Showing posts with label Families. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Families. Show all posts

September 14, 2018

Gay Brother of 'Laura" Says Her Believes Were Influenced by Her Nazi Sympathizer Father

"Her personality as “destructive,” and characterized her as generally extremely angry.”

 Curtis Ingraham

Curtis Ingraham encouraged advertisers to boycott Laura’s show following her comments about Parkland school-shooting survivor David Hogg, and apologized to LeBron James after his sister mocked the NBA star’s criticism of Trump by saying James should “shut up and dribble.”
But Curtis has also dished out a few eyebrow-raising claims about the Ingraham kids’ upbringing and Laura’s life. 
He wrote on Twitter that she once mocked a black college classmate by speaking “jive.” He shared that one of Laura’s adopted immigrant children called him a “Dummy-crat.” He pointed out that their grandparents were Polish immigrants, and said his sister was influenced by their late father’s alleged sympathy for Nazis.
“My siblings and I are shocked and saddened to learn of these false and hurtful online postings,” Ingraham said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Although we’ve been estranged from him for many years, we love our brother and miss him very much.”
We grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father who was a Nazi sympathizer.Like father like daughter?! This was the familial soil that gave bloom to my sister's anger.— Curtis Ingraham (@CurtisIngraham1) August 9, 2018
And off Twitter, Curtis doesn’t have much better to say about his sister. 
In a telephone interview with The Daily Beast, the soft-spoken older brother criticized Laura’s show, described her personality as “destructive,” and characterized her as generally “extremely angry.”
“She’s very smart, she’s well spoken, but her emotional heart is just kind of dead,” he said. “And you see it in her face when you see her on TV. She’s ready to destroy. She does not listen to understand—she listens to respond. And her response is always an attack.”
The point of the Twitter account, Curtis said, is not to air out his sibling rivalry or resentments. Rather, he uses it to point out how she has disappointed her older brother. 
“The reason I’m sharing these details is because of what is happening in our country,” Curtis said. “I feel like a bit of a whistle-blower in trying to unveil hypocrisy.”
He added: “Our country has been thrown into this divisive state. So now I feel like I have got to speak out, I’ve got to speak out for my own sanity.”
Curtis said he didn’t always believe his relationship with his sister would be adversarial, even though she held political views that he disagrees with. At one time, Curtis said, he and Laura were “very close,” vacationing together, spending time in Washington, D.C., and sharing personal details about their lives.
But he acknowledged that they have “very limited contact at this point,” which he attributes to political differences rooted particularly in her past statements about the LGBT community. 
As a student at Dartmouth in the 1980s, Ingraham ran the school’s right-wing newspaper, The Dartmouth Review, which had been known for its controversial statements about race. She infamously assigned a reporter to attend and secretly record a gay students’ association meeting in which some closeted students shared their experiences. The paper published excerpts and quotes from the meeting, which ended up outing at least one student, and labeled gay students with offensive slurs
In a 1997 op-ed apologizing for her actions, she attributed her changing opinions about issues including same-sex marriage to her experience witnessing her brother’s loving relationship with his longtime partner, who died of AIDS.
Curtis told The Daily Beast that, at the time, he was moved by the piece.
But he said Laura became more religious in subsequent years, and began to waver in her newly empathetic positions on LGBT rights. In private conversations with her brother about issues like same-sex marriage, she said she would have to “agree to disagree” with him. 
He told The Daily Beast that, to him, Laura’s change of heart on LGBT issues and gay marriage at the time constituted a betrayal. 
“That goes against my ethics,” he recalled thinking. “You’re destroying me. It’s hideous, it’s hideous behavior.” He added: “That’s what I’m trying to unveil here, the hypocrisy. ‘Family’s first, I know about gay rights, my brother is gay.’ It’s all a sham.”
Curtis said that for a long time he chose to publicly overlook their sharp political differences.
But the addition of her incendiary show to the Fox News prime-time lineup and the stark oppositional politics of the Trump era prompted him to break his silence.
“The divisiveness in this country has cut through not just friendships, but it’s cut through families,” he said. “I was doing that dance with my sister for a while, we were very tight, her anger was funny to me back then.”
Curtis said he is saddened by how his sister’s outspoken punditry has destroyed their relationship. 
“It is not easy for me,” he said. “My heart has been bruised, it has been kind of irreparably bruised. But I’m trying to illuminate and shed a light on hypocrisy.”

