Video Mistaken For ‘Gay Wedding’ Lands 10 Men In Jail

When a video clip of a birthday party in Mauritania was posted to social media and wrongly perceived to be a same-sex wedding, authorities rounded up ten men in the video and arrested them.

“The prosecutor’s office sent the young homosexual delinquents to prison to await judgment for acts contrary to morality, committing acts forbidden by Allah and circulating a ceremony of debauchery,” a source told Agence France-Presse.

Even though police later determined the event in the video was a birthday party, the men remain incarcerated with no trial date scheduled.

Mauritania, located in northwest Africa, is governed by strict Islamic law known as Shariah.

Article 308 of Mauritania’s criminal code prohibits same-sex behavior between Muslim adults calling such relations as “acts against nature.”

In more than half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, homosexuality is illegal and can be punishable by the death penalty although Amnesty International reports no executions have been carried out in more than a decade.

AFP reports that although investigators established the party was “the birthday party of a homosexual,” the ten men were detained “to help investigations.”

Brahim Bilal, the president of a human rights organization in Mauritania, said in a statement the arrests were “a serious attack on the individual and collective freedom of these young people who have the right to display their difference and intimate preferences.”

Watch the video which began the ordeal below.

Twitter Claps Back As Rapper Rants About ‘Forcing LGBT Onto’ Africa

Rapper J Hus (image via Facebook)

Rapper J Hus began a Twitter firestorm when he tweeted accusations of Europeans “weaponizing” homosexuality and “forcing LGBT onto” Africa.

The London-based rapper’s initial tweet (which has since been deleted) read, “STOP FORCING LGBT ONTO US. Live your life I don’t care but don’t force it onto me especially when you don’t wanna recognize these black struggle.”

Of course, that was quickly followed with a denial of being homophobic saying he’s good with the gays because “The more gay men the more women for me.”

In another tweet J Hus deleted, he added, “They try force Ghana to include LGBT into their education when its not their culture. You can’t tell me they don’t try force it on us.”

After a lot of backlash from the Twitterverse, the rapper stood down saying, “Okay maybe I’m wrong then. Forgive me. I don’t wanna offend anyone. From my point I saw things different. You can school me.”

Making a point to say he “never once said” he hated anyone, J Hus threw in, “To me it looked like they was weaponizing it against us. But do ur thing.”

“Yeah I see all the tweets,” wrote J Hus as he tried to step away from the issue. “The culture I practise, we’re not familiar with these things that’s why I have a different view. I don’t hate anyone but I stand up for my culture. Don’t take no offence. Live your life happily.”

Among those who spoke out during the tweetstorm was rapper MNEK, who is both black and gay, who wrote, “Ok so are you saying that LGBT people are exclusively white? that there’s no such thing as intersectionality? that fans of your music who are both black and lgbt, myself included, don’t understand black struggle either? i just want to be clear.”

Ambassador To Zambia Denounces 15-Year Prison Sentence For 2 Gay Men

(stock photo via Depositphotos)
(stock photo via Depositphotos)
(stock photo via Depositphotos)

Two gay men in Zambia were arrested for having gay sex in a private hotel room, and the High Court of Zambia has now sentenced the men to 15 years in prison for being intimate behind closed doors.

The south-eastern African country, which retains its colonial-era laws, offers no legal protections for LGBTQ people.

The men, Japhet Chataba and Steven Samba, booked the room in 2017. According to reports, a female worker peeked through a window and saw the men being intimate.

Last week, a judge dismissed an appeal against their convictions for crimes against the order of nature (the legal term for gay sex in Zambia) sentencing them both to 15 years in prison.

World map showing Zambia on continent of Africa

The U.S. ambassador to Zambia, Daniel Foote, said in a statement: “I was personally horrified to read about the sentencing of two men, who had a consensual relationship, which hurt absolutely no one.”

Foote implored the government of Zambia to review the case but received a fervent backlash for speaking out.

In an official embassy statement, Foote announced he was forced to cancel attending World AIDS Day events due to threats against him.

“I was shocked at the venom and hate directed at me and my country, largely in the name of “Christian” values, by a small minority of Zambians,” wrote the ambassador. “I thought, perhaps incorrectly, that Christianity meant trying to live like our Lord, Jesus Christ. I am not qualified to sermonize, but I cannot imagine Jesus would have used bestiality comparisons or referred to his fellow human beings as “dogs,” or “worse than animals;” allusions made repeatedly by your countrymen and women about homosexuals.”

