Monday, September 29, 2008

Farewell to the genocidal duo

Good bye to Thabo Mbeki and his health prevention side-kick Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, formerly health minister of South Africa. Manto, like AIDS denialist Thabo was kicked out of the Presidency, was shafted from the health ministry during the ANCs recall of 'comrade Mbeki'. A lot of South Africans are worried about what might come unter Jacob Zuma, a shady Zulu warrior tainted by a substantial number of scandals including corruption and sexual conduct. But truth be told, what can be much worse than the AIDS policies of the Mbeki government, policies responsible for hundredthousands of preventable AIDS deaths among the impoverished Black majority population in the country. Mbeki also presided over the systematic undermining of state institutions (including the security services, the courts and the national broadcaster) into mouthpieces of his administration. Many South Africans seem to have forgotten already that the president of the South African Medical Association called - justifiably so - these Mbeki/Tshabalala Msimang policies 'genocidal'. It's a shame - as South Africans of all shades are fond of saying - that the country doesn't seem to have more competent politicians prepared to step up to the serious challenges the country faces. That being the case it seems somewhat inevitable that a vindictive paranoid (arguably antidemocratic) character such as Mbeki was replaced by a washed-up populist ala Jacob Zuma. Interesting times ahead for the rainbow nation... - Only the future will tell though whether Zuma really will do much worse than Mbeki.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Being gay in Iraq isn't fun these days...

I reproduce here a circular human rights activist and fellow humanist Peter Tatchell has send me. You might want to consider supporting the cause. There is information about donations at the end of his post.

Sexual cleansing in Iraq

Islamist death squads are hunting down gay Iraqis and summarily executing them

WATCH the video link below – and weep

By Peter Tatchell

The Guardian – Comment Is Free – 25 September 2008

STOP PRESS: This morning, after this article was published, news came from Iraq that the coordinator of Iraqi LGBT in Baghdad, Bashar, aged 27, has been assassinated in a barber shop. Militias burst in and sprayed his body with bullets.

The so-called improved security situation in Iraq is not benefiting all Iraqis, especially not gay ones. Islamist death squads are engaged in a homophobic killing spree, with the active encouragement of leading Muslim clerics, such as Moqtada al-Sadr, as Newsweek recently revealed.

One of these clerics, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Shia Islam, issued a fatwa urging the killing of lesbians and gays in the "worst, most severe way possible."

The short film, Queer Fear - Gay Life, Gay Death in Iraq, produced by David Grey for Village Film, documents the tragic fates of a several individual gay Iraqis. You can view it here:

Watch and weep. A truly poignant and moving revelation about the terrorisation and murder of Iraqi lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Since this film was made, the killings have continued and, many say, got worse.

For gay Iraqis there is little evidence of the transition to democracy. They don't experience any new-found respect human rights. Life for them is even worse than under the tyrant Saddam Hussein.

It is a death sentence in today's "liberated" Iraq to love a person of the same-sex, or for a woman to have sex outside of marriage, or for a Muslim to give up his / her faith or embrace another religion.

The reality on the ground is that theocracy is taking hold of the country, including in Basra, which was abandoned by the British military. In place of foreign occupation, the city's inhabitants now endure the terror of fundamentalist militias and death squads. Those who are deemed insufficiently devout and pure are liable to be assassinated.

The death squads of the Badr Brigades and the Madhi Army are targeting gays and lesbians, according to UN reports, in a systematic campaign of sexual cleansing. They proudly boast of their success, claiming that they have already exterminated all "perverts and sodomites" in many of the major cities.

You can view photos of a few of the LGBT victims of these summary executions here:

My friends in Iraq have relayed to me the tragic story of five gay activists, who belonged to the underground movement gay rights movement, Iraqi LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender).

Eye-witnesses confirm that they saw the men being led out of a house at gun-point by officers in police uniform. Yes, Iraqi police! Nothing has been heard of the five victims since then. In all probability, they have been executed by the police - or by Islamist death squads who have infiltrated the Iraqi police and who are using their uniforms to carry out so-called honour killings of gay people, unchaste women and many others.