June 5, 2018

Coming Out to Your Family of Nephews and Nieces by The Out LGBT Individual

You will some Excerpted from “Rainbow Relatives: Real-World Stories and Advice on How to Talk to Kids about LGBTQ+ Families and Friends” by Sudi (“Rick”) Karatas. Copyright 2018 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. They appeared on Salon by SUDI "RICK" KARATAS. Adamfoxie took Excepts of the excepts for our audience. We wanted you to  see how some of us feel (the ones with nephews and nieces) that  are LGBT.
 I feel the whole array of LGBT not just gay should be made available to explain to the kids about themselves as soon as they can understand that mom and dad are married. If you wait for them to ask or express curiosity, it might never happen, particulalry with boys. Remember as soon as the kids  start going to school they will find many boys and girls that in many cases will be different from each other. If you wait for other kids to educate your kids they will be educated by those kids friends, parents or something they hear on tv. or the church.
Would it be better for all involved that the people closest with the issue of LGBT and their parents be the ones that educate their kids. I have so many nieces and nephews in my family I don't even know half of their names. We are a big spread out un-united family. If that was not enough religion is the mix with this family. I don't mean the religion with respect to going to church on sundays but the ones that want your kids to eduate them in their mantra. Some name them as mystical, evangelicals, Jehovas's and I don't know what else. Once the immediate family gives the right information to their kids it will be hard for someone who has no interest in the edcuation of your kids they same way you do to change the roots of what your kids already know because it would have been given by someone the kids trust and love.
One mistake some parents do is explain to the kids without giving the opportunity to a close gay or LGBT family member to come out to them. No one can explain the way Iam better than Me. This obviously only aplies to LGBT that are out. This is something that was taken away from me even being close to some in my family. The reason is problably they did not wanted it explain as a positive thing. May be neutral or may be not so neutral. If you have anyone in the family that doesn't know, this might help. Adam🦊
Just in time for Pride in June, "Rainbow Relatives: Real-World Stories and Advice on How to Talk to Kids About LGBTQ+ Families and Friends" (May 8, 2018) is a collection of intimate, real-life stories and advice about coming out to family members—parents to children, aunts and uncles to nieces and nephews, grandparents to grandchildren.
The concept for "Rainbow Relatives" was born when author Sudi "Rick" Karatas asked his sister if her children knew about his (their uncle's) sexual orientation. She said they didn't, as she hadn't been sure how to approach the topic and wished there was a book she could read to help her have those conversations. So, Sudi wrote that book. He hopes "Rainbow Relatives" will make readers more accepting of all people and families, especially in the LGBTQ+ community. 
When my nephew was thirteen years old, his Christmas wish list included the movie "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," a movie about two men pretending to be gay and getting married for health-care benefits. He was already an Adam Sandler fan and thought the premise of the movie sounded pretty funny. At the time, I wondered if he might be too young for a movie with that subject matter and thought perhaps it was better if he didn’t see it. (Okay, so maybe I thought he shouldn’t see it because it had a ridiculous plot.) But I was also concerned because I had no idea if my nephew knew his uncle is what Chuck and Larry were pretending to be. I decided not to buy it for him, but someone else bought him the movie anyway.
Is Younger Better?
As I did research for my book, I realized not only was my nephew old enough to watch a film with a gay theme, but that younger is probably better for children to be introduced to people who are different in a few ways yet the same in so many others.
The consensus of the people I interviewed was that it’s easier to be more accepting at an earlier age before kids are exposed to outside influences that may lead to forming negative beliefs or homophobia. 
I’m not saying it’s a good idea to throw in "Brokeback Mountain" or "Queer as Folk" between episodes of "Sesame Street" but by the time kids get to elementary school, they should not equate gay people with aliens from outer space. The more they know, the less of a big deal it seems—and it really isn’t a big deal at all. The more it’s kept a secret and not talked about, the more taboo, wrong, and shameful it may seem and the bigger the issue becomes.
Many gay people I spoke to were like me in that they simply weren’t sure if their nieces or nephews knew. Many people don’t live near their families, or they don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend around enough in their daily lives, so the kids didn’t have the chance to put it together on their own. However, in some families, the subject just wasn’t tackled or talked about.
To Tell or Not to Tell, That Is the Question
Every family and situation is different. Questions that often arise include: Who gets to decide when a child should know? What if the parents don’t want their kids to know about their aunt or uncle yet, but the aunt or uncle wants their nieces and nephews to know? Should the aunt or uncle have to hide who they are or pretend that they’re someone other than themselves? What if they have a significant other whom they would like to bring to family gatherings just like everyone else? 
One person I interviewed at the Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade put it simply: “When children see two people in a loving relationship, it’s not really talked about. They just see that this couple love[s] each other, and as they get older they just understand. They are not told unless they ask. So it’s more of a coming to know. They just see a relative with someone else in a relationship of the same gender, and they kind of just get it.”
I interviewed one person who had a nephew who was nine years old. He said to his uncle, “I hope you find someone to love like Aunt Barbara has.” Aunt Barbara had a female lover. The kid figured it out by himself. He had never been told his uncle was gay, but somehow he knew.
Avoiding the discussion of gay issues with children can end up harming everyone involved. Silence isn’t going to change someone’s sexual orientation or make it go away; it only makes it seem wrong or shameful. It’s a matter of not just letting kids know about LGBTQ relatives, but also making sure their questions and concerns continue to be addressed. It’s likely that children will hear some classmates make negative comments about LGBTQ people, or they’ll see prejudice on TV or social media. They may see news coverage of many states trying to pass anti- LGBTQ laws, like those allowing someone to deny service to an LGBTQ person if it’s against their religious beliefs. In fact, in February of 2014, Arizona did pass a law of this nature, but the governor later vetoed it.
A lot has changed even in the past few years I’ve spent writing Rainbow Relatives. While it’s certainly becoming easier to be out or openly gay in today’s world, conflicting messages are still being put out there as debates over gay rights continue to ignite salacious talk in the media.
Questions and Answers on Coming Out to Nieces and Nephews
Much of the research for my book came from surveys I asked a number of people to fill out. In many of them, on the subject of when and how to tell children about their relatives’ sexual orientation, the adults indicated they were nervous about how the kids would react, while most of the kids indicated that the news didn’t bother them at all. The following are some of the questions and answers taken from the surveys to give you a feel for the basis of my research.
Do your nieces and nephews know you are gay? If yes, how old were they when they were told or found out? How were they told? How did they react? If they have not been told, why not?
  • Paul: Yes. They were about nine and eleven when they found out. My niece was the one who “outed” the situation, so to speak. My sister and I had been on the phone and I was talking about my boyfriend. When she got off the phone, her daughter said, “Who were you talking to?” She said, “It’s your uncle.” Her daughter laughed and said, “No, you were talking about someone and their boyfriend.” That opened up the dialogue for my sister to explain to her daughter that her uncle was gay. She listened and took everything in stride. She wasn’t offended or freaked out. But the funniest part was at the end of the conversation when she said, “I only have one question . . . does that mean I have lesbian blood in me?” My sister laughed a little and was more shocked that her daughter even knew the term lesbian. She then informed her daughter that her uncle being gay has nothing to do with her [own] sexuality. My niece said, “Cool . . . and no wonder he dresses so well.” Ha! Later that day she explained it to my nephew. They had to be a little more gentle with him because he looks so much like me and so many people tell him that; they wanted to make sure that [he understood] people wouldn’t “assume” he was gay because of the similarities. Luckily, he was fine with it too. Neither has ever shown me any resentment or bias. Impressive, since they live in Middle America.
  • Sandra: [My kids] found out when they were ten and twelve years old. My son realized there was only one bed in the apartment my brother shared [with his boyfriend] and came right out and asked if he was gay. I said yes—I knew that they probably already knew.
  • Eddie: I never “came out” and said “I’m gay,” but I never hid it from [my nieces and nephews]; they all met my partner and figured it out. I don’t censor my speech or my actions around them. If I did, it would imply there’s something wrong with it.
  • Rosa: Yes, at age nine, my niece saw a picture of me and my partner and asked her mom, my sister, if I was gay. My sister replied yes. A bit later my sister asked her if she had any questions—and she said no.
What were some questions they asked, and how were they answered? Did boys react differently than girls? How?
  • Allen: They asked, “Do they love each other?” And things like “What’s a lesbian?” or “What’s a gay person?” My response was, “They are with a person of the same sex, just like people are with people of the opposite sex, and there’s nothing wrong with that!”
  • Adrienne: They didn’t ask questions—I asked them an important question. “Now that you know that your uncle is gay—do you feel any differently about him?” Their immediate response was no.
  • Trevor: The girls were more vocal about not caring. The boys were quieter.
  • Alastair: When my nephew found out, he said he didn’t want to talk about it.
  • Sybil: The girls wanted to know the love story; [the] boys didn’t ask, just accepted without questions.

