Remembering my mother on her birthday and Polio Awareness Day

Posted on 24 Oct 2014 at 12:10pm
Claire in Lab 1940's

My mother, Claire Taffet, in her lab at Columbia University doing polio research.

News that polio is on the rise again in some areas is very disturbing.

Today is Polio Awareness Day. I love that Polio Awareness Day is today because it would also have been my mother’s 95th birthday. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, my mother worked at Columbia University in a bacteriology lab creating the polio vaccine.

She had a lab assistant that she and her friend Mae referred to as “the snotty intern.” The intern’s name was Jonas Salk, the doctor who went on to perfect their work and create the first polio vaccine that vaccine, released in 1955.

Several years after the Salk vaccine came out, Dr. Albert Sabin, who everyone enjoyed working with, developed the oral vaccine that works in the intestines where polio multiplied and entered the bloodstream. His vaccine stops the means of transmission. Sabin went on to create vaccines for encephalitis and dengue fever.

In 1960, Salk established the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., where valuable research has been done on AIDS, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and more.

Polio has been known throughout history, but larger epidemics began in Europe in the 1880s and in the U.S. in the early 20th century. At the height of the epidemic in the 1940s and 50s, polio killed half a million people in the world every year. Those that contracted the virus and didn’t die were left paralyzed.

So on Polio Awareness Day, if you haven’t been vaccinated or had your kids vaccinated, please do. Vaccines are safe and do not cause autism or any of the other things idiots like Rep. Michelle Bachman claim.

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Police still looking for leads in September murder of gay man on Cedar Springs

Posted on 23 Oct 2014 at 6:47pm
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Joseph Chase

Dallas Police are still looking for information regarding the murder of a gay man beaten to death early in the morning of Sept. 25 at the corner of Cedar Springs Road and Throckmorton Street.

According to the DPD Blog, officers were flagged down at about 2:30 a.m. regarding a man, later identified as 54-year-old Joseph Chase who was lying unconscious on the sidewalk near the intersection, suffering from possible head trauma.

Dallas Fire Rescue took Chase to Parkland Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Officials with the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office told police that Chase had suffered blunt force injuries to his neck area and ruled his death a homicide.

Investigators later found video footage of the attack on Chase taken by nearby surveillance cameras — you can see the video below. The footage was captured on a camera across the street from where the attack occurred. It is dark and the incident with Chase is seen from a distance and is partially obscured by a tree on the sidewalk. The footage, however, appears to show two unknown suspects involved in an altercation with Chase, and one of the suspects hitting Chase and knocking him to the ground.

Passersby who saw Chase on the ground flagged down police.

“At this time, no eyewitnesses to the assault/homicide have come forward,” according to the DPD Blog. “This offense is documented on Incident Report #230525-2014.”

Homicide Det. Derick Chaney is lead investigator on the case, and he asked for Dallas Voice’s help earlier this month in trying to find witnesses or anyone with information regarding the attack on Joseph Chase. We ran this post, which was viewed more than 700 times, at that time, but Chaney said this week that he has received no information at all on the case.

Chaney asks again that anyone with any information regarding the attack on Joseph Chase call him at 214-671-3650.

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BREAKING: Lambda Legal sues TDCJ on behalf of trans inmate

Posted on 23 Oct 2014 at 2:46pm
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Jael Humphrey

Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit today (Thursday, Oct. 23), on behalf of Passion Star, a trans woman being housed with male prisoners in the Texas prison system. The lawsuit claims that officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice have “displayed deliberate indifference to threats of sexual assault and violence against Ms. Star in TDCJ’s male facilities,” according to a statement released this afternoon.

“Ms. Star has been pleading for protection from rapes, beatings, knifings and threats to her life since she entered TDCJ custody as a teenager, but instead of separating her from aggressors, Texas prison officials have forced her to remain in the general population in male prisons, even though the risk that she would be seriously harmed was obvious,” said Lambda Legal staff attorney Jael Humphrey.

