U.S., U.K. Activists Urge Jamaicans To Keep Same-Sex Intercourse Illegal

Peter LaBarbera speaking at an Oct. 22 rally opposing marriage equality in Illinois. Via Tony Merevick/BuzzFeed

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Activists from the United States and United Kingdom opposed to LGBT rights have urged Jamaican Christian conservatives to resist repealing the country’s buggery law, similar to sodomy laws, by arguing that homosexuality is a choice and connected to pedophilia.

Peter LaBarbera, founder of Americans for the Truth About Homosexuality, told the conference: “Do not be like us, do not be like Britain, do not sit idly by as so-called ‘LGBT activists’ manipulate words and laws to achieve dominance in your country.”

LaBarbera and Andrea Minichiello Williams, founder of the United Kingdom’s Christian Concern, spoke Saturday at a conference organized by the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society and the Christian Lawyers’ Association in Kingston.

The groups are lobbying against the repeal of a colonial-era law banning same-sex intercourse, known as the “buggery law.” Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller suggested she might put the law to a vote during her 2011 campaign. Her government has not yet taken any action on the legislation, but Justice Minister Mark Golding told BuzzFeed this week that he hoped to raise it next year as part of a broad review of the country’s sexual offenses law.

Reiterating many of the same themes he’s made over time in fighting LGBT rights in America, LaBarbera pulled out many of arguments that led him and his organization to be targeted by the Southern Poverty Law Center and GLAAD for making false claims.

“Homosexuals are made, they’re not born,” LaBarbera said to applause, while telling stories of people he said had stopped being gay or transgender thanks to Christian conversion. “The dirty little secret that the media and homosexual activists are desperate — desperate — to squelch is that people are coming out of homosexuality every day. This is the work of God, this is the work of Jesus.”

LaBarbera, a longtime activist opposing LGBT rights in America, said he was working on a book on the connection between “homosexual activism and pedophiles.” He said that after winning rights like marriage and protection for gay kids in schools, U.S. activists were now championing the rights of MAPS, or “minor-attracted persons.”

“Homosexuals are always on offense,” he said. “It’s another secret that American activists don’t like to tell is that NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association, used to march in gay pride parades.”

Public health and LGBT rights advocates have called for a decriminalization of same-sex relationships, arguing that the buggery law inhibits outreach to prevent the spread of HIV. LaBarbera countered, though, with his argument that if the problem is that men who have sex with men are at high risk of HIV infection, then it is better to keep same-sex intercourse illegal.

“They’re telling you that if they just get rid of your anti-buggery law, that’s going to help stem the tide of HIV? What we have here is an Isaiah 5:20 world: good is evil and evil is good,” he said.

LaBarbera closed his remarks by criticizing President Barack Obama, who has made the promotion of LGBT rights a foreign policy priority:

I do not stand with my government. I’m a patriotic American, but I do not stand with the current United States government in its promotion of homosexuality and gender confusion. But I do stand with the Jamaican people … I pray that you will learn from our mistakes and from lessons of history and avoid the inevitable moral corruption and health hazards and the danger to young people that come from capitulating to this sin movement that calls itself gay. It is almost now can be predicted with 100 percent accuracy, if the law is a teacher: If you take down this law, it will only lead to more demands. Appeasement does not work.

During her remarks, Andrea Minichiello Williams of the United Kingdom’s Christian Concern said Jamaica had the opportunity to become a world leader by fending off foreign pressure to decriminalize same-sex intercourse.

“Might it be that Jamaica says to the United States of America, says to Europe, ‘Enough! You cannot come in and attack our families. We will not accept aid or promotion tied to an agenda that is against God and destroys our families,’” she said, adding to applause, “If you win here, you will have an impact in the Caribbean and an impact across the globe.”

She made the case that it is a “big lie” that homosexuality is inborn, arguing instead it is caused by environmental factors like “the lack of the father” and “sometimes a level of abuse.” She illustrated her point with the case of 19-year-old British diver Tom Daley and his reported relationship with American screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

Daley, she said, who is “loved by all the girls and had girlfriends,” had “lost his father to cancer just a few years ago and he’s just come out on YouTube that he’s in a relationship with a man, that man is 39, a leading gay activist in the States.”

