Puerto Rico is the epicenter of anti-transgender violence in the U.S., more top stories on 5 Things podcast

On today’s episode of 5 Things: National correspondent Marc Ramirez explains how transgender killings in Puerto Rico are a result of anti-transgender political rhetoric in the U.S. and in Latin America. Plus, you’ll hear about the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which President Biden will sign into law today, and the mounting calls for a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza.

Hit play on the podcast player above and read along with the transcript below.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning, I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things You Need to Know, Thursday the 20th of May 2021. Today, 2020 was a record year for transgender killings in the U.S., plus President Joe Biden ups his rhetoric to Israel’s Prime Minister as airstrikes continue in Gaza, and more.

Taylor Wilson:

Here are some of the top headlines:

  1. Texas Governor, Greg Abbott has signed into law, legislation that prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The move effectively bans most abortions in the state. Fetal heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks from a woman’s last menstrual period. The law goes into effect September 1st.
  2. The House has passed a bill to create a commission to look into January’s insurrection at the US Capitol. Thirty-five Republicans join Democrats in the vote, giving hope that it may also pass the Senate.
  3. And former French President Nicolas Sarkozy goes on trial Thursday, he faces charges that his 2012 unsuccessful re-election bid was illegally financed.

Taylor Wilson:

Violence against transgender people in the U.S. and the world is on the rise. The United States saw a record for transgender killings last year, and in Latin America, violence has been particularly widespread. 82% of the world’s transgender killings last year took place in Central and South America, according to Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide. The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico is at the heart of those two disturbing trends and has the highest transgender murder rate in the country. National correspondent for identity and inclusion issues, Marc Ramirez, has more.

Marc Ramirez:

Puerto Rico is part of a larger picture. There has been a rising number of killings of transgender people around the world, frankly, but in the U.S. it’s been on the rise and last year hit a high of 44 homicides, and that’s just reflecting the numbers that we know of, the numbers are likely more, for different reasons. Six of those murders took place in … Well, I’m sorry, those killings, took place in Puerto Rico. And if you looked at it in a two period, heading up to January of this year, there were actually 12 such deaths in Puerto Rico. So, for an island community, that is so small compared to so many other places, it was a striking number of deaths there.

Marc Ramirez:

The reasons for that are similar to what you would find here in the U.S., where you’ve got a lot of rhetoric going around, especially when Donald Trump was president, was feeding a lot of that. So, there’s just been a lot of political backlash, but in Puerto Rico, you have to look at Puerto Rico, even though it’s a U.S. territory is really part of Latin America. And that whole region, it’s a heavily Catholic part of the world that has traditionally opposed LGBTQ rights. And so, with political parties that are rooted in this fundamentalism, there’s a lot of rhetoric going on in Puerto Rico also, that leads to some of this violence.

Marc Ramirez:

One thing that was really striking was in talking to some of the trans women who live in Puerto Rico, I was just trying to get a sense of what their life was like, there’s a very tight knit community. They’re all very supportive. They watch out for each other. But many people choose to, they go out after dark because they’re less conspicuous. They travel in groups. They don’t drive or go anywhere alone. There was one woman who said that when they go out, after they’re heading home for the night, she drops off her friends and she doesn’t stop for anything on the way home, not even stop for gas, she just goes straight home. And so, people are definitely feeling like they need to be more careful in order to avoid danger.

Taylor Wilson:

To read Marc’s full story, search, “Puerto Rico,” on usatoday.com. President Joe Biden will sign the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law on Thursday. The legislation comes as hate incidents against Asian-Americans have climbed significantly for more than a year. According to Stop AAPI Hate, there were more than 6,600 hate incidents against Asian and Pacific Islander people in the U.S. since the pandemic slammed the country in March of 2020, and reports of hate crime are particularly rising in recent months.

Taylor Wilson:

The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State, San Bernardino, found there was a 164% increase in anti-Asian hate crime reports to police in the first quarter of 2021, across 16 cities, and a mass shooting in Atlanta that killed eight people, including six Asian women, highlighted recent trends. The Hate Crimes Act is meant to fight back against the attacks and racism. It will speed up the Justice Department’s review of hate crimes, and also designate someone at the department to oversee the effort. Additionally, it will task the justice department to coordinate with local law enforcement groups and community-based organizations, to raise awareness about hate crime reporting. That includes an online hate crime reporting system available in several languages. The bill passed the House overwhelmingly 364 to 62 on Tuesday, author of the bill, Congresswoman Grace Meng.

