March 24, 2017

White Americans Are Dying Faster: What’s Killing Them?

In rich countries, death rates are supposed to decline. But in the past decade and a half, middle-aged white Americans have actually been dying faster. Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton first pointed out this disturbing trend in a 2015 study that highlighted three “diseases of despair”: drugs, drinking and suicide. 
On Thursday, the pair released a deeper analysis that clears up one of the biggest misconceptions about their earlier research.
The problem of dying whites can’t only be blamed on rising rates of drug overdoses, suicides and chronic alcoholism, they say. More and more, middle-aged white Americans are dying for all kinds of reasons — and the underlying issue may have less to do with opioids and more to do with how society has left behind the working class.
“Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high school educated, working class after its heyday in the 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline,” they write.

On the streets of Chillicothe, Ohio: 'Shooting heroin is like drinking beer'

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Chillicothe, Ohio is grappling with an addiction epidemic driven by opioids like heroin. But some here aren’t letting overdoses rule. (Lee Powell/The Washington Post)
This is slightly different than what they said in their first paper, where they emphasized that the trend of rising white mortality was “largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis.” That's technically correct — but by focusing only on the increase in death rates, Case and Deaton distracted from the larger picture.
The alarming fact isn't just that middle-aged whites are dying faster, but also that mortality rates have been dramatically declining in nearly every other rich country. The United States is getting left behind.
In the last 15 years, a chasm opened up between middle aged whites in America and citizens of European countries like France, Germany and the United Kingdom. While white death rates in America rose slightly, death rates in those other countries continued to plummet. In comparison to what happened in Europe, the situation for American whites starts looks much more dire — and it's a bigger problem than opioids or suicides can explain. It’s not just about what went wrong in America, but what stopped going right. 
Fifteen years ago, middle-aged whites in the United States were neck and neck with their German counterparts. Now, middle-aged white Americans are 45 percent more likely to die than middle-aged Germans.
As Case and Deaton show, the gap in mortality between white middle-aged Americans and middle-aged Germans is about 125 deaths per 100,000 people now. Every year, of 100,000 Germans between the ages of 45 and 54, about 285 die. In the United States, it's more than 410.
Out of those 125 additional American deaths, only about 40 might be explained by the spike in deadly drug use, drinking and suicides. And the rest? It’s hard to say. In their latest paper, Case and Deaton say that heart disease is part of the problem. While other countries have cut down heart disease deaths by over 40 percent in the past 15 years, heart disease remains a significant killer for white middle-aged Americans.
There’s still much left unexplained, but the latest data tell a larger — and more troubling — story. Most of the increase in white deaths is concentrated among those who never finished college. These are the same people who have been pummeled by the economy in recent decades. It’s gotten more difficult for them to find jobs, and what jobs they do come across nowadays don’t pay as well.
Yet, it's not entirely a matter of income either. Some of these same economic trends — driven by globalization and automation — afflicted countries like the U.K. and Germany, where the death rate has been dropping. Besides, according to a Washington Post analysis of recent Census Bureau data, white American men without a college degree still earn 36 percent more than their black counterparts. But the death rate among less-educated black Americans has actually been decreasing. In recent years, the two groups have converged — they are dying at about the same rate — even though white Americans still earn more.
So the theory comes back to despair. Case and Deaton believe that white Americans may be suffering from a lack of hope. The pain in their bodies might reflect a “spiritual” pain caused by “cumulative distress, and the failure of life to turn out as expected.” If they're right, then the problem will be much harder to solve. Politicians can pass laws to keep opioids out of people’s hands or require insurers to cover mental health costs, but they can’t turn back the clock to 1955.

