June 30, 2016

Fresh CNN Polls of Polls Has Clinton Up by at least 6 Points


Was Clinton Sleeping at 3 am while the US Ambassador was killed in Benghazi, as according to Trump?
Trump lies, Clinton was in the phone with the White Houser and Dept of State (source CSS and State Dept.). 
It’s a good thing when someone repeats accusations b trumps to take a grain of salt and then hit google.



                                                                         




Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by six points, 44% to 38%, in a Fox News poll of registered voters released Wednesday, marking an uptick from similar polls released in May and June.

The Fox News results follow a rough patch for the Trump campaign: In May, the presumptive Republican nominee enjoyed a three-point lead in the same survey. But by early June, those numbers had flipped, with Clinton jumping out to a 42% to 39% advantage.

CNN's Poll of Polls -- an average of results for the five most recent publicly released national polls that meet CNN's standards for publication -- has Clinton leading Trump 46% to 40%.
Her lead among women in this latest round -- 51% to 32% -- outpaces Trump's with men, where his edge has dwindled to 10 points, 46% to 36%.
The state of the race remains essentially unchanged when Libertarian Gary Johnson is thrown into the mix.

Johnson wins 10% of the vote in a three-way competition, taking about equally from Trump and Clinton, whose lead scales down to 41% to 36%.
Despite having seen off his last primary rival nearly eight weeks ago, Trump also lags behind Clinton on the party unity front.

His lead among Republicans is down to 74% from 82% in May. And only 52% of registered GOP voters who had previously supported one of his opponents picked the billionaire businessman over Clinton.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders voters appear more willing to shed their primary loyalties and back the party’s likely nominee.

Two-thirds of the Sanders backers surveyed said they would vote for Clinton over Trump. Overall, 83% of Democrats plan to support Clinton in November.
CNN


Special: Attacks on LGBT People Rarely Prosecuted as Hate Crimes


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Dionte Greene, a 22-year-old black gay male, was looking for a hook-up. He reached out to an 18-year-old stranger on Facebook.

“I’m not interested in smoking weed with you, Travone,” Greene wrote to the teenager, Travone Shaw, in their first exchange. “I just find you attractive and I want to have a sexual encounter with you.”

“I ain’t gay,” Shaw replied, according to court documents. “Bro, stop in boxing me.”

But hours later, Shaw contacted Greene twice and invited him to get high on marijuana. “You going to come over tonight when you get off of work?” Shaw asked.

Just after midnight on Oct. 31, 2014, Greene drove to meet the younger man. Three and a half hours later, police discovered Greene’s body in his idling gold Dodge Stratus, with a single bullet in the right side of his head.

Shaw was convicted last month of involuntary manslaughter and stealing in connection to Greene’s death. He faces up to 29 years in prison. But in the view of this city’s LGBT community, law enforcement should have prosecuted the killing as a hate crime.

Greene’s family and friends say Shaw and an accomplice lured, robbed and killed Greene because he was gay. Shaw posted anti-homosexual slurs on his Facebook profile nine times in the eight months before the killing.

Law enforcement officials said they did investigate the killing as a hate crime. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Kansas City said, “The investigation did not turn out sufficient evidence to support (hate crimes) charges.” The FBI declined to comment on its investigation.

Local officials said they too would struggle to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that anti-gay bias was the motive at the moment of Greene’s murder. They also said a hate crimes murder conviction does not bring additional jail time in Missouri.

State prosecutors charged Shaw with murder, but no hate crime.

"After sitting at the trial, I don’t think those two people were just there to steal his phone,” said Melissa Brown, a local LBGT advocate. She cited Shaw’s use of the prospect of sex to lure Greene to the meeting and his anti-gay slurs on Facebook.

Shaw’s lawyer, Paige Bremer, did not respond to a request to comment.

The handling of Greene’s death is one of three killings of LGBT people in Kansas City since 2010 that, advocates say, should have been pursued much more vigorously as hate crimes. They say there are unresolved questions about whether the three – all of whom were black or Latino – were attacked because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or race.

The massacre of 49 people in an Orlando, Florida, gay bar by a self-professed jihadist has put a spotlight on hate crimes against LGBT people. As the murder cases in Kansas City show, America’s system for punishing bias crimes is filled with limits and inconsistencies.

