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September 30, 2005

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER BETRAYS HIS GAY PAST

Radar_1 Radar -- the sassy new pop culture magazine edited by Maer Roshan (right) and Maer_roshan bankrolled by Mort Zuckerman ( lower left), the real estate mogul who owns the Mort_zuckerman_1 N.Y. Daily News and U.S. News and World Report -- has published on its website a catty contrast of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto of the bill legalizing gay marriage in California with Arnold's past, which included many gay friendships that helped launch his bodybuilding career with ".the gay sugar daddies of the international bodybuilding circuit." Schwarzenegger yesterday vetoed the bill, passed by the state legislature, that would have made marriage in California gender-neutral.

Under the headline "Arnold Quits the 'Fag Business," Radar mag's "Fresh Intelligence" columnSchwarzenegger3inside  reports: "'Arnold has had a long association with rich gay men,' according to Wendy Leigh, author of Schwarzenegger: An Unauthorized Biography. 'When he moved to England [around the time of his first Mr. Universe title in 1967], John Dixey, a British businessman and well-known aficionado of muscle boys, was very, very kind to Arnold. You have to understand, before Arnold came on the scene, it was common currency that bodybuilders were less than macho—it was absolutely given and accepted that they supported themselves by catering to the tastes of wealthy gay men.'

"Another of Schwarzenegger’s early benefactors, Leigh says, was Paco Arce Gomez, a Spanish millionaire and renowned gay playboy. In a 1992 Spy magazine profile of the Conan the Barbarian star, Arce was credited as the lensman behind a series of photos [like the one above right] from the Austrian’s early days, showing him 'eating breakfast off of very fancy china wearing a tank top and tight underwear.' (Schwarzenegger also posed nude for homoerotic photog Robert Mapplethorpe at least three times in the seventies and famously appeared naked in a 22-photo spread in now-defunct gay rag After Dark.)

"Paul Barresi, an L.A.-based private investigator who claims P.I. Anthony Pellicano hired him before the 2002 election to 'look into' any compromising relationships the then-prospective candidate still had in the demimonde, said he was 'shocked that Arnold would turn his back on the very people who were obviously so helpful to him. In fact, Arnold even met his wife, Maria [Shriver], though his friendship with a gay member of Maria’s family.'

"The Governator has been careful to frame his veto as promoting the will of the people as evidenced by an outdated 2000 vote against same-sex nuptials (today public opinion is split down the middle), and has been mostly mum about his personal feelings on the issue. At least since his notorious 1977 interview with Oui magazine, in which he claimed to 'have absolutely no hang-ups about the fag business.' Apparently, it doesn’t pay like it used to," smirks Radar.

Mark_lenoOpenly gay California State Assemblyman Mark Leno of San Francisco, (left), author of the gay marriage bill, told the San Francisco Chronicle that ""The governor has failed his test of leadership and missed a historic opportunity to stand up for the basic civil rights of all Californians...He cannot claim to support fair and equal treatment for same-sex couples and veto the very bill that would have provided it to them."

Schwarzenegger's hypocrisy is outdone, of course, by that of the man who headed his transition team --  his buddy Rep. David Dreier, the closeted gay Republican who voted for the gay-bashing federal Defense of Marriage Act and a raft of other legislative attacks on full equality for gays.

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September 29, 2005

DIRELAND ON DEMOCRACY NOW! AND AIR AMERICA

Doug_2 If you missed me chatting with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez this morning on Democracy Now! about David Dreier and Bill Frist, you can hear the archived broadcast (and read a transcript) by clicking here. (That's me smirking at left). And tomorrow (Friday), I'll be doing the "Morning Sedition" program on Air America at 8:30 AM on Friday, talking about Dreier again -- you can listen to me gab with hosts Marc Maron and Mark Riley live, by podcast or on the Internet, by clicking here.

