October 23, 2017

Agent of Young Actor "Of Stranger Things" Fired For Sexual Abuse Claims


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APA agent Tyler Grasham has been fired from the Hollywood agency following a sexual assault claim made against him, EW has confirmed.

“Tyler Grasham’s employment with APA has been terminated, effective immediately,” Manfred Westphal, head of communications for APA, said in a statement to EW.

EW has learned that earlier Friday, Stranger Things and It star Finn Wolfhard fired Grasham and parted ways with the agency. The 14-year-old actor’s decision to leave the agency comes a few days after multiple accusations were leveled at the agent by former clients, including Blaise Godbe Lipman, who has appeared in episodes of Weeds and Hawaii-Five-O.

Wolfhard wasn’t alone in his actions; Descendants star Cameron Boyce also fired Grasham, EW has confirmed, though his future with the agency remains to be seen.

Originally, actor-turned-filmmaker Lipman (a.k.a. Blaise Embry) joined in on the #MeToo movement to share his story of assault at the hands of a “prominent talent agent from the firm APA” when he was 17. Then, according to Lipman, after he came forward, he received a “poke” on Facebook from Grasham, which led Lipman to pen a follow-up social media post outing Grasham as the assaulter.
The allegations against Grasham come two weeks after the initial New York Times exposĂ© detailing “decades” of sexual misconduct by producer Harvey Weinstein. Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Kate Beckinsale, Heather Graham, Rose McGowan, Cara Delevingne, and Mira Sorvino are among the women who have come forward accusing Weinstein of assault, harassment, or rape. Last week in a statement through a representative, he denied claims of sexual assault: “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein.”

“The positive thing about the attention the Weinstein scandal has had, is it’s no longer about Harvey,” wrote Lipman. “The conversation has moved on to the size of this epidemic and how to dismantle the system that protects these predators. And it’s given space and courage for victims to speak up, against their abuse. This is bigger than Weinstein.”

The Wrap first reported Wolfhard’s exit from APA, while Deadline broke the Boyce news.

Money for Puerto Rico Comes in Racist LOANS Not Grants in Aide Package

First to blame GOP Puerto Ricans and mainland Americans of Means who blame everything on the poor, they don't Maria event though Trump has tried by saying the disaster is Puerto Rico's fault because of the antiquated electrical grid (As bad as it was it is better or the same than some of the states. The Mainland has a problem of blackouts because it can't take sudden draws of electricity), and lines running above ground like in the Florida Keys can be blown just like in PR. Secondly Trump who is a racist and Congress which is controlled by the GOP and states in the southern midwest with Representatives in Congress which don't know and can't accept Puerto Rico is the United States and Puerto Ricans are Americans (even though they never asked for it but US needed them for draft on WW1). Below I am posting a page from ZNet