By Jeff Guo

Senate Votes to Abolish Rules So ISP’s Could Sell Your Info Without Asking

The Senate took the first step Thursday toward blocking rules that would restrict how some big tech companies share and sell your personal data, a prospect that digital activists said would be a huge loss for online privacy. 
On a party-line vote of 50-48, the Senate passed a joint resolution that would bar the Federal Communications Commission from enforcing rules it approved last year — when it was under Democratic control — that sought to ban internet service providers like cable and cellphone companies from selling your data without your consent. 
IMAGE: Cellphone
The vote has little immediate impact: The measure would have to pass the House and be signed by President Donald Trump before it could become law. No timetable for House action has been set. In the meantime, the FCC rules that the measure would overturn aren't scheduled to go into effect until December. 
If it becomes law, the measure, in effect, would preserve a two-track regulatory system that treats ISPs — the companies that connect you to the internet, which are overseen by the FCC — differently from web companies like Google and Facebook, which are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. 
The rules passed last year by the Democratic majority on the FCC would require ISPs to ask you explicitly to "opt in" to letting them share personal information. On web-based ad networks, data sharing is usually turned on by default and you have to dig through menus and setting and opt out of it. 
Here's why that's important: Just by themselves, Google and Facebook take in 54 percent to 60 percent of all U.S. digital ad revenue, depending on who's doing the counting. 
More tellingly, Google and Facebook snapped up 90 percent of all new online ad spending in the first half of 2016, the last period for which complete figures are available, according to data compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers U.S. for the Internet Advertising Bureau. 
That leaves everybody else to fight it out for the remaining 10 percent of new ad spending. And the big cable and phone companies said the Senate vote was a step toward keeping that tiny playing field somewhat level. 
CTIA, formerly the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, applauded the measure's sponsors Thursday for "seeking a common-sense and harmonized approach to protecting Americans' privacy." 
"Wireless carriers are committed to safeguarding consumer privacy, and we support regulatory clarity and uniformity across our digital economy," it said in a statement
 Despite Erasing, Personal Data Likely Remains on Devices2:20
Ajit Pai, the new chairman of the newly Republican-led FCC, also welcomed the Senate vote, telling reporters afterward: "My own core goal is to make sure that [the] uniform expectation of privacy is vindicated through the use of a regulatory framework that establishes a more level playing field." 
But advocates for online privacy slammed the vote. 
Neema Singh Guliani, a legislative counsel specializing in surveillance and privacy issues for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the Senate was content to "sacrifice the privacy rights of Americans in the interest of protecting the profits of major internet companies, including Comcast, AT&T and Verizon." 
(NBC News is a division of NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable provider.) 
Others noted that the measure would also bar the FCC from advancing "substantially similar" rules in the future, which Kate Tummarello, a policy analyst for the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, said "would be a crushing loss for online privacy." 
"ISPs act as gatekeepers to the Internet, giving them incredible access to records of what you do online," Tummarello said. "They shouldn't be able to profit off of the information about what you search for, read about, purchase and more without your consent." 
They were joined by Mignon Clyburn, the only Democratic member of the FCC, who said the Senate measure would "frustrate the FCC's future efforts to protect the privacy of voice and broadband customers." 
The vote, she said, opens up “a massive gap in consumer protection law.

RNC Tried Hiding Payments Made to Get any Dirt on Clinton

The Republican National Committee paid a low-profile firm started by an ex-CIA officer for what it claimed was building security at the RNC’s Capitol Hill headquarters. Now the RNC acknowledges that most of its payments to the firm went to intelligence-style reports that tried to connect Hillary Clinton to any conflicts of interest from her days serving as Secretary of State, Politico reported Friday.

The RNC paid a Virginia-based firm, Hamilton Trading Group, $41,500 over the course of the campaign. The RNC is now reporting that most of the money, $34,100, went to opposition research on the Democratic presidential nominee and the Clinton Foundation.

Ben Wickham, an ex-CIA officer who started the firm, told Politico that his work was initially limited to building security. He said he could not discuss other work because he was subject to a non-disclosure agreement. 
“I’m not denying that I wasn’t totally forthcoming, but I’m telling you why,” Wickham said. “The security stuff that we did, which is legitimate, was not covered by any kind of a confidentiality agreement, so I can discuss that.”

