Wednesday, February 15, 2017

News & Pop Culture: Round-Up

Trump (L),  Putin (R)
Russian Dossier on Trump Gaining Credibility with Law Enforcement
CBS News has learned that the 35-page dossier compiled by a former British spy is gaining credibility among law enforcement. Before he was sworn in as President, Donald Trump dismissed the document, but sources tell CBS News that investigators continue to vet it to see whether there is any truth to the allegations. At issue is whether the Russian government gathered compromising information on the president during his years of doing business in the country as a private citizen. The FBI is leading the investigation but several intelligence agencies are also involved. Typically an investigation of this scale would involve the sources and methods of the CIA and NSA. CNN first reported the sustained interest in the dossier by the intelligence community. The dossier first came to the attention of U.S. officials several months ago, and it took time for it to circulate. A U.S. official familiar with the document’s origin says that even people who discounted it initially have begun to take it more seriously.

Key West, Florida to Outlaw ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’ for Minors
Before casting a vote to make gay-conversion therapy illegal for children, Key West City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley gave his reason for bringing the issue up on an island where he knows of no instances of the much-maligned practice. “The LGBTQ youth are born perfect and they all deserve to grow up knowing they are celebrated and valued for exactly who they are,” Weekley said before the commission voted 6-0 last Wednesday on the proposed law’s first of two required readings. “We don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring,” Weekley said. “It’s the moral and ethical correct thing to do.” Commissioner Richard Payne, a retired judge, called the practice “Voodoo counseling” and a form of fraud. The law would levy a civil penalty for any Key West licensed counselor who does the therapy, meant to convert gay, lesbian, bisexual or questioning kids to a straight lifestyle. Conversion therapy is to try to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual. Last week, the city of Toledo, Ohio, unanimously approved a ban on the therapy. While the practice is rejected by the American Medical Association, it is common in places on the mainland. “Conversion therapy is a form of abuse,” said M.J. Taylor of Key West.

Illustrative Use Only
KKK Fliers Distributed to Residents in Cinnaminson, New Jersey
Police say residents in a South Jersey community woke up Sunday morning to find unwanted fliers posted along their street. Ku Klux Klan and hate fliers were reportedly left along driveways on Forklanding Road in Cinnaminson. The fliers stated "love your own race" and "stop homosexuality and race mixing". Police do not believe that any one person was the target, but neighbors were stunned to read what it said on the fliers. "And it looked like a Valentine. It had like water droplets on it and it was a little shiny, and I thought, 'Oh did somebody drop something? It looks like a card.' So I went and picked it and up and I was like, 'love your own race?" I just looked and I was like 'stop homosexuality?'" said Rita Strough of Cinnaminson. "I'm like Oh my God. It said, 'Join the Klan today.' I was just shocked." Police issued the following statement: The Cinnaminson Police Department received a call from a resident reporting hate literature found along Forklanding Road today. The police are investigating the incident. At this time it does not appear that any person or residence was specifically targeted. There is no place for hate or intolerance in Cinnaminson. Anyone with information is asked to call the Cinnaminson Police at 856-829-6666. Statement from the Southern Burlington chapter of the NAACP: "This message of hate - whether it stems from some lone individual with a printer, or some group of anonymous, hateful people - has absolutely no place in our community, or any community. The Southern Burlington County Chapter of the NAACP condemns it fully, and urges local leaders in the region and throughout the State, from all ethnic, political, and religious backgrounds, to do the same forcefully. Clearly, the fight for civil rights is not over in New Jersey. The Southern Burlington County NAACP has the full support of the New Jersey State Conference NAACP as this struggle continues!"

Experimental HIV Treatment Models Highlight Successes and Pinpoint Obstacles to Expanding Care in African Countries
Researchers in developing countries with high burdens of HIV infection are developing promising new strategies to advance towards global HIV treatment targets, the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban South Africa has heard. The UNAIDS fast track strategy seeks to ensure that 90 percent of HIV-positive people know their status, 90 percent are able to access antiretroviral treatment (ART), and 90 percent of those on treatment attain viral suppression, by the year 2020. Studies on treatment expansion in several southern and East African countries presented at AIDS 2016 provide new insights on how to acheive the 90-90-90 objectives, while also identifying some critical obstacles to overcome. Anton Pozniak, Clinical Service Director of the HIV Unit at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London and Treasurer of the International AIDS Society, highlighted the scope of the task by referring to statistics from the UNAIDS Prevention Gap Report, which estimate that 57 percent of people living with HIV know their status currently, 46 percent of all people living with HIV have access to ART, and only 38 percent of people living with HIV have achieved viral suppression. "The limited success of efforts to provide broader access to treatment are reflected in unacceptable mortality rates and a decreasing momentum in the reduction of new HIV infections globally," commented Pozniak. "The research reported here offers valuable insight into the opportunities and the challenges we face in gearing up delivery systems to meet our HIV treatment goals."

