You may have heard about Yoga to the People, a donation-based yoga studio in the East Village that’s now the defendant in a lawsuit filed by Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram yoga (TM). A yoga-based lawsuit could and one day may be the subject of its very own blog post, but for now I mention it merely to highlight its polar opposite: seriously bringing yoga to the people. Not just broke students who can’t afford the very high prices of yoga classes in New York, but people who’ve never heard of yoga. People like former child combatants in Uganda, and women who have survived sexual violence during conflict.
Williams had practiced yoga regularly since her mid-twenties and trained in 2003 at OM yoga studio in downtown Manhattan. While she enjoyed taking classes, she knew she wanted to work with people who wouldn’t normally find themselves in a yoga studio. To work more effectively with these populations, she began training in trauma-sensitive yoga. During a training with trauma pioneers David Emerson and Bessel van der Kolk, she realized that much of what she was learning – that yoga can help heal – she knew through her own experience.
“I didn’t even know that I was using yoga and these techniques to heal and self-regulate, but I was,” she said, “so I intuitively knew there was this toolkit. I just hadn’t formalized it.”
She tried reaching out to organizations working with incarcerated youth, and to local rape crisis centers, but got little traction. Friends who worked at the United Nations and with international relief agencies encouraged her to look abroad. Just a month after she secured fiscal sponsorship through the women’s rights organization MADRE, she got the green light from the St. Monica’s Girls School in Gulu. From her conversations with the headmistress, CNN Hero Sister Rosemary, she gathered that the staff was enthusiastic about the yoga training. Only upon her arrival did it become clear that no one had any idea what yoga was.
“I wish I had a picture of my face at that moment,” she said. “They thought it was going to be badminton or something — some sort of sports activity.”
Full story here.
There’s a man in the news with twinkly eyes, rimless spectacles, and a lush white beard. But instead of bearing gifts, he’s ignoring warnings about European debt risk and gambling with what is thought to be $1.2 billion of missing customer money in his former role as CEO of the now-bankrupt firm MF Global. In the headline of a story I did for class last month, I likened Mr. Corzine to the fabled Emperor who believes he’s wearing fine robes when in fact he is nude. I was delighted to see that Financial Times’ writer John Gapper chose the same analogy and ran with it, in this brilliant piece. Meanwhile, here’s my stab at it.
“That Robe Looks Fabulous on You, Emperor.” Why did no one raise any alarms on Corzine’s big European bets?
NEW YORK CITY — Now that its bankruptcy papers have been filed, observers of the collapsed brokerage firm-turned-investment bank MF Global are asking: why did no one see this coming?
The signs were there. Since former Goldman Sachs executive Jon Corzine took over the firm in April 2010, it scaled up its proprietary trading business until it was leveraged nearly 40 to one as recently as June of this year. By comparison, Lehman Brothers was leveraged at 35 to one at the time of its collapse.
Over 10% of its assets were long-term peripheral European government bonds, most of which were due to mature towards the end of 2012. As the Eurozone crisis intensified in recent weeks, investor lack of confidence caused capital to flee, resulting in downgrades from ratings agencies Moody’s and Fitch’s.
But asking whether that strategy could have succeeded in a different investment climate, or what was driving Corzine to take on so much risk, misses the point, said Joseph A. Cotterill, who has been covering MF Global for the Financial Times’ Alphaville blog.
“For me, the real question isn’t so much about why MF Global turned into a massive proprietary trading outfit, it’s why no one stopped them — auditors, ratings agencies, and so on,” he said.
There is no one answer, and observers have pointed to several factors that could have made it difficult to put the brakes on Mr. Corzine’s ambitious strategy: his Goldman Sachs “halo,” the politician connections he brought from his career as a New Jersey senator and governor, and internal structure and personnel problems at MF Global.
Francine McKenna, who blogs about the “Big Four” auditing agencies at re: the Auditors and is a regular contributor to American Banker and Forbes, believes the auditing agencies failed to honestly evaluate MF Global’s long-term prospects.
