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Moscow can't afford foreign performers
Friday, April 17 2015

Fans of Elton John and Marilyn Manson living in Moscow are facing tough times.

The number of international artists coming to Russia to perform has plummeted in recent months as an economic slump and currency crisis have made them too expensive for local promoters. Meanwhile, outrage caused by Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Ukraine have led some performers to boycott the country, and Russian Orthodox Christian and other conservative activists have leaped on a wave of patriotism to agitate against artists that they disapprove of.

Since the start of last year, "the number of the concerts featuring international artists has fallen by 95 percent," said Yevgeny Morozov, the director of the Moscow event agency City Concerts. "[Foreign musicians] are not profitable anymore," Morozov said.

The hard fees demanded by international stars have not changed, but due to the depreciation of the ruble, which has fallen by one-third against the U.S. dollar over the past year, the cost for local organizers has soared.

The organizers of concerts at Crocus City Hall, a major Moscow venue, planned to host Elton John this year, but despite successfully negotiating with the musician were forced to cancel the event. "We can't afford such expensive musicians anymore," said Svetlana Bignova, a business development executive at Crocus City Hall.

For the venue to make a profit on the Elton John gig, the average ticket price would have been around 20,000 rubles ($400), according to Bignova. The average Russian earned 30,620 rubles per month, state statistics service Rosstat said in February 2015.

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Elton John and Michael Stipe Speak Out in The Guardian
Friday, April 17 2015

The Guardian has published an op-ed by Elton John and musician, activist, and EJAF ally Michael Stipe, “Protecting Trans Inmates”.

Elton and Michael’s op-ed expands on a public statement they released on April 7, 2015 on this issue, underscores the horrific conditions faced by transgender people both inside and outside of prison, and connects their struggles with the larger effort to achieve equal rights for LGBT people everywhere.

The silence on abuse of transgender inmates in US prisons is deafening

The cruelty and violence facing transgender people in US prisons is connected to the fight for equality for the LGBT community across America

By Elton John and Michael Stipe

Ashley Diamond, a transgender inmate who was denied medically necessary hormones by the Georgia correctional system, was raped seven times, called a “he-she thing”, and thrown into solitary confinement for “pretending” to be a woman.

Last week, the United States Justice Department weighed in on her lawsuit and found that Georgia’s “freeze-frame” policy – which denied trans inmates the chance to begin or expand hormone treatment in prison – constituted “cruel and unusual punishment” and violated the United States Constitution.

This horrific treatment illustrates the broader policy changes we desperately need to ensure that no one in a correction setting - or any setting, for that matter - is denied their human or civil rights because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Today, transgender women in male prisons are 13 times more likely than the general prison population to be sexually assaulted while incarcerated. Nearly two-thirds of trans inmates report sexual assault. And more often than not, assaults go unreported in part because the perpetrators are prison guards, wardens and staff.

This is a disgrace.

Sadly, it’s not the first time we’ve heard of prisoners being mistreated because of their sexual orientation. Until recently, HIV-positive prisoners in South Carolina who were convicted for minor offenses were segregated and held alongside inmates on death row. The Elton John AIDS Foundation was proud to support the ACLU’s legal action that ended this despicable policy.

The silence from Georgia prison officials on transgender abuse is deafening. A new policy that initiates individualized assessments of gender dysphoria will improve medical care for trans people, but it does nothing for the verbal and physical abuse that women like Ashley Diamond regularly face in correctional facilities.

The Justice Department was right to take a stand in favor of the rights of transgender prisoners to medical hormone treatment. Now, it’s time for the DOJ to take a stand against the brutality and sexual assault that transgender prisoners face in our correctional facilities.

There is a troubling lack of awareness in correctional facilities about the nuances of gender identity and the well-being of trans women inmates in male prisons. Too often, prisons chip away at the very identity of these women by using male pronouns, confiscating their bras and – as in Ashley’s case – denying medically necessary hormone therapy (she’d been undergoing hers for nearly 20 years). We must understand the effects these practices have and put a stop to them.

All too often, transgender people are stripped of their dignity before they even step foot in prison. They are subject to discrimination, harassment and violence – leaving many in poverty, homelessness and without access to adequate healthcare. If we are going to raise awareness about issues facing transgender women inside prison, we must work in parallel by addressing these issues in our communities. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

The cruelty and violence facing transgender people in our prisons is directly connected to the larger fight for equality for the LGBT community everywhere in America. To be sure, the despicably violent and discriminatory treatment of transgender prisoners must end. But so too must the broader violations of human dignity – behind bars and beyond them.

Related News
  • Elton and Michael Stipe call for protection of transgender inmates
        Wednesday, April 8 2015 at 10:06:07

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    Washington Nationals play Elton John for opponents' batting practice
    Wednesday, April 15 2015

    Rather than blast classic rock or current hits, the Washington Nationals have decided to pump-in soft, slow music for its opponents while they take batting practice before a game in Nationals park.

    The playlist includes Sarah McLachlan, Elton John and the Carpenters, as a way to not only get into the heads of opposing players, but keep fans engaged and entertained.