When the RNC first reported a $3,400 payment to Hamilton Trading Group for “security services” on its campaign finance reports in June, it was flagged by political operatives, intelligence consultants and security experts, Politico reported. In part, because Hamilton Trading Group was relatively unknown in the consulting community, but also because the firm has had connections to an ex-Russian spy.

Wickham denied to Politico that any work he did on behalf of the RNC had anything to with Russia. He also added that he’s “never had any contact with . . . Trump or Manafort or their people.”

Immigrant Married to American CitizenTrump Backer is being Deported

 Trump promised if elected President he would get rid of the rapping, stealing, drug importing Mexicans and illegal immigrants. Some hispanics and even some Mexicans who had made it to the middle class believed that is what he was looking for (rapists, criminals) and had no problem in voting for him. After the election they found themselves in the ICE waiting line to take busses and planes back to the country of their origin. With them there were plenty of poor immigrants from all over, not druggies and rapists because there are a lot more decent, poor immigrants than criminals of those Trump mentioned and in any case they don’t live openly like someone who thinks they will get brownie points to live in this country and votes, even speaks for Donald Trump, so they are harder to find. Easy to find would be the ones being deported first, like the ones the government know where they are, be a church, a court house or parking lot or Marriage Application. 

Federal immigration officials could begin deporting Roberto Beristain, owner of the popular Eddie's Steak Shed in Granger, as early as Friday, according to his family.

But Beristain’s family is still hoping a federal immigration judge in New York will reopen the case, buying them some time. They’ve gathered more than 600 signatures of support, said his stepson, Phil Kolliopoulos.

And South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg wrote an essay, arguing that the “conservative community” would lose a “model citizen,” that was published online Tuesday on The Huffington Post.

Roberto Beristain, 43, who’s lived in Mishawaka with Helen and three of their children, has been detained since Feb. 6 when he checked in, as he does every year, with officials from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Kolliopoulos said Beristain’s attorney in Chicago heard from ICE, then relayed to the family Tuesday that Beristain would be deported Friday.

Tuesday night was the last time the family had spoken with Beristain, Kolliopoulos said. He most recently had been lodged in a county jail in Kenosha, Wis. But the “detainee locator” on ICE’s website doesn’t provide his current location.

An ICE spokeswoman said Wednesday that, for security reasons, ICE doesn’t release information about “upcoming removals.”

Beristain had worked at Eddie's Steak Shed for eight years until January, when he bought and took over the restaurant from his wife's sister. It employs about 20 people.

As the Tribune reported earlier this month, Beristain had received a voluntary deportation order from a federal immigration judge in New York in 2000 after he and his wife inadvertently crossed the Canada border while visiting Niagra Falls. Agents there discovered that he was in the U.S. illegally. Beristain, who is Mexican, opted to stay since he was concerned about his wife, Helen, a U.S. citizen, who had high blood pressure and was pregnant with their daughter.

Ever since, he has checked in once a year with ICE officials and kept a clean criminal record. ICE agents allowed him to gain a work permit, driver's license and a legal Social Security number and card, which is marked "Valid only with Department of Homeland Security authorization."

ICE detained him Feb. 6. It came shortly after President Donald Trump’s executive order that vastly broadened the priorities for whom ICE agents should deport — out of nearly 1 million immigrants who reportedly linger in the U.S. with a deportation order.

Beristain had come to the U.S. in 1998 to visit his aunt in California, then decided to stay. Helen said the couple have sought to rectify Roberto’s immigration status in 2007, making an appeal since he’s married to a citizen. That case has been pending.

March 23, 2017

How isTrump aTerrible Pres?Don’t knowHowDemocracyWorks^Cats

Donald Trump was supposed to be the guy who would fix everything in Washington, but after two months in office he’s proving to be a terrible leader.

Trump was never very popular, but he got high marks for his leadership. Now that’s fading. In November just after the election, 56% of Americans thought he was a good leader — now it’s fallen to just 40%.

After two months, here’s what we know: He’s not going to fix everything. He’s not going to drain the swamp. He’s not going to make America great again. He’s not going to unite all Americans. He’s not going to replace Obamacare with something “terrific.” He’s not going to bring back the manufacturing jobs or the America dream. He won’t make America respected around the world. He won’t make us safer. 

