1016 posts categorized "International"

January 28, 2015

AFA fires Bryan Fischer

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Mediaite reports. It involves RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and a bunch of RNC folk heading to Israel on a trip paid for by American Family Association, whose longtime spokesman Bryan Fischer has said that Jews have no right to practice their religion in America. Below is the video from the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.

One Man's Pastry Is Another Man's Poison

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My column for this week's Blade is now online. Here is an excerpt:

Back home at the Iowa Freedom Summit, Dr. Ben Carson joked to reporters about a baker putting poison in a gay couple's wedding cake. (Is the GOP running a contest to find the most deranged person who thinks he or she can be president?) In related news, a man filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division last year against the Azucar Bakery in Denver for refusing to write "God hates gays" on a cake. This is the new religious freedom: muddling the difference between denying service to a minority and refusing to assist expressions of intolerance. Perhaps we should train shop owners to distinguish real customers from trolls.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, whose demotion by Pope Francis has not shut him up, recently discussed what he called the Church's "man crisis" and blamed "radical feminists" for priests raping boys. Seriously. Eminence, if we get you another fabulous set of embroidered vestments, could you stuff an altar cloth in your mouth for the rest of the year?

Read the whole thing here.

Holocausts and memory

January 22, 2015

Those mythical 'no-go zones'

"Hero of the supermarket" wins French citizenship

Lassana Bathily, a Malian Muslim immigrant who saved several lives from terrorist Amedy Coulibaly earlier this month at a kosher supermarket, has been granted French citizenship. He had applied for it last summer. Congrats to him. When we overgeneralize about Islam, and talk as if we are in a religious war, we play into the hands of people like Coulibaly and hurt people like Bathily. That makes no sense.

January 20, 2015

Kirchick: ISIS goes medieval on gays

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Jamie Kirchick at The Daily Beast has an interesting piece on the recent execution of gay men by ISIS by throwing them off a building ledge.

I have never understood how any god who demands such barbarity could possibly deserve anything but curses. Incidentally, if you think your god is any better, go back and re-read your holy book.

Incidentally, Kirchick is talking about radical Islam, not Islam in general. Just as social conservatives cherry-pick scriptural passages that suit them, those who prefer a less barbaric faith can do the same. This cafeteria approach to Holy Writ is done by everyone, but few admit it. The point is that you can believe what you want. You do not have to believe in a god that commands savagery.

Tweeting @Pontifex

I figure someone at the Vatican reads the papal Twitter feed. So I offer my two cents.

January 17, 2015

A note to @Pontifex

January 16, 2015

Nothing Is Sacred

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(Washington Blade cartoon by Ranslem)

Here's an excerpt from my latest column, concerning the deadly terrorist attacks last week in Paris at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket:

Conservative pundits indignantly asked why there were no condemnations by Muslim leaders of the attacks, when in fact there was a flood of them. On the other hand, it was jarring when several despotic regimes sent representatives to a massive Paris march for the murdered cartoonists despite their own repression of journalists.

Any facile sorting of friend from foe was refuted by news reports. The last victim in the Charlie Hebdo attack was Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabet. During the kosher market incident, Muslim employee Lassana Bathily saved several hostages from terrorist Amedy Coulibaly by hiding them in a walk-in freezer.

A news report referred to Coulibaly's "fluent French and broken Arabic." Having come home to roost, the West's imperialist chickens are less likely to fit the profile. Only cooperation across faiths and cultures can save us from endless retributive justice. Defending secular freedoms against racism and sectarianism is the best response to Marine Le Pen.

Read Blade editor Kevin Naff's bracing editorial here.

Pope Francis: there are limits to free speech

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(AP photo by Alessandra Tarantino)

@Pontifex reacts to the Charlie Hebdo murders by reminding us that Holy Mother the Church, Inc. is not a democracy. There are limits to freedom of expression, he says, and he doesn't mean things like falsely crying "Fire!" in a crowded theater. He means offending someone's religion. Well I am sorry, Your Holiness, but you are wrong. Put me on the rack if you don't like it. Oh, that's right, you don't have the power to do that any more. Well that's a relief.

I warned everyone a year ago not to commit the sin of wishful thinking with this charming pope. He is not quite the liberal some people were hoping for.

January 14, 2015

Obama calls for affordable high-speed broadband for all Americans

More here.

January 12, 2015

More helpful comments from Bill Donohue

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League offers another display of his Christlike forgiveness of those who give him offense.