Seven years after landmark federal legislation recognized attacks on LGBT people as hate crimes, no comprehensive nationwide system exists for tracking bias crimes. And while 30 states have enacted similar laws, criminologists say many of them are poorly written and make convictions difficult.

No comprehensive, nationwide programs exist to train police and prosecutors in how to properly investigate hate crimes. And members of the LGBT community said police frequently react with indifference or hostility when hate crimes are reported.

Prosecutors say proving a hate crime can be difficult and can weaken their overall argument to a jury. But some criminologists say prosecutors have a duty to pursue hate crimes convictions nevertheless, because bias attacks terrorize entire communities, not just individuals.

“It is important to charge, even if you’re not going to get a few more years, because you’re telling the community you will not tolerate this,” said Jack McDevitt, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, who studies hate crimes. “But many prosecutors will not take that risk.”

LGBT activists say violence against the community is increasing, particularly against transgender women of color. Twenty-four LGBT or HIV-positive people were murdered in the United States in 2015 because of their sexual orientation, according to an annual survey conducted by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, an LGBT advocacy group.

Legal scholars said many state statutes were written quickly when politicians were under pressure to act on the issue. The result is a hodgepodge of standards of proof and sentences that confuse juries and judges.

In Delaware, the minimum sentence for defendants convicted of committing a bias-motivated murder is doubled, but many other states provide no such enhancement. In Iowa, meanwhile, attacking someone because of their “political affiliation” is a hate crime. In Louisiana, attacking a police officer is a hate crime. Last year, New Jersey’s State Supreme Court threw out part of its hate crimes law because the standard of proof was too vague.

"The criminal codes vary the same way vegetable soup does from region to region,” said Peter Joy, head of Washington University’s Criminal Justice Clinic in St. Louis, Missouri. “Everyone throws in their own ingredients and comes up with their own recipe.”

Created by the 1968 Civil Rights Act and expanded by Congress in 1994 and 2009, hate crimes laws are designed to add additional punishments to crimes motivated by bias against the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation.

During its first five years, the administration of President Barack Obama charged 50 percent more people with federal hate crimes than were charged during the administration of President George W. Bush, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice said. But the number of cases is still small.

Over the last seven years, the Obama Justice Department has brought 33 federal hate crimes cases under the 2009 Shepard/Byrd Act, the spokesman said. Eleven involved discrimination based on sexual orientation. Nine of the 13 defendants in those cases were convicted, with one case pending.

On a state and local level, there is no system that reliably tracks the number of hate crimes reported or prosecuted. An FBI hate crimes database, derived from voluntary reporting by police departments, lists 1,178 reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2014.

But a Justice Department survey of crime victims that same year found 50 times that number - 59,000 people - who said they were victims of hate crimes based on sexual orientation. About half of all the victims surveyed said they did not report the attack to police.

“We don’t believe in police,” said Arianna Lint, a Peruvian transgender woman who runs TransLatina, a support group for transgender women of color in South Florida. “In small towns, they call us ‘freaks’ and ‘it.’ ”

DISTRUST IN SOUTH FLORIDA

In interviews in the Miami area after the Orlando killings, 10 transgender women told Reuters that they and others in their community are reluctant to report bias crimes because of a mistrust of the police.

Among them is Payton Hale, 26. Hale, who is transgender, said she was leaving a bar in Hollywood, Florida, with a friend in the early hours one night in July 2015 when a group of people started to yell slurs at her - “faggot,” “queer” and “tranny.”

As Hale got into her car, a woman from the group ran across the street and began hitting and scratching her, Hale said. A male joined the assault, punching Hale several times in the face.

Hale blacked out. When she regained consciousness, she was covered in blood. The attack left Hale with a fractured nose and three damaged front teeth, hospital and dental records reviewed by Reuters show.

Hale and her friend said the two police officers who responded to the crime failed to pursue the attackers. The perpetrators, they said, were still across the street when police arrived minutes after the attack. Hale’s friend, Pettus “Karma” Deerman, videotaped the interaction with the police.

“This is the cops standing here not doing any fucking thing,” Deerman says in the footage. “They wanted to go ahead and sit here and question us because we’re transgendered. They weren’t worried about the people who victimized my friend right here.”

The police report describing the incident paints a different picture. The officers wrote that Hale was “extremely uncooperative." They also said she did not give a clear description of the assailants.