It’s tough to shock Puerto Ricans. Not after the presidential paper-towel toss. Not after Donald Trump repeatedly attacked San Juan’s mayor for daring to fight for her people’s lives. Not after he threatened to skip out on the island in its hour of need at the earliest excuse.
Still, the fact that the House-approved relief package contains $5 billion in loans for the island, rather than grants, is a special kind of cruelty. Because on an island already suffering under an unpayable $74 billion debt (and another $49 billion in unfunded pension obligations), Puerto Ricans understand all too well that debt is not relief. On the contrary, it is a potent tool of perpetual impoverishment and control from which relief is urgently needed.
The very fact that the House of Representatives bundled that loan into its sweeping multi-disaster bill (up for a vote in the Senate any day now) is symbolic of a deep fear that has lurked in the background for many Puerto Ricans ever since hurricanes Irma and Maria struck. The fear is that however many islanders are suffering in the midst of their ongoing humanitarian emergency, it’s the phase after the emergency passes that could be even more perilous. That’s when policies marketed as reconstruction could well morph into their own kind of punishment, leaving the island more unequal, indebted, dependent, and polluted than it was before the hurricanes hit.
This is a phenomenon we call “the shock doctrine,” and we have seen it play out many times before. Disaster strikes, public sympathy is awakened, and there are grand pledges to “build back better,” bringing justice to those who have just lost everything. And yet almost immediately the emergency atmosphere becomes the pretext to push through a wish list for big polluters, real estate developers, and financiers at the expense of those who have already lost so much. Think of the public schools and public housing closed and torn down in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Think, too, of the way the 2010 earthquake in Haiti became a pretext to push for sweatshops and luxury resorts, while basic housing was neglected and the minimum wage was suppressed.
If there is some good news, it’s this: Puerto Ricans are wise to shock doctrine tactics. They know all too well that their island’s debt crisis, fueled by Wall Street’s hunger for tax-exempt bonds, was systematically exploited to extract brutal “reforms” from workers and students who played no part in driving up the debt. They know that the debt crisis was used to strip Puerto Ricans of their most basic democratic rights, putting the island’s finances in the hands of an unelected Financial Oversight and Management Board — referred to locally as “La Junta.”
Which is why, as soon as hurricanes Irma and Maria struck, many Puerto Ricans were on the lookout for how these shocks would be exploited for private gain. The destroyed electricity grid would be seized upon to argue that the whole system should be privatized, while the destroyed homes would be the opening to auction off more land for golf courses and vacation homes.
Except here’s the thing: Disaster capitalists may be circling Puerto Rico, but this time they may not get their prey. Why? Because Puerto Ricans — both on the island and the mainland — are fighting back in real time.
Under the banner of a “just recovery” for Puerto Rico, thousands have come together to design a bold and holistic plan for the island to be rebuilt as a beacon for a safe, resilient, and thriving society in the era of accelerating climate chaos, spiraling economic inequality, and rising white nationalism.
From the earliest days of this emergency and despite enormous communication and logistical challenges, Puerto Ricans in the diaspora has worked with partners on the island to sketch out the core principles and policies of the plan. The work is rooted in the belief that the underlying reason behind all of Puerto Rico’s intersecting crises is the fact that the island’s people and land have been treated like a bottomless raw resource for the mainland to mine for over a century, never mind the devastating economic consequences. Interestingly, the global climate crisis — which is now hitting Puerto Rico with disproportionate fury — comes from a strikingly similar logic: For centuries, industrial societies have been extracting and burning fossil fuels as if there would never be any ecological consequence for our actions. We were badly mistaken.
A justice-based recovery would seek to replace these extractive strategies with relationships based on principles of reciprocity and regeneration. In the short term, that means meaningful debt relief, as well as a waiver and a full review of the Jones Act, the shipping law that requires that all goods entering Puerto Rico from the mainland arrive via U.S. ships, dramatically driving up costs and limiting options. It also means that, whenever possible, aid money should go directly to Puerto Rican organizations and communities because it’s not only bankers and shipping companies that extract wealth from poor communities. So, too, can well-meaning aid organizations, which have transformed far too many disaster zones into playgrounds for the non-profit industrial complex. It’s a process that siphons vast sums of money into overhead, hotels, and translators; drives up local prices; and casts affected populations as passive supplicants rather than participants in their own recovery. For a just recovery to be possible, this story cannot be allowed to repeat.
And yet, these are only the preconditions for the real work, which is not reconstructing the island as it was, but reimagining and remaking an economic system that was in direct conflict with both the island’s people and its ecology. Before Irma and Maria knocked out the vast majority of its electricity, Puerto Rico was getting 98 percent of its power from fossil fuels. A just transition would replace that extractive model with a system based on micro-grids of renewable energy generation, a decentralized network that would be more resilient in the face of inevitable weather shocks while reducing the pollution making our climate go haywire in the first place.
This energy transition is already underway in grassroots relief efforts, thanks to innovative projects, like Resilient Power Puerto Rico, which has been distributing solar-powered generators to some of the most remote parts of the island. The organizers are working toward a full-blown, permanent solar revolution designed and controlled by Puerto Ricans themselves. “Rather than perpetuate the island’s dependence on vulnerable distribution hardware and carbon-heavy fuel,” Resilient Power explains on its website, “we prioritize clean production of energy that allows each household to be self-reliant.”
Many of the island’s farmers are demanding a similar revolution in agriculture. Farmers report that Maria destroyed almost all of this season’s crops while contaminating much of the soil, providing yet another opportunity to reimagine a system that was broken before the storm. Today, far too much of Puerto Rico’s fertile land goes uncultivated, leading islanders to import roughly 80 percent of their food. Before the hurricanes, there was a growing movement to break this cycle by reviving local agriculture through farming methods, such as “agroecology,” that draws on both indigenous knowledge and modern technology (and include the added bonus of carbon sequestration).
Farmers’ groups are now calling for the proliferation of community-controlled agricultural cooperatives that would grow food for local consumption. Like the renewable energy micro-grids, it’s a model that is far less vulnerable to supply-chain shocks like hurricanes — and it has the additional benefit of generating local wealth and increasing self-sufficiency.
As with the solar-powered generators, Puerto Rico’s farmers aren’t waiting for the emergency to subside before beginning this transition. On the contrary, groups like Boricuá Organization for Ecological Agriculture have “agroecology brigades” traveling from community to community to deliver seeds and soil so that residents can begin planting crops immediately. Katia AvilĂ©s-Vázquez, one of Boricuá’s farmers, said of a recent brigade: “Today I saw the Puerto Rico that I dream being born. This week I worked with those who are giving it birth.”
That experience is at the heart a just recovery for Puerto Rico. It’s a vision for an island where people are not saved by benevolent outsiders but are given the tools to become true partners and save themselves. An island where the people of Puerto Rico transition rapidly to renewable power — and claim their full political power at the same time.
Puerto Ricans are hard to shock, but the island may be on the verge of shocking the world by seizing a crisis of unimaginable hardship to forge an inspiring new model for economic development.
Elizabeth Yeampierre is the executive director of UPROSE and co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance. Naomi Klein is the author, most recently, of “No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.”