Grace Meng:

Those of Asian descent have been blamed and scapegoated for the outbreak of COVID-19 and as a result, Asian-Americans have been beaten, slashed, spat on, and even set on fire and killed. The Asian-American community is exhausted from being forced to endure this rise in bigotry and racist attacks. Asian-Americans are tired of living in fear and being frightened about their kids or elderly parents going outside. People often ask what Congress is doing about this, and we are here today to say that Congress is taking action. Asian-Americans have been screaming out for help and the House and Senate and President Biden have clearly heard our pleas.

Taylor Wilson:

The bill passed the Senate last month in a major bi-partisan vote, 94 to one. Another day brings more Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. Israel killed at least one Palestinian and injured others in its latest strikes on the territory. Israel continues to stress that it is going after Hamas militants, which it and the United States consider terrorists. But recent strikes have hit private homes and residential neighborhoods, and at least 64 children are among the 227 Palestinians who have been killed in less than two weeks of recent fighting.

Taylor Wilson:

In Israel, Hamas militants have killed 12 people, including a five-year-old boy. The latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas was sparked by aggressive Israeli police tactics at Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, as Muslims celebrated Ramadan and as Jewish settlers threaten to forcefully removed dozens of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem. On May 10th, Hamas then fired long range rockets toward Jerusalem and Israel continues to respond with airstrikes.

Taylor Wilson:

Israel is facing increasingly strong pressure from abroad to deescalate the strikes and that includes President Joe Biden. In his strongest statement yet on the conflict, he told Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Wednesday, that he expects, “A significant deescalation today, on the path to a ceasefire.” Biden had previously avoided pressing Israel more directly, but U.S. Democrats are increasingly pushing him to take more aggressive actions. Many Republicans see the conflict as Israel defending itself, the House Republican Israel Caucus spoke Wednesday, Congressman Lee Zeldin.

Lee Zeldin:

Israel has an inherent right of self-defense. The Hamas is a terrorist organization and an Iranian proxy that seeks to wipe Israel off the map. They had actually put it into their charter, calling for jihad. Hamas has launched more than 3,100 rockets at Israel and counting. Israel’s Iron Dome has blocked 90% of these rockets. It says a lot about Israel’s neighbors, that it needs a complex missile defense system like this, and fortunately, the United States has been there for Israel in the past, now is the time to ensure that we are standing shoulder-to-shoulder.

Taylor Wilson:

Netanyahu says Israel will push ahead to return calm and security to its citizens, and will continue the current operation. Officials from several European countries, including Germany, are arriving in Israel Thursday, and negotiators from Egypt are waiting for an Israel response to a ceasefire offer. Protests continue around the world but activists, including in the U.S., say a ceasefire may only be a band-aid solution to generations of conflict. Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, has been fighting for Palestinian justice for years. Florida chapter chair, Anas Amireh.

Anas Amireh:

It’s not just a matter of putting a bandaid on it and having Jordan and Egypt and someone from the U.S. go out and say, “Hey, let’s have another ceasefire.” It doesn’t work like that. This is occupation. The occupation needs to end.

Taylor Wilson:

For all the latest from Israel and Palestine, stay with the world news section on usatoday.com. Thursday is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The event promotes digital access for people living with disabilities. It’s the 10th year of the day and events are scheduled around the world, including online. Tech companies are also increasingly stepping up their game when it comes to accessibility, and to mark the day, Apple is rolling out SignTime, which lets customers communicate with a number of retail services, using sign language. Coming later this year, Apple will begin assistive touch for Apple Watch users. It allows those with upper limb differences to use the watch without necessarily touching the display. Instead, they’ll be able to use certain hand gestures like pinching or clenching, and also iPad users will soon have more access to third-party eye tracking devices, that let them control the iPad with just their eyes. Head to the tech section on usatoday.com for more accessibility features.

Taylor Wilson:

Golf’s second major of the year tees off Thursday. The 103rd PGA Championship begins on Kiawah Island in South Carolina, Collin Morikawa enters as the defending champion from last year’s event, which was played in August due to the pandemic. He’ll open the tournament alongside last month’s Masters champ, Hideki Matsuyama, and 2020 US Open winner Bryson DeChambeau. One star is still missing though, Tiger Woods is recovering from injuries during a February car accident, and will not play.

Taylor Wilson:

Thanks for listening to 5 Things, as always, I’m going to ask if you have a second, to please drop us five stars on Apple Podcasts and you can listen wherever you find your audio, including Spotify and your smart speaker device. Thanks as always to Claire Thornton and Shannon Green for their work on the show. 5 Things is part of the USA TODAY Network.

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