Wednesday, April 26, 2006

MAD Mag Satirizes Dick Cheney's Life; "Brokebutt" Too!

The new issue of MAD magazine arrived in the mail earlier this week and my funny bone was tickled pink reading over the satire of "Brokeback Mountain" and a look at the secret life of our lovable Veep.

If you haven't read MAD magazine lately because you're too much of an adult smarty-pants who can't be bothered reading that juvenile magazine, you are missing out on some witty, goofy and politically pointed barbs that could you give a few chuckles, if not outright bouts of laughter. Pick up a copy today, or do like me, and the Prez, and take out a paid subscription. You just know MAD is read in the White House family quarters.

And let's always remember how humor will play an increasingly larger role in helping us get through the remaining years of the Dubya administration.

A Day in the Life of Dick Cheney

"Brokebutt Mountain"

Be a size queen! Click on the MAD images and watch them grew! Makes it much easier to read the satires.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Fox Pollster = Gay Democratic Donor to Clinton, Kerry & HRC

I experienced tremendous schadenfreude last week when reading about the latest poll, this one from Fox News, showing a new low in approval ratings for President Bush. Not only did the poll reveal a continuing slide for Bush, the pollster for Fox News, John Gorman of Opinion Dynamics, believes GOP candidates are uncomfortable with the president's policies and how they may hurt them when voters turn out in the fall.

"It seems clear that many Republicans, while they may still like and support George Bush, are growing uneasy with what may happen to their candidates — and the policies they support — in the November elections," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman.

Since I know Fox News does not bar its journalists or executives from donating to politicians, I thought to look at Gorman's Federal Election Commission records and see how much he's given to Bush, other GOP politicians and Republican PACs.

Boy, was I wrong with that assumption. Gorman has been a longtime donor to Democratic contenders, including Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, he has also supported the Democratic National Committee, and, to top it off, he's written many checks to a handful of gay politicians and to the Human Rights Campaign, the gay wing of the Democratic Party.

After much searching for at least one donation from Gorman to a GOP politician, I found it. Gorman contributed $250 in 2002 to a gay Republican in Massachusetts in a bid for state office.

If there's a FEC listing showing a single donation from Gorman to any national GOP office-seeker, I couldn't locate it.

Never in my wildest thoughts would I have entertained a notion that Fox News' pollster would be a big backer of Democratic candidates and PACS, not to mention openly gay politicians, because this news outlet is so closely aligned with Bush and the conservative agenda.

Well, I try to learn something new every day and what I learned here is that a Democratic donor is in bed, politically speaking, with Fox News, showing that Murdoch's media empire is not totally riddled with GOP conservatives doing everything they can to undermine the Democrats and demonize the gay community. Gorman working for Fox News clearly demonstrates the channel employs gays and Democrats.

Before posting this, I called Gorman at his office in Cambridge and he confirmed he is openly gay and a veteran supporter of Democrats. Gorman's acknowledgements about his gayness and Democratic Party donations precludes any claim that I'm outing him, because you can't out someone who's already out of the closet.

I'm simply bringing some attention to how the Fox News' pollster is a Democratic donor and a gay man.

Here are Gorman's FEC-listed donations and his contributions made in Massachusetts.

FEC Donations

Democratic Candidates Who Received Gorman Donations:
















Gorman's Donations to the Democratic National Committee




Gay Democratic Groups or Candidates Gorman Gave To:






















Gorman's Massachusetts' Donations

Gay Democratic Candidates Gorman Donated To:

Barrios, Jarrett T.

Barrios, Jarrett T.

Barrios, Jarrett T.

Barrios, Jarrett T.

Barrios, Jarrett T.

Barrios, Jarrett T.


GOP MA Gay Candidate Who Received A Donation From Gorman

Guerriero, Patrick


MA Democrats Gorman Donated To:

Musiol, Jr, Rick

Decker, Marjorie C.

O'Brien, Shannon P.

Reilly, Thomas F.

Klocke, James F.

Green, Avi

Menino, Thomas M.

Murphy, Brian P.

Jehlen, Patricia D.

Murphy, Brian P.

Havern III, Robert A.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

State Dept Silent on Murder of HIV Poz Kenyan Boy

Last week POZ magazine reported on the tragic killing of a 15-year-old HIV positive youth in Kenya:

April 13, 2006—At a funeral this week for a 15-year-old Kenyan boy beaten to death by his uncle for being HIV positive, the director of the Kenya Network of Women With AIDS said she would organize protests if the man is not arrested soon. The boy, Isaiah Gakuyo, was born with HIV.

A friend in Washington today sent me an update from the Reuters news wire about a demonstration in the streets of Nairobi protesting this brutal murder:

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Several hundred Kenyan AIDS activists took to the
streets of Nairobi on Thursday to protest at the killing of an
HIV-infected boy, whom they say was hacked with a garden fork by his
uncle because of his status.

A week after 15-year-old Isaiah Gakuyo was killed in Nyeri in central
Kenya, police were still looking for his uncle, who was the orphaned
boy's guardian.

About 300 people demonstrated on Thursday, saying the killing
highlighted the stigma faced by those living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya.

"The boy was facing violence on a daily basis," said Inviolata Mwali
Mmbwavi, one of the march organisers who runs a group working with
Kenyan AIDS victims. "We don't want this to happen again," she added to
Reuters. [...]

So far, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has failed to say anything about the boy's death, the State Department has not issued a condemnation of the killing, and the matter has not been broached at the department's daily press briefings since the death was reported.

OutRage! UK: Iran's Murder of Gays

Our friends across the pond in OutRage! UK sent this long report on the plight of our gay family members in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and since it's not posted elsewhere on the web just yet, I've decided to make it available here. Of course, I truly hope this report generates concern for Iranian gays from more Americans and gay rights groups in the U.S.


Iran's state murder of gays

Victims framed for kidnap and rape

"Deportation would be a death sentence"

Asylum urged for gay Iranian refugees

London – 20 April 2006

The Iranian government is executing gay and bisexual men under the
cover of rape and kidnapping charges, according to a major new
investigation by Simon Forbes of the UK-based gay and lesbian human
rights group OutRage!

Mr Forbes’s nine-month investigation, published today by OutRage!, is
based on information gathered from sources inside Iran. His research

- Lynchings by Iran's security forces, and 'honour killings' by
families in the south western province of Khuzestan
-Secret hangings in prison
- The method of hanging is designed to cause slow, agonising
- Internet entrapment of gay Iranians using foreign-based online gay
dating agencies
- A pattern of framing gay people on charges of kidnap, rape and
paedophilia, as the following five sample cases suggest:
- The Gorgan case where two men were publicly hanged for Lavaat
(sodomy) in November 2005
- Details of the Kermanshah case where three men were hanged in prison
in November 2005 for sodomy that was alleged to have taken the form of
the kidnap and rape of a younger male
- The Arak case of two men sentenced to death for sodomy in August
2005, which also involved the alleged kidnap and rape of a younger
male, the son of an officer
- Two cases of public execution for sodomy in Mashhad in December 2004
and July 2005 that involved suspiciously similar charges
- Claims of rape are sometimes made to save the family's honour or to
save the passive partner from execution, and are part of an Iranian
government propaganda offensive to scapegoat and demonise gay people
- Comparisons with Saudi Arabia, where it is also suggested that bogus
rape charges are levelled against gay men
- Hypocrisy of the mullah's attitudes towards the abuse of young
girls, the rape of both males and females in custody, and widespread
sodomy in religious colleges

The full, shocking report follows below.

It is the first document in a series of documents that will be
published by OutRage! in the coming weeks and months. These documents
expose the state-sanctioned torture and murder of lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people by the Iranian clerical

"Mr Forbes's pioneering investigation is based on information from
credible, verified sources inside Iran. It provides clear evidence of
homophobic honour killings, arrests, torture and executions," said
OutRage! spokesperson Peter Tatchell.

"His research confirms a pattern of framing same-sex lovers on charges
of kidnap and rape, in order to discredit them, discourage public
protests and deflect international condemnation.

