Chechens tell of prison beatings and electric shocks in anti-gay purge: ‘They called us animals’

From The Guardian UK:

Up to several hundred gay men are feared to have been rounded up and some killed in ultra-conservative Russian republic

Thursday 13 April

At least once a day, Adam’s captors attached metal clamps to his fingers and toes. One of the men then cranked a handle on a machine to which the clamps were linked with wires, and sent powerful electric shocks through his body. If he managed not to scream, others would join in, beating him with wooden sticks or metal rods.

As they tortured him, the men shouted verbal abuse at him for being gay, and demanded to know the names of other gay men he knew in Chechnya. “Sometimes they were trying to get information from me; other times they were just amusing themselves,” he said, speaking about the ordeal he underwent just a month ago with some difficulty.

Adam’s testimony, as well as that of another gay Chechen man with whom the Guardian spoke, backs up reports that a shocking anti-gay campaign is under way in the Russian republic of Chechnya, involving over a hundred and possibly several hundred men. Some are believed to have been killed.

Adam was held in an informal detention facility with more than a dozen other gay men, who were all subjected to torture on a daily basis. A similar “mop-up” campaign by governmental security forces took place in towns across the republic.

Igor Kochetkov, a gay rights activist from St Petersburg, has helped organise an emergency contact centre which gay people in Chechnya can reach out to securely to get help with evacuation. He said “dozens” of people had got in touch to ask for help. Many are in hiding from both their families and the authorities.

“We are talking about the mass persecution of gay people, with hundreds of people kidnapped by authorities,” Kochetkov told the Guardian. “This is unprecedented not only in Russia but in recent world history. There is little doubt that we are dealing with crimes against humanity.”

Under the Moscow-backed local leader Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya has been rebuilt after two brutal separatist conflicts in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Kadyrov pledges allegiance to Vladimir Putin and a love for Russia, and in return the Kremlin turns a blind eye to human rights abuses. Critics say Kadyrov’s notorious battalions have long operated outside the law.

Journalists at the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which first reported the story, say they have incontrovertible evidence that at least three gay men have been killed since the operation started, and believe the full death toll could be much higher. Chechen society is extremely conservative and homophobic, and there are fears that some gay men may have been killed by their families after being outed by authorities.

“I don’t know what has happened to the others. It’s too dangerous to contact people, because everyone’s phones are monitored,” said Adam.

Due to the extreme sensitivity of the subject and the danger of reprisals both against the men themselves and against their families, the names in this article have been changed, and identifying details have been excised. Both men with whom the Guardian spoke are now outside Chechnya but asked that their current location not be revealed.

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Feminism Needs To Stop Being Likable

From Huffington Post:

Tailoring our message for a male or consumer audience compromises the central purpose of feminism.

Annie Agle,

Nose-in-book at my local caffeine watering hole, a male voice wafted above the pithy lilt of Millennial dialogue: “I mean, you’re not one of “those” feminists. You get it. You’re not angry.” Following said peacock’s grandiose pronouncement of this most tired of scripts, I watched in sadness as the attentive young woman at his side, instead of mounting a defense of the sisterhood, blushed with pleasure.

In media, politics, and personal exchanges, I see young feminists welcoming appreciation for this more “tolerant” feminism. Why? Why have we settled into this watered-down Instagram #girlpower when our gains have been so few and stand in constant peril of erasure? When did feminism become more concerned with being politically correct than correcting bad politics? When did we become a cause-marketing campaign instead of an intimidating breed of progressive warrior?

I get that it’s an unhappy and unachievable business to reject every aspect of modernity that fails to support the full rights of women, but what message does it send when we insist on differentiation from those man-hating feminists of yore, those bra-burning, hairy-legged Medusas with their loud mouths and militant ways? How are we to move forward towards an honest position of equality if we do not acknowledge and defend the necessity of historic feminism? Tailoring our messaging and delivery to be palatable to a male or consumer audience compromises fatally the central project of feminism.

Feminism remains, at its core, the internal and political cultivation of a rich female selfhood that does not depend on or look to systems of status quo for acknowledgement, permission, or acceptance, but rather insists on the evolution of these systems to afford place for women. A feminism that softens itself so as not to offend societal sensitivities can never affect change. Conformity and celebrity cannot be adapted or leveraged to support feminism; they are mechanisms designed for and by the worst aspects of American society to tell women how to dress, how to act, how to stay put.

We all must exist within society and I confer no blame upon women who have carved out paths to success within traditional sectors or who find empowerment in media campaigns, but feminism is not a hashtag delivered by a social influencer, a token seat at an executive table, or a disingenuous speech at a televised awards show. Let’s not kid ourselves that these things amount to much.

