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Jun 06
Her eye on the news
'We're not safe'

The body of Chynal Lindsey, a 26-year-old black transgender woman, was found in Dallas last Saturday bearing “obvious signs of homicidal violence,” police said. This is the second time in less than a month that a black trans woman has been murdered in the city, and at least the fourth killing of a black trans woman over the past three years.

Lindsey was a home health-care worker who had moved to Texas from Chicago in recent years, according to Buzzfeed News. Her body was discovered in a lake, The Guardian reports. Dallas police chief Reneé Hall did not reveal the cause of death during a press conference, but she did say that police had contacted the FBI to ask for assistance.

“We are concerned, we are actively and aggressively investigating this case, and we have reached out to our federal partners to assist us in the efforts,” Hall said.

The homicide comes just weeks after 23-year-old Muhlaysia Booker was shot and killed on a Dallas street. A month before her murder, Booker had been attacked in what the city’s mayor described as an incident of “mob violence.” Shocking footage of the attack showed people gathering around Booker, punching and kicking her, until a group of women helped her escape. Edward Thomas, 29, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault in connection with the incident. Police have said there is no evidence linking him to Booker’s murder.

In October of last year, Brittany White was fatally shot in southeast Dallas. In 2015, the body of a black transgender woman named Shade Schuler was found in a Dallas field. Police have also remarked on a 2017 case, where the remains of a transgender woman were once again discovered in a field, although the cause of death in that incident has not been determined.

When asked if the deaths could be attributed to a serial killer, Hall said police don’t currently “have the evidence to substantiate that.” But authorities noted in a statement last month that two of the victims “were in the area of Spring Avenue and Lagow Street prior to the offenses occurring,” and that “two of the victims got into a vehicle with someone.” The statement stressed, however, that “detectives have not established a direct link between these cases.”

Transgender woman are disproportionately affected by violence, and in Texas, violent acts linked to gender identity are not covered by hate crime laws. In spite of Hall’s assurances that police are working “to provide safety for each and every person in the community,” Nell Gaither, the president of Dallas’s Trans Pride Initiative, told BuzzFeed News that trans people in the city do not feel safe.

“Even if you weren’t feeling it before, this seems like a tipping point,” Gaither said. “People are looking at it as, we’re not safe here anymore.”

Read more at Buzzfeed News and The Guardian.

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'All the colors'

Taylor Swift kicked off Pride Month by urging one of her senators to vote for the Equality Act in support of LGBTQ rights — and rejecting President Trump’s stance.

The act, passed by the House last month, would ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in employment, housing, education, jury service, and federal financing, according to The Washington Post.

Swift penned a letter to Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee asking him to support the act, then posted the letter on Instagram with the caption: “I’ve decided to kick off Pride Month by writing a letter to one of my senators to explain how strongly I feel that the Equality Act should be passed. I urge you to write to your senators, too. I’ll be looking for your letters by searching the hashtag #lettertomysenator.”

In her letter, she told the senator: “For American citizens to be denied jobs or housing based on who they love or how they identify, in my opinion, is un-American and cruel.”

She also mentioned President Trump, who opposes the act, according to The Washington Post.

“I personally reject the President’s stance that his administration, ‘supports equal treatment of all,’ but that the Equality Act, ‘in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights,'” she wrote, referring to a statement from the Trump administration.

“No. One cannot take the position that one supports a community, while condemning it in the next breath as going against ‘conscience’ or ‘parental rights,'” Swift wrote. “That statement implies that there is something morally wrong with being anything other than heterosexual and cisgender, which is an incredibly harmful message to send to a nation full of healthy and loving families with same-sex, non-binary or transgender parents, sons or daughters.”

View this post on Instagram

🌈HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!!!🌈 While we have so much to celebrate, we also have a great distance to go before everyone in this country is truly treated equally. In excellent recent news, the House has passed the Equality Act, which would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in their places of work, homes, schools, and other public accommodations. The next step is that the bill will go before the Senate. I’ve decided to kick off Pride Month by writing a letter to one of my senators to explain how strongly I feel that the Equality Act should be passed. I urge you to write to your senators too. I’ll be looking for your letters by searching the hashtag #lettertomysenator. While there’s no information yet as to when the Equality Act will go before the Senate for a vote, we do know this: Politicians need votes to stay in office. Votes come from the people. Pressure from massive amounts of people is a major way to push politicians towards positive change. That’s why I’ve created a petition at change.org to urge the Senate to support the Equality Act. Our country’s lack of protection for its own citizens ensures that LGBTQ people must live in fear that their lives could be turned upside down by an employer or landlord who is homophobic or transphobic. The fact that, legally, some people are completely at the mercy of the hatred and bigotry of others is disgusting and unacceptable. Let’s show our pride by demanding that, on a national level, our laws truly treat all of our citizens equally. 🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈 Click the link in my bio to sign the petition for Senate support of the Equality Act.

A post shared by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

Swift also posted photos on Instagram from her performance at the Wango Tango music festival, where she wore a rainbow jumpsuit. “Like a rainbow with all of the colors,” she wrote.

Swift broke her longstanding policy of staying silent on political matters last October when she endorsed two Tennessee Democrats.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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Misreported

In recent days, a shocking story proliferated around the world: A 17-year-old Dutch rape survivor, who suffered from severe depression and anorexia, had died by euthanasia at a clinic in the Netherlands. But as The Guardian reports, the story wasn’t true — at least not in its entirety.

Noa Pothoven did in fact die on June 2. But she was not euthanized; she had died in her parents’ home, after voluntarily refusing to eat and drink. Her parents and doctors decided that they would not force-feed her.

