Last week marked the coming out party for one of the worldâ€™s newest heads of state. Baburam Bhattarai, the newly-elected Prime Minister of Nepal, visited New York and Washington, D.C. to meet and greet world leaders, and introduce himself to the United Nations.
Bhattarai has had a lot on his plate since taking office, so leaving the country was a questionable move in the first place. The deadline for Nepalâ€™s new constitution, just two months away,Â looms on the horizon, and the Constituent Assembly — the 600-some strong body charged with delivering the draft of a new constitution for the Himalayan nation — has been mired in deadlock for nearly a year. In addition, Bhattarai makes this trip on the heels of his first bold proclamation that hasÂ human rights groups reeling: he wants blanket amnesty for all crimes committed during the ten-year internal armed conflict that wracked Nepal until 2006. (Bhattaraiâ€™s party, the Maoist Party, emerged out of the Maoist rebel group that started the â€œPeopleâ€™s Revolution,â€ in which over 10,000 people died.)
But while concerns over transitional justice issues will no doubt be on the agendas of many world leaders as they meet Bhattarai in the U.S., another troubling human rights issue lurks, waiting now four years for proper implementation. To put it simply: Nepal should have some of the most gay- and trans-friendly laws in the world, but it doesnâ€™t. Bhattarai holds the keys to making this happen.
In 2007, Nepalâ€™s leading LGBTI rights activist, Sunil Babu Pant, won a Supreme Court Case demanding full, fundamental equality for all sexual and gender minority citizens. It was a landmark, comprehensive decision. The world watched as Nepal, a traditional and conservative society by many measures, emerged onto the global LGBT rights stage as an example of effective activism and advocacy for sexual and gender minorities.
Bhattaraiâ€™s power to implement these laws is crucial. Government bureaucracy in Nepal is thick and chaotic; ministries change personnel so frequently that lobbying them can seem pointless. Since the 2007 Supreme Court decision, for example, four people have served as Home Minister. The Home Ministry is responsible for, among other things, issuing citizenship identification cards, without which many basic services are out of reach for Nepali people.
The Court decision mandated that the government issue ID cards that allow citizens to identify as third gender (the term used in Nepal for transgender or binary gender non-conforming people.) To date, only a handful of people have successfully done this, and all succeeded by putting up a hearty fight.
A simple directive letter from Prime Minister BhattaraiÂ could change this for the entire country. Just before the Parliament voted on a new PM, Bhattarai promised to do this while seeking support from CPN (United), a party with five votes in theÂ Parliament,Â one of which belonged to Pant, who has been a Member of Parliament since 2008. Advocates and activists were encouraged by Bhattaraiâ€™s promise.
In fact, Bhattarai, when he was Finance Minister in 2008 under the first Maoist regime, did something no other government of Nepal had ever done: he created a budget line for programs geared toward sexual and gender minorities. Sunil Babu Pant’sÂ non-governmental organization, Blue Diamond Society, has been using some of these funds to build a LGBTI community center in Kathmandu modeled on the New York LGBT Center. It would be the first such community center in South Asia.
In an additional progressive move, the 2011 Nepali census was the first in the world to allow citizens to identify as male, female, or third gender. The process was highly flawed, and the inclusion of the category appears to have been mostly a superficial gesture at this point (the data on people who identified themselves as third gender is not linked to any other demographic numbers), but such steps toward implementation indicate a growing level of acceptance of the LGBTI community in Nepal, and presage the comprehensive reform expected.
As a Member of Parliament and the Constituent Assembly, SunilÂ Pant sits on the fundamental rights chapter drafting committee in the Constituent Assembly. The fundamental rights chapter is finished, and follows the Courtâ€™s orders to be completely inclusive of LGBTI citizens in all rights and protections. Now it sits rotting as a special sub-committee debates the details of power sharing and state structure. Since the constitutional deadline was last extended, Pant has refused to take his salary from the government, saying he cannot take money if no work is being done on the draft.
