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Eyes on N.H. for GOP presidential primary

Romney enjoys strong lead, but Santorum rising

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[Editor’s Note: The Washington Blade will have this reporter in New Hampshire next week for the New Hampshire primary.]

Eyes are turning to New Hampshire as the next battleground state for Republican candidates seeking the White House.

The GOP contenders are set to compete Tuesday in a primary to determine who’ll win the state’s 12 at-large delegates in the race to win the Republican nomination.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, coming off a narrow win of eight votes in the Iowa caucuses earlier this week, is the strong front-runner in the polls for a second win in New Hampshire.

According to a Suffolk University/7News Poll published on Friday, Romney holds a strong lead of 40 percent from likely Republican primary voters in the Granite State. He’s followed by libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who has support from 17 percent of poll responders.

Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of the gay conservative group GOProud, predicted that Romney would be victorious on Tuesday and the win would make certain he would be the Republican presidential nominee.

“No non-incumbent Republican candidate has ever won both Iowa and New Hampshire,” LaSalvia said via email. “If Romney does this, it would be unprecedented. He’s leading in all of the national and state polls, so if he wins New Hampshire the race for the nomination is over. AND he will win New Hampshire.”

LaSalvia endorsed Romney in op-ed piece published in Friday in the Daily Caller, citing economic and tax policy as reasons to support the candidate. The endorsement was a personal one, and not on behalf on GOProud.

Romney has a reputation for being less anti-gay than other candidates for saying he favors gay rights. Unlike other candidates, he said wouldn’t restore “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and is against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Still, he opposes same-sex marriage and backs the Federal Marriage Amendment.

While Romney and Paul are ahead in New Hampshire, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum has risen in the polls in the state following his strong second-place showing in the Iowa caucuses. In the Suffolk University/7News Poll, the candidate has vaulted into third place in New Hampshire by claiming 11 percent of support.

David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said the poll shows momentum for Santorum.

“Rick Santorum is the only Republican candidate moving up in New Hampshire,” Paleologos said. “He has cleared the [former U.S. House Speaker Newt] Gingrich and [former Utah Gov. Jon] Huntsman hurdles for third place and is only 6 points away from second place. Watch out Ron Paul.”

But Santorum has been enjoying a less than popular reception from some of the attendees during crowds at his campaign events in the state over his opposition to gay rights.

In one such instance on Friday during a town hall in Keene, N.H., Santorum reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage and his belief that gays shouldn’t be able to serve openly in the military.

“Everybody has certain inalienable rights, serving in the military is not an alienable right,” Santorum said. “It’s a privilege. You’re selected. Not everybody can serve for a variety of different reasons.”

Explaining his opposition to same-sex marriage, Santorum said, “Marriage is a privilege. It is not a right. It is privilege given by society, held up by society, for purposes that it provides some societal good, and I would make the argument, some extraordinary societal good.”

Santorum continued that if marriage was an inalienable right, one “could imagine all the different types of marriages that would happen.” He added, “It’s not discrimination not to grant privileges, it’s discrimination to deny rights.”

“Everyone has a right to live their life,” Santorum concluded. “That doesn’t mean they’re entitled to live their life. That doesn’t mean that they’re entitled to certain privileges that society gives for certain benefits the society obtains from those relationships.”

Santorum’s remarks are consistent with his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment and his plan to restore “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Following Santorum’s remarks, several members of the audience responded with boos.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, blasted Santorum for espousing anti-gay views in a state that is known for its libertarian leanings.

“Rick Santorum’s anti-gay hate is not going to perform well in New Hampshire,” Solmonese said. “His reception there is indicative of just how poorly he will fare with mainstream voters as the primaries progress.”

Solmonese continued that Santorum’s position are not just inconsistent with the views of the majority of people in New Hampshire, but also most Americans.

“Rick Santorum’s views are out of step with the majority of Americans across demographics and faiths,” Solmonese said. “He is basing his campaign off of bashing an entire community of his fellow Americans. That may serve him well with certain constituencies, but it’s something most Americans will not stand for.”

Despite Santorum’s rise, Paul remains the candidate in second-place. Although he enjoys a following among libertarians and younger voters — as well as some LGBT people — his views on gays and AIDS have recently come under scrutiny.