Foote’s official statement also made mention of the $500 million in annual assistance Zambia receives from the United States saying, “In these countries were we contribute resources, this includes partnering in areas of mutual interest, and holding the recipient government accountable for its responsibilities under this partnership.”

In an interview with Sky News, President Lungu defended his country’s homophobic laws saying, “Even animals don’t do it, so why should we be forced to do it?…because we want to be smart, civilized and advanced and so on.”

“If there are such countries which will allow bestiality, let them do it but not here,” he added.

Ah, yes – the old ‘compare being gay to having sex with animals’ argument. How fresh, how new…

Zambia’s president told Sky News his government will officially complain to the Trump administration over Foote’s remarks.

(source: Sky News)

Botswana’s High Court Strikes Down Anti-Homosexuality Laws

In a major victory for LGBTQ rights, Botswana's highest court has struck down the African nation's laws that made same-sex relations a criminal act.
(image via Twitter/Keikantse E. Phele)

In a major victory for LGBTQ rights, Botswana’s highest court has struck down the African nation’s laws that made same-sex relations a criminal act.

The packed courtroom erupted in cheers as the unanimous ruling was announced.

“Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalised,” said Justice Michael Leburu as he read the historic ruling. “Sexual orientation is not a fashion statement. It is an important attribute of one’s personality.”

“The state cannot be a sheriff in people’s bedrooms,” he added.

Even though Botswana is considered one of the most stable and democratic countries in Africa, homosexuality has been illegal under the nation’s penal code since 1965. Someone found guilty under the laws faced jail time of up to seven years.

More than half of the countries in Africa have some form of anti-homosexuality laws in place.

Today’s news stands in sharp contrast to last month’s disappointing ruling in Kenya where that country’s high court found its anti-homosexuality laws were not unconstitutional.

Documentary: ‘The Last Mile’ Explores Impact Of 1993’s ‘Philadelphia’ On Stigma Of AIDS

In advance of this year’s World AIDS Day (December 1) and as a long-standing supporter of HIV/AIDS awareness and research, Coca-Cola is partnering with (RED) to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the groundbreaking film, Philadelphia, with a new documentary titled, The Last Mile.

Inspired by the progress made in HIV/AIDS since the 1993 release of Philadelphia, The Last Mile features cast members Tom Hanks, Mary Steenburgen and Denzel Washington along with writer, Ron Nyswaner, discussing director Jonathan Demme’s sensitive vision for the film.

The illustrious group also discusses how the film changed perceptions about HIV/AIDS from fear to compassion, from stigma to empathy.

“It’s hard for people now to realize how intense that moment in time was,’ Steenburgen says in the newly-released trailer. “There was a tremendous amount of fear and a lack of knowledge.”

“I remember the different scarred faces – people with scars on their faces. I remember the sadness,” says Washington.

“Going in and out of New York City, you ended up seeing it all over the place ― men were pushing other men around in wheelchairs,” adds Hanks, who would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his powerful performance of a Philadelphia lawyer diagnosed with AIDS.

Tom Hanks

The documentary short is produced by Coca-Cola as part of the beverage giant’s social initiative Project Last Mile, which works to improve availability of life-saving medications to more and more regions of Africa.

The film shares the work of dedicated healthcare workers in Africa who are changing the face of the AIDS epidemic.

“The strides, they’re extraordinary,” says Hanks of the work being done there. “But, there is still a massive amount of need for attention that something like the pandemic of AIDS is going to require.”

“We have come a long way,” adds Steenburgen. “I think it’s time to continue to be inspired.”

Health worker in Africa delivering HIV medications

In terms of progress, there are nearly 22 million people living with HIV who now have access to treatment. But in 2017, nearly 1 million people around the world died from AIDS – a disease that is both preventable and treatable.

The new documentary hopes to help empower those on the front lines of the epidemic by reinforcing continued awareness and support.

The Last Mile will be available on November 15 at red.org/cocacola.

Watch the trailer below.

HIV Meds For African Nations For $75 Per Patient Per Year

Thanks to the Bill Gates Foundation, African nations will soon get life-saving HIV medications at a cost of only $75 a year per patient!