"The information on which the Home Office bases its rejection of most
gay Iranian asylum claims is partial, badly researched and glosses
over gay human rights abuses by the Iranian regime.

"Until Iran's anti-gay laws are repealed, the UK, EU and US should
permanently halt the deportation of lesbian and gay Iranians. So long
as Iran criminalises same-sex relations, it will not be safe for gay
people to return to Iran.

"The decision in mid-April by the Dutch government to defer its
planned deportation of gay Iranian asylum seekers is a recognition
that deportees would be at serious risk of torture and execution.

“While we welcome the Dutch moratorium on deportations, we deplore its
temporary nature.

"Deportations are tantamount to a sentence of death. Any gay asylum
seeker sent back to Iran is likely to be arrested, tortured and

"Under the European Convention on Human Rights it is illegal to deport
people to countries like Iran where they would be at risk of torture
and execution," said Mr Tatchell.

Further information: Brett Lock 0770 843 5917


Iran – The State-Sponsored Torture & Murder of Lesbians & Gays Men

New evidence of how the clerical regime frames, defames and hangs

By Simon Forbes of OutRage! London, UK

With editorial input by Brett Lock and Peter Tatchell of OutRage!

The shocking photos of the execution of gay teenagers, Mahmoud 'Asgari
and Ayaz Marhoni, in the Iranian city of Mashhad on 19 July 2005,
bought home to many people for the first time the barbaric, inhuman
and violently homophobic nature of the Iranian clerical regime.

Their executions were, of course, just two of many state-sanctioned
murders of children, unchaste women, gay people, and ethnic, political
and religious dissidents.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been repeatedly condemned by Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch for widespread and severe human
rights abuses, including abuses of lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender people.

Limited official information about sodomy executions

Detailed and reliable figures concerning Iranian executions for Lavaat
(sodomy) are hard to come by, as the government rarely gives out
information concerning its criminal justice system. It seems
particularly reluctant to provide statistics on sodomy cases, much as
Britain and Europe were reluctant to reveal the true scale of
executions in the days when sodomy was a capital offence.

Homan, an Iranian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) exile
group, estimated that around 4,000 people had been executed for Lavaat
from 1979 until the mid-1990s. An attempt to set up a gay organisation
in the early 1980s led to 70 executions. Around 100 gay people were
sentenced to death following one raid on one private party in 1992.

A very large number were executed, or rather lynched without trial, as
the Ayatollahs began to hijack the Iranian Revolution by the end of
1979. Those killed reportedly included foreign visitors. That year gay
activists from the Lavender Crescent Society in San Francisco were
taken from the airport in Tehran shortly after their arrival and
summarily shot dead. [2] Gay and bisexual men were quite literally
hanged from trees at that time. Executions of lesbians took place as
well. [3] Additional ‘smokescreen’ charges, such as rape and kidnap,
were rarely made, seemingly because there was very little
international interest or protest at these widespread killings of LGBT
people. Since the world did not care much about the execution of
queers in those days, the tyrants in Tehran felt no need to disguise
their actions and motives.

Executions for sodomy are believed to be at a lower level in recent
years, although it may simply be that they conducted in secret and are

An informed Iranian source, for whom English is his second language,
told OutRage!: "Having said that the authority do not systematically
looking for gays in every corner to find and execute them does not
mean that the authority have changed their opinion or are somehow more
gay friendly now." [4]

According to Iranian informants, two, or possibly three, gay men were
executed in prison in the city of Khoramabad without any publicity in
the early part of 2005. [5]

OutRage!'s sources in Iran acknowledge that in small pockets of the
country, principally in the wealthier parts of Tehran, it is sometimes
possible for same-sex couples to live discretely with each other;
albeit with the ever present danger that they might be exposed and
face lethal punishment. In truth, nowhere in Iran is truly safe.

To say that some parts of Iran are safer than others for queers in
2006 is the equivalent of saying that some parts of Germany were safer
than others for Jews in 1935.

Our Iranian informants are at pains to stress that although gays are
not the number one target of the regime and although there is not a
permanent, systematic, universal witch-hunt of LGBT people in every
corner of the country at all times, this does not mean gays are not at

Gay and bisexual men can meet in certain parks. They can contact each
other via gay chat rooms on foreign-based gay websites. Private gay
parties do take place in the major cities.

But this all happens very discretely and is very dangerous. The
participants risk entrapment, arrest, torture and even execution.

In other words, some gay life exists in Iran but it is underground and
precarious. An OutRage! contact inside the country is adamant (in his
own unedited words, as a second-language English speaker):

"It [the holding of secret gay parties and so on] does NOT mean that
gays are not executed and killed because of their sexuality. In Iran,
everything depends on which city or which part of the country you are
living in, and it depends on the judges as well. Unfortunately many of
gays arrest or killing are not reported in the media." [6]

Internet entrapment of gay men

To catch gay men, the Iranian authorities are increasingly resorting
to entrapment via internet chat rooms. They arrange a date online,
turn up at the agreed rendezvous point, and then arrest and charge the

This is confirmed by Amir, a 22-year-old gay Iranian from the city of
Shiraz, who was arrested by Iran’s morality police.

Through a Persian translator, Amir gave the US journalist Doug Ireland
a firsthand account of the anti-gay crackdown.

Ireland wrote it up on his blog:

'Amir set up a meeting with a man he met through a Yahoo gay chat
room. When his date turned out to be a member of the sex police, Amir
was arrested and taken to Intelligence Ministry headquarters, "a very
scary place," he says. "There I denied that I was gay—but they showed
me a printout from the chat room of my messages and my pictures."

'Then, says Amir, the torture began. "There was a metal chair in the
middle of the room—they put a gas flame under the chair and made me
sit on it as the metal seat got hotter and hotter. They threatened to
send me to an army barracks where all the soldiers were going to rape
me. The leader told one of the other officers to take [a soft drink]
bottle and shove it up my ass, screaming, 'This will teach you not to
want any more cock!' I was so afraid of sitting in that metal chair as
it got hotter and hotter that I confessed. Then they brought out my
file and told me that I was a 'famous faggot' in Shiraz. They beat me
up so badly that I passed out and was thrown, unconscious, into a
holding cell.

'"When I came to, I saw there were several dozen other gay guys in the
cell with me. One of them told me that after they had taken him in,
they beat him and forced him to set up dates with people through chat
rooms—and each one of those people had been arrested; those were the
other people in that cell with me."

'Eventually tried, Amir was sentenced to 100 lashes. "I passed out
before the 100 lashes were over. When I woke up, my arms and legs were
so numb that I fell over when they picked me up from the platform on
which I'd been lashed. They had told me that if I screamed, they would
beat me even harder—so I was biting my arms so hard, to keep from
screaming, that I left deep teeth wounds in my own arms."

'After this entrapment and public flogging, Amir's life became
unbearable. He was rousted regularly at his home by the basiji (a
para-police made up of thugs recruited from the criminal classes and
the lumpen unemployed) and by agents of the Office for Promotion of
Virtue and Prohibition of Vice, which represses "moral
deviance"—things like boys and girls walking around holding hands,
women not wearing proper Islamic dress and prostitution.

'Says Amir, "In one of these arrests, Colonel Javanmardi told me that
if they catch me again that I would be put to death, 'just like the
boys in Mashhad.' He said it just like that, very simply, very
explicitly. He didn’t mince words. We all know that the boys who were
hanged in Mashhad were gay—the rape charges against them were trumped
up, just like the charges of theft and kidnapping against them. When
you get arrested, you are forced by beatings, torture and threats to
confess to crimes you didn’t commit. It happens all the time, and has
to friends of mine."'

This compelling testimony by Amir to Doug Ireland reveals the
widespread use of internet entrapment, a threat of execution for mere
homosexuality, the torture of gay men to extract false confessions,
and the implied admission by an Iranian colonel that the youths in
Mashhad were hanged because of their sexuality – and not because they
raped and kidnapped, as was officially claimed by the Iranian
authorities at the time of their hanging.