In his 1987 book, “Freedom Under Siege,” Paul wrote that a victim of AIDS is “frequently a victim of his own lifestyle.”

On Jan. 1, Paul defended this position during an interview when FOX News’ Chris Wallace asked the candidate if he still holds these views. The candidate suggested the U.S. government shouldn’t fund AIDS treatment efforts.

“Sexually transmitted diseases are caused by sexual activity, and when it’s promiscuous its spreads diseases,” Paul said. “So if a fault comes with people because of their personal behavior — and in a free society, people do dumb things — but [it] isn’t to be placed as a burden on other people, innocent people. Why should they have to pay for the consequences? That’s a sort of a nationalistic, or socialistic, attitude.”

Asked whether people with AIDS should be denied health care coverage, Paul said no, but added that insurance companies and markets should determine the best way to handle such cases.

Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute, said Paul’s remarks demonstrate he’s “way outside the thinking of any compassionate rationale human being” and “irrational” because only 13 percent of AIDS patients receive care from private insurance companies — the rest is government subsidized care.

“Congressman Paul does not seem to understand the preventive benefits of people with HIV being in care and treatment,” Schmid said. “When people are not in care the virus will spread even more. If we followed his irresponsible remarks the HIV situation would actually be worse.”

Yet another candidate that many will be watching in New Hampshire is former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr. Many observers say a strong showing for Huntsman in New Hampshire, where he has been focusing his campaign, will make or break his path going forward.

But according to the data from University/7News Poll, Huntsman is polling at bottom of the pack. He had support from 8 percent of respondents, although that’s greater than his standing on a national scale.

Huntsman has a strong following among gay Republicans. The candidate supports civil unions and has advocated for a general notion of moving toward equality. Still, said he thinks the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act “serves a useful purpose.”

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, is among those saying Huntsman’s showing in New Hampshire will determine his later moves.

“By foregoing Iowa, Jon Huntsman heavily committed to the ground game in New Hampshire to produce significant voter support,” Cooper said. “How well he performs there will help determine next steps in South Carolina and Florida.”

Cooper has been selected by the Huntsman campaign to represent the candidate as a delegate during the Republican National Convention. Log Cabin hasn’t made an endorsement in the presidential race.

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Mississippi

Art used to spotlight people of color lost to AIDS in the South

National AIDS Memorial, Southern AIDS Coalition created Change the Pattern exhibit

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The National AIDS Memorial and Southern AIDS Coalition have announced a new initiative to raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS among communities of color in the South. (Photo courtesy of the National AIDS Memorial)

The National AIDS Memorial has joined forces with the Southern AIDS Coalition to stage a series of art exhibitions and educational forums to honor Black and Brown people in the South who have been lost to HIV/AIDS.

The initiative, titled Change the Pattern, began in Jackson, Miss., on Wednesday with curated quilt exhibitions, displays, educational forums, advocacy, storytelling and quilt-making, according to a press release from the National AIDS Memorial. A $2.4 million grant from the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc., funded Change the Pattern.

More than 500 hand-stitched quilt panels from the area were featured in what the National AIDS Memorial says is “the largest display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt ever” in Mississippi.

“By creating an empowering message and safe spaces for conversation, we can uplift, inspire and make progress toward ending the HIV epidemic, challenge cultural stigmas and continue the legacy of advocacy that the quilt represents,” said National AIDS Memorial CEO John Cunningham in the release. 

Change the Pattern was announced in honor of Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day during the Southern AIDS Coalition’s annual Saving Ourselves Symposium that took place in August. 

The conference, which was heavily attended by LGBTQ activists from the South, featured 100 quilt panels, and attendees participated in quilt-making workshops to make new quilt panels representing their loved ones.

Interested LGBTQ advocacy organizations in the South were invited to apply for funding to support local quilt-making workshops in their communities so as to ensure that the legacies of Black and Brown people are captured through newly-sewn panels on the quilt through the Memorial’s Call My Name program, according to the National AIDS Memorial press release. 

The application process opened on Sept. 15 with up to 35 eligible organizations receiving as much as $5,000 to support hosting local workshops. 