“It is absolutely appalling how TDCJ officials, following the clear lead of Gov. Rick Perry, callously ignore the desperate pleas of Ms. Star and other LGBT people in custody asking to be protected from sexual abuse,” Humphrey added.

Star, now 30, was still a teenager when she pled guilty to charges of aggravated kidnapping, charges that were based on allegations that Star’s boyfriend refused to return to the dealership a used car they were test driving, instead driving around for several hours with the car salesman as an unwilling passenger in the front seat. Star herself was in the back seat.

Star was sentenced to 20 years and transferred into TDCJ custody, and has been housed with male inmates since.

Humphrey said Star has been housed in six different male prison facilities, and that inmates at all six have identified her as feminine. She has been raped, forced to submit to unwanted sexual acts to avoid physical violence and threatened with sexual assault.

Attorneys say Star has filed numerous grievances, complaints and requests asking to be placed in safekeeping. But instead of taking measures to protect her, prison officials have instead told Star to “suck dick,” fight or “stop acting gay” if she wants to keep from being assaulted.

Lambda Legal alleges that on Nov. 19, 2013, Star asked TDCJ officials to protect her from a gang member who had told her that he “owned her.” But instead of protecting her, prison officials actually moved her closer to the person who was threatening her. The next morning, the gang member attacked Star, calling her a “snitching faggot” and slashing her face eight times with a razor.

Still, prison officials refused to move Star to protect her.

Humphrey noted that the Prison Rape Elimination Act, passed by a unanimous vote of Congress, requires states to take measures to eliminate sexual abuse of those in custody and provides guidelines on how to do that — including screening and separating particularly vulnerable people, like trans women, from the general population. Gov. Perry, however, has dismissed the PREA standards as “ill-conceived” and chose to pass up federal funds earmarked by the Department of Justice for the prevention of sexual abuse in detention facilities.

In a written statement released by Lambda Legal, Star said, “Somebody, somehow, needs to shed light on what is taking place here in Texas prisons. TDCJ officials get away with so much and disregard so many legitimate threats to people’s safety. It needs to stop somewhere. I fight for my life every day in here. Safety from rape and assault is not a privilege; it’s a right. I hope this lawsuit will help make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

The case has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Kenneth Upton and Paul Castillo are handling the case, joined by co-counsel Christina N. Goodrich, Christopher J. Kondon and Saman M. Rejali with K&L Gates LLP.

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God hates LGBT people so God made Ebola

Posted on 23 Oct 2014 at 2:24pm
ponpon

Leroy Ponpon is an outspoken LGBT advocate in Liberia.

As if life weren’t already a living hell for Liberia’s LGBT population, Reuters reports that LGBT people are being blamed for the country’s Ebola outbreak that has killed around 5,000 people so far.

LGBT advocate Leroy Ponpon said “gays have been harassed, physically attacked and a few have had their cars smashed by people blaming them for the haemorrhagic fever, after religious leaders in Liberia said Ebola was a punishment from God for homosexuality.

Since church ministers declared Ebola was a plague sent by God to punish sodomy in Liberia, the violence towards gays has escalated. They’re even asking for the death penalty. We’re living in fear,” Ponpon said.

Liberia wasn’t exactly viewed as a sanctuary for LGBT people. ”Voluntary sodomy” is a first-degree misdemeanor with a penalty of up to one year in jail, according to the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).

But Francois Patuel, Amnesty International’s representative in West Africa, was unaware of similar incidents in other Ebola-stricken countries in the region.

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Time to destroy another landmark in Dallas

Posted on 23 Oct 2014 at 10:51am
Cabana Hotel

Cabana Motor Hotel as seen from Dallas Voice office

The old Cabana Motor Hotel on Stemmons Freeway just outside of downtown Dallas is on the verge of being sold and redeveloped.