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I.G.L.H.R.C. and IRAN -- A Reply to Paula Ettelbrick

I wrote the following commentary for the new issue of Gay City News, the largest gay weekly in New York City, which hit the newsstands today:

The September 23 Washington Blade reprints as a column a press release from Paula Ettelbrick (right), executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian HumanPaula_ettelbrick  Rights Commission (IGLHRC), headlined “Standing Up for Gays in Iran.”

I found Ettelbrick’s column disingenuous and hypocritical in the extreme. Here’s why.

Ettelbrick’s screed jumps off from the visit of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to the United Nations two weeks ago, with a sub-headline that hollers that “No One Raised Questions at the United Nations” about the terrifying situation facing Iranian gays today.

I say that Ettelbrick’s comments are hypocritical because among those who stayed silent during Ahmadinejad’s visit was IGLHRC, the organization she heads. IGLHRC refused to call a public demonstration on behalf of Iran’s gays aimed at the Iranian president’s visit.

One would never know from reading Ettelbrick’s piece that there is a massive and highly organized government-run pogrom against gay people going on today in Iran that has included a number of executions on charges which, Iranian gays say, were invented by their government. The most recent anti-gay Iranian government action Ettelbrick cites is two years old.

But readers of Gay City NewAmir_1_1 s are certainly aware of this frightful anti-gay crackdown, since I have reported on it in these pages in five different articles since July. Just last week, the newspaper published as its cover story my interview with Amir—a 22-year-old gay Iranian victim of government torture (left)—who testified about the widespread government-run Internet entrapment campaign that ensnared him and is being deployed daily to identify and round up Iranian gays who use net-based chat rooms to establish contact with other same-sexers. Not a word of this Internet entrapment campaign made it into Ettelbrick’s column.

Indeed, in a memorandum dated September 21 which Ettelbrick sent to a couple of dozen gay activists (a copy of which I obtained), she explains her strategy of silence, specifically acknowledging that the British gay rights group OutRage! has “chosen a full fledged public campaign to draw attention to the dangerous situation for LGBT people in Iran. I met last week while in London with Peter Tatchell from OUTRAGE! to talk about our different strategies for pursuing change in Iran, and elsewhere where execution of LGBT people is prevalent. The end result: we simply use different strategies and operate from different philosophies about how best to promote human rights.”

In an attempt to justify IGLHRC’s passive, behind-closed-doors, anti-activist approach to the crisis gays in Iran are facing, Ettelbrick’s memorandum goes on to say, “Often we are specifically asked not to [conduct public campaigns] for fear of putting gays abroad at further risk or complicating the political situation presented by public pressure from external sources, in particular the West.”

Iran_flag_1 But Ettelbrick does not offer any evidence for her claim that Iranian gays are asking IGLHRC to play dead and refrain from public protest about their situation. However, as I have repeatedly reported, Iranian gays themselves are literally begging me and others in the West to expose their government’s vicious anti-gay campaign that is destroying hundreds of gay lives, and are pleading with Western gays to maximize public protests about their situation. They have done so in numerous phone calls, and in a pile of e-mail messages that I have kept on file, as well as in public statements and releases from Iranian gay organizations and underground gay publications. IGLHRC has not been “Standing Up for Gays in Iran,” as Ettelbrick’s column claims, which is why I call her argument disingenuous. Indeed, as her memorandum cited above confesses, she and IGLHRC have deliberately adopted a strategy of public silence.

A strategy of keeping silent about oppression, for fear of riling the oppressors, has never worked at any time in human history. Ettelbrick’s position reminds me of that of certain Jewish elites here just before and during World War II, who said that no public attention should be called to Hitler’s lethal depredations aimed at German Jews, because to do so would only increase Americans’ anti-Semitism. Such a strategy failed miserably then, and it will not succeed now.

The public response of IGLHRC under Ettelbrick to the lethal gay crisis in Iran has consisted so far of three press releases, two of which date from July, while the third appeared in the Washington Blade last week. The first two IGLHRC releases reacted to the July 19 hanging of two gay teen-agers in the Iranian city of Mashad (left)Irangay_teens_12 —and accepted at face value the Iranian government’s charges of “rape” against the two teens used to justify their execution. As I have reported in these pages, multiple gay Iranian sources—including three gay sources inside Mashad—have said that the “rape” charge was invented by the government as an excuse to hang the two youths.

