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

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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

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

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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.

National

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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BREAKING NEWS

Watch: Santos Responds to Report He Joked About Hitler, ‘The Jews’ and Black People

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U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY) allegedly made a social media post appearing to praise Adolf Hitler while referring to “the Jews and Black” people, and frequently made pejorative “jokes” about being Jewish according to friends interviewed by Patch and screenshots of now-deleted social media posts.

In 2011, Santos “commented on a Facebook post with what appear to be intended-jokes about Hitler, a phrase that appears to salute Hitler and observations about ‘the Jews and black[s],’ exclusive screenshots obtained by Patch show.”

Patch, which published a screenshot of  what appear to be Santos’ comment, reports he had written this: “hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh hiiiiiiiiiiiitlerrrrrrrrrrr (hight hitler) lolololololololololololol sombody kill her!! the jews and black [sic] mostly lolllolol!!! Dum”

Sarah Fishkind, whose LinkedIn profile describes her as a political organizer, posted video Thursday afternoon of her conversation with Rep. Santos.

“Do you have any comments about your most-recently-leaked Facebook comments about killing all Jews and Black people?” she asked, according to her post.

“I’m sorry?” Santos, appearing to be stunned, replied.

READ MORE: ‘Big No-No’: Santos May or May Not Have a Campaign Treasurer Prompting Questions About Whose Signature That Is

“It’s on the news right. now,” she responded, “that you Facebook commented.”

Santos replied with a frustrated huff, then said: “That’s going to be hard to hold.” It’s unclear what he meant by that comment.

Santos ran and won his congressional seat claiming to be a gay Jewish Republican, only later to falsely claim he never said he was Jewish, but “Jew-ish.” He also lied about his grandparents fleeing the Holocaust.

Jewish groups have condemned his false claims of Jewish heritage, which include false claims that his grandparents were “Holocaust refugees.”

Watch the videos above or at this link.

This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change. 

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Moral Turpitude’: Trump Coup Memo Author John Eastman Now Facing 11 Counts of Alleged Ethics Violations – and Disbarment

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John Eastman, the far-right attorney, disgraced former law professor, former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and current chairman of the anti-LGBTQ National Organization For Marriage (NOM) is facing eleven counts of alleged ethics violations, and disbarment, by California state bar regulators. Among the allegations, “intentional acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.”

As The New York Times reported last fall, “after the November election, Mr. Eastman wrote the memo for which he is now best known, laying out steps that Vice President Mike Pence could take to keep Mr. Trump in power — measures Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans have likened to a blueprint for a coup.

So has the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, which late last month referred Eastman – in the same breath as Donald Trump – to the Dept. of Justice for possible prosecution on criminal charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

On Thursday, Bloomberg News reported California state bar regulators “say they will seek to strip” Eastman of his law license.

READ MORE: Ginni Thomas Looking Like ‘Full Fledged Potential Co-Conspirator’ After Discovery of Emails With Eastman: Legal Expert

“The Notice of Disciplinary Charges alleges that Mr. Eastman violated this duty in furtherance of an attempt to usurp the will of the American people and overturn election results for the highest office in the land — an egregious and unprecedented attack on our democracy — for which he must be held accountable,” the State Bar of California’s Chief Trial Counsel George Cardona said in a statement. “Eastman has not been charged with any crimes to date.”

“The 11 charges arise from allegations that Eastman engaged in a course of conduct to plan, promote, and assist then-President Trump in executing a strategy, unsupported by facts or law, to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election by obstructing the count of electoral votes of certain states,” the State Bar of California’s statement adds.

Law & Crime’s Adam Klasfeld further explains that Cardona “intends to seek Eastman’s disbarment for alleged violations of Business and Professions Code section 6106, which punishes making false and misleading statements that constitute acts of ‘moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption.'”

Last week The New York Times described Eastman as “a chief architect of Donald Trump’s effort to reverse his election loss,” but it is his fellow Republican attorneys who delivered the judgment on his skills.

“Many White House lawyers expressed contempt for Mr. Eastman, portraying him as an academic with little grasp of the real world,” The Times reported. “Greg Jacob, the legal counsel to former Vice President Mike Pence, characterized Mr. Eastman’s legal advice as ‘gravely, gravely irresponsible,’ calling him the ‘serpent in the ear’ of Mr. Trump. Eric Herschmann, a Trump White House lawyer, recounted ‘chewing out’ Mr. Eastman. Pat A. Cipollone, the chief White House counsel, is described calling Mr. Eastman’s ideas ‘nutty.'”

READ MORE: Bombshell NYT Report Reveals Bill Barr’s Special Counsel Opened ‘Secret’ Financial Crimes Probe Into Trump But Never Prosecuted

It wasn’t just Republican attorneys in the Trump White House.

During the January 6 insurrection, Eastman, certainly no silent architect, stood at the same podium Donald Trump would speak at, and delivered a fiery speech alongside Rudy Giuliani. Six days later his colleagues at Chapman University demanded his firing.

The disbarment may be the least of Eastman’s self-inflicted woes.

“He has been drawn into the criminal investigation into election interference in Atlanta, which is nearing a decision on potential indictments,” according to The Times, also adding that the “F.B.I. seized his iPhone.”

READ MORE: ‘Big No-No’: Santos May or May Not Have a Campaign Treasurer Prompting Questions About Whose Signature That Is

Watch the videos above or at this link.

