Follow the Rainbow…Open Thread

Street crossing in front of Russian Embassy in Stockholm painted rainbow colors by activists.

(Rainbow Crossing in front of Russian Embassy, Stockholm Via Claes Betsholtz FB)

I am sure you have seen the protest artwork photographed above.

Isn’t it great?

However…There has been some disturbing news out of Russia on how LGBT Olympians and guest will be treated come the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Official confirms Russia will enforce anti-gay law during the Olympics | The Raw Story

Russia’s Interior Ministry has confirmed that the country will apply its new anti-LGBT law to guests and athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The new law makes spreading “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors a criminal offense. Due its vague wording, a same-sex couple holding hands in public could be considered “propaganda” under the law.

“The law enforcement agencies can have no qualms with people who harbor a nontraditional sexual orientation and do not commit such acts [to promote homosexuality to minors], do not conduct any kind of provocation and take part in the Olympics peacefully,” said an Interior Ministry statement issued on Monday, according to RIA Novosti.

The law also allows for foreigners to be detained for up to 15 days and deported. But Russia’s Interior Ministry denied openly gay and lesbian guests and athletes faced a serious threat of arrest.

“Any discussion on violating the rights of representatives of nontraditional sexual orientations, stopping them from taking part in the Olympic Games or discrimination of athletes and guests of the Olympics according to their sexual orientation is totally unfounded and contrived,” the statement added.

Similar laws were first enacted in St. Petersburg and other cities before the nationwide law was approved. Vitaly Milanov, author of the St. Petersburg propaganda law, has said only “normal” athletes should they be allowed to participate in the Olympic games.

This is some serious shit!

Here are a couple of post for you to look through. First is Joyce Arnold’s take on the mess…Queer Talk: To Russian LGBTs, With Love

The Sochi Olympic Games controversy regarding Vladimir Putin’s “homosexual propaganda” laws is growing, with a big “To Russian LGBTs, With Love” component. From celebrities to politicians to organizations to individuals, the focus on the anti-LGBT laws, and the dangerous place they help create for “pedophiles,” are helping raise international awareness of one particularly ugly aspect of the nation which will host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

There’s no doubt the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Russia need the “love,” need all the support they can get. As the NY Times notes, (emphasis added throughout)

Gays in Russia Find No Haven, Despite Support From the West

… If this article were published in a newspaper based in Russia, it could be labeled 18+ — like an X-rated movie — and start with the following disclaimer: ‘This article contains information not suitable for readers younger than 18 years of age, according to Russian legislation.’

The “support from the West” didn’t just begin, but it’s certainly picking up momentum.
All Out delivered a petition to the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland. which had about 322,000 signatures when presented. All Out continues to gather more signatures. At last check, it was at 354,703. From the petition:

We stand with citizens across Russia who are calling on their government to stop the crackdown against lesbian, gay, bi and trans people that is fuelling anti-gay violence.

Another petition seeks to move the Winter Games to Vancouver, which hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics. One proponent of moving the Games is George Takei.

Many believe that such a call to move the Olympics out of Russia goes too far. Would this be their opinion if the law instead called for the arrest of any Jews, Roman Catholics or Muslims should they display any sign of their religion … ?

To this point, the IOC has offered reassurances that LGBT athletes and visitors will be safe, but Russian officials continue to qualify that with what amounts to a warning: the anti-LGBT laws include non-Russians. In fact, the Russian Interior Minister today confirmed that such laws will be enforced, including athletes and visitors.

One interesting thing (h/t to John Aravosis) appears about half-way through an AP article, via The Denver Post:

One senior IOC member even suggested taking the games away from Russia if no solution is found.

‘They have accepted the words of the Olympic Charter and the host city contract, so either they respect it or we have to say goodbye to them,’ said Gerhard Heiberg of Norway. …

He acknowledged that the possibility of postponing the games or moving them elsewhere at short notice is remote.

She has more summaries on what happened today so go and check it out.

Here are a few other reactions from members of congress: Schumer: Nations should wave rainbow flags for gay rights at Russia Olympics – The Hill’s Video

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday said he opposed boycotting the Sochi Olympic Games despite new Russian anti-gay laws, instead urging nations to wave rainbow flags during the opening ceremonies to show support for gay rights.

