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Week in Review: Uganda Gay Activist Gets RFK Award, US Denies Gay Diplomat Asylum, Penn State Sex Abuse

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Gay Saudi Diplomat Denied Political Asylum By U.S.

Former Saudi Arabian diplomat Ali Ahmad Asseri, apparently a gay man, whose diplomatic status was revoked by the Saudi Arabian government because he is gay, has been denied political asylum by the U.S. government, according to a report published by the Jerusalem Post, who quotes a Saudi blogger. Asylum decisions are made by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services division of Homeland Security. But no doubt the White House and the State Department would weigh in on a decision involving a Saudi diplomat. By denying Asseri asylum, the U.S. would be sending Asseri to an inevitable death, as Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty to known gays.

“My life is in a great danger here and if I go back to Saudi Arabia, they will kill me openly in broad daylight,” Asseri told NBC.

Arab League Suspends Syria 

After months and weeks of a popular uprising against the autocratic government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which, according to the UN has killed more than 3,500 people and thousands of others have been arrested, detained, disappeared and tortured, Syria’s membership in the Arab League was suspended Saturday. The League threatened political and economic sanctions against Syria, when issuing the suspension for refusing to suspend violence as a method to end the Arab Spring protests.

The Arab League’s action will take effect in three days, giving the government some time to reconsider its action in relationship to the protestors. This action was called for by Human Rights Watch, among numerous other human rights groups. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quickly affirmed the League’s action, stating that the “U.S. commends the principled stand taken by the Arab League and supports full implementation of its efforts to bring a peaceful end to the crisis”.

Berlusconi Out, Greeks Form New Government, Europe Shaken

After 17 years in power, Silvio Berlusconi resigned as Prime Minister of Italy yesterday, but it wasn’t the sex scandals that gave him the hook– it was all about money and Italy’s sovereign debt.  He was pushed from power by Germany, France and the G-20 due to the Euro Zone debt crisis, who turned their full attention toward Rome after the fall of George Papandreou’s Greek government last week end.

Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, who was not elected to parliament, and his government were sworn in on Friday. But by early Thursday, world markets continued to roil with uncertainty, escalating pressure on Italy to yield to the EU’s demands that Italy get its house in order, fearing collapse of its third largest economy. During the day on Thursday, Belusconi knew he could not remain in office, although he wanted to remain in power until a completed package of reforms were adopted by parliament. A first. Italian “Senator for life” Mario Monti is now expected to oversee an interim government, led primarily by technocrats that can revamp Italy’s debt-to-loan ratio. Europe is not out the woods yet and it remains to be seen when the next shoe in the Eurozone crisis will drop.

RFK Human Rights Awarded to First LGBT Activist

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), was awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award this week by Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert Kennedy and Senator John Kerry, in a ceremony held in Washington, D.C. The RFK Foundation will now support Mugisha and SMUG for the next six years in an effort to advance LGBT rights in Uganda, a first foray into LGBT human rights for the prestigious foundation.

Two weeks ago Mugisha also accepted the Rafto Prize on behalf of SMUG in a ceremony held in Bergen, Norway. The Rafto Prize noted that it was awarded to “SMUG for its work to make fundamental human rights apply to everyone, and to eliminate discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity.Uganda has become ground zero in Africa and notorious around the world for the efforts of David Bahati, a member of parliament, to legalize capital punishment for homosexuals. In January, David Kato, a gay activist and colleague of Mugisha’s was found in his apartment beaten to death.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XMSClLIMqE&version=3&hl=en_US]

Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal Shocks America

The November 6th arrest of Jerry Sandusky, a former football coach at Penn State University, who was charged by a Pennsylvania State grand jury with 40 counts of sex abuse, unleashed a series of shocking announcements by the University Board of Trustees that included the immediate dismissal of Joe Paterno, the Penn State football coach for the past 46 years and Graham Spanier, president of the University, following an emergency meeting on Wednesday evening.

Immediately following the announcement, Penn State student supporters of Paterno took to the streets of State College, in opposition to the Board’s decision, and became violent by flipping over a television satellite truck and engaged in destruction of public and private property–adding insult to nearly lethal injuries already unraveling one of America’s top public universities.