Williams warned that removal of Britain’s sodomy law was the start of a process that has led to more and more permissive laws, including equalizing the age of consent laws for homosexual and heterosexual intercourse.

“Once you strip away all this stuff, what you get is no age consent … nobody ever enforces that law anymore,” she said. “We already have a strong man-boy movement that’s moving in Europe.”

She also described several cases in which she said people had been fired for their jobs for their opposition to LGBT rights and said people with views like hers are being silenced in the media and intimidated with the threats of hate-speech lawsuits. This was especially true, she suggested, when organizations like hers try to claim a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, she said.

“They hate the line of homosexuality being linked to pedophilia. They try to cut that off, so you can’t speak about it,” she said. “So I say to you in Jamaica: Speak about it. Speak about it.”

She took issue with the notion that advancing such arguments in opposition to expanding legal rights for LGBT people was hate speech. On the contrary, she said, “We say these things because we’re loving, we’re compassionate, we’re kind, because we care for our children…. It is not compassion and kind to have laws that lead people [to engage] in their sins [that] lead to the obliteration of life, the obliteration of culture, and the obliteration of family.”

The group co-hosting the conference recently launched a video opposing the buggery law’s repeal. Wayne West, who heads the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society, said he wanted the law to stay in place because he fears undoing it will ultimately lead to the silencing of people who share his beliefs.

“I would not have held that we should tell people what they should or should not do [in private],” he said. “However, we observe that when the buggery law has been removed it’s not simply a matter of [sexual] morality in cases like the United States, in England … in Canada… It is attendant with it punishment for people who disagree” with LGBT rights.

It has been LGBT Jamaicans, though, who have faced danger in recent months. At least two LGBT people are believed to have been murdered in the country over the summer, while others have become the target of angry mobs — including four men who were the target of a firebomb in October.

JCHS’s video opposing repeal of the buggery law

youtube.com / Via youtube.com

J. Lester Feder is a foreign correspondent for BuzzFeed and 2013 Alicia Patterson journalism fellow.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/us-uk-activists-urge-jamaicans-to-keep-same-sex-intercourse

Is There Really A “Meteorite Church” In Russia?

Locals in the Russian province hit by a spectacular meteorite shower this February say that the sunken space rock is a message from God that has the power to bring about the apocalypse.

The Chelyabinsk Meteorite Church claims to already have 50 members and is filing for legal recognition, according to local news. For now, worshippers meet by the side of Lake Chebarkul in Chelyabinsk province, where the meteorite landed, to pray that divers abandon an operation to salvage the meteorite that they worry could damage its celestial data.

“A lot of the information is still on the heavenly bearer itself and that needs visionaries to have closer contact with the tablets,” church founder Andrei Breivchenko said. “We can already see the noosphere’s indignation at constant attempts to salvage the meteorite in the super-charged international tension around Syria.”

Breivchenko added that he had already drawn up plans for a church to house the meteorite, which he said would draw millions of pilgrims from around the world to Chelyabinsk — a industrial city in the Ural Mountains near Siberia and a favorite target for Russian jokes about its grimness.

Priests with extrasensory perception have already studied part of the meteorite’s message, Breivchenko said, but cannot access the rest without touching it. What exactly that message is remains unclear and unmentioned in Breivchenko’s two interviews to Russian media. A follower told tabloid website LifeNews that the water from the lake now has the same properties as holy water, but that worshippers are testing it out on house plants before drinking it themselves.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/maxseddon/is-their-really-a-meteorite-church-in-russia

Russians Laundered $23.7 Million In Corrupt Cash Through NYC Real Estate, Says U.S. Attorney

Alexander Zemlianichenko, File / AP

American officials are seeking to seize $23.7 million in high-end Manhattan real estate they say were purchased with money from a huge fraud exposed by a lawyer who later died in prison.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara filed a civil forfeiture complaint Monday against properties held by nine offshore companies and the assets of two other companies they say laundered part of the proceeds of a huge Russian tax fraud that caused a rift in U.S.-Russian relations.

“Today’s forfeiture action is a significant step towards uncovering and unwinding a complex money laundering scheme arising from a notorious foreign fraud,” Bharara said in a statement. “A Russian criminal enterprise sought to launder some of its billions in ill-gotten rubles through the purchase of pricey Manhattan real estate. While New York is a world financial capital, it is not a safe haven for criminals seeking to hide their loot, no matter how and where their fraud took place.”

