781 posts categorized "Public Safety"

April 16, 2015

Gay police unit may be barred from most LGBT events

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(Photo of Lt. Cheryl Crawley courtesy of MPD)

Lou Chibbaro at the Blade reports:

Officers assigned to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit may no longer be allowed to attend “fundraising or alcohol served events” held by LGBT community organizations, according to an April 3 email memo issued by the unit’s commander.

The email issued by Lt. Cheryl Crawley, commander of the MPD’s Special Liaison Division, which oversees the GLLU, also was sent to several LGBT organizations through a police list serv.

At least two activists who saw the email have raised questions about why GLLU officers should suddenly be barred from attending community events that they have routinely attended in the past.

As Earl Fowlkes of the Center for Black Equity says, this makes no sense.

In my April 11 email to Chief Lanier about this, I raised the following questions regarding Lt. Crawley's directive:

  1. What does “support” mean in the context of, say, GLAA’s annual awards reception, which scheduled for 6:30 pm at Policy Restaurant and Lounge at 14th and T NW on Thursday, April 23? I was about to send a note to you and GLLU folk inviting you to join us as our guests when Lou Chibbaro shared Lt. Crawley’s message. Community outreach does not signify “support” to me.
  2. What conflict of interest would occur from GLLU officials, or you yourself, attending our reception, which is a fundraiser for our nonpartisan advocacy and at which there is bar service?
  3. What precipitated this?
  4. What is the problem for which this prohibition is the solution? Is the sobriety of your officers so fragile as to be endangered by a friendly visit to a political reception?
  5. Is there a concern that our awards reception, which traditionally features leading LGBT advocates mingling with top District officials and celebrating the non-controversial cause of equality, would become a drunken orgy? I recall something like that happening at the Hyatt Regency some years ago during Police Week, with naked officers sliding down handrails, but that was not an LGBT event, I was not present, and as you might suggest, those may have been officers from other jurisdictions.
  6. Is this rule MPD-wide?
  7. Will you please rescind it, or clarify it to allow MPD officers to attend in their outreach capacity as they have done previously over the years?

I noted that Lanier's predecessor, now Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, attended our 2007 reception where he received our Distinguished Service Award from Frank Kameny. What is the problem now that was not a problem then? Chief Lanier has informed me that her chief counsel is looking into the matter and expects a ruling on Friday.

St. Louis archbishop didn't know sex with children was a crime

NBC News reports on Archbishop Robert Carlson:

The St. Louis archbishop embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal testified last month that he didn’t know in the 1980s whether it was illegal for priests to have sex with children, according to a court deposition released Monday.

Archbishop Robert Carlson, who was chancellor of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul at the time, was deposed as part of a lawsuit against the Twin Cities archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota.

April 15, 2015

O'Reilly: 'Open season on Christians and white men' in U.S.

Really, Mr. O'Reilly?

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April 14, 2015

D.C. Council rejects Corizon contract on 6-5 vote

Thanks to Councilmembers Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, David Grosso, Phil Mendelson, Brianne Nadeau, and Elissa Silverman for voting today to disapprove the Corizon contract for inmate healthcare. Thanks also to our many allies who opposed the contract, including Deb Golden at the D.C. Prisoners Project, Samantha Davis at So Others Might Eat, and Shannon Minter at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Here is a sample of GLAA's letter to CMs urging rejection of the contract.

A number of people hired by Corizon wore t-shirts saying "Jobs Not Jail," which is agreeable enough but not the issue under discussion, which was Corizon's terrible record in providing correctional healthcare services. Some of the same folks were picketing in front of the Wilson Building when I arrived for the legislative meeting, and their picket signs were incoherent. I asked one of the Corizon picketers whether he was for Corizon or against it, and he could not answer me. I guess the instructions were, "Wear this shirt and carry this sign."

This could come up again if allies of Mayor Bowser win the special elections for D.C. Council seats in Wards 4 and 8. So stay tuned.