“That’d be pretty embarrassing for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” Schumer said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Let our athletes participate but still make a stand.”

In June, Putin signed a law banning gay “propaganda” and imposing fines on those holding gay pride rallies. The law has generated an international backlash ahead of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has called on the U.S. to boycott the games altogether in response to Russia’s failure to return Edward Snowden, the ex-CIA employee who leaked details of top-secret National Security Agency surveillance programs.

President Obama on Friday rejected the idea of a boycott.

“I do not think it’s appropriate to boycott the Olympics. We’ve got a bunch of Americans out there who are training hard, who are doing everything they can to succeed,” Obama said at a White House press conference.

Obama said he was “offended” by the Russian laws, but he expressed hopes that gay athletes succeeding at the games could change attitudes.

That was from an article posted at 8:30 am this morning, so things will probably change tomorrow…who knows right?

This is an open thread.

Wednesday Reads: Anti-Putin, Anti-Woman and Good for Canada!

Good Morning!

Let’s start the day off with the latest news about Syria:

Peacekeepers attacked in Syria as U.S. accuses Russia of supporting regime

The U.S. accused Russia of escalating the Syrian conflict by sending attack helicopters to President Bashar Assad‘s regime, and U.N. observers were attacked Tuesday with stones, metal rods and gunfire that blocked them from a besieged rebel-held town where civilians were feared trapped by government shelling.

UPDATE 3-US worried Russia may be sending Syria helicopters | Reuters

* Clinton says helicopter sale would escalate conflict

* Syria conflict is civil war, UN official says

* Pentagon buys helicopters from Russian arms exporter (Adds senator holding up nomination of Pentagon official)

The United States is worried Russia may be sending Syria attack helicopters and views Russian claims that its arms transfers to Syria are unrelated to the conflict there as “patently untrue,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday.

The comments came as the Pentagon found itself on the defensive for doing business with Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, given concerns in Congress about the firm’s role in arming the Syrian regime.

The 15-month-old conflict in Syria has grown into a full-scale civil war, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said on Tuesday.

More on that statement from the UN: Syria in civil war, U.N. official says

Syria’s 15-month uprising has grown into a full-scale civil war where President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are trying to recapture swathes of urban territory lost to rebels, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said on Tuesday.

“Yes, I think we can say that,” U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous said when asked if the Syrian crisis could now be characterized as a civil war.

“Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory in several cities to the opposition and wants to retake control of these areas,” he said.

His remarks, the first time a senior U.N. official has declared Syria’s conflict is a civil war, came as the United States said Russia could be sending attack helicopters to Syria.

The International Red Cross said the situation was deteriorating in several parts of Syria simultaneously as fighting intensifies.

There are more reports about the use of children as human shields…U.N. adds Syria to list of countries killing children

The U.N. special envoy for children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said the United Nations had also received credible allegations that the armed opposition, including the Free Syrian Army, had also used children during the 15-month conflict.

“There’s been extraordinary violence against children in Syria,” Coomaraswamy told reporters.

“Children as young as 9 years of age were victims of killing and maiming, detention, torture, arbitrary arrest and were used as human shields by the Syrian government forces, including the Syrian armed forces, the intelligence forces and the shabiha militia,” she said.

Those forces have also regularly raided and used schools as military bases and detention centers, Coomaraswamy added.

Here are some other links on the Syrian violence:

Russia, Soviet Style –

U.S. Says Russia Supplies Syria with Combat Helicopters | World | RIA Novosti

News Wrap: Clinton Accuses Russia of Sending Attack Helicopters to Syria | PBS NewsHour | June 12, 2012 | PBS

Meanwhile, in Russia:

Protesters Defy Efforts to Muffle Anti-Putin Outcry –  This is an amazing series of photos that show thousands of Anti-Putin protestors in the streets.

Tens of thousands of protesters thronged central Moscow in a drenching rain on Tuesday, voicing renewed fury at President Vladimir V. Putin and defying recent efforts by his government to clamp down on the political opposition movement.

