Saturday, May 30, 2009

EastEnders' gay Muslim character Syed set to do on-screen kiss of Christian Clarke

EastEnders is to tackle one of the last taboos left in soap, with a storyline featuring a Muslim character embarking on a gay love affair. can reveal that the plot, which will hit screens in mid-June, will see Syed Masood, a Muslim property developer with a girlfriend who arrived in Albert Square six weeks ago, fall for openly gay Christian Clarke. The pair will share an on-screen kiss.

The BBC has billed the storyline as a "traditional love affair, albeit with a modern multicultural twist".

The BBC1 soap's production team researched the plot, which is bound to prove controversial with some viewers, contacting academics, gay Muslim support groups and members of the Muslim Council of Great Britain.

In the storyline, the 24-year-old Masood, played by Marc Elliott, finds his "religion and sexual feelings in conflict".

The character is currently dating Amira Shah as well as trying to work his way back into his family's good books following his flight after losing money from the family business.

Diederick Santer, the EastEnders executive producer, said: "We've always tried to make EastEnders reflect modern life in multicultural Britain and we've always told social issue stories relevant to our diverse audience.

"This isn't a moral tale of right or wrong; it's very much a human interest story where a young man struggles with the conflict between his faith and his feelings.

"In this regard, it's not dissimilar to the story we told when Dot Cotton's deeply held Christian beliefs came into conflict with her desire to alleviate Ethel's suffering [in a euthanasia plotline]."

"To all intents and purposes, Syed's a 'good' Muslim man: he doesn't drink, smoke or engage in sex before marriage. But he struggles with his sexuality when he finds himself drawn to Christian and he believes this goes against his faith.

"This is not a story about Syed and Christian's physical relationship – we don't see anything beyond one kiss. It's more about the inner turmoil and conflict Syed endures trying to remain true to his faith while questioning his sexuality.

"Syed has already been ostracised from his family and community once and if he's true to his heart he risks losing his family again."

The Masood family was introduced in 2007 following criticism that a previous Asian family, the Ferreiras, were not authentic. The intention was to develop the Masoods as "rounded human beings tackling the issues of day-to-day life in Albert Square", Santer said.

"The dynamics of Muslim relationships and families are not radically different from any others but the importance that Muslim culture places on family and married life can make the same issues more charged." [Story continued here]

More articles:

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Operation DOMA Flip Flop

The government was served with a lawsuit the week of April 27th and now the Department of Justice, under President Obama's authority, has till the week of June 22nd to respond.

President Obama now has a choice -- direct Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department to defend DOMA in court or keep his campaign promise by asking Holder not to defend this unconstitutional law.

A national grassroots effort has been released on May 18, 2009 known as the DOMA Flip Flop campaign. Endorsing organizations include Join The Impact , , Join The Impact MA , and the Cambridge Democratic City Comittee . Organizers are asking participants to print out a 'flip flop card' with the the statement, "President Obama, please don't flip flop on DOMA!" on it. Participants are asked to mail the 'flip flop card' to the White House from now until President Obama makes his decision on the DOMA lawsuit.

A President has the authority to not defend a Congressional law that is unconstitutional on its face. Past Presidents have exercised this right ranging from Ronald Reagan in the case of INS v. Chadha (1983) to George Bush Sr. in Metro Broadcasting v. Federal Communications Commission (1990) and Bill Clinton in Dickerson v. United States (2000). There is no clearer example of a blatantly unconstitutional law than DOMA which President Obama himself has called an "abhorrent law" and that its repeal is "essential".

Via a fun and creative campaign (mailing flip flop cards to the White House), we are bringing attention to the issue to make sure that President Obama doesn't flip flop on DOMA.

For more information on the DOMA Flip Flop Campaign or to view the open letter and legal memo, please visit or the DomaFlipFlop facebook page .

Official Press Release announcing the DOMA lawsuit

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Why Childless Straight Couples Make the Case for Gay Marriage

By Alec Baldwin

I don't know what the best perspective is on the gay marriage issue. I don't know what to say to people to convince them that the issue of individual rights alone is enough to grant gay couples the right to marry. We live in a time when the idea of individual rights has been relegated to a quaint afterthought during the realignment of American values resulting from the current brawl between capitalism and democracy.

