Arrests over Egypt 'gay wedding'
The Egyptian authorities have arrested seven men accused of appearing in a video apparently showing a gay wedding.The video, showing a group of men celebrating on a Nile river boat, was widely shared on social media.The men could face charges of inciting debauchery and spreading images that violate public decency.Homosexuality is not explicitly outlawed in Egypt, but gay men are periodically accused of charges such as scorning religion or debauchery.In April, four men were sentenced to prison under anti-debauchery laws.A mass round-up in 2001 saw dozens of men sentenced on similar charges.Prosecutors have ordered "medical tests" on the seven men, apparently to identify their sexual orientation.Such physical tests are a long-standing practice in Egypt, but are denounced by human rights groups.Credit: Egypt
Drag queens in Facebook name row
A group of drag queens and transgender performers have called on Facebook to allow stage names rather than real names on the social network.A petition supporting the change has attracted more than 2,000 signatures.Facebook told the BBC that its real-name policy was designed to protect the community and increase accountability.But the group argued that performers should be allowed to use stage names for reasons of "privacy, safety, or preference".The petition, set up by Seattle-based performer Olivia La Garce, reads: "Although our names might not be our 'legal' birth names, they are still an integral part of our identities, both personally and to our communities."These are the names we are known by and call each other and ourselves."We build our networks, community, and audience under the names we have chosen, and forcing us to switch our names after years of operating under them has caused nothing but confusion and pain."Another performer, San Francisco-based Sister Roma, said he was locked out of his account until he used the name Michael Williams. A hashtag #mynameisroma was started to raise awareness of the issue.'Potential problems'Drag queen Cherry Sur Bete, who said his profile had also been flagged as breaking the rules, said: "This isn't just a matter for nightlife performers, this is a matter for actors and musicians, as well as folks who have chosen a different name simply to avoid potential stalkers."Mental health professionals and victims of abuse frequently use a nickname to avoid problematic interactions. Facebook now effectively hands them over to those potential problems."Facebook has stood firm on the matter, telling the BBC that its real-name policy created a safer environment on the network - and that there were other ways the drag queens could express themselves."If people want to use an alternative name on Facebook, they have several different options available to them, including providing an alias under their name on their profile, or creating a Page specifically for that alternative persona."As part of our overall standards, we ask that people who use Facebook provide their real name on their profile."The spokesman added that its strict real-name policy - explained in detail in the site's help section - had meant it was able to help crack down on abusive comments made on the site.Facebook's Pages is a feature typically used for high profile public figures. It allows people to "like" a person, rather than necessarily become a friend linked through the network.The performers argue that it is difficult to raise the profile of a Page without paying Facebook money to advertise.Credit: Drag Queen
Imitation Game wins Toronto top prize
Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game has won the People's Choice award at the Toronto Film Festival.Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch stars in the drama about the British code breaker who helped decrypt the Enigma machine during World War Two.In a message, director Morten Tyldum said it was "an amazing honour" to win the prize."For film fans to support the Imitation Game means so much to me, the entire cast and film-making team," he said.Turing was credited with bringing about the end of the war and saving hundreds of thousands of lives after decoding German Naval messages.He is also considered to be the founding father of the modern-day computer.However his later life was overshadowed after a conviction in 1952 for gross indecency when homosexuality was illegal in Britain.He was chemically castrated and committed suicide in 1954.Earlier this week Tyldum described the film as "a tribute to being different".Winners of the People's Choice award - voted for by the public - have previously gone on to win the Oscar for best picture, including The King's Speech, Slumdog Millionaire and last year's 12 Years a Slave.The Imitation Game's victory suggests it may feature prominently in this coming awards' season.Sir Ben Kingsley's romantic comedy Learning to Drive, in which the actor stars as a Sikh taxi driver and driving instructor alongside Patricia Clarkson, was named first runner-up for the top prize.Comedy drama St