Medicaid Work Requirement Added to GOP Health Bill(2.0)The House Republican health-care bill includes the biggest structural overhaul of Medicaid in its 52-year history — including work requirements for certain recipients. Why the change?  

Why not is He not? Because Trump isn’t the strong leader he pretends to be. Even if he believed in all the things he promised and wanted to accomplish them, he would fail because he doesn’t understand how to govern.

Trump is a failure because he ignored Ronald Reagan’s most important lesson about leadership: “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Trump is still a great campaigner, no doubt. He can work a crowd like few others can.

But working the levers of policy, administration, legislation and diplomacy is beyond him. His whole career, he was the boss of an organization that he controlled 100%, but governing in a democracy isn’t like that. Democracy is about compromise, about give-and-take, about sharing the credit and the blame. And successful governing is about getting results for the people who elected you, and for the ones you hope will vote for you next time.

There’s an old joke in Washington that running the U.S. Senate is like herding cats. But Donald Trump thinks cats can be herded. All you have to do is say in a stern voice: “I’m coming after you!”

The voters who believed Trump would be a transformational leader thought that he would set the agenda in Washington, just like he did a year ago in the primaries when he was running circles around the field of traditional Republican candidates. He mocked John McCain, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

Those humiliated Republicans degraded themselves by crawling back to Trump Tower to lick the spittle off Trump’s boots, and Trump’s supporters loved it.

Trump’s core supporters believed that Trump would rule the Republican Party with an iron fist, bending it to their will. They believed that Trump would force the establishment Republicans to come up with an Obamacare replacement that would cover everybody at lower costs. They believed that Trump would protect the safety net — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — against the establishment Republicans who only care about how much taxes rich people pay.

They believed that Trump’s populist movement would transform Washington.

But that hasn’t happened.

On the policies that matter to people, all of the initiative is coming from traditional Republicans, not from the radical outsiders Trump brought in. Trump campaigned against Paul Ryan, but he now allows Ryan control his agenda. Trump campaigned against Goldman Sachs and rich elites, but he hired Goldman alumni and billionaires to run economic policy.

What’s the result of Trump conceding policy to the establishment Republicans he ridiculed during the campaign? Things like the train wreck of a “health care” bill and the “budget” blueprint, both of which confer huge tax cuts on the very elites that Trump once attacked, paid for by the evisceration of the public services that are vital to the very people who most enthusiastically supported Trump in November.

And what did Trump say when Tucker Carlson asked him if the “health care” bill would screw over his supporters?

“Oh, I know.”

The president said he knew that the bill would devastate struggling families all across our land, that it would drive 24 million people off health insurance, send premiums and out-of-pocket costs through the roof, and kill a bunch of people. And he didn’t care. Because Ryan told him that he had to repeal Obamacare before he took up any of his other causes, like rebuilding America’s infrastructure, or bringing back the jobs, or remembering the forgotten people.

And every compromise that was struck to get the conservatives in the House to back the bill only made it worse for Trump’s forgotten people.

Trump promised us that the greatest dealmaker in the history of dealmaking would be on our side in the corridors of power in Washington. Not only was he not on our side, he didn’t even show up. Trump was too busy tweeting insults at Snoop Dog and Arnold Schwarzenegger, enriching his family, and trying to cover up the fact that he hired people who were loyal to Vladimr Putin.

It was the bigly-est bait-and-switch ever.

It’s hard to fathom that it was only two months ago that Trump took the oath of office and mouthed these lies: “I will fight for you with every breath in my body — and I will never, ever let you down.”

I dare any Trump supporter to watch that inaugural address now.

Listen to this, if you can stomach it: “The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.”

Trump promised that “the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”

Trump is a terrible leader because he has forgotten who elevated him to this sacred trust. A politician who forgets that is nobody.