Via The Guardian:

Makers of generic AIDS drugs will start churning out millions of pills for Africa containing a state-of-the-art medicine widely used in rich countries, after securing a multi-million dollar guarantee that caps prices at just $75 per patient a year.

Global health experts hope the deal will help address two looming problems in the HIV epidemic – the rising threat of resistance developing to standard AIDS drugs, and the need for more investment in manufacturing capacity.

Bill Gates’ charitable foundation will guarantee minimum sales volumes of the new combination pills using dolutegravir, a so-called integrase inhibitor that avoids the drug resistance that often develops with older treatments.

In return the drugmakers, India-based Mylan Laboratories (MYL.O) and Aurobindo Pharma (ARBN.NS), will agree the maximum price of about $75 per patient for a year’s supply – less than the list price for one day’s supply of a dolutegravir combination in the United States.

Help Build A Community Kitchen In Africa

Building to house community kitchen

The son of a good friend of mine, Aaron Levine, is currently doing a two year stint in the Peace Corps in Swaziland, Africa, working in the Youth in Development program.

I should preface this post by saying working as a member of Peace Corps is no “Club Med.” And, as many of you know, it’s not a money making experience. According to the Peace Corps website,  Peace Corps provides each Volunteer with housing and a living stipend that enables them to live in a manner similar to people in their community of service.

That being said, everyone talks about the awesome experiences and growth the program provides to young adults.

In an effort to help leave behind a worthy legacy for years to come, Aaron is working to build a much-needed community kitchen to help feed the children in his area.

The project will cost about $1,500, but Aaron isn’t allowed to fund raise on his own. So, his mother has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help cover the costs of materials to build the community kitchen.

I’ll add that this project isn’t going to win someone a Grammy Award or Academy Award. No one will get famous or rich. In fact, no one will make a dime from what will be a grueling project to complete.

But what will happen is countless children in need will get help. And that is priceless.

From the GoFundMe page:

Aaron works with schools, community members, community organizations, and Non-Governmental Organizations to provide interventions and education pertaining to healthy living, prevention and mitigation of the effects of HIV/AIDS, life skills, employment skills, and providing basic services for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs).

Aaron was attached to Eric Rosenberg High School in Gege in the southern region of Shiselweni last Septmeber, having arrived in the country for training in June 2015. He has been doing work to help the youth of the community empower themselves and make a difference in their lives and their community, but sometimes there are economic barriers that are too much to be overcome by children with no parents or children heading households themselves.

Aaron suggested using a nearby store that was abandoned and unused and refurbishing it instead of making an entirely new structure. They approached the owners, who leased it to them for 300E ($20) a month, which will be offset by the repairs they will make on the structure. Upon a closer examination of the structure, they decided to turn it into a community kitchen for the OVCs in the Eric Rosenberg area of Gege.

The inkundla (community head) of Gege has a list of all of the OVCs in the area, but truly every person under 18 in Swaziland is considered an OVC by the Peace Corps. The spread and affect of HIV/AIDS is felt in every corner of the country by everyone in one way or another. Every child has lost a parent, older relative, or sibling. Every adult takes care of, or provides for in some way, at least one OVC, at least one extra child. This project is a small part of relieving that strain of HIV/AIDS on the community and empowering the youth in their economic, social, and emotional struggles. This project is targeting those OVCs with no parents and no solid source of income or food, and will attempt to provide them with at least one extra meal a day.

There’s a lot more info at the link.

I personally think this is an awesome project. It’s a relatively small amount of money for something that, while labor-intensive, will help this area for years and years to feed vulnerable children.

I invite you to click over and take a look at the project, and if you feel it, please consider making a donation – of any size.

Aaron will be doing the physical work here, but I’d love to help him get the funds to make this a reality.

Music: Band Aid Thirty “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

Band Aid 30 "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

Last night, The X Factor debuted the latest version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” featuring Bono, Ellie Goulding, Sam Smith, Seal, One Direction and many more lending their talents to raise funds to combat the spread of Ebola in Africa.

The 1984 original became the biggest selling single in UK Singles Chart history, selling a million copies in the first week alone, and passing three million sales on the last day of 1984. It stayed at Number 1 for five weeks, becoming Christmas number one, and has sold 3.7 million copies domestically.

The song was re-recorded in 1989 by Band Aid II and in 2004 by Band Aid 20, again raising funds for famine relief. The 2004 version of the song sold 1.17 million copies.

Download the 2014 version on iTunes here.