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 John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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