What is even more shocking is IGLHRC’s failure to contact those with knowledge that contradicts the Iranian government’s constant use of criminal charges to imprison and execute gay men. The very first to expose the falsity of the “rape” charge against the hanged Mashad gay teens—based on reports from gays inside the city—was Afdhere Jama, the dedicated editor of Huriyah, an e-zine for Muslim gays. It would have been a simple matter for Ettelbrick and IGLHRC to contact Jama since he is based in San Francisco. But as Jama reiterated to me this week, “I have never been contacted by IGLHRC about the Iranian situation.”

Ettelbrick’s Blade column says, “We must reach out to and work with our Iranian colleagues.” But the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO)  —  whose secretariat is in Norway and whose human rights commission operates out of Turkey—tells me they have never been contacted by IGLHRC, even though the PGLO has been trying very hard to publicize the Iranian government’s anti-gay crackdown and has been urging gays in the West to protest. Nor has IGLHRC contacted the editors of an underground gay e-zine for Iranians published from Tehran, its editors tell me, even though those editors—like the PGLO—have repeatedly insisted that the “rape” charges against the Mashad teen gay duo were hatched by the government as a cover. They have likewise warned Western gays against accepting Iranian government criminal charges against gays at face value, while urging maximum worldwide publicity for the perilous plight of gays in Iran.

Sharia Islamic law in force in the Islamic Republic of Iran requires four witnesses to prove a charge of homosexual acts. That is why it is easier for the government to invent spurious criminal charges against gay people than to prove they engaged in same-sex relations. And as Amir, the young gay Iranian torture victim, related in his Gay City News interview with me last week, torture, beatings, and intimidation are commonly used by the Iranian sex police to force gay people to confess to crimes they have not committed.

The charges against Amir after he was entrapped by the sex police included “sexual Iran_noose_ii_1 preference, sexual contact, illicit speech, illicit dress, makeup, and mannerism”—and for these “crimes” Amir was sentenced to a public flogging and received 100 lashes, after being brutally beaten and tortured while in the custody of the sex police. Surely this sort of cruel and inhumane persecution of gay people merits the widest public protest. It is the sort of thing the Ahmadinejad government is inflicting on Iranian gays every day. But, far from urging U.S. gays to militantly protest Iran‘s anti-gay crackdown, Ettelbrick’s column confines itself to urging “world leaders to speak out against imposing the death penalty everywhere in the world in cases involving sexuality.”

In years past, I admired IGLHRC for the work it did because it embraced an activist perspective. But the organization has, sadly, seen better days, and under Ettelbrick is particularly somnolent. For example, in its publicity for its coming October 4 forum at New York University on “gay activism,” the group doesn’t even mention Iran. You may want to show up at that forum and ask IGLHRC’s representatives to explain the organization’s anti-activist, silent strategy on Iran.

For background on the new wave of anti-gay repression in Iran, see my previous articles: July 21 -- Iran Executes Two Gay Teenagers (Updated); August 11 -- Iran Sources Question Rape Charges in Teen Executions; August 12 -- Two New Gay Executions Scheduled in Iran, Says Iranian Exile Group; August 17 -- Iran's Deadly Anti-Gay Crackdown: With Two More Executions Scheduled, the Pace of Repression Steps Up.August 25 -- Iran's Anti-Gay Purge Grows: Reports of New Executions. September 8 -- Iran and the Death of Gay Activism. September 20 -- "They'll Kill Me" -- A Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks of His Ordeal

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IRANIAN GAYS URGENTLY APPEAL FOR HELP

Pglo_logo The Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO) has appealed to North American activists for help in mobilizing support for their campaign against the vicious, lethal, anti-gay crackdown taking place in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The anti-gay pogrom in Iran includes arrests and torture of gay people, executions of gay Iranians on trumped up charges, and a well-organized Internet entrapment campaign by Iran's religious sex police that is ensnaring gay Iranians daily.