(Hat tip: Right Wing Watch)

Netanyahu and Abbas join heads of state at Paris march against hatred

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(Reuters photo)

The Independent reports:

France’s President Francois Hollande asked Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu not to attend Paris’s phenomenal march against hatred on Sunday, claiming that his presence would be divisive, it has been reported.

The unity rally in Paris was fronted by more than 50 world leaders, who all linked arms as they led the march from the Place de la République in eastern Paris, where 1.5 million people gathered to honour the 17 victims of last week’s bloody massacre that left the country reeling.

In an unprecedented show of solidarity, the Israeli Prime Minister was seen marching just four people apart from Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, while Prime Minister David Cameron’s appearance marked his first ever street march. Demonstrators carried placards brandishing the phrases “I am Charlie” and “I am Jewish”.

Well there's a shot you don't see every day. British PM David Cameron is out of frame to the left.

Notably absent from the massive rally, which was attended by some three million people, was any representative from the Obama administration. This report from WSJ is an example of the coverage. Of course the right wing would have attacked the President whether he attended or not. Had he been there, "Obama marches with Abbas" would have been one of the headlines. I thought he should have gone. I am sure we will hear more on this, since endless attacks on this president are what some people seem to live for.

January 09, 2015

While Europe gathers to rebuke terror, Bill Donohue blames the victims

NYT describes the above video:

Explosions and gunfire were heard at a printing plant outside Paris where the two brothers suspected in the Charlie Hebdo attacks were killed.

As people across Europe gathered to express their outrage at the military-style execution of a dozen people at the satirical Paris weekly, Charlie Hebdo, Catholic League troll Bill Donohue blamed the victims for bringing it on themselves.

Below, a massive rally at the Place Royale in Nantes, France was one of many across Europe in solidarity with those murdered at the satirical Paris weekly, Charlie Hebdo.

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'A medieval form of unreason'

Frank Kameny would have said much the same.

January 08, 2015

ICYMI: Putting It Together in 2015

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My column looking at the year ahead appears in this week's Blade, revised a bit. Here's an excerpt:

2015 promises continued fights against right-wing aggressions that include vagina policing and other gender-based discrimination; attacks on church-state separation; xenophobia; quackery disguised as science; biased profiling and excessive force by police; and criminalization of healthcare issues.

None of these will be resolved by the likely nationwide victory for marriage equality in the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus, in the words of Ella Baker, "We who believe in freedom cannot rest." Here are some thoughts for the work ahead.

Curb the language cops. We will win the marriage fight even if some use the misleading phrase "gay marriage." If people who are not belligerent use the wrong pronouns or otherwise display their ignorance, be like my amazingly patient transgender friends and politely clue them in. Creating change requires the politics of addition; we must always seek new ways to connect with people.

Read the whole thing here.

Dinesh D'Souza's hypocrisy on Islamists

Dinesh D'Souza accuses liberals of coddling radical Islamists.

But he himself has actually made common cause with conservative Islamists, as I discussed in a book review in 2007:

His latest book’s provocation starts with the title: The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11. But he goes beyond Jerry Falwell’s notorious blaming of feminists, gays and lesbians, the ACLU and People for the American Way. D’Souza actually makes common cause with “traditional Muslims,” who he claims hate America not for our presence in the Middle East but for our decadent culture. Minimizing the vast differences between Western traditions and Islamic and Middle Eastern ones, he calls for making America more tolerable to Islamic obscurantists whose tradition includes no Reformation, no Enlightenment, and no commitment to the personal freedom that has been the engine of the West’s economic success.

Charging the left with a “campaign of cultural imperialism,” D’Souza shows no grasp of free markets. If the success of capitalism and global communication has enabled many young Iranians, for example, to embrace American popular culture, that hardly constitutes a leftist conspiracy.

D’Souza equates licentiousness with leftism, which does not explain why so many otherwise liberal social movements had strong conservative elements: suffragists who were anti-abortion; communists who were homophobic; feminists who advocated censorship; and ministers in the civil rights movement who objected to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s association with Bayard Rustin, a leading organizer and strategist who was gay.

January 07, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and the defense of blasphemy

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(Photo by Thibault Camus / The Associated Press)

NYT reports on today's attack in Paris by masked gunmen at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which killed 12 and wounded 10. Condolences to the families of the victims.

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Some in the West say that people have no right to offend other people's religions. Some assert that Christians would never tolerate blasphemy against their own religion. Both assertions are wrong. Freedom of speech means nothing if not the right to offend.

Some of our most honored literature contains blasphemies. For example, Nobel winner Günter Grass in his greatest novel, The Tin Drum, has his lead character pray to Jesus (quoting from memory), "Athlete of Athletes ... world's champion hanger on the cross by regulation nails, who lasted the longest time and earned the highest possible number of points...." He describes seagulls descending on a horse's head that had been used to fish for eels on the Baltic Sea as "the Holy Ghost descending to feast the Pentacost."