Penis Vagina Bus To Teach People Transgender’s Are Not Real

Via National Organization for Marriage
An orange bus rolled onto the streets of Manhattan Wednesday to make its first stop on an East Coast tour, during which a load of activist passengers will evangelize that transgender people don’t exist and citizens must rise up to complain about their growing acceptance.
The creators are calling it the “Free Speech Bus,” and they’ve decorated it with male and female stick figures along with the slogan: “Boys are boys… and always will be. Girls are girls… and always will be. You can’t change sex. Respect all.”
On Wednesday, they parked outside the United Nations headquarters, where ambassadors are considering a sex education resolution that a spokesperson for the bus argued promotes “an ideology that gender is fluid.”
“We are trying to strike back against that,” said Joseph Grabowski, a spokesperson for the National Organization for Marriage, one of the three conservative groups behind the project. They hope parading the bus through major cities will unleash a silent majority that they believe is frustrated by shifting norms about gender and families.
In their efforts to block LGBT legal protections since the Supreme Court resolved questions about same-sex marriage, religious conservatives have struggled to spark conversations among ordinary people. While they have sometimes reached the airwaves during controversies around bills to restrict bathroom usage, they’ve often played political defense, or found their message buried in the back of newspapers and the back rooms of legislatures.
This week, groups hope to stimulate a debate among media and lawmakers by using the most classic of political props: a gussied-up bus and a provocative message.
The National Organization for Marriage partnered with the International Organization for the Family — headed by NOM President Brian Brown — and CitizenGo, a social conservative online advocacy platform headquartered in Spain, on the project.
The US bus copies a version rolled out in Spain in February that declared, “Boys have penises. Girls have vulvas. Don’t let them lie to you.” One Madrid councilman declared it the “bus of shame,” and city officials ordered it removed from the streets for violating a traffic law restricting advertising on private vehicles.
When CitizenGo announced that it would take its bus tour to the United States, a graphic indicated that the bus would carry a similar message: “Boys have penises. Girls have vaginas. Don’t be deceived.”
But the bus doesn’t actually say that, Grabowski said. “We think we can make the point a little more subtly.”
“We need a discussion about how to respect everyone,” Grabowski said in a phone call. But he also claimed that being transgender is a “disorder” and that a respectful discussion does not extend to recognizing a transgender person’s gender identity in public settings. (The American Psychiatric Association does not classify being transgender as a mental disorder.) He added, “They can live that out privately.”
The tour will soon head north, hugging the New England coast before hairpinning south to Washington, DC.
However, New York City was a key launching point in the US. The city has worked to distinguish itself as a safe harbor for transgender Americans — passing rules to protect their rights everywhere from their homes to public restrooms. But Grabowski said that people in progressive cities shouldn’t stay silent if they see a transgender person using a restroom that matches their gender identity.
“One of the purposes of the bus tour is to have people speak up if they feel uncomfortable and let the business owner know,” Grabowski said. “This can’t be considered transphobic or bigoted.”
The bus in front of the United Nations. Courtesy National Organization for Marriage
The groups hope the rolling spectacle can grab the attention of lawmakers and the public, convincing them that opposition to transgender rights is grounded in science, not animus.
Asked if transgender women are women, Grabowski said, “No, we believe if you’re born a man, you’re a man.”
“They are a small segment of the population, with a disorder, that has quite a big megaphone for the demographic it represents,” he said. “This is not about live-and-let-live,” he added, saying transgender people pose an threat to norms of sex and procreation. “This is about what is best for the common welfare of society.”
Dominic Holden is the national LGBT reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. 
Contact Dominic Holden at

Reports came in tonight Friday 3/24 about the Bus being  received in NYC Not with Open Arms:

NEW YORK -- A bus spreading a message against transgender culture was vandalized near United Nations headquarters early Thursday evening while it was parked, according to the head of one of the three groups organizing the bus tour.
The "Free Speech Bus," as it is called by organizers, was parked near the UN for a scheduled event when two people approached, scratched it with a key, cracked windows with a hammer, and spray painted slogans such as "Trans Liberation," Brian Brown, president of the Washington-based National Organization for Marriage, told USA TODAY.
The people on board the bus traveling between points in New York, Connecticut, Washington and Boston were inside the UN for an event, but the driver was with the vehicle, Brown said. The driver tried to protect the bus and was tackled but not hurt by one of the vandals, Brown said.
Brown's organization put together the bus tour along the East Coast along with Citizen Go, a social activism group that works through online petitions, and the International Organization for the Family, a Washington-based group that promotes "the natural family."

