Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Iraq's LGBT community remains targeted, US families seeks answers and more

Yesterday brought the news that Iraq's LGBT community was against being targeted. Trudy Ring (SheWired) reports:

A recent wave of violence in Iraq has resulted in the kidnapping, torture, and killing of about 40 people perceived to be gay or lesbian, with the murder weapon sometimes being a concrete block to the head.
The killings began in early February after an unidentified group put up posters with death threats against “adulterous individuals” in largely Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and Basra, reports the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The threats listed the targets’ names and ages, and gave them four days to change their behavior or face divine retribution.
Some of the murders have been carried out by smashing the victims’ skulls with concrete blocks or pushing them off roofs of tall buildings, says a report from two other groups, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq and Iraqi LGBT.

Evan Mulvihill (Queerty) notes, "Hillary Clinton made her landmark speech to the UN on the issue in December, and we have seen some commitment to activity in Ecuador and Honduras. But in the Middle East, we haven’t seen any commitment to intervention --yet." Huffington Post covers the story here.

jeremiah small and students

In other news, AP reports that "hundreds" turned out yesterday in Sulaimaniyah for the funeral of American teacher Jeremiah Small (shown above with students). They quote Jeremiah's father Dan Small stating, "The killing of our son should be turned into an event to call for peace and coexistence. We do not have any hatred for the family of the student who killed our son." Sadly -- or tellingly -- AP doesn't feel the need to inform readers about that family. Though they name (shorthand version) the shooter Biyar Sarwar (who took his own life), they 'forget' who he is related to: Iraq's President Jalal Talabani. Mindy Belz (World Magazine) explains, "An 11th grade Iraqi student shot to death Small in his classroom last Thursday, then shot himself. Emergency workers transported the student, Beyar Talabani, great-nephew of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, to a nearby hospital where he died several hours later of his self-inflicted wound."

Pfc David Sharrett II's funeral was awhile back, he died four years ago while serving in Iraq and his family continues to fight for answers about their son's death. David and Vicki Sharrett pen a column for the Washington Post where they explain how the loss of their son impacted their faith. Three years ago, former Marine Jason Pope was killed in Iraq while working for DynCorp. Chris Bury (ABC News) reports on the changing story of Jason Pope's death and his family's decision to sue DynCorp. Originally, it was claimed Pope died while guarding American diplomats, then the company story was that Pope and fellow DynCorp employee Kyle Palmer were partying and drinking and Palmer shot Pope. Bury explains:

In 2010, after a plea deal with prosecutors, a federal judge in Mississippi sentenced Palmer to 36 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter and ordered him to pay $6,000 in restitution and fines. But the lawsuit filed by Pope’s family accuses DynCorp International and its employees of concocting a different story, falsely suggesting that Pope was drunk and shot himself.
The family's attorney, William Goodman, tells ABC News, "the autopsy showed that Justin had not a drop of alcohol or any other intoxicant in him."

In veterans news, a new study on PTSD finds that veterans are being overly medicated. The Universty of California, San Francisco (UCSF)'s Steve Tokar reports on the study conducted by UCSF and the San Francisco VA Medical Center which found that veterans being prescribed opiates for PTSD and/or pain are "more likely to receive higher dose prescriptions, two or more opiate prescriptions and concurrent prescriptions of sedative-hypnotics such as valium." And while that is serious all by itself, the study also found that "all veterans who were prescribed opiates were also at significantly higher risk of serious adverse clinical outcomes, such as drug and alcohol-related overdoses, suicide and violent injury, with the risk being most pronounced for veterans with PTSD." Dr. Karen Seal was the lead author of the study and Tokar notes:

Seal explained that previous studies have shown that patients with PTSD may experience physical pain more intensely because of either lowered pain thresholds or disruption of the production of endorphins – opiates secreted naturally in the brain and body. PTSD, an anxiety disorder, may be a cause, itself, she said. “The more anxious you are, the more likely you are to be attuned to pain symptoms, which in turn, make you more anxious, which makes the pain worse, so it becomes a vicious cycle.”
To break that cycle, Seal and her co-authors recommend that the VA continue to extend its current stepped approach to treating patients who have both pain and PTSD. “Fortunately,” she said, “the elements of that approach are in place, or can be put in place, throughout the VA health care system.”
Seal said that those elements include Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACTs), which align primary care physicians with nurse care managers, mental health providers, pharmacists and social workers. “For patients presenting to primary care with pain, PACTs are important step in the direction of better care,” she said. “Patients requiring more intensive treatment can ‘step up’ to multi-disciplinary specialty pain management and PTSD services that are available at most VA medical centers. And the VA is also a leader in providing evidence-based combined cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD and pain.
Finally, she said, the VA is “making strides” to implement pain management guidelines developed by the VA and the Department of Defense that discourage the overuse of opiate medications in favor of anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, exercise, relaxation techniques and complementary alternative medicine such as acupuncture.
Even in remote VA clinics and isolated rural areas, many of these resources can be tapped through the use of video teleconferencing with pain experts at the medical centers, as well as online,” said Seal. She recommended that veterans visit the VA site MyHealtheVet at

Nadia Kounang (CNN) adds
, "The authors emphasized that the study didn't find that PTSD or other mental health diagnosis caused increased pain or opioid use. Rather, the study was an alarm to the consequences of pain management through opioids." Kounang quotes Dr. Seal stating, "We now need to start considering alternative solutions to relieving our patient's pain and suffering."

The following community sites -- plus On The Wilder Side and -- updated this morning and last night:

We'll close with this from Stephan Salisubry (World Can't Wait):

At the height of the Occupy Wall Street evictions, it seemed as though some diminutive version of “shock and awe” had stumbled from Baghdad, Iraq, to Oakland, California. American police forces had been “militarized,” many commentators worried, as though the firepower and callous tactics on display were anomalies, surprises bursting upon us from nowhere.

There should have been no surprise. Those flash grenades exploding in Oakland and the sound cannons on New York’s streets simply opened small windows onto a national policing landscape long in the process of militarization -- a bleak domestic no man’s land marked by tanks and drones, robot bomb detectors, grenade launchers, tasers, and most of all, interlinked video surveillance cameras and information databases growing quietly on unobtrusive server farms everywhere.

The ubiquitous fantasy of “homeland security,” pushed hard by the federal government in the wake of 9/11, has been widely embraced by the public. It has also excited intense weapons- and techno-envy among police departments and municipalities vying for the latest in armor and spy equipment.

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