{Ex Nazi HideOut PARAGUAY} Adopts Russian Style Law Against Gays

 Paraguay has banned public schools from using or spreading materials on “gender ideology,” NBC News reports.
Much like Russia’s ban on “gay propaganda” that promotes “non-traditional relationships,” Paraguay’s “gender ideology” ban prevents the schools from teaching an LGBT-inclusive curriculum.

Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty Images
“We naturally respect different options, but we’re not going to instill them in our public schools,” education minister Enrique Riera told reporters at a press conference.
Riera, who says the government has a responsibility to promote “traditional families” consisting of a “father, mother, and children,” has also said he will burn any books that spread “gender ideology.” He believes the idea that “gender is a social construct” is problematic.
Somosgay, a Paraguayan LGBT advocacy organization, has condemned the ban, arguing that the term “gender ideology” was “invented by conservative groups to keep justifying violence and discrimination.”

Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty Images
The new ban defies the Montevideo Consensus, adopted by Paraguay and other Latin American nations in 2013, which requires countries to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Under cover of the malicious expression ‘gender ideology,’ what is really happening here is the suppression of education about equality and discrimination, which is an international obligation of the Paraguayan state,” says Amnesty International’s Erika Guevara Rosas. “Excluding education on equality from the curriculum is tantamount to state promotion of violence and discrimination, with extremely grave consequence. This decision represents an extremely dangerous backward step for human rights in the country.”

Favio Falcon/AFP/Getty Images
While same-sex sexual activity is legal in Paraguay, there is no legal recognition of same-sex couples or anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people.
In 2013 Paraguayan presidential hopeful Horacio Cartes, who is currently in office, was forced to apologize after saying that he would shoot himself if his son were gay. 
Celebrity interviewer. Foodie and Broadway buff in Manhattan. Hates writing bios.
@brandonvoss.     NewNowNext

An "Absurdist" Young Funny Comedian Coming Out Gay Story from Evangelical Circles

  • "ihatejoelkimWe spotted each other across the crowd and then I forgot his Instagram handle. We could've had it all."

I will like to introduce you to a Korean-American Gay Comedian and share with you a page from VICE which does him some justice. This page I'm sharing below was originally written by Elyssa Goodman. I have only seen one more gay site carrying Kim and his story(seen him in a few straight ones) thus I think I would like my readers to know his story if they are not acquainted already. When I first saw Joel's photo and he was wearing a muscle Tshirt and his shirt read:  "Real Men Eat Gay Ass."  

I can see similarities in his upbringing like being raised by Evangelicals which makes the coming out (imagined or real) very painful and confusing. Imagine being indoctrinated to hate the same thing you are and one day when you are being extra honest with yourself you realize that the thing rubbing you the wrong way, (no not a dick) the thing that won't get square away no matter which table of multiplication you use or in what language...is the thing you don't want to be or the thing you are afraid or being and that is being gay. I know in my experience that my coming out was so painful and I hit the road so hard I am surprised I survived it. From going to dangerous places because those were our places and where you could see others like me and let out steam after working all week. One day I was shot at 2-3 am on W. 14 Street in Manhattan. It's a good thing I was with Bob, this wonderful guy I was dating, He took care of me and made sure I got at then St.Vincents Hospital in a cab before I bled to death. "I love you Bob, where ever you are."