The large turnout, rivaling the big crowds that had gathered at the initial antigovernment rallies in December, suggested that the tough new posture adopted by the Kremlin against the protests was emboldening rather than deterring Mr. Putin’s critics.

On Friday, Mr. Putin signed a new law that imposes steep financial penalties on participants in rallies that cause harm to people or property. On Sunday, officials arrested five more people on charges related to the last protest, which ended in a melee between demonstrators and riot police officers. And on Monday, the authorities searched the homes of several opposition leaders and issued summonses ordering seven of them to appear for questioning on Tuesday so they could not attend the rally.

Opposition issues manifesto, demands Putin quit

Participants of the June 12 opposition rally – the so-called March of Millions – have adopted the Free Russia Manifesto, which demands Vladimir Putin’s resignation, a snap State Duma vote and a new Constitution.

The protesters demand that a new law on parliamentary elections be developed, which would provide for “fair, transparent and competitive elections.” This bill should be adopted by the current parliament, which “would become its last and only” function, the document reads.

Then, a newly-elected parliament should work out a project for Russia’s Constitution, which would significantly limit presidential powers, giving more authority to MPs in terms of forming the government and holding parliamentary investigations.

The opposition also demands that the presidential time in office should be limited to either one six-year term or to two four-year terms. The parliament should also call a referendum on a project for the overhaul of the constitution.

Among other demands is the adoption of laws that guarantee local self-government and direct governors’ elections, as well as reforming of courts and law enforcement agencies.

The manifesto also points out that the difference between the living standards in Moscow and other Russian cities, which may lead to “civil confrontation and dissolution of the state.”

It continues…

“The population has a legal right for a peaceful mass protest in order to put pressure on power and to change it. Our fight for political rights is linked to economic rights. We seek changes at all levels of life,” said one of the opposition activists Evgenia Chirikova. She read the text of the document to the crowd which gathered at Moscow’s Sakharov Avenue.

Next week the March of Millions organizing committee is planning to decide on a date and the format of elections to a joint opposition body, Ilya Ponomarev, a deputy from the opposition Fair Russia party told Itar-Tass. The vote will be held on the internet, he said.

Wow, that is something to see. So in addition to these articles about Putin and the protestors, here are a few comics.

Back here in the states, Democrat to offer bill repealing ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws

The House Democrat who represents Trayvon Martin’s district will soon propose legislation repealing the nation’s “Stand Your Ground” laws, which are under a microscope following the shooting death of the Florida teenager earlier this year.

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) said eliminating such laws might have prevented February’s fatal confrontation between the 17-year-old Martin, an unarmed African-American, and George Zimmerman, 28, an Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer carrying a 9mm handgun.

I don’t know about it preventing the killing, it seems to me Zimmerman would have done the same thing without the Stand Your Ground law. I still am thrilled that she is doing something about it however…These Stand Your Ground laws are horrible.

Wilson this week said the law threatens to enable “a horrendous crime.”

“The thought that George Zimmerman could get away with such a horrendous crime is a travesty of justice,” Wilson said Tuesday in a statement announcing her bill. “There are bills in other states known by different taglines that have the same unintended consequences as [Florida’s] Stand Your Ground [law]. They should all be repealed.”

Wilson’s proposal — which she expects to introduce next week when the House returns from this week’s recess — would discourage “Stand Your Ground” laws by withholding some federal transportation dollars from states that adopt them.

Wilson’s bill has no chance of moving this year in the GOP-controlled House, but it will shine a brighter light on the nation’s gun laws as a number of states are eyeing adoption of legislation similar to Florida’s law.

And now, two links on Women’s Rights…first from Cairo: Arab women cry for end to harassment

After years of enduring vulgar and degrading comments or worse by men on the streets of Egypt’s capital, Cairo University student Cherine Thabet decided she had enough.

“Do you know that it would be strange for a woman to leave her house and return without hearing two or three strangers’ opinions about her chest, in all kinds of colorful language,” she asked in a blog post. “Can you imagine that it is routine for a big man to stand quietly by as a woman gets groped?”

Her post received a torrent of comments from women throughout the Middle East who complained that they, too, are tired of a common practice of Arab men that is usually just whispered about by women.