April 13, 2015

GLAA urges D.C. Council to reject #Corizon contract for inmate healthcare

Deb Golden of the D.C. Prisoners Project tweets GLAA's letter to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson urging rejection of the Corizon contract. Here is a copy of our letter to Ward 1 CM Brianne Nadeau. We have also signed on to a joint letter.

April 07, 2015

SC cop faces murder charge after shooting man in back

Without this video, the officer would likely have gotten away with it.

April 03, 2015

Sarah Brady dies at 73

One evening thirty years ago, as I approached La Fonda Restaurant at 17th and R Streets NW (which has been gone for twenty years now), a friend and I saw White House press secretary Jim Brady being helped down the few steps into the restaurant and back into his wheelchair by his wife Sarah and a friend. Mrs. Brady urged us to go ahead of them. We said we were in no hurry, and to take their time. I remember the exact day in 1981 when Jim was gravely injured by a bullet from John Hinckley meant for President Reagan, because it was my 25th birthday. The Bradys received bipartisan respect from the people of Washington. No public servant should have to face gunfire. And the Bradys were nice people.

The 1993 Brady Act required background checks on firearm purchasers. In later years, politics shifted to the point where even background checks were blocked. America's Wild West infatuation with guns has only gotten worse. It is a sad thing to contemplate as we mark Sara Brady's passing. Her husband died eight months ago. May they both rest in peace.

Suspect arrested in Hotel Donovan murder

Somali Militants Kill 147 at Kenyan University

NYTreports on a horrific attack in eastern Kenya.

March 24, 2015

The questionable ethics of #Corizon

GLAA's concerns about Corizon are stated here.

March 19, 2015

UVA student Martese Johnson: My head is 'bloodied but unbowed.'

UVA honor student Martese Johnson faces the press as his lawyer speaks for him. This brought tears to my eyes. Our young men deserve better than this.

UVA honors student Martese Johnson arrested, bloodied by cops

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This latest disgusting example of excessive force by police is causing outrage at UVA and across the country. If you want people to respect the system, the system must respect them.

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March 18, 2015

Respectability politics and the race debate

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(Photo credit: MSNBC/Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/Eric Thayer)

Brittney Cooper at Salon has an excellent response to a recent piece by WaPo's Jonathan Capehart on the lessons from Michael Brown, Darren Wilson, and Ferguson. Here's an excerpt:

Moderate Black people – Barack Obama included – continue to believe that the way to bring white people into the anti-racist fold is by conceding some ground in order to gain more ground. It’s an old debate tactic, but it only works if everyone plays fair. There are two problems with this. First, those with racial privilege generally don’t play fair in racial discussions. More than that, they play downright dirty, denying the persistence of racism, trotting out erroneous statistics, blaming Black behavior for white racism. The Ferguson Police Department, for example, has conceded nothing even after being found guilty of decades of egregious, consistent and systematic violations of the rights of Ferguson’s Black citizens. Second, Capehart implicitly concedes that it is Black people who must prove that incidents are racially inflected, rather than white people who must prove that they are not. Since we now know for a fact that Darren Wilson policed in a racially hostile city and police department, and since Ferguson residents – Michael Brown included – knew that long before a Justice Department report merely affirmed their experience, it is perfectly reasonable for Black folks to view Ferguson police and police around the country with suspicion.

March 15, 2015

Bachelor's Mill patron dies in hospital

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Lou Chibbaro at the Blade reports:

D.C. police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a customer of the Capitol Hill gay bar Bachelor’s Mill, who was found unconscious on the street about two blocks from the bar about 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 22.

According to a police report, Derrick Lee Powe, 46, was found “in an unconscious state” with an abrasion on the back of his head alongside 1000 7th Street, S.E., which is the address for one of the recently built U.S. Marine Corps barracks.