Well is kim story time now and I would like you to read it because it shows those going thru this dark tunnel there is a rainbow (yeah! what else?) at the end of this road. It also shows at those that are not gay that if you can understand a little bit how we come out you can then understand some other important, human things about us.

"Today I accidentally pulled my dick out a couple steps too soon before I made it to the urinal, and this other guy who works in the office with me full-on saw my penis and it was a horrible moment for both of us," says comedian Joel Kim Booster. His dark black hair peeks out from the top of a backward baseball cap, and he looks at me from behind dark eyes and chiseled cheekbones, wearing ripped jeans with a short-sleeve red flannel shirt. "Sometimes there's a guy who's so excited to pee," he laughs, "he couldn't even wait until he got to the urinal to do it"—and this time it was him.

It's not unlike Booster to step outside of himself to see the comedy in everything; that's how he turned comedy from a regular cathartic and creative outlet into a full-time career. "The way I process is finding that comedic angle," Booster says. He's spent his career to date processing what he calls his own "identity dysphoria," being a Korean adoptee raised by a white evangelical Christian family who was initially challenged when he first came out as gay. His comedy ruminates on some of the thorniest curveballs of intersectional politics: What does it mean to be both gay and, once upon a time, evangelically Christian? To be Asian with a white family? To be Asian in the gay community? To be a gay comic in an industry that's mostly straight? They're questions he mines to relatable, hilarious effect, and will anchor his Comedy Central Stand-Up Presents special, airing tonight at midnight on the channel.

"If you have a strong enough point of view or comedic voice, you're able to just explain to someone that your parents didn't talk to you for a year and a half. Everything is a comedy and it's just a matter of taking a step back and disassociating for a moment," he says, whether it's a big trauma or a tiny slice of total mortification that happens by accident, as it did at the urinal the day I met with him.

Booster started doing comedy in Chicago six and a half years ago. He moved to New York in 2014 and gave himself four years to make it or find something else to do. It took two. By June 2016, he had made his late-night stand-up debut on Conan, and by the end of that year, he sold Birthright, a television show based on his experiences as a gay Korean adoptee raised by white evangelical Christian parents, to FOX. Though the series is no longer in development there, it has been picked up by a to-be-announced network.

His debut album, Model Minority, also comes out November 3. But there's always the question of what's next. "The goal was never fame," Booster says. "I always wanted to just be a working comedian, but now that I'm a working comedian, I don't really know what the next step is because saying 'I want to be famous' is so gross," he laughs. 
Booster was adopted from South Korea and raised in Plainfield, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Until his senior year of high school, he was homeschooled, an active participant in Christian youth groups who dreamed of one day becoming a youth pastor. Driven by a desire to do theatre, Booster asked his parents to send him to public school. Within a month, he was cast in the school play and came out to classmates but not his family. In truth, Booster had known he was gay from about age four—he jokes that he knew he was gay before he knew he was Asian—but had been trying to repress those urges, praying for God to change him. Ultimately he began to accept himself but believed for a long time that he'd be going to hell.

When Booster was 17, his parents read his journal and found lists of male sexual conquests. It didn't go well for either side. The tension became so high at home that he moved out—he wasn't kicked out, but also wasn't exactly asked to stay. He ended up sleeping on couches at different friends' houses, ultimately ending up at the home of a girl from choir he didn't know very well at the time. But they became best friends and he lived with her and her family for the rest of high school; her family even help put him through college.

Booster didn't talk to his parents again until he was in college, but the time away was healing. He says their relationship is both "great" and "as good as it could be" now. While he's been able to use stories from this time as fodder for his stand up, it wasn't something he realized he could do until much later. 

"I still remember where I was when I heard Tig Notaro: Live, because it was the first time I had heard material that was so personal," he said—material that "transcended tragedy, not maudlin mock storytelling of 'there needs to be a lesson.'"

Booster moved to Chicago after college to be a writer and actor. As an actor, though, Booster tired of the roles he was offered—in one year, for example, he went in for "Chinese Food Delivery Boy" five times. The comedian Beth Stelling suggested he write his own material, and he hasn't stopped since.

Booster says in college he began by writing predominantly about white heterosexual couples because he found it easier to do than to parse out the threads of his own identity. "Once I figured that out and I started to talk about myself more, stand up has really been a therapy in a way of that untangling process," he says. But the processes with an intelligence, brashness, and distinctive comedic insight that are among the reasons for his continued success. As he said in his Conan set, "It was difficult for me growing up in [Plainfield] because I don't meet a lot of cultural expectations of what an Asian person 'should be' in this country: I'm terrible at math, I don't know karate, my dick is huge."