Vincent, starring Bill Murray as a cantankerous war veteran who finds himself having to look after his neighbour's young son, was the second runner-up.The People's Choice documentary award went to Hajooj Kuka's Beats of the Antonov which follows the story of Sudanese cattle farmers.Do I Sound Gay?, directed by US journalist and film-maker David Thorpe, was the first runner-up with Ethan Hawke's musical documentary, Seymour: An Introduction, the second runner-up.The third People's Choice prize in the Midnight Madness programme went to vampire film What We Do in the Shadows.Flight of the Conchords star Jermaine Clement, who wrote, directed and starred in the movie, collected the award, joking that the "subject matter" of the film were unable to attend the ceremony because it was during the day.Kevin Smith horror Tusk and Samuel L Jackson film Big Game were the first and second runners-up respectively.Speaking at the awards' brunch on the last day of the festival, chief executive officer Piers Handling said it had "been a fun 11 days - the buzz of the city was fantastic".Artistic director Cameron Bailey added: "It's sad, but it's only 356 days to the next one."The Toronto Film Festival will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2015.Other prize winners determined by jury were as follows:
Credit: The Imitation Game
- Award for world or international Asian film premiere: Margarita, with a Straw - directed by Shonali Bose
- Jury prize for best special presentation film: Time Out of Mind - directed by Oren Moverman
- Critics prize: May Allah Bless France! - directed by Abd Al Malik
- Best Canadian feature: Felix and Meira - directed by Maxime Giroux
- Best Canadian first feature: Bang Bang Baby - directed by Jeffrey St Jules
- Best international short film: A Single Body - directed by Sotiris Dounoukos
- Best Canadian short film: The Weatherman and the Shadow Boxer - directed by Randall Okita.
Why I took off my headscarf... only to put it back on again
A woman's headscarf is a garment which is heavy in symbolism in Muslim countries and, having finally decided to shed mine, I will have to don it again after being appointed as Pakistan correspondent.
My family's old photo albums from the 1950s and 60s speak volumes about Egypt's social and political change - not just because of the men, lots of my relatives in army uniform, but because of the women.There they are in short-sleeved dresses, impeccably cinched at the waist. The dresses of some of the younger ones actually stopped well above the knee. And the hair!The beautiful and complicated hairdos that my aunties and their friends pulled off just to go shopping or to their universities looked like something out of a vintage glamour magazine.But times change. In the 1980s and 90s the strict Wahhabi version of Islam was arriving in Egypt - brought back by the millions of Egyptians who'd gone to work in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.Political Islamic movements were gaining ground too, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood. Soon all the adult women in my family were wearing the headscarf or the hijab.The debate on whether or not it's an Islamic obligation for women is a long, complicated and, at times, hostile one.An often-quoted verse in the Koran urges Muslim women to cover their heads and part of their chests. But Islamic scholars interpret that in different ways. They also can't agree on a hadith, or teaching of the prophet Muhammad, in which he points to the face and hands of a woman indicating that everything else should be covered up.I didn't start wearing the headscarf until I was in my 20s - and I wasn't forced to do it - despite several years of pressure from my mother."What are you waiting for?" she'd ask. "What if something happens to you? Will you meet God looking like this?" she would say, pointing at my trousers or T-shirt.Sometimes I would nod, smile and walk away. On other occasions I'd fight and argue.But deep down it was becoming ingrained in me that wearing the headscarf was the right thing to do. So, towards, the end of 2002 I decided it was finally time to "do the right thing".So in the next ten years, during which I moved to London and started working at the BBC, I wore the hijab.My motto was: "I'm a BBC journalist, not a headscarf-wearing BBC journalist."There were some raised eyebrows outside the corporation when I appeared on TV. "How could the BBC allow a woman in a headscarf to go out reporting?" Fortunately, that was never an issue with any of my editors.Then, last year, I went through a very personal and private journey of questioning many things about my religion: about practice and belief, what was I doing out of conviction and what out of habit?How much of my faith did I want to exhibit? Would I, I asked finally and crucially, be any less Muslim if I took off the headscarf?The final answer was no.So, after months of indecision, the day came when I'd decided to remove it. It took me hours to get dressed and when the time came when I'd normally put the