China hopes to cap the number of people living with HIV/AIDS at 1.2 million by 2015, up from around 780,000 at present, partly by promoting increased condom use, the government said in an action plan released on Wednesday.
While praising achievements made over the past few years, including improved life expectancy for AIDS patients, the State Council, or cabinet, said China still faced a difficult task to prevent the spread of the disease.
“The present spread of AIDS is still severe, there is widespread discrimination in society, the virus is a serious (problem) in some areas and amongst high-risk groups,” it said in a statement on the central government’s website.
Sexually transmitted diseases are also on the rise, it added, a particular concern as AIDS is now mostly spread in China through sexual intercourse.
“The situation is becoming more complex and prevention work is extremely difficult,” the statement added.
China hopes to tackle these issues partly through a large increase in condom use, the government said.
By 2015, condoms or condom vending machines should be available in 95 percent of hotels and other, unspecified, public areas, and 90 percent of high-risk groups should be using condoms, the action plan states.
It did not provide comparative figures for current usage. The term “high risk groups” usually refers to gay men, intravenous drug users and others.
“By the end 2015, bring under basic control the rapid rise of the AIDS virus in main areas and among main groups of people, and reduce by 25 percent compared with 2010 the number of new infections,” the government said in its plan.
To deal with ignorance among local officials about the disease, their knowledge of AIDS and ability to promote public education will become part of annual performance reviews, the government said.
The government was slow to acknowledge the problem of HIV/AIDS in the 1990s and had sought to cover it up when hundreds of thousands of impoverished farmers in rural Henan province became infected through botched blood-selling schemes.
Beijing has since stepped up the fight, spending more on prevention programmes, launching schemes to give universal access to anti-retroviral drugs to contain the disease, and introducing policies to curb discrimination.
But in a country where taboos surrounding sex remain strong and discussion of the topic is largely limited, people with HIV/AIDS say they are often stigmatised.
Archive for February, 2012
China hopes to cap the number of people living with HIV/AIDS at 1.2 million by 2015, up from around 780,000 at present, partly by promoting increased condom use, the government said in an action plan released on Wednesday.
BOSTON – Students and faculty at Harvard University are calling on the school to award posthumous degrees to seven students expelled nearly a century ago for being gay or perceived as gay, and they’re timing a rally for their cause to coincide with a visit by Lady Gaga.
But Harvard says it doesn’t award posthumous degrees, except in rare cases where students complete academic requirements but die before degrees have been conferred.
The university apologized a decade ago, after a student reporter found a file marked “secret court” in the university archives and wrote about the expulsions.
“In 2002, the University expressed its deep regret for the way the situation was handled as well as for the anguish experienced by the students and their families almost a century ago,” Harvard spokesman John Longbrake said in a statement.
But some say the apology isn’t enough and it’s important for Harvard to confer honorary degrees.
“It’s not reparations, it’s more of a gesture to the present LGBT community that this university has cemented its values on the right side of history and it’s willing to address – not just put in the past – the aberrations of the 1920s,” said Jonas Wang, a 21-year-old transgender student. “You can say that the people of the court were the victims of their own culture, but this is something we are addressing in the present.”
A group of students and faculty members plan a rally during a campus visit by Lady Gaga, who will be at Harvard on Wednesday to launch her Born This Way anti-bullying foundation. The singer has been a strong activist for the gay community.
The group wants Harvard to formally abolish the secret court, a tribunal of administrators that investigated charges of homosexual activity among students at the Ivy League school in 1920. The tribunal remained a secret for decades and only became public in 2002 after the report in the Harvard Crimson magazine.
More than 2,700 people have signed a petition on Change.org urging Harvard to confer the honorary degrees, and organizers plan to deliver the petition to Harvard President Drew Faust’s office after the rally.
Lady Gaga’s new foundation, named after her 2011 hit song and album, will address issues such as self-confidence, well-being and anti-bullying through research, education and advocacy. The singer is expected to be joined by Oprah Winfrey, spiritual leader Deepak Chopra and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during Wednesday’s kickoff event.
“Given the Born This Way Foundation’s commitment to this mission and their choice to launch their foundation at Harvard, we felt like this was an opportunity to ask for their support and would hope they would join us in asking Harvard to do the right thing here and help seek justice for these students,” said Kaia Stern, a visiting faculty member at Harvard who plans to attend the rally.
In 2002, former Harvard President Lawrence Summers called the episode “abhorrent and an affront to the values of our university.”
“I want to express our deep regret for the way this situation was handled, as well as the anguish the students and their families must have experienced eight decades ago,” Summers said in a 2002 statement to The Harvard Crimson newspaper.
The Harvard tribunal began its investigation after student Cyril Wilcox committed suicide in his Fall River home in May 1920. Wilcox was having academic problems and had been asked to leave Harvard.
When Wilcox’s brother, George, informed the acting dean of the college, Chester Greenough, of Cyril’s suicide, he passed on letters that left no doubt that Cyril was part of a group of gay men at Harvard.
After consulting with Harvard President A. Lawrence Lowell, Greenough convened a group of administrators to gather evidence.
The expelled students, including the son of former U.S. Rep. Ernest William Roberts, were told to leave the Harvard campus – and Cambridge – immediately.
