Â This Week in Review is highlighted by gay xenophobia in Serbia, and the burgeoning “Occupy Wall Street” protests were marked by labor unions joining the fight along with 700 arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, and after seven years of victories one flagrantly partisan decision renders a landmark DADT case “moot.”Â
Belgrade Gay Pride Banned by Serbian Officials
The Serbian government’s National Security Council declared its police forces could not maintain public safety and protect LGBT Pride marchers in Belgrade today, because of the threat of violence by an array of ultra-nationalistic groups, empowering Minister of Interior Ivica Dacic to declare the historically marred event to be legally banned.Â European Union officials expressed their regret at the unsurprising action, noting the Belgrade Pride ban would be considered in Serbia’s EU accession review scheduled for early 2012.
Saudi Women Extended the Vote
Saudi King Abdullah in Abdulaziz al-Saud announced this week that women will be extended the right to vote and run for office in 2015.Â A bold action by the 88-year-old monarch who assumed power six years ago as a reformer, but has been cautious in his governing style. Notwithstanding the advance in women’s human rights in Saudi Arabia, for the time being, women remained banned from driving automobiles. So if a Saudi woman wants to get to the polls, or run for office, she will have to ask her father, husband, uncle or son to take her there. Could Suburu offer to send some of their auto makes and models to Saudi women, as an incentive for government reform? We could come up with a memorable commercial in Suburu tradition.
Anwar al-Awlaki Assassinated in Yemen
Radical Islamist Anwar al-Awlaki, an American but considered an enemy of the United States, was assassinated early Friday morningÂ somewhere in Yemen, by missiles launched from an unmanned drone aircraft, under orders by President Obama. Born in New Mexico, al-Awlaki became an influential recruiter of English-speaking home-grown terrorists via the Internet and was considered a key figure in the radicalization of Major Nidal MalikÂ Hassan, the Ft. Hood Army psychiatristÂ who killed 12 people in 2009 and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “Underwear Bomber,” who attempted to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear while traveling on a Northwest plane, Christmas Day, 2009. This blog notes the sigh of relief that must be felt among U.S. government intelligence officers who have been tracking this bad guy for two consistent years.
The German Bundestag Votes to Support Euro Bailout
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor of Germany and all of Europe took a deep breath, when the Bundestag, the lower House, voted three days ago, overwhelmingly in support of a German government bailout plan of more than $598 billionÂ that will alsoÂ expand the authority of the European Financial Stability Facility, the main fund for bailing out indebted euro countries, including Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain (known as the PIIGS). Europe continues to wrestle with reticent politicians across the continent, who have hesitated to cover the sovereign debt of the PIIGS countries, while more countries have been urged by the International Monetary Fund and Tim Geithner, the U.S. Treasury head, to contribute to the bailout fund. Â Additional parliamentary votes will take place over the next several weeks. America watches and waits for Europe to act.
OSCE Reviews Human Rights in Eastern Europe, Former USSR
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe began its annual “Human Dimension” meeting in Warsaw, on Sept. 26-Oct. 7, that includes a review of human rights record andÂ practices by 56 participating member states from Europe, Central Asia and North America. Ian Kelley, the U.S. Ambassador to theÂ OSCE, Â in his opening statement at the meeting, addressed the issue of violence against persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, calling it a “widespread problem.” Although LGBT rights are not on the formal meeting schedule, the informal side meetings are populated by organizations who work onÂ LGBT rights in the OSCE region. Mark Bromley, chair of the Council on Global Equality traveled to Warsaw over the weekend to participate Â in the second week of the review. We will report Bromley’s observations to our readers next week.
Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Laureate Dies at 71
The first African woman to win a Nobel Prize, Wangari Maathai, leader of the “green belt” environmental movement, died this week in Nairobi, Kenya, after sucumbing to ovarian cancer. The most highly regarded woman leader on the African continent, Maathai, a feminist, politician and “rabble-rouser” rose to international acclaim, working with women to plant trees throughout and in the process uplifted many women and their communities, while raising mass consciousness about the vital role of the environment in support of human life.
Log Cabin DADT Cases Declared Moot
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out the Log Cabin Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell challenge this week, ruling that the repeal of the statute rendered the legal challenge “moot”. DADT repeal activists were crestfallen in the decision, having banked on a legal strategy that could have rendered reparations to the 14,000 service members who were discharged under the law. SOme called the decision “as bad as it could have been.” The repeal legislation disallowed that option.
Wall Street Protests Grow, Unions JoinÂ
As the “occupy Wall Street” protests progressed into their third week, labor unions joined the growing effort when the Transit Workers Union of New York City declared their active support and joined the burgeoning grass-roots activists who had a number of confrontations with local police,culminating in the arrests of 700 people on the Brooklyn BridgeÂ yesterday, while chanting “We got sold out, banks got bailed out!â€
A major national union, SEIU 32BJ New York City, announced they would hold a rally in the support of the protesters on Oct. 12th. Other actions erupted in Los Angeles and social media activists have launched a website OccupyÂ Together with a full complement of Facebook pages. Twitter handle @OccupyWallStNYC hasÂ become a new phrase in American social media vernacular that is migrating into everyday conversations. Is this the beginning of a new political movement in America? Stay tuned.
