Rohingya in the way the international community wants.
This is how genocide happens...
German Shepherd Mom Tires Out Her Pups In The Most Adorable Way Possible (It is adorable! She alternates between bouts where they can't possibly catch up to her and bouts where they can, clever doggie!)
Scientists Invent a Pen That Can Detect Cancer in Seconds
For Centuries, People Celebrated a Little Boy’s First Pair of Trousers
“Do Sign Languages Have Accents?” (Video, or you can read the transcription)
Is there a single food that you can survive on forever?
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Here’s why you should pay attention to this weekend’s German election
There is meddling in Germany's election — not by Russia, but by U.S. right wing
What A Doctor Calls A Condition Can Affect How We Decide To Treat It
When the Idea of Home Was Key to American Identity
Parents Who Pay to Be Watched (OMG.)
Colombia partners with locals in order to stop cocaine production, US warns it may not be enough
Behind the scenes, Zimbabwe politicians plot post-Mugabe reforms
Iraqi Kurds set to vote on independence, panicking neighbors and Washington
What is behind clashes in Ethiopia's Oromia and Somali regions?
Facebook’s war on free will
Facebook Enabled Advertisers to Reach ‘Jew Haters’
The basic physics of climate change have been known for more than a century, but it is in recent decades that the fundamental science of global warming has solidified
The Minuscule Importance of Manufacturing in Far-Right Politics
Stop acting surprised, America: Donald Trump is a white supremacist
In Month After Charlottesville, Papers Spent as Much Time Condemning Anti-Nazis as Nazis
The Republicans Aren't Even Pretending This Is About Healthcare Anymore
Christians in U.S. Military ‘Serve Satan’ If They Tolerate Other Religions, Air Force Chaplain Says
Making war illegal changed the world. But it’s becoming too easy to break the law
Anatomy of terror: What makes normal people become extremists?
He's gotten a lot better at being in the same room as the cats without freaking out, and even a little better at not barking and lunging at the familiar cats we see on our walks. (Not as good as with his own roommate cats, but you can't have everything.)
This is great because, with winter coming, Callie wants to go back to being an indoor-outdoor cat, emphasis on indoor - she doesn't like cold weather!
Republicans hoping to jam a last-minute Obamacare repeal plan through the Senate are confronting a rising tide of opposition as health care groups, patient advocates and even some red-state governors join forces against a bill they worry would upend the nation’s health care system.
The wide-ranging backlash threw the GOP’s repeal push into fresh doubt on Tuesday, even as White House officials and Senate Republican leaders insist they are on the verge of winning the 50 votes needed to dismantle Obamacare under a reconciliation bill that expires in two weeks.
Opponents of the proposal co-authored by Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina seized on its plan to overhaul Obamacare’s subsidized insurance and Medicaid expansion and replace those with block grants to the states — a mass restructuring they warned would sow chaos in insurance markets. They panned its new regulatory flexibilities as a backdoor route to undermining key patient protections — including safeguards for those with pre-existing conditions.
And in the biggest blow, several Republican governors urged the GOP to abandon a plan that would force states to swallow potentially billions in funding cuts — and instead to focus on stabilizing Obamacare.
“The Graham-Cassidy bill is not a solution that works for Maryland,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, one of the half-dozen GOP governors to come out against the bill so far. “We need common-sense, bipartisan solutions that will stabilize markets and actually expand affordable coverage.”
The criticism from Republican governors adds another complication to an already fraught process for Senate Republicans facing a tight deadline to repeal Obamacare. GOP leaders — once skeptical of the Graham-Cassidy plan’s chances — are now all in on a bid to speed it through the Senate.
In a clear bid to boost the bill’s prospects Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House came out in opposition to a bipartisan plan to stabilize Obamacare being written by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash). The intention was to put pressure on Republican senators to back the last-ditch effort to gut Obamacare.
Alexander later announced he’d abandoned work on that effort after failing to find consensus. He has said he’d “like to” be able to support Graham-Cassidy and is still reviewing the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also backed the approach Tuesday, although he declined to commit to bring it to the floor.
“We’re in the process of discussing all of this,” McConnell said. “Everybody knows that the opportunity expires at the end of the month.”