“We should confront society [about this] as much as we can,” said Thabet, 21, who has been campaigning online, on the street and on Egyptian television about the issue since her post. “We should talk and talk [about it], so everyone understands what the problem is.”

Read the rest of it at the link…then take a look at this:

Healthcare, reproductive rights divide U.S., Canada in poll

On one side of the border, a woman can see a doctor for free and is guaranteed paid maternity leave. On the other, most women do not qualify for free healthcare and one in five under 65 does not have medical insurance.

These differences and others make Canada the best country among the world’s wealthiest nations to be a woman and keep the United States out of the top five, according to a poll of experts released on Wednesday by TrustLaw, a legal news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The United States ranked sixth among the 19 countries in the Group of 20 economies, excluding the European Union economic grouping, in the global survey of 370 recognized gender specialists.

Germany, Britain, Australia and France followed Canada in that order, while India, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia polled the worst.

Even though there are many similarities between the US and Canada:

the countries are very different in the area of gender equality, the experts said. Canada’s constitution promotes and safeguards women’s rights while a lack of consensus over reproductive rights in particular erodes them in the United States, experts said.

“Canada leads the pack with its promotion of women’s access and opportunities across various sectors of society, including education, economic participation and healthcare,” said Sarah Degnan Kambou, president of the International Center for Research on Women in Washington, which took part in the survey.

The poll showed how the lack of universal health care and the struggle over abortion rights in the United States – important issues ahead of the November presidential election – were key to perceptions of women’s freedoms in the country, according to the experts polled.

Read on…

While a pregnant woman in Canada is guaranteed 15 weeks paid maternity leave, she receives no federally guaranteed time off with pay in the United States. If the expectant mother is one of the 16 percent of American women under 65 with no health insurance – according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – she may have to forgo adequate prenatal and postnatal care because she can’t afford it.

Canada also ranks better than the United States on maternal mortality, reporting 12 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008, half the number recorded in the United States, according to the United Nations.


While women’s political representation in Canada lags behind some G20 countries, it fares better than in the United States. Nearly a quarter of seats in Canada’s lower house of parliament are held by women, compared to 17 percent in the United States, according to data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

“Our political participation levels, particularly in Congress, are embarrassingly low as compared to other countries in the G20, such as South Africa, Germany and Argentina,” said ICRW’s Kambou. In South Africa, women hold 42 percent of seats in parliament’s lower house.

Canada was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), often referred to as the international bill of rights for women.

The United States is the only democracy and the only G20 country that has yet to ratify CEDAW, primarily due to concerns of religious and social conservatives that it will undermine what they call “traditional family values”.

It is really a sad state of affairs for women in this country. Embarrassing too.

Aside from quality of health, the TrustLaw survey asked respondents to rank G20 countries in terms of the overall best and worst places for women and in the categories of freedom from violence, participation in politics, workplace opportunities, access to resources like education and property rights and freedom from trafficking and slavery.

(For full coverage of the poll visit

(TrustLaw is a free legal news site run by Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit For more information on the TrustWomen Conference visit


Best and worst G20 countries for women

1. Canada 2. Germany 3. Britain 4. Australia 5. France 6. United States 7. Japan 8. Italy 9. Argentina 10. South Korea 11. Brazil 12. Turkey 13. Russia 14. China 15. Mexico 16. South Africa 17. Indonesia 18. Saudi Arabia 19. India

That is all I have for you today, please share your morning news with us…comment section is below!

Sunday Reads

Ah, it’s Sunday Morning, and Minx here with your morning reads. Just a heads up, I am very sick again…so if the post seems to wander a bit, it is the “cold medication’s”  fault.

There is a lot going on in Tunisia, on Saturday the government switched hands again.

The tumbling political succession started Friday when Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced on state television that the president was gone and that he was taking over. Then, on Saturday morning, Mr. Ghannouchi, an ally of the former president, abruptly announced that he was surrendering the reins of government to the speaker of Parliament, complying with succession rules spelled out in the Tunisian Constitution. Now the speaker, Fouad Mebazaa, is expected to hold elections to form a new government within 60 days.

