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Bannon expected to thrill anemic California Republican Party 

As if the wildfires weren’t destructive enough, now comes Tiki Torch-bearer Steve Bannon

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Steve Bannon (Photo via Flickr)

It’s hard not to slip briefly into believing that the Religious Right fantasy of the “end times” may not be a myth at all, given the recent devastation and death caused by the Mexico earthquake, the Atlantic hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria—the latter leaving Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands total disaster areas—and the wind-fueled Northern California wildfires that have killed at least 31 people, with hundreds missing, and a loss of entire neighborhoods, scores of vineyards and more than $1 billion of California’s $21 billion cannabis economy.   Oh, and then there’s the gathering nuclear storm threatening from North Korea.

And now California must brace for political tornado Steve Bannon, the fired former White House Chief Strategist for President Trump and Breitbart News honcho who bested his old boss in the recent Alabama Primary by helping religious extremist former justice Roy Moore win over the Trump-endorsed establishment candidate in the race to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Beauregard Sessions, now Trump’s Attorney General. As if flagging the turmoil to come, the California Republican Party chose Friday the 13th to announce that Bannon will keynote the opening dinner of the 2017 Fall Convention, Friday, October 20, in Anaheim.

“Steve Bannon is not shy about taking on the establishment on behalf of hard working Americans,” California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte said in a press release. “He is a leading voice in the effort to drain the swamp in Washington DC, a change desperately needed since it has limited our progress. Of course, California has its own swamp in Sacramento that also needs draining.”

Bannon claims he is still agitating for Trump’s agenda of disruption, positing Moore as more Trumpian than Trump’s candidate. But it is not clear if his success with Moore is transferable to a big blue state like California. Alabama is so Trump-red, voters excused or applauded the fact that Moore was twice kicked off the judicial bench for actions in which he placed “God’s law” over the civil law he was sworn to uphold. Additionally, the Washington Post just outed Moore as a liar.

Moore, the Post reported, “once said publicly that he did not take a “regular salary” from the small charity he founded to promote Christian values because he did not want to be a financial burden.  But privately, Moore had arranged to receive a salary of $180,000 a year for part-time work at the Foundation for Moral Law, internal charity documents show. He collected more than $1 million as president from 2007 to 2012, compensation that far surpassed what the group disclosed in its public tax filings most of those years.” Moore still holds a 2012 promissory note for back pay eventually worth $540,000.

California Republicans have a similar candidate in Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, who represents the 50th District of Inland San Diego County.  Hunter—who helped spearhead the effort to evict trans service members from the military— is under FBI investigation into whether improperly he used campaign funds for personal and family expenses.

“Hunter, who succeeded his father in 2008, is at risk of a stunning fall — of losing the safest of Republican seats because of silly self-inflicted mistakes. It would be possible to feel sorry for him — if he’d ever shown genuine contrition. Now it’s too late for that,” the San Diego Union Tribune editorialized last July.

Establishment Republicans have quietly indicated they will cut Hunter loose if he is indicted. Election prognosticators at the Cook Report moved his competitive re-election bid from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican.” Hunter’s Democratic opponent is a highly regarded former Navy Seal, Josh Butner.

And then there’s Rep. Dana Rohrabacher who represents the 48th District of Coastal Orange County. The Cook Report moved Rohrabacher into the Toss Up column in reaction to the surfing conservative’s excited encounter with Julian Assange, and support for internet conspiracy theorist Chuck Johnson and the whole Trump-loving pro-Russian gang. His strongest likely Democratic opponent so far is Hans Keirstead, “a stem cell and cancer researcher who founded a biotech company that was sold for $126 million,” per the Cook Report. “This is one of Democrats’ best takeover opportunities in California.”

The Cook Report rates other vulnerable Republicans in competitive races as: Toss Up: Steve Knight in the 25th District (Palmdale), Darrell Issa in the 49th District (Vista); Lean Republican: Jeff Denham,10th District (Turlock), Ed Royce, 39th District (Fullerton), and Mimi Walters, 45th District (Irvine); Likely Republican: David Valadao, 21st District (Hanford).

Recently, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added Republican Rep. Devin Nunes (Tulare) to their list of targets to win back the House because of his erratic pro-Trump conspiratorial behavior, even after recusing himself as chair of the House Select Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“House Republicans started the 2018 cycle in a defensive crouch as part of the President’s party in his first midterm. But what has transpired since is much more disturbing and damaging. Through self-inflicted wounds, chaos, ethical issues and a trail of betrayals and broken promises to voters, House Republicans and President Trump have made their long 2018 slog even more difficult,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Meredith Kelly said in a statement.  