All of which has amped up the pressure on GOP lawmakers who are eager to fulfill their seven-year repeal vow but who remain puzzled about what the bill would actually mean for their home states — especially since the Congressional Budget Office said it will not have details about the practical implications of the bill, including how many people could lose coverage and the impact on insurance premiums, "for at least several weeks."
“The kind of status quo on money, or more money to states and more control to states — that’s very appealing, very simple,” said Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, who added that he’s still poring over the bill’s effects. “What I’m very focused on as we speak is figuring out the dollar amounts, frankly, and the formula and how it impacts my state.”
Cassidy — the chief architect of the bill’s proposal to take Obamacare’s federal funding and redistribute it to states in equal amounts — has spent the past several days reassuring senators that their states wouldn’t see major funding cuts under the block grant plan.
But that rosy view has met with increasingly harsh pushback from policy analysts, industry groups and state officials — including some in the Louisiana Republican’s own state.
“The legislation you’ve introduced this past week gravely threatens health care access and coverage for our state and its people,” Louisiana Health Secretary Rebekah Gee wrote in a letter to Cassidy, estimating that the bill’s block grant system would slash $3.2 billion in health funding for the state over a decade.
That figure tracks with early estimates published by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, showing that only 15 states would end up better off financially under Graham-Cassidy compared with the current law — while those that have been most successful at enrolling residents in coverage would face tens of billions in cuts.
Another state-by-state analysis, set to be released Wednesday by health care consultancy Avalere, will similarly show most states losing federal funds through the bill.
“That is definitely the case,” Avalere Vice President for Policy and Strategy Caroline Pearson said. “The vast majority of states will get less money.”
The projected financial hit to states has pitted some Republican governors against their own Senate delegation. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval — in a break with bill co-sponsor Dean Heller — and Ohio Gov. John Kasich both signed onto a 10-governor letter urging the GOP to abandon Graham-Cassidy in favor of propping up Obamacare. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, opposed the bill too.
The state-level objections echoed the message from across the health community — a diverse group of industry, patient and public health advocates that have nevertheless remained largely united against the GOP’s repeated repeal efforts.
Sixteen patient and provider groups, from the American Heart Association to the March of Dimes, slammed the bill in a joint letter over worries it would gut Medicaid and undermine protections for those with pre-existing conditions. A raft of other powerful health lobbies, including the American Medical Association and American Academy of Family Physicians, piled on throughout the day on Tuesday, each urging the GOP to abandon repeal in favor of bipartisan fixes.
Hospitals and insurers — until this week largely convinced the repeal fight was over — sprang back into action as well, criticizing the prospect of creating 50 wildly different state health care systems as unworkable and irresponsible, with minimal vetting of the bill’s merits ahead of time.
“Could you have imagined any other Senate in our modern history that would even consider this process?” one health care lobbyist vented, calling it the worst GOP proposal yet. “We’re talking about such a tremendous portion of the United States economy. Real people’s lives. The reverberations are just so huge.”
To date, not one major health care industry or advocacy group has expressed support for the Graham-Cassidy plan.
The hits are going to keep coming. Activist groups that Democrats credited for helping derail the last repeal bill are ramping up their efforts, targeting holdouts like Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine.
And comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who lauded Cassidy in May for his promise to vote against any bill that undermined protections for people with pre-existing conditions, is expected to go after the senator Tuesday night for breaking his promise. Graham-Cassidy would let states obtain waivers that allow plans to charge higher premiums based on individuals’ health status.
Cassidy has defended the provision by noting that states would be required to ensure “affordable and adequate” coverage options for sick enrollees.
The sudden scrutiny has heightened tensions in a Senate that last week seemed resigned to simply shoring up Obamacare for the short term.
“I have nothing to say,” McCain, a key swing vote, retorted Tuesday when asked about his position on the bill. “I have nothing to say, OK? Did you hear me?”
politi LET IT GO ALREADY
Looks like it's going to be overcast all week, and next week too. Well, fuck. I'm putting my lightbox back on.
