Rosita Hidalgo: Transgender Murder on South Beach

From Miami New Times:

By Jon Tayler
Mon., Jul. 23 2012

Hector Sarna isn’t surprised that his friend Rosita Hidalgo was killed. As a transgender woman who was a sex worker, she was putting herself at risk. He warned her that one of the men she brought home would hurt her, or worse. He remembers a day almost a year ago when a man client beat Rosita after finding out she was once a man. Hector told her to be more careful.

But Hector didn’t expect her to be gagged and stabbed and slashed in her apartment. That’s how he found her March 15. No one had heard from Rosita in a few days, and one of her friends became worried. So Hector called the Miami Beach police, who went to Rosita’s apartment at 545 Michigan Ave. Hector was with them. Officers opened the door just enough to see the blood pooling on the floor.

In the four months since Rosita’s death, Hector has prayed that the police or someone else would tell him why Rosita was killed. But he has received no answers — no suspects nor arrests. The MBPD issued a press release in April, stating that all they knew about the murder was that Rosita was a transvestite and a prostitute who sold herself on the street. Neither of those descriptions is correct.

“They’re not doing all they can,” Hector says. “Four months, and still to this moment, nothing.” Little is known about the case. Rosita came to the United States from Cuba as Rene Hidalgo in 1980 on the Mariel boatlift.

She left her homeland to avoid persecution over being gay, says Jorge Ortega, a Miami Beach hairdresser who knew Rosita on the island. According to Hector, Rosita transitioned to a woman soon after arriving. She lived on South Beach and owned two Chihuahuas. She was a small-time escort, bringing men to her apartment for sex and to smoke pot. She had no family here, and the money she made she sent home to Cuba to support her mother. But even those details are scant and difficult to confirm. Despite 30 years in Miami, Rosita disappeared from the city in the blink of an eye.

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Laura Jane Grace: ‘So I’m a transsexual and this is what’s happening’

From The Guardian UK:

The lead singer of Against Me! talks frankly about her gender dysphoria, and what it was like to tell her bandmates, her family and her wife that she wanted to become a woman, Sunday 22 July 2012

It’s a real challenge for a punk rocker to generate anything resembling actual shock nowadays. Thirty-five years after the Sex Pistols sang God Save the Queen, what seemed transgressive now looks practically quaint. It’s been almost as long since sex-change surgery could work up much interest either. Even the tabloids have wearied of “gender bender” headlines about butch army officers turning into foxy chicks.

But when Rolling Stone hit the newsstands two months ago, the magazine contained a genuine sensation. Tom Gabel, lead singer of American punk band Against Me!, had an important announcement to make – to his fans, his industry, his friends and to most of his family. After 10 years on stage, thrashing out a fury of sweaty nihilism, the punk would henceforth like to be known as Laura Jane Grace. The 31-year-old married father was about to embark on a process of gender reassignment, both hormonal and surgical, and for all practical purposes should be regarded from that day forth as a woman. When Against Me! performed the very next night, its ubiquitously pierced and tattooed lead singer strode on to the stage in high heels and full makeup.

Last week Against Me! were playing in Oslo, and when I arrive I by chance run into the rest of the band in the hotel lobby. Heavy set, swaddled in black, a little bit socially awkward, they talk in amiable grunts punctuated by the word “awesome”, a textbook rockers-on-tour ensemble. After some slightly stilted small talk, I get into the lift, step out on to a roof terrace, and come face to face with the most sweet-natured, articulate, nakedly vulnerable punk you are ever likely to meet.

Grace doesn’t look like a woman, but then she only began taking hormones a month ago. There’s a subtle feminity in her posture, though, and in the way her features soften as she talks. The twin impressions of apprehension and an eagerness to please are for a moment disconcerting – until you see just how extraordinary it must be to start telling a total stranger about the very thing she’s been keeping secret for most of her life.

Grace’s first intimation of gender dysphoria came when she was just five years old. “The first time I had that moment, when I knew, was seeing Madonna on a televised concert. And I thought: ‘Why not me?'” The son of a military man, she grew up on army bases feeling lonely and confused, bullied at school and bewildered by an indelible sense of toxic otherness.

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Head bans transgender pupil from exam… so she shows him Equality Act

Normally I wouldn’t post something from The sun, but this is an illustration of how having the laws protect us means we can tell petty dictators to stuff it when they try to run life damaging trips on us.

From The Sun UK:

Mon, 23 Jul 2012

A TRANSGENDER pupil had to show her headmaster a copy of the Equality Act before he allowed her to sit a GCSE exam while wearing girls’ clothes.

Ashlyn Parram, 16, turned up for her first examination in tights, skirt and blazer — but was told by teachers to go home and change into the boys’ school uniform.

The furious teen printed off a copy of the law on sex discrimination, which includes specific legislation on the treatment of transgenders and transsexuals, and marched it straight to head Chris Wall’s office.

He admitted he could not ban Ashlyn — but teachers made her sit away from other pupils at the back of the sports hall at Giles Academy in Boston, Lincs.

Ashlyn — who used to be called Lewis — said: “I have never felt so bad about myself.

“It’s sad people can’t be more open-minded. I’ve lost a lot of friends because of everything I’ve been through. I really didn’t need to lose the support of my teachers.”

Ashlyn has lived openly as a girl at home for two years — but had toned down her appearance at school to avoid abuse. She had been spat at and hit in the street.

