July 30, 2015

A US Epidemic: The Selling of Children

In the US, poverty, deprivation and exploitation draws thousands of its own children down into a dark underworld that offers few ways out. 
It is a world few Americans are aware of. But tens of thousands of American children are thought to be sexually exploited every year. 
It's believed that every night hundreds are sold for sex.
The FBI says child sex abuse is almost at an epidemic level, despite the agency rescuing 600 children last year.
"Trafficking" often conjures images of people from other countries being smuggled over land and across the sea and then forced to work against their will in foreign lands. People are trafficked into America from Mexico, Central and South America. But the vast majority of children bought and sold for sex every night in the United States are American kids. 
We have heard from a number of women from the East coast to the Mid-west who have frighteningly similar and horrific stories. Neglected, abused, exploited and often ignored starting from a young age - sometimes even prosecuted by the very people who should have protected them. 
A handful of good souls, the kindness of a few strangers and the good work of some law enforcement agencies and the FBI offer some relief to America's most vulnerable. But the stories we have heard suggest they are only scratching the surface of one of America's best-kept and darkest secrets.

When a choice is not a choice

In Minnesota, I met with former sex workers who had sought support through an advocacy group called Breaking Free. Half of the women in the group were under the age of 18 when they first were sold for sex. Many of the others were not much older than 18.
One woman says she was bought by her aunt at the age of 14.
"She gave my mom $900. Told me I was going shopping at the mall." 
The aunt would bring her to drug dealers' houses, where she was raped and given drugs.
"She would leave me...and then [was] like 'You were messed up, you wanted to stay'," she recalls. She soon believed the abuse was her fault and her choice.  Another woman says she was 17 when she was kicked out of the house.
"I wanted to get high," she says, and turned to working as a prostitute. She later started using the classified adverts website Backpage.com to make more money to keep up with her addiction.
A third was 14 when she was kidnapped by "a guy I thought I liked". She didn't return home for two years. 
Jenny Gains, who leads the group discussion at Breaking Free, says many "manipulate and take advantage of underage girls".
One woman said of her abuser, "He knew I was 14, he had to know that I was underage," despite her attempts to pretend to be 18.
“When he actually found out how old I was it didn't stop him... he wanted me even more." A woman who was first trafficked at 14 says she is living in a shelter right now and is struggling to not return to prostitution.
"There's tricks' names still on my phone, I haven't even deleted them yet and I need to delete them," she says. "Because when I get down, when I'm feeling really yucky it's almost like I want to have that number there."
But she says she doesn't want to return to that life.
"It's just a big circle, you get high, you get tricked, you get the money and you just keep going around and going around, and you have to break off all of them to even be doing okay."
Breaking Free
The women at Breaking Free support each other while they discuss the difficulty of leaving sex work
It is an uphill battle. 
"I just need the support and to believe in myself that I can make it. It's a funny spot I'm in."
Another woman says she hasn't been on Backpage on eight months.
"I'm not perfect. I'm just trying," she says. She finds it difficult to provide for her daughter without the money she made working as a prostitute.
"I stopped when I was 22 and had my first son," the woman says, detailing her "off and on" experience. She's been away for seven months, partially because she is pregnant with her fourth child. 
She hopes attending Breaking Free will prevent her from returning.
Gains listens to another woman
Gains listens to a woman speak at Breaking Free
"I'm going to have a daughter," she says. "I don't want her to do like what I did."
Another woman likens it to an addiction.
"It's like I have this hole like whatever it is it's not enough, that fills it for me, my kids get what they want," she tells the group. "I don't ever have to ask nobody for nothing," 
Many of the women in the Breaking Free yearn for sense of normalcy.
"I just want my freedom back," one woman says. "I just want to look out for my kids, and live my life, live a normal life."
But for women who were sold for sex as children, abuse, drugs and sex work is normal. 
One woman we spoke to in Minnesota was not at Breaking Free. She was on the streets, still working at five months pregnant. 
She says was groomed from age 12 by a neighbour, who enticed her with a garage full of toys and games. He offered her money for topless photos. 
"I see more and more younger girls out here now and it's really sad," she says. 
"It's not a choice. At 12, it was not a choice.”
Some of the groups that helped the BBC during the reporting of this story include Breaking FreeThe Samaritan Women and Angels of Addiction

