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Vox Sentences: The brutal campaign against gay men in Chechnya

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Attacks on gay men in Chechnya; a terror attack in Paris days before the French election; Berkeley gets stuck in a campus speech controversy.


Gay men are fleeing Chechnya for their lives

Vigils In Bangkok After The Orlando Shooting Photo by Dario Pignatelli/Getty Images
  • In the past month, reports have accumulated of missing gay men in Chechnya. A leading Russian opposition newspaper reported that 100 men had been detained by local authorities, three men had been murdered, and many others had likely been killed. [New York Times / Andrew E. Kramer]
  • The purge of men suspected to be gay seems to have been instigated by authorities in Chechnya, though a spokesperson for Chechnya’s leader claimed there are no gay people in Chechnya and that “You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic.” [Guardian / Shaun Walker]
  • The spokesperson also said, in what appears to be an allusion to one type of extrajudicial killing that human rights organizations fear is occurring in Chechnya currently, “If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn't need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.” [Slate / Daniel Politi]
  • An attempt to organize an LGBTQ pride march in Chechnya appears to have been the catalyst for what many fear is an attempt at the organized extermination of all gay and bisexual men in Chechnya. [PRI / Rachel Gotbaum]
  • In the meantime, Russia has backed the Chechen government’s denial of the persecution, and the Russian journalists who broke the story have received death threats themselves. [Independent / Lizzie Dearden]
  • Local authorities have reportedly been using the networks of gay men they’ve captured to find other men to arrest. One man told the Guardian that a friend called him “and in a very calm and normal voice suggested meeting.” When the man arrived to meet up, six people were waiting for him and took him to a detention facility where he was beaten and subjected to electric shock treatment. [Guardian / Shaun Walker]
  • Support groups in Russia have tried to help spirit the men out of Chechnya. But the director of the Moscow Community Center, which has helped evacuate gay Chechen men, told the New York Times that some of the men they were helping actually thought the organization might be a trap. They risked trusting it because they had no other options: “They say, ‘We didn’t believe you were real.’” [New York Times / Andrew E. Kramer]

The attack on the Champs-Élysées

Police Officer Killed In Paris Shooting Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images
  • Late on Thursday, a man got out of his car on the Champs-Élysées in Paris and began shooting at a police van using an automatic weapon. He killed one officer and injured two others in a subsequent shootout before he was shot and killed by the police. [New York Times / Alissa J. Rubin, Aurelien Breeden, Benoit Morenne]
  • The man, Karim Cheurfi, was a French national who had been convicted in 2005 on three counts of attempted murder, two of which were against police officers. [France 24]
  • ISIS took responsibility for the attack in record time, which some read as a suggestion that the group knew of plans to carry out the shooting. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • Cheurfi himself made his ISIS affiliation very clear. Police officers investigating the attack found a note defending and praising ISIS that Cheurfi had with him and that seemed to have fallen from his pocket. [Associated Press / Lori Hinnant, John Leicester]
  • The attack occurred mere days before France’s primary for its presidential election — and it immediately cast a shadow over the vote. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen promised to beat “Islamist terrorism” using stricter immigration and border control if she is elected. Centrist Emmanuel Macron dismissed the notion that any legal action could result in “zero risk” and condemned the simplicity of her response. [Reuters / Leigh Thomas, Marine Pennetier]
  • Terror attacks have not done much to bolster Le Pen’s far-right party in the past, but the attack still stands to have a serious impact on the election, as multiple candidates have reportedly canceled final campaign stops. [The Telegraph / Henry Samuel]
  • Indeed, President Donald Trump believes the attack will have a “big effect.” He tweeted, “The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!” [New York Times / Aurelien Breeden, Adam Nossiter]

