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News: Russia’s Bill Banning Gay Speech, Pepper Spray All The Rage, US Reporters Arrests




United Russia Calls for Gay Speech Ban

Most Kremlin watchers agree that Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party [image, top, 2008] will prevail as the majority in the parliamentary elections scheduled for December 4th, but Putin’s efforts to return to power as president, has all the hallmarks of desperation, perhaps attributable to a substantial drop in support from his traditional base of voters  as his approval rating  sank 13 points since 2010 from a high 80 percent to 67 percent reported in a recent survey by independent pollster Levada-Center.

So it comes as no surprise that a vehement anti-gay measure, gagging speech of LGBT Russians would resoundingly pass a first round victory 37-1 in the St. Petersburg City Council  on November 17th, carried overwhelmingly through the support of United Russia politicians. The Moscow Times reports:

The St. Petersburg bill appeared to be modeled on near-identical legislation passed in the Arkhangelsk region in September. Lawmakers introduced a similar ban in the Ryazan region in 2006.

Although the legislation only prohibits the “promotion” of a LGBT lifestyle, it amounts to blanket bans on expressing nontraditional sexuality in any public form because it is next to impossible to prevent minors from being exposed to it, Ogonyok magazine wrote last summer about the then-upcoming Arkhangelsk ban.

St. Petersburg gay rights activists protested the legislation on Tuesday through a series of one-person pickets — the only form of public protest that doesn’t require permission from authorities. They also pledged to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

The bill is an attempt to bank on widespread homophobic sentiment ahead of the State Duma elections on Dec. 4, said Igor Kochetkov, head of LGBT group “Exit” (italics by the NCRM).

“The bill is passed before elections to boost the popularity of United Russia, which is flagging in St. Petersburg,” Kochetkov said by telephone.

“This bill smacks of the Middle Ages,” he said.

Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson of the State Department condemned the actions of the St. Petersburg City Council on November 23rd in response to a question from a journalist:

We are deeply concerned by proposed local legislation in Russia that would severely restrict freedoms of expression and assembly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, and indeed all Russians. As Secretary Clinton has said, gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.

We have called on Russian officials to safeguard these freedoms, and to foster an environment which promotes respect for the rights of all citizens.

The United States places great importance on combating discrimination against the LGBT community and all minority groups.

Between local picketing and international pressure applied by human rights and international gay rights groups, the St. Petersburg City Council has postponed the vote until November 30th.   Putin’s political home began as mayor of St. Petersburg, so a “straight line” can be easily drawn from the St. Petersburg initiative  to declared support last week by United Russia leadership in the Duma, Russia’s federal legislative body, although a similar bill has not been introduced and with new elections looming, such a measure would not be expected to pass this year.  According to the New York Times, United Russia is expected to lose as many as 60 of its 315 seats in Parliament, so demonizing gays is not unexpected and a Putin ploy that enjoys overwhelming support by a virulently anti-gay population is another example that he is willing to pull out the stops for another victory on his seemingly inevitable return to the presidency.  Sodomy between men was decriminalized in Russia in 1993 and homosexuality as a disorder was removed from federal laws and regulations in 1999.

NATO Drone Attack Allegedly Kills 24 Pakistani Soldiers

Pakistan has shut down shipping routes to support U.S. troops based in Afghanistan, following a NATO drone attack yesterday that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near a mountainous path. The Pakistan government has called the bloodshed in one of its tribal areas a “grave infringement” of the country’s sovereignty.  Islamabad  also called for the U.S. to vacate Shamsi Air Base, where it maintains its drone aircraft.  The White House pledged to work with Pakistan to investigate the deadly accident, which has likely damaged an already deeply strained relationship that has been in the deep freeze since the U.S. execution of Osama Bin-Laden’s in Pakistan last May.