“Advance Oral Sex” in Muslim Turkey


I will publish this article as I read it on Al-monitor, The Pulse. The reason it made to this site is because the similarity in Muslim Turkey and its clergy with sex as much as the Christian clerics are in the United States. My biggest surprise is that his otherwise taboo subject as oral sex is done in an Advance way in a muslim country or at least by its clergy, The first question I will pulse if I could to these religious people would be: How do you know about advance oral sex and who invented it? It can’t be the deviil because you are talking about it in Turkish television. I will like to post pictures for my audience to understand better but it will kill the inclusive rating of this blog.

 Ali Riza Demircan, a popular theologian, appeared on a TV show aired by the official outlet Turkish Radio and Television (TRT). Pelin Cift, a young blonde woman, is the host of the program, on which Demircan appears as a frequent guest. While talking about sexuality, Demircan asserted, “Advanced oral sex between a married couple is haram [forbidden by Islam].” Cift broke into nervous laughter. 
Sex is an issue Cift and Demircan often discuss on the show, as he is the author of the well-known book “Sexual Life According to Islam.” For example, during an episode aired in June 2013, Demircan had informed the audience, “Making love is akin to worship.” Cift appeared to be flustered by that assertion as well.

Aired on state television, the words “advanced oral sex” immediately sent shock waves through Turkish social media. Users asked one another what exactly “advanced oral sex” means.

The most popular reaction, however, came from another Islamic personality, Robed (Cubbeli) Ahmet Hoca. A senior figure in the Ismail Aga religious order, Ahmet Hoca is known for his love of the limelight and controversial remarks. This time he announced, “When one [Demircan] says oral sex is forbidden by Islam, he is lying in the name of God. We cannot say it is forbidden, because we have no evidence to declare it forbidden.”

Ahmet Hoca’s blessing of oral sex generated another round of satirical exchanges on social media, and before one could declare the discussion over, Demircan came back with a personal retort against Ahmet Hoca, saying, “After the TRT program, I received several thank you notes and prayers. I am delighted to contribute to the understanding of what is forbidden. This is a crucial matter as it leads to conflict among couples and even to divorce. When we speak of what is forbidden, I understand those in denial, those who are engaged in extramarital affairs, gays, lesbians, erotic site owners and [sex toy] salespeople to be disturbed, but I don’t understand short-sighted Muslims. Are they disturbed by being reminded what is forbidden in Islam because they are committing these sins?”

Demircan’s comments and exchange between the Turkish televangelists made headlines in international as well as Turkish media. On social media, the reactions were typically humorous. The columnist Ozgur Mumcu tweeted, “Having acquired the knowledge that Ali Riza Demircan never falls victim to advanced oral sex, now we can sleep in peace.” Others chiming in included the following:

 Safer sex in Turkey
 Obeying all the rules of Islam, then the sad destiny of going to hell is due to advanced oral sex.
Any casualties from advanced oral sex so far?
Finally, reformation has begun in Islam. We moved from discussing whether chewing gum breaks the [Muslim] fast to advanced oral sex.
We are yearning for Old Turkey. In the old days, during Ramadan they would sell Ramadan pita at the bakeries, now they are talking about advanced oral sex.
There are sectarian wars, and now let’s hope the people will not be divided as those who like oral sex and those who don’t. The Middle East cannot overcome this!
A prominent columnist, Ahmet Hakan, titled his column on the subject “7 pieces of advice to Robed Hoja,” in which he urged Hoca to be as passionate about corruption, injustice and social values as he was about oral sex. Turkey’s most popular hypertext social dictionary,  Eksisozluk, had 52 pages of entries under the heading “Advanced Oral Sex” the week of July 11-19.

Indeed, not a day passes without the ulema (educated clergy) commenting on sexual matters. Previously, they had focused on the permissibility of polygamy and the side effects of masturbation. Another famous televangelist, Mucahid Cihad Han, went on the record in May declaring masturbation forbidden, saying, “If a man masturbates, in the afterlife his hand will get pregnant.”