The complaint says that the real estate was purchased with money traced to a $230 million Russian tax fraud known as the “Magnitsky case” for the whistle-blowing lawyer who uncovered it. Sergei Magnitsky alleged in 2008 that corrupt officials and criminals conspired to steal subsidiaries of his client, Hermitage Capital Management, and claim a $230 million tax refund. He was jailed by the same officials he accused and died in prison a year later, aged 37. A report by Russia’s presidential human rights council in 2011 found that he had been systematically tortured, but President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied there was any criminality in Magnitsky’s death.

Hermitage’s owner, London-based investor William Browder, has spent the years since Magnitsky’s death campaigning to bring the officials to justice and attempting to trace the $230 million. Congress passed a law named after Magnitsky last year introducing sanctions and visa bans against 18 officials accused of human rights violations, including some of those named in the fraud. Russia responded by banning all adoptions of Russian children by Americans and filing separate tax evasion charges against Browder and Magnitsky, who by then had been dead for over three years. A Moscow court convicted both men in July.

“It became clear that we needed to get justice outside of Russia, and one way to get justice outside of Russia was to track the money,” Browder told BuzzFeed. Browder’s lawyers were helped by Swiss banking documents provided by Alexander Pereplichny, another whistleblower who died in unexplained circumstances in Britain late last year, before lobbying the U.S. to file charges. Switzerland has frozen bank accounts linked to the fraud.

Three Russians are named in the complaint, including Denis Katsyv, the son of a former deputy governor of Moscow province. Katsyv is the owner of Prevenzon Holdings, a Cyprus-based company U.S. officials say laundered money from the fraud. He has denied being involved with the fraud or benefiting from the case.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/maxseddon/russians-laundered-237-million-in-corrupt-cash-through-nyc-r

These Vladimir Putin Tattoos Are Works Of Art

Considering a tattoo of the Russian president? You’ve got options.

2. Black-and-white Putin.

Tattoo Catalog / Via tattoo-catalog.ru

Other choices in the “famous portraits” collection include Stalin, Lenin, Osama bin Laden and Chuck Norris.

3. Patriotic Putin, in vivid color.

Mario Hartmann / Via facebook.com

Along with the onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral, he’ll always be at your side.

4. Girlie Putin.

AFP / Getty Images / Via Offbeat Ink

Temporary tattoos of Putin were all the rage in the Siberian city of Omsk in 2008. Russian tattoo artist Tatiana Zharova offered two versions — a “cunning and romantic” Putin for ladies and a “more focused, more serious and you can say more evil” one for men.

5. Character-building Putin.

Aleksei Barinov was a college student in Nizhny Novgorod when he had Putin tattooed on his thigh in 2008. To keep his mind off the pain while getting inked, he channeled his idol. “I tried to smile and think about what a courageous man Putin is,” Barinov told a Russian reporter.

6. Day of the Dead Putin.

Tattoo artist Oleg Shepelenko said this Putin tattoo was one of the most bizarre customer requests he’s received.

7. But not all Putin ink is worn by fans.

EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV/LANDOV

An opposition activist in St. Petersburg had the words “Putin is a thief!” tattooed across his forearm. According to journalist Arseny Smolyak, the tattoo artist knocked 50% off the price after hearing the customer’s request.

8. And, not to be forgotten, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also has at least one very serious admirer.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/susiearmitage/these-vladimir-putin-tattoos-are-works-of-art

And Then There Were None: Egypt Arrests Last Muslim Brotherhood Leader

1. Egyptian authorities on Wednesday arrested Esaam el-Erian, deputy head of the Freedom and Justice Party, known for his polarizing character and making statements that range from violent to absurd.

Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters

Along with his fiery statements, he was also known for his particularly prominent prayer bump, a callous that forms from pressing the forehead down when praying.

2. Egyptian TV broadcasted this picture of a smiling Erian wearing a white galabeya (traditional male robe) at the time of his arrest.

Handout / Reuters

3. Dozens of Brotherhood leaders and hundreds of rank and file members have been arrested since Mohamed Morsi was ousted as president in July. Morsi is set to stand trial beginning November 4.