One student, Eugene Cummings, 23, committed suicide at Harvard’s infirmary after he was questioned by the tribunal.
A student movement called “Their Day in the Yard” was founded in 2010 to urge the university to grant the honorary degrees to the students expelled in 1920.
from The Associated Press
GAITHERSBURG, MARYLAND – Deep in grief, Barbara Johnson stood first in the line for Communion at her mother’s funeral Saturday morning. But the priest in front of her immediately made it clear that she would not receive the sacramental bread and wine.
Johnson, an art-studio owner from the District, had come to St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg with her lesbian partner. The Rev. Marcel Guarnizo had learned of their relationship just before the service.
“He put his hand over the body of Christ and looked at me and said, ‘I can’t give you Communion because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin,’?” she recalled Tuesday.
She reacted with stunned silence. Her anger and outrage have now led her and members of her family to demand that Guarnizo be removed from his ministry.
Family members said the priest left the altar while Johnson, 51, was delivering a eulogy and did not attend the burial or find another priest to be there.
“You brought your politics, not your God into that Church yesterday, and you will pay dearly on the day of judgment for judging me,” she wrote in a letter to Guarnizo. “I will pray for your soul, but first I will do everything in my power to see that you are removed from parish life so that you will not be permitted to harm any more families.”
Late Tuesday, Johnson received a letter of apology from the Rev. Barry Knestout, one of the archdiocese’s highest-ranking administrators, who said the lack of “kindness” she and her family received “is a cause of great concern and personal regret to me.”
“I am sorry that what should have been a celebration of your mother’s life, in light of her faith in Jesus Christ, was overshadowed by a lack of pastoral sensitivity,” Knestout wrote. “I hope that healing and reconciliation with the Church might be possible for you and any others who were affected by this experience. In the meantime, I will offer Mass for the happy repose of your mother’s soul. May God bring you and your family comfort in your grief and hope in the Resurrection.”
Johnson called the letter “comforting” and said she greatly appreciates the apology. But, she added, “I will not be satisfied” until Guarnizo is removed.
The priest’s action has also triggered an uproar among gay rights activists and enlivened some religious conservatives. It came just days after the Maryland Senate approved legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in the state; Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is expected to sign it this week.
“Fr. Marcel Guarnizo has been thrown under the bus for following Canon Law 915!” wrote one Catholic blogger in the archdiocese. “The issue here is not the priest but Barbara Johnson.”
Archdiocese officials at first issued a short statement saying that the priest’s actions were against “policy” and that they would look into it as a personnel issue.
“When questions arise about whether or not an individual should present themselves for communion, it is not the policy of the Archdiocese of Washington to publicly reprimand the person,” the statement said. “Any issues regarding the suitability of an individual to receive communion should be addressed by the priest with that person in a private, pastoral setting.”
Messages for Guarnizo and other parish staff were not returned. Neither he nor other parish leaders were at the church or the rectory Tuesday night.
Active Catholics in the Greater Washington region said they could not recall another recent occasion when a priest had refused to administer the sacrament to a gay Catholic. Guarnizo’s refusal, they said, seemed at odds with the strong stand against denial of Communion to Catholics enunciated by the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl.
Wuerl said he did not believe in denying Communion because it is impossible to know what is in another person’s heart. The issue took off during the 2004 presidential campaign, when some conservative Catholic leaders said that Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the Democratic candidate, should be denied Communion because of his pro-choice views.
Johnson said that her partner of 20 years had been helping the family at the church earlier when the priest asked who she was. “And she said, ‘I’m her partner,’?” Johnson recalled.
When Guarnizo covered the wine and wafers with his hand during Communion, Johnson stood there for a moment, thinking he would change his mind, she said. “I just stood there, in shock. I was grieving, crying,” she said. “My mother’s body was behind me, and all I wanted to do was provide for her, and the final thing was to make a beautiful funeral, and here I was letting her down because there was a scene.”
Johnson’s mother and late father were lifelong churchgoers who scraped to send their four children to Catholic schools, said Barbara and her brother, Larry Johnson, a forensic accountant who lives in Loudoun County. Barbara lives in Northwest Washington and for years taught art at Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, her alma mater.
At the funeral Mass, Barbara Johnson was awash with spiritual memories of her mother: The 85-year-old waking from a heart attack this month and immediately crossing herself. The two women curled up in an ICU bed a few days later. Johnson reciting the “Hail Mary” and “The Lord’s Prayer” as her mother slipped away.
Despite their outrage, the Johnsons said they don’t see the incident as a reason to criticize the church more broadly. “We agreed this is not a discussion about gay rights or about the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Larry Johnson said. “We’re not in this to Catholic-bash.” That’s the farthest thing from our minds.”
But since Saturday, other Catholics have told him that the experience has shaken their faith. “You have serious questions about how American Catholics in particular practice their faith. How many divorced people live in a technical state of sin? How many people practice some form of artificial birth control in a state of sin?” he said. “If the church will now have these ‘state of grace’ police, you know, how can that be? That’s the most personal thing in the world — between a person and God.”
from The Washington Post
ARIZONA – The DeSisto School sits abandoned in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
It was a private boarding school for troubled teens with a long and troubled history of its own.