headscarf on, I just didn't.For the first time in more than ten years I started considering my hair. Did it look right? What about those grey hairs? What would happen if it rained?Finally it was time to leave the house. That was very difficult. It took me 30 minutes just getting out of the door. I kept running back to the mirror. Are you sure? Are you sure?When I finally made it out onto the street, a million thoughts went through my head. Perhaps God would punish me for this - somehow. Would people on the street look at me and say "Shaimaa! What have you done?"Well of course none of that happened. Most of my friends, family and work colleagues were supportive, if curious. Some were disapproving. I was accused on social media of abandoning my religion.That's simply not true. I am still Muslim - just not so visibly.The reaction I was most frightened of was my family's. One relative said to me on the phone: "Enna lellah wa enna ellayehee raje'oon (To Allah we belong and To Allah we shall return)."Now that's a prayer you say normally when someone dies or there's been a catastrophe.And now, just to add to the major changes of this eventful year, I'm taking up a new position as the BBC's Pakistan correspondent. In some conservative areas of the country I will have to wear a headscarf for cultural and security reasons.Oh the irony. It means of course that after finally plucking up the courage to cast off the headscarf, I'll have to start wearing it again - at least some of the time.It's just as well I didn't throw all those old headscarves away.Credit: Headscaft
Suspicious Prescriptions for HIV Drugs Abound in Medicare
The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finds Medicare spent tens of millions of dollars in 2012 for HIV drugs there’s little evidence patients needed. A 77-year-old woman with no record of HIV got $33,500 of medication.
Medicare spent more than $30 million in 2012 on questionable HIV medication costs, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a report set for release Wednesday.The report offers a litany of possible fraud schemes, all paid for by Medicare's prescription drug program known as Part D.Among the most egregious:In Detroit, a 77-year-old woman purportedly filled $33,500 worth of prescriptions for 10 different HIV medications. But there's no record she had HIV or that she had visited the doctors who wrote the scripts.A 48-year-old in Miami went to 28 different pharmacies to pick up HIV drugs worth nearly $200,000, almost 10 times what average patients get in a year. The prescriptions were supposedly written by 16 health providers, an unusually high number.And on a single day, a third patient received $17,500 of HIV drugs — and none the rest of the year. She got more than twice the recommended dose of five HIV drug ingredients.The inspector general's report raise new questions about Medicare's stewardship of Part D. A ProPublica series last year showed that Medicare's lax oversight has enabled doctors to prescribe massive quantities of inappropriate medications, has wasted billions on needlessly expensive drugs, and exposed the program to rampant fraud. Part D cost taxpayers about $65 billion in 2013.Previous inspector general reports have criticized the way Medicare oversees doctors and pharmacies, but this one focuses on patients, who are not usually the focus of inquiries into fraud and abuse.The inspector general flagged 1,578 Medicare beneficiaries who received HIV medications worth $32 million in 2012. (This figure does not include beneficiaries who, based on their records, appeared to be taking the drug Truvada for HIV prevention.)More than half the patients identified by the inspector general had no diagnosis of HIV, had no records of laboratory tests to monitor the use of the drugs, and had not received any medical services from any of the prescribers.Two pharmacies, both in Miami, dispensed drugs to 321 of these beneficiaries. Most of them were women with an average age of 74, two decades older than the typical patient who received HIV drugs in Medicare. These two pharmacies collected more than $350,000 for the drugs, the inspector general reported."While some of this utilization may be legitimate, all of these patterns warrant further scrutiny," the report says. "These patterns may indicate that a beneficiary is receiving inappropriate drugs and diverting them for sale on the black market. They may also indicate that a pharmacy is billing for drugs that a beneficiary never received or that a beneficiary's identification number was stolen."The inspector general's analysis did not say if beneficiaries were complicit in the questionable activity or if their IDs had been used without their knowledge or permission.Medicare places a premium on getting patients their medications in a timely way, particularly for conditions such as HIV.HIV drugs pose a thorny problem for Medicare. Under the program's rules, the drugs are a "protected class." Insurance companies paid to administer Part D for the government must cover them