That’s grist for the barren GOP mill. “We’re eager to hear from Mr. Bannon and look forward to having him join us at our upcoming convention,” Brulte said.

Brulte needs to do something to boost membership: Republican registration is down to 26 percent, the GOP holds no statewide offices and less than a third of the seats in both chambers of the California Legislature.

Other far right conservatives are also trekking to Anaheim to offer inspiration to a state party that only a few years ago welcomed the Log Cabin Republicans as charter members and then-Speaker John Boehner flew in for a fundraiser for openly gay congressional candidate Carl DeMaio. Now the CAGOP is hosting House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, intensely anti-LGBT US Sen. Tom Cotton, Judge Jeanine Pirro, Stephen Moore, and Grover Norquist, who once supported Log Cabin.

“I’m thrilled that these speakers are joining us to provide a vision for Republicans moving forward,” said Brulte. 

Politics

Herschel Walker defeated in run-off election by Raphael Warnock

Warnock’s victory means Democrats gain the outright majority in the Senate, with 51 seats to 49, freeing them from a power-sharing agreement

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U.S. Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock, a graduate of Morehouse college (1991), campaigning there on Nov. 30, 2022 (Photo Credit: Warnock/Facebook)

ATLANTA – U.S. Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock defeated his Republican challenger Herschel Walker Tuesday night in a run-off election. In last month’s election, Warnock led Walker by 37,000 votes out of almost 4 million cast, but fell short of the 50% threshold needed to avoid the runoff.

Warnock’s victory means Democrats gain the outright majority in the Senate, with 51 seats to the Republicans’ 49, freeing them from a power-sharing agreement for committee assignments and diminishing the power of moderate Democrats Senators Joseph Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Political commentator and journalist Jacob Rubashkin, reflecting on Warnock’s victory noted on Twitter; “In 1934, no Democratic senators lost re-election. But since 1934, every president, Democrat and Republican, has seen at least one senator from their party lose re-election in every single midterm cycle. Biden becomes the first president since FDR not to lose a single senator.”

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State Department

State Department spokesperson sharply criticizes new Russia propaganda law

Statute ‘pushes LGBTQI+ persons further to the margins of Russian society’

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State Department spokesperson Ned Price, center, speaks at the LGBTQ Victory Fund's International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in Washington on Dec. 3, 2022. Price, who is openly gay, has criticized an anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda law that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed this week. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Tuesday sharply criticized the anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda law that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the day before.

Price, who is openly gay, noted to reporters during a press briefing the law “further criminalizes the sharing of information about LGBTQI+ persons.”

“The law is another serious blow to freedom of expression in Russia, and a continuation of the Kremlin’s broader, long-running crackdown against marginalized persons, dissenting voices, civil society and independent media that it has intensified, as it has failed to achieve its objectives in its unconscionable war against Ukraine,” said Price. 

“The law pushes LGBTQI+ persons further to the margins of Russian society, fueling and amplifying the prejudice, discrimination, violence and stigma they face. The legislation is a clear attempt by the Kremlin to distract from its own failures by scapegoating vulnerable communities and creating phantom enemies,” he added. “We stand in solidarity with LGBTQI+ persons in Russia and around the world who seek to exercise the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes that all human beings are free and equal in dignity and rights.”

The law that Putin signed on Monday expands the existing “Protecting Children from Information Advocating a Denial of Traditional Family Values” statute that took effect in Russia in 2013. 

The new law will ban so-called LGBTQ+ propaganda and materials that discuss gender reassignment surgery and LGBTQ+ and intersex issues to minors, which it categorizes as the promotion of pedophilia. Russian media reports indicate the new law will apply to films, books, commercials, media outlets and computer games.

Anyone who violates the law could face a fine of up to 10 million rubles ($165,152.80.) Authorities could also force businesses and organizations to temporarily close, and foreigners who violate the law could face arrest, incarceration for up to 15 days, a fine of up to 5,000 rubles and deportation.

Putin signed the law against the backdrop of Russia’s continued war against Ukraine.

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Los Angeles County

Investigation in death of LGBT Center worker still misgendering her

The discovery of her remains came after intensive efforts by family and friends who actively searched for her filed a missing person’s report

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – In an updated statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department into the death of Los Angeles LGBT Center staff member Day Rodas, a 27-year-old transgender woman, the agency continues to misgender her.