What does an effective, modern feminism look like in terms of action and organization? The Second Wave. Perhaps this transmutation from honorable disobedience to meek sloganism occurred because women of my generation never actually received the central message of the Second Wave; so, I want to remind them:

You are not here to be likable. Your value does not depend upon your marketability, relatability, or availability. Your sexuality was never intended as mere collateral in pay-per-click ads.

In the words of Adrienne Rich:

(Feminism) means resisting the forces in society which say that women should be nice, play safe, have low professional expectations, drown in love and forget about work, live through others, and stay in the places assigned to us. It means, therefore, the courage to be “different”; not to be continuously available.

Remain radical. Stand firm in the conviction of your worth. We are not yet equal. We are not yet respected. Public spaces are not yet secured against predators of women. Human trafficking has escalated, not declined. Estimations of our professional contributions remain below market value. There are rooms full of men in power determining the fates of our bodies, working actively to limit our self-agency. Do not look to society for answers. Or Hollywood. Look to those noble, righteous feminists of old, the ones who gave feminism a reputation, the ones who made the forces that would keep us submissive, afraid.

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“Eliminate Hate” campaign seeks to expose anti-LGBTQ hate groups

From MetroWeekly:

Initiative will also seek to hold media accountable when reporting on designated hate groups

April 13, 2017

A new campaign is being launched to discredit anti-LGBTQ groups and pressure media to label them “hate groups.”

The Eliminate Hate Campaign is being spearheaded by a coalition of organizations, including National Center for Transgender Equality, the National LGBTQ Task Force, SoulForce, the Equality Federation, The Matthew Shepard Foundation and Media Matters for America.

They will seek to challenge the credibility of various anti-LGBTQ organizations, mitigate the influence they have in forcing lawmakers to pass anti-LGBTQ laws or regulations, and to dispel some of the negative myths about LGBTQ people.

“I have seen firsthand what can happen as a result of hate — and how it feels to have the hate and discrimination people face dismissed or denied,” said Judy Shepard, founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, named after her son who was killed in 1998.

Shepard focused her remarks on Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing organization that has been behind various anti-LGBTQ laws or initiatives both in the United States and abroad. The group has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Domestically, ADF has been linked to a number of so-called “Privacy Acts” — or “bathroom bills” — that seek to restrict transgender people’s access to restrooms and other public facilities.

ADF has also argued in favor of keeping bans on consensual adult sodomy in place, arguing that gay sex is a “public health problem,” and has defended the right of states to pass “religious freedom” laws that allow people to discriminate against LGBTQ people based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Recently, the organization’s international arm sought to intervene in a lawsuit brought before the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that nations should be allowed to require the forced sterilization of transgender people who wish to legally change their gender marker.

“The Alliance Defending Freedom is a hate group, through and through,” Shepard said. “For years, they have spread lies about the LGBTQ community and put the rights of all LGBTQ Americans in danger. Enough is enough. It’s time our institutions — especially the media — start recognizing the extremely corrosive effects of their slander and act accordingly.”

The Eliminate Hate Campaign will also target media outlets that do not hold anti-LGBTQ hate groups — those that spread “demonizing lies about the LGBTQ community, engage in baseless, incendiary name-calling, or actively work to criminalize LGBTQ people” — to the same standards as they would groups that are anti-Semitic, racist, or who spread misinformation about other classes of people.

For instance, the coalition wants journalists who report on those groups’ activities to provide their readers with context, including historical background on the groups’ other anti-LGBTQ actions.

“The Eliminate Hate Campaign seeks to ensure that anti-LGBTQ hate groups are not given a megaphone for vitriolic bullying and malicious lies,” Erin Fitzgerald, LGBTQ program director for Media Matters. “Media outlets ignore long-standing histories of hate speech, incitement, and misinformation when they fail to label designated hate groups, and instead describe them as simply ‘conservative’ or ‘Christian.’”

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9 Ultranationalist Trump Supporters Who Are Rapidly Losing Patience with His Presidency

From Alternet:

No less than Richard Spencer and Ann Coulter have called out the president. Could Steve Bannon be next?

By Jacob Sugarman
April 13, 2017

To understand just how fractious and ungainly the Trump coalition truly is, look no further than his administration. You’ll find establishment Republicans (White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry), former Tea Party insurgents (CIA director Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke), Wall Street players (Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn), and for the time being, clash-of-civilization ethno-nationalists (Deputy Assistant to the President Seb Gorka), not a few of whom seem to be working at cross purposes.