In his latest e-mail sent to me today from Turkey, the secretary of the PGLO's Human Rights Commission, Arsham Parsi, wrote: "Dear Doug, Would you please introduce PGLO to your activist friends and groups and organizations? We need it, we are going to make a big campaign. We need their e-mail addresses. We reach out our hands of need to you!"

The PGLO is an outgrowth of an earlier, smaller Iranian gay group called Rainbow, which first organized in 2002. But PGLO, in its current form, has existed only since 2004. "We are a young team yet," said Parsi in a telephone interview. With secretariats in Norway and Turkey, the PGLO claims a mailing list of over 29,000 Iranians. It maintains a trilingual website in Persian, German, and English. PGLO conducts educational and mutual aide activities inside Iran, and provides support for Iranian gays who have escaped from the Islamic Republic -- the world's largest religious prison -- and tries to help them obtain asylum in a country where they won't be persecuted for who and how they love.

PGLO edits a monthly magazine in Persian, Cheragh (cover at right), and produces Persian-language radio programs for webcast -- a dozen so far -- which are beamed into Iran on the Internet and redistributed there on cassettes. To give AmericanCheragh_logo  readers some sense of the content of these PGLO productions, I asked my invaluable Persian translator -- the Iranian-American Dr. Houman Sarshar, a psychotherapist by profession who has been of enormous help to me in my reporting on the tragic persecution of Iranian gays by their government -- to read the magazine and listen to the webcasts. He reports: "Both the magazine and the webcasts are  focused predominantly on activism. The last issue of Cheragh is about 35 pdf pages. It is fairly substantial in terms of material. Both the magazine and the webcasts deal mostly with legal, social, and ethnographic issues concerning the Iranian gay and lesbian community."

Dr. Sarshar adds, "They also have a strong teaching undertone: teaching about safe sex; translating segments from self-help books and articles about coming out, dealing with the family after you do, etc. The radio programs I've listened to in passing, are mostly talk radio programs. I guess the best way to put it is that both the 'zine and the Internet radio programs are essentially aiming to raise consciousness about the state of homosexuality in Iran today. But their primary focus is definitely legal matters and activism around the absence of the gay rights in Iran today, and the horrible persecutions gay people face today in the Islamic Republic."

Parsi, PGLO's human rights secretary -- who has also been of great help to me in my reporting on Iran -- has been granted asylum in Canada, and is moving there from Turkey  in December to establish a PGLO secretariat. (Turkey, whose government -- after eight decades of secular rule -- is now controlled by an Islamist political party, is becoming increasingly hostile to gays, and Turkey is now in the process of banning gay groups. So it's not the best place for an Iranian gay group to operate in.)

The PGLO and Parsi will need material and political help -- both in Canada and from the U.S. -- in setting up the PGLO secretariat when Parsi arrives in Canada. And he pleads with North American activists in both countriesIran_noose_4  to add their names to the PGLO e-mail list so that the group can keep them informed of the developing gay tragedy in Iran, receive alerts when protests are mobilized, and help secure asylum and support for fleeing Iranian gays. The PGLO says, "Please do not leave us alone and try to be our everyday supporters and friends. Hoping for the day, when homosexuality does not carry social contempts and hate any more and would be accepted as a social fact, we ask you to join us and stay with us to struggle for reaching this vital goal.We need your supports and the warmth of your hands."

If you want to express your solidarity with the Iranian LGBT community, individuals as well as organizations are asked to send an e-mail to the PGLO at hrc@pglo.org and join their mailing list. And if you are in a position to make a financial contribution, you may do so by bank transfer to the PGLO bank account in Turkey: Bank Name: KOC BANK; USD. Account NO.: 422 65 193;  Branch Code: 975 Turkey

Thanks to Page One Q for helping to spread the word about the Iranian's appeal.