Rodas, who worked in the Community Health Program at the L.A. LGBT Center, was a San Fernando Valley native and UCLA graduate. The discovery of her remains came after intensive efforts by family and friends who actively searched for her and filed a missing person’s report.

 Day Rodas (Family photo)

Her body was left along the road in the unincorporated Santa Monica Mountains north of El Matador Beach in Malibu. A motorist found her on the side of the road and pulled over to try to help, California Highway Patrol spokesperson Lt. Patricia Thomas told media outlets. However, Rodas was already dead.

In the updated statement issued Tuesday December 6th, 2022, which continued to misgender Rodas, the LASD said that an autopsy of the decedent was conducted on Friday, December 2, 2022, by the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner Office. 

The Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office did not find any obvious signs of trauma and preliminary findings indicated there were narcotics in the decedent’s body.  LASD Homicide Investigators are treating this incident as a possible narcotics overdose and CHP spokesperson Thomas, said that it was likely the victim’s body was brought to the location.

GoFundMe post made on Sunday to raise money for her funeral expenses was created by her sibling Susie Rodas.

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Los Angeles

LA City Council bans Styrofoam, plastic bags, & have “Zero Waste”

“There is no place in the City of Los Angeles for harmful environmental products like Styrofoam, & today we are making that a reality”

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Trash that has washed up on Los Angeles beaches (Photo Credit: Heal the Bay/Facebook)

LOS ANGELES – In a unanimous vote, the Los Angeles City Council today approved an ordinance that will prohibit the distribution and sale of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) products, commonly referred to under the trade name Styrofoam, in the City of Los Angeles.

“I am pleased that we were able to advance yet another transformative environmental policy with unanimous support of the City Council,” said Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, the chair of the Energy, Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and River committee. “Angelenos want to be good stewards of the environment, and this legislation is reflective of that value – as well as the urgency with which it must be implemented. There is no place in the City of Los Angeles for harmful environmental products like Styrofoam, and with today’s decisive action we are making that imperative a reality. I hope that future Councils, along with other jurisdictions across the country and the world, follow our lead on environmental justice and the elimination of products that degrade public health.”

“Our world is drowning in plastic. To the point where, in any given week, each of us ingests enough plastic from our food and water to make a credit card,” said Council President Paul Krekorian.  “The petrochemical industry is lying to the people of the United States by trying to convince them that somehow it’s OK to use these products because they’re recyclable. They’re not. Almost no plastic ever gets recycled and styrofoam definitely does not.  The steps that we’re taking today are an important part of changing industries, changing consumer behavior and educating the public about the harm that this is causing them,”  Krekorian said.

“EPS foam, also known as Styrofoam, is toxic from production to usage to landfill. The Styrene and Benzene in EPS are both known carcinogens and can also negatively affect workers inside EPS factories. The manufacturing process can contaminate neighborhoods outside EPS factories. The toxins can leach into hot drinks and food as people use cups and food containers. And then EPS ends up as little white bits marring our world-class beaches,” said Councilmember Paul Koretz, the author of the original legislation. “Even worse, the manufacturing process releases significant amounts of hydrofluorocarbons, which are massively potent greenhouse gasses. It’s way past time for Styrofoam to go away forever.”

The Council also approved an additional ordinance that adds to the Los Angeles Municipal Code a section promoting the use of reusable bags and regulating the use of plastic and paper single-use carryout bags at apparel stores, farmers’ markets, food or beverage facilities, hardware stores, and open air markets. In addition, the Council approved instructions to LA Sanitation and Environment (LASAN) requiring reports back to the Council, by April 2025, regarding compliance with these new policies. The Council also instructed LASAN to prepare outreach programs to educate stakeholders on both ordinances.

Additionally, the Council requested that all proprietary departments, along with their respective boards, adopt and implement the ordinance requiring “zero waste” at City facilities and events, along with a direction to LASAN to prepare an outreach program and further instruction to all departments to report back on progress with this ordinance, which was passed earlier this year. 

“LA Sanitation and Environment (LASAN) has a unique responsibility when it comes to protecting public health and the environment,” said Alex Helou, LASAN Assistant Director. “We do that through the hard work of collecting, recycling and composting materials, but also through the much less visible work of educating residents on what can and can’t be recycled. Items like expanded polystyrene, plastic bags and single-use foodware accessories do not belong in the blue bin.”