This brand of personal yet absurdist humor has earned him praise not just from publications like Esquire, Brooklyn Magazine, and Paper, but from fellow comedians. "When you see somebody who's telling jokes that you didn't think you were ever going to get to see onstage, when you see a part of yourself reflected that you didn't know you wanted to see reflected, it's magical," says comedian Guy Branum, host of TruTV's Talk Show the Game Show. "Joel is just… really honest and fiercely positive in a way that thrills me. It makes me so happy because that's a guy who's had a life…. He is the fucking heroine of his own story."

Now, Booster says, he feels like he's achieved a certain stability in understanding his identity. He can change course and move in a different direction, one that's "outrageously dumb," as he puts it, but in a good way—more of that signature self-reflective Joel Kim absurdity, but as it pertains to worlds outside of himself, especially the magical and the mythological, a world where horses are 9/11 truthers and Elmira Gulch is the true feminist hero of The Wizard of Oz.

And as he begins to develop the next segment of his career, a greater fame continues to loom, whether he wants it or not. "Everybody a little bit wants to be famous. I'll settle for working and making a living and having health insurance. I guess I want to be—this is said tongue firmly planted in my cheek—but I want to be a fucking legend," he laughs. "I don't want to just have my name said, I want it to be etched in fucking stone."

October 22, 2017

Not Every Question Out to Be For a Vote! BBC Radio Kent Knows That Now

No, not every topic should be put to a vote. Democracy can be good but too much of a good thing can make you sick. If Civil Rights questions were put to a vote like the anti-Gay government of Australia is doing for gay marriage, then there would still be water racial water fountains. We would not have equal rights laws passed by either the government or the Courts. At the time those history high marks were obtained for everyone sometimes against the majority if not all of those that felt superior to others.
It was deemed that if we were to have a nation of laws that are as fair as possible and treat every person as the US constitution asks then political action had to be taken by strong men of conviction in the government.

You would not expect a vote on your city council or in your neighborhood association that deprives you of shopping at any particular supermarket and to have one would be not just unfair it would be illegal in most places. With that in mind let's approach the question asked in tweeter.

Radio Kent Twitter poll:
 It asked whether gay conversion therapy is an acceptable practice 
                                         Yes?-__ No?__

"TV Doctor Dr. Ranj has told breakfast gay conversion therapy is akin to psychological abuse; Should gay conversion therapy be banned?"

The Gay Times said BBC radio had "asked the stupidest question".

The BBC deleted the tweet, which it said breached its own guidelines, and apologized for the offense it caused. 

It added: "We accept that the poll was not the most appropriate way of dealing with this sensitive issue."
One of the many Twitter users who took exception to the tweet was Guardian columnist Owen Jones, who asked: "Why are you doing this?"

Human rights organization Stonewall said it was unbelievable that the BBC thought it an appropriate topic for a poll.
Twitter users claimed the need for a poll was ridiculous.
People challenged whether other basic human rights should also be debated...
In 2015, 14 organizations, including NHS England, signed an agreement to stop gay conversion therapy being offered to patients.

Last month, BBC Radio Kent conducted a poll which asked: "Is it ever acceptable for people to 'Black up' even if it's for charity?" O-yes O-no

Dr. Ranj Singh, from Chatham, who is the resident doctor on ITV's This Morning programme, had called for gay conversion therapy to be made illegal, during an interview on BBC Radio Kent that was prompted by the prime minister's recent condemnation of the controversial practice.
He said: "It should be illegal, it is akin to almost psychological abuse.
"We have to understand that it is not always black and white, there are some people who are definitely heterosexual, there are some people who are definitely homosexual and they know their identities, and there are some people who are in between."


Kelly LikeHis Boss Doesn't Care for Details } Would That Matter in A Couple?

Consider this nightmare scenario: a military coup. You don’t have to strain your imagination—all you have to do is watch Thursday’s White House press briefing, in which the chief of staff, John Kelly, defended President Trump’s phone call to a military widow, Myeshia Johnson. The press briefing could serve as a preview of what a military coup in this country would look like, for it was in the logic of such a coup that Kelly advanced his four arguments.