In the footage, Deerman describes the female attacker as wearing “a white and black dress” and having “dark hair” and mentions a male attacker. Hale also tells the officers she was attacked because she was transgender.

In the section of the report that requires police to say whether the officer suspects the crime was “hate / bias motivated,” the officer wrote “unknown.”

A spokesperson for the Hollywood Police Department cited the police report, which says the officers checked the area for “a male suspect in a white dress,” a different description than the one Deerman gives them in the video. The spokesperson said the officers needed more evidence to declare the case a suspected hate crime.

McDevitt, the Northeastern University professor who studies hate crimes, said he has found bias among police officers toward transgender people.

“The transgender community is probably where the gay community was in the 1980s,” he said, referring to police bias. “Police are not in many cases receptive. They blame the victim for being transgender and somehow deserving of being attacked.”

Hale said her encounter made her lose faith in the police.

“I’m afraid that I could be murdered and the police would literally just kind of brush me away from them,” Hale said in an interview, “like it’d be no big deal.”

A HATE CRIME OR A ROBBERY?

In Kansas City, the handling of the recent string of murders has unsettled many LGBT people interviewed by Reuters.

On the night he died, Greene told a friend he was going to meet someone to have sex. Before leaving his house, Greene traded texts with Shaw, or his accomplice, that police later said “were in reference to performing sexual acts.”

As Greene drove to meet the men who would kill him, he called his best friend and kept him on the phone. Greene thought the 18-year-old was cute, but was nervous about encountering two strangers.

Greene parked on a deserted street and wondered if it was the right address when two men approached the car. Greene kept his cell phone on, so his friend could listen. It was 12:45 a.m.

Greene’s voice grew tense, the friend later testified, as Greene, Shaw and Shaw’s friend drove off looking for marijuana. At 1:05 a.m., Greene’s phone cut off.

Law enforcement officials said Kansas City police deemed the killing “a robbery gone bad” because Greene’s cell phone was missing.

During Shaw’s trial, prosecutors argued that Shaw and his friend used Greene’s homosexuality to lure him to the meeting where he was killed. Shaw’s lawyer argued that he was an unwitting accomplice who had no idea his friend planned to rob Greene at gunpoint.

Shaw was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and robbery in May but acquitted of murder. He faces anywhere from probation to 29 years in prison when he is sentenced next month. His friend, who has pleaded not guilty, will be tried for murder in October.

Michael Mansur, a spokesman for the state prosecutor’s office in Kansas City, said he could not comment on a pending case. But he said the office took hate crime allegations very seriously.

“We do look to see whether evidence supports filing a hate crime,” he said in an email.

Another case that members of the LGBT community in Kansas City say should have been prosecuted as a hate crime is the Christmas Eve 2011 murder of Darnell “Dee Dee” Pearson, a transgender woman. Pearson’s killer, Kenyan Jones, shot Pearson after paying her for sex and then learning Pearson was transgender, according to court records.

Jones obtained a gun, hunted down Pearson and shot her at point blank range, the court records said. Convicted of murder but not a hate crime, Jones was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Law enforcement officials said the evidence in the case did not merit a hate crimes prosecution. Friends of Pearson, however, believe she was targeted because she was transgender.

Police are also investigating whether a third killing in Kansas City is a hate crime, as members of the LGBT community contend. Last August, a transgender woman named Tamara Dominguez was run over twice by a truck in a parking lot.

Kansas City law enforcement officials say the safety of the LGBT community is a top priority. After the killings in Orlando, the rainbow flag flew at half staff above the Kansas City state courthouse.

The city, whose population is 69 percent white and 30 percent black, has its first African American police chief. The force includes a diversity unit and a liaison to the LBGT community.

On crime reports, police are required to check a box to indicate whether they believe bias may have played a role. The Kansas City Anti-Violence Program, a local LGBT advocacy group, conducts sensitivity training for local police.

In an interview, Kansas City Police Department spokeswoman Kari Thompson said police comprehensively investigate all attacks against the LGBT community.

"We approach it according to the law. That’s how you are able to convict: by the law and based on facts, not assumptions,” she said. “We have to make sure we are doing everything the right way."

Star Palmer, a friend of Greene and local LGBT advocate, sees it differently.

“Why is it so hard to prove a hate crime is a hate crime?” she asked.