For the first few months of Trump’s presidency, this unholy confederacy has largely kept in formation. But in the wake of Trump’s recent Tomahawk strike on a Syrian air field, it has begun to splinter, with the president drawing the ire of some of his most loyal troops: the Pepe brigade known as the “alt-right.” Now that he has all but banished former Breitbart chair Steve Bannon from the West Wing, Trump could soon be facing a full-fledged mutiny. Even his neo-fascist admirers in Europe have begun to question his commitment to the nationalist agenda on which he campaigned. (That a loose collection of white supremacists and far-right extremists, however vile its motives, has shown a more unified opposition to military intervention than the Democratic Party is another post for another day).

The political benefits of Trump’s policy reversal seem dubious at best. It’s unlikely that he’ll gain the respect and acceptance of the establishment he so desperately seeks, despite all protestations to the contrary. And by alienating his most vocal supporters, many of whom have disseminated his message through their right-wing channels, he has left himself even more vulnerable to the corporate media’s attacks.

Here are nine Trump diehards who appear to have turned on their beloved president and political ally. One might even hazard to call them “cucks.”

1. Richard Spencer

The self-proclaimed founder of the alt-right movement, Spencer is the president of the National Policy Institute, a think tank devoted to “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” As recently as November of 2016, Spencer led a conference of more than 200 attendees in a cheer of “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” while delivering a Nazi salute.

Spencer was quick to condemn the missile strikes on Syria, calling for Bannon’s resignation and likening Trump’s presidency to a third term of George W. Bush. The white nationalist, or identitarian as he prefers to be known, even intimated he’d throw his support behind Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) in 2020.

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Surviving to Thriving

This is undated without attribution

From Children’s Hospital LA:

Under the compassionate care of CHLA’s Jo Olson-Kennedy, gender-nonconforming and transgender kids emerge into themselves.

Johanna Olson-Kennedy, MD, likes to say her work is “moving people from surviving to thriving.”

In her work as medical director for the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the largest transgender youth clinic in the United States, Olson-Kennedy provides medical interventions such as puberty suppression and cross-sex hormones. She has published numerous articles on a variety of subjects related to gender exploration. And she is creating an environment that is healthy and safe for gender-nonconforming and transgender children—a place where young people simply can be themselves.

It makes perfect sense that Olson-Kennedy would end up becoming an expert in gender identity. As a teenager, she spent hours chatting with her mom, a physicist, about gender stereotypes, and what her mother was experiencing as a woman in a man’s world. Later, as a grownup, Olson-Kennedy knew she wanted to work with adolescents, and the notion of helping young people turn back anguish to get through the most difficult portions of their lives resonated significantly.

Above all else, however, the chance to practice social justice—this is what she loves most about her job.

“More important than this just being pediatrics, this job to me is a rare opportunity to be able to play a role in a human rights issue,” she said. “One of the things I had found disappointing about medicine is that there wasn’t a lot of work in the area of social justice. Until now.”

Day-to-day life for Olson-Kennedy varies depending on the schedule. Her clinic serves 800 kids and she manages about 500 of them herself, so there’s always a hum of activity emanating from her office. During the days when she sees patients, she spends a vast portion of her day treating patients, listening, providing resources and offering support. Other days, Olson-Kennedy will go on television and educate providers, parents and other communities about the needs of transgender youth.

Her highest-profile public appearance came when she was featured on “20/20,” providing her expertise in support of Caitlyn Jenner after the former male Olympic medalist came out on the show as a woman.

“It’s an incredible feeling to help someone live his or her truth,” she says. “If everyone could pursue authenticity the way transgender individuals do, we’d find ourselves in a much better world.”

She notes that Jenner’s celebrity can offer a helpful case study. Yes, she says, it’s wonderful that Jenner has helped raise awareness about transgender life. On the flip side, however, Olson-Kennedy describes Jenner as a bit of an extreme case—especially considering her socioeconomic status and built-in platform to talk about her new life.

Looking forward, Olson-Kennedy says she’d like to focus her next big research project on gender distress, a condition known as gender dysphoria. In addition to interviewing patients, one of her research plans is to look at MRI studies and try to determine if there are places in the brain where gender identity lives.

This insatiable curiosity, this quest for doing science differently, is what makes Olson-Kennedy tick. For her, science is the “operationalizing of curiosity,” and should be cultivated at all costs. To aspiring scientists, her advice is simple: Be real.

