Hiatus

Hello all, I will not be updating the blog for a few weeks as I study for finals and prepare for graduation. It has been a long three years, but I’m proud I stuck to it. Be good and stay safe!

Researchers Genetically Engineer Cells to Suppress HIV

HIV attacking a living cell.

(LOS ANGELES, California) UCLA has reported that it has genetically engineered human stem cells that will fight HIV cells within living organisms. The study was published on April 12th, in the Journal PLoS Pathogens, and details how engineering stem cells to form HIV immune cells is effective at suppressing HIV in living tissues.

 Here is a better explanation from UCLA:
“In the previous research, the scientists took CD8 cytotoxic T lymphocytes — the “killer” T cells that help fight infection — from an HIV-infected individual and identified the molecule known as the T cell receptor, which guides the T cell in recognizing and killing HIV-infected cells. However, these T cells, while able to destroy HIV-infected cells, do not exist in great enough quantities to clear the virus from the body. So the researchers cloned the receptor and used this to genetically engineer human blood stem cells. They then placed the engineered stem cells into human thymus tissue that had been implanted in mice, allowing them to study the reaction in a living organism.
The engineered stem cells developed into a large population of mature, multi-functional HIV-specific CD8 cells that could specifically target cells containing HIV proteins. The researchers also discovered that HIV-specific T cell receptors have to be matched to an individual in much the same way an organ is matched to a transplant patient.
In this current study, the researchers similarly engineered human blood stem cells and found that they can form mature T cells that can attack HIV in tissues where the virus resides and replicates. They did so by using a surrogate model, the humanized mouse, in which HIV infection closely resembles the disease and its progression in humans.”
This is pretty awesome, and reminds me of the stories I have read in the last few years about individuals who have suppressed HIV in their systems accidentally through bone marrow transplants individuals underwent for unrelated illnesses. The bone marrow happened to be from an HIV immune individual, yes these people exist, and the new bone marrow suppressed the virus in the recipient’s body.  To read more about the UCLA development click HERE. To read about the man claiming to have been cured of AIDS through a bone marrow transplant click HERE.

First Time Federal Court Indicts for Federal Hate Crime

(LONDON, Kentucky)  For the first time ever an indictment has been issued charging individuals for committing a hate crime based on sexual orientation according to an email issued by the U.S. Justice Department says the Huffington Post.

A federal grand jury in London, Kentucky, has returned a three-count indictment  under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act  charging two men for the kidnapping and assault of Kevin Pennington. The two men, David Jason Jenkins, 37, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, allegedly planned the attack in advance and are also being charged with conspiracy to commit a hate crime. A court document also claims that one of the men’s wives along with their sister cheered “kill the faggot” as Pennington was brutalized.

Luckily, Pennington escaped from the men and hid in the woods until they eventually gave up on finding him. Who knows how much further they would have gone. It always concerns me when people are able to dehumanize others to such a level. Is empathy dead?

Although President Obama may not have signed legislation this week that would have prohibited federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees, we can feel somewhat safer knowing that the federal government will pursue those who harm us under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act that he signed into law in 2009. The act expanded hate crimes legislation to include hate crimes motivated by bias against an individual’s sexual orientation.

Gambia Arrests 15 Men Suspected of Homosexuality

Gambian President Jammeh an avid opponent of gay rights.
Gambian President Jammeh an avid opponent of gay rights.

(BANJUL, Gambia) Police have arrested 15 men suspected of engaging in homosexual activity according to Agence France-Presse.

The men were arrested late yesterday at a bar raid in a suburb of Bajul, the Gambian capital city, after police claim they received a tip that the bar was permitting public displays promoting homosexual activities. All of the men were Gambian citizens except for one who is reportedly Senegalese.

Gambia inherited its anti-gay laws from the nation’s former occupier Great Britain. Although the United Kingdom has taken great strides in providing sexual minorities equal rights, nations like Gambia have not evolved so quickly. Three years ago, Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh informed the world that he would ensure stricter legislation to prosecute homosexuality than even Iran even threatening to behead homosexuals, according to Hello Gambia. Since that time, Jammeh has remained steadfast in his commitment against gays. Although we are not aware of any beheadings, currently men or women found guilty of homosexuality can face up to 14 years in prison.

Let’s hope that something happens on the African continent soon that will set these nations straight on human rights and equality. It always amazes me how those who were so expolited by colonial and imperialism are now willing to oppress their own people.

 

Malaysian Government Uses Facebook To Call For LGBT Censorship

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) Officials in Malaysia issued a statement on Facebook this week committing to the exclusion of LGBT characters from the nation’s television and radio programs.

The Malaysian Department of Information(which comes under the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture) issued a statement to radio and television stations on Facebook requesting they stop their depictions of “pondans”(transgender individuals), effeminate men, and characters that do not fit with social and religious norms.

Although the Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yaim said that there is “no ban on any artistic performance by any segment of society” and that the Facebook post was a mistake, the ministry has still been vocal about its right to censor whatever it chooses from public broadcast. Rais’ deputy Maglin Dennis D’Cruz has also confirmed that there is a guidance soon to be promulgated by the Department of Information encouraging the censorship of LGBT characters.