Indeed, these sexual debates offer intriguing clues about the social, economic and political values in contemporary Turkish understanding of religion. As the marketplace of religious orders has grown, televangelists or sheikhs from these orders have become much more tolerated in the public domain.

Religious orders are still formally banned in Turkey, but it seems as long as religious men refrain from talking about politics, especially criticizing the government, they are free to talk about almost anything they want. In addition, retired theologians are also finding fame and making lucrative livings from the colorful daily talk shows. Popular shows provide them instant recognition. As one scholar told A-Monitor, “You can pick and choose your own imam, rather than following the one the government assigns to your neighborhood.”

Al-Monitor contacted several theologians and government imams from the Religious Affairs Directorate (RAD), but they were unwilling to comment. One scholar said, “You should not write about oral sex. It will hurt your reputation.” When asked how respected religious elders can discuss the issue so freely, the scholar replied, “They are all men, occasionally a few older women. Young women should not speak about these matters.”

Indeed, the scholar has a point. Speaking about sexual matters in Turkey is another field, like security and military politics, reserved for men. Although it may seem progressive to be talking about sexual matters in public, it is more an issue of men preaching to younger men and women about what is permissible, not an open debate. Hence, all women are pretty much expected to do is giggle nervously and look sheepish or shell-shocked. The host Cift is an exquisite example of the immature standard set for women in this regard.

This perhaps comes with the territory, as most, if not all, of the sexual advice provided is exclusively aimed at men. Women are rather passive players in the game, so they are not expected to have a voice.

On another crucial point, on can discern a rift, likely to become more visible in the near future, between leaders of religious orders and RAD-trained and -employed imams and muftis. On sexual matters, government-employed imams have been rather quiet, but theologians and sheikhs who are not formally employed by the government can appear on state television and hold forth on such graphic issues as advanced oral sex.

RAD is known to be rather strict in regard to its imam’s sermons. For example, one respected imam, Yasin Gundogdu, known for broadcasting his sermons and his bold style, was forbidden to go off script during Ramadan this year. Why are some imams allowed to preach freely, but the state controls every sentence of government-employed preachers?

One RAD imam from Ankara, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job, said, “The public wants to hear real-life issues. They are bored with government-sanctioned sermons, but we have strict rules. So more and more people are recruited into the religious orders, and our mosque congregations shrink. As long as religious orders do not challenge government policies too harshly, they can preach freely. For government employees, there are strict rules and regulations, and our sermons [are] therefore a bore.”

It seems there is a dual path in Turkish religious affairs. On the one hand, RAD is growing and expanding its powers, but on the other hand, religious orders are supported and encouraged to be more visible in the public domain as long as they refrain from politics. That said, after two weeks of sex talk, people are still asking, “Have you found out what advanced oral sex is?”

By Pinar Tremblay who is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse and is a visiting scholar of political science at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She is a columnist for Turkish news outlet T24. Her articles have appeared in Time, New America, Hurriyet Daily News, Todays Zaman, Star and Salom. On Twitter: @pinartremblay

A Gay Rights Defender; Ex Defense Secretary


The former defense secretary has gone further than many politicians in promoting gay rights in the military and private sphere. (Robert Gates)

Eagle Scout. Young Republican. CIA recruit. Air Force officer. CIA director. Secretary of defense.
It’s not the resume of a radical civil-rights campaigner, but Robert Gates has now integrated two of the great bastions of macho American traditional morality—first the U.S. armed forces, and now the Boy Scouts of America. In both cases, Gates pursued a careful, gradual strategy, one that wasn’t fast enough for activists. In both cases, he was careful to take the temperature of constituents. And in both cases, once he was ready to act, he did so decisively. In the end what seemed to matter most was not Gates’s personal feelings but his determination to safeguard institutions he cared about and his deft skills as a bureaucratic operator.

Before the Obama administration began moving to eliminate the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy there was barely any indication of Gates’s views on LBGT issues—though not none. In 1991, while director of central intelligence, Gates ordered an inquiry into whether CIA personnel had ever been blackmailed into espionage because they were gay. When he found no cases, he ended the practice of asking employees about their sexual orientation as part of polygraph tests. From 2002 until he took over the Pentagon in 2006, Gates was president of Texas A&M University, a famously culturally conservative school. (In 1984, students sued, successfully, to force the school to recognize a gay-student organization; the ruling effectively removed all legal prohibitions on LGBT student groups nationwide.) At A&M, Gates worked to improve student diversity overall—including racial minorities and LGBT students—and appointed the school’s first administrator specifically in charge of diversity.

