Tara D. Sonenshine, the new Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs outlines in this exclusive interview with the New Civil Rights Movement, dozens of ways U.S. foreign policy is advanced on behalf of LGBT persons around the world. Â Â
Under Secretary of State Tara D. Sonenshine, who is the chief of public diplomacy andÂ public affairs at the State Department, gave an exclusive interview toÂ The New Civil Rights Movement this week on the occasion of LGBT Pride month. Â Sonenshine, who came to the State Department from the U.S. Institute of Peace as the Executive Vice-President, has a distinguished career in communications and government, including an award winning tenure in television journalism at ABC’s NightlineÂ as a producer and reporter where she garnered 10 Emmy news awards. Â SheÂ was sworn in on April 24th and Â is the seventh person to hold this position (the photograph of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulating Under Secretary Sonenshine following her swearing-in was provided by the author).
Just two months into her tenure, the savvy social media under secretary can be found on Twitter @Tsonenshine. Â This week she makes her inaugural debut in a liveÂ global Â tweet on Wednesday, June 27, 11:00 a.m. EDT. UsingÂ @StateDeptÂ with hashtag #AskState orÂ @USAenEspanolÂ using hashtag #AskUSA (seven other languages will also be accessible), interested followers can ask Sonenshine questions about the State Department and her responsibilities.
Since her swearing-inl, Sonenshine Â has hit the ground running, traveling to China (along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Chen GuangchengÂ crisis) and later to Pakistan. Â In between, she delivered graduation remarks to Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs 2012 graduating class. Â And not skipping a beat as she pivoted into June’s Pride month, Sonenshine enthusiastically shared the latest public diplomacy efforts to promote LGBT human rights over the weekend in Germany, where the U.S. Embassy participatedÂ Â in Berlinâ€™s famous Christopher Street Day parade. Â According to Sonenshine, Ambassador Philip Murphy joined Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, other diplomats and local politicians to open this yearâ€™s parade. Â U.S. Mission staff and GLIFAAÂ (gays and lesbians in foreign affairs agencies) representatives from Frankfurt and Hamburg came to Berlin to participate alongside their Berlin colleagues.Â A cheering crowd of between 500,000 and 700,000 watched the parade wind its way through central Berlin–from Kreuzberg, through Mitte, before ending in front of the Reichstag (the national parliament building).
NCRM QUESTION: Â You were recently sworn in as the Under Secretary of State for PublicÂ Diplomacy and Public Affairs (relatively new position). What are yourÂ responsibilities? What has been the main focus in getting up to speed onÂ your responsibilities?
ANSWER: Â It is an honor for me to serve in this new position which oversees allÂ aspects of public diplomacy. Public diplomacy is a shared means to a sharedÂ goal of extending America’s reach and security by influencing howÂ individuals around the world come to know and understand us. It is about theÂ advancement of our foreign policy goals through people-to- peopleÂ connections in a complex, globally networked world. The under secretary’sÂ goal is to better understand ways in which public diplomacy can bolsterÂ international relations and national security. U.S. public diplomacy leveragesÂ core American values of inclusiveness, diversity, and pluralism both in theÂ audiences we reach and the messages we impart. Â Our public engagementÂ proceeds from a fundamental foundation and a deep historic sense of justiceÂ and fairness, openness and transparency, and inclusion of a multiplicity ofÂ voices and views.
NCRM QUESTION: Â A few weeks ago during gay Pride month, State Department officers visitedÂ the offices of the Washington Blade, a national gay newspaper. Â What was the purpose of the visit?
ANSWER: Â The purpose was awareness building, and outreach. Journalists from 20Â nations visited the offices of the Washington Blade as part of a specialÂ reporting tour organized by the U.S. State Department to brief theÂ journalists on how the U.S. addresses LGBT-related issues.
NCRM QUESTION: Â Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made “people to people diplomacy”Â a top priority. Â And she pronounced that “gay rights are human rights andÂ human rights are gay rights”. How do you see Â doing your job in support ofÂ these strategies and principles with the LGBT community both here in the USÂ and abroad?
ANSWER: Â Using social media and personal engagement can amplify messages. U.S.Â Embassies and consulates worldwide are declaring support for the humanÂ rights of LGBT people through innovative public diplomacy, including: Â publishing op-eds; speaking on radio programs; using social media; hostingÂ film screenings and performances; hosting panel discussions and roundÂ tables; and actively participating in local events. The Department supportedÂ this outreach by posting approximately 100 articles, texts, and transcriptsÂ amplifying remarks by senior administration officials and important eventsÂ related to LGBT.