One perspective, however, keeps coming back at me. Fundamentalists believe that marriage is between a man and a woman and for the purpose of creating a family. A gay couple is incapable of having their own children, they assert, so they do not qualify to be married. But what of heterosexual couples who marry with no intention of having children. Beyond any issues of infertility or illness, there are men and women who are married in the eyes of the state, enjoying all of the legal benefits, who have no intention of having children. They seek only companionship and all of the entitlements that come with marriage. Sex, joy, partnership, caring. All of that is theirs, even though they will never bear children and willfully so. If the state says they are free to do that, why aren't gay couples, as well. [Story continued here]


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Big Gay Shrug

Sorry, enemies of gay marriage. Prop 8 or no, you've already lost

By Mark Morford

Here's a fun thing to do to calm your frazzled, saddened nerves in the wake of the CA Supreme Court's very unfortunate, but also merely annoying and karmically fleeting Proposition 8 decision.

Head on down to your local high school -- hell, make it a junior high or even an elementary -- and take yourself an informal survey. Ask the various wary, bepimpled youth of Generation Tweet what they think about those scary gay people getting married.

Ask them, in your most panicky, alarmist, Mormonified voice: Aren't they horrified at the very idea? Aren't they shocked at the very thought of two people in love having their union officially recognized and validated by the state?

Don't they know the musty ol' Bible mutters some barely coherent, mistranslated silliness about it in a single word or two written 1,500 years ago in a long dead language by acidic church elders with powermad political agendas and violently repressed libidos who nevertheless wish to instruct us all how to live and love and screw?

Please note the response. Please observe how the kids merely look at you as though you're more than a little bit deranged and prehistoric, so out of touch you might as well be Dick Cheney talking up the diesel-powered rectal thermometers he so loved back in World War I. [Story continued here]


Friday, May 22, 2009

Chinese Journalist Says that Democracy is a Universal Human Value

Story by Zhang Wen

In my 30 years of life, 2008 was an unparalleled year of events: winter storms, rebellion, earthquake, Olympics, poisoned milk scandal, every one influencing and moving China deeply. So many lives, homes, tears, so much anger in one year.

This year changed my life too: I spent a month in America and experienced this new but familiar nation with my own eyes and ears. After much travelling and conversation, it confirmed my opinion that human nature has universal connections; so-called freedom and democracy can't be divided by west and east but are values shared by all. At the same time, I now feel America represents a model of future development of mankind and human integration.

All men are created equal, human beings are born free. These are the human rights given by God and represent a universal truth applicable to any country, any nation or any individual. Those who openly declared that "democracy is not suitable for China" angered me. I would like to ask these people, if democracy is not suitable for China, which mode is suitable to China? Despotism? Don't tell me about the "Beijing model" or "new authoritarianism"....[Zhang's story continued here]

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History! Congress Announces First-Ever Hearings on UAFA

From the Blog

In an exciting, and historic, development, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced just moments ago that he will convene a Congressional hearing, on June 3rd, about the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). This extraordinary news means that, for the first time, our families will be the subject of a hearing specifically addressing the plight of binational lesbian and gay couples.

All of us at Immigration Equality are incredibly proud to be working closely with Senator Leahy to make this moment possible. And we’re incredibly proud of our supporters, too. Your phone calls and email to Congress – and the courage of your families and families like Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado in speaking out – were critically important in our efforts.

The June 3rd hearing will not only be a milestone on our path to victory in Washington, but it will also be a watershed moment for ensuring that our families are part of the national conversation on immigration reform. This will be a powerful moment – and a significant step forward – in our work to educate lawmakers about our relationships and engage Congressional leaders on the issue. Members of Congress are traditionally reluctant to pass legislation that has not been discussed and weighed in at Congressional hearings, so a hearing is critical to UAFA’s future success, and its inclusion in comprehensive immigration reform. The hearing is, quite simply, one of the most significant moments ever in our work to secure full equality for lesbian and gay binational couples.

In the coming days, we will have more information on this landmark hearing. If you haven’t already, sign up for Immigration Equality email updates delivered directly to your inbox. And please continue to visit our website and blog for important updates.

We will continue our work to make sure our families are included in this historic moment . . . and continue to keep all of our supporters updated on what’s happening and how you can be involved.
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An Open Letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein from a Homo West Virginian

"I believe that American justice is what makes this country strong in the eyes of the world. American justice is what people believe separates the United States from other countries. And American justice has to be applied to everyone, because if it isn't, we then become hypocrites in the eyes of the world."
~Senator Dianne Feinstein in her address to the Senate about the problem of where to move the Guantanamo detainees, May 20, 2009

Madison Reed
Huntington, WV

May 22, 2009

Dear Senator Feinstein,

Your words resonated deeply within me yesterday, as you addressed the Senate and told them that "American justice has to be applied to everyone, or we become hypocrites in the eyes of the world." Even a few tears came to my eyes.

