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Human Rights Activist Evdokia Romanova Facing Charges in Russia for Pro-LGBTQ Posts on Social Media

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Human Rights Activist Evdokia Romanova Facing Charges in Russia for Pro-LGBTQ Posts on Social Media

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In countries around the world, summer is known as the time to celebrate Pride and shine the spotlight on LGBTQ equality and rights. Pride is not only celebrated outside, but also online, particularly across social media. People share posts with their experiences taking part in Pride marches and events, voice their support for the LGBTQ community, and update their profile photos with colourful Pride-themed frames.

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Although it has come with years of struggle, today, many of us can support the LGBTQ civil rights movement, freely and without government interference. And yet, many around the world still cannot.

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On July 26, human rights activist Evdokia Romanova, a staff member at the Samara Regional Public LGBT Movement and a member of the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, was summoned by the Russian government and notified that she was under police investigation for an administrative penalty of $1,750. This so-called “administrative penalty” was for “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships in front of minors.”

Her actual crime? Sharing pro-LGBTQ links on Facebook.

Since then, Evdokia’s identity has gone public and she faces daily harassment — even death threats — all for supporting a cause she believes in, and exercising her right to freedom of expression online.

We caught up with her to learn more about what happened, how she’s doing now, and what her hopes are for the future.

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Evdokia, can you describe to us the nature of what you shared on Facebook and the events that unfolded?

I believe that the main accusation is based on web content from the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, a human rights organization that advocates for the sexual and reproductive rights of young people worldwide. 

Let me start from the beginning. On July 26th, I was invited to submit witness testimony (at least that’s what I was told on the phone by the police officer) by the local police station. When I arrived, they charged me with Propaganda of Nontraditional Sexual relationships in front of minors (Administrative penalty Part 2 Code 6.21).

This accusation was a total shock. I declined giving the government authorities a testimony, aware that due to the nature of my human rights work, it would not be wise for me to talk to them without a lawyer.

While they were writing down the protocol, I called my lawyer on the phone and she told me to be very careful about signing any documents. She also asked me to take pictures of the case materials. However, the police officer refused to provide me with any access to the case materials, and only after they spoke with my lawyer, was I able to take a look.

The case materials contained some of my Facebook posts from the 2015-2016, when I was doing reposts from the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights’ Facebook page. For example, one of the posts was a repost from the Guardian, with an article that focused on the legalization of gay marriage.

Unfortunately, I was unable to take a closer look at the case materials, because an unidentified person in the police department took them away and started yelling at the police officer who gave them to me. Then, this same person started asking me about an Austrian man in Samara residing in my apartment. They mentioned that perhaps they would check his documents and see if there were any problems with his visa. I was in complete shock because this person is my partner, and I have no idea how the authorities received such personal information regarding my private life.

After I signed the protocol, I was able to leave the station. Since then, although my lawyer has tried repeatedly, I’ve not received any case materials, only a letter stating the date of my court hearing on September 18th.

You are well-known for your sexual and SRHR (sexual and reproductive health and rights) activism. When did you begin to fight for this cause and what inspired you to get involved?

It started at a local NGO in my home city Samara. We were doing a theater project to educate young people on the topic of healthy sexual behavior, in an effort to promote HIV prevention. Later, I became a staff member of that NGO.

At first, I was more inspired by the theater component of the project, but later, I was drawn to the human rights aspect of sexuality education and promoting the rights of people living with HIV. Today, I conduct my activism on a global scale, and I’m inspired by the stories of the people who are struggling in my country and beyond.

Russia has a long history with online censorship, and even recently banned VPNs. What are your thoughts on the importance of online expression, and what do you believe the government’s actions mean for Russian society?

Online expression is extremely important, especially in a country like Russia, where it is so difficult to organize street protests to express our opposition to the authorities’ actions. I am very sad to see that many human rights activists are forced to leave the country, and most NGO’s get shut down or labeled as “international agents”.

Online platforms remain one of the few means of speaking our mind and voicing our disagreement with the human rights violations.

If the government’s policies continue this way, civil society will eventually be totally silent. There will be no human rights violations – because there will be no one talking about them. This deeply saddens me as I think about the fact that every government in this world violates human rights in one way or another, and we need to bring these issues to light.

What can people around the world do to support your case, your cause, and brave activists, like yourself?

How can people support me? It’s a difficult question. Perhaps sharing this information and talking about this case with others can help…

Truthfully, I don’t feel brave. I feel very scared and frustrated, and very, very tired.

I have to wonder why it’s not permissible for me to repost an article from the Guardian, but why people are allowed to post comments on social networks, under my picture, describing the ways I should be murdered?

