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Cynthia Nixon’s emphasis on accountability stands out amid widespread bipartisan hypocrisy

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“America is still a democracy and the people can hold their leaders accountable,” Cynthia Nixon wrote in an CNN opinion piece just weeks before she declared her candidacy for governor of New York in March.

Holding politicians “accountable” is as much a boiler-plate catchphrase as it is a pipe dream in an electoral system replete with gerrymandering, voter suppression tactics and unregulated corporate campaign donations. Then there’s the simple hypocrisy of politicians like former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who publicly spoke of women’s empowerment while allegedly abusing his girlfriends in private.

But accountability, for Nixon, is not just bloated rhetoric tossed off to garner New York voters’ support. Her ethics of accountability transcend her recent foray into electoral politics. They are personal.

Accountability, for Nixon, is not just bloated rhetoric tossed off to garner New York voters’ support. Her ethics of accountability transcend her recent foray into electoral politics.

Nixon’s understanding of sexuality — as a choice — is case-in-point. “For me, [sexuality] it is a choice,” Nixon told the New York Times in a 2012 interview. “I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me.”

If Nixon does win the election, she would become the first non-straight governor in New York history, and only the second LGBT-identified politician to be elected to the position nationwide. As a result, Nixon’s sexuality will likely remain media fodder throughout the election. Yet debates around labels — Is she bisexual? Lesbian? An “unqualified lesbian”? — fail to observe how her understanding of sexuality highlights an ethics of accountability not usually seen in politics.

Nixon isn’t trying to erase identity or dictate how others experience or express their sexual orientation — something she has been very clear about. She is saying that her own identity label is a choice (“you don’t get to define my gayness for me”), and she derives empowerment through this choice. Nixon, as a consenting adult, has chosen who to have sex with, how to have sex and where to have sex. She has chosen men and she has chosen women — and regrets neither. To suggest otherwise is to not only strip her of her agency, but, as she concludes in the Times interview, it is to undermine the sanctity of her sexual relationships, past and present.

Nixon, as a consenting adult, has chosen who to have sex with, how to have sex and where to have sex. She has chosen men and she has chosen women — and regrets neither.

“People think I was walking around in a cloud and didn’t realize I was gay, which I find really offensive,” she told the Times. “I find it offensive to me, but I also find it offensive to all the men I’ve been out with.”

I, too, believe sexuality is a choice — this is a tenet of my feminism. Indeed I’ve often explained my belief that sexuality is a choice in the form of a joke: “I just didn’t fall into a vagina and stay there.” To say that my sexuality is a choice is to assert responsibility for my actions; I am accountable for how I engage, sexually, with other, consenting adults. This is my freedom, and my power; I am keenly attuned to my desires and decide, with ethical discrimination, how to realize those desires in the world with other consenting adults.

This form of accountability is liberating. It also supplements feminist narratives about rape and sexual assault that emphasize the accountability of perpetrators: no omnipotent deus ex machina forces perpetrators to commit sexual violence. They decide. They act. They are themselves accountable for the crimes they commit — not women, not women’s bodies or the clothing that they wear, or the fact that they show up to parties wanting to dance and have a drink or two.

As indicated by her perspective on sexuality, Nixon’s perspective on accountability is refreshingly different from what we currently see in Washington and in state and local governments across America. We needn’t rehearse the endless list of male politicians who have blamed their sexual lives — and their affairs and transgressions — on other people, or on forces beyond their control. Or the total lack of accountability espoused by the White House; just recall Sarah Huckabee Sanders relaying Trump’s insistence that “all these women are lying,” as a way to dismiss the accusations of sexual assault and sexual harassment against the president.

Now the challenge will be for Nixon to apply her personal sense of accountability to her political one. Already, however, it seems like she is making headway on this goal. Most notably, she is putting her money where her mouth is: She has pledged to not accept corporate donations in this campaign, a testament to her grassroots, progressive politics. (Nixon does leave the door open for LLCs, however.)

It was her choice to participate as a public citizen of New York, rather than a private individual whose wealth contributes to the egregious economic disparity and increasing social divide in the state.

Similarly, Nixon is a “proud public school graduate,” and her three children are New York City public school students as well. It was her choice to participate as a public citizen of New York, rather than a private individual whose wealth contributes to the egregious economic disparity and increasing social divide in the state. And it is her choice to publicly advocate for issues like school funding and LGBT equality, issues that personally affect her and her family.