In your advocacy for equal justice, for even non-American detainees alleged by the Bush administration to be terrorists, you were highlighting a part of America's historic purpose, not only expressed countless times by our people from the beginning of our nationhood, but written into our laws: equal protection, fairness and justice for every human being.

What saddened me when I heard your fair words, is my knowledge that America is a hypocritical nation. Why not just say that? You know it's the truth! Rarely has our country ever voluntarily embraced the noble human and spiritual values that it has proclaimed to the world and insisted that others follow.

No, it's only through the intensely painful struggles and great sacrifice by countless of America's mostly forgotten heroes; from Native Americans; from the Peoples of various European ethnicities; from the handicapped; from transgendered Americans; from Black Americans, Latin Americans, homosexuals, bisexuals; and the list goes on an on, that America has been nearly always FORCED to walk its talk. Dangerous protests, expensive and lengthy litigation, and the loss of property and lives, are the price that we have paid for equality.

Last month, when you intervened and temporarily stopped Shirley Tan's vicious and unjust deportation from the United States, a horrible situation that existed solely because she is a lesbian who has a wife and two children - and that's offensive to the American government - we were definitely grateful to you. Not only because so many people were praying that Shirley's family would stay together, but because we represent untold numbers of LGBT Americans, their friends and family members just like Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado, who are just barely managing to survive the effects of discrimination. We thought that saving Shirley would send a strong message to our government that it must deal with discrimination against the LGBT community, immediately. The LGBT community is living in a state of emergency. Our lives and families are in danger. The effects of ugly, lethal state-sponsored discrimination against us, fueled by a seditious religious cult that masquerades itself as the Cause of Jesus Christ, who have "foreign" agents hostile to the interests of the United States working as elected officials from the federal level down to the local level, with America in their death lock, must be brought to an end quickly.

I'm a good American Citizen. I live in West Virginia. My life partner lives in the Republic of Belarus. I've never benefited from equal protection or full equality from either the state of West Virginia or from the federal government, only because I'm gay.

Christianity, the faith that I first embraced, has betrayed me; the community of followers of Baha'u'llah, the Baha'i Faith, has betrayed me; my elected representatives in Congress for West Virginia have all received my letters over the years, but have done nothing to help me; President Obama relocates and gives green cards to tens of thousands of foreign refugees and will not even mention the plight of gay Americans and their foreign partners, and I'm forced by the federal government to live a lonely life away from the man I love year after passing year, enduring disabling financial hardships and life shortening emotional and physical stress from being separated from my beloved life partner in Belarus.  Since I'm not part of the heterosexual class acceptable to the dangerous Yahweh religious cult that masquerades itself as the religion of Jesus Christ that has the American government by its throat, I'm not permitted to sponsor my partner for permanent residency. In fact, even admitting that he's my partner can be used as evidence against me to deny him a visitor's visa to see me!  We're homos!  We insult so-called "Christianity." This is the reason the government of the United States is not helping us!

Every day I have to hear insults, slurs, slander and threats against my gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters.  Nearly every day one of us is killed by an angry bigot somewhere in the world.  Hundreds of gay and lesbian American soldiers like Lt. Daniel Choi, II Lt. Sandy Tsao, and Lt. Colonel Victor Fehrenbach, who have honorably served in America's military have been discharged because they are gay.  They have true honor, but the people who fired them are liars and have no honor. The people who know about the problem and do nothing to stop it are even worse. All of this is a deep insult to me.

Discrimination waged against LGBT Americans is fathomless, and we are sick and tired of it.  Fairness does not exist in America for our class.

So I'd like to ask you Senator Feinstein, to tell me what you really meant when you told the Senate yesterday that, "American justice has to be applied to everyone, because if it isn't, we then become hypocrites in the eyes of the world."?

Do you believe that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans are a part of that "everyone" class?

When are you, your colleagues in Congress, and President Obama, - our elected representatives - going to apply those same high standards of justice so that we can benefit from them too - the ones that you said should even apply to non-American terrorists?

There are no more excuses for any further denial of our rights. We deserve full equality. I hope bloggers and journalists read my letter and help me circulate it, so that you and other members of the government might see it, and answer my questions through action.


I am a supporter of:
Melanie Nathan, Private Courts, Inc.
StoptheDeportations - The DOMA Project
Masliah & Soloway
MarriageEquality USA
National Center for Lesbian Rights
International Lesbian & Gay Association
Amnesty International


Mental Closets

By Jim Taylor

I am not the same person today that I was yesterday. I’ve added some experiences; I’ve lost some memories; I’ve replaced a certain proportion of my skin and organ cells.

