Tuesday, June 08, 2021

A North Carolina Police Department to Only Respond to Certain 911 Calls Due to Staff Shortages

The Asheville Police Department in North Carolina announced that its officers will not respond to certain crimes so that they can be better equipped at answering more serious emergency calls due to a "staffing crisis."

Calls that APD will no longer respond to include instances where the suspect is not known, harassment through phone calls, life is not in danger unless it is related to stalking or domestic violence, identity theft and trespassing reports when there will not be any pressed charges.

The police department has lost 84 officers since the beginning of 2020, the department said. APD boasted 238 sworn officers as of 2019, according to the Police Executive Research Forum.

Asheville Police Chief David Zack said in a Tuesday interview, according to ABC11:

Our detective unit right now is completely gassed out with the volume of serious investigations that they have to address. And we will have to triage those. Those officers are having to work extremely long hours.

The APD's loss of 84 police officers is a significant loss of staff as they now only employ 219 officers out of the 300 that they have the budget for, according to the Citizen Times.

Police ask that victims of a crime use the Police to Citizen online reporting tool to file a report instead of calling 911. The alternative for those without internet access can call (828) 252-1110 to have an officer respond when they are available.


Gender wars

Hours before Jo Phoenix, a professor of criminology at the Open University, was due to give a talk at Essex University about placing transgender women in women’s prisons, students threatened to barricade the hall. They complained that Ms Phoenix was a “transphobe” likely to engage in “hate speech”. A flyer with an image of a gun and text reading “shut the fuck up, terf” (trans­exclusionary radical feminist, a slur) was circulating. The university told Ms Phoenix it was postponing the event. Then the sociology department asked her for a copy of her talk. Days later it told her it had voted to rescind its invitation, and would issue no more. Ms Phoenix says she was “absolutely furious and deeply upset” about both the damage to her reputation and to academic freedom.

Essex University’s vice­chancellor asked Akua Reindorf, a lawyer who specialises in employment and discrimination law, to investigate. Eighteen months later, in mid­May, the university published Ms Reindorf’s report on its website. It said Essex had infringed Ms Phoenix’s right to freedom of expression and that its deci­sion to “exclude and blacklist” her was also unlawful. It advised the university to apologise to Ms Phoenix and to Rosa Freedman, a professor of law at Reading University whom it had excluded from an event during Holocaust Memorial Week “because of her views on gender identity”. (Essex in the end allowed Ms Freedman to attend.)

Ms Reindorf’s report marks a challenge to the transgender dogma that originated on American campuses and has spread to universities around the English­speaking world. Its proponents hold that gender identity—the feeling that one is a man or a woman—is as important as biological sex and that trans people should in all circumstances be regarded as the gender with which they identify. This has increasingly influenced policy­makers: several places allow trans women into spaces that were once reserved for females, from sports teams to prisons and shelters for victims of domestic violence.

The opposing viewpoint, which is often described as “gender­critical”, might once have been considered mainstream. It argues that, since biological sex is unchange­able, even with hormones, surgery or any other form of treatment, the conviction that one has been born in the wrong body should not be dispositive. Gender critics argue that biological differences between the sexes make the continued provision of female­only spaces necessary. Trans activists say that trans women should have access to those places, too. “The emphasis that so­called gender­critical women place on what they describe as threats to women ignores the fact that trans women are overwhelmingly those who are threatened in single­sex spaces,” says Lisa Miracchi, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has signed open letters disapproving of gender­critical feminists.

The arguments the two sides put forward, in other words, are complex and debatable. But many trans activists think that any disagreement is tantamount to hate speech and try to suppress it. Some universities with policies that reflect the belief that trans women are women have acted on complaints about people who do nothing more than express a contrary view. In May, after students at Abertay University in Dundee reported that a student had said at a seminar that women have vaginas and men are stronger, the university launched an investigation.

In some cases, academics who have objected to “gender ideology” —the view that gender identity should trump biology— have been removed from professional posts. In April Callie Burt, an associate professor at Georgia State University, was fired from the editorial board of Feminist Criminology. She was told her presence might deter others from submitting manuscripts. The problem appears to have been her criticism of the conflation of sex and gender identity in proposed anti­discrimination legislation. Last June Kathleen Lowrey, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta, was removed as the chair of an undergraduate programme after students complained they felt unsafe. She says she reckons gender­critical posters on her office door were to blame.

Yet the most worrying effect is likely to be invisible. An unknown number of university employees avoid expressing their opinion for fear it will damage their career or turn them into pariahs. The report about Essex says witnesses described a “culture of fear” among those with gender­critical views. This is unlikely to be limited to one university. The report also argues that expressing the view that trans women are not women is not hate speech and is not illegal under British law, whatever university policies might suggest.