“For more than 30 years, Heal the Bay has conducted thousands of cleanups, removing millions of pieces of plastic off of our beaches and out of our waterways. It is clear that cleanups will never solve the issue of plastic pollution. To truly protect public health, we need aggressive and responsible solutions like today’s unanimous vote by the Los Angeles City Council to ban polystyrene addressing upstream sources and slowing the production and sale of plastic products, said Tracy Quinn, President and CEO of Heal the Bay. “We commend Councilmembers Koretz, Krekorian, and O’Farrell for their leadership on this issue and look forward to helping put these laws into effect in the new year.”

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San Francisco

Wiener responds to bomb threat

“The email listed my home address, threatened to shoot up my Capitol office saying we will fucking kill you & called me a pedophile & groomer”

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California State Senator Scott Wiener (D) speaking on U.S. Senate passage of the Respect for Marriage Act at San Francisco City Hall with U.S. Senator Alex Padilla other elected officials (Photo Credit: Office of Senator Scott Wiener)

SAN FRANCISCO – California State Senator Scott Wiener (D), an openly gay lawmaker who represents San Francisco, in an emailed statement to the Blade responded to the bomb threat which had been emailed to the San Francisco Standard, a local news outlet, early Tuesday morning.

“Early this morning, I was informed by the San Francisco Standard and the police that someone had issued a bomb threat against me, listing my specific home address and also threatening to shoot up my Capitol office. The email said ‘we will fucking kill you’ and called me a pedophile and groomer.

“This latest wave of death threats against me relates to my work to end discrimination against LGBTQ people in the criminal justice system and my work to ensure the safety of transgender children and their families. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and MAGA activist Charlie Kirk recently tweeted homophobic lies about me, falsely accusing me of supporting pedophiles and child ‘mutilation.’

“The extreme homophobic and transphobic rhetoric that has escalated on social media and right wing media outlets has real world impacts. It leads to harassment, stalking, threats, and violence against our community. People are dying as a result. Responsible political leaders on the right must call it out and stop tolerating it.

“I will always fight for the LGBTQ community — and for the community as a whole — and will never let these threats stop that work.”

A source with the SFPD confirmed the incident.

According to the Standard’s reporting on the incident:

The email was sent by a person using the name Zamina Tataro, the email said that they placed bombs at Wiener’s San Francisco home and threatened to shoot up his Sacramento office “in 20 minutes, I am willing to die.”

The subject line read “Scott Wiener will die today,” and the author called him a pedophile and accused him of grooming children.

A week ago on the heels of a Twitter attack by Georgia far-right extremist MAGA  Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, (R-GA), far-right extremist radio chat show host Charles J. Kirk, while loosely channeling an InfoWars host Alex Jones style-attack, went after Wiener implying that the veteran lawmaker endorses and supports child molestation.

Kirk, 29, is a co-founder of Turning Point USA, a conservative right-wing political group aimed at influencing college and university students and young people. Ironically, Kirk himself dropped out of Harper College, a junior community college near Chicago, without having completed any degree or certificate.

Kirk hosts a daily three-hour radio talk show, called The Charlie Kirk Show, on Salem Media which is known for owning conservative websites Townhall.com, RedState, Hot Air, and PJ Media, as well as Twitter aggregator Twitchy, calling itself a ” for-profit Christian broadcast corporation.”

He is also an avid supporter of impeached former president Donald Trump, consistently refers to himself as a MAGA Republican and has asserted that the concept of white privilege is a myth and a “racist lie.” He also has spread false information and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 on social media platforms, such as Twitter, in 2020.

Recently Kirk has been attacking the LGBTQ+ community on the subjects of trans youth and also following the lead of far-right Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, (R-GA) in attacking Senator Wiener:

Kirk’s attack on the senator commenced with: “Thousands of pedophiles in California are going free after just a few months in jail, thanks to the state’s radically reduced penalties for child molestation. One reason so many of these predators are going free so early is California lawmaker Scott Wiener.”

Wiener responded on Twitter saying: “Not even 24 hours after MAGA grifter Charlie Kirk tweeted homophobic lies about me, I received this threat repeating one of his lies. But that was the point: Riling people up against me & other LGBTQ people. Words have consequences & Twitter is becoming a cesspool for this crap”

Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, released the following statement from Executive Director Tony Hoang upon learning of yet another threat against Wiener:

“The bomb threat against Senator Wiener is another clear indication that the hateful rhetoric and lies from far-right, anti-LGBTQ+ politicians and pundits have dangerous consequences. They aren’t playing political games. This is not an issue with two sides. They’re inciting violence against Senator Wiener and the LGBTQ+ community, and their actions and words should be treated as such.

“Silence is not an option. Responsible leaders, regardless of political affiliation or ideology, must reject and condemn these hateful lies about Senator Wiener and LGBTQ+ people. To do any less is to be complicit in the violence they incite.”