Technically, that’s not evolution. It’s merely the inevitable process of aging.

In true evolution, change happens to whole species, not to individuals, and over a much longer period.

But both processes reflect the same basic truth – we are constantly changing. As individuals, as a species, as a society, as a world...[Jim's story continued here]

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chinese Communist Party Secrets and Inner Workings Revealed in Smuggled Memoirs of Zhao Ziyang

BEIJING — It took hours of secret recordings and years of clandestine planning to get the material smuggled out and translated.

But just weeks before the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement's brutal quelling, the Chinese leader ousted for opposing the crackdown has broken his silence in a posthumous memoir that gives a rare insight to the inner workings of the Communist Party during a critical time.

And in a conclusion extraordinary for someone who devoted his career to the party, Zhao Ziyang also urges China to become a parliamentary democracy in order to truly modernize....[Story continued here]

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Dan Choi is Gay!

John Oliver acknowledges that Dan Choi may be a valuable Arabic translator, but he's gay. That's what it's all about. He's gay! Finally, we get it. We're gay. That's the problem.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
M - Th 11p / 10c
Dan Choi Is Gay
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor
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San Francisco Gays Organize Rally for Iraq's Gays

Leaders Want End to Torture and Murder of Iraq's Gays (San Francisco, CA) – A broad united coalition of human rights advocates and politicians will hold a spirited rally this Sunday, May 17, in solidarity with the LGBT citizens of Iraq, who face surging violence and killings. Recent reports out of Baghdad document the gruesome gluing of anuses of gay men, who are forced to swallow laxatives, leading to death by diarrhea, and come amid continuing genital mutilation of gays.

Responding to the atrocities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community organizers will hold a demonstration to support LGBT Iraqis:

WHO: Human rights activists and elected officials
WHAT: Rally and fundraiser
WHERE: Harvey Milk Plaza, Castro and Market Streets
DATE: Sunday, May 17 TIME: 12:30 – 1:30 PM

A diverse array of leaders will speak at the rally, including Sen. Mark Leno, Supervisor Bevan Dufty, SF Police Commission President Theresa Sparks, Karen Kai of the Rainbow World Fund, Rev. Lea Brown of the Metropolitan Community Church, Debra Walker of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, political artist Clinton Fein, and community organizers Michael Petrelis and Gary Virginia of Gays Without Borders.

There will be also a “bucket brigade” at the rally and circulating through cafes and restaurants of the Castro soliciting donations for groups working with LGBT Iraqis. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a social advocacy organization, have donated $1,000, and will supply volunteers for the brigade. Rainbow World Fund, a LGBT international humanitarian relief charity, is serving as the fiscal sponsor, and donations made through it are tax-deductible. The fund’s colorful and eye-catching school bus will be parked at Milk Plaza, to serve as a welcome-wagon full of banners, posters and donation buckets. Donations will be used to provide direct aid to the Iraqi LGBT community. More at

Speaking for Gays Without Borders/SF, a group focused on global issues, Gary Virginia explained the motivations for the May 17 actions.

“We San Franciscans have a solemn duty to denounce anti-LGBT hatred in Iraq. Our demands to President Obama, the State Department and Congress are simple and doable – condemn the torture and slayings, investigate the human rights abuses, and create a sizeable number of asylum slots for LGBT Iraqis to enter and reside in America,” said Virginia.


Contacts: Michael Petrelis
Phone: Four-one-five-621-6267

Gary Virginia
Phone: Four-one-five-867-5004
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

God's Hands

By Madison Reed

This morning I was having a delightful conversation with an older, enlightened ex-hippie gentleman of the shamanic variety - a man named Edison. He's a wanderer and a philosopher of sorts. Edison and I come from very different backgrounds and generations, but we were speaking the same language, about topics that ranged from psychotropic compounds in plants, to the Rome-created Christ-cult we call Christianity. It was amazing that our two paths have led us to the same essential conclusions about the most important things of life.

Edison and I crossed paths quite a while ago. One day, he walked in to visit me while I was working at my spirit, mind and body wellness store called New Earth Resource Company, located in Huntington, West Virginia. That was probably a year ago. Many incredible people have been coming to see me over the years. Edison and I had a nice exchange that day, and then I never saw him again until this morning.

Our conversation this morning centered around our common lifelong quest for happiness and enlightenment. It was about our conclusion that we're all One. That's were the power of humanity resides. Knowing this, is the fundamental most important reality, and it has the potential to unleash humanity's broken and forgotten power.