Superheroes for the Jewish New Year
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The 11 sisters of Siervas are a rock band like 'nun' other
Scientists Once Dressed Frogs in Tiny Pants to Study Reproduction
In Alaska’s Far-Flung Villages, Happiness Is a Cake Mix
Octlantis is a just-discovered underwater city engineered by octopuses
How Two Lesbians Fought the Nazis With a Typewriter
Meet Nazo Dharejo: The toughest woman in Sindh
In a First for the Nation, Portland Police End Gang List to Improve Relations With Blacks and Latinos
The Rust Belt Needs Legal Immigration
That Awkward Moment When Your Twin Brother Is A U.S. Citizen At Birth, But You’re Not
Lawsuit targets searches of electronic devices at US border
New hope for limiting warming to 1.5 C
This Department Is the Last Hideout of Climate Change Believers in Donald Trump’s Government
Child care choices limited for those working outside 9-to-5
St. Louis sees third day of protests after officer's acquittal
ICE Detained This Trafficking Victim on Her 18th Birthday. Why?
Hurricane Maria is following Irma's path and getting stronger
The Sci-Fi Roots of the Far Right—From ‘Lucifer’s Hammer’ to Newt’s Moon Base to Donald’s Wall
Graceful menace: States take aim at non-native swans
New Mideast realities require support for Kurds
What is at stake in Iraqi Kurdish vote for independence?
Iraq says may use force if Kurdish referendum turns violent
And now she's claiming she didn't ever ask for this in the first place. Yeah, right. I get that she wants to spend time with her friends, but - dude, she spends hours with them every single day. She can take a day off and maybe make some new friends, something she frequently claims she wants.
10 Badass Trees That Refuse To Die
The Making of the Modern American Recipe
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DNA triggers shape-shifting in hydrogels, opening a new way to make 'soft robots'
The Spanish Royal Philanthropic Expedition to Bring Smallpox Vaccination to the New World and Asia in the 19th Century
Stopped at US border, Haitians find 'Mexican dream' instead
How Pants Went From Banned to Required in the Roman Empire
Just squeeze in—researchers discover when spaces are tight, nature loosens its laws
In Amish Country, the Future Is Calling
Children Used to Learn About Death and Damnation With Their ABCs
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Tillerson says U.S. could stay in Paris climate accord
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Dylann Roof requests new attorneys, declaring appeal team his biological enemies (Relevant quote: “The lawyer appointed to represent me at my federal trial was David Isaac Bruck, who is also Jewish. His ethnicity was a constant source of conflict even with my constant efforts to look past it.” All his lawyers deserve medals and a fruit basket. Maybe some booze. They earned it after putting up with him!)
US people of color still more likely to be exposed to pollution than white people
Breastfeeding Behind Bars: Do All Moms Deserve the Right?
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Unbudgeted: How the opioid crisis is blowing a hole in small-town America's finances
See jerkface bacteria hiding in tumors and gobbling chemotherapy drugs
Myanmar Follows Global Pattern in How Ethnic Cleansing Begins
Rohingya Muslims being wiped off Myanmar's map
Three killed in stampede for aid near Rohingya refugee camp
Bangladesh warns Myanmar over border amid refugee crisis
The Ominous, Massive Military Exercises in Eastern Europe
I spend a lot of time on, and am a volunteer moderator for, several Stack Exchange sites. (Mi Yodeya is one of them.) SE has a banner ("top bar") that is the same across all sites. It contains notifications, information about the logged-in user, and some key navigation links. For moderators it contains a few more things relevant to that job.
Until recently it looked like this (non-moderator view):
The red counter is the inbox (waiting messages) and the green one is reputation changes. If there aren't any, you just get the gray icons that those alerts are positioned over. If I were a moderator on that site, there'd be a diamond to the left of my user picture and a blue square with the flag count to the left of that.
They've just changed this design. (Well, the change is rolling out.) Here's what it looks like now (for a moderator):
The most important links for moderation are the last two things, the diamond and the blue box with the number (flags). They're on the far right, where they're less likely to be seen for various reasons. (Non-moderators don't get those indicators.)
In the old design, those moderator indicators -- which are important -- were toward the center where they're easier to see. Also, all the numbers were a little bigger and easier to see.
When this was announced there was a lot of immediate discussion in the moderators-only chat room, during which I got a little upset about the reduced usability, especially those moderator controls -- which had a good chance of being scrolled away in a not-huge browser window, because SE doesn't use responsive design. After I calmed down I wrote a post on Meta about how this was going to make it harder for me to do my volunteer job, particularly with vision challenges. I expected to get a few sympathy votes, some "get a bigger monitor" snark (which wouldn't help, by the way), and no results.