Throughout the week, the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General and the media reported with dizzying speed the events and details relating to the Penn State cover-up of Sandusky’s alleged rape and sexual assault of young boys, who were recruited through The Second Mile, his foundation for at-risk youth.  His crimes includes an alleged criminal complicity and cover-up by Penn State officials Tim Curley, the former Athletic Director and Gary Schultz, the former Senior Vice President for Finance and Business who were also charged by the grand jury with perjury and related charges. Schultz requested immediate retirement and Curley requested administrative leave from the University.

By Friday morning it became publicly known that Paterno had hired a criminal defense lawyer and may have perjured himself before the grand jury in connection to then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary’s testimony who had witnessed the rape of a 10-year-old boy in the showers by a nude Sandusky. McQueary testified that he told Paterno in detail what he had witnessed, although he did nothing to stop the rape and did not call the police.

McQueary, presently an assistant coach, reportedly had received numerous death threats and the University issued a statement early in the day on Friday that he would not be on sidelines of the Penn State game with Nebraska on Saturday afternoon for his personal safety. By Friday evening, the University announced McQueary was on paid administrative leave and remains a key witness to the Sandusky Penn State case that will no doubt be followed with riveting scrutiny by a shocked nation.

Many Americans, pundits, sports writers and social critics feel that the NCAA should administer what is known as the “death penalty,” by shutting down the football program at Penn State for at least one year, if not longer. These charges reflect an institutional cancer that has exposed a rotted leadership that truly lost sight of core values because of a grossly exalted multi-million dollar sport that trumped the dignity and well-being of children. Apologies are simply inadequate.

Read the following sources for more information:  The Sandusky grand jury report and a New York Times timeline of the Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal.

(Images: Syria, Frank Mugisha, Silvio Berlusconi, Joe Paterno)

 

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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News

Large Increase in Americans Who Now Identify as LGBTQ – Especially Among Gen Z – But Few Republicans

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Over the past three years, a very short time period, there has been a large increase in the number of Americans who identify as LGBTQ, or any designation other than heterosexual.

According to a just-published report from Gallup, 5.6 percent of Americans identify as LGBT, or non-heterosexual, up from 4.5 percent in 2017. The report covers all of 2020. (Note: Gallup uses the term “LGBT,” a far narrower construct than many Americans observe today. These numbers reflect that specific designation.)

Among Generation Z, which Gallup defines as those 18-23, nearly 16 percent – about one in six – identify as LGBT. That’s almost three times the national average.

About one in eleven Millennials (those born between 1981-1996) or 9.1 percent, say they identify as LGBT.

Gallup also reports more than half of LGBT Americans (54.6%) identify as bisexual. That’s 3.1 percent of the total U.S. adult population.

One in four (24.5%) of LGBT Americans say they are gay, 11.7 percent lesbian, and 11.3% transgender. 3.3 percent “volunteer another non-heterosexual preference or term to describe their sexual orientation, such as queer or same-gender-loving.”

There is also a political component to the study.

13 percent of liberals, but just 2.3 percent of conservatives say they are LGBT. In stricter party terms, “8.8% of Democrats, 6.5% of independents and 1.7% of Republicans identifying as LGBT.”

In related news, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a Republican of Maine who just last June was the only GOP co-sponsor of the LGBTQ Equality Act, has refused to demonstrate similar leadership this year, when she could cast the deciding vote. President Joe Biden has committed to signing the legislation into law.

 

Image via Shutterstock

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISTS

Anti-LGBTQ Religious-Right Christian Nationalist Home-School Activist and Anti-Masker Launches Congressional Bid

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Christian nationalist home-schooling advocate, author, and podcaster Heidi St. John launched a run for U.S. Congress Sunday in Washington state’s 3rd Congressional District, where incumbent Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler became a target of supporters of former President Donald Trump after voting for his impeachment in January and revealing damning details about a phone call between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that took place during the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

A week prior to the launch of her congressional bid, St. John took to Facebook to post, “Trump now knows who his enemies are in the REPUBLICAN party. And so do we. Silver lining of the shampeachment.  The RINOS need to GO!!  #acquitted.”