Not long into our conversation Edison pulled a lovely turquoise scarab necklace out from under his shirt. He recently purchased it from a local flea-market vendor. He said,

"Madison, I don't wear my scarab out in the open, because it might cause me problems with some of the Christians. I occasionally visit their churches, but they never want to learn anything. Can you believe that they don't even know who Horus is, or care to know?"
Horus was the Sun God, or "God the So[u]n," that many of the Gospel stories stemmed from, although the church changed the name of the ancient god Horus and substituted their god's name into the reconstructed Jesus Gospel stories.

We went on to discuss how religious and political institutions and their leaders have unceasingly resorted to acts of deception and fraud, violence and propaganda against human beings to keep them from discovering the truth about God and about what it really means to be a human being. Both of these secular institutions have led us away from our happiness and knowledge about our divine nature. They've beaten us down and raped us until we no longer realize how powerful we are. We look outside of ourselves for an invisible force to heal the problems of the world or our own personal problems, and to the state to solve the rest of the problems.  Most of us don't have a clue
how powerful we are any more.

I asked Edison, "Without human hands, how will God's Will ever be realized on Earth?, He understood what that question meant, and seemed to be happy that I was reminding him that he was powerful and wonderful, and that his unorthodox path that led him to greater happiness and freedom - and oneness consciousness - was more valid than thousands of years of church sermons.

Before Edison left me, I urged him to consider running for local political office, since good people who are the humble warriors for truth, are exactly who we need to elect. I promised to help him with his campaign should he ever decide to run. The phony hypocrites need to loose their power! We need to pull these suckers off the suck-line they attached to the body of humanity a long time ago.

Oh! One last thing: I remember saying to Edison that Christianity (the political religion "Christianity") "is a kingdom that's experiencing rapid disintegration now." Christianity was never about the figure we call "Jesus."

What we've come to know as Christianity is a synthetic religion that grew out of a Roman myth-collage of various ancient stories about Pagan gods (in particular, the Sun God Horus) and messiah figures that were circulating at the time, as well as stories about one called the Son of Man, and the Teacher of Righteousness.

All of those stories were combined with Roman state propaganda, inserted wherever needed. This, later became the New Testament. The message was created for Rome's benefit originally, but was later canonized and then adopted by the new believers in the new Roman religion, as God's indisputable, infallible Word. If there ever was an authentic written record about the life and teachings of the real spiritual figure behind the Church Christ myth, the Roman Catholic Church has likely hidden it away, locked inside their Vatican vaults, because they knew his truth would destroy them.  So although we hope the Gospels contain some of the actual words of the Son of Man, the collection is largely a Church-fabrication, containing at best his plagiarized statements credited to the Christ creation of the Roman Church.

Everything's connected. My encounter with Edison this morning caused me to notice the recent news article written by Jason Hancock of the Iowa Independent, about a Christian fundamentalist named Steven Deace, who hosts Iowa's largest radio talk show program. According to Hancock, Deace has been recently maligning Oprah Winfrey, calling her the "high-priestess of American paganism." He blames her for her promotion of Eckhart Tolle's book, "A New Earth," which he says "contradicts the teachings of the Bible." To Deace, Oprah is a religious cult-leader who's led people away from "moral absolutes," and "away from the eternal truth of God's word."

For some reason, I believe that's just a cover-up for Deace's outrage over Oprah's ever-increasing exposure of hateful Christian hypocrites, and her support of equality. What do you think?

On a final note, I'd like to quote Dr. Martin Luther King. He said,
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
As humanity's enlightenment process picks up pace, and the cultural war between love-centered spiritual people and hateful hypocrites who want to live in a past age becomes more intensified, it will be interesting to see how many prominent individuals, elected officials or leaders of religion, will come forward and help the new humanity's birthing process, and to join the swelling numbers of God's Hands, worldwide.