Amir_back THE CASE OF AMIR, THE 22-YEAR-0LD IRANIAN TORTURE VICTIM (photo at left), who escaped from Iran to Turkey last month to tell of his ordeal and of the unfolding gay tragedy in Iran, is getting world-wide attention. My interview with Amir for New York's Gay City News, has been reprinted in the L.A. Weekly's latest issue, as well as in the new issue of the Boston gay weekly Bay Windows. The Amir interview will also be published this week in daily newspapers in Sydney, Australia and in Berlin (there are cases of gay Iranians facing deportation in both Germany and Australia), and has been been prominently featured on websites and blogs in many countries, from France to Sri Lanka to Iran. Quite a few DIRELAND readers have already offered financial assistance to the penniless young Amir, who is currently seeking asylum in a gay-friendly country. Anyone wishing to help Amir concretely -- either with financial help or in resettlement support -- may do so through the PGLO's Turkish secretariat and Arsham Parsi (who is hosting Amir in Turkey) by e-mailing hrc@pglo.org.

For background on the new wave of anti-gay repression in Iran, see my previous articles: July 21 -- Iran Executes Two Gay Teenagers (Updated); August 11 -- Iran Sources Question Rape Charges in Teen Executions; August 12 -- Two New Gay Executions Scheduled in Iran, Says Iranian Exile Group; August 17 -- Iran's Deadly Anti-Gay Crackdown: With Two More Executions Scheduled, the Pace of Repression Steps Up.August 25 -- Iran's Anti-Gay Purge Grows: Reports of New Executions. September 8 -- Iran and the Death of Gay Activism. September 20 -- "They'll Kill Me" -- A Gay Iranian Torture Victim Speaks of His Ordeal

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September 28, 2005

CLOSET-CASE DAVID DREIER NAMED TO REPLACE TOM DELAY (Updated)

Dreier_and_arnold_2 Now that House Speaker Dennis Hastert has named Rep. David Dreier to replace indicted Tom DeLay as House Republican Majority Leader, it will be interesting to see whether the corporate media discuss the outing of Drier. I wrote about Dreier's exposure as a closet-case homosexual, who has for years lived with his chief-of-staff David Smith, In the L.A. Weekly last September in an article entitled "The Outing." (At left, Dreier with "The Gropenator," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose transition team Dreier headed).

As I wrote then, "...I have always taken the view that outing a gay person should be approached with caution, and that in doing so one should strictly adhere to the Barney Frank Rule. As articulated by the openly gay Massachusetts congressman during another anti-gay GOP witch-hunt over a decade ago, when Frank threatened to out a number of gay-baiting Republican fellow congressmen, the rule insists that outing is only acceptable when a person uses their power or notoriety to hurt gay people.

"Dreier clearly meets that standard, for his voting record is strewn with anti-gay positions. To cite just a few: He opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would have banned discrimination against gay people in hiring; voted for the gay-bashing Defense of Marriage Act; voted for banning adoption by gay and lesbian couples in the District of Columbia (3,000 miles away from Dreier’s district); voted to allow federally funded charities to discriminate against gays in employment, even where local laws prohibit such bias; and voted against the Hate Crimes Prevention Act...."

Dreier continues to vote against gay people: as the House considered amending the pending  Hate Crimes Prevention Act on September 14, Dreier voted against the Conyers Amendment that added gays and the transgendered to the list of those to be protected by the law (the amendment passed 223-199). The final bill was just passed today, by the exact same margin as the pro-gay Conyers amendment.

Dreier is not just a political homophobe but a heartless AIDS-phobe as well, having voted against the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program designed to give shelter to the impoverished sick, and against funding for the federal ADAP program that furnishes the poor with the AIDS meds they need to stay alive.

Somebody at the Washington Post has a sense of humor -- in the article on Dreier being named to replace day posted on the WashPost website a few hours ago, the headline read "Dreier a Different Kind of Republican". As a closet-case gay man, Dreier certainly is unlike the vast majority of his homophobic party -- but he continues to hew the GOP anti-gay line. And the only reference in the Post to Dreier's sexuality is the dry comment that the Congressman is "unmarried." To read my original L.A. Weekly article on the outing of Dreier, click here.