Middle East Upheaval Unremitting

Egyptian parliamentary elections will be held on Monday, the first elections since the departure of former President Hosni Mubarak in February.  The elections are believed to be wide open and the likely outcome is unknown, to experts, including renowned Egyptian journalist  Ethar El-Katatney, who delivered a brilliant nuanced analysis of the situation on the ground in Egypt on the MSNBC program Up with Chris Hayes, on Saturday.  El-Katatney, who has a Twitter following of +20,000 which has been wracked with massic

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The Arab League applied unprecedented stringent economic sanctions on Syria during a meeting in Cairo on Sunday, when it failed to meet a Friday deadline that would have permitted 500 observers to monitor the country, which continues to kill its citizens with impunity now estimated 3, 500 deaths and counting. The sanctions include a freeze on the assets of Syrian leaders in Arab states, an end to Arab investment and trade with Syria, a halt to dealings with Syria’s central bank, and a ban on travel by Syrian officials to Arab states.  The body will meet again in a week to determine the effectiveness of the sanctions.

King Hamad al-Khalifa of Bahrain ordered the establishment of a committee to “follow up and implement” the recommendations contained within a highly-critical report released this week by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which was chaired by the highly eminent Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, an internationally renowned professor of international law.  Among crimes determined by Bassiouni, include torture, physical and psychological and excessive use of force.  The King has directed that the committee report back with recommendations for new legislation and related actions by the end of February 2012.

Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a transfer of power to Abdo Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi, the Yemeni vice-president this past week, becoming the fourth head of state in the Middle East to step down since the eruption of Arab Spring.  Saleh, who actively led his Army in armed conflict against Yemeni demonstrators was wounded and had surgery for  in Saudi Arabia, before returning to Yemen.  Saleh agreed to a peaceful and democratic transfer of power.  Al-Hadi immediately called for elections to take place on February 21st and was promptly called by Obama aide John Brennan, the director of White House Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism, who commended the announcement.  Yemen has become a close U.S. ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda.


Pepper Spray Emerges as America’s Number 1 Non-Lethal Weapon of Choice

When University of California-Davis police pepper sprayed students who were engaged in non-violent civil disobedience on November 18th, the country was repulsed by the video that went viral of its abuse of the disbursal agent and the University chancellor was soundly rebuked by the American public, who subsequently suspended the police chief and two officers and ordered a 30-day report and reviewon police decision-making.  During the past week, Chancellor Linda Katehi apologized to students, agreed to pay medical bills of students who suffered injuries and the arrests were voided. Good ending for the students at least for now. Time will only tell if Chancellor Katehi will hang onto to her job.

But few people could have predicted that the news of the day on Black Friday would be dominated by a pepper spray attack unleashed by a “competitive shopper” in a Los Angeles Wall Mart, who was intent on purchasing a discounted Xbox.  Her actions resulted in injuries to 20 people, according to news reports. News breaking on Sunday afternoon reports that the assailant has turned herself in, but name unknown thus far.

NYPD Issues Memo on Rights of Journalists

According to the New York Times, Ray Kelly, the  NYPD Commissioner issued an internal memorandum to police clarifying procedures to allow reporters to carry out their journalistic activities in order to report on protests by the Occupy Wall Street Movement locally.  The Times report indicated that Kelly “order[ed] officers in New York City not to interfere unreasonably with journalists’ access during news media coverage and warning that those who do will be subject to disciplinary action”.  The NYPD has been criticized  by international and national watch dog agencies for the arrests and detainment of numerous journalists during the past month while reporting on the Occupy Wall Street Movement in New York City.  The arrests of journalists in New York City generated an official U.S. government statement in response to official EU and OSCE concerns by U.S. Ambassador Ian Kelly, who leads the U.S. permanent mission in Vienna at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.  A key section of his statement, that affirms America’s First Amendment rights follows:

There are few issues of greater concern to the United States than the state of Media Freedom within OSCE participating States. We have frequently addressed the issue as a matter of peer review in this hall, and we recognize the reasons for the concerns expressed by the European Union today and by the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media on November 11.

The United States supports the Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media, and we defend the independence of the Representative to make public statements on media freedoms — including to highlight perceived shortcomings in my own country.