The property was purchased by Dallas County in 1985 and was used as a jail until 2009.

The property has a storied history. In 1962, Jay Sarno, who developed Ceasar’s Palace and Circus Circus in Las Vegas, built the Cabana and the hotel was owned by Doris Day.

In 1964, the Beatles stayed here on their first North American tour. During the 1960s and early ’70s, it was the place for touring rock acts to stay, including Jimi Hendrix, The Dave Clark Five, Led Zeppelin and The Monkees.

Raquel Welch worked here as a cocktail waitress while modeling for Neiman Marcus.

The hotel is not a registered landmark. The county is negotiating with Lincoln Property Company for its sale, according to the Dallas Morning News.

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Texas lesbian widow is plaintiff in Lambda Legal suit against Social Security Administration

Posted on 22 Oct 2014 at 2:53pm
Murphy and Barker

Kathy Murphy and Sara Barker

Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit today (Wednesday, Oct. 22) against the Social Security Administration on behalf of Kathy Murphy of Austin and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, claiming that the SSA’s decision to deny spousal benefits to Murphy after the death of her wife violates the U.S. Constitution. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in United States v. Windsor, in which the court struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal recognition to legally married same-sex couples, Lambda Legal attorneys argue that “SSA cannot perpetuate the same kind of discrimination now and leave lesbian and gay spouses without the financial protections of social security as they age,” according to a press statement the organization released this afternoon.

Murphy, 62, and Sara Barker had been together 30 years when they were legally married in Massachusetts in 2010, although they lived in Texas, a non-marriage-equality state. Barker died of cancer in March, 2012 at age 62. But because they lived in Texas, which does not legally recognize their marriage, SSA has refused to legally recognize their marriage, denying Murphy the spousal survivor benefits Barker had earned during her lifetime of work.

Following the SCOTUS ruling in the Windsor case last year, President Obama ordered the U.S. Attorney General’s office to work with other federal agencies and officials to implement the Windsor decision. In implementing that decision, the Department of Justice and most federal agencies depended on the law where a couple’s marriage took place — the “place of celebration” to determine whether the marriage was legal, rather then place where they lived. Under that standard, Murphy’s and Barker’s marriage should be legally recognized by the federal government.

Murphy applied to the SSA for surviving spouse benefits last year after the Windsor decision. But in June of this year, with Murphy’s application for benefits still pending, the Department of Justice announced that the SSA and the Department of Veterans Affairs viewed themselves as being prohibited by statute from using the “place of celebration” rule for certain programs, including the surviving spouse benefits program.

“SSA should not be telling widowed lesbians and gay men already grieving the loss of a spouse, ‘You live in the wrong state so you don’t get Social Security spousal benefits,’” said Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal. Sommer noted that the SSA is “relying on discriminatory state marriage bans declared unconstitutional by an avalanche of courts around the country” in denying spousal benefits to gay and lesbian widows and widowers.

Murphy noted that she and Barker “were blessed with nearly 32 years together,” and that they had taken care of each other “in all the ways any committed couple does — physically, emotionally and financially.”

“Sara wouldn’t have wanted me to be in a position like this. We promised to support each other as a couple and if one of us should pass away,” Murphy said. “We worked hard to close all the gaps before she died and now the federal government won’t do its part.”

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization dedicated to protecting Social Security for all generations and communities. Murphy is a member.

Max Richtman, the National Committee’s president and CEO, said, “There is no rational reason why a couple living in Texas or any other state should continue to face this type of discrimination, including the denial of Social Security spousal benefits they have earned through their working lifetimes. It’s past time to right this wrong.”

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Federal judge upholds Puerto Rico’s gay marriage ban

Posted on 22 Oct 2014 at 1:23pm

131024100102-puerto-rican-bonds-620xaA federal judge upheld Puerto Rico’s ban on same-sex marriage on Tuesday, Oct. 21.