That post is now one of my highest-scoring posts on the network. And I have a meeting with the product manager and a designer at SE next week to demonstrate my difficulties in using this in more detail.
Meanwhile, I've gotten some help with userscripts from some other moderators. It's hacky and a little buggy and it slows down page loads and I have no idea how to adjust some things, but at least I can see my notifications and the moderator stuff is in a better place. It'll do for now.
I sure hope I can get them to bake some of this in, though. The page-load delay is a little disconcerting as stuff jumps around on the screen. (Also, userscripts do not work on my Android tablet.)
Beyond the immediate problem, though, what I really hope for is to find some way to raise a little awareness that usability is hard, designers are not the users, there are all kinds of people with all kinds of usage patterns and constraints, and you need to somehow, systematically, figure out how to design for the larger audience. That's going to be the hard part.
Sheena (our fearless leader at The Lesbian Talk Show) was chatting with me on facebook about how I write characters, after the review of Mother of Souls came out at The Lesbian Review (her other project), and it ended up turning into an interview for her series The Write Stuff. So here you can listen to me talking about my approach to creating three-dimensional characters and how I let the characters themselves shape their stories. Plus, you get the very very short version of "stapling the octopus to the wall".
Exclusive: Rohingya sent to detention island in Papua New Guinea pressured to return to Myanmar, where thousands have fled ethnic persecution
A protest inside the Manus Island detention centre in August. Australia has been trying to clear the camp, which the Papua New Guinea supreme court declared illegal.
Australia is promising thousands of dollars to Rohingya refugees who agree to return to Myanmar, a country that has been accused of ethnic cleansing against the Muslim minority.
Asylum seekers in the Australian-run detention centre on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, have been pressured by officials to return to their home countries, even if they face violence.
Papua New Guinea’s supreme court last year ruled the centre for around 800 people breached human rights, was illegal and must close. Australia has since ratcheted up efforts to clear the centre, offering up to A$25,000 to refugees agreeing to go home.
Returning Rohingya to their country could put their lives at risk. Myanmar does not recognise the ethnic minority and has conducted military operations in Rohingya villages that the United Nations’ top human rights official branded “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
Close to 400,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, many with bullet wounds and stories of mass killings, as their villages burn.
The Guardian understands up to seven Rohingya may be facing return from Manus Island and spoke to two refugees in PNG who said they were going back.
Yahya Tabani, a 32-year-old Rohingya man who arrived in Australia in 2013 but was sent to Manus Island, said he had no choice but to return.
“I don’t want to stay in PNG,” said Tabani, who used to sell mobile accessories. “I don’t want to die in PNG. I prefer to die in Myanmar. Probably Buddhist people are going to kill me as soon as I arrive in Myanmar … Australia doesn’t care if we live or we die.”
He said he had been promised A$25,000 by the Australian Border Force. He had not yet received any money and does not have a bank account into which it can be paid. Tabani was waiting in the PNG capital Port Moresby for his travel documents.
“I have no right to get citizenship and can’t go to school. I didn’t get any basic rights. Immigration [the Australian immigration department] said I have to live in PNG or go home.”
He said he had been attacked by locals in PNG, who he claims killed another detainee, an Iranian man. They were looking for money, he said. Physical and sexual abuse has been reported on Manus, one asylum seeker was murdered by guards, while others have died from medical neglect and local residents and soldiers have stormed the centre.
Another Rohingya refugee, currently held in Port Moresby ahead of a slated return to Myanmar, spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity for fear of recriminations against himself and his family.
“I am going back because my family are being persecuted by the Myanmar government. My family are in a violent place. I need to save them and look after them.”
He said he had been arrested in Myanmar previously, and feared further persecution upon return.
“But the reason why I leave PNG is there is too much torturing, they treat us as prisoners and they kill us mentally. That is more scary for me, that’s what I decided to go back. Better is leaving PNG, I can see my parents before Australia and PNG authorities make me a fool mentally, or killed physically.”
The Australian and PNG governments have vowed the Manus detention centre will be completely shut down by 31 October. Officials have been withdrawing basic services in different sections to force people out.
“It would be unthinkable to send any Rohingya back to Myanmar – in the midst of the military’s ethnic cleansing campaign against them,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “Sending them home right now would be a death sentence.”