Pinal County Sheriff and U.S. Congressional candidate Paul Babeu was the school’s Headmaster and Executive Director from 1999 to 2001.
He touts his experience there on his campaign website.
While Babeu ran the school, the Massachusetts Office of Child Care Services launched an investigation into repeated allegations of abuse.
The ABC15 Investigators traveled across Massachusetts and tracked down reports that have never been released.
The documents show that during Babeu’s tenure the school was not licensed. Other allegations include detailed instances of physical and sexual abuse.
Holli Nielsen was a student of DeSisto while Babeu was Headmaster.
“It’s not unreasonable to say we were cult-like,” said Nielsen.
When the rules at the school were broken, student faced serious consequences.
Nielsen told us about strict punishments and how each punishment had a special name.
“Take a verb, add an -ed to the end and that’s a DeSisto term,” said Nielsen.
One of the punishments was being “sheeted”.
Nielsen told us about her experience of being forced to strip down and wear nothing but a sheet in front of her peers.
“That’s how I spent my 16th birthday,” said Nielsen. “It was just miserable.”
The state documents obtained by ABC15 also reveal students “strip searched” each other and “routinely took group showers”… “leading to sexual abuse.”
Being “cornered” was considered by many students to be the worst punishment.
That meant sitting, facing the wall for hours, days and sometimes weeks.
“You have to sit like this with your feed flat on the ground. You can’t cross your legs,” said Nielsen. “From 7 in the morning to 9:30.”
In one case, records show a student with bi-polar disorder, ADHD and impulse control disorder was “cornered” for “weeks on end.”
The student’s medication was not monitored properly. He began to “urinate and defecate” on himself. He was also taken to the hospital for pneumonia.
Days later, that same student was returned to DeSisto and sent back to the corner.
We asked Nielsen if Babeu was aware of students being “sheeted’ and “cornered”.
Nielsen replied, “He was there for that. Yes. He was certainly aware of that. There were a lot of things that happened there that probably shouldn’t have.”
Andrea Watson founded Parents for Residential Reform in Boston after her daughter was raped at a different boarding school.
The group advocated for safer boarding schools. Watson helped work on the DeSisto case.
“They did not feel like they had to adhere to any standards or rules,” said Watson. “Those people were so good at covering things up. It’s still beyond my belief.”
Several students we spoke with say they also knew a secret about Babeu.
It was a secret that Babeau’s older sister said she discovered one day after visiting his home.
Lucy Babeu told the ABC15 Investigators she confronted her brother after finding a student from DeSisto school living with Babeu.
“I said what is this student from Desisto doing here? He says, ‘Lucy, he’s my boyfriend. I love him’.”
Lucy Babeu told us her brother was having a relationship with the male student.
“I said Paul get a hold of yourself here,” said Lucy. “You were his teacher! You were his Executive Director! You can’t do this.”
ABC15 is not identifying the former student. He has not responded to our interview requests.
At the time, he was 17 which is the legal age of consent in Massachusetts.
“He was of age. He would be what we considered a high school senior,” said Nielsen.
Holli says she knew the student personally.
“It was widely known but not discussed. People were aware of it,” said Nielsen. “It was kind of swept under the rug.”
Babeu left the school in 2001. Three years later, the state investigation forced DeSisto to shut down.
Babeu declined our requests for an on-camera interview, but his spokesman sent us this statement:
“DeSisto Private School’s mission was to save troubled, yet talented youth in a therapeutic environment. The Sheriff served three years and was recognized for helping restore financial stability of the school. He was never the target of any investigation or lawsuit. Sheriff Babeu is a recognized leader for Victim’s Rights.”
Earlier this month, Babeu came under fire after an ex-boyfriend said the sheriff had threatened to deport him if he told anyone that Babeu was gay. Babeu denied the claim, and an investigation into those allegations is underway.
from ABC 15 TV
Gay Sheriff Prompts Intriguing Questions
Arizona Sheriff Facing Long Odds After Gay Outing
HOUSTON – The pastor of one of the country’s largest mega-churches is asking Mayor Annise Parker to resign if she keeps promoting same-sex marriage.
“Respectfully, if you cannot uphold the Texas constitution, then you should do the honorable thing and step down,” Pastor Steve Riggle of Grace Community Church wrote in an e-mail to Parker’s office.
His congregation includes about 15,000 people, making it one of the biggest in Houston and around the country.
“I was deeply disturbed some months ago when a memo was circulated by an office connected to your office that titled your partner as the first lady of Houston,” the letter continued. “You should have corrected that since you know that title has been given only to the wife or husband of the mayor in the appropriate gender language.”
Riggle could not be reached for comment Tuesday. But Dave Welch, the director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, said Riggle’s views were shared by other religious leaders in the area.
“The voters spoke very clearly in 2005, adopting our state constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman,” Welch said. “The mayor’s repeated stance against our constitution and the will of the people raises questions about her fitness for office.”
Last month, Parker joined dozens of mayors around the country in urging lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage. The first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city said Tuesday that the pastor’s letter was simply “political.”
“This has to do with whatever their personal animus is to me,” Parker said. “I don’t let it distract me. I have a right to talk about the things that are important to this city.”