The recent call to censorship only adds to the Malaysian government’s anti-LGBT record including Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s call to counselors at a local conference to help curb homosexuality in the nation and its spread. Yassin pledged more than $32,000 to the Malaysian International Counseling Association to assist those with sexually deviant issues. How comforting…

Malaysia is a mostly Muslim country and the nation takes Islam very seriously. For one, if you are an ethnic Malay it is commanded by the Malaysian Constitution that you practice Islam. Currently, the Malaysian Islamic Party is also pushing for the codification of more Quranic law.  These are the reasons I am thankful for the separation of Church and State in the United States, and that god made Rick Santorum’s wife look like a Westboro Baptist Church escapee, so voters are put on high alert!

Two Men Arrested in St. Petersburg, Russia, for “Gay Is Normal” Signs

Alexei Kiselyov was arrested by police for presenting a "Gay Is Normal" sign publicly in St. Petersburg, Russia.

(ST. PETERSBURG, Russia) Police in St. Petersburg, Russia, were wasting no time in enforcing the city’s fairly new anti-gay ordinance when they arrested two men who carried signs saying “Gay Is Normal”.

Under the new law, it is illegal to publicly promote homosexuality within the city.  If the two men,  identified as Alexei Kiselyov and Kirill Nepomnyashy, are found guilty they could be subject to fines of up to $17,000.  The two were arrested outside of the “Palace of Youth Creativity”, where many operas and ballets are performed by adolescents, holding their signs but refraining from yelling or chanting any pro-gay messages.

The mens’ hearing is scheduled for today, good luck gentlemen.

Maryland Court to Hear Lesbian Divorce Case

(ANNAPOLIS, Maryland) Maryland’s highest court is poised to hear a case of two lesbians who had married in another state and now wish to divorce in Maryland. Although Maryland grants the divorces of heterosexual couples from all over the country, the state has yet to grant a divorce to a same-sex couple.

The women were originally married in California, but were denied the right to divorce in 2010, by a Maryland judge. The Maryland judge reasoned that, at least in Maryland, the same-sex marriage wasn’t valid enough in the first place to necessitate a divorce. Under Maryland law, the marriage never existed.

Good luck to the ladies in breaking up their marriage. I still don’t understand how could a state called ‘Mary’-land not give gays equal rights?

Chile Passes Anti-Discrimination Law

Daniel Zamudio died on March 27th from injuries sustained during a gay bashing.

(Santiago, Chile) An anti-discrimination law was passed yesterday by the Chilean Congress following the murder of a gay man.

Although the anti-discrimination law was originally proposed almost 7 years ago, a recent push by Chilean president Sebastian Pinera put the measure into law books.

Pinera’s efforts came after the recent attack on 24 year old Daniel Zamudio. Zamudio, formerly a clothing store salesman, died from his injuries inflicted upon him during a gay bashing. Zamudio was reportedly beat for over an hour, burnt with cigarettes, and has swastikas carved into his body.  Prosecutors are seeking murder charges in the case against Zamudio’s attackers.

Following Zamudio’s death the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called for Chile’s passage of new anti-hate and anti-discrimination legislation protecting sexual minorities. The new Chilean law prohibits discrimination based on “any distinction, exclusion or restriction that lacks reasonable justification, committed by agents of the state or individuals, and that causes the deprivation, disturbance or threatens the legitimate exercise of fundamental rights.”

It is sad that murder was the impetus codifying a 7 year old proposal based on such a fundamental right as personal safety, but at least it has arrived and hopefully Chileans will be better protected in the future from those who would enact violence upon them.  Although the law makes discrimination illegal, I have not found information on whether the sentences associated with discrimination convictions will in fact be more harsh and actually deter individuals from committing hate crimes.

Miss Universe Canada May Allow Transgender Contestant

Miss Universe Canada contestant Jenna Talackova.Miss Universe Canada has decided to open its doors to transgender contestants this month following the temporary disqualification of Jenna Talackova. Talackova who was born a male, and later underwent sex reassignment surgery to become a woman.

Last month, the competition informed Ms. Talackova that her transgender status made her ineligible to compete. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation had contacted the Miss Universe Organization when Ms. Talackova was disqualified and urged the organization to reconsider her and her situation.

This month the organization changed its mind and has stated that as long as Ms. Talackova meets the minimum legal requirements– that she be a woman, a Canadian citizen, and between the ages of 18 and 27 years old– she is eligible. The application to compete does not make any prohibition against individuals entering who have undergone sex reassignment surgery. It will still be up to the organization whether to admit her, but with mounting pressure from sexual minority groups Ms. Talackova’s denial seems unlikely.

Although it may seem counterintuitive to allow someone born a male to participate in a competition designating the model female of the universe, legally Talackova is a woman. She has female genitalia and lives openly as a woman.  What would be most interesting is if she won, would we be sending the message that the feminine ideal can not be reached by a biological woman? We’ll just have to wait and see, let the drama ensue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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