She said the move “speaks volumes about the dangerous conditions and hopelessness that refugees on Manus have had to endure, that Rohingya refugees would even contemplate going back in ... the midst of an ethnic cleansing campaign”.
The Obama administration agreed to consider resettling in the US up 1,250 men, woman and children refugees sent by Australia to Manus Island and Nauru. But Donald Trump described the agreement as a “dumb deal” and in his first phone call with the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, asked: “Why have you not let them into your society?... Maybe you should let them out of prison.”
On the offshore detention islands, faith in the American agreement is fading. The US is not obliged to take a single refugee under the deal, only to consider them for resettlement, and 10 months after the deal was struck, no one has been accepted to go to the US.
In Canberra the Australian government has resolutely maintained no one detained on Manus or Nauru will ever be resettled in Australia. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection referred questions to the government of Papua New Guinea.
On Tuesday, when the foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, was asked if Australia would consider taking any Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar, she said Australia wanted them to return to their country if possible.
Speaking from New York, where she has been attending United Nations meetings, she said Australia was providing a further $15m in humanitarian support to ease the crisis, particularly to Bangladesh.
“We want to see a ceasefire, an end to the violence, and then for the Rohingyas to be able to return to Rakhine state,” she told the ABC’s AM program.
“That was the collective view around the table of ministers, that we wanted to see the Rohingyas return to their homes.
“So I’m afraid there’s going to be considerable discussion here about the best way to achieve that. But nevertheless, the international community appeared to be united in its concerns to ensure that Rakhine state is stabilised and we can bring peace and security to it.”
-On the genocide against the Rohingya in Myanmar:
(1) Earlier post by me (has background on the Rohingya and the current crisis).
(2) Earlier post #2 by me (has additional background on this).
(3) Recent post by me (details recent events).
(4) Myanmar: new footage reveals scorched-earth campaign against Rohingyas.
-On Australia's truly horrible treatment of migrants:
(1) Earlier post #1 by me (has background on the Manus island and Nauru detention camps).
(2) Earlier post #2 by me (has more background on the camps).
(3) Manus Island Closure: refugees forced out of compound and threatened with arrest. Foxtrot residents told to leave 'immediately' as detainees fear Papua New Guinea government will resort to 'force and violence' as part of rolling closure.
(4) Manus Island: Judge approves $70m compensation for detainees. Lawyers hope to have sum paid before offshore detention centre closes next month in what is Australia’s largest human rights class action settlement.
OP: Yikes but this Australian government sucks. wtf...
When I was putting together my main podcast essay for this month, on details of lesbian sexual techniques as given in sources like penitential manuals, I realized that I already owned this book but had never blogged it. I was somewhat disappointed to discover how heavily excerpted it was, making it rather less useful for my purposes than I thought, particularly in relation to the podcast. That means that at some point I should track down the full texts of some of the penitential manuals that I know have relevant information. Still, it was on the list and now it's been done.
Penitential manuals were designed not only as guidance for acceptable behavior in monastic institutions and for the clergy, but later as guidelines for confessors to sort out exactly what was and was not considered a sin, and to standardize penances to some extent. Although my summary here is only concerned with same-sex sexual sins, I found some of the early Irish material fascinating in how it pointed out some of the social fractures of the time (especially between different branches of the church).
Penitentials are, of course, theoretical sources. They discuss what sorts of activities people are considered at risk for doing. And they only cover activitites that the church was actively concerned about. So while they aren't exactly useless as evidence for what women were doing together, neither are they a reliable guide to the details. And in the case of this publication, there's the further filter that we see only those sections of the books that the translators/editors considered to be of historical interest.
McNeill, John T. & Helena M. Gamer. 1990. Medieval Handbooks of Penance: A Translation of the Principal Libri Poenitentiales.Columbia University Press, New York. ISBN 0-231-09629-1 (reprint of 1938 edition)
A collection of excerpts in translation from early medieval books of pennance. The significant editing means that the material is less useful for tracing the details of how penitential manuals handled same-sex sexual activity.
Penitential manuals began being produced in the early Christian era (at least by the 5th century) as a guide for confessors or those in charge of monastic institutions to, in some ways, standardize and regularize what actions were considered sins, and what the penance for different degrees of sin should be. This focus can make them valuable for the discussion of matters that might otherwise not be discussed in historic sources. Although penitential manuals covered a wide range of behaviors and aspects of life, this blog is specifically interested in what they have to say about sexual relations between women. So mostly I’ll be extracting the specific passages that speak to this topic. For a more general discussion of penitential manuals, follow the related tags.