AP Photo / AP

4. Erian, 59, evaded capture for months.

Asmaa Waguih / Reuters

5. He was a frequent public voice for the Muslim Brotherhood under Morsi’s rule.

Hussein Malla / AP

6. And held many leadership roles in the Brotherhood and its affiliated political movement, The Freedom and Justice Party. He also served a stint in parliament, and was a leader in the Brotherhood-dominated Doctor’s Syndicate.

Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters

7. Since the military’s ouster of Mohamed Morsi on July 3, he has been one of the most vocal critics of what he calls the military’s undemocratic coup.

Hassan Ammar / AP

8. He has taken a hard-line approach, refusing to take part in talks with the interim government appointed by the military.

Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters

9. Now he stands accused of instigating street clashes and inciting violence on several occasions over the last year. He will be held for 30 days, pending trial.

Mohammed Salem / Reuters

10. During one protest outside the presidential palace in December, which left at least 10 people dead, Erian appeared on an Islamist TV channel and asked supporters “in the tens of thousands, to besiege those thugs.”

Nasser Nasser / AP

14. There was also discussion of some of Erian’s more memorable public statements.

Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters

19. In a January TV interview he called on Egypt’s Jews to return to the country: “I wish our Jews return to our country, so they can make room for the Palestinians to return, and Jews return to their homeland in light of the democracy” evolving in Egypt.

“I call on them now,” he added. “Egypt is more deserving of you.”

20. He added, “Why stay in a racist entity, an occupation, and be tainted with war crimes that will be punished, all occupation leaders will be punished,” he said. In separate comments he added that the Zionist “project” will end.

Hassan Ammar / AP

The FJP distanced the party from Erian’s proposal.

21. The satirist Bassem Youssef mocked Erian’s statement and public reaction to it, and compared him to James Bond because of the various roles he played for the Muslim Brotherhood.

In the episode, Youssef sharply criticized the Brotherhood and other Egyptian political figures for rhetoric inciting sectarianism between Egyptian Christians and Muslims.

23. Hours after Erian’s arrest, pro-Muslim Brotherhood student protesters rioted at Al-Azhar Islamic university, the center of Sunni learning. Police stormed the campus to stop the unrest.

Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters

24. With the Muslim Brotherhood now banned and their media and sit-ins shutdown, student protests like this are one of the few sites left for political contestation.

Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/miriamberger/and-then-there-were-none-egypt-arrests-last-muslim-brotherho

Hundreds Arrested In Moscow Race Riot

Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

Moscow saw its worst racially-motivated violence in years Sunday when thousands of rioters, many chanting racist slogans, stormed a suburban shopping mall to protest an ethnically-charged murder.

Police arrested at least 380 of the rioters, many of whom were drunk, and sent in the entire Moscow reserve force to quell the rest in the suburb of Western Biryulevo, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported. Another 60 people were arrested when foreigners started a mass brawl in northwestern Moscow, police said.

The rioting broke out after nationalists called for a “people’s meeting” to protest the Wednesday night murder of 25-year-old Egor Shcherbakov. Shcherbakov had been returning home with his girlfriend when he got into an altercation with a man allegedly from Russia’s troubled, mostly Muslim provinces in the North Caucasus. The man, whom police have not yet identified, argued with Shcherbakov about his girlfriend, stabbed him with a knife, and ran away. Police said that the suspect is a shawarma vendor and not a Russian citizen.

3. Translation: “YET ANOTHER CAUCASIAN KILLED A RUSSIAN GUY, Biryulevo Resident EGOR SHCHERBAKOV. COME TO THE PEOPLE’S MEETING: October 13, 16:00. Today they killed Egor – who’ll they kill tomorrow?”


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4. Several hundred people gathered at the site of Shcherbakov’s murder, then stormed a shopping mall and a vegetable storehouse, both known to be gathering places for Russian-speaking Muslim migrants.

7. Thousands also gathered to demand police release the arrested rioters.

8. Some of them turned over cars.

Ethnic tensions have been an increasing headache for Russian authorities in recent years. Vladimir Putin drew heavily on nationalism in his first two presidential terms from 2000 to 2008, but abandoned it after violence against non-Russians surged. Soccer fans rioted outside the Kremlin, also in protest at an ethnically tinged murder, in 2010.

10. As a precaution, riot police closed off Manezhnaya Square near the Kremlin, the site of the 2010 riot, pictured below.