Congressman Invokes Unknown 1924 Rule To Expose Trump’s Tax Returns Immediately
When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) invoked rule 19 to rebuke Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and prevent her from speaking further against the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to the position of attorney general, he opened the door to some unintended consequences. In addition to inadvertently writing what has become a feminist battle cry and what could likely serve as Warren’s campaign slogan during the presidential election in 2020, he’s also inspired other congressman to explore opening some old, forgotten rules that haven’t been implemented or even considered in decades. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, wrote a letter to the committee’s chairman demanding that President Trump’s tax returns be submitted to the committee and examined. Using a 1924 tax law that states that Congress can insist upon seeing these documents in order to assess any conflicts of interest, even if the person from whom the documents are demanded is the president of the United States.

James Baldwain (L) Bayard Rustin (R)
Black History Month: Gay Civil Rights Icons
James Baldwin: Baldwin's 1956 novel "Giovanni's Room" was groundbreaking in its depiction of homosexual relationships. An American expatriate who lived in Paris, he left the prejudices and violence of his native land behind, but they continued to influence his work. Baldwin was not afraid to break barriers and write both beautifully and honestly, producing essays and novels throughout his life. During a trip to the American south in 1957, Baldwin interviewed people in Charlotte and wrote about desegregation and its social tensions. Bayard Rustin: Though most often remembered as Rev. Martin Luther King's advisor and secretary, Rustin was one of the earliest advocates for gay rights. Arrested in the 1950s for "homosexual activity," Rustin went on to make the Civil Rights Movement his life's mission. He was deputy director and chief organizer for the 1963 March on Washington and helped to organize Freedom Rides and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. While Rustin wasn't openly gay, for fear that it would delegitimize his work, he spoke out for equality and was labeled nonetheless.

Deluge of New State Bills Would Curtail LGBT Rights
After making major leaps forward under the most assertively pro-gay rights administration in U.S. history, LGBT groups are girding for a far different experience in states where Republicans control the levers of government. More than 70 bills that would roll back LGBT rights, block transgender people from using the restrooms of their choice or allow denial of service on religious grounds have been introduced in nearly two dozen states across the country this year. Republican majorities in state legislatures have created a wider battlefield, forcing gay rights supporters to play defense. November’s electoral results, when Republicans captured control of the White House, Congress and states across the country, were “a repudiation in part of the radical attempt of the left to redefine marriage and redefine sex and ram it down everyone’s throat,” said Quena Gonzalez, director of state and local affairs at the conservative Family Research Council. A handful of states are considering measures similar to North Carolina’s controversial H.B. 2 legislation, which prohibited cities from enacting anti-discrimination laws stricter than state standards.

Church 'Regret' as Trainees Hold Service in Antiquated Gay Language Polari
A Church of England theological college has expressed regret after trainee priests held a service in the antiquated gay slang language Polari. The service at the chapel of Westcott House in Cambridge was to commemorate LGBT history month. The congregation was told the use of the lexicon was an attempt to "queer the liturgy of evening prayer". But officials said it had not been authorised and was at variance with the doctrine and teaching of the church. Polari is thought to have originated in Victorian London but fell out of use as homosexuality began to be decriminalised in England in the 1960s. One person present at the service told BBC News it was led by an ordinand - a trainee priest - rather than a licensed minister. The congregation was also made up of trainees. While they had been given permission to hold a service to commemorate LGBT history month, a Church of England source said the college chaplain had not seen the wording of the service. The translation was based on the Polari bible, a work compiled as a project in 2003 by the self-styled Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The scripture and liturgy were printed on to an order of service. An Old Testament reading from the Prophet Joel which says "rend your heart and not your garments, return to the Lord your God" was printed in Polari as "rend your thumping chest and not your frocks - and turn unto the Duchess your Gloria: for she is bona and merciful". Instead of the traditional "Glory be to the father, and to the son, and the Holy Spirit" the prayer offered was: "Fabeness be to the Auntie, and to the Homie Chavvie, and to the Fantabulosa Fairy".