Three months ago a Contra Costa County Superior Court jury convicted a 51-year-old San Ramon, Calif. man for threatening the life of Wiener and on state weapons charges.

Erik Triana was convicted guilty of threatening the life of Wiener, two counts of possessing assault weapons (an AR-15 rifle and a privately made 9mm pistol), two counts of manufacturing or assembling unregistered firearms (commonly known as ghost guns), and two counts of having a concealed firearm in a vehicle, according to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.

Both the San Francisco Police Department and California Highway Patrol investigated the threat, the SFPD’s public information officer Officer Kathryn Winters told the Blade.

Senator Wiener released a statement after the conviction:

“I’m deeply grateful to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, California Highway Patrol, and the court system for taking this death threat — and my personal safety — seriously, and for seeking accountability.”

“Death threats against public officials undermine democracy. A public official should make decisions based on what benefits the community, not based on whether a decision will get the official killed. Modern politics can be polarized and toxic, but we must never normalize or tolerate death threats,” the senator added.

Local Contra County journalist Tony Hicks, writing for Bay City News, reported:

Triana was arrested after he sent Wiener the threat through the senator’s “contact me” portal on his website that read: “Vax my kids without my permission and expect a visit from me and my rifle.”

According to the district attorney’s office, the San Ramon father of three signed his message “Amendment, Second” and listed his address as the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Triana was charged in April.

When Wiener testified on Sept. 6 he noted the threat was unlike others his office receives because of the reference to the late San Francisco Mayor George Moscone (who, along with Supervisor Harvey Milk, was shot and killed at San Francisco City Hall in 1978), the specific threat to use a gun, and that Triana lived in the Bay Area.

The threat was traced back to a work computer Triana used at his job in Pleasanton. When investigators executed the search warrant they found an unregistered AR-15 assault weapon with nine loaded magazines and an unserialized privately made 9-mm pistol referred to as ghost guns.

Police also seized another unserialized pistol in a backpack, along with two loaded 9mm magazines and two loaded AR-15 style magazines.

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Colorado

Club Q suspect: 300+ charges to include murder & hate crimes

The 22-year-old suspect will face 305 charges including first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and bias-motivated crime

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Memorial to the victims of the Club Q outside of the nightclub (Screenshot/YouTube Inside Edition)

COLORADO SPRINGS – El Paso County Colorado District Attorney Michael Allen announced in the first in-person hearing Tuesday, the 22-year-old suspect in the mass shooting at the LGBTQ+ nightclub Club Q, which killed five and wounded dozens other will face 305 charges including first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and bias-motivated crime.

The Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper reported that Anderson Aldrich appeared in a Colorado Springs courtroom wearing a green jumpsuit and handcuffs. Aldrich’s facial bruising had significantly healed since a video hearing two weeks ago. 

The total list of charges according to the Gazette is as follows: 

• 10 counts of first-degree murder.

• 86 counts of attempted first-degree murder.

• 86 counts of first-degree assault.

• Four counts of second-degree assault.

• 48 counts of bias motivated crime. 

• 71 counts of violent crime causing death and using a weapon.

Allen said the prosecution may request to amend the charges in the future.

“We are not going to tolerate actions against community members based on their sexual identity,” Allen said at a news conference after the hearing. “Members of that community have been harassed and intimated and abused for too long. And that’s not going to occur in the 4th Judicial District.”

During the hearing Judge Michael McHenry, following the filing of formal charges, granted a request from District Attorney Allen for the suspect’s arrest affidavit to be unsealed. The court papers should be available to the public by the end of the day Wednesday, the Judge noted according to the Gazette.

Allen said that while he couldn’t talk about what is in the affidavit, he told reporters that it might contain “much less information than you might expect.”

Suspect in Club Q shooting appears in court:

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Southeast Asia

New Indonesia Criminal Code to criminalize sex outside of marriage

Country’s revised Criminal Code will take effect in three years

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Indonesia's new Criminal Code that lawmakers approved on Dec. 6, 2022, would criminalize sex outside of marriage. (Bigstock photo)

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Lawmakers in Indonesia on Tuesday approved a bill that would criminalize sex outside of marriage.

The Jakarta Post, an English newspaper in the country’s capital, noted the marriage provision is part of a revised Criminal Code that would, among other things, also make it illegal to insult the president. The Jakarta Post said anyone, including foreigners, who have sex outside of marriage could face up to a year in jail.

