The Lincoln Project, which worked to defeat Donald Trump, disavows John Weaver after 21 men come forward.
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The U.S. has
joined the growing calls for the Venezuelan government to release five HIV/AIDS
service providers who were arrested on Jan. 12.
A press release from Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (PROVEA), a Venezuelan human rights organization, notes members of the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence on Jan. 12 raided the offices of Azul Positivo in Maracaibo, a city in the country’s Zulia state.
“After questioning directors of the organization present at the headquarters for a period of six hours, without a legal order or allowing outside contact with them, the officials proceeded to arrest six members, including its president Johan León Reyes,” says PROVEA in its press release that it released on Jan. 13. “None of these people have been released and their current situation is unknown.”
A source in Venezuela
on Saturday told the Washington Blade that authorities released a driver who is
heterosexual the following day. The source notes León and his four other
colleagues — who they said are gay men with HIV — remain in custody and are in
a Maracaibo hospital because they have the coronavirus.
are still in jail, but they have been temporarily moved,” said the source.
“They are handcuffed.”
“Jimmy” Story, the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, on Jan. 21 called
for the men’s release.
“We call for the release of the five Azul Positivo employees and we condemn the attack against this NGO that provides assistance to seropositive people in the state of Zulia and that leaves the poorest communities more vulnerable,” he tweeted, while adding the raid “leaves the poorest communities more vulnerable.”
“Enough criminalization of humanitarian aide,” said Story.
Exigimos la liberación de los 5 trabajadores de @azulpositivo y condenamos el ataque hacia esta ONG que brinda asistencia a personas seropositivas en el Edo. Zulia y que deja más vulnerables a comunidades más pobres. ¡Basta! de la criminalización de la ayuda humanitaria. #21Ene pic.twitter.com/KLYlJTDr0f
— Embajador James “Jimmy” Story (@usembassyve) January 21, 2021
Story in a Jan. 29 directly criticized President Nicolás Maduro and his government’s continued crackdown against NGOs in the country.
“On this Day of the Social Worker, the world asks why employees of the NGO Azul Positivo, which has been working for the health of seropositive people in Zulia for more than 16 years, have been detained,” he tweeted. “What does Maduro want by attacking NGOs? What kind of peace for the people is this?”
UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima
and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet are among those
who have also called for the men’s release.
“I call on the Venezuelan authorities
to release from police custody the five humanitarians working for the
nongovernmental organization Azul Positivo, and to return essential equipment
seized at the time of their arrest,” said Byanyima in a Jan. 29 UNAIDS
press release. “A strong and empowered civil society plays a central role
in providing much-needed services to the most vulnerable people and is critical
to making progress against the HIV pandemic and other health threats in the
Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”
More than 100 Venezuelan NGOs and human
rights organizations have also called for the Azul Positivo staffers’ release.
“Azul Positivo is an allied organization of United Nations agencies, contributing to UNAIDS by carrying out tests for the detection of HIV in a fast, safe and free way to communities of popular sectors,” they said in a statement contained in PROVEA’s Jan. 13 press release. “Azul Positivo is an important partner of the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for contributing to the implementation of projects in the border area with Colombia on sexual and reproductive orientation for teenagers, young women and pregnant women.”
The source in Venezuela with whom the Blade spoke noted Azul Positivo receives UNHCR funds. The source also said Azul Positivo provided food and medications to “homeless and starving people” on the country’s border with Colombia.
“It’s not convenient,” the source told the Blade, referring to the Venezuelan government when asked why it decided to arrest the Azul Positivo staffers.
The arrests took place against the backdrop of Venezuela’s worsening economic and political crises.
Millions of Venezuelans in recent years have migrated to Colombia and other South American countries.
The Blade has previously reported the crises have exacerbated the already precarious situation of Venezuelans with HIV/AIDS because of a lack of access to antiretroviral drugs, food and other basic needs. The coronavirus pandemic has made their plight even more acute.
Police on Feb. 15, 2019, raided the offices of Fundación Mavid, an HIV/AIDS service organization in the city of Valencia in Carabobo state and arrested three staffers after they confiscated donated infant formula and medications for people with HIV/AIDS. The Venezuelan government continues to target human rights activists, journalists and others who publicly criticize it.
The source in Venezuela with whom the Blade spoke said Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader who the U.S. currently recognizes as the country’s president, has called for the Azul Positivo staffers’ release. The source noted, however, Guaidó has conceded there is not much he can do to pressure Maduro.
The post US calls for release of Venezuelan HIV/AIDS service providers appeared first on Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights.
Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights
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Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a rewatch.
Actor Paul Dano made an auspicious leading man debut in this overlooked 2001 drama. In L.I.E., Dano plays Howie, a 15-year-old boy living in the suburbs of New York, recovering from the sudden death of his mother. His dad already has a new girlfriend only a month later, leaving Howie to fend for himself. Howie develops a friendship–and a sexual attraction–with Gary (Billy Kay), a gay hustler who leads him into a life of mischief, robbing neighborhood homes. One night the boys decide to rob the home of Big John (Brian Cox), one of Howie’s frequent Johns. When Big John catches the pair, he offers a sexual relationship with Howie in exchange for not going to the police.