In addition, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is poisedÂ to issue two new policies to advance LGBT rights: Â (1) the ECA Bureau-wideÂ diversity statement-which lists groups of underrepresented individualsÂ encouraged to participate in its exchange programs-is about to expand toÂ include LGBT persons; and (2) the Fulbright scholars program will beginÂ offering the same benefits to committed same-sex partners that are currentlyÂ being offered to other dependents. Â ECA exchange programs offer LGBT personsÂ who work on LGBT-related issues from around the world opportunities to meetÂ and collaborate with their American professional counterparts. Â InÂ particular, the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), has alreadyÂ brought groups to the United States focusing on issues important to the LGBTÂ community and has planned future projects on LGBT-related topics. Â OtherÂ IVLPs already incorporate meetings with LGBT advocacy groups on programsÂ that cover human rights, civic participation and gender issues.
NCRM QUESTION:Â Â As you know, many political regimes do not prevent violence–can evenÂ encourage violence against LGBT people as documented in the StateÂ Department’s human rights reports, for example “corrective rape” of lesbiansÂ in South Africa which Secretary Clinton mentioned at the publication of theÂ 2011 human Rights report and a repeated effort to adopt a legislativeÂ measure that criminalizes homosexuality in Uganda. What public diplomacyÂ methods are used in these situations that can create safer spaces for LGBTÂ people? Another example of violence perpetrated against LGBT people inÂ Uganda occurred when a local Â newspaper The Rolling Stone that named gaysÂ and published photos of them. This hostile situation led to the murder of David Kato inÂ January 2011. What steps has the State Department taken to address theseÂ incendiary practices by local media, besides including the issue inÂ reporting and the human rights report?
ANSWER: The Department has implemented an Urgent Response Mechanism (URM) thatÂ routinizes the U.S. Government reaction to early warning signs of crisesÂ facing LGBT individuals, defenders, and organizations by providing aÂ framework for coordination and action between all relevant DepartmentÂ bureaus. Â We have used the URM to respond to crises in Uganda and Iraq. Â InÂ both cases, the ongoing internal engagement facilitated by the URMÂ facilitated our leveraging of a wide range of resources and expertise toÂ address the situation through high-level diplomatic engagement, civilÂ society consultation, and emergency programming. Through the creation of theÂ Global Equality Fund, launched by Secretary Clinton in December 2011, weÂ have strengthened our capacity to support civil society organizations andÂ programming seeking to advance and protect the human rights of LGBT peopleÂ globally. Â The Department, along with USAID, has already committed over fourÂ million dollars to the fund and is engaging foreign governments and privateÂ donors to contribute to this important effort.
NCRM QUESTION: Â There is early evidence that new U.S. foreign policy on LGBT human rightsÂ has energized the US Embassy’s engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina whichÂ has made a significant difference with the local LGBT community. Â I haveÂ been told Ambassador has met personally with local LGBT representatives. Â This is remarkable as the LGBT community had been driven underground afterÂ violent attacks on it in 2008 and 2009. Being open and supportive inÂ Sarajevo has created a more secure environment for the LGBT community. InÂ what ways are embassies carrying out public diplomacy in situations like in Bosnia? And what are the challenges for public diplomacy in environmentsÂ that are hostile to gay people?
ANSWER: Â There are so many good examples: In Albania, Ambassador Alexander Arvizu promoted theseÂ human rights on a live regional radio program entitled, “We are different,Â we are equal. Â No to discrimination!” and highlighted the human rights ofÂ LGBT individuals in a speech at an academy for public servants. InÂ Kazakhstan, the Embassy has forged a close working relationship with the only NGOÂ that promotes LGBT rights, as well as others civil society groups thatÂ support these communities. In Kyrgyzstan, the Embassy’s human rights officerÂ met with Labrys Kyrgyzstan, the leading NGO focused on LGBT issues. Â He wasÂ successful in establishing open lines of communication and cooperation withÂ Labrys, including on documenting human rights abuses and discriminationÂ against LGBT individuals, some of which was included in the 2011 DepartmentÂ of State Human Rights Report.