We Are With You London! 8 Pictures to Remind Everyone

It is with great sadness that we published these pictures to remind every one of two things. First that the british were as prepared as you get, observing the events without having the experts tell us how better it can be done. Secondly of how well the british people have dealt with this in an emotional stand point. London was bombed by the Nazis on WW2 and they show today that same resilience.

 We feel so sad for the death of the by standers and the Police officer that first encountered the terrorist sand got stabbed. It was a good thing this man did not have a weapon as displayed in Belgium recently. We also send our love to to those injured and all of their families.
                                        We are with you

A woman ducks under a police tape after an incident on Westminster Bridge in London, March 22, 2017.
A woman ducks under a police tape after an incident on Westminster Bridge in London, March 22, 2017. 
Police tapes off Parliament Square after reports of loud bangs, in London, Britain, March 22, 2017.
Police tapes off Parliament Square after reports of loud bangs, in London, Britain, March 22, 2017. 
An air ambulance lands in Parliament Square during an incident on Westminster Bridge in London, Britain March 22, 2017.
An air ambulance lands in Parliament Square during an incident on Westminster Bridge in London, Britain March 22, 2017. 
A woman lies injured after a shooting incident on Westminster Bridge in London, March 22, 2017.
A woman lies injured after a shooting incident on Westminster Bridge in London, March 22, 2017.

Injured people are assisted after an incident on Westminster Bridge in London, March 22, 2017.
Injured people are assisted after an incident on Westminster Bridge in London, March 22, 2017. 
Tawhid Tanim, an eyewitness to the incident tells VOA “It was quite loud. Three loud bang, bang, bang and then all of a sudden we could see on the road people started running like crazy.” (Photo: R. James / VOA)
Tawhid Tanim, an eyewitness to the incident tells VOA “It was quite loud. Three loud bang, bang, bang and then all of a sudden we could see on the road people started running like crazy.” (Photo: R. James / VOA) 
Police tapes off Parliament Square after reports of loud bangs, in London, Britain, March 22, 2017.
Police tapes off Parliament Square after reports of loud bangs, in London, Britain, March 22, 2017. 
Armed police officers stand guard inside a security cordon, outside of the Houses of Parliament in central London on March 22, 2017 during an emergency incident.
Armed police officers stand guard inside a security cordon, outside of the Houses of Parliament in central London on March 22, 2017 during an emergency incident.Th

These 8 pictures were obtained from Voice of America

March 22, 2017

Jailing of Gay Ivorian Men Brings Fear in an LGBT Safe Heaven

Relaxing on the terrace of a gay bar in Ivory Coast's commercial capital Abidjan, a group of men embraced and laughed as people walked past without even glancing their way.

Inside the bar, a young man caressed his companion's chin in the corner, while a transgender woman greeted everyone before strutting and shaking to the music under the strobe lights.

"Some of the guys who come here don't feel comfortable displaying their sexuality outside of these walls," 34-year-old Michel, the owner of Sass Bar, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Abidjan.

"Others are just fine being themselves in their neighborhoods," he added, his voice barely eclipsing the music.

The bar is one of many gay venues in Abidjan, a relatively tolerant city for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in a region where homosexuality is mostly illegal, and sexual minorities face persecution, discrimination and violence.

Ivory Coast is one of a minority of African countries - around 20 of the 54 nations on the continent - which do not explicitly criminalize homosexuality or same-sex acts.

Yet the recent jailing of two gay men for three months - under a public indecency law that carries a harsher prison sentence for "an indecent or unnatural act with a person of the same sex" - has sent shivers through the LGBTI community.