This is very disturbing. A friend of mine patronizes Bachelor's Mill, and the time indicated is about the time he would normally be leaving it. The police are urged to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible.

March 11, 2015

Who Tells the History

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(Washington Blade editorial cartoon by Ranslem)

My Blade column this week examines the state of justice in America fifty years after Selma. Here is an excerpt:

The Edmund Pettus Bridge gleamed in the afternoon light when President Obama spoke there on March 7 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Yet Transportation for America includes it on a map of America's 70,000 structurally deficient bridges. Completed in 1940, it is named for a former U.S. Senator who was a Confederate general and a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.

The back side of a billboard welcoming Obama featured one from admirers of Klan founder and Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest. Beneath an equestrian portrait of Forrest was the slogan, "Keep the skeer on 'em." Thus as we honor nonviolent resistance, others wax nostalgic about lynching.

Obama did not mention the Forrest billboard but did mention last week's Justice Department report on the Ferguson Police Department. He said that while the report shows that the fight for justice is not finished, America has made a lot of progress. He cited advances not only by African Americans but also by women and gay people. "To deny ... this hard-won progress ... would be to rob us of our own agency, our own capacity, our responsibility to do what we can to make America better."

Obama tacitly rebuked the right wing's patriotic posturing by celebrating the reforming impulse: "It's the idea held by generations of citizens who believed ... that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo."

Read the whole thing here.

March 10, 2015

LGBT groups issue report card on Metropolitan Police Department

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A coalition of LGBT groups in D.C. today issued their Report Card: Status of Metropolitan Police Department Implementation of Recommendations from the Hate Crimes Assessment Task Force and Community Response.

The groups signing the report card include Casa Ruby, The DC Center for the LGBT Community, DC Trans Coalition, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, HIPS, and Rainbow Response Coalition. GLAA is proud to be in this company. Thanks to Jason Terry of DCTC for drafting the community response. He is presenting the report card at today's Performance Oversight Hearing on MPD being held by the D.C. Council Committee on the Judiciary.

Here is the report card's introduction:

In February 2014, Chief Cathy Lanier of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) released the findings of the Hate Crimes Assessment Task Force (HCATF) she convened in December, 2011, accompanied by the departmentʼs response to the Task Forceʼs recommendations. Shortly thereafter, a coalition of community organizations released its own response, including recommendations not addressed in the HCATF reportʼs findings. Less than a week later, on March 19, 2014, MPD presented to the community a plan outlining “Next Steps” in its efforts to implement the Task Forceʼs recommendations. Now, nearly a year out from these proposed actions, we (the community) revisit the recommendations made by the Task Force and Community Response to evaluate what progress has been made.

The HCATF report highlighted serious problems in the functioning and effectiveness of the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) and Affiliate Liaison program, a growing lack of trust in the police among transgender residents and the broader LGBTQ communities, the absence of a comprehensive, standardized training curriculum on LGBTQ hate crimes and cultural competency, the ineffectiveness of the Critical Incident Team (CIT), and several other issues requiring departmental action. In addition to these, the community coalition identified other outstanding issues not mentioned in the report but central to LGBTQ communitiesʼ relationship with MPD and included recommendations for action. These included both elaboration on matters included in the report and issues not addressed such as LGBT intimate-partner violence (IPV), interactions with LGBTQ youth, and interactions with sex workers.

To facilitate the review of the recommended actions put forth last March, we have prepared a list organized by topic and source of recommendation following the structure of the HCATF report and the MPD and community responses. Our assessment reflects information shared with community organizations by MPD. We offer this report card as a way to assess how much progress has been made over the last year, and to invite MPD to respond with updates on its activities to date.

March 07, 2015

Obama at the bridge

President Obama spoke today at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. A very fine moment.

March 04, 2015

Trans woman named head of MPD Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit

Congrats to Sgt. Jessica Hawkins.

Holder discusses DOJ Ferguson investigation findings

The U.S. Department of Justice has released its investigation of the Ferguson Police Department. The report contains some terribly disturbing material.