Honour killing of LGBTs

In the some parts of Iran the risk of death for homosexuality is
extremely high, either at the hands of the security forces or at the
hands of the individual's own family. In the south western province of
Khuzestan, from which Mahmoud and Ayaz came, a gay man is known as a
raguuS or "little dancing boy", a term suggesting effeminacy and
sexual passivity. [7] Ewen Macmillan, an expert on life in the Ahwaz
region, says:

"RawaagiiS (plural of raaguuS) are generally killed in Ahwaz, by the
security forces or by their male kin, in one of three ways:
strangulation, throat-slitting or decapitation. If the homosexual
youths are killed by the security forces, their corpses -- frequently
decapitated but accompanied by their heads -- are left in the street.
Their families therefore have a certain tragic incentive to kill them
more humanely and bury them secretly. In addition, amongst Iran’s Arab
minority, male relatives of homosexual youths regard their murder as
vindicating the honour of the clan and, indeed, of their ethnic group
as a whole. [Name deleted] said that he knew of another youth from
al-Aamiri [in Ahwaz], who was a raaguuS, and who had expressed the
wish to escape Iran, but who was unfortunately killed before he was
able to do so." [8]

In some cases a member of one or other of their own families report
them to the authorities, as happened in the case of Mahmoud and Ayaz.

In Khuzestan, this included an instance where a "mother is alleged to
have found him (her son) and his lover having sex and informed the
authorities. The actions of the mother -- the consequences of which
she may at the time have been unaware -- are alleged to have resulted
in the killing of her own son." [9]

Another documented case in the same province involved Sayyid RiDa
Mussawi. Just as 'Iyaad Marhuuni used the Persian name Ayaz, RiDa used
the Persian name Shahraam about town. He was not killed by authorities
but beheaded by some his brothers and cousins in 2002 in the city of
Ahwaz/Ahvaz. The family members were arrested but they were later
released when the parents of Shahraam forgave the killers, as
permitted under Shari'a Law. Shahraam was murdered because he became
known as a raaguuS and specifically because he was known as the
partner of another gay man, who later fled to Britain. [10]

The level of honour killings varies wildly within the country. In
Tehran they are said to be rare, but in the western provinces, such as
Khuzestan, Luristan and Kurdistan, and in the south eastern province
of Baluchistan, they are said to be much more common. [11] Public
lynchings of LGBT people by the security forces also seem to be
largely confined to the rebellious province of Khuzestan where, as a
matter of course, they act outside the legal system with scarcely any
restraint or respect for the local population (Khuzestan is inhabited
by Ahwazi Arabs, who are a severely persecuted ethnic minority).

Secret executions in prisons

In recent times, many executions for Lavaat (sodomy) seem to be have
been conducted inside prisons, rather than in public. These secret
executions take place behind closed doors. They are not publicly
notified. The local population is unaware they have happened. In the
period 1979-89, public executions were much more common. According to
a former woman resident of the city of Mashhad, such hangings “were
not a rare event and homosexuals were regularly killed like that” when
she lived there. [12]

I have uncovered references to a case in 2000 or 2001, where a student
was sentenced to death for Lavaat. As is typical, his execution was
not publicised. Since it was not publicised, if the death sentence was
carried out, it probably took place in prison, not in public. We
cannot know for sure that he was hanged, but since his guilt was clear
and he had committed same-sex acts repeatedly over a long period of
time, it seems unlikely that the sentence was commuted. He was
defended by Mr K, who later gave evidence about this case at UK asylum
appeal tribunal. [13]

According to Mr K's evidence "The student had been sentenced to death
because he had confessed. They had found sperm in his body. There
was no way for him but to confess. He had carried out homosexual acts
for a long time with another student, and his room mate had realised
this and reported it to the people responsible for the dormitories,
and they had put the person under surveillance and entered the room at
the time he was arrested. He knew he would receive the death sentence
and he had confessed." [14]

The Tehran case

On 14 March 2005 two gay men were sentenced to death for consensual
Lavaat in Tehran. [15] The younger man, a wrestler, confessed that he
had shot a video of them having sex together for the purpose of
extortion. Unfortunately, the wrestler's wife found the video and out
of curiosity played it. In a fury she took it to the Qazis who watched
it as well. Both were arrested brought before the court and sentenced
to death. [16] The act committed was presumably anal sex, which is
punishable by death for the first offence.

It would appear that only the younger man confessed. Confession by one
man would not automatically lead to the conviction of the other. The
older man was therefore probably convicted through "knowledge of the
judge" under Article 120 of the Penal Code.

In practice, Lavaat is probably much easier to prove without
confession than some people think, at least in the case of the passive
partner. Medical evidence of penetration may well be sufficient. As we
have already heard, 22 year old Amir, from the city of Shiraz, was
threatened by the police that if he was sent for a medical examination
and they found penetration he would be sentenced to death. [17]

It is not known if or when the sentence in this 14 March case in
Tehran was carried out. Stoning is a possible sentence because the
young wrestler was married, and stoning is the traditional mode of
execution for married people who commit sodomy.

Otherwise, hanging is the normal method of killing 'sodomites'.
Although not as cruel as stoning, it should be born in mind that the
way it is carried out is designed to ensure that the neck is not
broken. Instead, death is induced by slow, painful strangulation.
Relatively thin ropes or even wire are often used to maximise
suffering. The knot is placed at the side of the neck to prolong the
agony. [18] We can see from photographs in the case of Mahmoud and
Ayaz that death did not come quickly. [19] The windpipe can take
several minutes to be slowly squeezed shut. [20]

The Gorgan case

Another public execution, in November 2005, was in the northern town
of Gorgan near the Caspian Sea. The sole internal Iranian press report
read as follows: "Execution of two criminals:- Gorgan – Kayhan
reporter: Sentence of execution of two people by the name of Mokhtar N
and 'Ali A for the crime of homosexuality (Lavaat) came to be carried
out in the Shaheed Bahonar Square, Gorgan. The criminal records of
these two people [included] kidnapping, knife-wielding, rape (tajaavoz
beh ‘onf), harassment and fighting. They were aged 24 and 25
respectively." [21]

The men were publicly hanged from two cranes. Unlike the Mashhad
hangings in July 2005, photography of the execution was actively
discouraged, although a poor quality picture was sent to the Persian
Gay and Lesbian Organisation. [22] A report by Iran Focus suggested
that the reason for the execution was simply for Lavaat and that the
other crimes listed were previous convictions. [23]

It was Iran Focus who spotted this small article, which could easily
have been missed. Subsequently Human Rights Watch, who are not fans of
Iran Focus, also suggested that the executions were for consensual
homosexual conduct. [24]

Amnesty International wrote to the Iranian authorities about the case.
As of early February 2006, four months later, they had received no
reply. [25] The Dutch Foreign Ministry, who have a cordial
relationship with their Iranian counterparts, were given more
consideration. The Dutch were assured that the convictions were not
for "homosexual relations" but for "kidnapping, rape and extortion".
[26] It is worth noting that the Kayhan article makes no mention of
extortion in the list of charges.

The details of the Gorgan case are unclear. The cited string of
charges could refer to past convictions or to convictions at their
trial. Moreover, the article is very badly worded. Either way, this
list of charges is all too familiar in gay cases and needs to be
treated with suspicion.

Paula Ettelbrick, of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights
Commission, said shortly after these executions: "It's clear that a
pattern is emerging in which young men are executed as couples and
that the crimes they allegedly committed always involve some form of
sexual assault of another male." [27]

The Kermanshah case

Also in November 2005, three men were hanged in a prison in the city
of Kermanshah. In this case they were accused of kidnapping and rape
(tajaavoz) of a 19 year old. [28]

For more details about this triple execution, and the executions in
the preceding Gorgan case, see Doug Ireland’s expose:

This report from Doug Ireland also includes an interview with Mojtaba,
a 27 year old gay man from the city of Shiraz. His partner was
arrested and Motjaba narrowly escaped arrest by fleeing to Turkey. The
fate of his arrested partner is unknown.