without exception and cannot require prior approval for patients. Insurers are freer, however, to manage other drugs and can impose restrictions to control spending, prevent overuse and spot fraud.The unscrupulous have tried to exploit the special status of HIV drugs, leading to a number of recent prosecutions against pharmacy owners and others. Sometimes pharmacies bill for the drugs, do not dispense them, and then bill Medicare or private insurers for them again. Beneficiaries may be misusing the HIV drugs, too; the inspector general noted that some medications have psychoactive effects or enhance the effects of painkillers.The amount of suspicious activity involving HIV drugs is small relative to the overall usage of such medications. Medicare paid $2.8 billion to supply HIV drugs to 135,500 beneficiaries in 2012.In addition to patients receiving HIV drugs without a history of HIV, other areas of possible fraud include patients receiving excessive doses of HIV drugs; patients receiving an excessive supply of an HIV drug; patients whose prescriptions were filled by a high number of pharmacies; patients receiving prescriptions from multiple prescribers; and patients taking HIV drugs that are not supposed to be taken together.Fully 38 percent of beneficiaries with questionable utilization patterns lived in Miami or New York, a rate three times higher than the percent of patients receiving HIV drugs who live in those cities.One 37-year-old in Miami received $146,160 in HIV drugs in 2012. He received 16 different HIV medications in a single month. "Several times during the year, he received these drugs from two different pharmacies on the same day," the report says.The inspector general recommended that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services take steps to rein in fraud and abuse of HIV drugs, including using prescription data to look for aberrant behavior among beneficiaries. The report says health plans should be required to conduct reviews looking for unusual patterns of HIV medication use. It also encourages Medicare to expand the ability of health insurers to put controls in place and restrict certain beneficiaries to a limited number of pharmacies or prescribers.CMS generally agreed with the recommendations and said it would be open to Congress taking steps to limit the number of pharmacies or prescribers for beneficiaries who appear to be abusing drugs or engaging in fraud.To check how your doctor prescribes drugs in the Medicare program and compares to peers, check outProPublica's Prescriber Checkup tool.ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charles Ornstein is a senior reporter for ProPublica covering health care and the pharmaceutical industry.Credit: HIV
Report: Children of LGB Parents Functioning 'Quite Well'
The study also shows a high proportion of bisexual adults are parents.
Another study released this summer shows that lesbian, gay, and bisexual parents are as effective and nurturing as heterosexual parents, if not more so.The July report by the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law's Williams Institute indicatesthat LGB families deal with extra pressures such as heterosexism in various societal settings, added legal implications in states that don’t allow same-sex marriage or adoption, and discrimination in medical settings. Despite these pressures, however, LGB families continue to prosper.“The findings are consistent in suggesting that despite confronting heterosexism in a variety of social contexts — including the health care system, the legal system, and the school system — LGB parents and their children are functioning quite well,” the report's authors write.The study mirrors others that cite the benefits of LGB-headed families, including one released in early July from the University of Melbourne, which said children raised by same-sex couples are healthier and happier than those raised by opposite-sex pairs.The report also points to the large portion of LGB parents — 64 percent — who are openly bisexual. The Williams Institute cited a 2013 Pew Research survey, which found that more than a third of all LGBT individuals report being a parent. An estimated 59 percent of bisexual women and 32 percent of bisexual men report having had children, while 31 percent of lesbians and 16 percent of gay men are parents.Although many LGB parents are bisexual, most of the research on LGB parenting has been has been limited to specific gender, racial, and economic demographics.“The research on LGB parenting is characterized by a variety of sampling- and methodological-related problems,” the authors of the Williams Institute report wrote. “The samples that are utilized in studies of LGB parents tend to be small, white, well-educated, and financially stable, and are often drawn from metropolitan areas.”Credit: Children
STUDY: Tivicay Surpresses HIV Even in Those Who are Drug Resistant
The recently approved HIV integrase inhibitor showed a high rate of suppressing the virus, even among those who are drug-resistant.