The new Criminal Code — which LGBTQ+ and intersex activists and other human rights groups have criticized — will take place in three years.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are decriminalized in most of Indonesia, but officials in Aceh province in 2021 caned two men under Shariah law after their neighbors caught them having sex. The Indonesian government in recent years has faced criticism over its LGBTQ and intersex rights record.

Authorities in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, in 2017 arrested 51 people who were attending a “gay party” at a sauna. The closure of an Islamic school for transgender people in the city of Yogyakarta in 2016 also sparked outrage.

Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights, had been scheduled to visit Indonesia this week. She cancelled her trip after the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s most prominent Islamic group, criticized it.

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Virginia

Virginia shopping center hit with homophobic, racist graffiti

Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Michele Bowman said another, similar display of hate graffiti was found on Saturday at the nearby Dulles Landing

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Graffiti at a Loudoun County shopping center is being investigated as a hate crime. (Photo Credit: Timbers Landscaping Care LLC/Facebook)

SOUTH RIDING, Va. – The Loudoun County, Va., Sheriff’s Office is seeking help from the public for its investigation into an incident on Friday, Dec. 2, in which an unidentified suspect or suspects spray-painted anti-LGBTQ, racist, and anti-Semitic graffiti at a shopping center.

A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s office told the Washington Blade the graffiti, which is considered an act of vandalism and is being investigated as a possible hate crime, was found painted on the side of a building that once housed a Food Lion supermarket at the South Riding Town Center, which is located near Dulles airport about four miles west of Chantilly.

The Sheriff’s Office did not disclose the exact wording of the graffiti. But news media reports, including a report by WTOP News, said the graffiti included Nazi swastikas, racial slurs, and the phrase “stop white genocide.”

Among the graffiti messages was the symbol “1488,” which indicates “the perpetrator’s endorsement of white supremacy and its beliefs,” according to a statement from the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington as reported by the local publication Inside NOVA.

Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Michele Bowman said another, similar display of hate graffiti was found on Saturday behind the Bed Bath & Beyond building at the nearby Dulles Landing shopping center. Bowman said the Sheriff’s Office is also investigating that incident.

“There is no place in society for this behavior,” a statement released by the Sheriff’s Office on Facebook says.

“The LCSO takes this very seriously and is working with our station detectives, School Resource Officers, and our FBI Task Force member, and is reviewing social media and other potential leads to determine who is responsible for this vile act,” the statement says.

“We are asking the public for their assistance as well,” it says. “If anyone has information that may be helpful, please call Detective Fornwalt at 703-777-1021,” the statement says.

Loudoun4All, which describes itself as an advocacy organization that supports equality, announced on Facebook that it organized a rally on Sunday, Dec. 4, at the site of the graffiti at South Riding Town Center to speak out against hate.

The announcement says the group also arranged for volunteers to help remove the graffiti after learning that the Sheriff’s Office does not have authority to remove such graffiti on private property.

“About 50 local residents joined the rally, which took place along the side of Tall Cedars Parkway where the graffiti had been painted,” the group said in its Facebook posting. “Rally goers held signs with inclusive and supportive messages and waved at cars driving by,” the posting says.

It says that local resident Quante Timbers, the owner of Timbers Landscaping Care, LLC, volunteered his services by bringing a power washer to the site to remove most of the graffiti.

“Where his hoses wouldn’t reach, local kids converted the spray-painted message of hate into chalked messages of love,” the Loudoun4All statement says.

Loudoun Sheriff’s spokesperson Bowman said there were no updates to report on the investigation as of Monday, Dec. 5.

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Southern-Central Asia

Pakistani cinema and television highlights LGBTQ+, intersex issues

Government sought to ban ‘Joyland’

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The Pakistani government sought to ban "Joyland" in the country. (Promotional poster for "Joyland")

LAHORE, Pakistan — There are several Pakistani movies and television shows that depict the lives of LGBTQ+ and intersex people in society.

Though some media outlets have become more inclusive, the representation of queer people on screen is still too rare. Pakistan has seen a rise in the production of LGBTQ+ and intersex movies and television shows that include dramas, documentaries and web series. Some of them are made in Pakistan, while others are produced abroad. Many of them have been released in Pakistan. The government banned some of them, but others have not only amused audiences but won international awards.

Here is a list of some of them. 

‘Joyland’

“Joyland” is a Pakistani film that made waves at the Cannes Film Festival. 

