Kremlin: No Confirmed Info on Claimed Chechen Gay Killings

Associated Press

Friday Apr 14, 2017

In the face of growing international concern about reported detentions and killings of gay men in Chechnya, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman says the Kremlin does not have confirmed information on the targeted violence.

The respected Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported this month that police in the predominantly Muslim republic rounded up more than 100 men suspected of homosexuality and that at least three of them have been killed.

Chechen authorities have denied the reports. But the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights and prominent international organizations have urged the Russian government to investigate the reported abuse.

But Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Friday: "We do not have any reliable information about any problems in this area."

The Russian office of Amnesty International on Friday called on authorities to investigate human rights violations in Chechnya, a Muslim-majority republic of Russia.

It also expressed concern about an assembly of Chechen elders and clergymen that reportedly took place several days after the newspaper article and threatened retaliation against those who "insulted the centuries-old foundations of Chechen society and the dignity of Chechen men."

Amnesty International says it "considers this resolution as a threat of violence against journalists."

International Experts Condemn Abuse of Gays in Chechnya

Associated Press

Thursday Apr 13, 2017

International organizations on Thursday urged the Russian government to investigate reported abuse and killings of gay men in Russia's southern republic of Chechnya.

The respected Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported earlier this month that police in the predominantly Muslim republic of Chechnya have rounded up more than 100 men suspected of homosexuality and that at least three of them have been killed.

Chechen authorities have denied the reports, while the spokesman for the region's leader Ramzan Kadyrov insisted there were no gay people in Chechnya.

A statement released Thursday by the United Nations' High Commissioner on Human Rights called upon the Russian government "to put an end to the persecution of people perceived to be gay or bisexual ... who are living in a climate of fear fueled by homophobic speeches by local authorities."

Separately, Michael Georg Link, of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said on Thursday Moscow must "urgently investigate the alleged disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment" of gay men in Chechnya.

After two separately wars in the 1990s, predominantly Muslim Chechnya became increasingly conservative under late President Akhmat Kadyrov and his son Ramzan.

Novaya Gazeta also reported earlier this month that Chechen authorities are running a secret prison in the town of Argun where men suspected of being gay are kept and tortured.

Denver to Pay Nearly $1M to Family of Gay Teen Killed By Police

by Colleen Slevin

Associated Press

Thursday Apr 13, 2017

Denver officials announced Wednesday that they reached a settlement to pay nearly $1 million to the family of a teenager who was shot and killed by police while driving a stolen car toward an officer in 2015.

Besides the $999,999 payout to the parents of 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez, the city also pledged to invite the family to appoint a representative to a committee advising police on use-of-force policy and do outreach meetings with the Latino and LGBTQ communities. The City Council still must approve the deal over the death of Hernandez, who was gay.

The Jan. 26, 2015, shooting came shortly after the officer-involved deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York. It led to protests, including one in which demonstrators poured paint on a memorial to slain officers.

Hernandez was sleeping in a Honda Civic in a residential alley with four other friends after a night out when police were called to check on the suspicious car. They discovered it was stolen.

Police say Hernandez at first backed up and moved forward slowly, then accelerated toward Officer Gabriel Jordan, who feared he might be run over and killed. He and Officer Daniel Greene fired into the car.

None of the other teens or the officers were hurt.

Neither officer was charged or disciplined after prosecutors determined they were acting out fear that Jordan might be run over. Police investigators determined the car was moving at about 10 mph and that Jordan only had about 2 seconds to decide what to do.

It marked the fourth time in seven months that Denver police had shot at a moving car. In response, the department changed its policy to bring it in line with most police agencies, advising officers to fire at moving cars only if someone inside is firing at them. Under the settlement, police will keep training officers in that new policy.

Even though officers were following policy at the time, that "does not negate the pain felt by all involved," Police Chief Robert White said.

Denver has fought lawsuits over police shootings and excessive force in the past, but this case was handled differently. Officials held several meetings with the family, including one with Mayor Michael Hancock that the Hernandez family lawyer, Qusair Mohamedbhai, described as "tearful."

"It takes courage for the government to do what they have done in this case," he said.

After the settlement was announced, Jessica's mother, Laura Sonia Rosales, spoke tearfully about her daughter, whom she described as the "sun" of her home.