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Grass has lived to a ripe old age. 26 years ago, he led a consortium of writers in guaranteeing publication of the German translation of The Satanic Verses (which btw I read and enjoyed in its English original, as I have several of Salman Rushdie's novels, one of which, The Moor's Last Sigh, has Hindu blasphemies). Whether it's serious lit or South Park, irreverence is essential to our freedoms and must be defended.

January 01, 2015

'Hispanic sounding name'

December 31, 2014

In orbit, 16 New Year celebrations

From the International Space Station.

2014 year in review: Athletes and Ambassadors

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My year-in-review is now up at the Washington Blade. Here is an excerpt:

Military and international. The transition to openly gay military service has gone so smoothly it has generated little news. The fight to end discrimination against transgender service members continues; two dozen have been discharged in the past two years. The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lawsuit by Sexual Minorities Uganda against Scott Lively for crimes against humanity can proceed. In diplomatic news, Ted Osius III joined a growing list of openly gay envoys when he was sworn in as ambassador to Vietnam.

Health. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led 80 senators and House members in urging an end to the lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have had sex with men, calling for science to replace stereotypes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for wider use of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention, despite strong opposition by Michael Weinstein of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. There have been no new HIV infections among more than 500 Kaiser Permanente customers using PrEP. New York and the District of Columbia adopted rules forbidding health insurers from denying medically necessary treatment to transgender people. D.C. joined California and New Jersey in passing legislation banning "ex-gay" conversion therapy for minors.

Media. Schadenfreude was rampant after Sean Eldridge failed in his bid to buy a congressional seat and husband Chris Hughes provoked a mass walkout at The New Republic by sacking top editors. Hughes was faulted for wrecking a century-old magazine in his effort to create a "vertically integrated digital media company," that is, a word salad. Former TNR writer Jamie Kirchick at The Daily Beast dubbed them "America's worst gay power couple," but their youthful hubris and confusion of wealth for wisdom transcend sexual orientation.

Read the whole thing here.

December 25, 2014

A Christmas thought

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(Photo courtesy Voice of America)

A Christmas thought: many of my friends have beliefs that I do not share. Yet none of them has tried to coerce me into adopting or conforming to them. Indeed, some have worked to help protect us from their more belligerent and bullying co-religionists. As a Catholic who left the church 44 years ago, I like many others have been impressed and moved by the Christlike behavior of the first Jesuit Pope, though I remain skeptical that we share the same policy goals.

Which brings us back to our diversity of beliefs and mutual tolerance. We don't have to be the same to give each other credit and respect. And we don't have to get bossy to teach. Blessings to all who have enriched my life with their humor, passion, insights and perspectives, and who have taught by their example. The most awesome examples of courage, generosity, caring and resilience I saw this year were from persecuted LGBT Ugandans. You have given me more than you know. Here is to finding new and fruitful connections in the year ahead, and learning to our benefit that it is not always about us.

December 24, 2014

Nuestra Terra

National Geographic explains:

Using footage from NASA's Johnson Space Center, filmmaker Fede Castro creates a captivating time-lapse video of Earth from space. In a little over four minutes, "Nuestra Tierra—Our Earth" takes us around the world, sighting major cities and even catching the breathtaking aurora borealis.

At the darkest time of year, it is good to see how magnificent our planet is despite all our efforts to wreck it. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all on the good Earth.

December 23, 2014

U.S. drops The Gambia from free trade agreement over human rights abuses

December 22, 2014

Obama schools GOP hawks and Putin

President Obama, in an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley, makes short work of Russia's Vladimir Putin and Republicans who call him weak on national security.

(Hat tip: Occupy Democrats)

Indict American war criminals, starting with Cheney

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(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

I agree with The New York Times.

For years I've thought that we cannot be like countries where leaders of the outgoing regime are jailed by the incoming one. The resulting political turmoil would not be worth it. But I am changing my mind. Dick Cheney's brazen, no-apologies trash talk has helped me reconsider. If he had the sense to choose a quiet retirement it might be one thing; but he continues his provocations and his aggressive contempt for international norms to which America is a signatory, and for simple decency. So we got the turmoil anyway. Meanwhile, the lack of justice looms larger. Indict him or give him a one-way ticket to The Hague.

December 21, 2014

Happy Solstice

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(Photo courtesy Stonehenge Tours - h/t Stan Brown)

Winter begins in the northern hemisphere. Sun, come back.