I think that Juan Cole has some of the best analysis on what is being called “The Wikileaks Revolution.” He has a few post up on his Informed Comment website. If you have some time today, please give these articles a read.

BP is in the news again, and not for something as important as this post on Crooks and Liars:  Sick Gulf Resident Begs Cleanup Officials For Help: ‘We Are Very, Very Ill”

On Friday, BP held a press conference to announce its partnership with a Russian oil company. BP plans to use the partnership so that it can gain access and drill in for oil in the arctic. You can read about it in this article from BBC: BP has signed a joint venture with Russian energy firm Rosneft to exploit potentially huge deposits of oil and gas in Russia’s Arctic shelf. It seems that Rosneft and BP will do a swap of sorts…Rosneft gets 5 % of BP shares and BP gets 9.5% of Rosneft. What I find interesting in all this is there seems to be some intriguing connections regarding the Russian company Rosneft. In The Telegraph, it has been reported that Putin has promised big tax breaks for BP. The share exchange would make Russian state-backed oil firm the second largest shareholder of BP stock. However, this is not the intriguing part. According to Bloomberg:

BP Plc will boost its holdings in the former assets of Yukos Oil Co. through its share swap with Russia’s state-run oil producer, two weeks after ex-Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s sentence was extended by six years.


Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, has called the charges against him retribution for political opposition to then-President Vladimir Putin. Putin, now prime minister, has denied involvement, saying that it was a matter for the courts and that “a thief should sit in prison.” The U.S. and European governments said last month’s conviction heightened concerns about Russia’s commitment to the rule of law.


Yukos’s former managers and shareholders have continued to battle for damages, filing a $98 billion suit in the European Court of Human Rights and a $100 billion case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The case in the human rights court completed hearings in March 2010 and may issue a judgment this year.

“BP shareholders should be concerned that once again the company has invested in a deal with Rosneft on assets over which there is significant question as to security of Rosneft’s ownership,” Claire Davidson, an outside spokeswoman for Yukos Capital, run by former Yukos managers, said in an e-mail.

Rosneft and BP’s lawyers studied possible risks, Rosneft spokesman Rustam Kazharov said by telephone. “Our lawyers monitor everything,” Kazharov said. “If even one threat existed to BP investors, they would never agree on that.” [Bloomberg]

The Guardian just published this on their website: American hostility grows over BP’s deal with Russian state oil company | Business | The Observer

The move, which involves BP issuing 988m new shares to Rosneft worth £4.9bn, has gone down badly in the US, coming just days after a presidential commission published a damning report on the blunders leading up to the Deepwater spill. In Washington, the US state department is facing calls to investigate whether the Russian government’s links with BP posed national security issues.

“There are various different levels where this deserves some analysis and some scrutiny,” said Michael Burgess, a Republican congressman who sits on the House energy and commerce committee. “BP is one of the biggest suppliers to our military. Are there national security implications to this deal?”

Burgess pointed out that BP runs sensitive trans-Alaskan oil pipelines and that the group’s BP America subsidiary is regulated as a US company. Comparing the deal to the blocked purchase by Dubai Ports World of P&O’s US ports in 2006, he called for an inquiry by the US government’s committee on foreign investment, which is chaired by treasury secretary Timothy Geithner and has a mandate to scrutinise potentially threatening financial incursions into the US.

His remarks followed comments by a Democratic congressman, Ed Markey, who suggested BP now stood for “Bolshoi Petroleum” and claimed that the Rosneft tie-up could complicate the collection of compensation for the fishing industry hit by the Deepwater spill.

Wow, I don’t think BP would do anything to bring risk to their investors. Now, if this deal has any chance of delaying the claims/compensation for those affected on the Gulf Coast, or create any problems with the lawsuit against BP for the oil spill, I could definitely see BP going forward with the partnership.  It is the “little people” who BP likes to destroy. All these inside connections and concerns that Bloomberg and Guardian are pointing out above could provide a great story line for the next James Bond flick. 007 is working to protect the British Government and BP’s interest in the big money pit of oil that is beneath the arctic. I can see some scenes involving Bond and those furry tigers that Putin flaunted a few months ago, in his latest attempt to channel Sigfrid and Roy…or at least become buddies with Leo.

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