This is certainly not the church’s only venture into politics. The Harris County Republican Party plans to hold its convention there in April.
from KHOU TV
Houston Elects Lesbian Mayor
LOS ANGELES — Former gay adult star Roman Ragazzi, 38, has taken his own life. The news broke on Sunday and was confirmed by his partner, Sam, who cited “personal depression issues” as a likely cause.
Ragazzi, whose real name was Dror Barak, was an Israeli consulate employee when he first broke into the adult industry in 2007. He made headlines when the New York Post exposed his double life on Page Six.
Ragazzi went on to become Raging Stallion’s man of the Year 2008 and signed on as a company exclusive. He quit porn later that year to launch a personal training and fitness company named Freedom Fitness.
GayPornBlog.com was first to report the story and spoke with Raging Stallion President Chris Ward, who said, “He was probably the hottest man I have ever filmed — a massive man of pure beauty, intelligence and kindness. He was perfect in every possible way.”
from X Biz
NEW DELHI, INDIA – The Indian government Tuesday clarified to the Supreme Court that it accepts a recent ruling legalizing gay sex in the country.
A lawyer told the Supreme Court that the government would not challenge a 2009 order by the Delhi High Court striking down a colonial-era law that made gay sex a crime.
The order was appealed by conservative groups and the Supreme Court is now hearing opinions from those groups as well as gay rights activists.
The latest statement comes days after another government lawyer told the court that gay sex was “highly immoral” and should be banned. The government quickly denied that lawyer’s statement, prompting confusion about its stance on the law.
On Tuesday, a Supreme Court justice asked the government’s lawyers to file an affidavit to reconcile the two divergent positions heard in court. Neither lawyer explained Thursday’s confusion.
The 2009 high court order had said that treating consensual gay sex between adults as a crime was a violation of fundamental rights protected by India’s constitution.
Sex between people of the same gender had been illegal in India since the 1860s, when a British colonial law classified it as “against the order of nature.”
Prosecutions were rare, but the law was used frequently to harass people.
Over the last decade, homosexuals have slowly gained a degree of acceptance in some parts of India, especially its big cities. The last two years have also seen large gay pride parades in New Delhi and other big cities, including Mumbai and Kolkata.
Still, being gay remains deeply taboo in most of the country, and many gays and lesbians hide their sexual orientation from friends and relatives.
from The Associated Press
Confusion Over Indian Stand On Legality Of Gay Sex
BOSTON,MASSACHUSETTS – Three women identified by their lawyers as lesbians were arraigned yesterday on a hate crime charge for allegedly beating a gay man at the Forest Hills T station in an unusual case that experts say exposes the law’s flawed logic.
“My guess is that no sane jury would convict them under those circumstances, but what this really demonstrates is the idiocy of the hate-crime legislation,” said civil liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate. “If you beat someone up, you’re guilty of assault and battery of a human being. Period. The idea of trying to break down human beings into categories is doomed to failure.”
Prosecutors and the ACLU of Massachusetts said no matter the defendants’ sexual orientation, they can still face the crime of assault and battery with intent to intimidate, which carries up to a 10-year prison sentence, by using hateful language.
“Someone who is Jewish can be anti-Semitic,” said ACLU staff attorney Sarah Wunsch. “The mere fact that someone is a member of the same class doesn’t mean they could not be motivated by hatred for their very own group.”
But Carolyn Euell, 38, mother of two of the defendants, Erika Stroud, 21, of Dorchester and Felicia Stroud, 18, West Roxbury, told reporters the alleged attack “can’t be hateful” because both her daughters are lesbians.
Prosecutor Lindsey Weinstein said the two sisters and one of their domestic partners, Lydia Sanford, also a defendant, viciously beat the man Sunday, repeatedly punching and kicking him after he bumped them with his backpack on a stairwell.
She said the victim, who suffered a broken nose, told cops he believed the attack was “motivated as a crime because of his sexual orientation” since the three women “called him insulting homophobic slurs.”
But attorney Helene Tomlinson, who represented Sanford, told the judge her client is “openly identified as a lesbian … so any homophobic (conduct) is unwarranted.” She said the alleged victim was the aggressor and used racial slurs: “He provoked them.”
Felicia Stroud’s attorney, C. Harold Krasnow, said, “They don’t know what his sexual orientation is, just like he doesn’t know what theirs is.”
Krasnow later noted the low bail the judge gave the women, $100 to $500 cash, and suggested the prosecution’s case was weak.
Civil-rights attorney Chester Darling agreed. “No one should go to court. It’s knuckle justice,” he said. “It’s a fair exchange.”
But Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said prosecutors will have no problem proving the women committed a hate crime, even if they are lesbians.
“The defendants’ particular orientation or alleged orientations have no bearing on our ability to prosecute for allegedly targeting a person who they believe to be different from them,” he said.
from The Boston Herald
ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe said ‘to hell with you’ to David Cameron in a speech after the Prime Minister called for global rights.
The 88-year-old tyrant used a speech at his birthday party yesterday to urge Zimbabweans to shun Western values and homosexuality.
His comments came after Mr Cameron last year warned Britain could withdraw aid from developing countries which failed to protect gay rights.
Mugabe, who has ranted about homosexuality for years, has previously branded gays ‘worse than dogs’.