More than that we’ll not reveal here, as L.I.E. has a rare form of dramatic tension and plot twists. That said, the movie isn’t for the faint of heart. The film’s subject matter–a pedophile preying on young gay or questioning teens–would spark controversy in and of itself. But L.I.E. doesn’t stop there. Instead, it paints Big John as a somewhat sympathetic character: vile, yes, but not cruel. He seeks a kind of friendship with Howie, one that would include a nurturing mentorship as much as sex. The film doesn’t excuse Big John’s behavior; in fact, the character seems more than aware that his compulsion is sick. L.I.E. does something totally bold: it paints its pedophile character as a conflicted man.
Moreover, the film has the good sense to realize that teen hustling doesn’t “make” people grow up to be queer; rather, pedophiles have singled out LGBTQ-leaning kids for centuries as their targets, maybe because gay kids often don’t have the means to explore their sexuality, and/or because the stigma surrounding it makes them less likely to out their predator. Considering that statement is still a sobering one 20 years after the film’s release says a lot, both about the current state of our culture, and about the movie’s massive audacity.
Brian Cox gives one of the bravest performances in all cinema history in the film, making Big John into a complex, and, at times, even likable man. Dano, in his first leading role, matches him every step of the way, and hints at the bravura performances he would later give in films such as There Will Be Blood. L.I.E. debuted at Sundance back at the height of the festival’s artistic daring. With Sundance in virtual mode this weekend, we suggest this captivating, dangerous, enigmatic film for a weekend screening.
Streams on Amazon, YouTube & iTunes.
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Zackary Drucker has a joyfulness about her, even when discussing a con artist.
In this case, said con artist would be Liz Carmichael, the entrepreneur behind the futuristic three-wheeled car, The Dale. Back in 1974, Carmichael emerged out of nowhere on to the business scene, marketing The Dale as an automobile that would revolutionize gas consumption. Carmichael became an overnight celebrity and feminist icon until stories emerged of financial improprieties within her company. One reporter, Don Carlson (father of Tucker Carlson), also exposed Carmichael as a transgender woman with a pre-transition criminal history.
So was Carmichael unfairly torpedoed for being trans? Or was her transness a convenient way to help her pull off a multi-million dollar scam? Drucker examines that question in the new docuseries The Lady and The Dale. It debuts on HBO Max January 31.
Originally from New York, Zackary Drucker emerged as a photography artist in 2011, working with fellow transgender collaborators Rhys Ernst and Amos Mac. She received a major career boost three years later landing a consulting position on Transparent. The show also offered her an opportunity to grow into an actress and a director. The Lady and The Dale marks her first solo project in the realm of documentary series.
We snagged time to chat with Drucker about the series, the legacy of The Dale and the bizarre, kinda-awesome mystery of Liz Carmichael. The Lady and The Dale debuts on HBO Max January 31.
So I’ve been obsessed with this story since I was a kid, and saw it on Unsolved Mysteries.
Oh my God. You’re one like the only one doing press today to know the story of Liz Carmichael.
Seriously? So how did you first learn of Liz Carmichael?
Honestly, I got a call from Jay [Duplass, the producer] a year and a half ago. He asked if I’d ever heard of Liz and The Dale. And I know trans history in and out. I have a Rolodex of people through time, but she wasn’t one of them. I thought to myself why this story. And Liz’s story encapsulates the beginning of an organized front for trans people.
At the same time, she’s at the center of a scandal. Did you hesitate to take on the story?
I mean, yeah. I had to come to my own understanding of why this story. I think Liz was maligned in her lifetime; her story was told through a transphobic lens that was so dehumanizing. It’s a tremendous shame that we weren’t able to make the series in Liz’s lifetime. She went on to the next realm feeling her story was unresolved, that she didn’t get the respect and dignity every human deserves. She was really made an example of, and paid a very high price. It’s such a quaint microcosm of a dynamic that still exists today through the opinion-based journalism of people like Tucker Carlson who continue to perpetuate a harmful and derogatory view of trans and nonbinary people. If we don’t learn those lessons from the past, we’re doomed to repeat them.
Where did you come up with the concept to tell her story through animation? It’s very effective.
It was the constraints of making a project during COVID. We shot up until February 2020. When COVID hit and everyone went into lockdown, everyone had to work remotely on the project. Originally we had other plans, and animation became very quickly our best option for expanding Liz’s world into the space of imagination. The style is very DIY—the way we imagined Liz would have told her own story. All of the animation is paper-based. There’s not a cross-dissolve or digital-based animation. Everything is analog.
We spent hours every day reviewing the animation. It was a multi-phase project, and a tremendous learning experience for me.