UPDATE: Late-breaking news -- there was a mini-revolt in the House Republican Caucus this afternoon against Speaker Dennis Hastert's choice of Dreier to replace DeLay.  The result: Dreier will be sharing some duties with Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Roy_blunt who will be interim Majority Leader (photo of Blunt at right).. My Capitol Hill sources tell me there was a lot of grumbling aboutr Dreier's accession to DeLay's Majority Leader job because Dreier is from California and Californians already hold a half-dozen important committee chairs in the House, and because Dreier is a teensy bit more moderate on some issues than Blunt. But on one set of issues they agree -- their opposition to full civil rights for gay people. Blunt is a recipient of the "True Blue Award" from the anti-gay Christer lobby, the Family Research Council, which quickly issued a staement praising the choice of Blunt. Eric Stern, executive director of the Stonewall Democrats, immediately issued a statement, saying:""Roy Blunt is flamboyantly out in his opposition to equal protections for  gay and lesbian Americans.  He is a leading anti-gay advocate in Congress,  and we are convinced that he will continue the corruptive policies of Tom  Delay on issues of equality as he is aided in his duties by Congressman  Dreier." At this hour (6:00PM) is unclear just how the joint Blunt-Dreier sharing of power will work. It's unclear whether Dreier's homosexuality played any role in the GOP congressmen's revolt. DIRELAND will keep you posted.

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UPDATE ON ROBERT FISK

My friend Frank Smyth -- a fine journalist who has reported from Iraq, Central America, and Africa, and who is now the Washington representative of the Committee to Fisk_2 Protect Journalists -- tells me that he spoke with Robert Fisk's editor at The Independent, Leonard Doyle, about why Fisk was barred from entering the U.S. to make a speech in Denver, Colorado. Smyth reports that Doyle "said that Fisk  (left) was not banned. He had a visa but he did not have a biometric passport, which is required of all citizens from nations like the UK on the visa  waiver program. CPJ covered this at the time and noted that it would be an inconvenience  for journalists from these nations, although we also noted that it applied to all citizens  from these nations. So Fisk's problem shows more about how much harder it is for Europeans in general to now enter the US."

In its annual report last year, CPJ criticized the Bush administration for using a revision of document requirements as an excuse to keep journalists critical of the Cpj_logo administration out of the U.S.: "Reversing long-standing government practice, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began enforcing stiffer visa regulations for foreign journalists. Reporters and photojournalists from 27 nations considered 'friendly' to the United States must now obtain 'information visas' for even short-term assignments of 90 days or less­, even though other citizens from these same countries are eligible for a visa waiver for short-term visits. At least nine foreign journalists were detained and denied entry because they did not have visas. In addition, the department now requires all foreign visitors, including journalists, to leave the country and provide digital fingerprints to renew their visas...."

CPJ also sent a letter to Tom Ridge -- then Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security -- telling Ridge that "recent practices, however, run counter to the intent of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952, whose provisions were designed to facilitate foreign journalists' access to the United States. These enforcement changes have instead had a discriminatory effect against journalists; it is now more difficult for journalists from 'friendly' nations to enter the United States than it is for other, non-journalist citizens from these same countries."

CPJ also supported a bill by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D -Ca.) that "would allow journalists from 27 'friendly' countries to enter the United States without a visa for up to 90 days—just as any other citizen of a 'friendly' country may enter." The Republican House leadership never allowed the bill to come to the House floor for a vote.

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September 27, 2005

BILL FRIST'S FUNNY MONEY

Frist_scowl I have to chuckle now that the mass media have suddenly become shocked, shocked! that there's something fishy about Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist's relationship with the family company thaf financed his political career, H.C.A. (Health Corporation of America.) When Frist (left) became GOP Senate leader, while the corporate media were turning a blind eye to the odiferous sources of Frist's wealth,  I dug into HCA's history for the L.A. Weekly and produced a profile of this criminal company, and how " the Bush Justice Department suddenly ended a near-decade long federal investigation into how HCA for years had defrauded Medicaid, Medicare and Tricare (the federal program that covers the military and their families), giving the greedy health-care behemoth’s executives a sweetheart settlement that kept them out of the can...."