At the same time, DOJ announced it is not charging Officer Darren Wilson for violating Michael Brown's civil rights. So a damning report, but a killer goes scot-free. We shake our heads. The long struggle for justice continues.

February 23, 2015

Murder of lawyer in D.C. hotel prompts concern among LGBT activists

Lou Chibbaro of the Blade reports on the David Messerschmitt murder at the Donovan Hotel.

February 22, 2015

Celebrities defend gay rights in Ghana

February 19, 2015

BAR: U.S. Protection of LGBT Iraqis Questioned

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(Bodies of dead gay Iraqis lie in a Baghdad street. AP Photo)

Our friend Michael Petrelis blogs about a Bay Area Reporter story on the plight of gay Iraqis and the responses of the United Kingdom and the United States.

Mike includes links to the referenced British and American government files obtained through FOIA requests. Thanks, Mike.

GLAA criticizes police sex work sting

The above tweet quotes from and links to a Blade story by Lou Chibbaro Jr. on a recent sting operation by the Metropolitan Police Department. Here is something I also said to Lou which was not quoted in the article:

Several local officials have privately agreed with us, but this law that only causes harm is considered politically untouchable. Incidentally, for the benefit of the hysterics at Family Research Council (who misrepresented our views), we are talking about consenting adults, not the victims of sex trafficking. Indeed, any resources in the area of sex crimes should go to keeping the former safe and rescuing the latter, not entrapping consenting adults. In these belt-tightening times, that public funds are expended on sting operations for victimless crimes should be considered scandalous. But the greater responsibility lies with the D.C. Council, which allows the laws that MPD uses for such operations to remain on the books.

These related GLAA documents may be of interest:

Pussy Riot: I can't breathe

Pussy Riot expresses solidarity with Eric Garner and other victims of police brutality.

February 12, 2015

Mourning in Chapel Hill

January 16, 2015

Nothing Is Sacred

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(Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)

Here's an excerpt from my latest column, concerning the deadly terrorist attacks last week in Paris at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket:

Conservative pundits indignantly asked why there were no condemnations by Muslim leaders of the attacks, when in fact there was a flood of them. On the other hand, it was jarring when several despotic regimes sent representatives to a massive Paris march for the murdered cartoonists despite their own repression of journalists.

Any facile sorting of friend from foe was refuted by news reports. The last victim in the Charlie Hebdo attack was Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabet. During the kosher market incident, Muslim employee Lassana Bathily saved several hostages from terrorist Amedy Coulibaly by hiding them in a walk-in freezer.

A news report referred to Coulibaly's "fluent French and broken Arabic." Having come home to roost, the West's imperialist chickens are less likely to fit the profile. Only cooperation across faiths and cultures can save us from endless retributive justice. Defending secular freedoms against racism and sectarianism is the best response to Marine Le Pen.

Read Blade editor Kevin Naff's bracing editorial here.

The Dream of Reconciliation

The New Yorker writes:

Barry Blitt drew next week’s cover, inspired by the photographs of the Selma-to-Montgomery march that are everywhere again. “It struck me that King’s vision was both the empowerment of African-Americans, the insistence on civil rights, but also the reconciliation of people who seemed so hard to reconcile,” he said. “In New York and elsewhere, the tension between the police and the policed is at the center of things. Like Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, Martin Luther King was taken way too early. It is hard to believe things would have got as bad as they are if he was still around today.”

Beautiful.

There is no faith but theirs

This 'winger video appears to suggest that the fired Atlanta fire chief was the only Christian working for the Atlanta government. I mean, if Atlanta will no longer allow Christians to hold jobs, then either there's a massive purge about to happen, or he was the only one. Never mind the fact that the mayor who fired him was also Christian. If you don't agree with the most extreme and intolerant version of Christianity, the nut jobs won't even acknowledge your faith. Because there is no religion but theirs. And guess which major party is fine with this insanely obnoxious and socially destructive position?

