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Trump's been silent; Putin's shrugged it off. But you should care about Chechnya.

Chechnya wants to 'eliminate' its gay population by the end of May. We can't sit back and watch.

Trump's been silent; Putin's shrugged it off. But you should care about Chechnya.

If you've found it difficult to engage with the horrifying news coming out of Chechnya regarding the arrests and abuses of queer men there, you're not alone.

When the reports first began surfacing, it seemed too awful to be true — we're in the era of "fake news," after all. Was this actually happening?

A rally in Paris was held in support of gay and bisexual Chechen men on April 20, 2017. Photo by Sipa/AP.


Some of us found ourselves hoping the reports were false or greatly exaggerated, designed to press our outrage buttons. But these were stories coming out of outlets like The New York Times, CNN, and The Washington Post — all reporting that men in Chechnya are quietly being round up like cattle and starved, beaten, and tortured in facilities comparable to Nazi concentration camps. It quickly became clear that these ongoing atrocities were not fake.

Feelings of helplessness started creeping in. This wasn't a story propped up by bombastic headlines begging for sympathetic clicks from bleeding heart liberals.

This news was — and is — terrifyingly real.

Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov. Photo by Said Tzarnaev/Sputnik/AP.

Feeling outraged comes easily. Feeling helpless, however, makes it hard to know the best way to channel that energy.

We know there have been at least six prisons created in Chechnya, which is a republic of Russia, to secretly detain men with "nontraditional" sexual practices. We also know that Chechnya allegedly plans to "eliminate" its gay community by the start of Ramadan on May 26 — just one month away.

This isn't normal. It's terrifying. And unfortunately, it seems like it's become more difficult to rely on world leaders to step up to the plate on their own volition. Rather than speak out against what’s happening in Chechnya, President Donald Trump tweeted about Hillary Clinton's hypothetical polling numbers. Russia's President Vladimir Putin shrugged off the allegations of mass arrests and abuse while he posed for a photo with Chechnya's President Ramzan Kadyrov on April 19.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) shakes hands with Chechnya's Ramzan Kadyrov in Moscow on April 19, 2017. Photo by Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool/AP.

With so many people in power ignoring these blatant crimes against humanity, the feelings of helplessness are hard to shake.

But if Kadyrov seriously believes that simply denying that gay and bisexual men exist in Chechnya means he can carry out these sorts of atrocities without the outside world noticing — with our free press, internet access, and determination to mobilize — he’s got another thing coming.

Photo by Patrizia Cortellessa/Pacific Press/Sipa/AP.

This is what you can do this very moment to help gay and bi men in Chechnya at risk of arrest and abuse.

1. You can sign this petition by advocacy group OutRight calling on energy companies Exxon, BP, and Shell — all of which have huge sway in Russian politics — to speak up about the injustices being committed in Chechnya.

2. You can donate to the Russian LGBT Network, an equality group that's opened a refuge center in Moscow for queer Chechens escaping persecution. While Russia, in general, may be an unwelcoming place for LGBTQ people, Moscow is a much safer place than Chechnya for gay and bi men in the short term.

3. As OutRight's calling on us to do, you can share photos and messages demanding an end to these atrocities on Instagram — and troll Kadyrov by tagging his account (@kadyrov_95) in the captions, further drawing attention to his actions.

4. You can call your representatives in Congress and demand they speak up (as Marco Rubio recently did).

5. Most importantly: You can refuse to stay silent.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

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In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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The 1776 Report isn't just bad, it's historically bad, in every way possible.

When journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones published her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project for The New York Times, some backlash was inevitable. Instead of telling the story of America's creation through the eyes of the colonial architects of our system of government, Hannah-Jones retold it through the eyes of the enslaved Africans who were forced to help build the nation without reaping the benefits of democracy. Though a couple of historical inaccuracies have had to be clarified and corrected, the 1619 Project is groundbreaking, in that it helps give voice to a history that has long been overlooked and underrepresented in our education system.

The 1776 Report, in turn, is a blaring call to return to the whitewashed curriculums that silence that voice.

In September of last year, President Trump blasted the 1619 Project, which he called "toxic propaganda" and "ideological poison" that "will destroy our country." He subsequently created a commission to tell the story of America's founding the way he wanted it told—in the form of a "patriotic education" with all of the dog whistles that that phrase entails.

Mission accomplished, sort of.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.