"The government’s case, " as I reported,  "was that HCA kept two sets of books and fraudulently overbilled the government. The deal meant that HCA agreed to pay the government $631 million for its lucrative scams — which, on top of previous fines, brought the total government penalties against the health-care conglomerate to a whopping $1.7 billion, the largest fraud settlement in history, breaking the old record set by Drexel Burnham....." To read the rest of my dissection of  the juicy details in the Frist-HCA scandal, click here.

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ANTI-WAR PROTESTS INVISIBLE IN THE MEDIA

The good folks at Fairness and Acccuracy in Reporting (FAIR) have issued a report Dc_antiwar_march on media coverage of the weekend's anti-war protests -- what there was of it. In fact, both TV and print media gave the demonstration short shrift.  FAIR's report is headlined "The Disappearing Anti-War Protests,"   Excerpts from FAIR's report:

"....if you relied on television for your news, you'd hardly know the protests happened at all. According to the Nexis news database, the only mention on the network newscasts that Saturday came on the NBC Nightly News, where the massive march received all of 87 words. (ABC World News Tonight transcripts were not available for September 24, possibly due to pre-emption by college football.)

"Cable coverage wasn't much better. CNN, for example, made only passing references to the weekend protests. CNN anchor Aaron Brown (lower left) offered an interesting explanation (9/24/05):


Aaron_brown "'There was a huge 100,000 people in Washington protesting the war in Iraq today, and I sometimes today feel like I've heard from all 100,000 upset that they did not get any coverage, and it's true they didn't get any coverage. Many of them see conspiracy. I assure you there is none, but it's just the national story today and the national conversation today is the hurricane that put millions and millions of people at risk, and it's just kind of an accident of bad timing, and I know that won't satisfy anyone but that's the truth of it.'

"To hear Brown tell it, a 24-hour cable news channel is somehow unable to cover more than one story at a time-- and the 'national conversation' is something that CNN just listens in on, rather than helping to determine through its coverage choices.

"The following day (9/25/05), the network's Sunday morning shows had an opportunity to at least reflect on the significance of the anti-war movement. With a panel consisting of three New York Times columnists, Tim Russert mentioned the march briefly in one question to Maureen Dowd-- which ended up being about how the antiwar movement might affect Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential chances.'

"On ABC's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos observed, 'We've seen polls Stephanopolous_t_2 across the board suggesting that we're bogged down now in Iraq and now you have this growing protest movement. Do you believe that we're reaching a tipping point in public opinion?' That question was put to pro-war Republican Sen. John McCain, who responded by inaccurately claiming: 'Most polls I see, that most Americans believe still that we have to stay the course.... I certainly understand the dissatisfaction of the American people but I think most of them still want to stay the course and we have to.'

"A recent CBS/New York Times poll (9/9-13/05) found 52 percent support for leaving Iraq 'as soon as possible.' A similar Gallup poll (9/16-18) found that 33 percent of the public want some troops withdrawn, with another 30 percent wanting all the troops withdrawn. Only 34 percent wanted to maintain or ' Stephanopoulos, however, failed to challenge McCain's false claim.

"(An L.A. Times recap of the protests--9/25/05-- included a misleading reference to the Gallup poll, reporting that while the war is seen as a 'mistake' by 59 percent of respondents, "There remains, however, widespread disagreement about the best solution. The same poll showed that 30 percent of Americans favored a total troop withdrawal, though 26 percent favored maintaining the current level.' By leaving out the 33 percent of those polled who wanted to decrease troop numbers, the paper gave a misleading impression of closely divided opinion.)