“Their job is to go in, look at the internal and external figures, and decide ‘What is the likelihood that this company is going to survive the next 12 months?,’” she said. A company with MF Global’s risk levels should have been marked with a “qualified concern” rating as far back as last December.
“Given their losses over the last three years, there was a reasonable expectation that one of the auditors should have said, ‘I think we need to raise our hand and say this firm is in potential danger of not being here 12 months from now,’” she said.
Over the past two years, Fitch and Moody’s credit ratings reports have consistently reflected a “negative outlook” on MF Global. But continued confidence from Standard and Poor’s, an agency to which Mr. Corzine has close ties through former Goldman colleagues, delayed the inevitable crash, according to Ms. McKenna. Standard and Poor’s rated the company “stable” in December 2010. A “qualified concern” rating, on the other hand, would have called the company’s credit lines and debt liens into question, since those covenants require a clean opinion to hold.
“The auditors don’t want to be the ones to light the match, because changing their opinion has automatic consequences,” she said. “All the things you’re dealing with now would have happened then.”
In an article for American Banker, Ms. McKenna noted that many of Mr. Corzine’s inner circle of advisors were men he had known for years, and as such were unlikely to provide a lucid, outsider’s perspective. For example, MF Global’s Chief Financial Officer, Henri Steenkamp, came from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which audited Goldman Sachs for the many years he was there.
Yesterday, the firm filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy, news followed by reports of hundreds of millions of dollars gone missing. This prompts another important question, said Ms. McKenna.
“How do you make sure that anyone’s looking out for the shareholders?”
I used Storify to create this little bloggy, video-y mashup on sexual harassment and attempts to quantify its existence.
It’s a mix of reportage, links to reports, videos, stats, etc — a good primer on sexual harassment, if you’re looking for one.
The recession has hit women and men differently, but globally, the consensus is there. Economies will grow if women work. Or as the World Bank puts it, investing in women is “smart economics.” In this piece for Women in the World Foundation, I profiled three innovative non-profits getting women back in jobs across the United States. One trains women to work in construction; another focuses on microfinance, and a third helps women launch and grow small businesses.
When the recession hit in December 2007, men took the first hit: jobs in construction, real estate and finance, where men are overrepresented, vanished from the labor market. But the so-called “man-cession” has given way to yet another neologism: “the he-covery.” In fact, over the last two years, women’s unemployment has risen while men re-enter the work force. As stimulus money dries up and states and municipalities struggle to balance their budgets, public sector jobs (of which women have already lost 72.3% in the last two years) will face further cuts.
These figures reflect a changing economy, in which certain sectors where women are overrepresented, like administrative and secretarial work, are in decline. Others in which they are underrepresented, like the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, are projected to grow. Construction and extraction jobs are expected to grow at a rate of 1.2% through 2018, but women only make up 2.6% of the industry’s employed.
When I was in high school, my godmother took me to see the Vagina Monologues, written and performed by Eve Ensler. I loved it. So much that I tried to work for Eve Ensler, and was given a job in the gift shop instead, which I worked at the weekends until I got vagina fatigue (they pipe the show into the gift shop and there’s only so much repetition of the word “vagina” I could stand.)
Ensler, whose V-Day organization has raised millions of dollars to fight violence against women around the world, has a bit of rape fatigue these days. She expounds on her rape fatigue this week in the Huffington Post.
I am over rape.
I am over rape culture, rape mentality, rape pages on Facebook.
I am over the thousands of people who signed those pages with their real names without shame.
I am over people demanding their right to rape pages, and calling it freedom of speech or justifying it as a joke.
I am over people not understanding that rape is not a joke and I am over being told I don’t have a sense of humor, and women don’t have a sense of humor, when most women I know (and I know a lot) are really fucking funny. We just don’t think that uninvited penises up our anus, or our vagina is a laugh riot.
I was feeling the same way back in May of this year when, between the two NYPD rape cases, the DSK allegations, and the reports of mass rape in Libya, seemed to invite an official recognition of May as Rape Month.
It’s November now, and I’m with Eve. I’m over rape.