For more information about the enlightenment movement refer to these links:

*The Zeitgeist Movie and Movement

*Acharya S, a.k.a. D.M. Murdock (Author of the "Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold" and the "Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled")
*The Dalai Lama Renaissance Documentary Film
*Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire;
and Rt. Reverend Gene Robinson's officially ignored Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President
*Office of Masaru Emoto (Author of "Message from Water" and "Healing Messages in Water")
*Stop the Deportations: The DOMA Project (A project to end discrimination against same-gender bi-national couples)
*Oprah Winfrey
*The Secret Movie
*Patrick Brent's Immigration Equality and the Uniting American Familes Act
*Reverend Mel White's Soul Force
*Mikhail Gorbachev's Green Cross International
*Institute of Noetic Sciences

There are many more links that I could add here. If you think of one, let me know and I'll add it. Please refer to my blog list, and other lists, and follow your feelings through the chain of Light that now connects all parts of the world. ~Madison Reed
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Russia denies first Lesbian same-marriage request

Story by Moscow Times reporter Anna Malpas

The brides wore white satin and pinstripes Tuesday morning as Irina Shepitko and Irina Fedotova-Fet tried to register the country's first-ever lesbian marriage.

The two women posed with bouquets of white roses before entering the Tverskoi branch of the State Registry Office on 3rd Tverskaya-Yamskaya Ulitsa with prominent gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev and a throng of foreign journalists.

The chief registrar, Svetlana Potamoshneva, initially refused to consider the women's request, citing the Family Code, which states that marriage requires the consent of a man and a woman. She also noted that the official form only has sections for "he" and "she." Alexeyev then persuaded her to consider a request written on a plain piece of paper. All the participants stressed that they expected a refusal of the request.

Casual homophobia is widespread in Russia, and pop star Boris Moiseyev is virtually the only figure in the public eye to have come out as gay. Gay marriages have been legalized in countries including Canada and Norway and in several U.S. states. Civil partnerships, which are marriages in all but name, have been permitted in many European countries.

Reporters packed into the registrar's tiny office Tuesday. One climbed up on a desk, which unexpectedly collapsed, scattering pens and dried flowers. An hour later, Potamoshneva issued an official rejection of their request, citing the Family Code.

"You are now seeing a concrete example of discrimination against sexual minorities in Russia,"
Alexeyev said after reading the rejection letter aloud.
"It's exactly what I expected."
Gay rights activists on several occasions have been beaten by opponents and physically prevented by police from staging gay pride events. Mayor Yury Luzhkov has repeatedly said he will never allow Moscow to have a gay parade, which he has dubbed "satanic."

Tuesday's stunt went smoothly, however, and no police were present. In order to avoid information being leaked to anti-gay protesters, only foreign journalists were invited to attend, said Nikolai Bayev, one of the organizers. City Hall gave permission to a group called United Orthodox Youth to hold a picket Tuesday afternoon against a planned gay pride march on Saturday, the day of the Eurovision Song Contest final.

It was not the first time that gay rights activists have challenged Russia's marriage laws. In 2005, human rights activist Edvard Murzin - who is straight - attempted to register a marriage with Eduard Mishin, who publishes Kvir magazine.... [Story continued here].

For more news about this story and other Russian gay equality news go to:
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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Belarusan-American Association open letter to all Ambassadors of the EU in Washington, DC

May 9, 2009

To All Ambassadors from EU Nations in Washington, DC:

This letter is written on behalf of the Belarusan community in the United States. We wish to take this opportunity to express our disappointment and concerns, as well as our hopes for the future. We are disappointed by the apparent willingness of the EU to embrace Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenka, and are concerned that this will only serve to prop up Lukashenka and his anti-democratic policies.

Our hope is that the EU countries will reconsider such an approach, and will instead join with the United States in a principled stance against human and civil rights abuses by the Lukashenka regime.

The people of Belarus, particularly the young people who are willing to risk everything to protest openly, still look to Europe and the United States to maintain a high moral standard. They need to feel the full support of the West. If we lose these people, the fight against Lukashenka’s brutal regime will simply die. Recent history shows that, after decades of oppression, the people of Eastern Europe were finally able to change the course for their countries. The reputation that Western Europe and the United States earned in helping the freedom fighters should not be exchanged for some short-term economic benefits.

In April, the EU extended an invitation to Lukashenka to attend the May 7 summit in Prague for the launching of the EU’s Eastern Partnership. While we do not oppose the EU’s Eastern Partnership concept, nor the inclusion of Belarus within the Partnership, the invitation to Lukashenka personally was ill-advised. Such action on the part of the EU creates a serious setback for the promotion of political liberalization and human rights in Belarus.

Last year, the Belarusan government's human rights record "remained very poor" with "frequent serious abuses" against NGOs, political parties, and opposition activists, as documented by the U.S. Department of State. The Belarusan government has yet to account for politically motivated disappearances. The regime continues to stifle any and all societal elements that are perceived as a threat to its power, whether they be independent churches, Belarusan-language schools, civic organizations or labor-oriented movements.