Given the rapid advance of gay rights over the last decade, it’s tough to remember just how different the stage was in 2006, when Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” had had plenty of critics since it was enacted in 1994—President Bill Clinton himself would have preferred simply opening the military to gay servicemembers—but it was still firmly in place. The Bush administration was not interested in lifting the ban, and Gates took a cautious approach. He repeatedly told reporters that he was not reviewing or reconsidering the policy.

When, several months into his tenure, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, said that “homosexual acts between individuals are immoral,” Gates tried to avoid discussing the comments, and said of DADT, “As long as the law is what it is, that’s what we’ll do.” (Pace, who retired in September 2007, reiterated his personal opposition to homosexuality during an exit hearing with Congress, but also endorsed gay service in the military.) When, two months later, the military ejected 58 desperately needed Arabic linguists because they were gay, Gates still said the policy wasn’t under review.

Even after President Obama was elected and Gates accepted an offer to stay on as secretary, he remained cautious. Though the president pledged to repeal DADT during his first State of the Union, Gates expressed a preference in March 2009 to “push that one down the road a little bit,” infuriating gay activists. Yet in June, he was clearly expecting the policy to end and was exploring whether “there’s a more humane way to apply the law until it gets changed.” A similar pattern held in 2010, as Gates warned Congress not to repeal DADT before he had a policy in place for the aftermath and insisted courts not make the decision. He also issued a survey on gays to servicemembers, a step that LGBT activists, who saw it as putting civil rights to a vote, disagreed with. Yet there Gates was in the fall, saying DADT’s demise was “inevitable” and testifying to Congress in favor of repeal—before the courts did it. (And that survey? It turned out the troops were totally fine with LGBT comrades.)

Once DADT was repealed, Gates moved quickly to enforce discipline and get the change implemented in the military, and shot down any hopes that soldiers, sailors, and marines who disagreed with the policy could leave their commitments early.

Gates’s push for the end of DADT never relied on the soaring rhetoric of rights and justice that people like Obama used. Gates spoke with the dry, careful language of a bureaucrat, speaking in terms of unit cohesion, military readiness, and obstacle recognition. When he indulged emotion, it was to praise soldiers risking their lives—the same language a defense secretary would use for straight soldiers. The decision was more than anything a triumph of pragmatism. Gates carefully studied the effects repeal would have on the military and decided the downsides were minimal; and he looked at the way the country was changing and realized that the policy would have to end soon, and that he wanted it to end on the Pentagon’s terms to ensure the military’s stability and long-term health.

The DADT fight offers a template for the opening to gay scoutmasters. Gates had expressed tempered sympathy for gays in scouting as far back as 1993, when he told Wichita Rotarians, “Values central to Scouting are under challenge today as never before: challenges to our belief in God, challenges from Americans who are gay. Scouting must teach tolerance and respect for the dignity and worth of every individual person, certainly including gays.”

The Boy Scouts had already begun to dismantle some of their anti-gay policies when Gates was elected president in late 2013. A lopsided vote in May 2013ended a ban on gay scouts but kept prohibitions on gay scout leaders and volunteers in place. Just as he had at Defense, Gates initially took a carefully diplomatic position. “I was prepared to go further than the decision that was made,” Gates said in May 2014. “I would have supported having gay Scoutmasters, but at the same time, I fully accept the decision that was democratically arrived at by 1,500 volunteers from across the entire country.” He said he wouldn’t reopen the decision during his term as president.

At some point in the last year, he had a change of heart.

The shift seems to reflect much the same calculus that guided Gates through the DADT decision. At the Pentagon, he had first avoided discussing repeal because it seemed too likely to create institutional instability; but once he decided that the writing was on the wall and that refusing to change was the greater risk to the organization, he moved swiftly and effectively to impose his new will. The point was to guarantee institutional survival.