The fight back

The report is likely to embolden gendercritical academics in Britain, at least, where they are already more outspoken. There are signs that a backlash to gender ideology is building elsewhere, too. In February, when Donna Hughes, a professor of women’s studies at Rhode Island University, published an article critical of gender ideology, petitions sprouted calling for her to be fired. Her university denounced her and warned that the right to free speech was “not boundless”. Ms Hughes, who is a co­founder of the Academic Freedom Alliance (afa), which was launched in March, says her university encouraged students to file complaints. She hired an “aggressive” lawyer. In May the afa announced the university had dropped its investigations into Ms Hughes and affirmed her right to speak.

Ms Hughes’s example is striking because in America, where concerns about free speech in universities tend to focus on racial sensitivities, gender­critical views are rarely expressed publicly. This is partly because there is no federal legislation that specifically protects trans (or gay) people from discrimination, which lends a particular urgency to lgbt activism. Jami Taylor, a professor of political science at the University of Toledo and a trans woman, says she has experienced “transgender­related bias” throughout her career, from being called “it” by students and a colleague to being guided to the men’s bathroom.

America’s political polarisation makes it harder yet to debate such topics. Trans activists often portray gender criticism as a far­right cause. Though it is becoming that, too, it is a topic on which leftist feminists and social conservatives find agree­ment. In Britain most outspoken gendercritical academics are left­leaning, atheist feminists. Some in America are, too.

Their chief concern is the preservation of female­only spaces. In February Holly Lawford­Smith, a professor of philosophy at the University of Melbourne, launched a website (noconflicttheysaid.org) which invited women to describe their experiences of sharing female­only spaces with trans women. It is not a research project and its reports are unverified. Most describe a feeling of discomfort rather than any form of physical assault. Soon afterwards, around 100 of her colleagues signed an open letter claiming the website promoted “harmful ideology”. It called for “swift and decisive action by the university”. Ms Law­ford­Smith kept her job, but there have been at least two marches at the university decrying that. “I think people quite enjoy having a nemesis on campus,” she says.

How did an ideology that brooks no dissent become so entrenched in institutions supposedly dedicated to fostering independent thinking? Pressure groups have played a big part. In Britain most universities and many public­sector bodies have joined the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme, which means they have drawn up policies that reflect the group’s position on trans identity. The report about Essex said the university’s policy “states the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is”, and could cause the university to break the law by indirectly discriminating against women. It recommended that Essex reconsider its relationship with Stonewall. Several bodies, including the government’s equality watchdog, have since left the Champions scheme.

The influence of pressure groups exemplifies the other big reason trans ideology has gained a foothold in academia: its eli­sion with the rights of gay people. Many organisations established to defend gay rights have morphed into trans­rights groups. Tamsin Blaxter, a research fellow at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge and a trans woman, says that academia has become a lot more welcoming to trans people, thanks largely to Stonewall. But some gay people disagree with its new focus. In 2019 some supporters split from the group, in part owing to concerns that its stance encourages gay people to redefine themselves as trans (and straight), to form the lgb Alliance. Similar groups have sprung up around the world.

Students increasingly express gendercritical views. This year a group of feminist students in Cambridge ran a “replatforming” event for gender­critical scholars who had been excluded from academic events (Ms Phoenix was among the speakers). Sophie Watson, one of the organisers, says she has lost friends over the issue. “There’s so much fear over using the wrong language—to disagree with the line that trans women are women is really considered hateful,” she says.

Campus revolt

Gender­critical academics hope that as more of them speak out, others who share their concerns but were afraid to express them will feel emboldened. When Kathleen Stock, a professor of philosophy at Sussex University and one of Britain’s most prominent gender­critical academics, was given a government award for services to education last December, hundreds of academics from around the world signed an open letter denouncing her. More than 400 signed a counter letter in her defence. But many people, she says, prefer to express their support privately.

Universities will no doubt watch how the debate evolves outside academia, especially in the courts. The dangers of eroding free speech are becoming increasingly apparent as judges rule on matters from the medical treatment of trans­identifying children to people who have been sacked after being accused of transphobia. If Maya Forstater, a British researcher who lost her job because of her gender­critical views, wins her appeal against the ruling of an employment tribunal that this was lawful, universities may become quicker to defend their gender­critical employees.

Regulation may also play a part. In February the British government announced proposals to strengthen academic freedom at universities, including the appointment of a free­speech champion. Some (though not all) gender­critical academics welcome the idea. In America lawsuits invoking free speech may make a difference. But it would be better if universities, which owe their success to a tradition of dissent and debate, did in fact defend it.