Yann, 31, and Abdoul, 19, were arrested in the southwestern city of San Pedro in October after rumors spread about the nature of their relationship, leading Abdoul's uncle to file a police complaint as he believed Yann was abusing his nephew.

Rights activists say Ministry of Justice officials are considering changing the public indecency law so that it no longer singles out homosexual acts or relations.

However much more needs to be done to change Ivorians' attitudes - with some still suspicious of or hostile toward sexual minorities, campaigners say.

While Yann and Abdoul were released from prison in January many freedoms still elude the men, who are now openly a couple.

"When you look or a job, they ask for your police record ... and mine is already tainted," said Yann, who worked as a security guard before his arrest.


Home to gay bars, gay rights groups, and even an annual cross-dressing beauty pageant, Abidjan is considered a refuge for LGBTI people, both within the country and across the region.

For Yann and Abdoul, who plan to move there soon, the city offers their best hope of having a normal life as a gay couple.

"At least it (Abidjan) is a big city," Abdoul said. "They don't consider [being gay] a big deal there."

Despite its tolerant reputation, sexual minorities and even LGBTI organizations in Abidjan are prey to abuse, harassment and violence, with little legal protection, several activists said.

In 2014, a mob of nearly 200 people ransacked and looted the headquarters of Alternative Cote d'Ivoire (ACI) - a prominent gay rights group in Abidjan - after days of anti-gay protests.

Last year, several gay men were abused, beaten, and forced to flee their homes after the U.S. embassy in Abidjan posted a photo of them at an event for victims of a nightclub shooting in Florida and identified them as members of the "LGBTI community".

"Most people are reluctant to publicly display their sexuality exactly because of the difficulties associated with the daily lives of [LGBTI] persons," said Alexis Ouattara, president of the civil society group Lesbian Life Association.

Such abuse and violence may be stoked by sensationalist and demeaning media coverage, an ACI official said, citing the example of a newspaper misrepresenting a gay rights group as promoting homosexuality, and using photos of LGBTI activists.

To counter this, the ACI runs a program to raise awareness among Ivorian journalists about the lives of LGBTI people.

The goal is to ensure journalists understand that the LGBTI community suffers widespread discrimination, said the ACI activist, who fearing for his safety, did not wish to be named.


One in four people fear losing their homes, new nine country poll reveals
Numbers of asylum seekers arrested while crossing into Canada soar following U.S. crackdown
"When they (the media) understand this, there will be a certain tolerance," he added.


A justice ministry official in the department in charge of legislation declined to comment on the proposed change to Ivory Coast's penal code.

But approval of the legal revision from government bodies could take several months, said observers including Wodjo Fini Traore, vice president of National Human Rights Commission of Ivory Coast, an independent body established by the state.

While the change would come too late to help the two jailed men, activists say it will strip law enforcement and justice officials of a tool of discrimination that can ruin lives.

"Everyone agrees that the situation (surrounding the law) has been marked by multiple cases of human rights violations, specifically on the basis of sexual orientation," said Traore.

Even if and when the law is revised, there still remains the much more ingrained challenge of improving Ivorian attitudes toward LGBTI people in a conservative society, Traore said.

"The behavior of the population is still what it is," he said. More education is needed for the public to accept open displays of affection by same-sex couples, Traore added.

For Yann and Abdoul - marked as criminals and shunned by their community at home - acceptance is a major concern as they consider how to rebuild their lives in Abidjan.

“We have one foot in prison, and one foot in freedom," Yann said.

ABIDJAN (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - 
(Reporting by Sean Lyngaas, Editing by Kieran Guilbert and Katie Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

Apple Releases the iPhone7and 7+ RED to Help Benefit HIV Fight

Apple announced the latest addition to its iPhone family Tuesday: a bright, cherry red iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The new iPhone is part of Apple’s partnership with (RED), an initiative that mobilizes brands to support the nonprofit Global Fund’s efforts to rid the world of HIV and AIDS.
The Global Fund specifically works in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 70 percent of the world’s HIV-positive live, according to the Gates Foundation. The organization provides testing, counseling, treatment and prevention, with a special focus on preventing the transmission of HIV from mothers to their unborn babies. 
The red iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will be available in stores and online starting Friday, March 24. 