January 12, 2015

Netanyahu and Abbas join heads of state at Paris march against hatred

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(Reuters photo)

The Independent reports:

France’s President Francois Hollande asked Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu not to attend Paris’s phenomenal march against hatred on Sunday, claiming that his presence would be divisive, it has been reported.

The unity rally in Paris was fronted by more than 50 world leaders, who all linked arms as they led the march from the Place de la République in eastern Paris, where 1.5 million people gathered to honour the 17 victims of last week’s bloody massacre that left the country reeling.

In an unprecedented show of solidarity, the Israeli Prime Minister was seen marching just four people apart from Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, while Prime Minister David Cameron’s appearance marked his first ever street march. Demonstrators carried placards brandishing the phrases “I am Charlie” and “I am Jewish”.

Well there's a shot you don't see every day. British PM David Cameron is out of frame to the left.

Notably absent from the massive rally, which was attended by some three million people, was any representative from the Obama administration. This report from WSJ is an example of the coverage. Of course the right wing would have attacked the President whether he attended or not. Had he been there, "Obama marches with Abbas" would have been one of the headlines. I thought he should have gone. I am sure we will hear more on this, since endless attacks on this president are what some people seem to live for.

January 09, 2015

While Europe gathers to rebuke terror, Bill Donohue blames the victims

NYT describes the above video:

Explosions and gunfire were heard at a printing plant outside Paris where the two brothers suspected in the Charlie Hebdo attacks were killed.

As people across Europe gathered to express their outrage at the military-style execution of a dozen people at the satirical Paris weekly, Charlie Hebdo, Catholic League troll Bill Donohue blamed the victims for bringing it on themselves.

Below, a massive rally at the Place Royale in Nantes, France was one of many across Europe in solidarity with those murdered at the satirical Paris weekly, Charlie Hebdo.

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'A medieval form of unreason'

Frank Kameny would have said much the same.

January 08, 2015

ICYMI: Putting It Together in 2015

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My column looking at the year ahead appears in this week's Blade, revised a bit. Here's an excerpt:

2015 promises continued fights against right-wing aggressions that include vagina policing and other gender-based discrimination; attacks on church-state separation; xenophobia; quackery disguised as science; biased profiling and excessive force by police; and criminalization of healthcare issues.

None of these will be resolved by the likely nationwide victory for marriage equality in the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus, in the words of Ella Baker, "We who believe in freedom cannot rest." Here are some thoughts for the work ahead.

Curb the language cops. We will win the marriage fight even if some use the misleading phrase "gay marriage." If people who are not belligerent use the wrong pronouns or otherwise display their ignorance, be like my amazingly patient transgender friends and politely clue them in. Creating change requires the politics of addition; we must always seek new ways to connect with people.

Read the whole thing here.

January 03, 2015

January 10 - Justice For Leelah Alcorn Rally & March

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On Saturday, January 10 at 2 pm, a rally and march will be held in D.C. for Ohio transgender youth Leelah Alcorn, who was recently driven to her death by intolerance and abuse. The rally will be held at Mt. Vernon Square/Washington DC Convention Center. The organizers write:

"My Death Needs To Mean Something"

Join us January 10th as we gather in honor of Leelah's wishes to stand up for the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming people everywhere.

This event will consist of a few speakers followed by a march.