February 10, 2018

Rob Delaney's 2 Yr Old Son Dies

US actor and comedian Rob Delaney has revealed that his two-year-old son Henry has died after spending half his life battling a cancerous brain tumour.
Mr Delaney, who lives in London and is best known for starring in the British sitcom Catastrophe, announced the "very sad news" in a Facebook post on Friday.
"I will endeavour to not go mad with grief," he wrote, adding: "We had so many wonderful adventures together." 
Henry's brain tumour was diagnosed in 2016, shortly after his first birthday.
Mr Delaney, 41, said that at the time Henry was suffering from "persistent vomiting and weight loss". 
After he was admitted to an NHS hospital, doctors discovered the tumour and Henry underwent surgery to remove it.
He had further treatment last year but the cancer returned and Henry died in January, Mr Delaney wrote. 

Rob Delaney
10 hours ago

I have very sad news. My two and a half year year old son Henry has passed away. Henry had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016, shortly after his first birthday, following persistent vomiting and weight loss. He had surgery to remove the tumor and further treatment through the early part of 2017. Then the cancer returned last autumn and he died in January.
My wife and Henry's older brothers and I are devastated of course. Henry was a joy. He was smart, funny, and misch...
See more


"His tumour and surgery left him with significant physical disabilities, but he quickly learned sign language and developed his own method of getting from A to B, shuffling on his beautiful little bum," he added in his post. 
The comedian went on to praise the work of NHS nurses and doctors along with others who had helped care for his son, who he said had spent 15 months in hospital. 
In 2012 the US actor, who co-wrote the comedy series Catastrophe, became the first comedian to win the Funniest Person on Twitter Award.
He is married with two other sons.


Adamfoxie🦊 Celebrating 10 years of keeping an eye on the world for You brings you the important LGBT news others ignore. Does not repost from gay sites [except only when importat athlete comes out].Will post popular items with a different angle or to contribute to our readers🦊

July 17, 2017

"In The Days of Rain" Growing Up in The Mist of a Cult}}Your Own Family

In the Days of Rain
In the Days of Rain
A Daughter, a Father, a Cult

It can be hard to grow up in an ultra-religious household. I was raised in a strict Pentecostal family, and I remember not being allowed to go trick-or-treating or have any sign of Santa Claus because both were deemed to be inspired by Satan. When you're a little kid, you don't question it — that's just how it is. It takes getting older to realize you're different from everyone else.