Recent European diplomatic overtures towards Belarus appear to be based on the questionable assumption that creating opportunities in Europe for Lukashenka’s regime will lead to the gradual democratization of Belarus and the strengthening of its independence. Some EU leaders mistakenly believe that they can lure Belarus away from Russia. But Lukashenka has never regarded Europe as a strategic partner. His policies are normally based on deals with Russian authorities and oligarchs, and cooperation with outcast regimes. Lukashenka has been
quite artful at playing Russia and the West off of each other, while delivering little to neither.

Furthermore, in the current economic crisis, in order to obtain Western funds, Lukashenka merely pretends to be willing to make minor changes in the political system which will not change the major structures of his authoritarian state power.

Past Western pressure on Lukashenka has produced positive results over time. For example, beginning in 2006, the imposition of sanctions by the United States and the EU, presenting a solid front, led to the eventual release of all political prisoners. In an about-face, however, in September 2008, just two weeks after Belarus’ disastrous parliamentary election -- which international monitors deemed neither free nor fair – the EU suspended its asset freeze and visa ban, initially for six months. In mid-March, the EU extended this suspension until the end of this year. But this easing of pressure on Lukashenka has not produced the desired results.

Instead, the Belarusan government has rejected independent media requests for distribution and refused registration to several other NGOs and trade unions. New criminal cases have been brought against a number of opposition activists, including previously released political prisoners, and some have been rearrested.

Abductions and beatings of activists continue, and several youth activists have been forcibly drafted into the military. The Lukashenka regime thus continues to engage in human rights abuses.

Against such a backdrop, the personal invitation extended to Lukashenka is inexplicable.

Many Belarusan opposition leaders believe that the EU is giving up its leverage to push for improvement in human rights in Belarus and handing the dictator a major diplomatic victory.

The EU’s 2006 plan of action outlined 12 steps in the area of human rights which the Belarusan government needed to take for normalization of relations, yet most of these remain unfulfilled; indeed, the EU appears to have abandoned the plan, with at best, a handful of steps still in play – those last steps must not be abandoned.

A policy of cooperation with Lukashenka’s regime just one and a half years before the next presidential election in Belarus substantially weakens the chances of an effective opposition in the election and supports Lukashenka’s plans to remain in power for a fourth presidential term, i.e., for 22 years.

The main strategy of the West in this time of economic crisis in Belarus must be the substantial strengthening of support for Belarusan democratic forces and civil society as guarantors of independence and a European orientation for the country, while at the same time continuing contacts with certain officials, excluding Lukashenka. The following are necessary:

-- a demand for real improvements in freedom of speech, instead of the mere creation of limited opportunities for two low circulation newspapers

-- support to alternative media, internet projects, human rights organizations, youth movements and initiatives

-- support to democratic forces and civil society before the next presidential election in Belarus

-- support for the development of independent trade unions and a labor movement in Belarus

-- support for mass distribution of printed materials with information about the actual social-economic situation in Belarus and about EU initiatives on establishing dialogue with Belarus

-- a demand for direct negotiations between the authorities and the opposition, aimed at finding a way out of the economic and political crisis, the result of which should be an agreement to change the Election Code and hold free and fair elections.

We thank you for your attention and consideration.


Belarusan-American Association, Inc. (BAZA)
P. O. Box 1347
Highland Park, NJ 08904
Fax: 732-222-1951

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ACTION ALERT! Call the White House today to support Lt. Daniel Choi (and 12,500 others)


I don’t have to tell you but as of today nothing has been done by the Obama Administration to end the discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy that has oppressed many men and women in the U.S. military because of their sexual orientation.

Many gay and lesbian service members have been unfairly discharged as a result of the DADT policy, around 12,500 to be exact; which is unfair and discriminatory. Equal rights are equal rights, and our gay and lesbian service members are currently putting their lives on the line for our country without the equality due them throughout service. Gays and lesbians in the U.S. military who have been discharged are not done so with the same respects afforded to their heterosexual equals.

One person standing up for gays in the military and incurring the wrath of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell recently is Lt. Dan Choi.

When Lt. Choi went on The Rachel Maddow Show in order to talk about DADT, he knew very well that it may be the end of his career in the NY National Guard. In the end, it did. Lt. Choi is an accomplished Arab translator, and possesses a skill set which is vitally needed in the twin wars.

Knights Out, a group of which Lt. Choi is a member, is asking supporters to call the White House TODAY May 12th… it is important to speak out NOW – not later – to make this happen.

On Tuesday, May 12, call the White House at (202) 456-1414.