December 20, 2014

Chinese Court sides with gay man in electroshock therapy case

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(Photo by Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)

NYT reports:

In a victory for gay rights advocates in China, a Beijing court ruled on Friday that a Chinese clinic must pay compensation to a gay man who sued it for giving him electric shocks intended to change his sexual orientation.

Stating that homosexuality is not a mental illness, the Haidian District People’s Court ordered the Xinyupiaoxiang Counseling Center in the southwestern city of Chongqing to pay 3,400 renminbi, or $560, for costs incurred by the plaintiff, Yang Teng. It also ordered Baidu, China’s leading search engine, which was also named in the lawsuit, to remove the advertisement that Mr. Yang said led him to the clinic.

China bears watching. Now the world's largest economy, it has been a friendlier place for gay activists than one might have expected from a totalitarian state. Congrats to Yang and best of luck to his comrades for continued progress.

December 19, 2014

Taliban's massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar

The massacre by Taliban members at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan a few days ago is so shocking I hardly know what to say. I provide the video above of Malala Yousafzai, who received her Nobel Peace Prize only days earlier. Defeating fanatics who are proud of killing children will not be easy. I am glad at least that the atrocity has united Pakistanis against the Taliban. It will be a hard struggle. Below are related articles from Time.

Persecution in Egypt continues

Selfie with Fearless Leader

December 17, 2014

Obama announces historic change in Cuba policy

Bravo, bravo, bravo, Mr. President. This is long overdue. Thank you for showing leadership.

December 13, 2014

Fischer: Terror suspects have no right not to be tortured

More of the angry tribal deity perspective from AFA's Bryan Fischer.

December 11, 2014

Ted Osius III sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam

NBC News reports:

The first openly gay U.S. ambassador to serve in East Asia, Ted Osius III, was sworn in Wednesday by Secretary of State John Kerry, signaling another important step forward for LGBT rights in the region as well as for the government agency.

Osius, who will serve in Vietnam, now becomes the 7th openly LGBT person named as an ambassador under the Obama administration, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

"Not long ago, that would have literally been impossible. And when Ted first joined the Foreign Service, being open about who you love was grounds for having your security clearance yanked," Secretary Kerry said in a statement. "Today, the LGBT community is embraced by the Foreign Service and well beyond."

December 10, 2014

Malala Yousafzai Nobel Peace Prize Speech (video)

BBC reports:

Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai and Indian child rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi have received the Nobel Peace Prize awards....

Ms Yousafzai said she was there to stand up for the rights of forgotten and frightened children, and raise their voice rather than pity them.

Mr Satyarthi said receiving the prize was "a great opportunity" to further his work against child slavery.

December 07, 2014

A question for Pope Francis

December 01, 2014

World AIDS Day: 7 facts about the disease

Above, Helen Bygrave of Doctors Without Borders talks to AFP.

USA Today reports 7 facts about AIDS:

  1. An estimated 34 million people have HIV/AIDS worldwide. In the USA, an estimated 1.2 million people live with HIV and one out of every seven are not aware they have the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Sub-Saharan Africa has the most people living with HIV in the world and 70% of all new HIV infections occur there. In 2013, there were an estimated 24.7 million cases in the region, according to the World Health Organization.
  3. In the USA, the number of new HIV infections reported have decreased from approximately 130,000 a year to 50,000 a year since the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, according to the CDC.
  4. There is no cure for HIV, but antiretroviral drugs (ART) have helped people live longer with the virus. In 2013, 12.9 million people received the drug therapy, according to the World Health Organization.
  5. From 2005 to 2013, AIDS-related deaths globally have decreased by almost 40% across age groups. However, deaths for children ages 10 to 19 have not decreased, according to UNICEF.
  6. In the USA, HIV primarily occurs in urban areas with a population of 500,000 people or more. Hardest hit areas in 2012 included Atlanta, Miami, Baton Rouge, La., New Orleans, Memphis and Baltimore, according to the CDC.
  7. The group most affected by HIV in the USA remains gay or bisexual men. Male-to-male sex accounted for 63% of new HIV infections in 2010, according to the CDC. The CDC reports that African Americans are disproportionately affected. In 2010, they made up 14% of the U.S. population, but accounted for 44% of new HIV infections.

November 27, 2014

Huckabee defiles Holocaust tour

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, not content with comparing abortion to the Holocaust, declares that gay marriage destroys the foundation of civilization.

November 22, 2014

The five craziest conservative reactions to Obama on immigration

Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch reports. The right wing is losing it.

Moral courage in the face of hatred