                 Zachary Crockett; data via NCAVP hate crime reports (1996-2014)
Ned Parker and Mimi Dwyer/REUTERS

(Reporting By Ned Parker and Mimi Dwyer; edited by David Rohde.)
 (This June 29 Special Report corrects size of increase in number of people charged with federal hate crimes in paragraph 24, adds that 33 prosecutions in past seven years were under the Shepard/Byrd Act in paragraph 25)

NYC Explores New Housing for LGBT Seniors

A rendering of the Ingersoll Senior Residences, to be built in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood.ENLARGE
A rendering of the Ingersoll Senior Residences, to be built in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood. PHOTO: MARVEL ARCHITECTS 
A new initiative to build affordable housing that is friendly for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender seniors is beginning to take shape. 
Senior-housing basics, like hot meals, fitness and language classes will be available at the Ingersoll Senior Residences in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, and the Crotona Senior Residences in Crotona Park North in the Bronx. 
But also to be offered is LGBT-specific programming, like Pride Month celebrations and book or art clubs that highlight LGBT writers and artists. 

–– ADVERTISEMENT ––

The national LGBT advocacy organization called Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, or SAGE, will help staff and operate the centers. SAGE plans to announce details about the residential programs on Thursday.
The two New York projects will join similar LGBT-focused complexes in cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Philadelphia, said Michael Adams, chief executive officer of SAGE. 
Many LGBT seniors “do not have family and are single and rely on the kind of infrastructure that you can provide in a building like this,” said Donald Capoccia, managing principal at BFC Partners, the developer on the Ingersoll project.

Tom Hameline, president and chief executive of HELP USA, which is developing the Crotona Senior Residences, said the company had been a partner on several other developments for families and high-needs individuals, including people living with HIV/AIDS.  Both of the New York apartment buildings will be open to LGBT and non-LGBT seniors, Mr. Adams said, and the SAGE services will be offered free to other seniors who live nearby. 
The residences will help serve a community that has historically faced discrimination, he said. “What we repeatedly hear from SAGE constituents is they are afraid to apply for any kind of senior services.”
The buildings will house lower-income eligible seniors age 62 and older. The 145-unit Ingersoll complex, whose construction is expected to cost about $47 million, will be built on an unused grassy area near the north side of Fort Greene Park. 
 The 82-unit Crotona residence is anticipated to cost about $38.4 million. 
Both buildings are expected to be completed within three years.
The projects are funded through different combinations of state and city dollars from agencies like the New York City Housing Authority and New York State Homes and Community Renewal, among others.

HANNAH FURFARO
Wall Street Journal

Christie Hid Email Account Containing BridgeGate Related Conversations in Cover Up




 



For two-and-a-half years, New Jersey governor Chris Christie has maintained that he provided federal investigators looking into the 2013 George Washington lane closures with complete access to both his personal and government email accounts. According to WNYC, however, new court filings show that this was not actually the case, supporting earlier allegations from two defendants indicted in the scheme that Christie’s lawyers destroyed and withheld evidence.

 
Lawyers Say Chris Christie Destroyed Cell Phone, Text Messages and Emails to Cover Up Involvement in Bridgegate 
 
Christie:
“I turned over my email, both professional and personal, to all of the investigators who asked for them. And said, ‘Look at whatever you want to look at,’” Christie said at a campaign event in New Hampshire last year, insisting that he, unlike Hillary Clinton, did not conduct government business on his personal account. (Christie was running for president at the time.) “I had a private email account, but I didn’t do my business on a private email account. She did everything on that account and then when she knows people are concerned about it, she gets the server cleaned.”

As it turns out, Christie shared a personal email account with his wife, Mary Pat, that was never searched. (The sender was “Chris and Mary Pat Christie.”) He sent at least one Bridgegate-related email from that account to Port Authority chairman David Samson. WNYC reports:

That email forwarded an article with the comment “per our earlier conversation” that discussed a phone conversation Christie had with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo concerning the lane closure investigation.

Christie’s own taxpayer-funded attorneys from the Gibson Dunn law firm, which has so far billed more than $10 million to the state, were in charge of responding to federal and legislative subpoenas seeking such emails. The lawyers simply ignored this account, even though Christie regularly used personal email accounts, including the one shared with his wife, for government business, sources say. He even used this account to email journalists concerning state business.
In court filings, Christie’s lawyers said that they had been aware of the account, “which we understood was not used by the Governor for official business and contained nothing responsive,” and, as such, had not searched it for responsive emails. His lawyers say they have since searched the account but found no emails “related to and contemporaneous with the lane realignment.”