Mdara_liasson "On Fox News Sunday (9/25/05), panelist Juan Williams was rebuked by his colleagues when he noted that public opinion had turned in favor of pulling out of Iraq. Fellow Fox panelist and NPR reporter Mara Liasson (left) responded, 'Oh, I don't think that's true,' a sentiment echoed by Fox panelist Brit Hume. When Williams brought up the Saudi foreign minister's statement that foreign troops were not helping to stabilize Iraq, panelist William Kristol retorted: 'So now the American left is with the House of Saud.'. ..." You can read the complete report by clicking here.

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September 26, 2005

TURKEY MOVES TO BAN ITS LARGEST GAY GROUP

Turkey last week initiated legal action to ban its leading gay organization, Kaos GL Pride_istanbul_2005 (whose website has an English-language section.) And the oldest Turkish gay group, Lambda Istanbul -- which this year sponsored a Gay Pride March in Istanbul (at right) that drew 150 participants -- may soon find itself targeted as well.

Selahattin Ekremoglu, deputy governor of the Turkish capital Ankara, on September Turkey_gay_paintiing_1 15 wrote a letter to the gay and lesbian group Kaos GL that said a court procedure had been opened to dissolve the organization. He claimed that the name and regulations of the group violated a provision in the Turkish Civil Code that forbids "establishing any organization that is against the laws and principles of morality."  This government ukase contradicts the long Turkish literary gay tradition -- notably in the divan poetry much admired in the Ottoman Empire of the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries from poets like Hafiz and Muhammed Ibn Hassan Al Nawaji  -- of which the openly gay Turkish poet-novelist-scenarist Murathan Murgan is the most prominent modern inheritor. (Above left, a 14th century Turkish painting.)

The International Lesbian and Gay Association denounced the move to shut down Kaos GL last week in a statement, and today Human Rights Watch issued a similar protest . "Turkey has a long record of suppressing civil society and harassing human rights defenders," said Scott Long, director of HRW's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Project. "This dangerous new move shows that old habits die hard, and calls into question recent advances in rights protections." 

Kaos_mag_cover_1 Kaos GL Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Organization is an 11-year-old, Ankara-based collective that operates a drop-in center providing social and cultural support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The group also advocates for measures to end discrimination and violence, and it publishes a magazine (cover at left) that has been registered as a legal publication since 1999. 

On July 15, Kaos GL applied to the Ministry of Interior for recognition as a nongovernmental organization. The ministry initially approved the request, but the Ankara deputy governor, who reports to the Interior Ministry, has now responded by launching a lawsuit to close the organization. 
"Sweeping references to 'morality' in the Turkish Civil Code still offer a pretext for discrimination and abuse of basic rights," said Long. "Equal protection doesn't include exclusion for sexual orientation or gender identity." 

Turkey has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects freedoms of expression and association and also forbids discrimination on the basis of sex. In 1994 the U.N. Human Rights Committee held that "sexual orientation" was a status protected against discrimination by the treaty. 

Turkey has also ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which affirms freedoms of expression and association. The European Court of Human Rights has condemned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in a succession of cases.

In a briefing paper on Turkey's progress toward admission to the European Union, Human Rights Watch last year said that, "The government continues to ease the restrictions on associations by small degrees." However, the paper also noted, "for organizations viewed with suspicion by the authorities, including human rights organizations, day-to-day life feels like life under a police state: annual meetings and press conferences are often monitored by plain clothes police officers toting video cameras, while local prosecutors maintain a hail of litigation." 

Ambassador_logoglu The Turkish tourist industry harvests a lot of Western and gay tourist dollars each year. That's why an effective way to protest is to write to Ambassador O. Faruk Logoglu (left), Embassy of the Turkish Republic, 2525 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008, or e-mail him at contact@turkishembassy.org -- and, whether you're gay or straight, tell Ambassador Logoglu that you won't visit Turkey as a tourist and spend your money there until it stops its anti-gay actions like its move to shut down Kaos GL.

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September 25, 2005

WANT TO PUSH BUSH AROUND?

Have a little fun with Dubya -- if he gets stuck you can nudge him with your mouse. . actually, you can pound him in every direction, just click here.

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