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Anti-prostitution pledge in US Aids funding ‘damaging’ HIV response

From The Guardian UK

Activists at Aids conferences demand end to Pepfar conditions that prevent HIV programmes reaching vulnerable groups

in Kolkata, Tuesday 24 July 2012

Aids activists gathering in Washington DC and Kolkata, India, this week have denounced conditions attached to US global Aids funding, which they say have damaged the response to the epidemic by further marginalising sex workers – among those hardest hit.

International organisations that receive funds through the President’s emergency plan for Aids relief (Pepfar) must sign an “anti-prostitution pledge” prohibiting them from doing anything that could be perceived as supporting sex work. Activists say this has weakened the already underfunded response to the HIV epidemic among some of the most vulnerable communities.

“We need concerted pressure against the US to look into its anti-prostitution pledge and its relationship to HIV rates,” said Andrew Hunter, president of the Asia-Pacific Network of Sex Workers. He said some organisations have rejected Pepfar funding because of the pledge, while others have closed entire programmes.

A key problem, said Hunter, is that the pledge affects all projects that are implemented by a grantee – regardless of whether or not a specific project receives money from the fund. This, combined with vague wording and uneven enforcement, has left many organisations unclear about which of their activities might be permitted or forbidden, he said.

Hunter said this confusion has led to “ridiculous levels of withholding services”, as frontline staff worry about their programmes closing if they are perceived to be violating the pledge. “The pledge has ended up being far more damaging and applying to far more than even its most conservative supporters had wanted,” he said.

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Greenland Ice Melt, Measured By NASA Satellites, Reaches Unprecedented Level

From Huffington Post:

Posted: 07/24/2012

Unprecedented melting of Greenland’s ice sheet this month has stunned NASA scientists and has highlighted broader concerns that the region is losing a remarkable amount of ice overall.

According to a NASA press release, about half of Greenland’s surface ice sheet naturally melts during an average summer. But the data from three independent satellites this July, analyzed by NASA and university scientists, showed that in less than a week, the amount of thawed ice sheet surface skyrocketed from 40 percent to 97 percent.

In over 30 years of observations, satellites have never measured this amount of melting, which reaches nearly all of Greenland’s surface ice cover.

When Son Nghiem of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory observed the recent melting phenomenon, he said in the NASA press release, “This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: Was this real or was it due to a data error?”

Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, University of Georgia-Athens and City University of New York all confirmed the remarkable ice melt.

NASA’s cryosphere program manager, Tom Wagner, credited the power of satellites for observing the melt and explained to The Huffington Post that, although this specific event may be part of a natural variation, “We have abundant evidence that Greenland is losing ice, probably because of global warming, and it’s significantly contributing to sea level rise.”

Wagner said that ice is clearly thinning around the periphery, changing Greenland’s overall ice mass, and he believes this is primarily due to warming ocean waters “eating away at the ice.” He cautiously added, “It seems likely that’s correlated with anthropogenic warming.”

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Hundreds of Medical Marijuana Supporters Protest Obama in Oakland as Feds Escalate War on Pot

From Alternet:

Demanding answers for unjustified federal raids and threats, patients challenged the DEA’s claim that marijuana has no medical use.

By J.A. Myerson
July 24, 2012

 Hundreds of supporters of President Obama turned out to see him at Oakland’s Fox Theater on Monday afternoon. They lined up for blocks along Telegraph Avenue for the opportunity to see President Obama as he traveled from one fundraising event to another. Before the First Motorcade passed them, a march of several hundred people instructed them variously to “Smoke weed every day,” “Stop the madness, spark a spliff,” and demand that their candidate keep his promise.

The activists gathered first at Oakland City Hall to protest U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s crusade against area dispensaries. This April, in apparent contravention of the publicly stated will of President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, federal agents raided Oaksterdam University. Recently, Haag has also threatened to seize Harborside Health Center, where 100,000 patients have procured medicine over the last six years. Representatives of the two dispensaries joined Judge Jim Gray, the vice-presidential candidate on the Libertarian ticket, a handful of Occupy Oakland regulars, and a community of cannabis patents in front of around 100 supporters.

Specifically, the group’s plea was for the president and the attorney general to intervene in Haag’s anti-dispensary fight. Behind this, they have Obama’s previous statements and what they have been led to believe was official Justice Department policy, as articulated by Holder. Candidate Obama said in 2007, “I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users; it is not a good use of our resources. AG Holder has promised to keep the Justice Department’s nose out of medical marijuana establishments unless they ‘are acting out of conformity with state law.'”

The letter Haag issued to explain her posture did not adhere to that standard, effectively calling the dispensaries too successful to tolerate rather than citing specific violations of state law. “The larger the operation,” read the letter, “the greater the likelihood that there will be abuse of the state’s medical marijuana laws.” (Why no U.S. attorney has applied this standard to, say, financial institutions, remains to be explained.)

One by one, cannabis patients told their stories to counteract the DEA’s assertion that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use.” Jason David, who was featured in Discovery Channel’s “Weed Wars,” told the story of his son, who had a seizure every day of his life until he was treated with CBP, which changed his life. “I’m getting my son back,” David said. “He can look me in my eyes. He can comprehend now, which he never could before. Now, when we go swimming, he’s happy. He gets to swim. Before, when we would go to a swimming pool, he couldn’t swim. He’d look at it and have a seizure.”

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Police Use Brutal Force on CA Protesters

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