In Slovakia, where the 2010 Pride paradeÂ ended in violence, Embassy staff brought together more than 20 ambassadorsÂ from other nations to sign a public statement of support for the march andÂ hosted a debate. The U.S. Ambassador marched in the 2011 parade next to theÂ mayor of Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital. U.S Embassies and consulatesÂ worldwide hosted viewing parties of Secretary Clinton’s “Free and Equal inÂ Dignity and Rights” speech on December 6, 2011, which also garnered overÂ 260,000 unique users to the Department’s social media platform and reachedÂ over nine million users on Twitter in the first 24 hours. Â The DepartmentÂ also produced a video of the Secretary’s speech, which went viral, receivingÂ 8.5 times the number of views that typical news stories receive on YouTube.
NCRM QUESTION: Â You have taken foreign trips to China and Pakistan since you wereÂ sworn in. What have you observed in people to people engagement and inÂ interviews with the media?
ANSWER: What I have observed overseas is that even when there are difficultÂ political issues dividing countries, there is still a space forÂ citizen-to-citizen engagement. Â People want education, employment andÂ security. Â There are issues of commonality in every society. Â I alsoÂ observed the power of information and was reminded that information is theÂ oxygen with which a society breathes.
NCRM QUESTION: Â The domestic LGBT community is very interested in the State DepartmentÂ foreign policy on LGBT rights. Many of us follow it closely and wish outÂ loud that our foreign policy could be applied inside the US. What message doÂ you have for the American LGBT community during June Pride month?
ANSWER: I think this is a time to celebrate the freedoms that America provides. Â AllÂ around the world people want to come to America and learn about our country. Â We have to remain open-minded, tolerant and internationally minded if weÂ want to prosper in the global community and the global marketplace of ideasÂ and ideals.
Â The photo of Under Secretary Sonenshine speaking to Columbia SIPA graduating students was taken by the author. Â The photo of Under Secretary Sonenshine in her office is courtesy ofÂ the U.S. State Department.
Tanya L. DomiÂ is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs atÂ Columbia UniversityÂ who teaches human rights in East Central Europe andÂ former Yugoslavia. Â She is aÂ Harriman InstituteÂ affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi was a nationally recognized LGBT civil rights activist who worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the campaign to lift the military ban in the early 1990s. Domi has also worked internationally in a dozen countries on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues and media freedom. Â She is chair of the board of directors for GetEQUAL. She is currently writing a book about the emerging LGBT human rights movement in the Western Balkans.
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‘Oddest’: Legal Experts Mock Trump’s ‘Nutty’ and ‘Doomed to Fail’ Emergency Supreme Court Motion
It weighs in at 240 pages but legal experts are still mocking Donald Trump’s emergency petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an 11th Circuit Court ruling and allow the special master to continue to inspect the 103 classified documents retrieved from him Mar-a-Lago home.
“Oddest SCOTUS petition. Very technical and not terribly logical,” observed Andrew Weissmann, an NYU School of Law law professor and former DOJ official who served as the General Counsel for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and as special counsel to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller.
The motion was addressed to Justice Clarence Thomas, who oversees the 11th Circuit courts. His wife, Ginni Thomas, is an avowed supporter of Trump and his “Big Lie” claims he won the 2020 election.
“SCOTUS should send him packing,” tweets former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, now an MSNBC/NBC News legal analyst. “No surprise here, this was why he paid former Florida Solicitor General Chris Kise $3 million to sign on, no one else on his team could handle this.”
“Just watch SCOTUS turn Trump down 9-0. (Or 8-1 if Thomas dissents . . . ),” writes retired Harvard professor of law Laurence Tribe. “Will The Donald start calling ‘his’ three justices traitors? Will he say they have a ‘death wish’ as he did with McConnell?”
Weissmann took another hit at Trump’s Lawsuit, declaring it “nutty.”
“Trump argument to SCOTUS: 11th circuit had power to stay Cannon decision BUT it [could] not take the classified docs away from SM Dearie review. Nutty and if he won Dearie wd just say he won’t review the docs bc they are not Trump’s.”
University of Texas School of Law professor of law Steve Vladeck says that while the lawsuit is “not *entirely* laughable,” but he thinks “it’s both (1) doomed to fail; and (2) unlikely to accomplish much even if it succeeds.”