Tivicay, the recently approved HIV integrase inhibitor — a class of antiretroviral drug that is designed to block a virus from entering the DNA of a host cell — demonstrated high rates of viral suppression in a recent study. Significantly, Tivicay is also proven effective for people who are resistant to HIV antiretroviral drugs, according toNAM.The study concluded that among people starting treatment for the first time, there was no resistance detected during the 96 weeks of follow up, according to findings presented at the recent 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.Modern antiretroviral treatments are highly effectively and are well-tolerated. However some people who have resistance to the existing drugs or may have difficulty tolerating specific side-effects.Jim Demarest of ViiV Healthcare lead a team that analyzed the outcomes among participants that were part of phase three trials with Tivicay. Three studies followed people who had not previously taken any HIV medications, while one trial focused on those who have received treatment before and had experienced resistance to two or more drug classes.In the studies that followed treatment-experienced participants, 71 percent of participants that took Tivicay saw viral suppression at 48 weeks, compared to the 64 percent of those who took Isentress, another drug used to treat HIV.Regulators in the U.S. are currently evaluating a fixed-dose medication containing Tivicay and Kivexa or Epzicom. If the drug is approved, it will be the first one-pill, once-daily regimen that does not contain tenofovir DF (brand name, Viread), which some people with HIV have avoided because of its risk of kidney and bone toxicity. This combination has already received approval by the European Medicines Agency and will be marketed as Triumeq in Europe.
New Regulation Further Restricts Legal Abortions
Jakarta. Experts have lashed out a new government regulation that they warn will severely restrict one of the few circumstances in which a woman can legally get an abortion in Indonesia.The regulation on reproductive health, signed with little media attention last Friday by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, stipulates that women who get pregnant as a result of rape may apply for a legal abortion, but only within 40 days of their last period.An existing article in the 2009 Health Law, however, places no such restriction on when a rape victim may get an abortion.The new rule, critics say, will give rape victims virtually no time to make a clear and informed decision about whether they want to abort the fetus.“There shouldn’t be this 40-day restriction,” Masruchah, a member of the National Commission on Violence Against Women, or Komnas HAM, told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday.“Rape victims in rural areas, for instance, often never find out that they’re pregnant” until two or three months later, she added.Suryono Slamet Iman Santoso, a gynecologist at Jakarta’s Abdi Waluyo Hospital and former reproductive health lecturer at the University of Indonesia, notes that most women don’t even think about testing for pregnancy until after 40 days from their last period.“That’s when their expected period is typically about two weeks late. So it’s only after 40 days that you can make a reasonably accurate determination of whether a woman is pregnant or not,” he told the Globe.“I believe there shouldn’t be this restriction. It will be hard to implement,” he added.The new regulation also fleshes out the process for determining what constitutes a life-threatening health condition for the mother or fetus, which is another circumstance in which a woman may get an abortion — but restricts this too by requiring that the woman obtain approval from her husband.No such condition is listed in the 2009 Health Law.Government officials, however, are crowing over what they call a progressive regulation, saying that it places women’s health at the fore.“It takes into consideration every aspect of the health, safety and comfort of the woman, her family and the fetus,” Anung Sugihantono, the Health Ministry’s director general for maternal and child health, said in Jakarta on Tuesday.“It should also be understood that this regulation does not legalize abortion,” he added.The government regulation will be shored up with a Health Ministry regulation that details the processes and mechanisms for a legal abortion, Anung said.Credit: Legal abortions