Argument 1. Those who criticize the President don’t know what they’re talking about because they haven’t served in the military. To demonstrate how little laypeople know, Kelly provided a long, detailed explanation of what happens when a soldier is killed in battle: the body is wrapped in whatever is handy, flown by helicopter, then packed in ice, then flown again, then repacked, then flown, then embalmed and dressed in uniform with medals, and then flown home. Kelly provided a similar amount of detail about how family members are notified of the death, when, and by whom. He even recommended a film that dramatized the process of transporting the body of a real-life marine, Private First Class Chance Phelps. This was a Trumpian moment, from the phrasing—“ a very, very good movie”—to the message. Kelly stressed that Phelps “was killed under my command, right next to me”; in other words, Kelly’s real-life experience was recreated for television, and that, he seemed to think, bolstered his authority.

Fallen soldiers, Kelly said, join “the best one percent this country produces.” Here, the chief of staff again reminded his audience of its ignorance: “Most of you, as Americans, don’t know them. Many of you don’t know anyone who knows any of them. But they are the very best this country produces.”
The one-per-cent figure is puzzling. The number of people currently serving in the military, both on active duty and in the reserves, is not even one percent of all Americans. The number of veterans in the population is far higher: more than seven percent. But, later in the speech, when Kelly described his own distress after hearing the criticism of Trump’s phone call, the general said that he had gone to “walk among the finest men and women on this earth. And you can always find them because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery.” So, by “the best” Americans, Kelly had meant dead Americans—specifically, fallen soldiers.

The number of Americans killed in all the wars this nation has ever fought is indeed equal to roughly one percent of all Americans alive today. This makes for questionable math and disturbing logic. It is in totalitarian societies, which demand complete mobilization, that dying for one’s country becomes the ultimate badge of honor. Growing up in the Soviet Union, I learned the names of ordinary soldiers who threw their bodies onto enemy tanks, becoming literal cannon fodder. All of us children had to aspire to the feat of martyrdom. No Soviet general would have dared utter the kind of statement that’s attributed to General George S. Patton: “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” 

2. The President did the right thing because he did exactly what his general told him to do. Kelly went on a rambling explication of speaking to the President not once but twice about how to make the call to Myeshia Johnson. After Kelly’s son was killed while serving in Afghanistan, the chief of staff recalled, his own best friend had consoled him by saying that his son “was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that one percent.” Trump apparently tried to replicate this message when he told Johnson that her husband, La David, had known what he was signing up for. The negative reaction to this comment, Kelly said, had “stunned” him.

A week earlier, Kelly had taken over the White House press briefing in an attempt to quash another scandal and ended up using the phrase “I was sent in,” twice, in reference to his job in the White House. Now he seemed to be saying that, since he was sent in to control the President and the President had, this time, more or less carried out his instructions, the President should not be criticized.

3. Communication between the President and a military widow is no one’s business but theirs. A day earlier, the Washington Post had quoted a White House official saying, “The president’s conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private.” The statement contained a classic Trumpian reversal: the President was claiming for himself the right to privacy that belonged to his interlocutor. But Myeshia Johnson had apparently voluntarily shared her conversation with her mother-in-law and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson by putting the President on speakerphone.

Now Kelly took it up a notch. Not only was he claiming that the President, communicating with a citizen in his official capacity, had a right to confidentiality—he was claiming that this right was “sacred.” Indeed, Kelly seemed to say, it was the last sacred thing in this country. He rattled off a litany of things that had lost their sanctity: women, life, religion, Gold Star families. The last of which had been profaned “in the convention over the summer,” said Kelly, although the debacle with a Gold Star family had been Trump’s doing. Now, Kelly seemed to say, we had descended into utter profanity because the secrecy of the President’s phone call had been violated.

4. Citizens are ranked based on their proximity to dying for their country. Kelly’s last argument was his most striking. At the end of the briefing, he said that he would take questions only from those members of the press who had a personal connection to a fallen soldier, followed by those who knew a Gold Star family. Considering that, a few minutes earlier, Kelly had said most Americans didn’t even know anyone who knew anyone who belonged to the “one percent,” he was now explicitly denying a majority of Americans—or the journalists representing them—the right to ask questions. This was a new twist on the Trump Administration’s technique of shunning and shaming unfriendly members of the news media, except this time, it was framed explicitly in terms of national loyalty. As if on cue, the first reporter allowed to speak inserted the phrase “Semper Fi”—a literal loyalty oath—into his question.

Before walking off the stage, Kelly told Americans who haven’t served in the military that he pities them. “We don’t look down upon those of you who haven’t served,” he said. “In fact, in a way we are a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our servicemen and women do—not for any other reason than that they love this country.”