Speaking in Spanish, she said Jessica loved to help others and fight for their rights. With the money from the settlement, Rosales said, she might be able to something more to help others now.

Major Force in HIV Science Dr. Mark Wainberg Dead at 71

Thursday Apr 13, 2017

The world lost a leader in the fight against AIDS this week with the passing of Dr. Mark Wainberg. The pioneering Canadian researcher is widely recognized for his involvement in the 1989 identification of antiviral drug Lamivudine, which is now one of the most extensively used drugs in treating HIV and its co-infections. 

"Dr. Wainberg's passing is a tremendous loss for the scientific community," said IAVI President and CEO Mark Feinberg. "His extraordinary contributions to the field of HIV research and development continue to be an inspiration to me and to all who knew him. Discoveries stemming from his investigations and collaborations have significantly advanced treatment, prevention and cure research." 

Among these contributions was the identification of several mutations in the HIV genome that are responsible for drug resistance. In recent years, he also turned his attention to researching a potential HIV cure based on the possibility that HIV may be unable to form resistance to compounds called integrase inhibitors that block viral replication. 

Eric Goosby, Chair of IAVI's Board of Directors and UN Special Envoy on Tuberculosis, also remembered Wainberg. "Mark was an unusually personable member of the global research community, one whose informality masked the magnitude of his scientific accomplishments," Goosby said. "He was one of a very small number of basic research scientists to become so actively involved in the political, social, and personal dimensions of the epidemic, a level of commitment that, in turn, sharpened his scientific insight." 

His commitment to the worldwide AIDS response extended beyond science into advocacy, with a direct impact on IAVI. In 2003 Wainberg joined a group of multi-sector experts on IAVI's inaugural Policy Advisory Committee to guide the organization's linked activities in both global advocacy and policy research. This followed his influential term as President of the International AIDS Society (1998-2000), which helped catalyze expanded HIV treatment access for developing countries. 

Wainberg, 71, was the head of AIDS research at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, director of the McGill University AIDS Center at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital, and professor of medicine, microbiology, and immunology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

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Case Targeting Rights of Minnesota Transgender Teen Dropped

Thursday Apr 13, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. - An organization that filed a federal lawsuit last year to bar transgender students from using locker rooms consistent with their gender identity today announced that they have voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Minnesota had intervened in the case on behalf of a transgender girl, identified as Jane Doe to protect her privacy. A small group of parents, acting through an organization they have named "Privacy Matters" and represented by the anti-LGBT legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, filed a complaint against Doe's school district and the U.S. Department of Education for protecting Doe from discrimination when using the locker room. The lawsuit singled Doe out from the rest of her volleyball team and used misleading innuendo and salacious phrasing to depict the ordinary behavior of a teenage girl dancing with the rest of her friends in the locker room as threatening or scandalous just because she is transgender.

"This lawsuit followed a familiar pattern of organizations and individuals mischaracterizing what happens in restrooms and locker rooms in order to target innocent transgender youth," said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU's LGBT Project. "It's disappointing that Jane was ever subjected to this ordeal in the first place, but we're glad to see anti-trans advocates recognize that spreading misinformation and innuendo won't hold up in court."

The ACLU argued in the case that Doe has a right to be free from discrimination on the basis of her sex under Title IX, a federal law which prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding, and under the Constitution. The ACLU also noted how using the girls' locker room and restroom is a critical part of Jane's medical treatment and has had a substantial positive effect on Jane's health and well-being.

"We are proud of Jane and her family for standing up for her rights and those of other transgender students," said Teresa Nelson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota. "We are glad that the plaintiffs have abandoned their attempts to force the school to violate her rights. We would also like to thank the Virginia School District for standing with Jane and treating her with dignity and respect."

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in September of 2016. This case is similar to lawsuits filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom and other anti-trans organizations around the country that are trying to prevent transgender students from using the locker rooms and restrooms that match their gender identity. 

The attorneys in the case include Timothy Griffin, Brian Thomson, Andrew Davis, and Ivan Ludmer of Stinson Leonard Street; Nelson of the ACLU of Minnesota; and Block of the ACLU.

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