Week in Review: Uganda Gay Activist Gets RFK Award, US Denies Gay Diplomat Asylum, Penn State Sex Abuse
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Former Saudi Arabian diplomat Ali Ahmad Asseri, apparently a gay man, whose diplomatic status was revoked by the Saudi Arabian government because he is gay, has been denied political asylum by the U.S. government, according to a report published by theÂ Jerusalem Post,Â who quotes a Saudi blogger.Â Asylum decisions are made by theÂ 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 SyriaÂ
After months and weeks of a popular uprising against the autocratic government of SyrianÂ 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,Â 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 BerlusconiÂ 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. Â 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 MinisterÂ 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”Â Mario MontiÂ 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,Â 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 PrizeÂ 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.” UgandaÂ 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.
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 PaternoÂ 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,Â his foundation for at-risk youth. Â 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 assistantÂ 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 McQuearyÂ 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: Â The Sandusky grand jury reportÂ and a New York TimesÂ timeline of the Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal.
(Images: Syria, Frank Mugisha,Â Silvio Berlusconi,Â 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 InstituteÂ 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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Dominion Wins ‘Blockbuster Victories’ Against Fox News – Last Legal Issue Will Be Decided by a Jury: Report
Dominion Voting Systems won what are being called “blockbuster victories” Friday afternoon when a judge ruled the company suing Fox News for $1.6 billion in a major defamation lawsuit had met its burden of proof that Rupert Murdoch‘s far-right wing cable channel had repeatedly made false statements.
The final, and likely greatest legal issue Dominion will have to prove will be actual malice. That issue will be decided in a jury trial, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis ruled Friday, according to Law & Crime.
Unlike previous cases, Fox News will reportedly not be able to argue the on-air statements its personalities made were opinion.
CNN legal analyst and Brookings senior fellow Norm Eisen calls Friday’s decision a “huge win for Dominion on their summary judgment motion against Fox News.”
READ MORE: Capitol Police Issue Warning Over Possible Trump Protests ‘Across the Country’
“Dominion won partial summary judgement that what Fox said about them was false! Now they just have to prove actual malice and damages,” Eisen says. “Meanwhile Fox’s motion was totally denied.”
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, an MSNBC contributor adds: “Dominion’s evidence Fox made false statements with reckless disregard is as strong as any I’ve seen.”
The judge was very clear in his ruling.
“While the Court must view the record in the light most favorable to Fox, the record does not show a genuine issue of material fact as to falsity,” Judge Davis wrote. “Through its extensive proof, Dominion has met its burden of showing there is no genuine issue of material fact as to falsity. Fox therefore had the burden to show an issue of material fact existed in turn. Fox failed to meet its burden.”
READ MORE: ‘Propaganda Network’: Media Reporter Says Dominion Filing Exposes Fox News as ‘Void of the Most Basic Journalistic Ethics’
Attorney and MSNBC host and legal analyst Katie Phang points to this key passage in Judge Davis’ ruling.
Dominion has won the argument on the issue of falsity, meaning that as the Court funds below, “it is CRYSTAL clear that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true.” pic.twitter.com/7lKEspN0WI
— Katie S. Phang (@KatiePhang) March 31, 2023
Court watchers and news junkies are familiar at this point with the massive legal filings Dominion has made in which it exposed how Fox News knowingly made false statements regarding the 2020 presidential election. Those filings, each hundreds of pages, also detail internal Fox News communications and bombshell conversations between the company’s top personalities, executives, and even Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Image of Rupert Murdoch via Shutterstock
RIGHT WING EXTREMISM
Capitol Police Issue Warning Over Possible Trump Protests ‘Across the Country’
The U.S. Capitol Police and the Senate Sergeant at Arms on Friday jointly issued a statement warning they “anticipate” Trump protests across the country. The statement is not time-specific, and it states it has no information on “credible threats,” but some Democratic offices are allowing staffers to work from home Friday and Tuesday.