The film follows the story of a Transgender woman named Biba, who is trying to make a living as a dancer in Lahore. She faces many challenges in her life, including discrimination and violence from those who do not accept her gender identity. She nevertheless persists, despite these difficulties, and ultimately finds love and acceptance from unexpected sources. This heartwarming film highlights the struggles and triumphs of the trans community in Pakistan and is sure to resonate with viewers around the world. “Joyland” is a powerful and timely film that highlights the struggles of Trans people in Pakistan. It is also a celebration of hope and friendship, and an uplifting story about chasing your dreams against all odds.

In a conservative Pakistani family, the youngest son Haider (Ali Junejo) is expected to produce a baby boy with his wife. However, he joins an erotic dance theater and falls for the troupe’s director, a Trans woman. This film tells the story of the sexual revolution in Pakistan and their struggle against traditional gender roles and expectations. 

“Joyland” is the first Pakistani film on the LGBTQ+ topic that premiered at Cannes Film Festival and received an overwhelming response. It won the prestigious Cannes “Queer Palm” award during its world premiere. The government had tried to ban the film, but it opened in the country last month. 

‘Poshida: Hidden LGBT Pakistan’

In the conservative, Muslim-dominated country of Pakistan, homosexuality is a taboo topic. However, there is a thriving LGBTQ+ and intersex community in Pakistan that is forced to live in secrecy. The documentary “Poshida: Hidden LGBT Pakistan” shines a light on this hidden community. 

It follows the lives of several LGBTQ+ and intersex Pakistanis, who bravely share their stories. The documentary was released in 2015 in Pakistan and in the U.K. by director Faizan Fiaz. It was the first kind of movie on the “LGBTQ” topic. The film was screened at film festivals in Barcelona, Spain, and in the U.S. The word “poshida” means “hidden” in Urdu. The film is particularly timely given the current global discussion around LGBTQ+ and intersex rights. It examines the legacy of colonialism, class structures and the impact of the U.S. government’s gay rights advocacy in Pakistan. 

The documentary is about a serial killer from Lahore who kills Trans people, women and gay men for entertainment purposes. Human rights abuses of Trans men and women are also explored in the documentary. 

‘Churails’

Pakistani cinema has come a long way in recent years, tackling several taboo subjects and exploring new genres and stories. One of the most groundbreaking Pakistani films of recent years is “Churails.”

The film is the first Pakistani queer web series that revolves around four women. It is the first time that a lesbian relationship in any Pakistani film or web series is portrayed.

This film features a Trans woman Baby Doll (Zara Khan), lesbian lovers Babli (Sameena Nazir) and Pinky (Bakhtawar Mazhar) and a gay husband. Four women who were students — one was a wedding planner, the third one was convicted of a crime and the fourth woman was a socialite set up a secret detective agency in Karachi. The aim was to launch a detective service for those women who were cheated by their husbands. 

A web series set in Karachi challenges the status quo and subverts the conventional narrative. The critically acclaimed web series has opened up a debate about Pakistan’s patriarchal society. The show doesn’t shy away from tough questions: Veils, deception and secrets. “Churails” is the story of four self-made women who come together to break certain stereotypes and challenge societal hypocrisy. 

“Churails” is the first Pakistani drama web series which was released in 2020 by ZEE5, an Indian on-demand video platform. The web series is directed and produced by Asim Abbasi. The film was not allowed to screen in Pakistani cinema or channels. The movie was only available on ZEE5. however, at the time of releasing the film the state bank of Pakistan ordered all the banks to block Pakistani consumers to purchase subscriptions to ZEE5. 

“Churails” won the “OTT Platform Show of the Year” at the British Asian Media Awards in February 2021. “Churails” is a feminist film in every sense of the word. 

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California Politics

Zbur hits the ground running: Appoints staff & introduces first bills

“I look forward to working with the community and all stakeholders as well as my colleagues and Governor Newsom”

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Assemblyman Rick Zbur (D-51, West Los Angeles) Day One (Photo Credit: Assemblyman Rick Zbur/selfie)

SACRAMENTO – Out Assemblyman Rick Zbur (D-51, West Los Angeles) along with the rest of the incoming freshmen California Assembly lawmakers was sworn in Monday at half past noon- then immediately announced the appointments of his key staff and then introduced his first two pieces of legislation.

Introducing his new staff that he has hired to serve the constituents of Assembly District 51 in his Capitol and District Offices Zbur said in an emailed statement to the Blade:

“These dedicated public servants have the knowledge and skills to deliver on my promise to provide top quality constituent services and legislative proposals for my district. Both of my offices are open and ready to serve on day one, with highly trained professionals who understand the district and the Capitol.” 

