Transgender woman to stand for election in Pakistan

Anna Leach | Gay Star News | February 26, 2013

Sanam Fakir, who is standing for election in Sukkur, central Pakistan


A hijra, or transgender woman, is standing for election in Pakistan and campaigning for equal rights.’It is not our destiny to merely dance for others and hold begging bowls. We have a life to live,’ said Sanam Fakir, electoral candidate in the central Pakistan town of Sukkur, to AFP.

The elections in mid-May will be the first time Pakistan’s estimated 500,000 hijras (sometimes referred to as ‘eunuchs’) can vote and stand for election.

In 2012 the Supreme Court allowed hijras to register as ‘third gender’ on the electoral roll.

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Anti-Gay Bill ‘Reflects Russian Values’ Foreign Minister Says

Joe Morgan | Gay Star News | February 26, 2013

Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, has said the country has no responsibility to Europe or the world to respect gay people's rights.

Russia’s foreign minister has rejected criticism about the proposed law that would outlaw ‘homosexual propaganda’ nationwide.

Sergey Lavrov said there are no obligations to Europe or any other country to respect gay people’s rights in Russia.

‘We don’t have a single international or common European commitment to allow propaganda of homosexuality,’ he said.

On 25 January, Russia’s lower house of parliament voted for support a bill banning public events celebrating the LGBT community as well as stopping people from ‘spreading information’ about gays to minors.

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Uganda detains second British citizen associated with play containing gay character

Melanie Nathan | Oblogdeeoblogda | February 27, 2013.

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 10.09.24 AMA  Second British man has now been arrested and is being held in a prison in Uganda after appearing in the play The River and the Mountain, which used a gay character in a story that speaks of corruption and other issues in Uganda.

Keith Prosser was arrested by Ugandan police and has been held in a Kampala jail center for the past eight days. Although it is believed that Prosser may have had a VISA irregularity, we have been informed that he would not have been detained had it not been for his participation in the controversial play, which caused the arrest and deportation of the play’s producer earlier this month.

David Cecil, the other British citizen who had been arrested and detained twice for his part in producing and staging the play was deported by the Ugandan Government, earlier this month, as an “undesirable immigrant” after spending five days in detention at a Kampala police station.

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The Human Costs of Sequester

Katrina vanden Heuvel | Washington Post | February 26, 2013

The media is going sequester 24-7. Anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to the across-the-board spending cuts about to hit  this Friday  is about to have little choice. The brouhaha about the austerity bomb is drowning out any attention to what is actually going on in the economy — which is supposedly the point of the whole debate.

The stark reality is the economy is still in trouble and Americans are still hurting. The economy contracted last quarter, even before Americans got hit with the end of the payroll tax holiday, which will take $1,000 out of the typical family’s annual paycheck. The Congressional Budget Office projects that growth will inch along at about 1.5 percent this year. That translates into continued mass unemployment — with more than 20 million people in need of full-time work — and falling wages. The richest 1 percent captured an unimaginable 121 percent of all income growth in 2009 and 2010, coming out of the Great Recession. They pocketed all of the growth in income, while 99 percent of Americans actually lost ground. That trend is likely to get worse rather than better.

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Why Is the Homophobic Catholic Church Filled With Closeted Gay Priests?

Mark Dowd | The Guardian | AlterNet | February 26, 2013

I approached a director at Channel 4 back in 2000 with a proposal for a documentary on homosexuality and the Roman Catholic church. I had a simple pitch. “I want to show why my church is so anti-gay.”

“And why is your church so anti-gay?,” came back the obvious question. “Because it is so gay,” I replied.

A furrowed brow invited further exposition. I then spelt out the logic. We interviewed clerics and ex-seminarians in the UK, US and Rome and uncovered a huge irony: the very institution that teaches that the homosexual orientation is “intrinsically disordered” attracts gay candidates for the priesthood in numbers way in excess of what one would expect, based on numbers in society at large. One seminary rector based on his own experience told me the number was at least 50%.

Gay Catholics like me will appreciate another irony with the news of Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s resignation: that the very man whose trenchant rhetoric on the subjects of gay adoption and marriage has been brought down by accusations of improper same-sex behaviour from no less than four men who crossed his path in the 1980s, either as a seminary rector or as archbishop of Edinburgh. His decision not to participate in the papal conclave is not to be taken as an admission of guilt and he contests the accusations made against him. Nevertheless, it does raise some general questions about a possible relationship between the tone of anti-gay rhetoric and the identities of those who engage in such high-octane language on same sex attraction.