Pothoven was the author of an award-winning memoir titled Winning or Learning, in which she attributed her struggles with depression and anorexia to incidents of sexual assault during her childhood. She had experienced repeated hospital stays and involuntary treatments; at one point, she was so perilously underweight that she was put in a coma so doctors could feed her intravenously. Pothoven had also attempted to commit suicide.

In an interview with the Dutch newspaper De Gelderlander last year, Pothoven revealed that she had contacted the Levenseinde, or “end-of-life” clinic in The Hague to find out if she could be considered for euthanasia or assisted suicide. Under strict and specific conditions, euthanasia, in which a doctor ends a person’s life, and assisted suicide, in which a person is given the means to end their own life, are legal in the Netherlands. But the clinic turned down Pothoven’s request.

In light of the false reports that had been circulating throughout the media, however, the clinic issued a statement from Pothoven’s friends saying that she “did not die of euthanasia. To stop her suffering, she stopped eating and drinking.”

Days before her death, in fact, Pothoven had revealed that she was no longer taking food and drink, posting her decision in what she called a “sorrowful last post” on Instagram, which has since been deleted.

“I’ll get straight to the point: Within a maximum of 10 days I will die,” she wrote. “After years of fighting and struggling it is over. I have stopped eating and drinking for a while now, and after many conversations and reviews it has been decided that I will be let go because my suffering is unbearable. It is finished. For so long I have not really been living, I have been surviving, and even that not really. I have not really been alive for so long, I am surviving, and even that not really. I breathe but I am no longer alive.”

So how had the false story spread? According to Politico, Dutch media never reported that Pothoven had died by euthanasia. The source of the erroneous information is not entirely clear, but The Guardian reports that British publications received it from the Central European News (CEN), “which specializes in supplying unusual and quirky foreign stories to English-language news outlets.” CEN has previously been accused of propagating inaccurate news updates; the wire unsuccessfully attempted to sue Buzzfeed over such allegations.

Paul Bolwerk, a journalist at De Gelderlander who has followed Pothoven’s story, confirmed in an interview with Politico that “you can’t speak of active euthanization” in this case. “She got depressed more and more, and said, ‘Well, OK, now I press on the button. Now I say I will stop with all treatments,’” Bolwerk said. “And that was very stressful for everyone, including the parents, the doctors, the psychiatrists.

Read more at the Guardian and Politico.

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Shaking it up

Customers at the Queensboro Restaurant in Queens, New York, got a surprise when Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez showed up to work as a bartender, mixing drinks and serving up pizzas to tables.

The 29-year-old congressional freshman decided to do some bartending in a show of support for the Raise the Wage Act, which would gradually increase the federal minimum wage for tipped workers.

“The federal tipped minimum wage is $2.13 an hour—that is unacceptable!” Ocasio-Cortez, a former bartender, told customers at the bar on Friday, adding that this is equivalent to “indentured servitude” and discussing the need to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers to $15 an hour, according to Mother Jones.

“I was nervous that I may have lost my touch — still got it!” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, along with a video of herself with a shaker behind the bar. Customers got into it, taking selfies and posting videos of themselves with the popular representative.

Ocasio-Cortez has been an avid proponent of initiatives to raise the minimum wage, not only for tipped workers but for all Americans. In February, she took on Ivanka Trump after the first daughter said on Fox News, “I don’t think most Americans in their heart want to be given something. I’ve spent a lot of time traveling around this country over the last four years. People want to work for what they get, so I think this idea of a guaranteed minimum is not something most people want. They want the ability to be able to secure a job.”

Ocasio-Cortez fired back on Twitter: “As a person who actually worked for tips & hourly wages in my life, instead of having to learn about it 2nd-hand, I can tell you that most people want to be paid enough to live. A living wage isn’t a gift, it’s a right. Workers are often paid far less than the value they create.”

Read the full story at Mother Jones.

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'Tool of war'

On May 15, Syrian bombs destroyed a maternity and children’s hospital in the city Idlib, the nineteenth medical facility attacked since late April, journalist Janine di Giovanni writes in a New York Times editorial, stressing that the government’s “campaign against hospitals is not just inhumane — it represents one of the most repellent aspects of modern warfare.”

President Bashar al-Assad uses hospitals as a “tool of war,” writes di Giovanni, explaining that the targeting of hospitals goes back to the beginning of the Syrian civil war, when protests against the government began. President al-Assad believed that doctors who treated wounded protesters were anti-government themselves.

Dr. Rola Hallam, a British-trained Syrian anesthetist, is fighting to combat the unthinkable attacks on hospitals — by building new hospitals. She and her colleagues at an organization called CanDo have built seven hospitals since 2016, according to di Giovanni.

Dr. Hallam, speaking at the Women in the World Summit in New York in 2017, discussed her crucial work in Syria, describing the hardest day of her life — an incident that speaks volumes about the al-Assad regime. She recalled a time when she was helping treat patients at a Syrian hospital and saw a boy burned so badly, his skin looked like bark on a tree. “I had never seen anything like it before. I was so stunned, I could only say, ‘How are you?’ He whispered, ‘I’m OK.’”

There had been an attack on a schoolyard, she explained. “A big ball of fire had been dropped from the sky. One by one, we were seeing these ghoulish-looking children walking in. Clothes are hanging off them. They’re covered in white powder dust, with the most heart-wrenching smell of singed flesh. I felt like I’d been transported to a horror movie.” She knew the severely burned boy would would die a painful death from suffocation. And so, she said, “I treated him so he would slip away.”

Below, watch a video of her at the Women in the World Summit, describing her lifesaving work:

Read the full editorial at The New York Times.

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06.06.19

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