The dictator said his government entirely rejected the suggestion from its former colonial master.
He said: ‘We reject that outright and say to hell with you.
‘You, David Cameron, are you suggesting that you don’t know that, or is it some kind of insanity or part of the culture of Europeans?’
During his speech, which was broadcast by Zimbabwe’s state-owned television network, Mugabe added that he would never allow gay rights in his country.
He said: ‘In their newspapers, that’s one of my sins. That I called (gays) worse than pigs and dogs because pigs know there are males and females.
‘I won’t even call him a dog because my own dog will complain.
‘It’s even in the Bible that you create through the system of marrying. That’s how we were born, so we reject that outright and say to hell with you.
‘You are free as a man to marry a woman and that is what we follow.
‘That’s what produced you and me. This kind of insanity is now part of the culture of Europe and the United States.’
Mugabe’s rambling speech came as he addressed a crowd of around 20,000 supporters during a birthday rally in the eastern city of Mutare.
The aging dictator turned 88 last Tuesday and celebrated yesterday with a lavish party.
Local media reported that a massive birthday cake was baked for the event in Harare and driven the 160 miles to Mutare under a police escort.
Members of Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF who attended the celebration were also treated to musical performances from local bands.
Meanwhile several cattle were slaughtered to provide food for the event, which was reportedly funded by businesses loyal to the ruling party.
The scale of Mugabe’s birthday celebrations have sparked outrage in Zimbabwe, where millions live in poverty following years of disastrous economic mismanagement.
However the president appeared typically unrepentant as he gave his speech, during which he also called for fresh elections to end a power-sharing government with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
His comments about homosexuality came after Mr Cameron told a conference of Commonwealth leaders in October that Britain could cut aid to developing nations which failed to protect human rights, including gay rights.
Homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe and two members of the same sex caught kissing or even holding hands can face a jail sentence.
Mugabe, a devout Catholic, has repeatedly said he believed same-sex relationships were morally wrong and has criticised MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai for backing gay rights.
from The Daily Mail
Lawmaker Jailed For Gay Accusation Against Zimbabwe President
PRESCOTT VALLEY, ARIZONA – A few days ago, the Yavapai Tea Party gathered at a church in rural Arizona to discuss the all-too-familiar topic of illegal immigration. Among the conservative, mostly over-55 crowd, it is a subject seen in black and white. Build a fence, add agents, reject amnesty – period.
And so it was all the more striking when, off to the side in a room with “Jesus Loves Us!!” written on a chalkboard, the conversation turned to the subject on everyone’s mind, if not the agenda: The conservative Arizona sheriff and Republican candidate for Congress who less than a week earlier had admitted to reporters, his constituents – indeed to the world – that he is gay.
The absolutes were, in large part, absent.
Consider the comments of Bill Halpin, a 64-year-old ex-Air Force pilot who serves on the local tea party board: “I care less. I just care less. Don’t preach it on me. Don’t push it on me and, by golly, I respect your rights.” And this from Mona Patton, the 60-year-old real estate agent who is the group’s president: “I’m a Christian, but who am I to make a judgment about somebody else? I don’t have that right, and I look beyond that. … I still believe in him. I still back him. I still like him. That doesn’t affect that.”
Sheriff Paul Babeu’s “coming out” moment on Feb. 18 was surreal enough, given the man, his politics and the venue – a news conference in front of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department with Babeu, in uniform, surrounded by deputies. Then, of course, there was the startling reason for the sudden admission: a story in an alternative weekly publication in which a former lover accused Babeu of threatening his immigration status if he revealed their relationship.
Now the conversations that have ensued here since – in one of the most politically conservative states in all the union – are astonishing in their own right. There are questions, many of them, about Babeu and his “choices” and judgment, about whether the sheriff may have somehow abused his power. Yet voters, Republican voters in particular, are also asking some intriguing questions of themselves, about acceptance and identity and values, about what really matters most to them.
“This may be a litmus test,” said Patton, not just of whether a gay man can survive running for Congress in a deeply conservative district in a red state but, more so, of the contrast between how far society has come – and still has to go. “I have many, many, many friends in my life that are gay and have been gay, and I don’t have issues with it. But, you know, it’s a hurdle for a lot of people, and it’s, I think, a shame. … I think he’s going to have a hard row to hoe.”
Before all of this, the 43-year-old was considered a rising star in Republican politics. A retired major in the Army National Guard and an ex-police officer, Babeu was the first Republican elected sheriff in Pinal County, nestled between Phoenix and Tucson in a culturally diverse part of Arizona. Having previously commanded a National Guard unit in the border town of Yuma, Babeu quickly became known for his tough stance on illegal immigration. He appeared alongside Sen. John McCain in a 2010 ad in which McCain advocated completion of a border fence, and last year was chosen as America’s “Sheriff of the Year” by his colleagues in the National Sheriffs’ Association.
In January, he announced his candidacy for Arizona’s newly drawn 4th Congressional District, and polls soon showed him as the favorite against an incumbent tea party Republican who switched districts to run and a GOP state senator who once sponsored legislation to define marriage as being between one man and one woman.
Then came the Feb. 17 headline on the website of the Phoenix New Times: “Paul Babeu’s Mexican Ex-Lover Says Sheriff’s Attorney Threatened Him With Deportation.”