Whether the constitution drafting process will be completed by the extended deadline â€“ just over two months away â€“ is certainly on Bhattaraiâ€™s mind. But in the meantime if he wants to show the Nepali people that he takes human rights and his own judiciary seriously, he has an easy way to do that: a flick of his pen could order all administrative offices across the country to obey the law and recognized third gender citizens.
The Court decision demonstrated substantial progress, but the LGBTI community has been waiting for too long for something real to happen.
On Friday, Bhattari spoke at The New School. I asked him via Twitter when he would keep his promise. He replied: â€œWe have in principal agreed that we will provide citizenship â€“ even our Supreme Court has given a ruling in that context. So the government is committed to implement that.â€
Hari Phuyal, the prominent Kathmandu lawyer who tried the 2007 Supreme Court case says, â€œthe Court decision came at such a crucial time, when the LGBTI community was misused and mishandled by the law enforcement agencies in Nepal.â€ The violence against LGBTI people has largely ceased thanks to successful advocacy and publicity, but now is another crucial moment, and there is one man who can make the difference.
Â (Image: Baburam Bhattarai)
Kyle Knight is a Fulbright Scholar in Nepal where his research focuses on the LGBTI rights movement. He previously worked at Human Rights Watch, where he focused on childrenâ€™s rights issue. For three years, he worked as a suicide prevention counselor for LGBTQ youth at the Trevor Project in New York City. He currently sits on the Trevor Projectâ€™s Advocacy and Public Policy Committee, is the president of the Duke University LGBT Network, and a is lecturer in Gender Studies at Tribhuvan University, Nepalâ€™s state-run university in Kathmandu. You can follow him on Twitter @knightktm.
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‘Apparently You’ll Never Believe Us’: House Republican Melts Down After Reporter Questions His ‘Evidence’ Against Biden
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) became defensive and accusatory after repeatedly being unable to answer a reporter’s questions in a press conference Wednesday, held to announce what House Republicans claim is “evidence” against President Joe Biden.
A shortened version of the video posted by the news organization Heartland Signal went viral, garnering nearly one million views in under three hours on the social media platform X.
“Mr. Chairman, question about the timing of all of this,” began an NBC News reporter identified by Mediaite as Ryan Nobles. “You’re talking about a two-tiered system of justice. If I’m not mistaken, on August 7, 2020 Bill Barr was the attorney general and Donald Trump was the president, so explain to me where the two-tiered system of justice comes into play. And then the WhatsApp message you have, I believe, is dated June 6, 2017. Joe Biden is not vice president or even a candidate for president at that time. So where is the direct connection to some sort of criminal malfeasance within these two pieces of evidence?”
Chairman Smith could not only not answer any part of those questions, he appeared to forget a portion of them.
“Well, I think the facts speak for themselves,” Smith replied. “There’s over 700 pages of examples of, where people should be very concerned, when you’re talking about um, ah, – what was your first question?”
Smith went on to say, “It doesn’t matter who’s in the White House,” after being reminded them President at that time was Donald Trump. “We need to make sure that the Department of Justice works for all people and doesn’t treat those who are politically connected or wealthy much differently. And unfortunately, we have several examples that came forward by the two IRS whistleblowers, that proves that people are treated differently because they’re politically connected.”
“Are you suggesting that Joe Biden being the president now, is unfairly treating Donald Trump in his indictment?” Nobles asked.
Again, Smith did not answer the question.
“What I’m talking about is the 700 pages that we have before us, which is all the information that came from the IRS whistleblowers, and that’s what we’re releasing right now,” Smith replied, again not answering Nobles’ question. “And I’ll tell you, I would encourage everyone in this room to look at those 700 pages. If you think it’s okay, with what’s in it, then we live on two different planets.”
“Can you explain the timing of the August 6 WhatsApp message? Why is that evidence of some wrongdoing?” Nobles continued..
“I’m not an expert on the timeline,” Smith admitted, before pivoting to say, “I would love to have President Biden and his family to tell us about all the timelines, because it’s really, really unfortunate that we see so many meetings and so many phone calls that involved around official activity that the Vice President has been participating in, and then big sums of money follows later –”
“But he’s not the president or the vice president at that time. Where, where’s the wrongdoing? He wasn’t even a candidate for president,” Nobles pointed out.