Two cases in Mashhad

In the city of Mashhad, there have been two relatively recent cases of
pairs of males being executed, at least one of which involved
juveniles. Both instances involved an almost identical string of
charges. There is the hanging of Mahmoud and Ayaz in July 2005. The
other case was at the end of December 2004 and was reported in the
Iranian newspaper Kayhan. [29]

Evidence received from people in Mashhad confirms that the hanged gay
teenagers, Mahmoud 'Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, were lovers, not rapists
as the regime alleges. Moreover, extensive investigations reveal that
the regime's claims against the youths are riddled with
inconsistencies, contradictions and implausibilities. A major
investigative report will be released soon, exposing the fabrications
and lies of the Iranian regime concerning these two executed gay

In both the Mashhad cases, sodomy charges appear to have been
embroidered with additional, non-consensual charges, probably in part
to discourage international condemnation and protests. The authorities
presumably reasoned that there would not be much international
sympathy for people executed for sexual assault.

As we have seen in each of these different cases, whenever men are
executed for sodomy, the defendants are invariably accused of the
kidnap and rape of a younger male. Such allegations need to be treated
with extreme scepticism, as they tend to follow a suspiciously
stereotypical formula.

The tactic of defaming the victims

This current tactic of adding charges of rape, child abuse and kidnap
to the sodomy charges against gay and bisexual men is in marked
contrast to the early days of the Islamic Republic. In the 1980s, a
period when even most western democracies were avowedly homophobic,
there was no need to disguise the execution of homosexuals. No one
gave a damn. Even Amnesty International ignored the plight of
terrorised LGBT people.

Since the early days of theocratic rule in Iran, much of world has
moved on, with a growing understanding of LGBT people, and an
increased revulsion against homophobic persecution.

The Iranian dictatorship now realises it is not good PR to execute
people for merely being gay. That risks an international outcry. To
pre-empt condemnation, the Iranians now craftily pin on same-sex
lovers additional charges involving paedophilia, violence and rape. It
is a clever tactic that has hook-winked even some human rights

There may be a further explanation for the standard Iranian formula of
charges of homosexuality being often accompanied by charges of kidnap
and rape. The regime clearly does not want its people to view same-sex
relations as something a respectable person might engage in with
consent. That could present Lavaat as something desirable and
positive, and this might encourage tolerance – and even curiosity and
experimentation. The clerical regime wants to depict sodomy in the
worst possible light to deter and discourage its practice. To do this,
it needs to present gay and lesbian people as repellent, dangerous
individuals. In these circumstances, the mere charge of Lavaat is not
sufficient. To prompt revulsion and support for executions,
homosexuality needs to be associated in the public mind with violence
and child abuse.

This is a very familiar tactic used by despotic regimes to discredit
and marginalise dissidents. History teaches us that scapegoated and
demonised minorities are often subjected to false smears and slurs,
sometimes of a sexual nature. During the period of segregation in the
southern United States, for example, false charges of rape were often
pinned on young black men, and these charges were then used to justify
lynchings or judicial executions. As we know, the real motive was to
punish black men for consensual interracial sex, while 'saving' the
reputation of white women.

Comparisons with Saudi executions

As in Iran, it is not uncommon in Saudi Arabia for allegations of
sodomy by force to accompany allegations of consensual sodomy.

There have been at least two cases of multiple executions of
'sodomites' in the Saudi city of Abha in recent years - six were
beheaded in 2000 and three were beheaded 2002. In one of these cases
we are asked to believe that in a society where homosexuality is taboo
they went round assaulting various people who apparently knew of and
disapproved of their behaviour. In both these cases, it was claimed
they had sodomised young boys in addition to each other. [30]

Such claims must be treated with great scepticism. For a start, Saudi
Arabia is a country that makes liberal use of torture to get
confessions. Furthermore, the motive in fabricating stories of 'male
rape' or 'child abuse' by 'sodomites' is almost certainly to neuter
any international outcry over the executions. It is hoped that people
in the West will conclude "it served them right".

The Arak case

In the city of Arak in Iran, two men were sentenced to death for
Lavaat towards the end of August 2005. [31] Their case seems to have
been under appeal. The rumour that they were due to be executed on 28
August appears to have been false, as they hadn’t even been tried when
that rumour first circulated. [32] It was claimed that they were
attracted to another man who refused their advances. It was further
alleged that they abducted this man and forcibly sodomised him. Some
sources within Iran regard this story as plausible. There was medical
evidence used to prove penetration, although this penetration could,
of course, have been consensual. [33]

Some Iranians are, however, still doubtful and fear that this, too,
may be a trumped up charge. One cause of such suspicions is that the
alleged victim was said to be the son of an officer. [34] Sources
suggest the father was an officer in the regular army, the Artesh. The
allegation of forced sex may have been made to save the family the
shame of having a 'sodomite' son.

No further information has been forthcoming about the Arak case since
last August. We do not know whether these men have been executed or
are still on death row.

Claims of rape to avoid execution

Claims of sexual assault by the passive partner are not uncommon in
Iranian sodomy cases, as they know this is their only chance of
escaping death. I recall a case about 15 to 20 years ago (the full
details of which I no longer possess), in which two men who lived with
each other were being tried for sodomy. One claimed that the other man
had kept forcing him into sodomy and doing to him all manner of other
same-sex acts, including forcible fellatio. The other man sat
listening to all this impassively, but at one point said words to the
effect: "he was a gay and wanted sex". The mullahs believed the latter
man and they were both sentenced to death and executed.

Iran's hypocrisy concerning sexual abuse

It would be a serious mistake to think that the regime is genuinely
concerned about preventing sexual violence and the sexual abuse of

The late ruler of Iran, Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, treated lightly the
subject of sex with young girls. He said:

"A man can marry a girl younger than nine years of age, even if the
girl is still a baby being breastfed. A man, however, is prohibited
from having intercourse with a girl younger than nine, other sexual
act such as for[e]play, rubbing, kissing and sodomy is allowed. A man
having intercourse with a girl younger than nine years of age has not
co[m]mitted a crime, but only an infraction, if the girl is not
permanently damaged. If the girl, however, is permanently damaged, the
man must provide for her all her life." [35] Khomeini himself married
his wife, Batul, in 1930 when she was aged ten and he was 28 [36]

Rape of both males and females is not uncommon among those held in
custody. Women and girls on death row are often raped by prison
guards the night before the execution to ensure they are not virgins
and do not go to paradise. [37] Sometimes the Mullahs join in with the
prison guards. [38]

Amnesty International has evidence that prisoners are subjected to
"various forms of sexual abuse, including rape of both men and women
prisoners. Many former prisoners interviewed by Amnesty International
became so distressed when asked about sexual abuse that they broke
down and could not describe their experiences." [39]

Hypocritically, the regime tacitly sanctions this sexual violation of
prisoners. It is a known method of torture, used by the regime to
break the will of detainees and to get them to make confessions to
crimes, both real and imaginary.

It should not, of course, be suggested that such sexual abuse is
unique to Iran or unknown in the supposedly "civilized" West. A gay
asylum seeker aged 17, who had fled to Britain in 2002, was repeatedly
subjected to sexual assaults by staff at a UK asylum reception centre.
[40] This resulted in serious mental trauma.

People of low social status in any country can be abused in this way
because the authorities know they won’t be deemed to be credible
complainants. Just as LGBT people are considered worthless by the
regime in Iran, so are asylum seekers in the UK, especially gay asylum
seekers. The Home Office views them with suspicion and contempt. Most
are refused refugee status.

Another unofficially tolerated form of Lavaat (sodomy) occurs in
religious colleges. Iranians tell me that young trainee mullahs will
often have sex with each other in such places, with impunity. The
rules of Islam are apparently for others, not themselves. It is not
just the Anglican and Catholic churches that are full of sexual

On this evidence, many of Iran’s Islamic judges, the Qazis, who
pronounce sentences of death on sodomites, are likely to have engaged
in same-sex relations.

They order the whipping and hanging of men and teenage boys for acts
they have probably done themselves when younger. They are not much
different in this respect from skinhead and other ‘queer bashers’ who
attack obvious 'queers' while having guilt-ridden sex within their own
peer group.