As we have said on previous occasions, the Government of the United States neither believes nor pretends that it is beyond reproach on any issue—or that we cannot do a better job of implementing our OSCE commitments — including on media freedom. We certainly can, and we see self-assessment on our performance in the defense of fundamental freedoms as a sign of strength…

Whether in the case of journalists or regular citizens, allegations of wrongful detention would be subject to review and investigation. Mr. Chairman, the United States regrets any incident where any journalist has been treated unfairly. The U.S. Constitution has strong protections for freedom of expression, including for members of the press. It is a matter we take extremely seriously. The United States will continue to monitor these events closely and will provide additional information at a future date.

 Massachusetts Adopts Child Anti-Trafficking Law

Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) signed a child anti-trafficking measure into law that defines those persons forced into prostitution by virtue of being trafficked as “victims”–a new approach to punishment of those who have been historically victimized by the scourge of human sex trafficking.  Massachusetts becomes the 47th state to pass updated legislation to address human trafficking, a burgeoning international crime, that is estimated enables 50,000 persons enter the U.S. annually.

(Images: Arab League map, Egypt)

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

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Former GOP Lawmaker Trashes Rep. Clay Higgins for ‘Cosplay Ridiculousness That Actually Could Spark Violence’



Appearing on MSNBC early Saturday morning, former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) lashed out at a fellow Republican who responded to Donald Trump’s latest indictment with what appears to be a call for another insurrection.

After the announcement that the former president will be formally indicted by the Department of Justice in Florida next week, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) fired off a tweet stating: “President Trump said he has been summoned to appear at the Federal Courthouse in Miami on Tuesday, at 3 PM. This is a perimeter probe from the oppressors. Hold. rPOTUS has this. Buckle up. 1/50K know your bridges. Rock steady calm. That is all.”

Agreeing with militia expert Jeff Sharlet, who wrote, “This isn’t a metaphor. This isn’t slow civil war. This is a congressman calling for the real thing. I think this is scary as hell,” Riggleman piled on.

Speaking with MSNBC host Katie Phang, he stated, “I know Clay, I’ve served with him back in 2019 to 2021. This is so irresponsible.”

“But it’s also almost a cosplay ridiculousness that actually could spark violence with people that maybe are too ignorant to understand, or absolutely understand what a Clay Higgins is putting out there,” he suggested.

“I think at this point, he probably needs to retract that or delete it, and to apologize for such ridiculous language,” he continued. “Because it makes real military individuals almost cringe. It’s so cringeworthy that I do believe that we have to have a point in this country where their saying rise up against this hyperbolic bulls–t.”

“I think, for me as a former military person, it’s embarrassing to see somebody, especially an elected representative, it’s just embarrassing to see somebody tweet something like that, ” he added.

Watch below or at the link:


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‘We Are Not Going to Stand for It’: McCarthy Defends Trump – Vows to Use Jim Jordan’s Committee to Target Attorney General



The Republican Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, barely hours after the U.S. Dept. of Justice unsealed a 49-page, 37-felony count criminal indictment charging Donald Trump with violations of seven federal laws, decided to double-down on his defense of the ex-president by threatening to target the Attorney General of the United States and declaring House Republicans “are not going to stand for” the criminal prosecution of the ex-president.

McCarthy went on Fox News Friday afternoon, saying “this judgment is wrong by this DOJ. That they treated President Trump differently than they treat others. And it didn’t have to be this way. This is going to disrupt this nation because it goes to the core of equal justice for all – which is not being seen today and we are not going to stand for it.”

McCarthy, a California Republican who cobbled together a tenuous pact with far-right extremists to win his speakership on the 15th try, is incorrect on the facts.

RELATED: DOJ Unseals 37-Count Trump Criminal Indictment – Legal Expert Calls It ‘Egregious’ and ‘Devastating’ (Full Text)

The Dept. of Justice does not pass judgment, the courts – in this case a jury, does. The Dept. of Justice did not treat Trump “differently,” except to give him multiple opportunities over an approximately two-year period to return national secrets he allegedly unlawfully removed, retained, and refused to return, even after being served with a subpoena and a search warrant.

What McCarthy does not do is claim Trump’s actions were legal or reasonable, because the damning indictment makes clear they are not.

Later, McCarthy took to Twitter to effectively declare he would target the Attorney General of the United States, Merrick Garland, who – for nearly a quarter century – served as a federal appeals court judge and chief judge before being nominated to serve at Main Justice.