The arrested and disappeared men were Amjad 27, Rafid 29, Hassan 24, Ayman 19 and Ali 21. As members of Iraq's covert gay rights movement, for the previous few months they had been documenting the killing of lesbians and gays, relaying details of the murders to the outside world, and providing safe houses and support to other gay people fleeing the death squads.

Their abduction is just one of many outrages by anti-gay death squads. lslamist killers burst into the home of two lesbians in city of Najaf. They shot them dead, slashed their throats, and also murdered a young child who the women had rescued from the sex trade. The two women, both in their mid-30s, were members of Iraqi LGBT. They were providing a safe house for gay men on the run from death squads. By sheer luck, none of the men who were being given shelter in the house were at home when the assassins struck. They have since fled to Baghdad and are hiding in an Iraqi LGBT safe house there.

Large parts of Iraq are now under the de facto control of the militias and their death squad units. They enforce a harsh interpretation of Sharia law, summarily executing people for what they denounce as "crimes against Islam." These "crimes" include listening to western pop music, wearing shorts or jeans, drinking alcohol, selling videos, working in a barber's shop, homosexuality, dancing, having a Sunni name, adultery and, in the case of women, not being veiled or walking in the street unaccompanied by a male relative.

Two militias are doing most of the killing. They are the armed wings of major parties in the Bush and Brown-backed Iraqi government. Madhi is the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr, and Badr is the militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which is the leading political force in Baghdad's governing coalition. Both militias want to establish an Iranian-style religious dictatorship. The allied occupation of Iraq is bad enough. But if the Madhi or Badr militias gain in influence and strength, as seems likely in the long-term, it could result in a reign of religious terror many times worse.

Saddam Hussein was a bloody tyrant. I campaigned against his blood-stained misrule for nearly 30 years. But while Saddam was President, there was certainly no danger of gay people being assassinated in their homes and in the street by religious fanatics.

Since his overthrow, the violent persecution of lesbians and gays is much worse.

Even children suspected of being gay are abducted and later found shot in the head.

Lesbian and gay Iraqis cannot seek the protection of the police, since the police are heavily infiltrated by fundamentalists, especially the Badr militia. The death squads can kill with impunity. Pro-fundamentalist ministers in the Iraqi government are turning a blind eye to the killings, and helping to protect the killers. Some "liberation".

* Iraqi LGBT is appealing for funds to help the work of their members in Iraq. Since they don't yet have a bank account, they request that cheques should be made payable to "OutRage!", with a cover note marked "For Iraqi LGBT", and sent to OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT.

More information on Iraqi LGBT or to make a donation by PayPal:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ben Goldacre: 1 - Matthias Rath: 0

Victory for Ben Goldacre, Guardian columnist and regular debunker of bad science. Humiliating defeat for Matthias Rath, the German born vitamin peddler. What happened? At a cost of 500,000 GBP the Guardian defended a libel suit the vitamin salesman had brought against the newspaper for a series of articles Goldacre wrote some time back about his activities. He withdrew the case eventually and the court awarded initial cost of 200,000 GBP to the paper.

Goldacre published a series of three articles in the paper that reported in some detail the disgraceful activities Rath was involved in in South Africa where he tried to convince AIDS patients to use his vitamins instead of AIDS drugs. Rath made claims about the poisonous effects of mainstream AIDS medicines and reportedly conducted unapproved clinical trials with impoverished AIDS patients in South African townships. Here is how he tried to persuade AIDS patients to stop taking life preserving drugs and to use his alternative concoctions instead. Supported covertly and not so covertly by South Africa's incompetent health minister Manta Tshabalala Msimang he managed to go about his business for far too long. You can see him making out on the photo I posted above to the left of Anthony Mbewu, Manto's principal medical research honcho and head of the country's Medical Research Council. But then, hey, don't be too surprised, the country is rapidly becoming a banana republic. No surprised that these sorts of characters find each other quickly.

Reportedly Rath has since begun advertising campaigns in Russia where the incidence of new AIDS cases is increasing quite dramatically. Read here Goldacre's take on the issue. Sarah Boseley, the newspaper's health editor tracks Rath's 'career' here. Here is an analysis of deaths that occurred in his illegal trials in South African townhips.