Conclusion: The Islamic Republic of Iran is qualitatively more
homophobic than almost any other state on earth. Its
government-promoted and religious-sanctioned torture and execution of
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people marks out Iran as a
state acting in defiance of all agreed international human rights


[1] Peter Tatchell in Gay Times October 1995

[2] Johann Hari in Attitude 20th May 2004

[3] Amir Taheri 1985 p263

[4] Letter to Outrage! 04th August 2005

[5] E-mail from Iran to Outrage! 05th August 2005

[6] Letter to Outrage! 4th August 2005

[7] Evidence of Ewen Macmillan in asylum appeal of ‘X’ 10th June 2004

[8] Evidence of Ewen Macmillan in asylum appeal of ‘X’ 10th June 2004

[9] Evidence of Ewen Macmillan in asylum appeal of ‘X’ 10th June 2004

[10] Evidence of Ewen Macmillan in asylum appeal of ‘X’ 10th June

[11] Evidence of Ewen Macmillan in asylum appeal of ‘X’ 10th June 2004
& personal communication

[12] Letter to Pink Paper 1st September 2005

[13] RM and BB (Homosexuals) Iran CG [2005] UKIAT 00117 p13

[14] RM and BB (Homosexuals) Iran CG [2005] UKIAT 00117 p13

[15] Ettemaad 1383/12/25 (15th March 2005) [7th article in link]ÍæÇÏË

[16] Ettemaad 1383/12/25 (15th March 2005)

[17] Doug Ireland in Gay City News, 22nd September 2005

[18] Dr. Hamiz 2004 & Saleha Darani

[19] Simon Forbes – Place of Martyrdom, April 2006 p3

[20] Dr. Hamiz 2004 & Saleha Darani

[21] Kayhan 1384/08/22 (13th November 2005) translated with input from
Bahram Soroush and Hadi Ghaemi.

[22] E-mail from Payam Shirazi to Simon Forbes, 22nd January 2006

[23] Iran Focus 13th November 2005

[24] Human Rights News, 22nd November 2005

[25] Amnesty International - AI Index: MDE 13/010/2006, 16th February

[26] Letter by Rita Verdonk 5403360/06/DVB, 28th February 2006 p2/5

[27] IGLHRC Press Release 16th November 2005

[28] Iran Newspaper 1384/08/30 (21st November 2005)

[29] Kayhan 1383/10/12 (1st January 2005)

[30] Planet Out 14th July 2000; Reuters 01st January 2002; Washington
Blade 11th January 2002

[31] ISNA Markazi 1384/05/25 (15th August 2005)
ISNA Markazi 1384/06/01(22nd August 2005)

[32] Samii letter in Michael Petrelis blog 29th August 2005

[33] Michael Petrelis blog 15th August 2005

[34] Michael Petrelis blog 15th August 2005

[35] Khomeini trans Parvin Darabi

[36] Amir Taheri 1985 pp 89-90

[37] Dr. Hamiz 2004 & Saleha Darani

[38] Doug Ireland 18th August 2005

[39] Iran: Briefing (1987, page 10) in Evidence of Ewen Macmillan in
asylum appeal of ‘X’ 10th June 2004 p24

[40] HS (Homosexuals: Minors, Risk on Return) Iran [2005] UKAIT 00120,
page 12

Sunday, April 16, 2006

FEC: Kerry's Presidential Campaign Has $13 Million in Cash

The PoliticalMoneyLine on Sunday provided a round up of Democratic presidential candidates, past and maybe future hopefuls, and their recent filings.

This is what the money-tracking site had to say about the 2004 loser who couldn't oust a moron from the Oval Office and part of his financial situation:

John Kerry’s Presidential Campaign still has $13.8 million in cash. The John Kerry for President has cash-on-hand of $8,556,597, even after transferring out $600,000 to his U.S. Senate campaign committee, the Friends of John Kerry. The Kerry-Edwards 2004 Inc General Election Legal Accounting Compliance Fund still has cash-on-hand of $5,275,171, even after paying $129,875 for legal services.

More than two years after Kerry lost to George W. Bush, I still do not understand why the senator didn't spend every dime to win the White House. Were there really no get-out-the-vote efforts or TV spots and radio spots and online banner ads that could have used funding from Kerry and put him in the Oval Office, especially in Ohio?

What about Kerry's running mate and his PAC? Seems to be having a hard time raising cash.

Former Sen. John Edwards’ PAC, One America Committee, reported raising $286,842 and spending $302,722, leaving cash-on-hand of $7,159, and debts of $108,279.

And this is a boring footnote about the Democrats, though I should probably be careful when using that term when speaking about Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who often relishes being Bush's Democratic lapdog. Curious that this fund had reason to spend money on polling.

The Gore/Lieberman General Election Legal and Accounting Compliance Fund reported transferring $40,000 to Gore 2000, Inc. that then paid $40,000 to Penn Schoen Berland Inc. on 3/22 for “polling.”

Last but not least, Mark Warner appears to have no trouble bringing in funds in the six-figures, then using the money for campaign expenses.

Forward Together PAC, the federal PAC of former Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia, reported raising $1,850,171 and spending of $1,100,588, leaving cash-on-hand of $3,242,110. The PAC raised $1.8 million from individuals. Two hundred and sixty four donors identified themselves as attorneys, giving a total of $371,375. The top seven states of donors were Virginia ($325,858), New York ($307,150), Texas ($208,864), Massachusetts ($199,475), DC ($174,560), Maryland ($149,740), and California ($125,108), amongst others.

Should Kerry decide he wants another shot at the White House in 2008, he's got quite a war-chest with which to wage his campaign, a fact that might scare off possible Democratic contenders as we get closer to the next presidential election.
(Haydar Faiek, a 40-year-old Iraqi transgender beaten and burned to death in Sept. 2005 in Baghdad)

Doug Ireland: Antigay Abuses in Iraq & UN Reports

Longtime journalist and progressive advocate Doug Ireland continued his excellent reporting last week on the torturous and deadly living conditions of gays in Iraq on his blog and in NYC's Gay City News.

A report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has confirmed that gay Iraqis have been targeted for kidnapping and murder because of their sexual orientation.

This U.N. report, released April 10 by the UNOCHA‘s IRIN news and information service, described the widespread increase in kidnappings for ransom and the subsequent killings of university professors and teachers—350 in the past five months alone—and quoted Iraqi Interior Ministry official Ra’ad Hassan as saying that “roughly 50 kidnappings take place countrywide every day.” [...]

The U.N. report said that Iraq’s gay community is one of those targeted “for reasons other than ransom money,” and said that one local non-governmental organization reported that “members of Iraq’s small gay community had received more than 70 threats from kidnappers in the past two months, while 12 have been killed.”

You can read Ireland's other recent Gay City News article about death squads targeting gays in Iraq here.

I fear that if we didn't have Ireland bringing these important foreign matters to our attention, we'd never know about the antigay developments in too many parts of the world.

After digesting Ireland's reporting on the horrors facing gays in Iraq, two questions come to mind.

First, why are gay and mainstream news outlets not reporting on all of this antigay abuse? I would think writing about gays in Iraq would be a fresh angle to the war over there and be of keen interest to many Americans, but I am unaware of any other U.S. media picking up on Ireland's articles and the new U.N. report.

Second, U.S. gay groups have yet to comment on the plight of Iraqi gays, never mind pledge any kind of support for them. Silence is not golden when it comes to gays beyond America's borders.

Hey Human Rights Campaign and National Gay & Lesbian Task Force -- say something on behalf of our extended gay family in Iraq. Please. Their safety and lives may depend on your speaking out!

If you need more documentation from the U.N. about what life for gays was like under Saddam Hussein and the current conditions under which gays live in the war-torn country, read this February report:

BAGHDAD, 5 Feb 2006 (IRIN) - Living in the shadow of religious pressure and social discrimination, medical student Ahmed Fatah says there’s no way he could ever tell anyone about his sexuality.

"I devote most of my time to my studies to forget about the discrimination I face from society. People see me as a very successful guy, but inside my soul I’m very sad," Fatah said.

"I’m sad because our society dictates that I must marry one of the girls in the neighbourhood because it’s religious law," he added.

Homosexuality remains a taboo subject in this Muslim society.