In May 2015, one year after saying he wouldn’t reopen the issue of gay scoutmasters, Gates did just that. In short, he decided once again that if the institution he led didn’t change its policies now, a judge was likely to force it to do so later.

“The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained,” he said. “Between internal challenges and potential legal conflicts, the BSA finds itself in an unsustainable position, a position that makes us vulnerable to the possibility the courts simply will order us at some point to change our membership policy.”

Gates warned that a court order would disarm the Boy Scouts’ ability to act of their own volition, and suggested that doing anything besides opening would be an existential threat.

“I truly fear that any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement,” he said.

Monday evening, Gates got his wish, as the BSA’s 80-member board voted to approve the change. (A smaller executive committee had already approved it.) The new policy may not satisfy everyone. Traditionalists are upset about the move, while progressives feel it doesn’t go far enough—troops that are chartered by churches and other religious organizations would still be permitted to set their own standards. Regardless, the policy marks a serious shift for BSA, and it cements Robert Gates’s place in history: as one of the least likely but most successful proponents for gay equality in institutional America.

July 29, 2015

Cecil the Lion found shot,beheaded and skinned Victim of American Dentist looking for “Big Game”

PHOTO: Cecil, Zimbabwes famous lion, has reportedly been killed by a hunter.

An American dentist acknowledged today that he killed a beloved lion named Cecil during a recent hunting trip to Zimbabwe.
Dr. Walter Palmer, 55, in a statement, said, "In early July, I was in Zimbabwe on a bow hunting trip for big game. I hired several professional guides and they secured all proper permits. (ABC news) 

To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted. 
"I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt. I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have.

“Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion."
He says sorry he killed this particular Lion because of the publicity is gotten. After all he went there to kill “big game” and he aimed and shot a Lion, he knew he was not shooting a dear but a Lion.

ABC news photo
PHOTO: Cecil, Zimbabwes famous lion, has reported been killed by a hunter.


If a Straight Girl can lip-kiss a girl, Can a straight guy do the same to a Guy?

A straight white girl can kiss a girl, like it, and still call herself straight—her boyfriend may even encourage her. But can straight white guys experience the same easy sexual fluidity, or would kissing a guy just mean that they are really gay? Not Gay thrusts deep into a world where straight guy-on-guy action is not a myth but a reality: there’s fraternity and military hazing rituals, where new recruits are made to grab each other’s penises and stick fingers up their fellow members’ anuses; online personal ads, where straight men seek other straight men to masturbate with; and, last but not least, the long and clandestine history of straight men frequenting public restrooms for sexual encounters with other men. For Jane Ward, these sexual practices reveal a unique social space where straight white men can—and do—have sex with other straight white men; in fact, she argues, to do so reaffirms rather than challenges their gender and racial identity. Ward illustrates that sex between straight white men allows them to leverage whiteness and masculinity to authenticate their heterosexuality in the context of sex with men. By understanding their same-sex sexual practice as meaningless, accidental, or even necessary, straight white men can perform homosexual contact in heterosexual ways. These sex acts are not slippages into a queer way of being or expressions of a desired but unarticulated gay identity. Instead, Ward argues, they reveal the fluidity and complexity that characterizes all human sexual desire.
I've argued for years that straight guys are entitled to the same latitude—or entitled to the same fluidity—as other self-identified monosexuals. A straight girl can mess around with another girl without the whole world insisting she couldn't have done that if she weren't really a lesbian; a lesbian can mess around with a dude now and then and still identify as a dyke; and a gay guy can fuck one or two women over the course of his gay life without having to turn in his gay card. But if a straight guy sucks one cock and gets caught—just that one cock, just that one time—no one will take him seriously when he says he's straight.
Like the joke goes...

Male heterosexuality, in this way, is a lot more fragile than female heterosexuality or male/female homosexuality. But with that said... a lot of the white guys (and a lot of the not-white guys) out there cruising public restrooms, fingering each other's anuses in frat house basements, and seeking other guys to jack off with (for starters) in the M4M sections of Craigslist are closeted gay or possibly/probably closeted bi men. I kept waiting for the word "bisexual" to pop up in the press release for Not Gay but I didn't see it in there. The men Jane Ward studied might not be gay—gayness could be ruled out in some cases—but straight-identified, married-to-women guys who have sex with other men are likelier to be bisexual, closeted or not, than they are to be straight, fluidity or otherwise.
Coming from NYU Press
I’m going to get the book and read it with an open mind, of course, but the summary pushed out by NYU Press doesn’t inspire confidence.