This article was updated at 5:41 PM ET with details reported by Law & Crime, including references to “moral turpitude.”

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Bombshell NYT Report Reveals Bill Barr’s Special Counsel Opened ‘Secret’ Financial Crimes Probe Into Trump But Never Prosecuted

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Special Counsel Robert Durham, appointed by then-Attorney General Bill Barr, uncovered possible financial crimes by Donald Trump but made no attempt to prosecute them, The New York Times reveals in massive, bombshell report published Thursday after a months-long investigation.

“Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it,” The Times’ Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner report.

The “potentially explosive tip linking Mr. Trump to certain suspected financial crimes” came during a trip Barr and Durham, his special counsel, took together. They “decided that the tip was too serious and credible to ignore.”

But, “Mr. Durham never filed charges, and it remains unclear what level of an investigation it was, what steps he took, what he learned and whether anyone at the White House ever found out. The extraordinary fact that Mr. Durham opened a criminal investigation that included scrutinizing Mr. Trump has remained secret.”

That’s just one aspect of The Times’ extensive and disturbing report.

It also reveals that there was little justification for Barr to install Durham as a special counsel to investigate what Trump wrongly maintained was an unjustifiable investigation into his ties to Russia.

In fact, The Times “found that the main thrust of the Durham inquiry was marked by some of the very same flaws — including a strained justification for opening it and its role in fueling partisan conspiracy theories that would never be charged in court — that Trump allies claim characterized the Russia investigation.”

READ MORE: ‘Failed Spectacularly’: Top Legal Experts Call for Ethics Probe Into Bill Barr’s Handpicked Special Counsel John Durham

In another shocking revelation, The Times reports Durham “used Russian intelligence memos — suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation — to gain access to emails of an aide to George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who is a favorite target of the American right and Russian state media.”

The Times does not explain how Durham obtained the Russian disinformation.

“Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.”

Attorneys on Durham’s team apparently had significant qualms with his actions, leading at least two to resign.

“There were deeper internal fractures on the Durham team than previously known,” The Times reports. “The publicly unexplained resignation in 2020 of his No. 2 and longtime aide, Nora R. Dannehy, was the culmination of a series of disputes between them over prosecutorial ethics. A year later, two more prosecutors strongly objected to plans to indict a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign based on evidence they warned was too flimsy, and one left the team in protest of Mr. Durham’s decision to proceed anyway. (A jury swiftly acquitted the lawyer.)”

BARR THREATENED NSA

The Times also reports that Attorney General Barr bought into Trump’s false claims that there had been “no collusion” between the Trump camp and Russia.

READ MORE: Republicans Claiming ‘Censorship’ Threaten to Haul AT&T and DirecTV Into Congress for Dropping Far-Right Newsmax

Importantly, The Times states point-blank that the Mueller Report “detailed ‘numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,’ and it established both how Moscow had worked to help Mr. Trump win and how his campaign had expected to benefit from the foreign interference.”

According to The Times’ account, “soon after giving Mr. Durham his assignment,” in May of 2019, “Mr. Barr summoned the head of the National Security Agency, Paul M. Nakasone, to his office. In front of several aides, Mr. Barr demanded that the N.S.A. cooperate with the Durham inquiry.”

The NSA is a wholly separate entity from the Dept. of Justice. It is an agency under the Dept. of Defense and reports to the powerful Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

Barr apparently did not care, and, “repeating a sexual vulgarity, he warned that if the N.S.A. wronged him by not doing all it could to help Mr. Durham, Mr. Barr would do the same to the agency.”

DURHAM TRIED TO SCUTTLE A REPORT’S FINDING THAT TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION WAS WARRANTED

“Mr. Durham’s team spent long hours combing the C.I.A.’s files but found no way to support the allegation” that the investigation into Trump and Russia was the result of some anti-Trump deep state operation.

Barr and Durham actually “traveled abroad together to press British and Italian officials to reveal everything their agencies had gleaned about the Trump campaign and relayed to the United States, but both allied governments denied they had done any such thing. Top British intelligence officials expressed indignation to their U.S. counterparts about the accusation, three former U.S. officials said.”

The Dept. of Justice’s Inspector General’s investigation found there was, in fact, sufficient cause for the DOJ to have opened up the Trump-Russia investigation, contrary to Barr’s personal beliefs.

So he tried to have that finding removed from the final report.

READ MORE: ‘Big No-No’: Santos May or May Not Have a Campaign Treasurer Prompting Questions About Whose Signature That Is

The Times reports that “the broader findings contradicted Mr. Trump’s accusations and the rationale for Mr. Durham’s inquiry,” which should have shut down what ultimately became Durham’s four-year long investigation that netted almost nothing.

The DOJ Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, “found no evidence that F.B.I. actions were politically motivated. And he concluded that the investigation’s basis — an Australian diplomat’s tip that a Trump campaign adviser had seemed to disclose advance knowledge that Russia would release hacked Democratic emails — had been sufficient to lawfully open it.”

So Barr tried to discredit Horowitz’s report.

“Minutes before the inspector general’s report went online, Mr. Barr issued a statement contradicting Mr. Horowitz’s major finding, declaring that the F.B.I. opened the investigation “on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient.” He would later tell Fox News that the investigation began “without any basis,” as if the diplomat’s tip never happened.”

Read the entire Times report here.

 

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