The first major Change the Pattern Quilt was founded 35 years ago as a visual representation of the need to end stigma and provide equitable resources to communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS, according to Southern AIDS Coalition Executive Director Dafina Ward.

“Change the Pattern is a call to action and change in the South,” said Ward. “Quilt-making has such a deep cultural connection in the Black community and in the South. The sharing and telling of these powerful stories through the quilt, coupled with advocacy and open dialogue, can help end HIV-related stigma and bring the stories of those we’ve lost to light.”

As the Change the Pattern initiative occurs, conversations about how to handle health epidemics within LGBTQ communities of color have become national topics, especially with the prevalence of monkeypox cases amongst Black gay men.

Despite earlier panic about the disease, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in a report released on Wednesday said that individuals who were vaccinated against the disease were less likely to be affected over the summer compared to those who weren’t. 

The effectiveness and duration of immunity after a single dose, however, is not known, and few individuals in the current outbreak have completed the recommended two-dose series, according to the report. 

The most recent CDC data reports that 25,509 monkeypox cases have thus far been confirmed in the U.S. Only one death has been reported.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Doctor, transgender spouse indicted for passing information to Russia

Jamie Lee Henry first active-duty Army officer to come out as trans

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Jamie Lee Henry and their spouse Anna Gabrielian (Photos from social media)

A federal grand jury on Wednesday handed down an indictment of a Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist and her spouse, a doctor and major in the U.S. Army, with conspiracy and for the disclosure of individually identifiable health information related to their efforts to assist Russia in connection with the conflict in Ukraine.

The office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland in a press release stated Anna Gabrielian, 36, and her spouse, Jamie Lee Henry, 39, both of Rockville, Md., both of whom had secret clearances, were attempting to provide medical information about members of the military to the Russian government.

Gabrielian and Henry met with an individual they believed to be associated with the Russian government, but who was, in fact, an Federal Bureau of Investigation Undercover Agent.

Court documents indicate Gabrielian told the FBI agent posing as a Russian operative that she had previously reached out to the Russian Embassy by email and phone, offering Russia her and her spouses’ assistance.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Gabrielian told the FBI agent that, although Henry knew of Gabrielian’s interaction with the Russian Embassy, she never mentioned Henry’s name to the Russian Embassy.

In the narrative released by the U.S. Attorney’s office, on Aug. 17, 2022, Gabrielian met with the FBI at a hotel in Baltimore. During that meeting, Gabrielian told the FBI she was motivated by patriotism toward Russia to provide any assistance she could to Russia, even if it meant being fired or going to jail. 

She proposed potential cover stories for her meeting with the “Russians” and stressed the need for “plausible deniability” in the event she was confronted by American authorities. Gabrielian also told the FBI that, as a military officer, Henry was currently a more important source for Russia than she was, because they had more helpful information, including how the U.S. military establishes an army hospital in war conditions and information about previous training provided by the U.S. military to Ukrainian military personnel. 

Henry identifies as a “transgender military physician” on their Twitter account.

Henry received public attention in 2015 after becoming the first known active-duty Army officer to come out as trans.

Henry was at one point a member of SPARTA, the nation’s largest nonprofit representing actively-serving trans U.S. servicemembers. A spokesperson for SPARTA, in an emailed statement commenting on the announcement of the arrest and indictment of Henry and their spouse told the Washington Blade:

“Transgender people are as diverse as the societies to which they belong. One’s gender identity neither increases nor decreases a propensity towards alleged criminal activity.”

As stated in the indictment, Gabrielian is an anesthesiologist and worked at Medical Institution 1 in Baltimore.  

Henry, a major in the U.S. Army who held a secret-level security clearance, is Gabrielian’s spouse and a doctor. During the time of the alleged conspiracy, Henry worked as a staff internist stationed at Fort Bragg, the home of the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, headquarters of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and the Womack Army Medical Center.

Gabrielian was scheduled to have initial appearance at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brendan A. Hurson. Henry is also expected to have an initial appearance today, although a time has not yet been set.

Full statement from SPARTA:

“SPARTA, a non-profit advocacy organization representing transgender Service members in the United States, is saddened to learn of the arrest and indictment of Jamie Lee Henry, an officer in the U.S. Army and a medical doctor.