“In medicine, like in life, your heart needs to be there as much as your brain,” she says. “This is authenticity. This is passion. The best doctors are the ones who really listen with their hearts. You’re so much better at your job if you do something you love and you feel that love passionately for an extended period of time.”—Matt Villano

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The Gig Economy’s False Promise

The gig economy is the new sweatshop economy.  Just anotther way the ultra rich are turning the economy into a neo-feudalistic way of life where a Nazi know-nothing like Trump is set up to rule as Donkey King.

From The New York Times:

The promises Silicon Valley makes about the gig economy can sound appealing. Its digital technology lets workers become entrepreneurs, we are told, freed from the drudgery of 9-to-5 jobs. Students, parents and others can make extra cash in their free time while pursuing their passions, maybe starting a thriving small business.

In reality, there is no utopia at companies like Uber, Lyft, Instacart and Handy, whose workers are often manipulated into working long hours for low wages while continually chasing the next ride or task. These companies have discovered they can harness advances in software and behavioral sciences to old-fashioned worker exploitation, according to a growing body of evidence, because employees lack the basic protections of American law.

A recent story in The Times by Noam Scheiber vividly described how Uber and other companies use tactics developed by the video game industry to keep drivers on the road when they would prefer to call it a day, raising company revenue while lowering drivers’ per-hour earnings. One Florida driver told The Times he earned less than $20,000 a year before expenses like gas and maintenance. In New York City, an Uber drivers group affiliated with the machinists union said that more than one-fifth of its members earn less than $30,000 before expenses.

Gig economy workers tend to be poorer and are more likely to be minorities than the population at large, a survey by the Pew Research Center found last year. Compared with the population as a whole, almost twice as many of them earned under $30,000 a year, and 40 percent were black or Hispanic, compared with 27 percent of all American adults. Most said the money they earned from online platforms was essential or important to their families.

Since workers for most gig economy companies are considered independent contractors, not employees, they do not qualify for basic protections like overtime pay and minimum wages. This helped Uber, which started in 2009, quickly grow to 700,000 active drivers in the United States, nearly three times the number of taxi drivers and chauffeurs in the country in 2014.

The use of independent contractors is hardly an innovation. Traditional businesses like garment factories, construction companies and trucking have often misclassified employees as contractors to avoid offering benefits, paying payroll taxes and abiding by labor laws. What makes this different is that gig economy businesses are arguing that their use of the independent contractor model is in fact better for workers.

Increasingly workers, and government agencies are pushing back. Seattle passed an ordinance in 2015 allowing drivers for Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing apps to unionize. A federal judge temporarily blocked that law on Tuesday after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and some conservative groups filed lawsuits against the city. Workers have also sued various gig economy companies to seek overtime pay, reimbursement for expenses and other damages. Lyft recently agreed to pay $27 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by drivers in California.

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Gorsuch: Skeptical That LGBT People Deserve Rights

From The Advocate:

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Chechnya opens world’s first concentration camp for homosexual men since Hitler

From The New Zealand Herald:

Monday Apr 10, 2017

Chechyna has opened the first concentration camp for homosexuals since Hitler, where campaigners say gay men are being tortured with electric shocks and beaten to death.

It comes after it was claimed 100 gay men had been detained and three killed in Chechnya last week, the Daily Mail reported.

A report by Novoya Gazeta said authorities had set up several camps where homosexuals are killed or forced to promise to leave the republic.

One of the camps is reportedly at the former military headquarters in the town of Argun.

Svetlana Zakharova, from the Russian LGBT Network, told MailOnline: ‘Gay people have been detained and rounded up and we are working to evacuate people from the camps and some have now left the region.

‘Those who have escaped said they are detained in the same room and people are kept altogether, around 30 or 40. They are tortured with electric currents and heavily beaten, sometimes to death.’

One of those who escaped told Novoya Gazeta that prisoners were beaten to force them to reveal other members of the gay community.

Another prisoner who fled said that before being incarcerated in one of these camps, he had been forced to pay bribes to Chechen police of thousands of rubles every month in order to survive.

Now the regime had taken another step against gays by creating these camps, the survivor said.

Alexander Artemyev, from Amnesty International in Russia, told MailOnline: ‘We can only call on the Russian authorities to investigate the allegations. Homosexuals in Chechyna are treated very harshly and prosecuted daily and they are afraid to talk about it.

‘They either have to hide or leave the republic. We are keeping in touch with the LGBT network that helps people in Russia to find shelter. The problem is people there cannot talk about it as it puts their lives and those they speak to, in danger. This is the main issue we are facing in Russia and the main challenge.’

Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, Russia project director for the International Crisis Group, told MailOnline: ‘The story is very much developing…victims are escaping.’

Last week Novoya Gazeta said Chechen police had rounded up more than 100 men suspected of being gay and killed three.

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