Russia has the world’s second-highest number of immigrants after the U.S., according to the U.N., consisting predominantly of Muslims from its Caucasus provinces and the impoverished former Soviet republics of Central Asia, which have visa-free regimes with Russia. Millions of them live in Moscow and work at markets and construction sites, drive gypsy cabs, or clean streets.

Independent and state-run polls have found that resentment towards migrants has steadily grown in recent years. Officials and opposition figures such as anti-Putin movement leader Alexey Navalny frequently claim that migrants commit the vast majority of violent crime in Moscow, though this is not borne out by police statistics.

Some state-run TV channels did not air footage of the violence for several hours. Margarita Simonyan, editor of the Kremlin’s English-language network RT, wrote on Facebook that the riots were a direct result of anti-Putin protests that turned violent in May 2012. A municipal councillor in suburban Moscow blamed the riots directly on Navalny and called for him to be “brought to justice.”

12. Translated using Google translate.

14. Translation: “The authorities’ playbook is falling apart in Biryulevo. You can’t pin it on the State Department, [esoteric anarchist punks] the National Bolsheviks, or liberals. The attackers were like-minded people.”

15. One rioter posted several photos of the events on Instagram.


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Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/maxseddon/hundreds-arrested-in-moscow-race-riot

LGBT Groups Ask Apple To Cut Ties With Russian Retailer After Creative Director Advocates Burning Gay People Alive

Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook. Robert Galbraith / Reuters / Reuters

A coalition of Russian LGBT rights organizations have called on Apple to sever ties with a Russian distributor whose creative director recently called for incinerating LGBT people.

“I’d burn them all alive in ovens,” Russian actor Ivan Okhlobystin, a creative director for Euroset, Russia’s biggest mobile phone distributor, said in December. “It’s Sodom and Gomorrah, as a religious person I can’t be indifferent to it, it’s a living threat to my children.”

In a letter addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook and dated Jan. 5, 19 LGBT rights organizations urged Apple to “reconsider your business dealings with Euroset in light of these facts and set Apple as an example of a corporate citizen who supports basic human rights.” Euroset carries Apple products.

Euroset’s head, Alexander Malis, told the Russian outlet CNews that he would not respond to the protest letter because “we do not insult gay people and we are not to blame for them having been wronged.”

“We serve all people the same way, and are, in principle, against discrimination,” Malis added.

But the company declined to break with Okhlobystin when his comments were first reported. “Ivan expressed his personal opinion, and we will not fire him for that. Of course, we are opposed to burning someone in ovens,” Malis said, CNews reported.

Apple spokespeople did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Read the LGBT rights organizations’ letter to Apple

Via spectrumhr.org

Correction: This story incorrectly said the letter was sent on Dec. 5. It was Jan. 5.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/lgbt-groups-ask-apple-to-cut-ties-with-russian-retailer-afte

Why Russia Turned Against The Gays

An anti-gay activist grabs a protester at an LGBT rights demonstration in central Moscow in May. ANDREY SMIRNOV / Getty Images

Three months before Russia’s parliament unanimously passed a federal law banning the propaganda of “non-traditional relationships” — that is, same-sex ones — the bill’s sponsor went on the country’s most respected interview show to explain her reasoning.

“Analyzing all the circumstances, and the particularity of territorial Russia and her survival…I came to the conclusion that if today we want to resolve the demographic crisis, we need to, excuse me, tighten the belt on certain moral values and information, so that giving birth and raising children become fully valued,” lawmaker Yelena Mizulina told Vladimir Posner, Russia’s Charlie Rose.

Mizulina heads the Duma’s committee for family, women, and children and has become the stern face of Russia’s campaign against gays. But she would never call it that. Russia’s new laws — banning same-sex foreign couples from adopting Russian children in addition to banning LGBT advocacy — are part of the country’s very search for survival, according to her.

On the one hand, there’s its physical survival — Russia’s birthrate plummeted in the wake of the Soviet collapse and encouraging baby-making (through government grants as well as rhetoric) has been one of Vladimir Putin’s hallmarks. And then there’s its moral survival; if Russia is to survive as Russia it needs to reject the corrupting influences of the West.

The first form of reasoning is populist bluster. But the second goes some way toward explaining why Russia has stepped up its campaign against LGBT rights just as the European Union and the United States march in precisely the opposite direction. The violent images, restrictive legislation, and public humiliation that LGBT people in Russia now face isn’t the product of a traditionalist backlash as much as it is a vital part of the new politics of Putin’s Russia, a nation in search of someone to define itself against.