SPARTA has long advocated for the inclusion and total equity for transgender persons throughout the United States uniformed services. Today, thousands are serving honorably and authentically at home stations worldwide.

The actions alleged in the indictment do not reflect Henry’s identity as transgender. Their alleged actions are those of an individual and should not be taken as a representation of transgender people broadly or transgender members of the military specifically.

All people in the United States are entitled to the same rights, including due process and the presumption of innocence in this case. SPARTA does not condone any actions alleged in the indictment and expects the process to play out fairly and equitably as it would for anyone accused of a crime.”

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The unvaccinated are 14 times more likely to contract monkeypox: health officials

Guidance updated to allow shots in places other than forearm

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U.S. health officials are celebrating data finding the monkeypox contraction is lower among people who are vaccinated.

U.S. health officials are celebrating preliminary data on the vaccine used in the monkeypox outbreak, which has led them to conclude eligible persons who didn’t get a shot were 14 times more likely to become infected than those who are vaccinated.

The new data, as described by health officials on the White House monkeypox task force during a call with reporters on Wednesday, comes as the overall number of new cases of monkeypox is in sharp decline, although considerable racial disparities persist in the remaining cases as Black and Latino people are overrepresented in the numbers.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, said during the conference call the preliminary data — collected from 32 states between July 2022 and September 2022 — provides an early shapshot of the effectiveness of the vaccine and cause for optimism on the path forward.

“These new data provide us with a level of cautious optimism that the vaccine is working as intended,” Walkensky said. “These early findings and similar results from studies and other countries suggest even one dose of the monkeypox vaccine offers at least some initial protection against infection.”

Walensky during the conference call admitted the data is incomplete in numerous ways. For example, the data is based on information on individuals who have obtained only the first shot as opposed to both shots in the two-shot vaccination process. (The data showing positive results from individuals who have only one shot contradicts previous warnings from the same U.S. health officials that one shot of the monkeypox vaccine was insufficient.)

The data also makes no distinction between individuals who have obtained a shot through subcutaneous injection, a more traditional approach to vaccine administration, as opposed to intradermal injection, which is a newer approach adopted in the U.S. guidance amid the early vaccine shortage. Skeptics of the new approach have said data is limited to support the idea the intradermal injection is effective, particularly among immunocompromised people with HIV who have been at higher risk of contracting monkeypox.

Not enumerated as part of the data were underlying numbers leading health officials to conclude the unvaccinated were 14 times more likely to contract monkeypox as opposed to those with a shot, as well as any limiting principle on the definition of eligible persons. Also unclear from the data is whether individual practices in sexual behavior had any role in the results.

Despite the positive data on the monkeypox vaccine based on one shot, U.S. health officials warned during the conference call the two-shot approach to vaccine administration is consistent with their guidance and more effective.

Demetre Daskalakis, the Biden administration’s face of LGBTQ outreach for monkeypox and deputy coordinator for the White House monkeypox task force, made the case that for individuals at risk obtaining a second dose is “really important.”

“So we see some response after the first [shot] in the laboratory, but the really high responses that we want to really get — that you know, level 10 forcefield as opposed to the level five forcefield — doesn’t happen until the second dose,” Daskalakis said. “So the important message is this just tells us to keep on trucking forward because we need that second dose at arms that people haven’t gotten the first should start their series of two vaccines.”

Also during the call, health officials said they would be expanding opportunities for vaccines as pre exposure prophylaxis, as opposed to practices in certain regions granting vaccines in their limited supply to individuals who meet certain criteria or have had risk of exposure.

The Centers of Disease Control & Prevention, officials said, is also updating its guidance to allow injection of the vaccines in places other than a patient’s arm.

Daskalakis said fear of stigma about getting a noticeable shot in the forearm after obtaining a monkeypox vaccine was a key part of the decision to issue the new guidance on implementation.

“Many jurisdictions and advocates have told us that some people declined vaccine to monkeypox because of the stigma associated with the visible but temporary mark often left on their forearm,” Daskalakis said. “New guidance from CDC allows people who don’t want to risk a visible mark on their forearm to offer a vaccine on their skin by their shoulder or their upper back. Those are areas more frequently covered by clothes.”

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