Perhaps even more unbelievable is the issue of Christie’s cell phone, which he was carrying at the time of the lane closings, and which has now simply gone missing. Attorneys for the two indicted officials want to review the phone’s contents, as they believe texts the governor exchanged with ex-aide Regina Egea in December 2013 will be useful to their case.

Last month, Christie said his cell phone was “in the hands of the government...I don’t know exactly who has it. But I turned it over in response to a request from the government, as I said I would.” The US Attorney’s Office said that it doesn’t have the governor’s cell phone and never did, NJ Advance Media reports.

However, Christie’s lawyers told the court this week that they had reviewed the cell phone and its contents to determine whether it contained any records responsive to the government’s subpoena. After that was done, they said, the phone was returned to the governor. His lawyers have thus far refused to comply with the other defense attorneys’ requests to share those records.


If Omar Mateen Was a Closeted Gay Muslim The Narrative Changes, Does it Matter?



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If Omar Mateen was indeed a closeted gay man, the massacre’s initial symbolism as an Islamist homophobic attack has been uncomfortably overtaken by a revenge narrative. Tel Aviv’s LGBT community has been there before.

Seven years ago, a masked gunman walked into the Barnoar, a center for LGBT youth in Tel Aviv, and killed three people. For four years, the incident was one of Israel’s biggest unsolved mysteries and an open wound for the LGBT community. It became a rallying cry for gay rights and acceptance. But in 2013, police identified a suspect and a sordid story unfolded: The 50-year-old head of Barnoar had allegedly had a relationship with a 15-year-old whose relatives were suspected in the shooting. Police called it an act of revenge. 
Suddenly, the symbol of an arbitrary anti-gay attack was called into question. The Israeli LGBT community was rattled. It was no longer clear what, if anything, the Barnoar murders stood for. 

The massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando may be following a similarly confusing, albeit condensed, trajectory. Within hours, politicians were angling to control the narrative: Republicans yelled “Islamic extremism”; a disturbingly self-congratulatory Donald Trump doubled down on his anti-Muslim immigration ban. Democrats channeled public anger over lenient gun laws into dramatic action on the House floor – literally. The LGBT community and allies gathered at vigils across the country and reminded Americans that we are still the most targeted group for hate crimes. 

And now, several weeks later, more details are emerging that may scramble that picture. It appears that Omar Mateen, the 29-year-old Afghani-American killer, may have been a closeted gay man who frequented Pulse, had a presence on gay hookup sites, and, as alleged in a recent interview with Univision, possibly perpetrated the attack as an act of revenge on an HIV-positive partner. (FBI investigators said recently that they have not been able to substantiate those claims.) 

Does this allegation matter in how we think about Orlando? Should it? If the claims of Mateen’s personal connection are verified, does it negate his pledge to ISIS made in a phone call to police during the standoff? And how are we to reconcile the political motive he gave for the attack in that call – the United States’ ongoing military campaign in Afghanistan – with a potential personal motive that may involve internalized homophobia? With so few concrete details, is it even responsible for us to form an opinion at this point?

As a journalist who jumped into the fray shortly after the shooting and made broad statements about Islamic extremism, gun control and homophobia in the United States, it’s uncomfortable to see new evidence challenge what we all thought were the broader political questions at stake. The new information about Mateen does not make those questions obsolete, but it does push them to the sideline a bit, whether we like it or not.

When a revenge narrative creeps in, it allows people to dismiss larger social and political contexts. As Tel Aviv’s Barnoar example demonstrated, a symbol deflates when the facts become murkier and no longer adhere to a clear-cut narrative of hate. One Israeli activist called the Barnoar revelations “embarrassing” for the LGBT community; another told me that it required communal introspection. “The subject puts the spotlight on the dark side of the [LGBT] community,” she said. Both agreed Barnoar is still a symbol, but a complicated one. 

In the end, the same may be true of Orlando. That massacre is still a reflection of U.S. foreign policy, religiously-sowed hatred and America’s rampant, unregulated gun culture. But a narrative that also involves an individual’s psychosis makes it easier for politicians, in particular, to ignore those hard questions. Mateen’s personal demons, unfortunately, may give Americans permission to avoid facing our own.