(Garland was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow the confirmation to move process forward.)

“Many officials, from Secretary Hillary Clinton to then-Senator Joe Biden, handled classified info after their time in office & were never charged,” tweeted the Speaker, not just wrongly, but grossly and dishonestly characterizing the allegations against Trump.

“Now Biden’s leading political opponent is indicted—a double standard that must be investigated,” he again dishonestly declared.

READ MORE: ‘Fail’: Critics Blast Youngkin for Claim Trump Is a Victim of ‘Politically Motivated Actions’ Just Like ‘Parents in Virginia’

President Joe Biden had nothing to do with the decision of the Special Counsel to ask a Florida grand jury for an indictment. Nor was the President even told before Trump was indicted – like every American, President Biden learned of the Trump indictment through news reports. Attorney General Garland did not sign off on the decision to ask a grand jury for an indictment.

McCarthy, meanwhile, vowed House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan and the House Republicans “will get answers.”

“Merrick Garland: the American people elected us to conduct oversight of you. We will fulfill that obligation,” he declared.

McCarthy made those remarks atop a Friday letter from Jordan to Garland that begins: “The Biden Department of Justice is reportedly about to indict a former president and President Biden’s chief rival in the upcoming presidential election.”

“According to reports, the Department will indict President Donald Trump, despite declining to indict former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her mishandling of classified information and failing to indict President Biden for his mishandling of classified information.” (The letter does not mention former Vice President Mike Pence, who is not being charged for his mishandling of classified information.”

On Thursday a defiant and angry McCarthy, after Trump was indicted, wrote: “Today is indeed a dark day for the United States of America.”

“It is unconscionable for a President to indict the leading candidate opposing him,” he said, which is egregiously false – Biden did not indict Trump, nor did his Attorney General or even Special Counsel; a grand jury of Florida citizens did.

“Joe Biden kept classified documents for decades,” McCarthy charged, which is a legitimate claim and there is a current federal investigation underway. The difference is Biden did not take the documents, did not know they were among his papers, and immediately upon learning they were, contacted the National Archives to arrange their return.

Donald Trump, we now know, according to the indictment, packed some of the boxes himself, not only refused to return the documents but hid them from the Dept. of Justice and National Archives, lied about them, and kept them at times in public areas of his Florida resort and residence.

“I, and every American who believes in the rule of law,” McCarthy wrong declared, “stand with President Trump against this grave injustice. House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable.”

READ MORE: SCOTUS ‘Surprise’ Voting Rights Decision Could – and Did – Have Big Implications for Democrats, Legal Experts Say

In response to McCarthy’s remarks, U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) posted a photo from the DOJ’s indictment of Trump.

“These are the secrets that protect our troops. And Kevin McCarthy thinks it’s perfectly OK that Donald Trump stole and stored them like this,” he charged.

Watch the video and see Rep. Swalwell’s tweet above or at this link.

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‘Fail’: Critics Blast Youngkin for Claim Trump Is a Victim of ‘Politically Motivated Actions’ Just Like ‘Parents in Virginia’



Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin, a possible 2024 presidential candidate, is under fire after remarks he made Friday morning defending Donald Trump after the ex-president was indicted on what has now been revealed to be 37 federal felony counts related to the Dept. of Justice’s criminal probe into his handling of hundreds of classified and top secret documents.

Youngkin Friday suggested that the prosecution of Donald Trump, which includes Espionage Act charges, conspiracy charges, and obstruction of justice charges among others, was just like the alleged prosecution of parents.

Gov. Youngkin, often wrongly portrayed in the media as a moderate Republican, may have been attempting to invoke the false yet viral far-right claim that Attorney General Merrick Garland was investigating and prosecuting parents for merely speaking at school board meetings. That claim came about after Garland issued a letter asking the Bureau to come up with strategies to address violence and violent threats directed at school board members. Some who have promoted that erroneous claim, including Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, have falsely claimed Garland called ordinary parents “terrorists.”

On Friday, Youngkin tweeted about the Trump indictment, saying, “These charges are unprecedented and it’s a sad day for our country, especially in light of what clearly appears to be a two-tiered justice system where some are selectively prosecuted, and others are not.”