She has also been quick — and deliciously ruthless — to call out Governor Andrew Cuomo on the “corruption Olympics that is Albany,” as she said in an interview with The Buffalo News. “If you look at (Cuomo’s) attempt at economic development, there’s just been enormous giveaways with not a lot to show for it.”

“The thing that’s so awful about the Buffalo Billion is the corruption, of course,” she continued. “But also how much money is being spent with so little accountability.”

In a May 2 poll, Cumo’s lead over Nixon is still a healthy 22 points, although she is gaining some ground as she increases her name recognition. While nascent in her campaign, Nixon’s ethics of accountability have been apparent for years in her life choices. Her skeptics should consider this quality of character before quickly dismissing her as just another celebrity candidate.

Marcie Bianco is a writer and an editor living in California. She is columnist at the Women’s Media Center, and her writing can be found both online and in print at outlets like NBC Think, Pacific Standard, Quartz, Rolling Stone, Salon, Vanity Fair and Vox.

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Afghanistan: Gunmen kill two female Supreme Court judges in Kabul car ambush | World News

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Gunmen killed two female judges from Afghanistan’s Supreme Court in an early morning ambush, which also saw their driver wounded.

The attack happened as the two judges, who have not yet been named, were driving to their office in Kabul in a court vehicle on Sunday, a court official said.

It was the latest attack in the Afghan capital during peace talks between Taliban and Afghan government officials in Doha, Qatar.

No one has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack. A spokesman for the Taliban said its fighters were not involved.

A woman cries at the scene of the deadly ambush. Pic: AP
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A woman cries at the scene of the deadly ambush. Pic: AP

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement on Sunday condemning attacks on civilians by the Taliban and other militant groups.

Mr Ghani said “terror, horror and crime” was not a solution to Afghanistan‘s problem and urged the Taliban to accept “a permanent ceasefire”.

Government officials, journalists, and activists have been targeted in recent months, stoking fear particularly in Kabul.

The Taliban has denied involvement in some of the attacks, but has said its fighters would continue to “eliminate” important government figures, though not journalists or civil society members.

Rising violence has complicated US-brokered peace talks taking place in Doha as Washington withdraws troops.

Sources on both sides say negotiations are only likely to make substantive progress once US President-elect Joe Biden
takes office and makes his Afghan policy known.

The number of US troops in Afghanistan has been reduced to 2,500, the lowest level of American forces there since 2001.

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COVID-19: First person in Brazil inoculated as two coronavirus vaccines approved | World News

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A nurse has become the first person in Brazil to receive a coronavirus jab just hours after the country’s health regulator approved two vaccines.

Monica Calazans, 54, who works on the coronavirus frontline, was vaccinated in a ceremony in Sao Paulo.

The rollout of the vaccines made by Sinovac and AstraZeneca comes after months of delay and political disputes over the immunisation programme.

SP - Sao Paulo - 01/17/2021 - SAO PAULO, FIRST VACCINATE CORONAVAC - The nurse at the Emilio Ribas Institute, Monica Calazans, 54 years old, living in Itaquera, east of Sao Paulo, celebrates after receiving the first dose of the Coronavac vaccine that was authorized for emergency use by ANVISA, in a decision taken this Sunday 17 after a meeting that lasted 5 hours at the institution's headquarters in Brasilia. Photo: Suamy Beydoun / AGIF
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The 54-year-old nurse celebrates the milestone

Brazil currently has six million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine ready to distribute in the next few days, and is awaiting the arrival of another two million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University jab.

“This is good news for Brazil, but six million doses are still very few,” said Ethel Maciel, an epidemiologist at the Federal University of Espirito Santo.

“It will not allow the entire population at risk to be fully immunised, nor is it clear how quickly the country will obtain more vaccines.”

Jair Bolsonaro
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Jair Bolsonaro has been criticised for his handling of the pandemic

Vaccination in Brazil is beginning later than neighbours such as Argentina and Chile despite a robust public health system and decades of experience with immunisation campaigns.

The process to present and approve the COVID-19 vaccines was fraught with conflict, as allies of President Jair Bolsonaro sought to cast doubt on the efficacy of the Sinovac shot which had been backed by his political rival, Sao Paulo state’s governor Joao Doria.

Health professionals on the frontline against coronavirus will be the first to receive the jabs.