"What for me is love, unfortunately, is punishable by death," Fatah lamented.

Since 2001, an amendment to the 1990 Penal Code has made homosexual behaviour between consenting adults a crime. In that year, the Revolutionary Command Council issued a decree making the offences of prostitution, homosexuality, incest and rape punishable by death, according to Amnesty International.

It is believed that the sudden introduction of the death penalty for these acts was tied to a desire by Saddam Hussein to win the support of Islamic conservatives.

The law has not been changed since the US-led invasion of the country.

Under Islamic law, the penalty for men engaging in anal sex is also death.

The new Iraqi constitution provides protection against discrimination on a variety of grounds, including sex, religion, belief, opinion and social and economic status, but fails to explicitly mention homosexuality.

However, Article 17 of the new Iraqi Constitution states that “each person has the right to personal privacy as long as it does not violate the rights of others or general morality”.

Nevertheless, discrimination against homosexuals remains rampant.

"Muslims believe that homosexual behaviour is an offence against Islam and anyone who behaves this way should be sentenced to death without compassion,” said Sheikh Ali Amar, a cleric at a mosque in the capital, Baghdad.

Under the regime of Saddam Hussein, homosexuality was punished using the harshest of methods, often involving torture.

According to estimates from the Ministry of Human Rights, more than 3,000 men were tortured by Hussein's officials for expressing their sexuality between 1991 and 2003.

"I was taken by the police in 2002 because I was seen with my partner near one of the bridges in the capital at night. We suffered for six months with torture in prison," said Maruan Kalif, who bears both physical and psychological scars.

"They raped me with the most terrible things… as I cried they hit me with their shoes and belts," Kalif recalled grimly. "I survived, but my partner died in front of my eyes."

Kalif’s partner died in prison after five days of continuous rape by officials, according to Kalif.

"The Iraqi government needs much more time to open up to the problem of homosexuality, because it’s a very sensitive case," commented Hamam Ali, a senior official at the Human Rights Ministry.

So-called “honour killing,” the murder of a family member by a relative to protect the family's reputation, often occurs in Iraq when a man is believed to be gay, according to the Human Rights Ministry.

Article 111 of the Iraqi Penal Code exempts from prosecution and punishment men who kill other men or female relatives in defence of their family's honour.

"He who discovers his wife, one of his female relatives committing adultery or a male relative engaged in sodomy and kills, wounds or injures one of them, is exempted from any penalty,” the law states.

Fifteen cases of honour killings have been reported in the past two years for crimes against homosexuals in the capital alone, according to a Baghdad-based lawyers’ association.

Abu Qussay said he killed his son after discovering he was gay. He said he was now considered a hero by his friends.

"I hanged him in my house in front of his brother to give an example to all of them and prevent them from doing the same," Qussay said proudly.

After the father of two was arrested for the murder, he was charged with the killing and then released a month later when his lawyer explained why his client had committed the crime.

"Killing for honour has been a common practice for years, and a short prison sentence for the killer is common," said Ibraheem Daud, a lawyer specialised in family crimes based in the capital.

Since 1994, Daud has been involved with nearly 65 cases of honour killings involving gay men.

Isolated and secret groups have, however, formed locally to provide support to homosexual men, despite popular discrimination.

"We’ve set up an organisation to help homosexuals suffering from discrimination and have successfully helped more than 170 people since January 2005," said Mustafa Salim, a spokesman for the Rainbow for Life organisation.

Nevertheless, most Iraqi homosexuals expect a long wait before they can openly adopt their preferred lifestyles.

"I'm not happy,” said Fatah. “I don't want to hang around with friends and talk about girls."

How many reports like this must we read from the U.N., and what number of gays in Iraq have to suffer abuse or be killed, before U.S. gay groups do something to at least call attention to the problems, maybe even help individual gay Iraqis or the fledgling Rainbow for Life group?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

(AIDS profiteer Dr. Paul Volberding)

AIDS Expert Volberding's Viatical Profited from Patients' Deaths

The word shame is not part of AIDS researcher Dr. Paul Volberding's vocabulary. For a long time he's accepted large speaking fees, honoria, stock options and support grants from HIV drug companies, while he's been a voting member on federal panels recommending treatments for AIDS and HIV-related infections. This sort of coziness between AIDS researchers and Big Pharma is standard practice and of concern to AIDS accountability activists who want real transparency applied to all such researchers.

One person providing much-needed sunshine on all of this is longtime advocate Mike Barr. Visit his site to learn more about AIDS transparency, and go here for a list of panels and committees on which Volberding serves and click here for most of his financial competing interests.

Barr recently uncovered documents showing Volberding was profiting from the deaths of people with AIDS back in the 1990s when he was a member of the board of directors of a viatical company. Read all about it here. The highlights:

Is there anything more ill considered? More ghoulish? An HIV doc positioning himself to profit from the deaths of AIDS patients?

Seems Dr. Volberding served on the board of directors of this San Francisco-based viatical settlement company until January 1997 when it was sold to Viaticus Inc.

As part of his compensation package there, Dr. Volberding was awarded options in the publicly traded company's stock (as many as 75,000). Dignity Partners went public in February of 1996 at a public offering price of $12 per share -- from which the company received net proceeds of $25M.

What Barr reports is news to me and after googling many ways for any news accounts or disclosure by Volberding and his employers, with nothing turning up, except court documents about Volberding's viatical company being sued, it appears as though Volberding's highly questionable relationship with a company that made lots of money off of AIDS patients deaths is not well-known or acknowledged.

Kudos to Barr for bringing Volberding's outrageous profiteering to the AIDS community's attention. Now, what we desperately need are improved financial transparency rules developed and applied to Volberding and all AIDS researchers.

Friday, April 14, 2006

(Lynn Cheney, mother of a lesbian daughter, at the 2003 Easter Egg Roll.)

White House to Webcast Easter Egg Roll

The director of the White House's visitors office, Sarah Armstrong, conducted an "Ask The White House" online chat on Thursday to address questions about the annual Easter Egg Roll. One participant wonder how he could be part of the event, if he can't a ticket to it. Armstrong told him, and anyone reading the transcript of the chat, that parts of the event on Monday will be webcasted.

She doesn't give any indication that the webcast will be live, but regardless of whether the event is live or tape-delayed, I'm hoping to see dozens of gay and lesbian parents with their kids, and all the other participants, having a good time hunting for eggs and chocolate Easter bunnies:

Jeff, from Encino, CA writes:
If I am unable to get tickets to the easter egg roll, is there any other way I can watch or participate?

Sara Armstrong:
Jeff, I would recommend that you log onto the White House web site on Monday morning to watch some of the day's activities. The opening ceremony is slated to begin at 9 AM Eastern. Throughout the day, we will provide coverage via webcast of a few book readings, as well as other activities on the South Lawn. Check back after the event for photos, video and a summary of the day's festivities: .

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Recent Donations by Two AP Reporters to Politicians

The Associated Press does not have an ombudsman to handle complaints about the wire's stories or questions about the ethics of its reporters making political donations, on the rare occasions when such contributions come to light.

If the AP decided to come into the modern media age and appoint an ombudsman, I'd ask that person about the propriety of AP writers giving money to politicians, even if the writers don't cover the people they've donated to.

Federal Election Commission records show on October 3, 2005, AP writer Hilary Roxe gave $1,000 to Rep. Christopher Shays, (R-CT). Click here for the actual FEC form, or go here to see Roxe's donation, as posted by NewsMeat.

After a quick search, the California secretary of state's campaign disclosure web page reveals AP writer Pedro Zayas donated $350 on March 17, 2006, to Democrat Joe Baca, Jr.'s campaign for state senate. Zayas' contribution is also found here.

The donations from these two AP reporters are just two more reasons why the AP ought to create an ombudsman's position.


[Update and correction from the AP]

Michael Petrelis

As I said in my voicemail to you a little while ago, thanks for the e-mail last night and your afterhours voicemail. We've checked out the information in your Sunday, April 9 article. Here's what we found:

Hilary Roxe left the AP before the Oct. 3, 2005 donation cited in your posting.