For more information on the circumstances surrounding the death of Leelah Alcorn, as well as to read her final message, please see the following (warning: suicide and transphobia trigger warnings apply): http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2014/12/transgender-teen-struck-and-killed-on-ohio-interstate-in-apparent-suicide/

If you or someone you know is transgender or gender non-conforming and feeling suicidal, please know that there is a suicide hotline dedicated to transgender people that you can call: http://www.translifeline.org/

January 02, 2015

Public Servant of the Year: St. Louis Alderman Antonio French

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My choice for Public Servant of the Year is St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who came to my attention in August 2014 as I looked on Twitter for firsthand accounts of the street protests in Ferguson, Missouri following the death of Michael Brown. His Twitter handle (@AntonioFrench) kept coming up. Lauren Williams at Vox described French in action:

Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman, has been a constant presence in Ferguson, Missouri, since Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9. On Twitter and Vine, French has fearlessly documented the nightly protests. Friday night, after days of largely nonviolent demonstrations, a handful of what he calls "troublemakers" changed the tone and began looting several stores in the area. Read French's description of how he, local activist Anthony Shahid, and others tried to stop them, and why it was best for police to keep their distance and let the events play out....

In the photo below by Robert Cohen (@kodacohen) of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, French is helping to hold back some youths for their safety. French routinely put himself at risk to help others, and maintained a steady and reliable voice for justice. Kudos to him.

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January 01, 2015

Putting It Together in 2015

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(Photo by See-ming Lee, United Nations Africa Renewal)

My look at the year ahead in LGBT activism is now up at Bay Windows. Here's an excerpt:

From a liberal perspective, 2015 promises continued fights against right-wing aggressions that include vagina policing and other gender-based discrimination; attacks on church-state separation; xenophobia; quackery disguised as science; biased profiling and excessive force by police; and criminalization of healthcare issues.

None of these will be resolved by the likely nationwide victory for marriage equality in the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus, in the words of Ella Baker, "We who believe in freedom cannot rest." Here are some thoughts for the work ahead.

Read the whole thing here.

Dan Savage on Leelah Alcorn's parents

He doesn't mean that literally, of course. But their treatment of their transgender daughter was tantamount to throwing her in front of that tractor trailer. A child is not a parent's property, to be sculpted or abused at the parent's whim. We are talking about a human being with a mind and spirit and life and talents and dreams of her own. We have to protect our youth better than that.

December 31, 2014

Our Lives Matter PSA

Yesha Callahan at The Root reports on this PSA about black boys being profiled by the police.

2014 year in review: Athletes and Ambassadors

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My year-in-review is now up at the Washington Blade. Here is an excerpt:

Military and international. The transition to openly gay military service has gone so smoothly it has generated little news. The fight to end discrimination against transgender service members continues; two dozen have been discharged in the past two years. The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lawsuit by Sexual Minorities Uganda against Scott Lively for crimes against humanity can proceed. In diplomatic news, Ted Osius III joined a growing list of openly gay envoys when he was sworn in as ambassador to Vietnam.

Health. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led 80 senators and House members in urging an end to the lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with men, calling for science to replace stereotypes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for wider use of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention, despite strong opposition by Michael Weinstein of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. There have been no new HIV infections among more than 500 Kaiser Permanente customers using PrEP. New York and the District of Columbia adopted rules forbidding health insurers from denying medically necessary treatment to transgender people. D.C. joined California and New Jersey in passing legislation banning "ex-gay" conversion therapy for minors.

Media. Schadenfreude was rampant after Sean Eldridge failed in his bid to buy a congressional seat and husband Chris Hughes provoked a mass walkout at The New Republic by sacking top editors. Hughes was faulted for wrecking a century-old magazine in his effort to create a "vertically integrated digital media company," that is, a word salad. Former TNR writer Jamie Kirchick at The Daily Beast dubbed them "America's worst gay power couple," but their youthful hubris and confusion of wealth for wisdom transcend sexual orientation.

Read the whole thing here.

December 28, 2014

The officer who did not turn his back

Kudos to the brave officer who resisted peer pressure and did not turn his back on Mayor de Blasio. He doubtless knows that having "the talk" with one's black son (see Springsteen, "41 Shots") is simply responsible parenting, not advocating violence against police.

December 22, 2014

Unity in mourning lost fathers

In the saddest of moments, a glimmer of hope for understanding and reconciliation.