A day later, Babeu found himself before microphones and reporters, denying the threats but acknowledging, with stark candor, that he is gay.
“I’m here to say that all these allegations … are absolutely completely false except for the issues that refer to me as being gay. Because that’s the truth.”
Some Arizona political insiders were quick to declare Babeu’s congressional aspirations – indeed, his political career – over, in large part because of questions that go beyond his sexual orientation. An independent investigation, begun at Babeu’s behest, is looking into the allegations of intimidation and threatening behavior. Babeu has denied threatening his ex-boyfriend with deportation and said his understanding is that the man, originally from Mexico, is in the country legally. The former boyfriend also told CNN that he was here legally.
Still others have questioned Babeu’s judgment because of a photograph the New Times published showing him shirtless and standing in his underpants. Babeu had sent the picture to his former boyfriend, and his campaign manager and attorney, Chris DeRose, said Babeu “realizes that was a mistake, and he shouldn’t have done that.” The New Times also published an old profile of Babeu’s from a gay dating website showing another shirtless photograph, with Babeu’s face mostly cut out.
Then, on Friday, The Arizona Republic reported that the U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating whether one or more of Babeu’s employees at the sheriff’s office engaged in on-the-job politicking.
As a columnist for that newspaper wrote earlier in the week: “Sheriff Babeu is not in political (or perhaps legal) trouble because his lifestyle has been exposed. He’s in trouble because he was involved in a messy relationship that spilled over into his public life and has raised questions about his judgment. And when you’re running for the U.S. Congress your judgment is an issue. … It isn’t a gay thing. It’s a trust thing.”
Whatever the “thing” is, the reaction to it has – thus far – not been quite what some may have expected.
When Babeu posted a link to his news conference on his Facebook page and implored voters to “stand with me as we talk about the issues that matter,” more than 1,000 comments flooded in. While some expressed disappointment and said that the sheriff had lost their support or branded him a hypocrite for being gay and Republican, the vast majority supported Babeu – from locals who know him to out-of-staters declaring that they, too, are conservative and gay.
“First gay man I can agree with,” read one post. “We conservatives have his back,” said another. And: “We still support you Sheriff. Gay or straight. Let’s get this country back on the right track.”
DeRose said Friday that Babeu had received $17,000 in political donations since his news conference, and that his supporters in Arizona “are more enthusiastic than ever.”
Whether this is all just political posturing or even, political correctness that may soon fade remains to be seen. Babeu, who declined an interview request, has vowed to stay in the congressional race, and the primary is still six months off. He continues to make campaign appearances, including a speech at a Lincoln Day dinner the same day he admitted being gay.
“So, how is YOUR weekend going?” he joked, and his audience laughed.
The event was held in Yavapai County in the heart of the congressional district, which covers a huge swath stretching from the border near Yuma through the horse pastures of Prescott Valley up north to the conservative stronghold of Mohave County near the Nevada border. Phoenix political consultant Chuck Coughlin described the district as one of the most right-leaning in the state – with a rural, older demographic that does not “lend one to believe that there is a high degree of likelihood” of Babeu winning the congressional seat or even staying in the race for the long haul.
There have been no openly gay Republicans in Congress since 2006, when another Arizonan – U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe – retired. And the nation’s 7,382 state legislators include 93 openly gay Democrats but not a single openly gay Republican, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.
“If you’re an openly gay Republican, you face a platform that is sometimes not welcoming,” said Chuck Wolfe, the fund’s president. “It’s going to take a while to reverse that feeling.”
Kolbe, who represented a more diverse, swing district than the one that Babeu hopes to win, was elected to Congress in 1985 and disclosed in 1996 that he was gay. Last week, he endorsed Babeu, and he said in an interview that while no one could predict whether Babeu will emerge from this and still be able to succeed politically, “we have come a long way.”
“I think in a few years the media won’t be paying that much attention to this issue. The public clearly is ahead of the media on this, and as the polls show people don’t seem to be that concerned about this kind of an issue,” he said. “The issue is whether Paul’s a good candidate for Congress or not, and I think he is.”
Coughlin and others noted that Babeu has a few things working in his favor: He’s charismatic. Arizonans like his stance on illegal immigration and other conservative issues, but they also genuinely like him. Several voters also said that the sheriff’s sexual orientation was one of the worst-kept secrets in Arizona political circles and that while they wish it hadn’t come out the way it did, the fact itself was hardly surprising.
“Everybody knew on some level, and we never gave it a second thought,” said Republican Shawna Thornton, 38, a before-and-after Babeu supporter who lives in Lake Havasu City, within the 4th District, and believes that the now openly gay sheriff still has a chance.
Old assumptions of how party affiliation defines a voter’s position on social issues such as homosexuality no longer ring true, insisted Thornton, noting that for her and many others “conservatism” isn’t about abortion or gay marriage but rather limited government, fiscal responsibility and “values” in the sense of understanding right from wrong.
“I’m finding that people are more middle of the road, less extreme, more accepting of how different people are deep down inside,” she said.
Added Coughlin: “Life’s a mosaic of issues and people, and although we want to see the world in black and white there’s very little of that around. It’s a lot of grays, and a lot of colors in between.”