St. John calls herself “The Busy Mom” on Facebook, hosts a daily “Off the Bench” podcast, publishes a blog, and runs a ministry for mothers that promotes her book “Becoming Mom Strong.” She is an ally of Alliance Defending Freedom President Michael Farris and has spoken at the church of religious-right activist pastor Jack Hibbs in California. Rick Green, host of the “WallBuilders Live!” radio program, was a recent guest on her podcast, which she said gets about a million downloads per month.

St. John urges parents to pull their children out of public schools, which she refers to as “government indoctrination centers” that promote “garbage sexual ideologies” and a “weird era of transgenderism.” She said on a recent podcast that gender confirmation surgery should be illegal and that doctors who perform it are “criminals.”

St. John charges that the COVID-19 coronavirus was “weaponized” to create fear by the media and Democrats who saw the virus as an opportunity to hurt Trump’s reelection chances. She urges people not to be mask-wearing “sheep” and to take off their masks. In a Jan. 18 video, she said that Christians’ job is to proclaim truth, adding, “That’s why I don’t do the mask. It’s B.S. of the highest order.”

In a Jan. 9 Facebook video, she declared, “This nation is a Christian nation” while denouncing people who criticized Trump’s religious-right supporters as Christian nationalists or as being part of a Trump-worshiping cult. She said the idea that Trump incited the Jan. 6 violence at the Capitol was “a lie that the left is pushing.” She also said that “social justice is a lie from the pit of hell.”

Before Inauguration Day, St. John appeared to be hoping for a miracle that would keep Trump in power. A Jan. 12 Facebook post read, “’It’s all over’? Then along came David with his sling shot. God decides when it’s over.”

In an Inauguration Day blog post she wrote, “My heart is breaking for our Republic today. I know many of you are grieving with me. I am still in disbelief that the left pulled off the greatest vote heist in American history.”

St. John appeared on Wisconsin pastor David Fiorazo’s “Stand Up for the  Truth” podcast on Feb. 4, where she said, “I’m hoping that in 2022 there’s a red wave in this country like we’ve never seen, and not just a red wave—a Christian red wave.”

 

This article was originally published at Right Wing Watch and is re-published here by permission.
Image via Facebook

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RACISM AND SEXISM IN AMERICA

Senate Committee Postpones Confirmation Hearing on Biden OMB Pick After Manchin Leads Revolt Over Mean Tweets

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The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is postponing its Wednesday confirmation hearing for Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s pick to be the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), after Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced he will vote against her, based on her record of posting mean tweets.

Axios, first reporting the news, calls it “a potential death knell” for Tanden’s confirmation, although it could give the Biden White House time to try to shore up support among Republican Senators.

Tanden would be the first woman of color to head OMB.

Manchin’s stunning announcement Friday has led to three Republicans jumping on board, also announcing their opposition.

None of the opposition is on qualifications – Tanden, a policy expert has led the Center for American Progress for nearly a decade, and worked in both the Clinton and Obama White Houses.

Earlier –
‘Oh Come On’: Joe Manchin Insists His Opposition to First Woman of Color OMB Nominee ‘Is Not Personal’

“We are postponing the business meeting because members are asking for more time to consider the nominee,” an unnamed committee aide told Axios. “The president deserves to have a team in place that he wants, and we’re going to work with our members to figure out the best path forward.”

But many Democrats see Manchin’s opposition as nothing more than sexism, misogyny, and racism. He has voted for far less qualified candidates with far greater issues than Tanden, all of whom happened to be men, and mostly white men. Among them, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was not only credibly accused of sexual assault, but engaged a shocking on-camera attack promising revenge during his confirmation hearing.

“Other supporters have accused Tanden’s opponents of hypocrisy, noting Manchin and many Republican senators voted to confirm nominees of President Trump who also had posted caustic tweets,” Axios adds.

Manchin followed up his opposition to Tanden with a suggestion he might not support Biden’s nominee to head the Dept. of the Interior, a sitting U.S. Congresswoman who is Native American, Deb Haaland.

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