Ann Coulter drags UC Berkeley into a free speech fight

Annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Held In D.C.
Ann Coulter at a book signing in March
Getty Images / T.J. Kirkpatrick
  • Last month, UC Berkeley’s College Republicans club was announced that right-wing commentator and author Ann Coulter would be speaking on campus on April 27. [East Bay Times / Tom Lochner]
  • The time and location of the event, however, had not been locked down — and because of the likelihood of protests (both against Coulter’s views and in favor of them) seemed certain, on Wednesday the school called off the event citing security concerns. In a letter to Berkeley College Republicans, administrators explained that they were “unable to find a safe and suitable venue” and that it was “not possible to assure that the event could be held successfully — or that the safety of Ms. Coulter, the event sponsors, audience and bystanders could be adequately protected.” [New York Times / Thomas Fuller]
  • But then the university offered a solution on Thursday. There was a venue that could host the event on another day, May 2. Coulter was not pleased. On Twitter Thursday evening, she fumed: “We've already spent $ for 4/27 Berkeley spc & I can't do May 2...THERE ARE NO CLASSES AT BERKELEY THE WEEK OF MAY 2!!!” [Washington Post / William Wan, Susan Svriuga]
  • Coulter has insisted she will speak on April 27, which has frustrated university administrators. A spokesperson of the university emailed the New York Times, “We are struggling to understand this display of disdain and disregard for the assessments and recommendations of law enforcement professionals, particularly given that their primary concern is the safety and well-being of 36,000 college students.” [New York Times / Thomas Fuller, Stephanie Saul]
  • And bolstering Coulter’s claim that she will speak on the originally planned date, the student group that invited Coulter has a lawyer who is threatening legal action if the university does not find a centrally located venue on campus during the evening of the 27 that can host the event. [Washington Post / William Wan]
  • The drama around the on-again-off-again speaking engagement is giving Coulter exactly what she wants. As Conor Friedersdorf writes for the Atlantic, “the university gave her the attention she craves, while threatening the free speech it was once renowned for defending.” [Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf]
  • But to be fair to the university, its concerns that protests could turn violent are not unfounded. In February, a visit to UC Berkeley from right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was canceled amid violent protests. [LA Times / Sonali Kohl, Nina Agrawal]

More to the point, while violence is never acceptable, there are good arguments that "deplatforming" — using nonviolent protest to demand that universities refuse to give racist or sexist speech undeserved publicity and respectability — is an effective tool against bigotry. [Slate / Osita Nwanevu]


Miscellaneous

  • Muppets. What are they? Like, as a species? How did they emerge, evolutionarily?[Metafilter]
  • Today I Learned the US government places land mines that explode cyanide in public lands around the country to kill predators. [National Geographic / Todd Wilkinson]
  • In 1976, New York City's ban on pinball was overturned — because one man, a pinball wizard shall we say, promised the city council that he could hit the ball right through the middle lane on the next shot, and then did exactly that. [Today I Found Out / Matt Blitz]
  • How an Israeli design student turned his washing machine into a sous-vide cooker. [GrubStreet / Clint Rainey]

Verbatim

  • “They have this incredible ideology which somehow conflates smashing windows with bringing down the state.” [Lynne Hollander Savio to Politico / David Siders]
  • “In 1998, Bill O’Reilly published his first and, so far, only novel: ‘Those Who Trespass: A Novel of Television and Murder.’ The main character is a violently bitter journalist named Shannon Michaels, who, after being pushed out of two high-profile positions, takes revenge on four of his former colleagues by murdering them one by one.” [New Yorker / Jia Tolentino]
  • “Donald was grateful for the opportunity but felt like he should leave to pursue acting. Of the many writers who have suggested this over the past 20 years, Donald is the only one with whom I’ve ever agreed. One hundred percent, he should go be a star.” [Time / Tina Fey]
  • “She doesn't consider herself racist, though acknowledges that race and religion likely play a role in her sense that the refugees overwhelmed her community. The African Muslims, many of whom wear hijabs, stand out far more than her French-Canadian ancestors did when they arrived generations ago, she said.” [AP / Claire Galofaro]
  • "[There is] no evidence that dropping a bomb in location A affects credibility in location A, let alone location B." [Jennifer Lind to NYT / Max Fisher]
  • “Grammer’s memoir feels like it was written in artisanal ink with a quill pen, by a man wearing a Victorian velvet suit and sporting a monocle and toting an ivory-handled cane. It is an exquisite, gorgeously sustained exercise in unintentional self-parody.” [AV Club / Nathan Rabin]

Watch this: How Google's featured answers can go terribly wrong

Why Google search once said Obama was a king and dinosaurs weren’t real. [Vox / Christophe Haubursin]


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