El Cubano Teddy Cruz Chickens Out from the “Daily Show”


As Jon Stewart winds down a 16-year run at “The Daily Show," his frequent targets -- a long list of 'em -- have just eight more days for payback, which may explain why Texas senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz abruptly backed out of an appearance on the program Monday night.

Reasons for the cancellation are unknown (Historian David McCullough appeared in his place) and no explanation was given -- votes needed to be taken, or something like that, Stewart briefly noted -- while an email query to the senator's office remains unanswered. 

 Cancellations on "TDS" -- or any late night program -- are hardly unprecedented and do indeed happen, although not frequently. What makes this so unusual is twofold: 

Foremost, Cruz on "The Daily Show" is an incongruous match  -- the incongruity of which needs no explanation. 

Second, we are now in the final roundup for Stewart, whose legendary run ends Thursday, Aug. 6.  (No one canceled on David Letterman in the waning moments of his historic final lap...)  

There are possible reasons for the Cruz cancellation. He is in the midst of a battle with majority leader Mitch McConnell -- which erupted Sunday night on the floor of the Senate. In addition, Cruz -- who I believe has never visited the show -- has been a frequent target, of course. Cruz has been attempting to distance himself from the presidential-hopeful pack --  a growing one --  and while next Thursday's debate is intended to accomplish that, Monday's "TDS" appearance was doubtless part of the plan as well. The risks were obvious: Cruz may be an expert debater, but Stewart is an expert deflater. 

Alas, it would have been fascinating television. 

  Why wouldn't Stewart want a final showdownt Trump has been a guest over the years, and a frequent target -- the soon-to-be-former "Daily Show" host feasting on his run (and hair) for weeks. Trump now has to ask himself whether the considerable risk outweighs the benefit: Leading in New Hampshire, the answer to that may be self-evident.


July 28, 2015

Ted Cruz Gets B**** Slapped when Calling Orrin Hatch a Lier


Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, may have taken a step too far against his Republican colleagues in the Senate over the weekend. He was slapped down by Republican leaders - verbally and legislatively - in a rare Sunday Senate session.
"The Senate floor has too often become a forum for partisan messaging" conservative Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, lamented during Cruz's antics. Hatch kept going, calling the Senate floor a "misused as a tool to advance personal ambitions, a venue to promote political campaigns, and even a vehicle to enhance fund-raising efforts, all at the expense of proper functioning of this body."
The conflict came during debate over highway transportation funding, which is due to run out this week. Cruz wouldn't let up his opposition to an amendment to the highway bill, which would resurrect the Export-Import Bank. The bank's charter expired June 30, when Congress let it lapse. While the bank -- which provides loans to other countries to help them buy American goods and services -- is favored by Democrats and some Republicans, conservatives like Cruz deride it as corporate welfare.
The fight began Friday morning when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stood on the Senate floor and took the unusual step of calling Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar, saying he couldn't be trusted.
"It saddens me to say this. I sat in my office, I told my staff the majority leader looked me in the eye and looked 54 Republicans in the eye. I cannot believe he would tell a flat-out lie, and I voted based on those assurances that he made to each and every one of us," Cruz said.
“What we just saw today was an absolute demonstration that not only what he told every Republican senator, but what he told the press over and over and over again, was a simple lie," Cruz said.
McConnell's "lie," said Cruz, was the promise that there was no "special deal" to resurrect the bank. In fact, the Senate did hold a vote on the bank Sunday, and a strong bipartisan contingent of 67 senators passed the amendment reauthorizing the bank.
But McConnell dismissed the idea that any sort of "special deal" was behind bringing the amendment to the floor. "When there is overwhelming bipartisan support for an idea, even if I oppose it, it doesn't require some 'special deal' to see a vote occur on that measure," he said.
Other Republican leaders, like Cruz's fellow Texan, Sen. John Cornyn, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, and Hatch were incensed by Cruz's accusations, and they rose to defend McConnell on the floor.
"There was no misrepresentation made by the majority leader on the Ex-Im Bank," Cornyn said.
Hatch attacked Cruz - without naming him - for what he deemed to be a flagrant violation of Senate rules and decorum. 
"The Senate floor has even become a place where Senators have singled out colleagues by name to attack them in personal terms and to impugn their character--in blatant disregard of Senate rules, which plainly prohibit such conduct," Hatch said Sunday.
Cruz would not apologize, though, and said he had not violated the rules.
"I would note that it is entirely consistent with decorum and with the nature of this body traditionally as the world's greatest deliberative body, to speak the truth," Cruz said. No one in the Senate spoke out to defend Cruz.
And the Senate wasn't done with Cruz yet. The Texas senator was trying to hold a vote on an amendment to prevent the Senate from lifting sanctions against Iran, until Iran met certain conditions (recognizing Israel's right to exist and freeing four captive Americans).
In a startling legislative rebuke, the Senate refused to allow Cruz the roll-call vote on his amendment. He needed 10 other senators to raise their hands to allow the vote, and he was only able to muster three.
Later, an amendment from one of Cruz's few friends in the Senate, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to cut off federal funds to Planned Parenthood, met a similar fate.
The only other amendment McConnell allowed to be considered on the highway bill was an amendment to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That failed 49 to 43, mostly along party lines, with eight senators not voting.
The Senate is expected to vote on final passage of the highway bill and the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank this week.