Apple did not disclose what portion of profits would go to the Global Fund. (RED) partners with brands that contribute up to 50 percent of their product profits to the Global Fund, the company says. 
Apple is the largest corporate donor to the Global Fund, generating $130 million for its efforts to date, according to (RED) CEO Deborah Dugan. Apple also sells (RED) editions of iPods, Beats headphones and other products.
The fight against HIV/AIDS is at a particularly important moment now in Sub-Saharan African, with young people accounting for a growing percentage of the population. The Gates Foundation has warned that a rebound in the deadly epidemic “may be inevitable” as these young people reach the age where they are at the highest risk for HIV. Controlling the epidemic will require stronger treatment, stronger prevention, and stronger efforts to increase the number of people who know their status, according to the foundation. 
The new (RED) iPhones will be priced starting at $749 for the iPhone 7 and $869 for the iPhone 7 Plus — the same as other colors with comparable storage. Their features are the same as other members of the iPhone 7 family. 


Apple rolled out its iPhone 7 and 7 Plus last September, featuring water resistant cases that also did away with the traditional headphone jack. The 7 Plus is known as the photographer’s iPhone, with two camera lenses with the capacity to zoom without losing resolution, mimicking a telephoto lens. 
Apple also announced its newest iPad Tuesday: a 9.7-inch model priced at $329 — $70 less than before. The overall market for tablets has been steadily declining after several years of rapid growth.

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Utah Repeals Anti-Gay Sex Seduction Curriculum Law”NOPromoHomo”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) has signed a bill into law that amends Utah’s sex education curriculum so that it no longer singles out LGBTQ-identifying students for disparate treatment or for the purpose of expressing moral disapproval.

Under a provision in the old law, known as a “No Promo Homo” law, teachers and administrators were prohibited from addressing homosexuality in a positive or neutral manner, or making any statements that could be construed as “advocacy” of homosexuality in schools. Similar laws exist in Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas.

While Utah’s law was primarily intended to discourage information about homosexuality in the course of sex education, in practice, some teachers reported they felt “gagged” by the law from interceding on behalf of LGBTQ students who were being bullied, for fear they would be accused of “promoting” homosexuality.

Subsequently, Equality Utah, partnering with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, sued the State Board of Education, claiming the provision violated constitutional rights of free speech, the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, and Title IX protections that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. 
In response, Utah lawmakers sought to amend the provision, resolving the conflict and hopefully prompting the LGBTQ groups to drop their lawsuit. The resulting bill, SB 196, passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the Utah Legislature, clarifies that all students are to be treated equally in regard to sex education instruction.

Utah, a heavily Mormon state, has a policy urging against any advocacy of extramarital or premarital sex in a classroom setting. Now, under the clarified law, all students, regardless of sexual orientation, will receive that same message, without singling out a specific group of individuals.

The lawsuit against the State Board of Education was placed on hold by U.S. District Judge Dee Benson, who agreed to issue a stay of proceedings while the legislature debated and considered passing the bill, reports the Deseret News. 

However, neither Equality Utah nor the National Center for Lesbian Rights has agreed to drop the lawsuit as part of some “quid pro quo” arrangement in exchange for the bill’s passage. For instance, both organizations are concerned about other provisions in the sex education law that could be interpreted as discouraging homosexuality.

One such provision bans instruction that could “facilitate or encourage the violation of any state of federal criminal law.” Unfortunately, because Utah’s same-sex marriage ban and anti-sodomy law — both ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court — were never repealed, some teachers could interpret that as a justification to disparage same-sex relationships, beyond simply urging that students not engage in premarital or extramarital sex.

Clifford Rosky, a member of Equality Utah’s advisory board, told the Deseret News that the organization hopes to work with the State Board of Education, the Utah Attorney General’s office, and individual school districts to ensure the statute’s intent of equal treatment across the board is carried out. Then, the organization will consider dropping the lawsuit.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

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