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Physicist: If All Science Were Run Like Marijuana Research, Creationists Would Control Paleontology

Nicole Flatow | Think Progress | AlterNet | February 26, 2013

In the face of obstacles to marijuana research from both the Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology and one-time MacArthur Fellow is calling out the federal government on its obstruction of science.

During an address before a  medical marijuana conference Friday, John H. Schwartz explained how the DEA and NIDA act as a “tag team” to censor science, with NIDA holding a monopoly over legal access to cannabis for research, and the DEA  refusing to reconsider the drug’s designation in the Controlled Substances Act as a dangerous substance with no medical value on the basis that sufficient research does not exist. He alleges that the government has blocked research even though it has long been aware of marijuana’s potential to serve many medical benefits including shrink aggressive cancer cells is because it might “send the wrong message to children”:

The most blatant example of this behavior came last year, when  NIDA blocked an FDA-approved clinical trial testing marijuana as a remedy for post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. It’s especially sad to note that the study participants were veterans, with PTSD deemed untreatable by other means. After 12 years of war, this is how we treat them. […]

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Russia’s Foreign Minister Defends Proposed Bill Against ‘Gay Propaganda’

On Top Magazine | February 26, 2013

Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, on Tuesday defended a bill which seeks to ban “gay propaganda.”

In responding to criticism from the Dutch government and the European Union, Lavrov said that Russia does not “have a single international or common European commitment to allow propaganda of homosexuality,” the AP reported.

The measure last month cleared Russia’s lower house of parliament, and is expected to become law by June. It is modeled after a law which took effect last year in St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg’s law criminalizes “public actions aimed at propaganda of pederasty, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors.” It also bans public events that promote gay rights, such as Gay Pride parades and gay rights demonstrations.

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All Democrats On Illinois Panel Considering Gay Marriage Supported Civil Unions

Carlos Santoscoy | On Top Magazine | February 26, 2013

All seven Democratic members of the Illinois House panel considering a gay marriage bill voted in favor of civil unions.

The 11-member House Executive Committee will hear the measure when it convenes Tuesday at 3PM.

While few of the 7 Democrats on the panel have publicly discussed their position on marriage, all voted in 2010 in favor of the state’s civil unions law.

Three Republicans on the committee voted against the measure.  The fourth, Rep. Joe Sosnowski of Rockford, who was elected to office in 2010, has publicly stated his opposition to marriage equality.

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Unbridled Secrecy

New York Times | February 26, 2013

The Supreme Court severely damaged the rule of law in its decision on Tuesday to disallow a lawsuit challenging the federal law that permits broad, secret surveillance and interception of international communications involving Americans. The suit, brought by lawyers, journalists and human rights activists, charged that the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act violates their rights to privacy and free speech.

Justice Samuel Alito Jr., writing the 5-to-4 majority opinion, misleadingly presented the court as a model of restraint and its ruling as a narrow one. But, in fact, the decision will likely shut down all judicial review of this pernicious surveillance law, barring anyone from ever challenging its constitutionality in federal court.

The majority ruled that the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue because they cannot show they have been harmed by the surveillance law. This is a classic Catch-22: since the surveillance is secret and no one can say for certain that their calls, e-mails and other communications have been or will be monitored, by the court’s logic no one will ever be able to show standing to bring a lawsuit.

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Gay Couples Face a Mixed Geography of Marriage

Rajah Bose for The New York Times

Henry D. Johnston and Alex Irwin near their home in Moscow, Idaho.

 | New York Times | February 26, 2013

MOSCOW, Idaho — The border with Washington State is just two miles from the home that Henry D. Johnston and his partner, Alex Irwin, own here in western Idaho, but for a gay couple it might as well be a thousand. Over there, just a brisk morning’s walk away, same-sex marriage was approved by a majority of statewide voters last fall; over here, the Idaho Constitution, through an amendment passed by voters in 2006, says that even a civil union granted elsewhere has no validity.

“Set your clock back,” Mr. Johnston said of his daily commute home from a job in Pullman, Wash.

The nation’s patchwork geography of same-sex marriage laws was not much of an issue when just a few states allowed it. But now nine states and the District of Columbia allow such unions, with Maine, Maryland and Washington voting to join the list last fall. And the Supreme Court could decide this summer whether equal marriage protections are a right under the Constitution.

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