What is remarkable about this guy is that he has pretty much disregarded all principles of medical professionalism and instead used (uses) his medical degree to convince lay people that his quackery is based on sound science. It is remarkable that he is still permitted to call himself a medical doctor.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Helping Alla Krasavica

Do you know Alla Krasavica? I don't. She's looking for 'love' (and, no doubt cash), and she's from Russia. She wrote to me... a nice letter, ending with a request for my details. She also wants me to pick her up at an Australian airport (it's unclear to me why she would have written to a South African email address used by a gay guy to achieve that objective, but hey, like her Nigerian counterparts... brain is usually not the strongest feature of these scam artists).

Well, in case you feel like getting fleeced by Alla, here's her message to me ('her' contact details are at the end):

Greetings from Russia to you dear friend!!!
I hope, that this letter will cause you interest.
It is possible this letter will change our destinies... I ask you to give some minutes and to read my history.
For the First! This letter from agency of dating of the internet.
I have given them this letter and to me has told, that they will send it to the Australia.
My name - Alla. I - from Russia, Saint Petersburg.
I’m - 27 years old woman. My Birthday March, 14 1981.
I want to tell you that was happened with me. Some time ago I have got acquainted through Internet with the man. His name is Patrick from Sidney. We began to correspond with each other. Shortly we had sympathies to each other. I would not tell that it there was a love, but the sympathy was big. We have thought that our relations should leave on a new stage and both wished a meeting. I have collected all necessary documents, and in September I receive the visa.
But that there was further it awfully. Patrick has written to me that is not ready to serious relations with me and would not want that I came. It has very strongly shaken me, I did not expect that he can do it... I cried and did not know what to do, I was deceived.
I want to forget this awful liar faster. And to use the chance which has dropped out to me.

The purpose of my letter: I shall receive the Visa of the Visitor of the Australia on September.
I want to arrive to the Australia, but I have no any friends or familiar who
can meet me on airport. I really hope, that you can do it for me.

But if you will answer to me I will write more about me and about my life.
Probably we can develop our relations also.
So, please, write to me on my E-mail:
I hope, that you will have interest after reading my letter.
Also I have interest too. Please inform me:
1 - your name?
2 - your city?
3 - your age?
4 - to send me your photo also?
5 - would you like to meet the woman for love?

Please reply only my personal e-mail:

Ok, I will close for now, but I will wait your answer so much!!!
I really hope that you will give me chance to have meeting!!!
Waiting for your answer,
Yours friend Alla from Russia.

Poor Canadians - voting on two non-starters

It's funny living in Canada these days. The next federal elections are probably closer than those in the USA yet the gun-toting Alaskan governor and her five children are higher on the Canadian agenda than local politics. There's no big surprise in this.

The current conservative minority government is run by a mean-spirited populist politician (Stephen Harper). His main claim to fame are a failed foreign minister (he left secret documents with his that time girlfriend, a woman with reported links to a local biker gang), a health minister whose main claim to fame are attacks on a harm reduction facility in Vancouver (the facility offers drug addicts access to clean needles as a means to reduce the occurrence of infectious diseases among drug users), cuts of federal arts programs, and other populist this-n-that. While these sorts of activities undoubtedly are designed to rally his redneck base, Harper would not stand a chance in hell to get a larger share of the vote in the upcoming elections (the economy is tanking...), the Liberals have kindly come to his help.

They elected Stephane Dion, a likeable but inept academic turned politician. In the middle of a serious economic crisis in the country, sky-high energy prices just ahead of another long Canadian winter his main claim to fame is to have proposed a tax increasing environmental policy. Our environment is important, very important, the policy is comprehensive and pretty good to my mind, BUT it isn't a straightforward bread-and-butter issue for most voters, so he's on to a losing streak. Indeed, that's what all the polls are showing. Dion's Liberals have also kept the Conservatives in power by means of not voting down their legislative program in the parliament for the last year or so.

So, the Canadians are faced with a mean spirited redneck who offers some kind of leadership versus a kind spirited liberal unable to offer any kind of leadership skills. No wonder they're watching CNN to see how things pan out south of the border...