The Pedro A. Zayas of Los Angeles you cite in your posting as making a March 17, 2006 donation ($350 in your story, $250 on the site you link to) does not work for the AP.

Please correct your posting on both counts asap.

I'd appreciate a call to see where you got your information from, how you independently corraborated it and if you know of others who have used your erroneous data so we can set the record straight with them, too.

By the way, there's a link to The Associated Press Statement of News Values and Principles on the front page of our corporate Internet site. The direct link is

Jack Stokes
AP Corporate Communications

Saturday, April 08, 2006

HRC PAC: Who Gets Gay Money This Election?

The Washington Blade interviewed the Human Rights Campaign's executive director Joe Solmonese recently, on the one-year anniversary of being hired to head the gay group, and he was asked about HRC's political action committee:

Q: Anything new with the HRC PAC? Will it continue with its usual endorsements?

Solmonese: We're going to really focus in a significant way on going above and beyond a small set of races that we think are critically important, particularly in the Senate. We’re going to place a lot of emphasis on the Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania Senate races beyond just PAC support and financial contributions, really mobilizing our membership in a much more expansive way than we have in the past.

Q: There's been criticism in the past that HRC is a thinly disguised arm of the DNC. What do you have to say about that?

Solmonese: HRC is a bipartisan organization that advocates for our community that has done more for and given more to Republicans than anybody else, than any other GLBT group. I wonder if we've even given more than Log Cabin, although I think that's unfair given the size of our budget [...]

In looking over Federal Election Commission records for the HRC PAC, I see that the majority of their donations this election cycle, like all other cycles, goes to Democrats.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, given that in the current political climate Democrats are generally better on gay issues than Republicans, but I wonder if all the Democrats who receive money from the HRC PAC have good voting records on gay and HIV issues.

I tried to find up-to-date Congressional ratings by HRC on these issues, but their most current scorecard is from 2004, when Cheryl Jacques was head of the group, and includes ratings for presidential candidates George Bush and John Kerry. Can't HRC assign a staffer or two to revise their scorecard, and regularly update it throughout the year?

Sure do wish there were an easy way to determine if all candidates receiving HRC PAC donations have good records on HIV and gay matters.

Friday, April 07, 2006

(CDC's HIV Prevention Chief, Dr. Kevin Fenton)

CDC HIV Chief: "Gains in Reducing HIV"

I just love all the fantastic HIV data coming out from various parts of the country and around the world showing declines of new infections or a lowering of previous estimates. The new stats show remarkable similarities, and reporters are writing on the political manipulations of HIV figures by experts interested in maintaining and expanding funding streams from assorted donors.

We've read the Bay Area Reporter and the Los Angeles Times stories about drops in San Francisco, and the news in the Lakeland Ledger on Florida's falling numbers, and the pieces in the Washington Post regarding India's declines and the overestimates for Africa.

And now we can add an interview in the Advocate with the head of HIV prevention for the Centers for Disease Control, openly gay and black STD expert Dr. Kevin Fenton, in which he states the United State has also reduced HIV:

Q: As we mark the 25th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, what message would you like to share?

A: It’s really important for us to build upon the successes we’ve had in combating the epidemic. We’ve made tremendous gains in reducing HIV.

That any CDC official now claims we've succeeded reducing HIV should not be just a throwaway response in a short interview. We deserve further explanation from Fenton and the CDC about the decrease in the nation's burden of HIV infections.

A quick glance at some of the CDC's web pages for current HIV transmissions reveals the federal health agency maintains 40,000 Americans are annually infected. Click here and here for CDC's official estimate.

If what Fenton says is true, and I sure do hope it is, more details about the HIV reductions should be forthcoming from him and his division at the CDC.
LA Times: 0.48% HIV Rate for Gangs = "Time Bomb"?

Starting with the headline, the Los Angeles Times' April 5 story about a city-funded study looking at HIV and gangs, alarm was the overall tone, but that alarm is not necessarily borne out by some of the facts.

The LA Times screamed, "City Report Links Gangs to AIDS Time Bomb," conjuring up fears of an imminent explosion, playing on readers' fears about both gangs and HIV infection rates.

"The $75,000 study, among the first of its kind in the country, surveyed 300 gang members, about half of whom agreed to be tested for HIV," reported the paper. "One tested positive."

Okay, every epidemic starts with a single case of infection and we should be concerned about anyone contracting HIV, but is one person testing positive really a time bomb?

I don't think so, and because I wanted more information about the study and that one infection, I read the full study and discovered the following interesting bit of good news:

"A total of 144 HIV tests were conducted. All tests were negative. An additional 65 participants reported having been previously tested for HIV; one participant reported being HIV positive, yielding a reported prevalence of 1/209, or 0.48% among the study sample."
(See page 15.)

Hmmm, all of the HIV tests on the small sampling were negative. Guess the LA Times didn't read that part of the findings.

To the study's authors, however, who present lots and lots of pages of results about gang members' attitudes about HIV, its transmission, risky sex and drug behaviors and other issues associated with AIDS, those attitudes and that single HIV case may one day lead to an explosion of AIDS in the gang community. In the meantime, it appears as though LA Times headline writers must pump up the fear-factor, and researchers can use the paper's story to generate funds for more studies.

So the LA Times was wrong to report one person in the study tested HIV positive when the individual already knew his or her sero status, and a correction should run in the paper about this mistake.

Another news outlet, KNBC TV4, also reported on the study on their web site, with a vastly different headline and tone: "Report: Gang Members Are At High Risk Of Contracting HIV." No attempt to strike fear and alarm in that headline, to the credit of the station. And here's how the television station reported the findings:
"As part of the study, 144 of the gang members agreed to be tested for HIV; all came up with negative results. An additional 65 respondents reported that they were tested for the virus at least once between 1994 and 2005, with only one admitting to an HIV-positive result."

Regardless of both news accounts, I sense that the study's author, Stephen Simon, who is also the LA county HIV/AIDS coordinator, and others working at HIV and gang-intervention groups are disappointed the study didn't find a higher prevalence rate, and that even with zero HIV infections found out of 144 tested, Simon and colleagues still have to spin the results into alarming time bombs about to go off.

After all, who wants to read a headline that says, "LA Gangs Have 0.48% HIV Infection Rate"? You just can't frighten people and get more research money with such a truthful headline.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Pentagon Wants $400 to Search For Judy Miller Files?

The Pentagon has responded to my FOIA request for detailed records on reporter Judy Miller and they're asking for possibly up to $400 in search fees to rummage through their archive.

Basically, five months after making my request, DoD has located records that may contain some of the records I've requested, but the cost may ran in to a few hundred dollars.

I've asked for a search fee waiver, which may be granted, because I am so curious about Miller's complicated relationship with various parts of the DoD while she was employed by the New York Times.

If you're like me and want to know what documents DoD may turn up and release, then consider making a contribution so I can contact DoD and tell them to just proceed with the search, regardless of my fee waiver appeal.

Let's find out all we can about Miller and DoD through FOIA, with relatively minimal cost, if only to shed much-needed transparency on her news-gathering with the department and how it contributed to leading us into the Iraq war.

All donations appreciated!



April 5, 2006

Jeanne Miller
FOIA Analyst
Department of Defense
Washington, DC

Re: Search Fee Waiver Requested

Dear Ms. Miller:

This letter is in response to your email of April 3 and our phone conversation that day regarding my October 25, 2005, FOIA request for DoD records that mention, or pertain to, reporter Judy Miller, specifically the information requested below.

You have estimated a cost of anywhere from $250 to $400, on top of the two free hours extended to every FOIA requestor, in order to search for the Miller documents requested.

As a news blogger who meets FOIA requirements for working media representative status, I hereby ask for a waiver of any and all search fees, and any additional copying fees, should any responsive records be found in your archive.