Zbur’s key legislative staff include:

Bob Hartnagel, Chief of Staff – Bob was Mark Leno’s Chief of Staff in the State Senate for 8 years and in the State Assembly for 6 years, and Assemblymember Carole Migden’s District Director for 3 years. Most recently he was Chief of Staff for Government Relations at the University of California’s Office of the President for 5 years. He has a bachelors degree in Communication Studies & International Relations from Northwestern University.

Tami Martin, J.D., Legislative Director – Tami has a distinguished career fighting for civil rights as Legislative Director for Equality California (EQCA). She holds a bachelors degree in Government from Dartmouth College and both a law degree and a masters degree in Law and Government from American University Washington College of Law.

Jane Park, Ph.D., Senior Assistant – Dr. Park previously worked for Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Kevin Mullin where she leveraged her research experience to create groundbreaking new policy addressing climate change. She holds a bachelors degree in Biological Sciences from Wellesley College and a Doctorate in Integrative Genetics and Genomics from the University of California, Davis.

Alex Mehlbrech, Scheduler – Alex worked as a key member of Assemblymember Zbur’s campaign team for almost three years, where he cultivated a deep understanding of the concerns and issues facing local residents. He holds a bachelors degree in Communication Studies from California State University, Long Beach.

Robert Oliver, District Director – Robert has worked as a field representative in the district offices of  U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz. He also worked as a Community Liaison for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, he grew up in Los Angeles. He and several of his family members currently live in AD-51, where he developed a keen first-hand knowledge of the issues affecting constituents.

Zbur also noted that his office is currently accepting applications for a Field Representative in his District Office, which serves the cities and communities of Beverly Hills, East Hollywood, Hollywood, Hollywood Hills West, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, West Los Angeles, and Westwood Village. 

Editor’s note: (Interested applicants can send a resume and cover letter to Robert Oliver at [email protected]. Diverse candidates are encouraged to apply.)

In his first actions as a legislator Zbur introduced AB 3, the California Offshore Wind Energy and Jobs Act, to facilitate and expedite offshore wind energy projects necessary to combat climate change while at the same time protecting the environment and assuring that thousands of high paying jobs remain in California.

AB 3 aims to accelerate the approval, implementation, and operation of offshore wind energy projects necessary to meet California’s climate action goals and the transition to a clean energy economy. It will clarify the authority of California governmental agencies related to wind energy projects along the California Coast, require expedited procedures, and specify criteria for the selection of port and transmission alternatives related to offshore wind energy projects. The criteria will ensure that the environment and sensitive habitats and cultural resources are protected, community participation and comment is robust, that the maximum number of jobs related to offshore wind energy projects are created and remain in California, and that those jobs advance environmental justice and improve the lives of all Californians.
 
“We are decades behind in taking the steps necessary to protect our kids and our planet from the growing crisis of climate change,” said Zbur. “If we do not expedite the approval, construction and operation of offshore wind energy projects along the California Coast, we will not meet our climate change goals. I am confident that we can build consensus to accelerate offshore wind, and at the same time protect our coast and sensitive habitats and assure that the thousands of high wage jobs are created and remain in California. California has the opportunity to demonstrate that bold climate action is the economic engine that can power a robust and socially just economy,” he said.

 He also introduced AB 5, the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, which will assure that teachers and school staff are better equipped to support LGBTQ+ and all students.

AB 5, the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, will help equip teachers and school staff with the tools and training they need to support LGBTQ+ students and make California schools safer and more supportive for all students, teachers, and school staff. 

The bill will specify a timeline for implementation by all California schools of LGBTQ+ cultural competency training for teachers and certificated staff currently under development by the California Department of Education.

This is the result of a budget proposal advanced by Equality California and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and approved in 2021 by the Legislature and Governor Newsom in AB 130 and SB 129. AB 5 is sponsored by Equality California.
 
“Every student deserves a safe and supportive learning environment,” said the Assemblymember.

“Improving our schools is a key part of the strategy we need to reduce the high dropout rates that lead to a cycle of homelessness, poverty and health & wellbeing disparities experienced by the LGBTQ+ community. Our teachers and school staff want to support their students, and this bill will better equip them to help LGBTQ+ and all students reach their highest potential,” he added.
 
“These bills are among my top priorities as I honor the trust that the people of Assembly District 51 placed in me to improve the lives of all Californians and tackle our toughest challenges. I look forward to working with the community and all stakeholders as well as my colleagues and Governor Newsom on these proposals and many others in the months ahead,” Zbur noted.

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