“The Sergeant at Arms and United States Capitol Police (USCP) anticipate demonstration activity across the country related to the indictment of former President Trump. While law enforcement is not tracking any specific, credible threats against the Capitol or state offices, there is potential for demonstration activity. USCP is working with law enforcement partners, so you may observe a greater law enforcement presence on Capitol Hill,” the statement reads.
“The SAA and USCP are monitoring the potential nationwide impacts to Senate state offices,” it adds.
The House Sergeant at Arms was conspicuously absent from the statement. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has control over that office.
READ MORE: Trump Trial Could Go Well Into the 2024 Election – Or Possibly Even Past It: Former Prosecutor
Additionally, Axios is reporting, “several House Democrats are allowing staffers to work from home as a safety precaution,” noting that “the memory of Trump supporters ransacking the Capitol on Jan. 6 is still fresh on the mind.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) is allowing staff to work from home for safety reasons. She told Axios, “I don’t ever want to see a Jan. 6 again.”
“I’ve been in the Trump hate tunnel, Donald Trump has gone after me, and quite frankly I don’t have security. I don’t have entourages.”
She’s not the only Democrat to raise concerns.
“Much of the language from the former President and his devotees is similar to what inspired Jan. 6th,” U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips said. “I’m concerned about safety for my colleagues and my staff.”
READ MORE: ‘Lighting the Match’: Marjorie Taylor Greene Blasted for Off the Rails Rant Defending Trump
Meanwhile, House Republicans are issuing full-throated support for Trump and calling for protests.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who was called out by name in a six-page letter Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sent to Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan Friday morning, announced she will be in New York on Tuesday to support Trump when he is arraigned. She has posted several tweets since Trump was indicted.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy issued a statement Thursday seemingly designed to gin up rage and action in the MAGA base.
“Alvin Bragg has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our Presidential election. As he routinely frees violent criminals to terrorize the public, he weaponized our sacred system of justice against President Donald Trump. The American people will not tolerate this injustice, and the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account.”
Image by Elvert Barnes via Flickr and a CC license
Trump Trial Could Go Well Into the 2024 Election – Or Possibly Even Past It: Former Prosecutor
Donald Trump, and all of America, could spend the next 18 months – or longer – engrossed in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s trial of the ex-president, and that could bring the trial close to Election Day.
That’s according to a former prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, Charles Coleman, who is now a civil rights attorney and MSNBC legal analyst.
Asked by MSNBC’s Chris Jansing, “How long typically might a case like this take?” Coleman offered a two-tiered answer.
“A case like this is usually going to take a year or a year and a half,” Coleman said.
That could be through September of 2024.
READ MORE: ‘Lighting the Match’: Marjorie Taylor Greene Blasted for Off the Rails Rant Defending Trump
“Wow,” a surprised Jansing replied. “So it’s going right up into the campaign.”
“Absolutely,” agreed Coleman. “But it’s important to understand I said a case ‘like this.’ This particular case, I expect may take longer because I am anticipating a number of different legal maneuvers by Donald Trump’s defense team.”
That theoretically means into October of 2024, or longer.
“I do see motions to dismiss at a number of different terms, more likely than not to the point that the judge probably will ultimately end up admonishing them and telling them stop filing motions to dismiss. I think that that’s going to happen,” Coleman explained.
“I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, I do believe that we are going to see an attempt to try to change the venue, in this case outside of somewhere in the five boroughs. All of that is going to extend the time deeper and deeper into election season.”
READ MORE: Manhattan DA Unleashes on Jim Jordan With Stern Warning: You May Not ‘Interfere’ With Trump Prosecution
Reuters agrees, reporting Friday morning, “any potential trial is still at minimum more than a year away, legal experts said, raising the possibility that the former U.S. president could face a jury in a Manhattan courtroom during or even after the 2024 presidential campaign, as he seeks a return to the White House.”
And because “Trump’s case is far from typical,” Reuters notes, his trial could extend “past Election Day in November 2024.”
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