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti says, “I would not be surprised if the Supreme Court decides not to hear it.”
Trump Asks Supreme Court to Intervene for Him in Classified Documents Case
Donald Trump on Tuesday petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in his classified documents case, and reverse a ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed the U.S. Dept. of Justice access to the more than 100 classified and top secret documents federal agents recovered from his Mar-a-Lago residence and resort.
Trump is asking the nation’s highest court to order a special master to continue to inspect the 103 classified documents, despite the special master emphatically stating the government, not Trump, gets to decide what is classified and what is not, especially when Trump refused to provide a list of what he considered declassified.
The lawsuit, which is a massive 240 pages, mostly made up of other documents including the now infamous FBI photo of the classified documents on the Mar-a-Lago rug, is addressed to “The Honorable Clarence Thomas, Circuit Justice for the Eleventh Circuit,” and refers to the former president as “President Trump.”
The lawsuit also mentions the contents that federal agents took, including “89 empty envelopes,” while not noting they were classified document envelopes.
“As part of the 11th Circuit’s decision, the panel allowed the criminal investigation to use the seized documents, something [Judge] Cannon had previously barred,” The Washington Post notes. “Trump’s filing seeks only to reverse the appeals court’s ruling on the special master’s access to the documents, not the part of the decision concerning the investigation.”
This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change.
Biden Will Include DeSantis in His Visit to Support Florida Hurricane Victims
President Joe Biden will travel to Florida Wednesday to support families devastated by Hurricane Ian, and will include the state’s GOP governor, Ron DeSantis, in his trip, the White House announced Tuesday.
Last week, asked if he would meet with DeSantis, a top detractor of the president, Biden told a reporter who asked, “I’ll meet with everybody who’s around. The answer is yes, if he wants to meet.”
President Biden on whether he plans to meet with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) when he goes to Florida:
“I’ll meet with everybody who’s around. The answer is yes, if he wants to meet.” pic.twitter.com/nJvW9kKH7T
— The Recount (@therecount) September 29, 2022
“This is not about anything having to do with our disagreements politically, this is about saving people’s lives, homes and businesses,” Biden also said last week.
President Biden says he’s had good conversations with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) about Hurricane Ian aid:
“He complimented me, he thanked me for the immediate response we had, he told me how much he appreciated it … This is not about … our disagreements politically.” pic.twitter.com/SymBlqG75X
— The Recount (@therecount) September 29, 2022
DeSantis asked President Biden for financial assistance for his state, battered by what experts say is one of the worst hurricanes in U.S. history. DeSantis voted against relief aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy when he served in Congress.
President Biden and the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, will travel via Air Force One to Fort Myers, one of the hardest-hit areas of Florida by Hurricane Ian.
But Fort Myers is also part of Lee County, where officials delayed evacuation orders.
“Lee County, which includes the hard-hit seaside community of Fort Myers Beach, as well as the towns of Fort Myers, Sanibel and Cape Coral, did not issue a mandatory evacuation order for the areas likely to be hardest hit until Tuesday morning, a day after several neighboring counties had ordered their most vulnerable residents to flee,” The New York Times reported. “By then, some residents recalled that they had little time to evacuate.”
“Lee County, which includes the hard-hit seaside community of Fort Myers Beach, as well as the towns of Fort Myers, Sanibel and Cape Coral, did not issue a mandatory evacuation order for the areas likely to be hardest hit until Tuesday morning, a day after several neighboring counties had ordered their most vulnerable residents to flee,” the Times added. “By then, some residents recalled that they had little time to evacuate.”
The St. Louis Post Dispatch blasted the Florida GOP governor, calling his “flip-flop on hurricane relief” a “study in right-wing hypocrisy.”
“DeSantis’ willingness to shelve his usual attacks on the Biden administration to politely request emergency federal aid in the wake of Hurricane Ian is an inspiring example of constructive bipartisanship — as is Biden’s announcement that the government will bear a big part of the expense,” the Dispatch Editorial Board stated. “It’s interesting, though, that DeSantis took exactly the opposite stance a decade ago when he joined other hard-right members of Congress who argued against generous federal recovery aid when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast.”
Over the weekend DeSantis was blasted by volunteer relief aid workers who were delayed for hours in distributing “food, water, medicine, diapers, and anything else people needed” so Gov. DeSantis could get a photo-op.
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