That was the experience of Rebecca Stott. She grew up in England as part of the Exclusive Brethren, a fundamentalist Christian cult that was closed off to the rest of the world. Her family had been part of the group, or one of its earlier iterations, for four generations, but they left the Exclusive Brethren when Stott was a young girl.

"They were extremely controlling," Stott says of the community. "So they believe in the rapture; they believe that they alone will be taken off the planet, and unless they stick to Brethren rules and have no contact with the outside world that they'll be left behind in the rapture. So that's essentially them. They're very conservative, very secretive, very separatist."

In her new book, In the Days of Rain, Stott writes about her childhood both in and out of the Exclusive Brethren.

... everything was Brethren-centered. ... Everyone was being watched by everyone else. There's a lot of mass confessions; there were a lot of punishments for non-compliant behavior.
Interview Highlights
On the Exclusive Brethren's rules

If you were living in a house with, say, an elderly parent who was no longer a member of the Brethren, or an elderly parent who'd been brought in because they were sick or whatever, you couldn't eat with that person. If you had a teenager in your house who had been raised in the Brethren but was not yet "breaking bread," i.e. fully compliant, you couldn't eat with them. You couldn't eat with non-Brethren outside; you couldn't have wristwatches, pets; you couldn't go to the cinema or have radios or television or newspapers. So everything was Brethren-centered. ... Everyone was being watched by everyone else. There's a lot of mass confessions; there were a lot of punishments for non-compliant behavior.

On how the group enforced its rules

If anyone was not toeing the party line, they'd be visited by a couple of priests or ministering brothers, and my father would do those. And that person would be interrogated for hours about, you know, whatever sinful act or thought they were supposed to have committed. And if they weren't compliant after that, they'd be shut up, which meant that they'd be expected to stay in isolation in a room in their house for as long as it took until the priest — people like my father, my grandfather — deemed them right with the Lord again. And that could go on for weeks, and sometimes people went mad or, indeed, in some terrible cases committed suicide. And in one particular case, a man who had been in isolation for weeks and weeks and weeks horribly axed his wife and young children to death and then hanged himself and left a note saying, "Satan is in the house. You'll have to bulldoze it."

I was full of rage. ... We had to be subject; we had to be silent; women weren't allowed to speak in the meeting. You know, it was extremely conservative in terms of its gender roles.
On what it was like to grow up in the Brethren

I was full of rage. I remember I couldn't show it. I was very good at not showing it because as a Brethren girl, you know, we had to keep our heads covered, we had to grow our hair long, we weren't allowed to wear trousers. We had to be subject; we had to be silent; women weren't allowed to speak in the meeting. You know, it was extremely conservative in terms of its gender roles. So as a Brethren girl I had to be quiet and good. ...

I was very curious and very angry at the double standards that I saw around me all the time. And the women could see some of these double standards, too, and yet no one was speaking out because everyone was too frightened. 

In 1970 there was a huge scandal. Jim Taylor Jr., the big leader, was found in bed with one of the younger sisters. She was married. He said nothing impure was going on. He was very drunk — he was completely incoherent. He was in his 70s, she was in her 30s. And a lot of people had witnessed it, you know, the fact they hadn't got any clothes on and so on.

And there was a big split — 8,000 people came out, including my father, my grandfather and most of my immediate family. Some of my cousins and uncles stayed inside and are still inside and will never be able to speak to us ever again. So we came out in the early '70s — we were in a splinter group for a while. My father and grandfather were very high up in that splinter group. And then my father decided it was time for us to come out completely. So we came into the big wide world. 

It was astonishing. Nobody explained anything. I think the parents and grown-ups around us were much too confused themselves to be able to sort of sit down and tell us that, you know, when they said that television sets belong to Satan, maybe they hadn't been right. So suddenly we've got a television set in our house, suddenly we've got a radio in our house and suddenly we're being taken to go and see Gone With the Wind in the cinema. So for me, I just remember this incredible sense of vertigo and glancing at my mother constantly: "Is this OK?" or, "Are we allowed to do this?" ...

People said about my father, he was like Rip van Winkle. He was tall, he was charismatic, he was handsome and he just couldn't get enough music, theater, dancing, gambling. ... He hadn't heard of the Beatles. I mean we were living in Brighton, this hippie town in the south of England, and yet we'd never heard the Beatles.

I still cannot open the Bible without hearing the sound of those men using scriptures almost like rapiers ...
On what her faith looks like now

I still cannot open the Bible without hearing the sound of those men using scriptures almost like rapiers with each other, you know, or trump cards. They knew the Bible so inside out, so they would use one scripture to trump another and it was all men locking horns, you know, or antlers. And so it's hard for me having had so many hours of that not to see the Bible as a place, you know, full of words that have been used for warfare, if you like, or disagreement ...

I've been surprised at the ... many, many people who have written to me — ex-Brethren, literally I would say 70 or 80 by now letters — beautiful letters from elderly people writing to me to say, "The Brethren was a terrible thing. We all lived through it," and telling me their stories. But saying, "I came to find a kinder God and kinder Christians outside." And I've been really moved by that. I've been really moved by how much people have wanted me to know about their kinder God.