I really hope I can win this case in the court. If so, I hope it will serve as an exemplary case for others in this situation. Most of all, I hope that our government will rethink Administrative Penalty Part 2 6.2, and ultimately cancel this discriminatory legislation.

 

If you would like to support Evdokia Romanova, please send an e-mail to the Police Department in the Samara Region (gumvd63@mvd.ru) to tell them that you disagree with the accusations against her, based on Part 2 6.21 Code of Administrative Penalty (rus. ч. 2 ст. 6.21 Кодекса об административных правонарушениях). You can also participate in Amnesty International’s call for Urgent Action.

Want to join us in the fight for freedom of online expression? Get involved with the cause at Unblock The Web.

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Exopolitics

Study Finds That Humans Would Be Quite “Upbeat” About The Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life

Gautam Peddada

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As the possibilities of a non-human intellect being present on Earth increase on a daily basis, one critical question must be addressed: How will we deal with it if we make contact? Will we be terrified if we feel threatened? Will we accept it? Will we be able to comprehend it? Or will we dismiss it as just another item to cope with in our increasingly fast-paced world?

Researchers from Arizona State University performed a study to try to find out the answer, and the article is titled “How Will We React to the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life?”

“If we came face to face with life outside of Earth, we would actually be pretty upbeat about it,” said Arizona State University Assistant Professor of Psychology Michael Varnum.

The pilot study’s articles focused on the 1996 discovery of possibly fossilised extraterrestrial Martian microbes, the 2015 discovery of periodic dimming around Tabby’s Star, thought to indicate the presence of an artificially constructed “Dyson sphere,” and the 2017 discovery of Earth-like exoplanets in a star’s habitable zone.

The pilot study discovered that the language used to depict these events elicited much more positive than negative feelings.

In a second study, the researchers invited over 500 people to write about their potential reactions to the discovery of alien microbial life, as well as humanity’s possible reaction. When considering their individual sentiments as well as those of mankind as a whole, participants’ replies revealed substantially more positive than negative emotions.

“I’d be a little excited about the news,” one participant remarked. “Even if it existed in a rudimentary form, it would be fascinating.”

The scientists discovered evidence of considerably happier than negative emotions in responses to the alleged finding of alien life, and this impact was larger in response to reading about extraterrestrial life than in response to human-made synthetic life.

“This discovery demonstrates that other planets can support life,” one participant stated. “It’s an intriguing and fascinating discovery that might be only the beginning.”

According to Varnum, “taken together, this implies that if we find out we’re not alone, we’ll take the news rather well”

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General

Dr Byram Bridle Speaks For 100 Colleagues Afraid To Share Science About COVID Vaccine Concerns

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CE Staff Writer 2 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Dr Byram Bridle and two other physicians spoke at a news conference on Parliament Hill about their experience being censored or harassed as a result of sharing their medical opinions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Reflect On:

    Do we as citizens truly want our scientists and physicians to be silenced and censored?

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Why are scientists and experts in this field scared to share concerning science regarding COVID vaccines? Just ask Byram Bridle, a viral immunologist from the University of Guelph who recently released a detailed, in-depth report regarding safety concerns about the COVID vaccines. The report was released to act as a guide for parents when it comes to deciding whether or not their child should be vaccinated against COVID-19. Bridle published the paper on behalf of one hundred other scientists and doctors who part of the Canadian COVID Care Alliance, but who are afraid to ‘come out’ publicly and share their concerns.

Bridle has stated about the Alliance,

In fact the reason that we (Canadian COVID Care Alliance) exist is sad. We exist because we’re like minded in the sense that we all want to be able to speak openly and freely about the scientist and medicine underpinning COVID-19, and we don’t feel safe to do it  anywhere else other than within our own private group, where we feel safe.

Below is our detailed report on the news conference held on Parliament Hill on June 17th, 2021. It was organized by Canadian MP Derek Sloan who has received hundreds of concerned communications from Canadian citizens about the censorship of scientists. Bridle and two other physicians spoke at the conference.

A recent article published in the British Medical Journal by journalist Laurie Clarke has highlighted the fact that Facebook has already removed at least 16 million pieces of content from its platform and added warnings to approximately 167 million others. YouTube has removed nearly 1 million videos related to, according to them, “dangerous or misleading covid-19 medical information.”

The more important questions to ask are: who is deciding what’s misleading? Who decides what’s false?

Some of the most renowned scientists and expert in this field have been subjected to this “fact-checking,” and they’ve been outspoken about how much of this fact-checking is flat out censorship. You decide.

To note: HealthFeedback.org, a fact checker, has attempted to refute some of Bridle’s claims. You can read more about them here.

