As Trump remains silent, France welcomes its first gay Chechen refugee.

What's happening in Chechnya right now is horrifying.

Since April, reports from a Moscow-based newspaper have trickled out detailing a quiet crackdown on men in Chechnya — a semi-independent state within the Russian Republic — based on their perceived sexual orientations.

The details are more than alarming.


Russian police arrest activists at an LGBTQ rights protest in Moscow in 2015. Photo by Dmitry Serebryakov/AFP/Getty Images.

At least 100 gay and bisexual men with "nontraditional" sexual practices have been rounded up, tortured, and even killed in undisclosed facilities that activists have compared to modern-day concentration camps. While some men have been fortunate enough to get visas and escape in recent days, the situation remains dire.

Chechen officials have denied it's happening despite independent reports from news outlets and human rights groups on the ground in the region. They've even denied LGBTQ people exist in Chechnya.

To the newly elected president of France, Emmanuel Macron, enough is enough.

France has officially opened its doors to the gay and bisexual Chechen refugees whose lives are at risk.

Speaking to news outlet France Info on May 29, Joel Deumier, the head of gay rights group SOS Homophobie, confirmed the first of many expected LGBTQ refugees from Chechnya had arrived in France.

To many French groups trying to shed a light on the atrocities in Chechnya, this is a critical step forward.

Activists with Amnesty International hold a sign that reads "Stop homophobia in Chechnya" in Paris. Photo by Geoffrey Van Der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images.

Although it's progress worth celebrating, the news isn't all that surprising given Macron's stances on refugee and immigration policy.  

As a candidate, the president called for France to take in its fair share of Syrian refugees, proposed state-run language classes to help integrate new arrivals, and spoke openly about mending relations between the French government and the country's Muslim population, Al Jazeera reported.

The same day France began welcoming Chechen refugees, Macron blasted Russia's lack of action on the matter — with Vladimir Putin right at his side.

The two leaders were in Versailles, France, to discuss world matters. But even as things turned tense during a joint press conference, the French president decided he wasn't about to play nice just because he was hosting the Russian leader.

Photo by Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images.

"I emphasized to President Putin ... how important it is for France to respect all people, all minorities," Macron told reporters. "We spoke about the cases of LGBT people in Chechnya. ... I told President Putin what France is expecting regarding this issue, and we agreed to regularly check on this subject."

With his pointed remarks, Macron joins the growing list of world leaders speaking out against Chechnya and Russia.

Notably absent from that list? President Donald Trump.

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

While heads of state like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have publicly and strongly condemned Chechnya's crackdown on gay and bisexual men, Trump has remained silent.

But just because Trump is failing men in Chechnya doesn't mean Americans are standing idly by.

Here's how you can help:

  • Support the Russian LGBT Network. They're a Moscow-based group providing vital relief to Chechen men trying to escape persecution.
  • Call your representatives in Washington. Few senators or members of Congress have spoken out on the issue, and even fewer have taken concrete steps forward to do something about it.
  • Sign and share this petition by OutRight. The group is pressuring energy companies with lots of influence in Russian politics — like Exxon, BP, and Shell — to speak up about the injustice unfolding behind closed doors.
  • Tweet. A lot. Tweet at Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump, @POTUS, and @WhiteHouse) and the State Department (@StateDept) to demand that our country act.
  • Refuse to stay silent. Men in Chechnya are being silenced. They need you to be their voice now more than ever.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

The year 2018 was a pivotal one in the produce industry, the Red Delicious was supplanted as the most popular apple in America by the sweeter, crisper Gala.

It was only a matter of time. The Red Delicious looked the part of the king of the apples with its deep red, flawless skin. But its interior was soft, mealy, and pretty bland. The Red Delicious was popular for growers because its skin hid any bruises and it was desired by consumers because of its appearance.

But these days it's having a hard time competing with the delectable crunch provided by the Gala, honeycrisp, and Fuji.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."