Malika Gumpangkum and Jordana Hochman produced and edited the audio of this interview. Nicole Cohen adapted it for the Web.


December 20, 2016

Relatives of the Pulse Shooting Victims Suing Facebook, Twitter, Google

Relatives of three people killed in the June shooting attack at an Orlando nightclub sued Facebook, Twitter, and Google's YouTube Monday, accusing the social media sites of recklessly allowing ISIS to use them for recruiting terrorists.

Without them, "the explosive growth if ISIS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible," said their lawyer, Keith Altman of Southfield, Michigan.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court by family members of Tevin Crosby, Javier Jorge-Reyes, and Juan Guerrero. They were among 49 people killed when Omar Mateen opened fire inside Orlando's pulse nightclub on June 12. Mateen was killed by responding police.

The relatives say the social media companies have for years provided ISIS with accounts to use their networks "as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds, and attracting new recruits."

The companies are well aware of the problem, the lawsuit says, but have done little to stop it.

Their complaint, filed in federal court in Michigan where some of the family members live, quotes Twitter founder Biz Stone says saying "if you want to create a platform that allows for the freedom of expression for hundreds of millions of people around the world, you really have to take the good with the bad."

They claim the companies could easily block known ISIS recruiters from simply opening new accounts after they are discovered and shut down. It also says the companies place ads on the ISIS postings, profiting from terrorist messages.
The FBI has said that Mateen was radicalized in part through the Internet, and he pledged allegiance to ISIS during a lull in the shooting spree.

But investigators have said he also praised other terror groups, claimed his had family connections to al Qaeda, and said he was a member of Hezbollah, a bitter enemy of ISIS.

Altman filed a similar lawsuit in June on behalf of the family of an American student killed during the November 2015 terror attack in Paris.

But in January, a lawsuit against Twitter brought the widow of an American killed in Jordan in an ISIS attack on a police training center was dismissed. The judge said such lawsuits are barred by a federal law, the Communications Decency Act, which provides that web sites cannot be held legally responsible for the content posted by their users.

Legal experts said the latest lawsuit will face a similar hurdle.

In response to the earlier lawsuits, the companies said their rules make clear that violent threats and the promotion of terrorism deserve no place on their platforms and said the suits were without merit.


July 25, 2016

Family of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Living Large Right in NYC

Wandering through Times Square, past the Naked Cowboy and the ticket touts, she could be any immigrant trying to live the American dream.

A 60-year-old Korean woman with a soft perm and conservative clothes, she's taking a weekend off from pressing shirts and hemming pants at the dry-cleaning business she runs with her husband.

But she's not just any immigrant. She's an aunt to Kim Jong Un, the young North Korean leader who has threatened to wipe out New York City with a hydrogen bomb. And for the past 18 years, since defecting from North Korea into the waiting arms of the CIA, she has been living an anonymous life here in the United States, with her husband and three children.

"My friends here tell me I'm so lucky, that I have everything," Ko Yong Suk, as she was known when she was part of North Korea's royal family, said on a recent weekend. "My kids went to great schools and they're successful, and I have my husband, who can fix anything. There's nothing we can envy."

Her husband, previously known as Ri Gang, chimes in, laughing: "I think we have achieved the American dream."

Breaking their silence in the U.S., Ko and Ri spent almost 20 hours talking to two Washington Post reporters in New York and then at their home several hours' drive away. They were nervous about emerging from their anonymity; after all, there are Americans who analyze North Korea for a living and do not even know that the couple are here. They asked that the names they use in the U.S. and their address not be published, mainly to protect their three grown children, who live normal lives.

Ko bears a striking resemblance to her sister, Ko Yong Hui, who was one of Kim Jong Il's wives and the mother of Kim Jong Un, the third-generation leader of North Korea. And she had a particularly close relationship with the man now considered one of the United States' top enemies: She took care of Kim Jong Un while he was at school in Switzerland.

But in 1998, when Kim Jong Un was 14, and his older brother Kim Jong Chol was 17, Ko and Ri decided to defect. Ko's sister, their link to the regime, was sick with terminal breast cancer — although she did not die until 2004 — and the boys were getting older. The couple apparently realized that they would not be needed by the regime much longer and were concerned about losing their privileged status.

The Kim family has ruled North Korea for 70 years, through a repressive system built on patronage and fear. They and the top cadres in the Workers' Party benefit from this system — and have the most to lose if it collapses, or if they run afoul of the regime. So the couple decided to flee — not to South Korea, as many North Koreans do, but to the United States.

They live in a large two-story house with two cars in the driveway, a huge TV in the living room, a grill on a rear deck. They've been to Las Vegas on vacation, and two years ago went to South Korea, where Ko enjoyed visiting the palaces she had seen in TV dramas.

They look like a normal family. But look closer. That photo of her eldest son on a Jet Ski? It's at Wonsan, where the Kim family has its summer residence. That girl in the photo album? It's Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un's younger sister, who runs the propaganda division of the Workers' Party.

And the house? It was bought partly with a one-time payment of $200,000 that the CIA gave the couple on their arrival, they said.

Even though Ko and Ri have not seen Kim Jong Un in almost 20 years and do not appear to have held official positions, U.S. intelligence on North Korea is so thin that this couple still represents a valuable source of information on the family court.