Therefore, I ask that you commence searching for the free two hours, as I wait for my appeal on the search fee to be considered and adjudicated.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA

Excerpted and slightly amended from my original FOIA request:

I ask that DoD search from January 21, 2001, through October 1, 2005, for the following records related to former New York Times reporter Judith Miller:

1. Copies of all documents signed by Miller that allowed her to be embedded as a reporter with U.S. Forces in Iraq in 2003, or at any other time and in any other military operation;

2. The name of the unit was she embedded with, or names, if embedded with more than one unit in Iraq;

3. The dates she was embedded with any unit;

4. The name and rank of the unit(s) public relations officer(s) or military officer(s) responsible for assigning her to accompany units in the field;

5. List of Miller’s vetting requirements with DoD before filing stories with her editor;

6. The names of DoD officers who were responsible for vetting her stories;

7. Copies of any notes Miller provided to DoD personnel before sending the notes to editors at the New York Times, or any advance copies of New York Times stories before they were published in the paper;

8. Identify the security clearance level granted by DoD to her and explain if she therefore had access to classified materials;

9. Copies of documents in which Miller received any sort of security clearance from DoD, higher than the security clearance granted a typical member of the mainstream media covering the Pentagon;

10. Copies of all non-disclosure agreements Miller signed with DoD;

11. Copies of all paper documents signed by Miller granting her press credentials by DoD public affairs office;

12. Copies of every press pass granted Miller by DoD;

13. Copies of all Miller’s photos on file for her press passes and for all other forms of identification and access;

14. Copies of all emails sent by Miller to DoD’s Secretary Donald Rumsfield, the public affairs office, the Joint Chiefs, and replies from any DoD employees to Miller;

15. Copies of all Miller’s written correspondence to the same DoD personnel listed above, that was sent through the U.S. postal service;

16. Copies of all documents, in any medium, released to Miller;

17. Copies of all transcripts of every on-the-record discussions and interviews conducted by Miller with the listed DoD personnel;

18. Copies of all video and audiotapes of discussions and interviews Miller held with DoD leaders that were recorded by DoD.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

("My girls take after me in many ways.")

Richmond Times: Bush Twins Drank Wine Before Race

From an article that appeared in the Richmond Times on April 4:

First twins Barbara and Jenna Bush ran the Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K Saturday morning after dining in the Fan the night before.

The folks at Joe's Inn knew something was up when a man called to make a reservation for Friday night. The circumstances were special, said the man: "We have a bodyguard." [...]

The younger Hager's presence at Joe's wasn't confirmed, but the Bushes' party of six -- the 24-year-old twins and four young men -- arrived at 8 p.m.

Miles said the Secret Service told her the twins' escorts were from the University of Richmond.

Miles had promised no one would take pictures, but that wasn't a problem. "Nobody recognized them," she said. "We didn't recognize them.

"One of our customers did say, "I think that's President Bush's daughters. I said, 'No way.'"

The anonymity ended when the twins ordered wine [...]

Some people say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and in the case of the Bush twins, the adage holds very true. They're just like their father -- avoiding military service while our country's at war and hitting the bottle. Something tells me Jenna and Barbara Bush may make fine GOP politicians some day.
(Why does this down arrow scare HIV prevention groups into silence?)

SF AIDS Groups' Websites Silent on HIV Decline

Late last week, HIV experts at the San Francisco Department of Public Health announced that new infections were declining in the city, and, as is their custom, the department didn't make any of their data about the declining rate available on the web and no press release was issued.

The data and release, if such things from DPH were shared, would give the gay community a better understanding of how San Francisco arrived at the new infection rate, but transparency has never been a strong suit of the DPH when the issue is HIV epidemiology.

Instead of giving the gay community access to the data, we're dependent on the mainstream and gay press, such as the SF Chronicle, the Bay Area Reporter and the LA Times, to obtain DPH's data, decipher it and write up stories explaining the statistical estimates.

The falling HIV numbers are, in my opinion, a worthwhile development, one that should be noted by all prevention and service organizations, but, so far, not one such organization has posted an announcement about the drop on their web site, nor have they put forward any praise to the gay community for this decline.

Yes, I'm like an old broken vinyl record, continually calling for AIDS groups to acknowledge HIV infections dropping, and to give positive strokes of gratitude for the safe sex behaviors leading to the decline to the gay community, which could use all the positive reinforcement possible to keep infection rates going down.

Mine is a lone voice requesting HIV service organizations, the same ones that are always prepared to wail and moan when there's even an incremental rise of HIV or any sexually transmitted disease, not to mention ready to launch hostile, aggressive social marketing campaigns berating gays for lapses in safer sex activities.

Don't just take my word about no HIV group in San Francisco noting the drop or praising gay men -- visit the groups' sites and see for yourself how silent they are about declines.

As noted, the DPH site lack any data or info on the decline, but what about the HIV Prevention Planning Council, a CDC-mandated and -funded body, that is a collaboration among federal, state and local government prevention experts, with their partners in the nonprofit sector? Nothing on the HPPC site.

Our local AIDS czar hasn't said anything on the city's official site. (Okay, to be fair, the current czar doesn't maintain a page on the city site, and the official page for SF's AIDS czar still lists Willie Brown as mayor!)

Magnet, the gay sexual health clinic in the heart of Castro, is quiet also.

The largest local provider of an array of services, the SF AIDS Foundation, has nothing to say either on its opening page, or the page for HIV stats.

What about the many HIV components of the University of California San Francisco? Not the AIDS Health Project, which performs thousands of HIV tests annually.

Same goes for the university's Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, and of all the AIDS part of the school, I would really expect this center to say something, anything!, about the new estimate.

Silence is also the order of the day at the AIDS Research Institute.

Same goes for the Stop AIDS Project, which prides itself on being the group most dedicated to halting new HIV infections. Nothing on their opening page, even though I would expect them to loudly and proudly hail the drop as proof their programs are successful. I did, however, learn about their upcoming used gay porn drive and fundraiser at local restaurants.

Interestingly, in their news release archive from November 2005, Stop AIDS heralded a drop in reported speed use.

Okay, nothing wrong with calling attention to this, but the name of the group is not Stop Speed Project. Sure, speed may play a part for some men in how their engage in sex and protect themselves, but if this group can put out a release about a drop in meth use, it damn well ought to also be able to issue an announcement when HIV infections fall.

I fear that the ear-splitting silence is because the groups just don't know how to spin positive developments, not when they've spent decades perfecting their alarming messages demonizing gay men and gay sexuality. It also seems more than plausible HIV nonprofits fear reducing or announcing any reductions jeopardizes their funding, and executives' salaries, which, if true, reveals how out of whack the priorities are at these groups.

Call me naive, but I think it behooves HIV groups to talk about the lowered infection rate, urge gay men to keep the rates on the downward slide, and to go to federal government funding agencies and say the following:

"Our prevention programs and social marketing campaigns are bringing decreases of new HIV infections. Increase our funding to keep driving down the number, reducing the number of people who eventually develop full-blown AIDS."

C'mon, San Francisco AIDS organizations -- end the silence about the HIV declines.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Vatican's Human Rights Record Omitted from State Dept Report

The recently released 2005 annual human rights report from the U.S. State Department was a giant step forward in terms of documenting and noting antigay abuses around the world, whether the violations occurred in countries we have diplomatic relations with, such as Jamaica and Russia, or nations we don't formally recognize, like Iran.

However, one country, one that has a terrible record on respecting the human rights and civic protections for homosexuals, is missing from the report -- The Vatican.

Actually, none of the State Department's annual reports available on the web provide any information about The Vatican's over all record on human rights, nor its hostility toward gays and lesbians.

Yet, every other tiny state's human rights practices, including Andorra, Liechtenstein and San Marino, warrant inclusion on the report.

Some people are not cognizant of how the U.S. formally recognizes The Vatican as a state and accordingly appoints an ambassador to the Holy See and maintains an embassy to the city/nation. The U.S. ambassador to Italy and our embassy in Rome are wholly separate from our Vatican ambassador and embassy, thanks to Ronald Reagan establishing diplomatic ties with the Catholic state in 1984.

Click here to read the State Department's general information country page on The Vatican and our history with it.

I have no idea why the State Department has always omitted The Vatican from the annual reports and why it continues to do so now. What we really need is for some intrepid reporter to call the State Department and ask why this is so, then write up a story about this questionable omission from the yearly human rights report.

(Hat tip: KO)