Last night’s Health Dialogues focused on teen health. The on-air pieces included a round table discussion with students from Burton High School in San Francisco, a look at an anti-bullying program in Lake County, and a visit to a group in Fresno that focuses on healthy decision making. Personally, I’m thrilled to see a show about teenagers that actually included teens themselves. And you can be part of the conversation too. Visit the Health Dialogues site, listen to what other teens had to say, and then tell us what you have to say. Come on. You know you want a chance to vent.
By Emmanuel Hapsis and Amanda Stupi
In Other Words is back with another Word of the Week–the series that explains the news behind the buzz.
This week we decided to give you the basics of the Proposition 8 trial.
To follow KQED’s ongoing coverage of the trial, visit:
The California Report’s special coverage of Same-Sex Marriage in California
Scott Shafer’s Proposition 8 Trial blog
The gay marriage debate in California is back in the spotlight. After the passage of Proposition 8 in November 2008, which revoked the right granted by the California Supreme Court in June 2008 for same-sex couples to legally marry, civil rights activists vowed to bring the issue back to the courts and they’ve made good on their promise. Today marks the beginning of Perry v. Schwarzenegger and the first time a federal court has ever debated same-sex marriage. Here’s what you need to know:
Many expect Perry v. Schwarzenegger to be a landmark case that will ultimately end up at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. Some gay rights activists, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), tried to prevent the lawsuit because they believe that taking the issue to federal courts, specifically what many view as a right-leaning Supreme Court, is too risky.
Former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson and trial lawyer David Boies, a Republican and Democrat respectively, are set to represent the same-sex couples who have been denied the right to marry. What’s interesting about their collaboration is that, in 2000, they were on opposing sides of Bush v. Gore, the highly-controversial court case that resolved the 2000 presidential election in George Bush’s favor. The two high-profile lawyers plan to make the case that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution by denying the equal protection promised in the Fourteenth Amendment.
The defendants include a number of religious and conservative groups led by Charles Cooper, a lawyer who worked for the Justice Department under former President Ronald Reagan. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown are also listed as defendants, although both refuse to defend Prop 8 in court. Schwarzenegger has refused to officially pick a side on the issue, while Brown shares the Olson-Boies team’s belief that gays have the constitutional right to marriage.
By Emmanuel Hapsis
Editor’s note: Updated on 12/15/09
Something important is happening in Uganda, but unless you watch The Rachel Maddow Show, you probably haven’t heard much about it. There is a proposed bill (officially called “The Anti-Homosexuality Bill”) in the Uganda parliament that proposes to execute people for having homosexual sex and for being gay and HIV positive. Recently, news outlets reported that Ugandan officials had bowed to international pressure and had removed execution and life-imprisonment from the bill, but David Bahati, a major proponent of the bill, recently denied those reports. The bill is severe with or without the death penalty: it calls for a three year jail penalty for anyone who fails to turn in someone they know to be gay, a seven year sentence for “attempting to commit the offense of homosexuality,” forced “conversion therapy,” and the extradition of any Ugandan who is living abroad and suspected of being gay.
So where did the Ugandan legislators get the idea for this bill? According to Maddow and Time magazine, the work of prominent American evangelicals such as Rick Warren and books such as The Pink Swastika and Coming Out Straight have been used to justify the Ugandan legislation. Below is Maddow’s interview with Richard Cohen, author of Coming Out Straight.
It is important to note that Rick Warren, Pink Swastika author Scott Lively, and several members of the group “The Family,” to which Maddow refers, all recently released statements to the American media denouncing the Ugandan bill.
Further Coverage of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill:
Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill: Inspired by the U.S. at Time Magazine
White House Condemns Uganda Bill at the Advocate.com
Today, President Obama signed an update to the federal hate crimes law that was originally passed in 1968.
The update extends protection to attacks motivated by someone’s sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity.
Finally. This bill took longer to solidify than drying cement. As the saying goes, better late than never. Which is very true despite how cheap the cliché makes it feel. So better late than never.
But why was it so late? Why does it take the work of so many advocates, an entire decade of debate, and 14 separate congressional votes to get this passed? Why is something of this magnitude just kicked further down the road? All while people are literally being killed. I don’t think I will ever understand how the Washington political process works but I guess I am happy that it does work. In the end. After eleven years.
This story is part of Youth Radio’s investigation: Sailors’ Abuse Kept Silent In Navy Canine Unit.
After Youth Radio reported last month on widespread hazing in a Bahrain canine unit, the Chief of Naval Operations has completed reviewing how officials handled an investigation into the abuse. He found that the chief petty officer responsible for the abuse had not been adequately punished.