Gay Rights battleground in Eastern Europe Between Moscow and the West

The first time this tiny Baltic nation held a gay pride march, the minuscule crowd was pelted with rotten eggs and bottles under the copper-green spires of Riga’s medieval old city. The participants — all 40 of them — fled to safety in a church.
East German soldier carries body of shot man who tried to cross the fence towards the west and freedom

 That was a decade ago. This year’s parade drew thousands from across Europe, and the egg-throwers stayed at home.
Eastern Europe, long a stronghold of virulent homophobia, is reexamining attitudes toward gays and lesbians, and the debate has become a new battleground in the conflict between Russia and the West. The Kremlin has seized the opening, warning its former satellite states that if they align with decadent Europe, moral collapse will soon follow.
Russia’s arguments have taken hold in Ukraine, Georgia and other countries outside the European Union’s high walls, where pro-Western leaders have resisted European demands for tolerance of gays and lesbians. A gay pride march in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, last month ended in fistfights and controversy. Gay rights organizers in Georgia called off public events after a 2013 march in Tbilisi was beset by Orthodox priests wielding stools and stinging nettles.
But in Latvia, which long ago made a firm choice to steer away from its old Kremlin overlords, tolerance of gays and lesbians has increased markedly in the 11 years since it joined the European Union. When the foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, came out as gay last fall, he predicted “mega-hysteria” — but the reaction was barely a ripple.
How gay rights have spread around the world over the last 224 years                                       (this link will take you to Washington  Post)

“The E.U. has helped. Latvians want to fit in,” said Linda Freimane, a longtime Latvian gay rights activist who helped organize this year’s parade, which drew people spanning the width of the 28-nation European Union. “We want to be the good guys in school.”
The tug-of-war over gay rights has taken on special significance after a recent string of U.S. court decisions upholding same-sex marriage. Caitlyn Jenner’s very public transition from her old life as Bruce, meanwhile, has thrown a spotlight on transgender issues and acceptance.
In Latvia in 2005, hundreds of furious anti-gay counterprotesters poured into Riga’s cobblestone streets on a July afternoon so drizzly that when they tried to burn a rainbow flag, they had trouble getting it to ignite. The jeering crowds far outnumbered the gay rights marchers, who were hemmed in by a thick cordon of police officers.
Latvia had joined the European Union a year earlier, and membership in the club had just started to remake the nation’s socially conservative attitudes. Citizens suddenly had the right to travel and work anywhere in Europe they pleased, and they flocked westward in droves, to countries tolerant of gays and lesbians. A new generation has come of age with little or no memory of the Soviet era, when homosexuality was outlawed.
After the calm following the foreign minister’s coming out on Twitter, “people realized there wasn’t this groundswell of homophobia in society,” said Pauls Raudseps, a columnist for Latvia’s Ir newsweekly.
At this year’s parade, families carried a rainbow of balloons underneath the watchful carved faces on the buildings in Riga’s Art Nouveau quarter. Mothers pushing strollers walked alongside men carrying banners promoting tolerance. The week before, the U.S. Embassy hoisted the rainbow flag alongside the Stars and Stripes, and top diplomats marched among the crowds wearing visors designed especially for the occasion.
But challenges remain. Just days before last month’s parade, Latvia’s Parliament approved a law requiring “virtuous” education in the classroom that promotes traditional marriage and family structures. The measure was sponsored by Latvia’s largest ethnic Russian party, but it was approved with support from conservative anti-Russian nationalists.
“Why do we need to be like everyone else? We don’t need European culture. We don’t need global culture,” said Viktorija Petravska, 22, a gardener who drove three hours to join the several dozen counter protesters at the Riga parade.