They can reveal, for example, that Kim Jong Un was born in 1984 — not 1982 or 1983, as widely believed. The reason they're certain? It was the same year that their first son was born. "He and my son were playmates from birth. I changed both of their diapers," Ko said with a laugh.

Sometimes, operatives from the CIA's national clandestine service come to town to show Ko and Ri photos of North Koreans and ask who the people are.

The CIA declined to confirm or comment on any of Ko and Ri's claims. Some parts of the couple's history can be verified, but other parts cannot, or seem incomplete.

Even today, Ri in particular is sympathetic toward the North Korean regime and is trying to get approval to visit Pyongyang. And both are careful in what they say about their powerful nephew, repeatedly referring to him as "Marshal Kim Jong Un." But what they will say about their former charge paints a picture of a man who was raised knowing that he would one day be king.

In 1992, Ko Yong Suk arrived in Bern, Switzerland, with Kim Jong Chol, the first son of Ko's sister and Kim Jong Il, who in two years would become the leader of North Korea. Kim Jong Un arrived in 1996, when he was 12.

"We lived in a normal house and acted like a normal family. I acted like their mother," Ko said. "I encouraged him to bring his friends home, because we wanted them to live a normal life."

Traveling on a diplomatic passport, Ri went back and forth between North Korea and Switzerland. The family spoke Korean at home and ate Korean food but also enjoyed the benefits of an expatriate family in an exotic locale. Ko took the Kim children to Euro Disney, now Disneyland Paris. Kim Jong Un had been to Tokyo Disneyland with his mother some years before — and Ko's photo albums are full of pictures of them skiing in the Swiss Alps, swimming on the French Riviera, eating at al fresco restaurants in Italy.

Kim Jong Un loved games and machinery and trying to figure out how ships float and planes fly. He was already showing personality traits that would later become much more evident. "He wasn't a troublemaker, but he was short-tempered," Ko recalled. "When his mother tried to tell him off for not studying enough, he wouldn't talk back, but he would protest in other ways, like going on a hunger strike."

Kim loved going home for the summer, spending time in Wonsan, where the family has a huge beachfront compound, or at their main residence in Pyongyang, with its movie theater and plenty of room to hang out. "He started playing basketball, and he became obsessed with it," his aunt said of the young Kim, who was a Michael Jordan fan. "He used to sleep with his basketball." He was shorter than his friends, and his mother told him that if he played basketball, he would become taller, Ko said.

The world did not know that Kim had been anointed his father's successor until October 2010, when his status was made official at a Workers' Party conference in Pyongyang. But Kim had known since 1992 that he would one day inherit North Korea.

The signal was sent at his eighth birthday party, attended by North Korea's top brass, the couple said. Kim was given a general's uniform decorated with stars, and real generals with real stars bowed to him and paid their respects to him from that moment on. "It was impossible for him to grow up as a normal person when the people around him were treating him like that," Ko said.

From a humble background, Ko was catapulted into the top echelons of North Korean society in 1975, when her sister, a performer, caught the eye of the princeling Kim Jong Il and became his third partner. "I was very close to my sister, and it was a tough job to be the wife, so she asked me to help her. She could trust me because I was her own blood," Ko said.

Kim Jong Il personally selected Ri to marry his sister-in-law. They all lived in a compound in Pyongyang, with Ko looking after her sister's and her own children for years.

"We lived the good life," Ko said. Over a sushi lunch in New York, she reminisced about drinking cognac with sparkling water and eating caviar in Pyongyang, about riding with Kim Jong Il in his Mercedes-Benz. Then came the charmed years in Europe. But in 1998, Ko's sister discovered she had breast cancer and underwent treatment in Switzerland and France.

This is where Ko and Ri's version of events starts to become opaque. Given that Ri is trying get back into Kim Jong Un's good graces, he has reason to present their defection as nothing but altruistic.

As Ri and Ko tell it, the cancer treatment in Europe was not working, so they decided they should travel to the United States to try to secure treatment for Ko's dying sister. Their defection was all about trying to save Kim Jong Un's mother, they say.

Stories about the couple in the South Korean news media have suggested that they sought asylum because they were concerned about what could happen to them after Kim Jong Un's parents died. This was their link to the royal family, and without that link, what would happen to them?

Ko seemed to imply that this had been a concern. "In history, you often see people close to a leader getting into unintended trouble because of other people," she said. "I thought it would be better if we stayed out of that kind of trouble."

The dangers persist today. Just look at the case of Jang Song Thaek, the uncle who also lived in the Pyongyang compound with Ko and Ri. He apparently built up too much power. In 2013, Kim had him executed.

So one day in 1998, Ri and Ko and their three children took a taxi to the U.S. Embassy in Bern. They said they were North Korean diplomats and wanted asylum. After several days, they were taken to a U.S. military base near Frankfurt.

They stayed in a house on the base for several months while they were questioned. It was then that Ri and Ko disclosed their family connections. "The American government didn't know who Kim Jong Un was, that he would become the leader," Ri said.

When they landed in the United States, the family spent a few days in the Washington area — not far from CIA headquarters — before moving to a small city where a South Korean church had offered to help them, as it had done for others who escaped the North.