Nyad: Â Marathon Swimmer Withdraws in Third Attempt in Swim to Miami from Havana
Diana Nyad, the 61-year-old ultra-endurance athlete and lesbian heart-throb, reluctantly ended her third-time marathon swim quest from Cuba to Florida last Sunday,after sustaining life threatening stings by man-of-war jelly fish while attempting to swim the 103 miles to Miami’s South Beach. Â Nyad’s efforts were closely reported by the New York Times, Associated Press and USA Today, among others. Bye, bye Diana! We lesbians especially will miss you!
Obama Takes a Congratulatory Bow at HRC Dinner
President Barack Obama took a victory lap by appearing at the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner last night Â just 12 days following the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But to no activist’s surprise, Obama did not make news by announcing his full-throated support for marriage equality, or that he would sign an executive order to extend non-discrimination job protections to federal workers based upon sexual orientation and gender identity. It appears that those two perks, can wait, for now.
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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MN Police Officer Sentenced 3.5 Years for Death of George Floyd
Former Minneapolis police officer J. Alexander Keung has been sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for aiding and abetting manslaughter in the death of Black city resident George Floyd.
Keung, age 29, had accepted a plea deal in order to avoid an additional charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder. His guilty plea acknowledged that the restraining holds used by police on Floyd were excessive and likely to cause serious harm.
Video of Floyd’s May 25, 2020 murder at the hands of city police captured footage of Keung kneeling on Floyd’s back while another officer knelt of the man’s neck. for over nine minutes, officers applied pressure to Floyd while he laid face down in the street, crying and telling officers that he couldn’t breathe while also calling out for his mother.
Video of Floyd’s murder sparked international outrage and inspired protests against institutional racism and police brutality.
Keung is the fourth and final police officer to receive prison time for his role in Floyd’s death. He will serve his new sentence and a federal sentence for Floyd’s death concurrently, serving a total of about 2 1/2 years for the killing.
Virginia Republican Files Bill Defining a Fertilized Egg as a Human
Virginia State Delegate Marie March (R) has pre-filed House Bill 1395, a law that would define life as beginning at fertilization.
“Life begins at conception and each person is accorded the same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons by the Constitution of the United States,” the proposed bill states.
The proposed bill would effectively outlaw all abortions in the state and even endanger the use of Plan B (aka. “The morning-after pill”), a medication that prevents fertilized egg cells from attaching to a woman’s uterine wall.
The bill could also effectively criminalize in vitro fertilization, a method of inducing pregnancy that uses fertilized eggs and discards any unused ones.
Even though Republicans control the state’s House of Delegates, it’s unclear if the bill would have any chance of passing the state’s Democratic-led Senate. The legislature won’t reconvene until January 11, 2023.
Virginia currently allows a woman to get an abortion within roughly 26 weeks of pregnancy. Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has proposed passing a law that would reduce that window to 15 weeks, a period of time in which most women may not even realize they’re pregnant.
In response to March’s bill the Virginia Reproductive Equity Alliance said in a statement, “In the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and despite the vast majority of Virginians who oppose it, Virginia’s anti-abortion elected officials keep proving there are no limits to their extremism and true intentions to ban abortion for all Virginians.”
Georgia GOP Says Its Voting Restrictions “Backfired” & Helped Dems Win Senate Seat
When two Republicans lost Georgia’s special runoff senate elections in January 2021, state Republicans in the General Assembly re-wrote voting laws to restrict absentee ballots and give voters fewer days to vote in future runoff elections.
However, after Republicans lost yet another runoff election for Georgia’s Senate seat — with Herschel Walker losing to his Democratic competitor, Rev. Raphael Warnock, earlier this month — state Republicans want to re-re-write the rules, hopeful of a more favorable outcome.
Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), the official who oversees the state’s voting procedures, said he plans on giving three proposals to lawmakers when they return to the General Assembly in January.
“[The proposals] include forcing large counties to open more early-voting locations (in an attempt to reduce the hours-long lines some voters waited in) … lowering the threshold candidates must achieve to avoid a runoff from 50 percent to 45 percent; and instituting a ranked-choice instant-runoff system that would not require voters to come back to the polls again after the general election,” The New York Times reported.
To be clear, it’s unclear whether these changes would’ve helped Walker win. But they stand in contrast to the changes state Republicans made to voting laws following their failed January 2021 Senate runoff ambitions.
The changes after that time severely restricted the types of people eligible to receive an absentee ballot. While 24 percent of the January 2021 vote came via mail-in absentee ballots, the rule changes resulted in 5 percent of mail-in votes coming in for the January 2022 runoff.
Republicans also lowered the number of in-person early voting days to five (though the rule change allowed counties to add extra days.) The Times found that 28 of Georgia’s 159 counties opted to add extra in-person early voting days — 17 of the counties that did largely backed Warnock while 11 backed his challenger.
Before the recent run-off election, Raffensperger also tried to enforce a state law forbidding in-person early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. However, Warnock successfully sued to prevent the law from going into effect.
Overall, the changes may have “backfired,” Republicans told The Times, actually encouraging Democratic voters to come out in greater numbers.
While Republicans point to the large turnout of runoff voters as “proof” that their changes didn’t discourage voting, Warnock’s campaign criticized the changes, saying that such restrictions shouldn’t make it harder for people to vote in the first place.
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