In Ukraine and Georgia, the divisions have been far starker. Wedged between Russia and the West, neither nation has taken decisive steps to be more welcoming toward their gay citizens. Even many of the pro-European protesters who overthrew Ukraine’s Russian-friendly president consider gay rights to be radioactive. Before Ukraine signed a landmark E.U. pact, leaders won a reprieve from E.U. anti-discrimination demands, to the disappointment of the country’s gay rights advocates. 
Russia has seized the opening, pushing hard to make itself the leader of the traditional values camp and warning both at home and abroad that Western values eat at family structures and society’s basic fabric.
“In place of Victory Parades in Kiev there will be gay parades,” wrote Alexei Pushkov, chairman the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, as the conflict in Ukraine heated up last year.
The Russian anti-gay rhetoric has promoted the idea that gay marriage is a weapon aimed straight at the Kremlin.
“This issue is very tightly connected with anti-Western, anti-American ideas,” said Yury Gavrikov, a leading gay rights activist in St. Petersburg.Clashes in Kiev
A portion of the wall today
In Ukraine, a gay rights march that took place on the outskirts of Kiev last month was disrupted by far-right opponents who threw smoke bombs and scuffled with participants and the police officers protecting them. Most of the violence came from members of the Right Sector group, a ructious Ukrainian nationalist organization born of the pro-European protests that is heavily armed and has taken part in the fighting against the Russia-backed rebels in Ukraine’s east. Right Sector is also suspected in a recent series of attacks on Kiev’s gay clubs. 
Even mainstream pro-European politicians such as Kiev’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko, a leader of the 2013 protest movement, encouraged activists to stay home. Ukrainian attitudes are so overwhelmingly skeptical toward gay rights that advocates considered President Petro Poroshenko’s decision not to oppose their event a major win.
“For years, there was a situation where this topic wasn’t really talked about in our society,” said Denis Panin, a member of the board of Fulcrum, a Ukrainian gay rights organization. “But if you ask people’s individual attitudes, they would say they didn’t approve of gay people.”
And in Georgia, opportunities for gay rights advocates seem even more dismal. The Georgian Orthodox Church — which has powerful historic ties to its Russian Orthodox counterparts — has come out swinging against any effort to promote tolerance of gays and lesbians. It succeeded in briefly tying up legislation required for E.U. visa liberalization, a popular pro-European measure, because Europe required that Georgia outlaw anti-gay discrimination. The black-clad priests who took a leading role in the violent anti-gay riot in 2013 wielded weapons against a handful of pro-tolerance protesters. 
Many Latvians credit Europe for the shifting attitudes in their nation. Some hope the wave might roll into Ukraine and Georgia if those countries succeed in forging closer bonds with the West.
“It’s an incredible feeling. You can’t even express it in words,” said Kaspars Zalitis, a gay rights activist who participated in Latvia’s 2005 march and was a main organizer this year. “If nobody believed we are becoming an open, democratic society, this is proof of it. We are becoming a normal European country. It’s part of being in the E.U.” Michael Birnbaum is The Post’s Moscow bureau chief. He previously served as the Berlin correspondent and an education reporter.

Michael Birnbaum is The Post’s Moscow bureau chief. He previously served as the Berlin correspondent and an education reporter.                     



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