    From the New York Times: All of this was by design. Starting this season, for now at least, the Nationals are playing slow soft-rock songs during the visiting team’s batting practice. As if their standout starting rotation were not daunting enough, the Nationals are also trying to gain a psychological edge on their opponents, at least in some small way.

    The trial run didn’t go completely as planned, seeing as how the New York Mets took two games out of three over the Nationals when Washington first started playing “Dust in the Wind” for opposing batters, but if nothing else, people seem to be amused by the new DJ in Nationals Park.

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    "Elton John surrogate scenario is not wanted"
    Wednesday, April 15 2015

    An Irish Senator took a swipe at Elton John, a father of surrogate children, during a debate on the same-sex marriage.

    “We don’t want an Elton John scenario here,” Independent Ronan Mullen said on The Week in Politics on April 12, 2015. Elton has two sons born to a surrogate mother.

    Mr Mullen has been campaigning for a No vote in the May 2015 referendum. He faced off against Senator Katherine Zappone who asked what good a No vote would achieve during the RTE TV debate. “The absence of marriage equality tells lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people that their relationships and lives are not worthy of equal protection,” she said.

    Meanwhile, Catholic bishops reaffirmed their stance that the church will no longer carry out the civil part of wedding ceremonies if marriage equality is extended to gay couples. The refusal would affect tens of thousands of heterosexual couples if the referendum passes.

    A senior spokesman for the Irish Catholic Bishops said he believed priests are unlikely to have any issue with the hierarchy’s decision to force all couples marrying in the church to carry out the civil aspect of their marriage elsewhere. For a wedding in Ireland to be legally recognised, it must be solemnised by a person on the register of civil solemnisers.

    Some 4,121 of the 5,461 people on the register are Catholic priests. Only 107 civil registrars are listed, so the move would result in a significant delay for couples seeking to have their marriage legally recognised by the State.

    “If the referendum is passed, the church’s view and the State’s view of marriage will be radically different,” the spokesman said. “It’s reasonable that the bishops would decide to separate the two. A priest’s role is to join two people in the eyes of God only.”

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    T Bone Burnett for 'American Epic' documentary and album
    Thursday, April 9 2015

    The three-part series will also feature performances from Beck, Nas, Alabama Shakes, Elton John and more.

    Jack White has teamed up with country musician T Bone Burnett and actor Robert Redford for new documentary series American Epic. The three-part series, directed by British filmmakers Bernard MacMahon and Allison McGourty, follows the growth of the music industry and US record labels during the 1920s. White, Redford and Burnett serve as executive producers on the project. The series will air on PBS and BBC Four in October 2015.

    "These recordings were the first time America heard itself," MacMahon told The New York Times of the documentary. "It is like the DNA of America, its raw expression. This period represents an apex of American technological innovation." The series will be accompanied by 'The American Epic Sessions', a feature-length film and soundtrack album which will see modern artists recording new music using antiquated devices. Beck, Willie Nelson, Nas, Alabama Shakes, Elton John and more will take part.

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    Elton reportedly playing VE Day concert
    Thursday, April 9 2015

    Paul McCartney, Elton John and Rod Stewart are going back in time for the 70th anniversary of VE Day. According to UK tabloid The Sun, the three British music icons are set to perform at a 1940s-themed concert to commemorate the end of World War II in Europe.

    The gig is set to take place at Horse Guards Parade in London on May 9, 2015, The Sun reported. It will be broadcast on BBC One. Dame Vera Lynn , the 97-year-old wartime singer best known for her 1943 song "We'll Meet Again," also reportedly will appear during the event.

    Three days of celebrations marking the anniversary will begin with a service at London's Cenotaph on May 8, 2015. There will be a Royal Air Force flyby commemorating the Battle of Britain, a veterans' parade and a nationwide lighting of beacons.

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    Elton and Michael Stipe call for protection of transgender inmates
    Wednesday, April 8 2015

    Elton John and Michael Stipe are calling for the equal rights of transgender inmates following claims that a transgender woman was mistreated at a Georgia prison.

    “Transgender women in male prisons have an equal right to protection from violence and abuse in prison, and yet they continue to face horrific injustices,” according to a joint statement they released on April 7, 2015.

    Last week the Justice Department said prison officials must treat an inmate’s gender identity condition just as they would treat any other medical or mental health condition following a February 2015 lawsuit from the Southern Poverty Law Center filed against Georgia Department of Corrections officials on behalf of Ashley Diamond, a transgender woman.

    According to the lawsuit, prison officials did not provide sufficient treatment for 36-year-old Diamond’s gender dysphoria. The lawsuit also said Diamond was without hormone treatment for three years and her body suffered as a result, and that she had been sexually assaulted and ridiculed in prison.

    “More often than not, assaults in part go unreported because the perpetrators are prison guards, wardens and staff,” said Stipe and Elton. “This is outrageous, and the message it sends is horrific: that violence against and discrimination of trans people is not only allowed, but sanctioned.”

    Last week, a judge ordered California’s corrections department to provide a transgender inmate with sex-reassignment surgery. It was the first time such an operation has been ordered in the state.

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