When Kelly replaced the ineffectual Reince Priebus as the chief of staff, a sigh of relief emerged: at least the general would impose some discipline on the Administration. Now we have a sense of what military discipline in the White House sounds like.

Masha Gessen, a staff writer, has written several books, including, most recently, “The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia,” which was short-listed for the National Book Award in 2017.
Posted on New Yorker

October 21, 2017

Gay Persecution in Egypt Are Making Many Decide to Leave Their Country

Hamed Sino left and  Firas Abou Fakher right, in Beirut 2016 (Husein Malia AP)

For Mostafa, a gay Egyptian man in his mid-20s, seeing rainbow flags flying at an open-air rock concert in the Arab world's most populous nation was thrilling. But he had a feeling it wouldn't end well.
Dozens of people have been arrested and put on trial in Egypt in the ensuing crackdown. Some were also beaten and subjected to invasive physical exams, spreading panic in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender circles.

Many of Mostafa's friends are deleting their profiles on cellphone dating apps and scrubbing their social media accounts, which police have long used to ensnare people suspected of being gay or transgender. Some who were at last month's concert have gone into hiding. There has even been talking of fleeing the country.
"The problem is that no one can tell the limit of this crackdown and how far it might go," said Mostafa, a community activist who asked to be identified by one name, for fear that he too might be swept up by police. "There was an incredible amount of hate speech by the media and by people on social media. Everyone I know is depressed and fearful."
It's not the first time that the Egyptian authorities have gone after gay and transgender people. In one particularly notorious case, 52 men were put on trial at once after a high-profile raid on Cairo's Queen Boat nightclub in 2001.
The “Arab Spring” uprising that toppled Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak a decade later brought some respite for the city’s embattled LGBT community, whose members were able to socialize more openly at house parties and bars.
But that respite came to an abrupt end after the military takeover that brought President Abdel Fattah Sisi to power in 2013. Hundreds of gay and transgender people have been rounded up, part of a broad crackdown that has seen political dissidents jailed, public protests harshly put down and the country's once vibrant civil society quashed.
Still, human rights activists say the scale of this latest assault on Egypt's LGBT population is unprecedented. At least 65 people were detained around the country in three weeks, according to a local rights group, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. Of those, 20 were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to six years, and four were released. Cases against the rest are pending.
Almost every day brings word of new arrests, according to the group's lawyers, who are scrambling to keep up with the caseload. 
They include Mohamed Alaa, a 21-year-old law student who was photographed at the concert waving a rainbow flag, and Sara Hegazy, 28, the only woman identified so far among the detainees. Both are being questioned by state security prosecutors who usually investigate terrorism cases.
Homosexuality is not specifically outlawed in Egypt, but authorities there has a history of using a 1961 law that prohibits "debauchery" to target the population. The accusations against Alaa and Hegazy are more serious. They include membership in an illegal organization, a charge also used against the government's Islamist opponents.
"The Egyptian authorities tend to view the challenge to authority in any sense in a deeply uncharitable fashion — and seem to have interpreted the raising of the rainbow flag very much in that way," said H.A. Hellyer, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.
The crackdown began after a Sept. 22 concert in Cairo by the Lebanese indie-rock group Mashrou' Leila, whose lead singer, Hamed Sinno, is one of the few openly gay performers in the Middle East.
It was a special show for the band, which was twice barred from performing in Jordan over accusations of not respecting the country's traditions and beliefs. More than 30,000 people attended, and several of them raised rainbow flags.
"Cairo! This was one of the best shows we've ever played!" the band said on its Facebook page. "So much love!"
Excited fans shared photographs and video of the rainbow flags on social media. The backlash was swift and brutal.
Influential TV talk show hosts and newspaper columnists denounced the flag wavers as "sexual deviants" and suggested they were part of a foreign-backed plot to destabilize the country.
Al Azhar University, the center of Islamic learning in this mostly conservative Muslim country, said it would be organizing sermons and lectures to "fortify youth against these deviant thoughts." St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral announced a conference on what it termed a "volcano of homosexuality."
Responding to the public outcry, Egypt's top prosecutor, Nabil Sadek, ordered an investigation into the flag waving.
Days later, Egypt's media regulatory body issued an order prohibiting coverage that promotes or legitimizes homosexuality, which it labeled a "sickness and disgrace." It also barred homosexual people from appearing in the media, unless it is to repent. The pro-government musicians union announced it would no longer issue permits to foreign performers unless they obtain a security clearance. 
"Perhaps certain officials are embarrassed that they didn't catch this beforehand," said Timothy E. Kaldas, a nonresident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington. "It's not exactly hard to know Mashrou' Leila's politics on LGBT issues … and they approved the concert."
"The question is," Kaldas said, "to what extent is this the government responding to pressure, and to what extent is it also an opportunity to distract the population from its other failings?"
Despite signs of economic revival, the cost of living has skyrocketed in Egypt, and salaries and pensions have not kept pace. Unemployment remains punishingly high, especially among the young; corruption is rampant, and terrorist attacks are on the rise.
The first suspect was taken into custody the day after the concert. Police used a fake profile on a dating app to lure the 19-year-old man to a place where officers were waiting, then searched his phone for incriminating material.
"By coincidence, they found photos of the concert," said Dalia Abdel Hameed, who heads the gender program at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. "So they spun the narrative that they had arrested him as one of the flag bearers."
He was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of debauchery and inciting debauchery.
"Most of the people arrested had nothing to do with the concert or the flag," Abdel Hameed said. "These were men who were frequenting gay-friendly cafes or using dating apps or sometimes even arrested for looking or acting too gay in the street." Alaa and Hegazy were tracked down a week later through images from the concert shared on social media.