As this book and its translations were initially published in 1938, don’t expect a nuanced and broad-minded treatment of homosexuality. The inclusion or omission of activities from these manuals often reflects the degree of concern that the church had about them at the time, rather than the presence or absence of those activities in society. Note also that general references to “fornication” may have been understood to cover same-sex situations, but have not been included in these notes unless they explicitly do. Furthermore, this edition does not reproduce the penitential texts in full, and in some cases I know from other sources that material specifically addressing female homosexuality is present but hasn’t been included.
The following early medieval Irish material is meant for the guidance of male monastics and priests, therefore it is not surprising that women’s same-sex activity isn’t addressed as it doesn’t fall within the scope of interest.
- Early Irish canons attributed to Saint Patrick (ca. 7th century, Ireland) - Does not address same-sex activity.
- Penitential of Finnian (6th century, Ireland) - Does not address same-sex activity.
- Penitential of Cummean (7th century, Ireland) - Addresses male homosexual acts (sodomy and femoral masturbation). There are separate guidelines for boys engaged in the same acts, with variants depending on age.
- Penitential and Laws of Adamnan (7th century, Ireland) - Does not address same-sex activity.
Misc. early Welsh penitentials (6th century) - A vague reference to “anyone who sins with a woman or with a man”. The assumed audience is male, but there is only an implication that the sin is sexual. Specific reference to “he who is guilty of sodomy in its various forms.”
- [From a Book of David, 6th century] Reference to “those who commit fornication...with a male” but again the assumed audience is male.
- [From Gildas’ book of penance, 6th century] Reference to a man who has taken a monastic vow who commits “natural fornication or sodomy”.
Penitential of Theodore (7th century, Anglo Saxon) - In contrast to the previous documents which primarily addressed an audience of male monastics, this one has a broader audience. The section on fornication has an elaborate set of distinctions for sexual acts between men, and addresses women’s same-sex activity explicitly: "If a woman practices vice with a woman, she shall do penance for three years. If she practices solitary vice, she shall do penance for the same period.” That is, for women, masturbation and lesbian sex were considered equivalent in severity. The penance is less severe than for sex between men, though the proliferation of distinctions for male participants makes it hard to know which to compare to. But male masturbation appears to be treated much more lightly.
Penitential of Columban (7th century, St. Columban was Irish but this text was compiled on the continent where he founded monasteries) - A reference to monks committing sodomy, to laymen committing sodomy (in a context where the audience is clearly male). Even though women are covered by other sex-related penances, there is no reference to same-sex activity between women.
Judgment of Clement (8th century, Frankish) - The audience for these rules is general, not clerical. Nothing specifically addressing sexual activity is included.
Burgundian Penitential (8th century, Frankish) - The implied audience is male except in some very specific cases. There is reference to committing “fornication as the Sodomites did”.
Saint Hubert Penitential (9th century, Frankish) - There is a fascinating item on cross-dressing that seems to have to do more with prohibitions on pagan practices than gender transgression. “Of dancing -- Anyone who performs dances in front of the churches of saints or anyone who disguises his appearance in the guise of a woman or of beasts, or a woman [who appears] in the garb of a man--on promise of amendment he [or she] shall do penance for three years.” No references to same-sex fornication.
Penitential of Halitgar (9th century, Frankish) - The default audience, as usual, is male, in which context we have a reference to “if anyone commits fornication as the Sodomites”. There are no references to women’s same-sex relations.
The collection also covers a number of later documents but in much abridged form, generally quoting only discussions that don’t appear in earlier documents. There is no material relating to same-sex relations in these excerpts.
This link should take you to the audio player for The Moth, cued to a story, "Who Can You Trust", 12 minutes long.
The Moth, if you didn't know, is an organization that supports storytelling – solo spoken word prose – true stories. This story is told by Dr. Mary-Clare King, the discoverer of BRC1. It concerns a most extraordinary week in her life, when pretty much everything went absurdly wrong and right at all once. It is by turns appalling and amazing and touching and throughout hilarious.
It's worth hearing her tell herself before the live audience. But if you prefer transcript, that's here – but even the link is a spoiler.