Thursday, February 23, 2017

News, Politics & Current Events: Round-Up

Drop in Teenage Suicide Attempts Linked to Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage
Legalization of same-sex marriage in US states has been linked to a drop in suicide attempts among teenagers. Researchers say suicide attempts among high school students fell by an average of 7% following the implementation of the legislation. The impact was especially significant among gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers, for whom the passing of same-sex marriage laws was linked to a 14% drop in suicide attempts. Julia Raifman, co-author of the research from Johns Hopkins University, said she hoped the research would help to draw wider attention to the scale of the issue among sexual minorities. “I would hope that policymakers and the public would consider the potential health implications of laws and policies affecting LGBT rights,” she added.

Canadian Government Under Fire for Ending LGBT Iranian Refugee Program
The Trudeau government is under increasing pressure to explain why it started turning away LGBT Iranian refugees during the Syrian airlift, ending a program that resettled hundreds of persecuted Iranians through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “Why has the government ended the practice of prioritizing persecuted Iranian LGBT [people] as refugees to Canada?” asked Conservative MP Michelle Rempel during question period on Feb 10, 2017. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen touted his government’s intake of Syrian refugees and stressed its commitment to queer and trans refugees. “We take seriously our refugee commitment to make sure that it is compassionate and focused on the most vulnerable people,” Hussen said. “We work very closely with the UN’s refugee agency and private sponsors to continue to identify the most vulnerable; and that obviously includes members of the LGBTQ2 community.” Rempel, who is the Conservative Party’s immigration critic, pushed back, noting that queer Iranians are tortured and executed under the country’s laws.

RELATED Ghanaian Gay Man Denied Asylum in Canada

Longtime Vancouver LGBT Activists Speak Up for Police Presence at Pride Parade
The group's petition is countering one presented by the Vancouver branch of Black Lives Matter. Pioneering members of Vancouver's LGBT activist community have presented a petition in support of police participation in the Pride parade, countering one presented by Black Lives Matter earlier this month. It raises concerns that removing Vancouver police from the parade would renege on decades of relationship-building undertaken by the force and the city's LGBT community. "Vancouver's LGBTQ community has a long history of positive engagement with the Vancouver Police Department, from the first Gay and Lesbian / Police Liaison Committee in 1977 [...] and continuing today as the LGBT / Police Liaison Committee. We've been doing this work for 40 years now," it reads in part. Black Lives Matter Vancouver first asked Vancouver police to voluntarily withdraw from the Pride parade last July — a request that was reiterated this month. The "Our Pride Includes Police" petition was brought forward by some of Vancouver's most seasoned LGBT activists, including Gordon Hardy, a co-founder of the Vancouver Gay Liberation Front, and Sandy-Leo Laframboise, a trans activist and M├ętis elder.

National Security Council Spokesman Quits CIA, Writes Scathing Editorial in Washington Post
Edward Price, who has worked for the CIA since 2006 and until recently served as spokesman for the National Security Council, is leaving because he was deeply troubled by President Donald Trump. “Despite working proudly for Republican and Democratic presidents, I reluctantly concluded that I cannot in good faith serve this administration as an intelligence professional,” Price wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post. “This was not a decision I made lightly. I sought out the CIA as a college student, convinced that it was the ideal place to serve my country and put an otherwise abstract international-relations degree to use. I wasn’t disappointed.”

Tanzania Threatens to Publish List of Gay People
The threat to publish the names of suspected homosexuals in Tanzania has been defended by the deputy health minister in a fierce row on Twitter. Homosexual acts are illegal in the East African nation and punishable by up to 30 years in jail. Those who advertised homosexual activities online would also be targeted, the politician warned. Tweeters accused him of homophobia and infringing on the right to freedom of expression online.

Former Le Mans Racer, Danny Watts, Reveals He's Gay: “I Want to Live in a World Where Nobody Has to Lie”
Danny Watts, who retired from Strakka Racing last year after two class wins at Le Mans, has come out publicly as gay. In an interview with Badger GP, he revealed that his decision to come out is the product of a lot of contemplation. ‘Now that I don’t have to think about keeping my team and sponsors happy, I can do what’s right for me,’ he said. ‘It’s not a decision I took lightly. This secret has been eating me up inside for a while, and I can’t hold it in any more. Something snapped in me last year, and I began coming out to my friends. Now it’s time for the public to know.’ Watts has moved on to young driver coaching since his retirement. His goal is to combine his work in driver development with activism and visibility work with the queer motorsport community. He has become a charity ambassador for Gay Racers, an organisation for LGBT+ people within motorsport whose website will officially launch in the near future, and Motorsport Sisterhood, an organisation supporting feminists in motorsport. ‘I’m thrilled to have opportunities to give back,’ Watts said. ‘There have been so may people who have supported me over the course of my career. I want to pay it forward for my community.’

Conservatives Are Using the Old 'Gay Friend' Trick to Try to Pacify LGBT Advocates. Don't Fall For It
Neil Gorsuch can’t be an opponent of LGBT rights — he has gay friends. That’s what his colleagues argue in a New York Times profile of the Colorado appellate judge tapped by President Trump to fill Antonin Scalia’s spot on the Supreme Court bench. During the 2016 presidential race, Trump vowed to replace the late justice with a candidate “very much in [his] mold.” Given that Scalia was a virulent opponent of LGBT equality — who believed that homosexuality was on par with polygamy, murder and animal abuse — many have expressed concern that Gorsuch shares his forebear’s views.

FBI Not Expected to Pursue Charges Against Former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn
The FBI is not expected to pursue any charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn regarding a phone call with Russia's ambassador, barring new information that changes what they know, law enforcement officials told CNN Thursday. Flynn resigned earlier this week after it was revealed that he withheld information from Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the US. A US official confirmed to CNN last week that Flynn and Kislyak discussed sanctions, among other matters, during a December call.

Neo-Nazi Flier at University Targets LGBT Community
Students and alumni at the University of Mary Washington are reacting to a flier posted on campus that depicts Nazi symbols and targeted the school’s LGBT community. A student reported the incident earlier this month to the school but the larger campus community found out about the incident just yesterday after a story about it was featured on the front page of campus newspaper, the Blue & Gray Press, titled “UMW student finds aggressive Nazi message on bulletin board on Campus Walk.”

'Enemies of the People': Trump Remark Echoes History's Worst Tyrants
At a different time, in another country, it was effectively a death sentence. Being branded an "enemy of the people" by the likes of Stalin or Mao brought at best suspicion and stigma, at worst hard labour or death. Now the chilling phrase - which is at least as old as Emperor Nero, who was called "hostis publicus", enemy of the public, by the Senate in AD 68 - is making something of a comeback. In November, the UK Daily Mail used its entire front page to brand three judges "enemies of the people" following a legal ruling on the Brexit process. Then on Friday [ Feb 17, 2017], President Donald Trump deployed the epithet against mainstream US media outlets that he sees as hostile.

Gay Son Inspired Sebastian Barry to Write His Award-winning Novel
Novelist Sebastian Barry has said his youngest son coming out was pivotal in the writing of Days Without End, winner of the Costa Book of the Year prize. "He basically has been my teacher in all matters gay," the Irish writer told Radio 4's Today programme. Days Without End, which begins in the 1850s, tells of two Irish soldiers who go to fight in America. At the heart of the story is a gay relationship Barry said was informed by his son Toby's experiences. Toby coming out at 16, he said, "was the beginning of him teaching me the ins and outs and the majesty and the wonder of being gay".