Some voters contacted for this story were hesitant to discuss the situation as they await the outcome of the independent probe. But the ones who did appeared to be genuinely muddling through all that had happened – and their own feelings about it – in ways that shunned the extremes.
“Well … I just think that … You know, I don’t know,” said Barry Denton, 52, a horse trainer and president of the Yavapai Republican Men’s Forum, whose group played host to Babeu for a speech only days before all the “news” of his private life broke. As always, Denton said, he was well received.
“I think he’s done an extremely good job as sheriff, and I think he’s done a great thing by making people more aware of the immigration problem. I guess I wish he had come out with the gay thing sooner. I think he should have been a little more upfront, `cause he’s a pretty upfront guy.
“I don’t agree with his lifestyle. That’s his business,” he said, “But as far as what he’s accomplished, it’s been impressive. … I’m just disappointed.”
Denton said he thinks the allegations against Babeu will prove unfounded, and that he hadn’t yet picked a candidate to back. When asked whether all of this might persuade him to choose someone other than Babeu, he said: “I haven’t come to any conclusion there yet.”
There were similarly mixed feelings at the tea party meeting on illegal immigration, at which Babeu was initially scheduled to speak. Tea party representatives and Babeu’s campaign manager said the sheriff had to cancel because of another previously scheduled event.
Jeff Tomb, a businessman who is running for county supervisor in the area, was frank in allowing that he didn’t think, in his district, that “the homosexual thing is going to go over real well.” But only moments later he questioned his own conclusion: “I don’t know. People are getting more and more accepting now. He came out and said it and he was honest about it, which is a big plus. That’s a good sign of a good honest man, and we need an honest man.”
Halpin and Patton, the tea party board member and president, were among those who said they didn’t care whether Babeu is gay. As for whether that meant they could vote for him, Halpin said he wouldn’t rule it out, should Babeu remain in the race. (He is, however, adamantly opposed to the Babeu opponent who switched districts.) Patton went further, saying she probably would support the sheriff. But then she admitted that, in reality, she doubted he would remain in the race – or that he could win if he does.
“You know, we put people in boxes and we expect them to behave a certain way and then when people are outside the lines … there’s punitive measures that happen,” she said. “I don’t know. I just hope people are bigger than that, and I don’t know that they’re going to be. I don’t know what to tell you. This is such a difficult situation. I wish it had not come down the way it did. I wish it hadn’t happened.”
“But,” she said, “here we are.”
from The Associated Press
Arizona Sheriff Facing Long Odds After Gay Outing
WILTON MANORS, FLORIDA — An uptick in suicides has caught the attention of city officials, who fear they may be dealing with more than a statistical aberration.
“When you look at our numbers, they don’t jump out at you,” Police Chief Paul O’Connell said. “When you compare it to a population of 11,000 to 12,000 people, that’s when you get the real picture of how it impacts a small community.”
The city has scheduled an April 19 town hall meeting on suicide, hoping to provide residents with information about how to recognize warning signs and where to turn for help. It is putting the program together with help from the Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention.
Over the past four years, this city of under 12,000 people has had five more suicides than Weston, which has about 65,000 people, and only one fewer suicide than Miramar, which has 122,000 people, according to figures from the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The medical examiner reports five or six suicides in the city in each of the past four years, compared with only two suicides each in 2007 and 2006. The numbers for the last four years translate into an annual rate of 47.3 suicides per 100,000 population – the highest in the county and more than triple the county’s rate of 14 per 100,000.
“When you start to see an increase in a small community like that, they’re going to have their hands full,” said Jackie Rosen, executive director of the Weston-based FISP. A FISP fact sheet says for every successful suicide, there are as many as 25 others who attempt suicide.
Among last year’s suicides, O’Connell said a 40-year-old gay man hanged himself in October after breaking up with his partner; a 44-year-old man with a history of mental illness shot himself in August; and a 52-year-old man — married with children — stepped in front of a train in June, conflicted about whether he was straight or gay.
While O’Connell said the suicides seem to involve every part of society — “straight, gay, rich, poor, old, young” — mental health professionals see several potential factors behind the city’s increase.
Katharine Campbell, director of clinical services for SunServe, said the large percentage of city residents in the 40-to-60-year-old age group and the city’s large gay and lesbian population stand out the most.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention shows the 45-to-54 age group accounts for one in five suicides nationally, the highest proportion of any age group.
The 40-to-60-year-old age group makes up 42 percent of Wilton Manors’ overall population, but only 30 percent of the county’s, according to U.S. Census data. That same age group accounted for 64 percent of the suicides — 14 of 22 — in the city the past four years.
Campbell, whose Wilton Manors-based social service agency serves the lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender communities, said sexual orientation could also be playing a role.
“Anytime you have a marginalized community, that is a risk factor in and of itself,” Campbell said.
Rosen said even though there’s not a glaring connection between the suicides and the city’s large gay and lesbian population, that doesn’t mean a connection doesn’t exist.
“Many gay and lesbian people do not let anyone know what their orientation is,” Rosen said. “Stigma is one of the biggest things we deal with.”
A study published in 2011 in the Journal of Homosexuality said an increasing body of research has shown a “significantly elevated suicide risk among [lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people] compared to heterosexual people,” but acknowledged there is no “official or generally reliable” way of delving into statistics when death records don’t usually include a person’s sexual orientation.