 

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General

Study Finds Many Uninfected Adults Still Have Strong Pre-Existing Antibody Protection Against COVID

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CE Staff Writer 5 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A study published in March 2021 suggests that the majority of healthy adults in British Columbia, Canada, have immunity from COVID-19 despite the fact that some of them have never been infected with it.

  • Reflect On:

    Why has the power of naturally acquired immunity not been recognized and focused on more deeply? Why is the only focus on vaccination?

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A study published in March 2021 suggested that  the majority of healthy Adults in British Columbia have evidence of pre-existing or naturally acquired immunity to COVID-19.  They found this to be the case even in individuals who haven’t been infected, and could be explained by the fact that coronaviruses that already circle the globe, prior to COVID-19, may provide protection from the novel virus.  They explain,

There are 4 circulating coronaviruses predating COVID-19 that cause up to 30% of seasonal upper respiratory tract infections (8). The spike proteins of β-coronaviruses HKU1 and OC43 exhibit approximately 40% sequence similarity, whereas the α-coronaviruses NL63 and 229E exhibit approximately 30% structural similarity with SARS-CoV-2 (9). The common occurrence of circulating coronaviruses year after year and their structural similarity with SARS-CoV-2 raises the possibility that the former may stimulate cross-reactive responses toward SARS-CoV-2 and that this heterotopic immunity may impact clinical susceptibility to COVID-19 and/or modulate responses to the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine (10, 11)….In conclusion, this study reveals common preexisting, broadly reactive SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in uninfected adults. These findings warrant larger studies to understand how these antibodies affect the severity of COVID-19, as well as the quality and longevity of responses to SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.

We are living in a world where anything “natural” seems to be shunned by a large portion of the medical community, and defined as “pseudoscientific”, when in fact, research suggests the opposite.

Natural immunity is quite robust. Dr. Suneel Dhang, an internal medical physician in the United States explains,

I’m not aware of any vaccine out there which will ever give you more immunity than if you’re naturally recovered from the illness itself…If you’ve naturally recovered from it, my understanding as a doctor level scientist is that those antibodies will always be better than a vaccine, and if you know any differently, please let me know.

A number of studies have now been published demonstrating that infection from COVID will provide a person with long lasting antibodies. Several studies have demonstrated that individuals with prior infection not only have these antibodies, but that they also developed robust levels of B cells and T cells (necessary for fighting off the virus) and these cells may persist in the body for a very long time. How long? It could be decades, or even a lifetime.

Individuals with infection from SARS, for example, still have a robust level of antibodies nearly two decades later. Research has also found that even a mild COVID infection can provide very strong protection that could last a lifetime.

Last fall there were reports that antibodies wane quickly after infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, and mainstream media interpreted that to mean that immunity was not long-lived. But that’s a misrepresentation of the data. It’s normal for antibody levels to go down after acute infection, but they don’t go down to zero; they plateau. Here, we found antibody-producing cells in people 11 months after first symptoms. These cells will live and produce antibodies for the rest of people’s lives. That’s strong evidence for long-lasting immunity. –  Ali Ellebedy, PhD, associate professor of pathology & immunology, of medicine and micro-biology. (source)

This science and research completely opposes what we were hearing early on in the pandemic, that prior infection, and infection from other coronaviruses may only provide protection for a few months or even a couple of years. It turns out that it’s probably a lot longer.

When infected with SARS-CoV-2, most people clear this virus from their body by mounting a robust, long-lasting immune response that targets multiple components of the virus1. These people will be protected from re-infection with the same variant of SARS-CoV-2 and, due to the breadth of a natural immune response, will also likely have some degree of protection against emerging new variants of SARS-CoV-2. Indeed, most people who have naturally acquired immunity should not be at risk of developing severe disease. – Dr. Byram Bridle, Viral Immunologist, University of Guelph. (source)

How does this compare to vaccine induced immunity? We don’t know as there is not enough data to say yet.

Dr. Ozlem Tureci, co-founder and CMO of BioNTech, the company that developed a COVID vaccine with Pfizer told CNBC that people will likely need a third shot of its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine. She also believes people will need one every year. Judging by this belief, vaccine induced immunity will continually wane and those who choose to go the vaccine route may have to continue with inoculations.

The scientific consensus of the number of people infected around the world is well over what testing has claimed. Currently, we’re nearly at 200,000,000 cases, but that number is most likely well over a billion globally. This is why the survival rate for healthy people under the age of 60 is nearly one hundred percent.

These infection numbers are important because it represents a globe closing in on herd immunity. My question is, what effect does the vaccine have on those who have already had an infection? What does this do to natural protection one gets from infection?

Another important question to ask is, why has the topic of naturally acquired immunity been given absolutely zero attention within the mainstream? Why are they pushing the idea that we can’t go back to completely normal until every single person has had a vaccine if that doesn’t match what the science is saying?

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