Having affairs can be part of a healthy society, according to one of the UK's top divorce lawyers

Ayesha Vardag, dubbed the 'Diva of Divorce' after a string of high-profile court battles, encouraged Britons to 'learn from the French' and said she would turn a blind eye if her own husband cheated.

Ms Vardag, whose clients have included Qatari princes, Malaysian millionaires, business tycoons, international footballers, celebrities and royalty, told The Mail on Sunday: 'Are extramarital affairs part of a healthy society?

'Sometimes married couples get intolerably fed up of each other and indeed very lonely in each other's company as topics of conversation expire and the springs of desire run dry.

'Is it always right for them to choose between remaining unhappily together or divorcing and starting again?

'Or is it sometimes worthwhile to keep the structure of the marriage in place – the secure home, the family, the workable economic structure, the steady domestic routine – and take romance, love, sex, excitement where one can find it, without rocking the boat?

'It's the way Brits have historically attributed to the French – never mind how many lovers we both have, just keep it discreet and we'll continue to stay committed to our marriage, in a way that works for all of us. Could we learn something from that?'

Ayesha Vardag insists that her own tangled love life – including having four children with three men – has benefited her millionaire clients.

The 53-year-old once said that her experience means 'there's nothing that my clients tell me that I haven't been through myself', adding: 'I bond with them over that during meetings. But now I've come full circle and I'm the happiest that I've ever been in my personal life.'

That happiness is down to Stephen Bence, the chief executive of the Vardags law firm and father to their son Orfeo. The couple, who met in 2014, split their time between homes in Hampshire, London, Dubai and Italy.

Ms Vardag split from her first husband, Xavier Hunter, in 1999 after they both took lovers. She had always assumed that Mr Hunter - father of her two eldest sons, Jasper and Felix - was 'the love of my life' but over time they drifted apart.

Recalling the split in 2018, she said: 'Over time, things weren't right between us. I met someone else and I told him that I wanted out. Then he met someone else and suddenly I was devastated about losing him.'

Her divorce lawyer for the case, Roger Tooth, was so impressed with her preparation that he hired her as his assistant and she later set up her own law firm. After her first marriage, she had a romance with a younger colleague named Miles, with whom she had her daughter Helena.

She admits to be uncompromising. 'I have to be fierce, subtle and the cleverest person in the room,' she once said.

However, that no-nonsense approach brought controversy last year when an internal memo on the company's dress code was leaked in which Ms Vardag banned cardigans and called for staff to be 'discreetly sexy' but 'never tarty'.

Lockdown has led to far fewer couples divorcing because of affairs.

Ms Vardag's eponymous law firm reported a 17 per cent fall in cases citing affairs during the first lockdown in the spring of last year, and an even more dramatic 63 per cent fall during the last lockdown.

But the 53-year-old said that enquiries citing 'bad behaviour' – ranging from heated arguments to domestic violence – had soared.

The National Domestic Abuse Helpline recorded a 65 per cent increase in calls between April and June last year, compared to the previous three months. 'If shutting down affairs correlates with domestic abuse, alcohol abuse and cruelty, is it always a good thing?' asked Ms Vardag.

'For a puritan society yes, perhaps, and there are those whose religions require it.

'But in our broadly secular society, if we contemplate allowing people a degree of freedom to make their own path, and we focus on being kind to and supportive of our partners, rather than monogamous with them, then could we have longer, happier marriages?

'More happiness, more fun, more sex, more love? Is serial monogamy so much better than polygamy or polyandry?'

'But lockdown has made it more difficult to start and maintain affairs.

'If there's no pub to go to, no conference, no hotel, and you're working from home, there's no opportunity to see existing lovers, let alone meet new ones.

'Allegations of affairs still occurred in the early days of the pandemic, as existing affairs came to light.

'Suspicious spouses, with lots of time at home and phones left lying around, found incriminating WhatsApp messages to absent lovers or spotted their partners at the bottom of the garden on long, intense phone calls that didn't look like an analysis of the latest sales figures.'

The mother-of-four claimed she would be accepting if her husband Stephen Bence cheated on her.

'If he had an affair, I'd certainly like to think I'd be able to turn a blind eye, breeze past it and keep our marriage together, for all of the good things we have built together,' said Ms Vardag.

The lawyer rose to fame in 2010 when she won a landmark Supreme Court case that paved the way to making prenuptial agreements legally enforceable in England and Wales.

She keeps her client list secret, but secured a £64 million divorce deal for Pauline Chai, the wife of Khoo Kay Peng, the former boss of the Laura Ashley fashion chain, when their marriage ended after 42 years.


My other blogs. Main ones below:

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com TONGUE-TIED)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://john-ray.blogspot.com (FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

https://heofen.blogspot.com/ (MY OTHER BLOGS)


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