As a result of the top-level Navy review of misconduct in a canine unit in Bahrain, the Secretary of the Navy has censured the unit’s former chief petty officer, Michael Toussaint, forcing him to retire from the Navy.
Previously, an investigation into the hazing at the base in Bahrain between 2004 and 2006 revealed widespread abuse of sailors and other misconduct, including gambling and soliciting prostitutes. On September 22, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead ordered Navy Installations Command (CNIC ) to review what actions were taken as a result of the hazing investigation.
“After reviewing the investigation and the CNIC report, Admiral Roughead found the incidents were not in keeping with Navy values and standards and violated Navy’s long standing prohibition against hazing,” said Navy spokesperson Commander Elissa Smith.
Navy Veteran Joseph Christopher Rocha has gotten attention from the national news media this week.
Youth Radio first broke Rocha’s story back in June when he told us about the abuse he experienced during his time serving in Bahrain.
This weekend, we were happy to see Joseph Christopher Rocha’s editorial in the Washington Post. Here’s an excerpt from the powerful piece of writing:
I don’t think I will ever feel as powerless as I did when I was on my knees, wearing a U.S. military uniform in the Middle East, forced by my superior to shove my head between another man’s legs. But I have discovered that telling this story holds its own kind of power.
UPDATE: The following story is a continuation of our feature, “Investigation: Sailors’ Abuse Kept Silent in Navy Canine Unit.”
(Click here to listen to the full story.)
For access to all documents, posts, and images associated with this story see our Sailor’s Abuse Investigation Hub.
After Youth Radio exposed a culture of hazing, including psychological and physical abuse, at a U.S. Navy canine unit in Bahrain, the nation’s top Naval officer has ordered a review of how the abuses were handled. The Chief of Naval Operations who ordered the review is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and principal Naval advisor to the President. Deadline for that review is October 6th.
Incidents of wrongdoing in the unit ranged from spraying down uniformed personnel with hoses to directing sailors to simulate sex acts on videotape. Youth Radio’s interviews reveal that the abuse was sanctioned and in some cases instigated by the unit’s leadership.
Despite 93 incidents of abuse and misconduct uncovered in a 2007 Navy investigation, to date the Navy has not provided a full public accounting of disciplinary action taken against those responsible for the abuse. We do know the unit’s Chief at the time, Michael Toussaint, received only a “non-punitive letter of caution”. That’s the military’s equivalent of a slap on the wrist.
To continue reading on the Youth Radio website, click here.
By Rachel Krantz
In the Persian Gulf, on the island of Bahrain, the U.S. Navy has a special division made up of bomb-sniffing dogs and the sailors who handle them. Developing trust between the dog and the handler is at the core of what makes canine detection work, as together, their job is to step into situations that can be deadly at any moment. However, that trust between the individual sailor and dog does not necessarily extend to the overall culture of the unit.
A Youth Radio investigation has found that between 2004 and 2006, sailors in the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain Military Working Dogs Division, or “The Kennel,” were subjected to an atmosphere of sexual harassment, psychological humiliation, and physical assaults.
It was inside that Bahrain kennel in July 2005 that Petty Officer Joseph Christopher Rocha, then 19 years old, says he was being terrorized by other members of his own division. “I was hog-tied to a chair, rolled around the base, left in a dog kennel that had feces spread in it.”
Rocha says that beginning six weeks into his deployment, he was singled out for abuse by his chief master-at-arms, Michael Toussaint, and others on the base, once Rocha made it clear he was not interested in prostitutes. “I was in a very small testosterone-driven unit of men,” Rocha says. “I think that’s what began the questioning-you know-‘Why don’t you want to have sex with her? Are you a faggot?’”
Youth Radio has conducted interviews and obtained documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) showing that the hog-tying episode was not the first or only case of harassment and abuse during Rocha’s deployment. In another incident cited in the documents, Rocha was forced to appear in a twisted “training video.” A member of the Working Dogs Division, Petty Officer Shaun Hogan, recalls the scene.
“Petty Officer Rocha and another junior sailor…were instructed to go into a classroom by Chief Michael Toussaint, who orchestrated the entire training. And Chief Toussaint asked them to simulate homosexual sex on a couch,” Hogan says.
I met Joseph Christopher Rocha standing outside San Francisco City Hall minutes after Proposition 8 was upheld. He stood with an American flag and a poised gaze, and I knew right away that this was someone I needed to interview.
Rocha spoke eloquently and passionately about his feelings on the ruling, only briefly mentioning his status as a gay veteran. We kept in touch, and when he mentioned via email that he was discharged because he came out as gay after years of abuse in his own unit, I realized that this story was much bigger than one interview outside City Hall could contain.
Parental discretion is advised.