"The people at the church kept asking us questions," Ko said. So the family moved to a different city with few other Koreans, or even other Asians. "Life was hard at the beginning. We had no relatives and we worked for 12 hours every day," Ri said. He worked as a builder, then did maintenance, jobs that were easy to do without English.

Ko was frustrated at not being able to work. "The only thing I could do without speaking the language was dry cleaning," she said in Korean. Ri speaks reasonable English today, but Ko's is still basic. So they opened a small store and began working long hours, Ri at the machines and Ko doing alterations. They soon hit their stride.

Their children have no interest in Korea, North or South, she said. Their oldest son is a mathematician. Their second son helps out in the business, while their daughter works in computer science.

They have a comfortable existence but do not appear to be living large. Stopping at a gas station for lunch on the way back to their home, Ko was disappointed that the Dunkin' Donuts was out of burritos. It's a long way from cognac and caviar.

So why are they breaking their silence now? Ri says he wants to visit North Korea and has come out of their deep cover to dispel what he calls "lies" being peddled about their wider family in North Korea by regime critics. He is particularly careful around reporters not to speak ill of the regime.

"My ultimate goal is to go back to North Korea. I understand America and I understand North Korea, so I think I can be a negotiator between the two," he said. "If Kim Jong Un is how I remember he used to be, I would be able to talk to him."

Ko said she misses her hometown — the pull of home cannot be underestimated in Korean culture — but does not want to go back. Nor does she want Ri to visit. “But how can I change my stubborn husband's mind?"


Excerpted from an article that originally appeared in The Washington Post

June 18, 2016

Muslim Views on Gays are Complex but Their Teachings Have to Change

 The new american-muslim family
As one of a tiny number of openly gay imams in the world, Daayiee Abdullah has felt the sting of rebuke from fellow Muslims. No good Muslim can be gay, they say. And traditional schools of Islamic law consider homosexuality a grave sin.

But Abdullah, a Washington, D.C. lawyer who studied Islam in the Middle East, says that mainstream Islamic teaching on gays must change.

“It has to or it will die from its harshness or rigidity,” Abdullah said. “The way it is presently understood, it rots the heart and decays the brain.”

In the days since last’s week massacre at an Orlando gay nightclub, in which a Muslim man killed 49 people, attention has focused on homophobia among Muslims. And gay Muslims have talked about living between that rock of anti-gay anger and the hard place of Islamophobia that only increased after the Orlando attacks.

Investigators are considering whether Omar Mateen was at least partially motivated by his inability to accept that he was gay. Mateen’s father said his son was disgusted by two men he saw kissing days before the rampage, and that it was up to God to deal with gays — not his son.

Two afghanis find refuge on love and each other
Attitudes towards LBGT people in Muslim communities are complex, and far from universally anti-gay.

Some Muslims, like Abdullah, are welcoming what they see as an opening within their communities to address anti-gay attitudes. Several groups supportive of gay Muslims have sprung up within the U.S. in past years, including Muslims for Progressive Values and the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity.

And young Muslims who often feel differently about homosexuality than their elders are increasingly speaking out in support of gay rights, as religion scholar Reza Aslan and comedian Hasan Minaj did in an open letter to American Muslims after last year’s Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.

Others are pointing toward the Quran and a history of relative tolerance.

“In 1858 the Ottoman Empire decriminalized homosexuality, 100 years before they did so in the West,” said Abdullah, referring to the empire that ruled over Turkey and much of the present-day Middle East in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its official religion was Islam.

But Abdullah is under no illusions about the strength of homophobia within modern Muslim cultures.

In the U.S., a 2014 Pew Research Center study shows, Muslim Americans are less accepting of homosexuality than Americans as a whole: 47 percent of U.S. Muslims said it should be discouraged and 45 percent said it should be accepted.

But they were not the religious group that was most disapproving: Evangelical Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons oppose homosexuality by larger margins.

Abroad the picture is starker. And a 2013 Pew global study of Muslims showed overwhelming disapproval of homosexuality. In only three of the nearly 40 countries surveyed do as many as one-in-ten Muslims say that homosexuality is morally acceptable: Uganda (12%), Mozambique (11%) and Bangladesh (10%).

And almost all of the 10 countries that allow the death penalty for same-sex sexual relations are Muslim-majority nations. The president of one of those nations, Iran, has denied that gay people exist in his country.

“In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at Columbia University in 2007. “ I do not know who has told you we have it.”

The gay capital of the Middle East is in the Jewish state of Israel: Tel Aviv advertises itself as a safe, vibrant destination for LGBT tourists, and attracts gays from the Palestinian territories and other societies where it is unthinkable to be openly gay. But even in Israel, a Jewish teenage girl died after an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man went on a stabbing spree last year at Jerusalem’s gay pride parade.

While Muslim nations such as Iran and Saudi Arabia have legislated violent punishment for gays, there are no laws against gay sex in either Jordan and Lebanon.You can find gay-friendly bars in Beirut, Amman and Istanbul.

And because socialization between unmarried men and women is unacceptable in conservative Muslim society, same-sex social gatherings are the norm, and may present opportunities for gay people to follow their hearts, Abdullah said.