Which is why it felt necessary to respond to Orlando right away. In anger and disbelief and confusion, those of us who weighed in tried to make sense of what happened by facing its uncomfortable implications in hopes that it would lead to important conversations about problems that need to be fixed. We grappled with the issues that appeared to be at play. And the result of these conversations is that tragedies often become symbols which bring us together and help us start to heal.  

But the responsibility of journalists – and everyone, really – is to revisit and revise our assessments as new facts come to light. Symbols can be therapeutic and empowering, as Barnoar was initially for the Israeli LGBT community, but we have to be careful about how we apply them. And we have to accept that tragedies can point to many social as well as personal problems and mean multiple things at the same time. Ultimately, they may not be perfect symbols. It will likely be a while before we have clarity on Orlando. 

But that doesn’t mean it can’t inspire real change now: After Barnoar, a number of public figures in Israel came out, and increased communal solidarity and awareness led to pressure on politicians that resulted in some legal gains for LGBT Israelis. In the United States, one promising development in the wake of the Orlando massacre is the momentum within the LGBT community is collectively taking on gun control with the skills and infrastructure we developed while successfully campaigning for same-sex marriage. 

Regardless of what we end up knowing about Mateen – if we ever know the whole story – and however complex the narrative ultimately is, we can still choose to channel the pain and symbolism of Orlando into constructive action. 

Brian Schaefer
Haaretz Contributor
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.727870
 

Gay Men Chased from Their Homes After Signing Memorial Book on Orlando Victims


   
  

                                                                                         
Image result for ivory coast gay men
  

Signing condolences to
the family of victims of the Orlando Massacre above.
      U.S. EMBASSY IN COTE D'IVOIRE

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- Gay men in Ivory Coast say they've been assaulted and forced to flee their homes after the U.S. Embassy published a photo of them signing a condolence book for victims of this month’s/// killings at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
The photo, published on the embassy's website, shows the faces of six men with the caption "LGBTI community signing the condolence book." It was taken at the embassy on June 16, the same day Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan and other officials signed the book in honor of the 49 people killed in the Orlando attack.

The photo has been widely shared on social media and two of the men said that in the days after it was published an angry mob punched and kicked them while shouting anti-gay slurs. The men spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for their safety.

Four of the six men, including the two attacked, said they have fled their homes under pressure from family and friends who had been unaware of their sexual orientation.
The men said they were not contacted before the photo was published. However the U.S. embassy did contact the heads of three Ivory Coast organizations that advocate for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, according to press officer Elizabeth Ategou. Those activists gave their approval, but they were not in the photo or at the embassy event.

Ategou said the embassy "deeply regrets that any individuals were attacked based on any kind of orientation they might have." She said the embassy was in contact with the men and encouraged them to report the attacks to police.

The head of one gay rights group who approved the photo, and who also insisted on anonymity for his safety, said he would not have approved it had he known those pictured would be identified so explicitly as members of the "LGBTI community."
The photo remained on the embassy's website Wednesday. Ategou said the embassy had received no requests to take it down.

Same-sex relations are not a crime in Ivory Coast, but there are no legal protections for sexual minorities. In January 2014, a mob ransacked the Abidjan headquarters of the country’s most prominent gay rights organization.

The U.S. Embassy in Abidjan has strengthened ties with the country’s LGBT activists following an Obama administration memorandum in 2011 that empowered "all agencies engaged abroad" to promote and protect the human rights of sexual minorities.


cbsnews.com

June 29, 2016

Putin is Loving BREXIT But Wait….


                          

                                                                                               




       


There is no doubt that Moscow was hoping for Britain to leave the European Union. Its propaganda channels such as RT eagerly championed the "Leave" case, and following the narrow but clear vote in the UK to leave the EU, Russian newspapers and commentators were jubilant.
It’s not so much Brexit itself that matters to the Kremlin, but rather the hope that this will generate yet more division and distraction in the West. But Vladimir Putin ought not to regard this as an undiluted win, because there are some buried risks for Russia, too.