According to the Los Angeles Times, U.S. District Judge Juan M. Pérez-Giménez based his decision on the dismissal of appeal in Baker v. Nelson, a 1971 case in which two men sought to marry in Minnesota. By dismissing the appeal, wrote Pérez-Giménez, ”the Supreme Court bound all lower courts to assume bans on same-sex marriage do not violate the Constitution. The high court could choose to overrule itself but has not.”

Evoking his inner Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), he wrote legalizing same-sex marriage will lead to bestiality and to polyamorous and incestuous marriages.

“Ultimately,” he wrote, “the very survival of the political order depends upon the procreative potential embodied in traditional marriage.”

Talk about activist judges.

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Biking to City Hall with the City Council

Posted on 22 Oct 2014 at 10:26am

Five members of the Dallas City Council led a bike ride from Main Street Garden to Dallas City Hall this morning to highlight the city’s commitment to continuing construction of bike paths and bike lanes throughout the city.

Plans call for more than 1,000 miles of lanes and paths for bikes, with about 35 miles of that is currently under construction. Money has already been approved to extend the Trinity Strand Trail into Oak Lawn from Infomart to the Medical District.

More than 50 people rode with council members Dwaine Caraway, Jennifer Staubach Gates, Philip Kingston, Lee Kleinman and Adam Medrano. Councilman Scott Griggs — who was supposed to bring the doughnuts and coffee — joined the group for a press conference at City Hall. Thanks Scott.

Kleinman rode the farthest, coming from his Far North Dallas district. Kingston rode in a suit. Gates showed off her helmet hair and Caraway said his butt was still too big for his bike seat, but he has lost 35 pounds recently from bike riding.

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Jon Buice again denied parole in 1991 gay bashing murder

Posted on 21 Oct 2014 at 4:25pm
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Jon Christopher Buice

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted today, Tuesday, Oct. 21, to once again deny convicted killer Jon Christopher Buice’s request for parole.Buice, now 40 years old, was one of 10 men — ranging in age at the time from 16 to 22 — convicted of the 1991 murder of Paul Broussard, a Houston gay man who was beaten and stabbed to death after leaving a gay bar in the Montrose neighborhood on July 4.

It was Broussard’s murder that prompted then-Texas Gov. Ann Richards to call a special session of the Texas Legislature to pass the state’s first hate crimes law in 1993.

Andy Kahan, a victim advocate for the city of Houson, said Tuesday, “Since Jon made the deliberate conscious effort to deprive Paul of his life, all we can do in return is to deprive him of his liberty and today we at least accomplished that for another year.”

Dallas Voice is waiting for comments from Broussard’s mother, Nancy Rodriguez, who was worked diligently since her son’s death to see his killers convicted, and to keep Buice in jail.

Buice, who admitted at trial that he was the one that inflicted the stab wound that actually killed Broussard, was sentenced to 45 years in prison. He was denied parole in 2007 and in 2009. In 2011, the Board of Pardons and Parole initially granted Buice’s request for parole but then reversed its decision following an outcry by the LGBT community and Rodriguez.

Buice’s was denied parole again in 2012, 2013 and today. Raymond Estrada, spokesman for the Board of Pardons and Paroles, said the reason given for denying parole was “the nature of the offense.” He said Buice is up for review again on Oct. 1, 2015.

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BREAKING: Cowboys waive Michael Sam

Posted on 21 Oct 2014 at 2:39pm

michaelsam1From DallasCowboys.com:

The Cowboys have decided to waive defensive end Michael Sam.

The practice squad player who joined the team on Sept. 3, spent the first seven weeks of the season on the 10-man squad and never made it to the 53-man roster.

Sam, the first openly-gay player in the NFL, was a seventh-round draft pick of the Rams. He spent all of the offseason and training camp with the St. Louis before being released and signed to the Cowboys’ practice squad.

The move opens a spot for linebacker Troy Davis, a second-year pro from Central Florida who worked out with the team on Monday.

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