“He was a candidate – ” Smith claimed.
“On August 6 –” Nobles began before Smith interrupted him.
“So apparently apparent – what source are you with?” Chairman Smith asked Noble.
“I’m with NBC,” the reporter replied.
“So apparently, you’ll never believe us,” Smith charged.
“I’m asking you a very direct question,” Nobles explained. “You presented a piece of evidence that you say came on August 6, 2017, that demonstrates that Joe Biden was using political influence to help his son. He wasn’t a political figure at that time. The first WhatsApp message you put up, where yo talk about the brand,” Nobles explained. “I’m completely open minded about this. I’m asking you specifically, how does that demonstrate that there was some sort of political influence being put over him, if at that time, he is not a political – he’s not an elected official?”
“I’m definitely not going to pinpoint one item,” Chairman Smith said defensively.
“You presented it!” Nobles acclaimed. “It was the first thing that you brought up.”
“So apparently, you don’t agree with that. So report that you disagree with it. I’ll take the next question. Yes?” Smith said, refusing to answer any of Nobles’ questions.
Watch below or at this link.
‘Jaw Dropping’: Democratic Senator Slams Tuberville’s ‘Open’ Talk About ‘White Supremacy’
A top Democratic Senator is blasting freshman Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville for his “jaw dropping” and open talk about white supremacy, after the Alabama Republican denigrated President Joe Biden’s nominee to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Senator Tuberville, the Alabama Republican who single-handedly has blocked well over 300 U.S. Military promotions, said the U.S. military is “not an equal opportunity employer,” appearing to imply Biden’s nomination of an accomplished officer was based on the color of his skin, not his impressive achievements and experience.
Air Force General Charles “CQ” Brown Jr., who is Black, will be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after a strong bipartisan 83-11 vote by the U.S. Senate confirming him last week. Sen. Tuberville voted against him, saying Tuesday he had “heard some things that he talked about about race and things that he wanted to mix into the military.”
General Brown is the first African American to head a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. He was one of TIME’s “100 Most Influential People of 2020.”
“He is a respected warfighter who will serve America well,” wrote former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson that year, lauding General Brown in his TIME profile. “As the former commander of Pacific Air Forces, he’s highly qualified to deter China and reassure allies in the Indo-Pacific. The suppression of ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria was largely accomplished by local forces on the ground, enabled by air power CQ helped orchestrate.”
“Let me tell you something: Our military is not an equal-opportunity employer,” said Tuberville, falsely, appearing to imply it should not be.
“We’re not looking for different groups, social justice groups,” the Alabama Senator continued, in his Bloomberg News interview (video below), explaining why he voted against Brown’s nomination. “We don’t want to single-handedly destroy our military from within. We all need to be one.”
“I think he’ll do a good job,” Tuberville also said, “but I heard him say a few things that that really didn’t fit with me in terms of making our military better and better. We have things that that we need to do to make sure that that that we can uphold – and we can’t do that without a great, hard strong military.”
“Let me tell you something, our military is not an equal opportunity employer. We’re looking for the best [of] the best, to do whatever. We’re not looking for different groups, social justice groups. We don’t want to single handedly destroy our military from within.”
Asked for specific concerns, Tuberville said General Brown, “came out and said we need we need certain groups, more pilots, certain groups to have an opportunity to be pilots. Listen. I want it to be on merit. I want our military to be the best. I want the best people I don’t care who they are. Men. Women, if that makes any difference, Catholics, Protestants, I want everybody to believe in the one goal that we have in this country for our military is to protect the taxpayers, protect United States of America. Don’t give me this stuff about equal opportunity, because that’s not what this military is.”
“Our military is becoming so political that we’re going to go south when it comes to readiness,” he also warned, despite having been warned repeatedly that his military holds are negatively impacting military readiness, and are expected to do so for years to come.
But as CNBC reported, America’s military “is an equal-opportunity employer, and the Pentagon has an ‘Office of Equal Employment Opportunity.'”