In a poignant video posted before his arrest, Alaa expressed dismay at the vitriolic response to his gesture, including death threats from his home village. Though he is not gay, according to his lawyers, he said he had borrowed a flag from another audience member to support the band's lead singer. (The video has since been taken down.)
Hegazy, who denies she was one of the flag wavers, told her lawyers that she was sexually harassed and beaten in a holding cell on her first night in custody after police informed fellow inmates about the reason for her arrest.
At least five men were subjected to anal exams to determine whether they had had gay sex — a practice that leading rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say amounts to torture.
The five members of Mashrou' Leila were on a plane bound for the United States when news broke about the arrests. At first, they said, they stayed silent out of fear that a statement from them might further inflame Egyptian authorities. But on Oct. 2, they issued a statement denouncing the "demonization and prosecution of victimless acts between consenting adults."
"It is sickening to think that all this hysteria has been generated over a couple of kids raising a piece of cloth that stands for love," the band said.
Mostafa, the gay activist, is wondering whether the time has come for him to leave Egypt. Many gay and transgender people who have the means have already done so.
But for all the hatred directed against his community, he said, there has also been an outpouring of support on social media.
"That would not have been the case a few years ago," he said. "Despite the tactics becoming more brutal, there is dialogue around the issue."

A special correspondent in Cairo contributed to this report.
Twitter: @alexzavis

How Old Are You, 90 and No Love? Jonathan The Gay Tortoise Found Love at 186

This tortoise proves you can find love even at 186 years old 

The world's oldest tortoise is discovered to be gay
Jonathan, the world's oldest gay tortoise 
The world’s oldest tortoise is in a relationship with a younger reptile, and it turns out that tortoise is a male.
Jonathan, who is 186 years old, has been in a relationship with a fellow tortoise Frederic for the past 26 years.

Jonathan, the tortoise icon

A resident of St Helena, a British Overseas Territory 1,200 miles off the coast of southern Africa, Jonathan is an icon of the island.
Given as a gift to the governor in the 30s, he features on the Saint Helena five pence coin.
Vets decided Jonathan needed a mate in 1991.
And it worked, ‘Frederica’ and Jonathan had enjoyed regular mating sessions every Sunday morning.
After three decades, vets now know why the couple never had young.

Vets find out Jonathan’s mate is a male

Vets repaired a lesion on a shell of ‘Frederica’, and it turned out the tortoise was a male.
So he’s been renamed Frederic, according to The Times.
Catherine Man, the island vet, said the pair were ‘creatures of habit’, eating and sleeping at the same times. They live off a healthy diet of vegetable titbits and vitamins.
Jonathan is blind from cataracts and has lost his ability to smell. However, the tortoise has retained excellent hearing.

St Helena’s fight for same-sex marriage

St Helena, which has a population of 4,255, is currently deciding on whether to legislate for same-sex marriage.
Earlier this year, a gay couple applied to get married as the law is unclear on the issue.
The Legislative Council asked the public for their opinions on marriage equality, with comments needing to be submitted by 27 October.
A Supreme Court hearing on marriage equality in St Helena is expected in January 2018.

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