A Europe focused on its own internal problems is one not focused on Russia’s transgressions

The Kremlin’s calculation is that the Brexit referendum will not only lead to protracted negotiations over Britain’s withdrawal but will also encourage other fragmentary pressures.
Already, populists across Europe are calling for their own referendums, from France's Front National and the Dutch Party for Freedom on the right to the Five Stars movement in Italy on the left.
There is also a new enthusiasm for secession in Scotland by the Scottish Nationalists, who narrowly lost an independence referendum in 2014, and in Italy from the Lega Nord, which campaigns for the independence or autonomy of northern Italy from Rome.
Although there is no evidence of any meaningful Russian impact on Brexit, its propaganda machine and covert "active measures" operations are much more active and effective in continental Europe — for example, the Front National received an $11.7 million loan from a Russian bank in 2014.
Russian assets will continue to be thrown behind these various campaigns. But regardless of whether these parties and movements succeed, as long as Europe is occupied with its own internal problems, then as far as Putin is concerned, the Kremlin wins.
It’s not that Putin expects or necessarily even wants the EU to fall apart. After all, he does not harbor any imperialistic designs on Europe. What he wants is a West too disunited and inward-looking to be able meaningfully to resist Russian adventurism in its self-claimed sphere of influence.
Already, figures such as Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin have suggested that Britain’s departure will lead to a relaxation of the sanctions regime imposed on Russia since it annexed Crimea and invaded southeast Ukraine.
Putin is also hoping that turmoil in Europe will infect NATO, undermining its coherence. Governments needing to shore up their domestic support or facing separatist political campaigns at home may be less committed to maintaining or increasing their defense expenditure, for example, or to deploying troops to support their allies.
Finally, a post-Brexit Britain is likely to suffer prolonged economic troubles. Desperate to attract business, London may be tempted to ignore calls for greater transparency and accountability in its financial sector.
As a result, it would become a welcome hub for Russian dirty money and dubious business deals, allowing Moscow some opportunities to bypass the effects of Western sanctions.

But there are lots of ways this could backfire on Russia

For all this, there are some grounds to suggest the outlook will not be quite so purely beneficial for Russia.
The economic impact of Brexit is already mixed. Russia made a $3.7 billion paper profit on its gold reserves in the first 24 hours after the vote, as prices rose in response to global uncertainty.
But much of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves were in sterling, which duly shrank in value by about $1.2 billion in the same period. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak is also worried about the risks of a serious further slump in oil prices, on which the budget depends.
Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the Russian Senate’s foreign affairs committee, has warned that "if the EU gets weighed down in its own problems, and crosses the line into crisis, then it will affect our trade relations."
While Britain accounts for just 2.7 percent of Russia’s exports and 1.9 percent of its imports, the EU as a whole is the country’s main trading partner, accounting for about half of each. If Brexit has negative economic implications for the rest of the EU, then this will inevitably have knock-on effects on Russia, already stuck in a recession likely to last years.
The weaker the Russian economy, the harder it is to maintain the loyalty of the elites, to pacify the masses, and to keep spending on the modernized military on which Putin is relying for so much of his international clout these days.
Furthermore, if Brexit seriously weakens the EU, it might actually make Russia’s geopolitical position more challenging, not less.
In Moscow, it has become fashionable to sneer at the EU’s sluggish and hesitant foreign policy initiatives, constrained as they are by both bureaucratic inertia and a culture of consensus and conciliation. As one Russian foreign ministry staffer put it to me, "Europe just wants to make things nice for everybody."
However, there is also a growing recognition that the EU acts as a moderating influence on some of its more aggressive and ambitious members. A particular concern is Poland, a country with a growing economy, a desire to assert a strong regional role, longstanding antagonism toward Russia, and a strong, nationalist government.
Russia’s business ombudsman Boris Titov called Brexit "not the independence of Britain from Europe, but the independence of Europe from the US." However, while he claimed there would be a "united Eurasia" within a decade, the more immediate likelihood is that Washington will double down, not withdraw from Russia’s immediate strategic neighborhood.
If it feels that Europe is increasingly ineffective, a post-Obama White House may look more assiduously at cultivating direct regional relationships with Ukraine and in Central Asia. This would be a much more direct challenge to Moscow's authority, forcing it to come to terms with its lack of positive support and real soft power in Eurasia.
Overall, then, Putin may still have reasons to regret what he wished for. His ideal is an EU that is distracted, divided, and weakened, but not mortally so. He may, however, find that he has traded a cozy and polite neighbor for an uncertain, volatile, and sometimes aggressive one.
~~
Mark Galeotti is a senior research fellow at the Czech Institute of International Affairs, a visiting fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations, and the director of Mayak Intelligence. He blogs at In Moscow’s Shadows and tweets as @MarkGaleotti.

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