It will then be extended to others including the indigenous population, people over 60 years of age and people with pre-existing conditions.

Brazil coronavirus cases pass four million
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Brazil has the second highest COVID-19 death toll behind the US

The South American country has now registered 8,455,059 cases since the pandemic began.

Its death toll has risen to 209,296 meaning only the US has suffered more fatalities, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

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Uganda: After contentious election, people needed answers but opposition could not provide any | World News

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We were expecting a cacophony of noise after the Ugandan Election Commission declared the result in a presidential poll that was both contentious and shockingly violent.

However, we did not see any angry chatter, nor collective calls to arms on popular social media sites because the government had switched the internet off.

The streets of the capital Kampala were quiet as members of the military, carrying short-barrelled machine guns, walked languidly down the side of city streets.

Ugandan security forces on patrol a checkpoint Kampala, Uganda, Saturday Jan. 16, 2021, after Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was declared winner of the presidential elections.
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Ugandan security forces on patrol at a checkpoint in Kampala (Pic: AP)

The 38-year old opposition leader Bobi Wine, who visibly connected with tens of thousands of younger Ugandans during the campaign, had been removed from public view. The security services are surrounding his home and blocking anyone from entering.

In effect, the government has used the tools of state to turn down the noise – to dissipate the heat – after its long-time leader, President Yoweri Museveni, took 58% of the vote.

Mr Wine, a popular pop star turned politician, garnered a respectable but insufficient 35%.

And the authorities’ masterplan seems to be working, at least for now.

We were invited to a press conference by Bobi Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP) party where they were expected to outline their immediate plans, address their leader’s absence, and introduce newly elected parliamentary members to the nation.

The deployment of  soldiers around  Bobi wine`s home in Magere, Kampala, Uganda, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021,  after president Yoweri Museveni was declared  winner by electoral commission this afternoon..(AP Photo/Nicholas Bamulanzeki).
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Soldiers patrol outside Mr Wine’s home (Pic: AP)

But the event proved to be nothing short of a shambles.

The NUP’s spokesman, Joel Senyonyi, began by saying that Mr Wine was now, “effectively under house arrest, an illegal detention”.

He criticised the election as an exercise in mass fraud, “with outcomes from the Election Commission that are as curious and amazing as anyone can imagine”.

But when I asked him what they planned to do about it, the spokesman was unable to offer anything specific.

“What do you want people to do?” I asked.

“Our simple answer to that is we are urging Ugandans to use every means available in the constitution to keep pursuing the change of leadership that we want.”

Supporters of Ugandan President  Yoweri Kaguta Museveni celebrate in Kampala, Uganda, Saturday Jan. 16, 2021, after their candidate was declared winner of the presidential elections. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
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Supporters of President Museveni celebrate (Pic: AP)

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“Use every constitutional avenue to achieve change. I think that is very clear. Now pardon us, our colleagues (have been raided)…”

The press conference ended abruptly, before any of the new MPs had been introduced, with Mr Senyonyi signalling that some sort of emergency situation had developed.

He left through the gate of the NUP’s headquarters with several party officials and two-dozen members of the media, including Sky News, in tow.

We drove at not insignificant speed to a slum in the capital, then ran down a sewage-strewn track to a small clearing where a man, sitting in a plastic seat, relayed a story about an attack meted out by the security services.

His name was Andrew Natumanya and said he was a volunteer polling agent for the NUP party. He had been collecting declaration forms with results from individual polling stations in central and eastern Uganda when a group of plain clothes policemen had grabbed him, roughed him up and confiscated the documents.

I noticed that journalists and camera operators began to drift away as the young man outlined his experience. His allegations are disturbing and deserving of attention – but they are not unique.

Over the past few months, dozens of NUP party members and supporters have lodged allegations of harassment, beatings and arbitrary arrests as they attempt to challenge a system of government that does not tolerate organised dissent.

Yoweri Museveni has been in power for 35 years in Uganda
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Yoweri Museveni has been in power for 35 years in Uganda

But the National Unity Platform had a crucial opportunity at the press conference to outline their plan, to come up with an approach which exploits and builds on the momentum they have manufactured over the past year.

Should young Ugandans take to the streets? Does the NUP support non-violent protest? How do concerned citizens challenge an election result that many believe is fraudulent?

Today, the people needed answers and the country’s biggest opposition party, minus its leader, could not provide any.

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