Here is a Sample Script:

I’m calling to tell the president not to fire Lieutenant Dan Choi – and to keep his promise to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I am a ______ . Please, no more studies; we need President Obama to tell Congress to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law NOW.

It’s important that we flood the switchboards NOW.

The Secretary of Defense and the National Security Advisor have been on TV suggesting that we “be patient” – which really means “put it on the back burner.” We need to make clear that military readiness requires that we take action, not settle for Washington waffling.

With your help, we can get this law changed. We can make this happen!

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Where are the World's Happiest Places?

By Lauren Sherman

A new report reveals where people feel most positive about their lives.

Where in the world do people feel most content with their lives?

According to a new report released by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), a Paris-based group of 30 countries with democratic governments that provides economic and social statistics and data, happiness levels are highest in northern European countries.

Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands rated at the top of the list, ranking first, second and third, respectively. Outside Europe, New Zealand and Canada landed at Nos. 8 and 6, respectively. The U.S. did not crack the top 10. Switzerland placed seventh and Belgium placed tenth.

In Depth: World's Happiest Places

The report looked at subjective well-being, defined as life satisfaction. Did people feel like their lives were dominated by positive experiences and feelings, or negative ones?

To answer that question, the OECD used data from a Gallup World Poll conducted in 140 countries around the world last year. The poll asked respondents whether they had experienced six different forms of positive or negative feelings within the last day.

Some sample questions: Did you enjoy something you did yesterday? Were you proud of something you did yesterday? Did you learn something yesterday? Were you treated with respect yesterday? In each country, a representative sample of no more than 1,000 people, age 15 or older, were surveyed. The poll was scored numerically on a scale of 1-100. The average score was 62.4.

Why did the northern European countries come out looking so good? Overall economic health played a powerful role, says Simon Chapple, senior economist from the Social Policy Division of the OECD, which put together the report.

While the global economic crisis has taken a toll on every nation, the countries that scored at the top still boast some of the highest gross domestic product per capita in the world. Denmark, which got the highest score, is not only a wealthy country, it's also highly productive, with a 2009 GDP per capita of $68,000, according to the International Monetary Fund. The United States' GDP per capita, by contrast, is $47,335. Though the U.S. got an above-average score of 74, it did not break the top 10.

Wealth alone does not bring the greatest degree of happiness. Norway has the highest GDP per capita on the list--$98,822--yet it ranked ninth, not first. On the other hand, New Zealand's happiness level is 76.7 out of 100 on the OECD list, but its 2009 GDP per capita is just $30,556.

According to a 2005 editorial, published in the British Medical Journal and authored by Dr. Tony Delamothe, research done in Mexico, Ghana, Sweden, the U.S. and the U.K. shows that individuals typically get richer during their lifetimes, but not happier. It is family, social and community networks that bring joy to one's life, according to Delamothe.

The OECD data shows that another important factor is work-life balance. While Scandinavian countries boast a high GDP per capita, the average workweek in that part of the world is no more than 37 hours. In China, which got a low score of just 14.8, the workweek is 47 hours and the GDP per capita is just $3,600.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Be sure to see Outrage! In theatres May 8th

Madison's note: Have you ever wondered what could possibly be causing our elected state and federal representatives' resistance to backing full equality measures in the law for America's LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual & transgender) Citizens - not to mention, resistance to gay rights from religious leaders and institutions worldwide?

A new Tribeca
film called Outrage hits the theaters across the United States on May 8th. It's sure to set the country ablaze in the latest cultural war between the truthful and the hypocrites! But will your local movie theaters allow you to see it? If you don't see Outrage on their marquis, pick up the phone and call them and let them know you'd like to see it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Outrage trailer:

Outrage's Official Website:
More about Outrage:
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Saturday, May 9, 2009

John M. Mason reviews "Animal Spirits" by Akerlof and Shiller

The book Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism, by George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Shiller, is getting a lot of attention. One of the reasons for this attention is that the book is co-authored by Bob Shiller, an economist whose name seems to be appearing everywhere these days from television talk shows to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal. George Akerlof is not so well known outside of the economics profession, but he did win a Nobel Prize in economics so he is not a person to be taken lightly.

A second reason for the attention is that a great search is going on to discover reasons for the current economic and financial collapse. This book provides a coherent rationale for the collapse, although I disagree with it.

The Akerlof/Shiller hypothesis is “that much of economic activity is governed by animal spirits.” People’s “animal spirits” are defined as the “noneconomic motives” they use when making decisions.[Story continued here]

Professor John M. Mason's blog:

Mason's personal website:

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