Senator Tuberville has a history of making extremist remarks, so much so that in a rare move, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in July delivered a speech on the Senate floor denouncing Tuberville by name, along with his “one-man mission to defend white nationalism.”
Earlier this year Tuberville insisted that white nationalists are simply “Americans,” and said, “I look at a white nationalist as a, as a Trump Republican. That’s what we’re called all the time.”
As NCRM reported in May, those remarks came immediately after an NBC News reporter told Tuberville, “A white nationalist propagates Nazism, a white nationalist could be someone who doesn’t believe that Black and Brown people are equals…”
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, criticized Tuberville late Tuesday night, responding to the Alabama Republican’s interview with Bloomberg.
“The way Sen. Tuberville talks so openly about about white supremacy is just jaw dropping,” Sen. Murphy said. “I refuse to allow this to feel normal.”
Watch Tuberville’s remarks below or at this link.
Why did @SenTuberville vote against the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs?
“I heard some things he talked about, about race and things that he wanted to mix into the military,” he told @BloombergTV. “Our military is not an equal opportunity employer.” pic.twitter.com/avFStO79Af
— David Gura (@davidgura) September 27, 2023
McCarthy Blocks Bipartisan Bill Approved by 77 Senators to Avoid Shutdown as He Moves to Pin the Blame on Democrats
Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy is saying he will not allow the House to take up a compromise bill supported by a large and bipartisan majority of Senators that would allow the federal government to continue operating past the midnight Saturday deadline.
“I don’t see the support in the House,” for the Senate’s proposed continuing resolution, McCarthy said on Wednesday, according to Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman. He also reports that “this is the most explicit he’s been” in saying “he won’t take it up and pass it as is.”
Chad Pergram, the Senior Congressional Correspondent for Fox News reports, “McCarthy says he won’t allow the House to consider the Senate’s stopgap spending bill to avert a gov’t shutdown for 45 days. 77 bipartisan senators supported the package on a test vote last night.”
Earlier Wednesday, inside the House Republican Conference’s meeting, Sherman reported that Speaker McCarthy “said he told” Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “that he cannot take up a bill that funds Ukraine and doesn’t fix the border.”
“In other words,” Sherman adds, “if it wasn’t clear, the CR [continuing resolution] the Senate is taking up is dead on arrival in the House.”
Meanwhile, House Republicans, and especially Speaker McCarthy, are attempting to blame the likely shutdown on Democrats. House Democrats, Senate Democrats and most Senate Republicans have been working to avert a shutdown but Speaker McCarthy’s most extreme members have been pushing to shut down the federal government. Political observers say he could keep the government running by putting together a majority of House Democrats and a handful of moderate Republicans to pass a continuing resolution, but would likely lose his Speakership as a result.
“A shutdown would furlough millions of federal employees, leave the military without pay, disrupt air travel and cut off vital safety net services, and it would be politically punishing to lawmakers whose job it is to fund government,” the Associated Press reported Wednesday. “The Republican McCarthy, pushed by a hard-right flank that rejects the deal he made with Biden and is demanding steep spending cuts, showed no interest in the Senate’s bipartisan effort — or the additional money for Ukraine.”
“’I think their priorities are bad,’ he said about the Senate effort.”
Political pundit and journalist Bill Kristol, a Republican who became a Democrat in 2020, Wednesday afternoon pinned the expected, coming shutdown on Speaker McCarthy.
“One man, Kevin McCarthy, is responsible for the looming government shutdown, because he won’t bring to the House floor a funding bill supported by a majority of senators from both parties, the administration, and a majority of House members. It’s the Speaker’s Shutdown.”
Wednesday morning, The Washington Post reported, “Facing a potential government shutdown in four days triggered by House Republicans’ inability to unite to pass spending bills, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is trying out a new strategy: shifting the blame.”
“McCarthy is starting to point fingers at Democrats in a bid to pin a shutdown on disagreements over border security. It’s an attempt to rewrite the record of the past several weeks, during which House Republicans have been unable to pass a short-term bill to prevent a shutdown — even one that includes the border security policies his conference overwhelmingly supports.”
Image via Shutterstock
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