We didn’t have original photos of most of the people, and we couldn’t use stock. That, and basically everyone we talk about was implicated in some criminal enterprise. So we used family photos.
All of my grandparents, my great grandparents, my parents, my cousins. I’m in it. Everyone who worked in post has a family member in the animation.
Now hang on a minute. How do they feel about being part of it? Are they afraid of being associated with the scandal?
Well most of them are deceased. Those that are alive definitely agreed. Everyone was excited to be part of it. And it’s been a personal thrill to share the series with family members. Johnny Flack is my grandfather.
Now I’ll have to go back and look. Now, watching the series: Liz is such a fascinating, infuriating figure. Sometimes I want to root for her as an unsung queer entrepreneur. Other times, I see her as a thug who defrauded investors. She paid people in cash at gunpoint.
She was running a criminal enterprise. How do you prevent yourself from passing judgment on your subject—from either being too harsh on her, or too apologetic.
I absolutely think it’s part of sound scholarship and being a good journalist. We told her story accurately and there was no judgment from behind the camera. I think that’s what documentary filmmaking necessitates: holding space for all positions. So it’s been a gift for me to speak through Liz’s story. And it gives me relief in moments like this. I have talked so much about my own history, and shared so much of myself in my other work that creating a series around a predecessor of mine is really transcendent.
That’s wonderful. Now, the other question this story begs: it’s astonishingly brazen to become a media darling when you’re wanted for all kinds of theft. I mean, selling posters of yourself? Going on TV?
Did she actually believe in The Dale? Or was she just a grifter? Or was she something else? Or was she a hubristic narcissist?
I mean, your guess is as good as mine. Ultimately we intended to put all these pieces out there so the viewer can decide for themselves. That can be a dinner table conversation. And it’s inconclusive, and Liz isn’t alive to advocate for her side. We tried really hard not to put a rose-colored gloss over it. We embraced the rough edges. For me, that represents a new era of a complex trans protagonist.
We’re able to be fully human and not relegated to just affirmational stories. They’re not realistic: we’re all messy in our identities and our lives. Not everyone is interested in pandering to a respectability class. Liz certainly wasn’t, and she was very resentful of the system she was trying to operate within.
You’re one of the most varied artists I’ve spoken to, just in terms of you working within different artistic mediums: writing, directing, acting, photography, performance art, visual art. What is it about your compulsion to create that makes you want to explore so many mediums? Is one the most gratifying?
No. Every idea dictates a different medium, and a partnership. Relationships drive my work. Part of my career is creating opportunities for connection. It generates work. I’ve never wanted to do the same thing twice. I’m continually exploring new horizons. It’s a commitment to myself I made as a young person to never be bored.
I love that answer. It’s funny…listening to you talk about collaboration. I remember something Shirley MacLaine once said about filmmaking. She said, and I paraphrase, that people always fall in love on film sets because it is such a collaborative atmosphere, and you go through different emotional states and phases together. You’re creating this deep, delicate reality.
Is it true that filmmaking is, frankly, the sexiest form of art?
I would say that photography for me is an excuse and opportunity for me to fall in love.
Anybody who is on the other side of the camera, for me, is like a catalyst for creating love and magic. I think that art and love are the two most noble pursuits that humans can create. Every time love is built it is unique to the people coming into it.
Ultimately, that’s why we’re alive: to create.
Do you find yourself falling in love with your subjects? What’s the nature of that emotional connection to the people or subjects you work with?
Oh absolutely. Having empathy for everybody on the other side of the camera plays a big part. I feel very connected to Liz through dimensions. I got very close to her in the creation of this, just reading her words and seeing all the different angles and filters people see her through. Locating myself in her story, I learned so much about my family through Liz’s family. I would say that a year and a half of working on this project has catapulted my emotional and personal growth into directions I never would have anticipated.
In that case, would you ever revisit this material as a narrative? I see Alexandra Billings playing Liz…
Wow! That would be amazing. It’s a juicy story, and there are a lot of details that aren’t included in the docuseries that you could embed in a narrative plot point. Liz’s story lends itself easily to a feature.
I don’t feel like it’s first on my list. After a four-part docuseries in which Liz’s story is told respectfully, I don’t know. I mean, of course, I would, if someone would offer.
So what are these amazing details you couldn’t include?
There was a lot we couldn’t verify. Anything we couldn’t verify with a second source we didn’t include. So there’s a lot of hearsay in [the deleted material]. I mean, Liz’s ties to the mafia were impossible to verify. It was just elusive detail that everyone brought up, but there’s no proof. There was plenty in Liz’s family life that we held back, just to respect her surviving family members. They really took a leap of faith, and their lives were so derailed by Liz’s treatment in the press. To convince them to be on camera could be a film unto itself.
So we took the trauma very seriously. Her family is in its own healing process.
We hope this helps.
The Lady & The Dale arrives on HBO Max January 31.