That doesn’t mean that gays don’t suffer beatings and worse in these somewhat more tolerant countries, or that their families accept them. But even in places like Egypt, where the government has jailed and tortured its gay citizens, some LGBT people are still organizing, carefully, to improve their situations.

Those Muslims who reject gay relationships often point to sacred writings, as is the case with like-minded Christians.

For example, Adbdullah has often heard Muslims invoke the story of Lut in the Quran (comparable to the story of Lot in the Bible) to argue that Islam condemns men who love men. Like many other gay Muslims, he reads the same verses and comes to a different conclusion: that the story condemns cruelty, not any particular sexual act.

In the Quran, he finds nothing to condemn his sexual orientation. The word “homosexuality” is not used in the text, he notes. “The Prophet was not prejudiced.”

Pointing to the Quran or any religion’s sacred writings to explain current day moral stances also makes little sense, said Aisha Geissinger, who teaches about Islam at Ottawa’s Carleton University.

“Nobody takes all of their sexual morality nowadays from an old text. Christians don’t do it. Muslims don’t do it,” Geissinger said. “Otherwise, we’d have slavery.”

And like Abdullah, she offers an example from history that counters the idea that Muslim societies are monolithic and have always been hostile to same-sex desires.

In “Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800,” author Khaled El-Rouayheb points out that much of the poetry in the Arab world prior to the 19th century was written by men about a male beloved, or a person whose gender is ambiguous.

“It is difficult to imagine that this type of poetry was so popular if it didn’t reflect something about what people were seeing as normative,” Geissinger said.

Lauren Markoe,

February 2, 2016

Do Charges Against Planned Parenthood Stack Up? How Much $ do they get from Gov?

How 3 Planned Parenthood Critiques Stack Up to the Numbers

Jim Mone / AP

A grand jury on Monday in Harris County, Texas indicted two members of an anti-abortion group that made undercover videos of Planned Parenthood, which was under investigation for alleged misconduct. The videos suggested Planned Parenthood had attempted to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue, reigniting the debate about the organization’s operations and bringing reproductive rights to the forefront of political debate.

With roots dating back to 1916, Planned Parenthood has been under fire for providing reproductive health services and distributing contraceptives. Now, many opponents of the organization cite these services along with excessive government funding as reasons why it should be defunded, or potentially shut down. Using data from the Planned Parenthood 2014-2015 annual report and the Guttmacher Institute, InsideGov tested the validity of the three common attacks on Planned Parenthood. Do the common critiques of the health organization hold up?

Opponents of Planned Parenthood Focus on its Abortion Services

In an article on, the national director of Priests for Life said the presence of a Planned Parenthood business so close to Catholic campuses is “a threat to the lives of the children carried in the wombs of pregnant students, and a threat to the health of any student who purchases Planned Parenthood services.” Though many believe that the organization promotes getting an abortion, how often are they performed?

Abortion only makes up 3.4 percent of the total services Planned Parenthood offers. The most frequent medical services include testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and infections (44.6 percent) and contraception (31.1 percent). In fact, the number of abortions performed decreased in 2014 from the year prior, according to the Planned Parenthood annual report. Planned Parenthood performed 323,999 abortions nationwide in 2014, compared to 327,653 abortions in 2013, according to the report.

Opponents of Planned Parenthood Argue That Taxpayers’ Money Should Not Fund the Organization

Opponents feel that government funding for the organization equates to federally-funded abortion services. (The government only funds abortions in unfortunate cases of rape, incest and the endangerment of a mother's life.) This assertion was the fire behind the conservative push to defund Planned Parenthood completely. The House of Representatives successfully passed legislation at the end of 2015 that would cut funding to the organization, though it is under veto threat from President Obama.

If the House bill goes through, about 48 percent of Planned Parenthood funding would be cut, causing a significant decrease in reach and in services offered. It would be difficult for the other 52 percent — consisting of non-government health services revenue, private contributions and affiliate support — to keep the organization afloat alone. Since the data shows Planned Parenthood’s primary services involve STD testing and treatment, these suggested cuts would predominantly impact those services. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned certain STDs, like gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, are on the rise, meaning that cuts to programs related to testing and treatment would likely put more men and women at risk for infection.

Opponents of Planned Parenthood Argue that We Would do Better Without It

Both sides go back and forth on the nitty-gritty of the numbers, like services rendered or finances. But at the core of the debate is the question of whether women and men need Planned Parenthood at all. Even with the help of Planned Parenthood health centers, there is still a shortage of clinics. Can other clinics do the job on their own?

Toggle the drop-down menu to see percent of female contraceptive needs met, number of females in need of publicly funded contraceptive services and female contraceptive clients served at publicly funded clinics.

Overall, many women across the country who need publicly funded contraceptive services aren’t seeing their needs met by publicly funded clinics. In Texas, where the indictment of the two pro-life videographers took place, 1,774,240 women sought contraceptive care, but only 16 percent are getting it. In California, however, 2,660,280 women are in need, and 54 percent see those needs met. If 2.7 million women and men in the United States annually visit Planned Parenthood’s 650 affiliate health centers around the country, where will women go if it closes?

While the data indicates that Planned Parenthood can help fill a need for more women’s health care across the nation, opponents remain steadfast against the practice of abortion. The fiery debate is sure to continue.

Posted on January 29, 2016 by Natalie Morin

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