Ivanka Trump
Iconic Canadian Department Store, Hudson's Bay, Under Pressure to Drop Ivanka Trump Products
Just days after U.S.-based luxury goods chain Nordstrom dropped the Ivanka Trump brand, consumers are pushing Toronto-based Hudson's Bay to make a similar move. The Grab Your Wallet campaign is urging consumers to boycott Hudson's Bay and some of its subsidiaries, Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, for carrying the brand. Other retailers, including Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Amazon, and Bed, Bath & Beyond, are also on the movement's boycott list for carrying the Ivanka Trump line. A search of the Hudson's Bay online store reveals it offers more than 350 items under the Ivanka Trump brand, including apparel, shoes and jewelry. They range in price from a top on sale for $25.60 to a gold and diamond bracelet going for $13,900. On the Hudson's Bay Instagram account, many recent company postings have been met with numerous comments by people calling on the store to drop the brand. Some people also say they won't shop at the store until that happens, with some using the #baycott hastag. "Supporting retailers where our values align, not HBC for now, #baycott," wrote one person.

Exact Causes of the Rising Acceptance of Homosexuality in Mainstream American Muslim Community Yet to be Studied
American LGBT Muslims continue to face the twin challenge of resisting anti-Muslim bigotry in the LGBT community and resisting homophobia in the mainstream American Muslim community. But there is good news: polls suggest that the American Muslim community is becoming increasingly accepting of homosexuality. This has provoked a cultural backlash on the part of socially conservative Muslims who see absolutely no room for same-sex love and relationships in their religion. These conservative community leaders have thus made LGBT Muslims a target of their moral panic, insisting that the terms “LGBT” and “Muslim” can never belong in the same sentence.

Robert Richard Brice Kohler
Gay Man Allegedly Assaulted by Trump Supporters
A gay man told D.C. police he was repeatedly hit in the face and head by objects thrown by four men while he was walking his dog near Logan Circle on Feb. 1 and one of the attackers shouted, “This is what a Trump America looks like, faggot!” A police report, which lists the incident as an anti-gay hate crime, says Logan Circle resident Robert Richard Brice Kohler told police the incident began about 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1 while he walked his dog in front of a large row house at 1334 Vermont Ave., N.W. “Victim 1 was walking his dog near the listed location when he became aware of the presence of Suspect 1 through Suspect 4,” the police report says. “Victim 1 heard Suspect 1 state, “Hey Snowflake! This is what a Trump America looks like, faggot!” The report continues: “Suddenly, without provocation, Suspect 1 through Suspect 4 began throwing objects at Victim 1, striking him countless times in the face and head. Victim 1 suffered injuries and fled home to tend to those injuries,” the report says. “The suspects fled on foot.”

Hundreds Arrested in Immigration Raids Across At Least Six States
United States immigration authorities conducted raids in at least six states this week that resulted in the arrests of hundreds of undocumented immigrants. According to the Washington Post on Saturday, officials said the raids targeted undocumented individuals with criminal records, but that some people without records were also detained. The raids occurred at homes and workplaces in Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, North Carolina and South Carolina. The exact number of people arrested is not known. Federal officials have also reportedly been targeting immigrants with random ID checks in Texas and North Carolina.

Illustrative Use Only
Two Hungarians Convicted in Miami of Keeping Three Gay Men as Sex Slaves
Two Hungarians are guilty of luring young gay men to the United States to serve as sex slaves, a Miami-Dade jury decided late Wednesday. Gabor Acs and Viktor Berki were convicted of human trafficking, conspiracy and racketeering in a case hailed as a first for Florida prosecutors because the victims were gay men forced to prostitute themselves for months in New York and Miami. Jurors deliberated just four hours. The two men will be sentenced at a later date but face more than 200 years in prison, if given the maximum. This week’s trial was the second for the three victims who testified. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Human Trafficking Unit earlier won a conviction against a third man involved in the ring. In 2015, Andras Janos Vass was convicted at trial and sentenced to just over 11 years in prison. Jurors this week weighed whether the three young men were true victims of a brutal sex ring — or willing participants who conned authorities in an attempt to avoid deportation back to Hungary, as defense lawyers claimed. Investigators said Berki and Acs met two of the victims in Hungary through a website called Another victim was “living with gypsies” as a prostitute, meeting Acs through Facebook. The three men testified that in 2012, they were flown to New York City to work in what they believed was a legal business in the United States.

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton Will Run for President, Again
Hillary Clinton will run for president. Again. No inside information informs this prediction. No argument is advanced as to whether her run is a good or a bad idea—there are many ways to make a case either way. Instead this is just a statement of simple facts (if facts mean anything anymore, that is). And the facts are clear that the former secretary of state is doing everything she needs to do to run for the White House one more time. If she finds a path to do so, she will take it. And I can prove it. Read More