“Parents in Virginia know firsthand what it’s like to be targeted by politically motivated actions,” he added.

“Regardless of your party, this undermines faith in our judicial system at exactly the time when we should be working to restore that trust,” Youngkin concluded, remarks that themselves could undermine faith in our judicial system.

Days before his election, Youngkin also promoted the false Garland claim, even after the Attorney General that same day explained to the Senate Judiciary Committee his letter directed the FBI to investigate not ordinary parents, but people who were organizing attacks on school board members.

Candidate Youngkin appeared on Fox News in October 0f 2021 (video below) and falsely told Tucker Carlson, “What happened today was, of course, Merrick Garland doubled down. He said, ‘No, I’m absolutely maintaining my position that the DOJ and the FBI should be investigating parents.’ Parents who are trying to stand up for their children when there’s been a sexual assault in a school bathroom. We have a board of education and in Loudoun County that tried to hide it from parents, hide it from hiding from the public, and they move this child into another school and then that child again committed another sexual assault.”

READ MORE: DOJ Unseals 37-Count Trump Criminal Indictment – Legal Expert Calls It ‘Egregious’ and ‘Devastating’ (Full Text)

Youngkin made education and “parents’ rights” a campaign issue when he ran in 2021. His opponent, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, during a debate said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” While experts claim it didn’t swing the election for Youngkin, it at least established him nationally as focused on education and “parental rights,” a mantle Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis quickly co-opted.

The Washington Post, alternatively, on Friday focused on Youngkin’s “two-tiered justice” remarks, reporting: “Youngkin’s suggestion that a rich White man — he didn’t actually name Trump — had been victimized by a ‘two-tiered justice system’ drew fierce pushback, with many critics noting the governor’s opposition to the notion that racial and ethnic minorities face systemic racism. The Republican won the governorship on a promise to purge ‘critical race theory’ from K-12 classrooms, though it was not part of any curriculum. Once in office, Youngkin launched a tip line for parents to report on teachers discussing ‘inherently divisive’ concepts in schools.”

Youngkin, who technically is a “populist conservative” but swings far-right on social issues, was quickly chastised for his tweet.

“You know what you are saying is wrong and incendiary. Shame on you,” declared former CIA officer John Sipher. “These charges stemmed from a grand [jury] of Florida citizens. Trump will have access to a Fair process. But instead you spread information to anger and confuse people. You are stoking misinformation and violence.”

READ MORE: SCOTUS ‘Surprise’ Voting Rights Decision Could – and Did – Have Big Implications for Democrats, Legal Experts Say

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes took a different approach, mocking the Virginia Republican.

“It’s the pivot to ‘Parents in Virginia…’ in the third sentence that elevates this to art,” he wrote.

“The moderate, genial suburban dad in a fleece vest suggests that the only way to restore confidence in the justice system is to place Trump above the law,” wrote The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, also mocking Youngkin.

“Youngkin is pro-Trump, as usual–even though Virginia voted heavily AGAINST Trump in both 2016 and 2020. When it comes to Donald Trump, Liz Cheney has more courage in her pinky than Youngkin does in his whole body,” observed Larry Sabato, the well-known professor of politics, political analyst, and founder and director of University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

The vice president of research for the liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, Liz Charboneau, called Youngkin’s tweet an “especially stupid statement when a large portion of your state has a security clearance, handles classified documents, and has never been charged under the espionage act.”

Conservative Mona Charen, a syndicated columnist and Policy Editor at The Bulwark: “So here’s our answer as to whether Youngkin is a man of character. Fail.”

The Lincoln Project’s Michelle Kinney tweeted, “Youngkin twisting himself into pretzel to weave a vaguebook repudiation of Trump indictment and his weirdo anti vaxx anti trans ‘parents rights’ obsession into one tweet. It reads like Veep dialogue.”

Historian, professor, Holocaust expert Dr. Waitman Wade Beorn tweeted, “Hey dude, the Pentagon is literally in your state. Maybe stop in and have a chat…”

Watch the video above or at this link.

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