Rosen said there’s another reason that has probably contributed to the increased suicides since 2007: the economic downturn. She said other issues gays and lesbians face can compound the impact of the economic situation, such as being rejected by family members.
“Without question, the economy is playing a part in the depression levels and depression is the No. 1 cause of suicide,” Rosen said. “If you’re dealing with having a job problem, and you’re dealing with family relational problems, those are two of the things that are very high causes of depression and not being able to cope.”
from The Sun-Sentinel
ATLANTA, GEORGIA – A third suspect in the videotaped beating of a gay Atlanta man could be extradited to Georgia early next week from Pennsylvania, where he has surrendered himself to authorities, officials said Saturday.
Darael Demare Williams, 17, of Atlanta is being held on $250,000 bond in the Erie County, Pennsylvania, Prison, corrections officer Ed Yeaney said Saturday.
Williams surrendered himself on Wednesday night to Erie police, authorities said.
Yeaney didn’t have further details on what possible charges await Williams in Georgia in connection with the videotaped beating of Brandon White, 20, by three men outside an Atlanta grocery.
Earlier this month, the FBI said it was investigating the case to determine whether it meets criteria for prosecution under the federal hate crimes statute.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Jay Abt, an attorney for one of the other suspects, 19-year-old Dorian Moragne, said his client knew White before the alleged incident. Abt made that assertion during a meeting of activists concerned about the case. Moragne, who turned himself into authorities, has been charged with robbery by force and aggravated assault, Abt said.
White has said that he didn’t know any of his alleged assailants.
“I have never seen one of those guys before. I go to that store plenty of times. Like I said, I don’t bother anybody. I don’t talk to anybody. That’s just me. No, I’ve never seen one of those guys before,” White told reporters on February 8.
On Saturday, White’s attorney, Christine Koehler, reiterated that her client denies knowing any of the three suspects.
Another suspect, Christopher Cain, 18, has been charged with aggravated assault and robbery, police said.
Atlanta police said the incident occurred February 4.
The case came to light after a video circulated online showing three men punching and kicking White after he stepped out of the JVC Grocery and Deli in southwest Atlanta’s Pittsburgh neighborhood. The men, believed to be members of a gang called Jack City, yelled: “No faggots in Jack City.”
The store’s surveillance video shows White, dressed in a purple shirt and black jeans with a cell phone to his left ear, exit the store along with another man. As soon as they step outside, White is accosted by his attackers.
The surveillance video captured eight men standing around watching, two of them with video cameras in hand. One man lunges at White with a tire in his hands.
White said he did not report it right away because he did not want to draw attention to himself. He said he could not even bring himself to watch the video at first, he was so humiliated and embarrassed.
The video was released on WorldStarHipHop.com, and was posted on The Smoking Gun.
When it went viral, White decided to talk to the police, he said.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates has said her office is looking into potential civil rights violations based on sexual orientation. Georgia does not have a hate crimes statute.
Enraged gay rights activists have vowed that justice would be served, and residents appealed for an expanded police presence in their community.
Second Gay Beating Suspect Surrenders To Atlanta Police
Arrest Made In Brandon White Beating
Victim Of Atlanta Attack Speaks Out
Video Shows Gang Beating In Atlanta
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Two cyberbullying studies by comScore and NDP, both commissioned by social network monitoring service SocialShield, were released today. About half of parents are aware that bullying on Facebook happens, but a significantly lower fraction knows their child has been a victim.
More specifically, the research studies revealed that less than 8 percent of parents are aware of cyberbullying incidents involving their own child. Previous estimates have shown that anywhere between 15 percent of teenagers and 20 percent of children have been victimized by cyberbullying. The surveys polled more than 4,000 parents collectively.
Parents are often perplexed by why they don’t know about such a large percentage of cyberbullying incidents. The main reason is because today’s kids are conducting social networking activities in a number of different locations, using a wide variety of devices, and across a broad range of media platforms. While most parents think their kids will tell them about cyberbullying, behavior indicates they don’t for the following reasons:
They’re embarrassed about the situation
They’re afraid of backlash from the bully or others
They fear losing access to their computer
They’re worried they did something wrong
52 percent of the parents SocialShield surveyed report that their child accesses social networks from the family computer, where the parent could theoretically watch over their child’s shoulder. That being said, 42 percent of parents also report that their child accesses social networks on his or her own computer, while 25 percent do so from their cell phones. 8 percent of children access social networks from a tablet or handheld device, another 8 percent from a friends’ computer, and 5 percent from a school computer.
Although 36 percent of parents report that they friend their child in order to track his or her social networking activity, behavior shows that a large percentage of activities take place via private chat messages, groups, closed forums, personal SMS texts, and other forms of communication that cannot be viewed by even the most diligent parent.
“Unfortunately, the monitoring techniques that most parents think are good enough to help keep their kids safe, are often not good enough,” SocialShield CEO George Garrick said in a statement. “There is simply too much content being created by our kids and their peers – not to mention predators – for parents to keep track of without help. We expect this situation to only intensify in 2012 as more social networks develop and more kids get involved.”
from ZD Net