Homosexuality wasn’t really a topic of conversation in Russia for much of the last two decades. Laws banning gay sex were lifted in 1993, two years after the Soviet collapse. Slowly but surely, gay clubs began to appear in Moscow and St Petersburg, at first underground, eventually out in the open. Russian society remained widely homophobic, and there were many who saw gays and lesbians as an inevitable and evil Western import, but there were other things to worry about — recovering from the collapse of a political-economic system, clawing out of poverty, dealing with the explosion of violence that engulfed a country suddenly flowing with cash and corruption.

And then came Vladimir Putin.

Putin spent the first two terms of his presidency, from 2000 to 2008, ruling with no ideology. It was an explicit decision, his former campaign and political advisor Gleb Pavlovsky once told me, that took into account the fact that so many had grown tired of the empty shell that Communist doctrine had become by the end of Soviet times. Instead there would be Putin and just Putin. Putin and his bare chest. Putin-loving animals. Putin single-handedly building kindergartens and hospitals. Putin Putin Putin.

What that strategy didn’t take into account was that sometime, some day, someone would get sick of Putin. That finally happened late last year, when Putin announced he would return to the presidency following a four-year break as prime minister. A movement that largely comprised middle-class liberals took to the streets in the tens of thousands. It was a show of criticism that Putin thought would never come.

Part of his reaction has been reflexive and obvious to everyone — to launch a crackdown, arrest opposition leaders, arrest average protesters, adopt laws limiting future ability to protest. The second is more oblique: Putin has launched a campaign to shore up support in the Russian “heartland,” that mythical place far from the bustling streets of Moscow where headscarved peasants embrace core Russian concepts that don’t actually exist anymore.

In the absence of any ideology — any core belief to tie together the Russian state and nation — the easiest way to fill the vacuum has been by turning to the Russian Orthodox Church, a deeply corrupt, reactionary, and Kremlin-loving institution that has enjoyed a spike in support following the (atheist) Soviet Union’s collapse. Thus the arrest of Pussy Riot, the anti-Putin punk band whose members were sentenced to two years in prison for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” Thus the law passed by the Duma just hours after the anti-gay law was passed, making “insulting religious believers” an offense punishable by up to three years in jail.

The second easiest thing has been to demonize the “Other,” creating an internal enemy for everyone to fear. Jews are out — Putin, who values loyalty above all, has had an affinity for Jews since childhood, when he was reportedly saved from being beaten up by street kids by a Jewish neighbor. Migrants are out — Russia needs millions of them in order to carry out the mass infrastructure projects that the country needs to keep its economy afloat; and the nationalist card is simply too dangerous to play with anyway. Who’s left? Gays.

Demonizing gays allows Putin to tell the “heartland”: I will protect you and your “traditional” families; you are the real Russia. It also grows suspicion of the liberal opposition, presented as fundamentally “un-Russian” as they stand up increasingly for gay rights amid Putin’s growing crackdown. And finally, it allows Russia to do what it does best these days: present itself as Not The West.

It is no accident that Russia is stripping away gay rights as (popular and legal) support for gay marriage in the U.S. and Europe grows. The West is decadent, permissive, and doomed to orgiastic decline. As Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, recently put it: gay marriage is a “dangerous apocalyptic system” that leads a nation “on a path of self-destruction.”

And then there is Russia — not really standing for anything, but standing against a whole lot: gays, liberals, the West. It’s the strategy that Putin has chosen for his own survival.

“I think the most ridiculous questions come up during the decay of an empire,” said Anton Krasovsky, a prominent Russian journalist recently fired for being gay, when asked why the “gay question” had suddenly emerged in Russia. “It’s like when Judeo-Christians were fed to the lions in third-century Rome — it’s just the sunset of the empire.”

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/miriamelder/why-russia-turned-against-the-gays

How Dennis Rodman Got To North Korea

John Gara/BuzzFeed

WASHINGTON — John Doldo IV is a senior at American University in Washington, D.C., with a passionate interest in international affairs; he visited Libya during its revolution and has been to Pyongyang multiple times. In February 2013, he watched from afar as Dennis Rodman went to North Korea with the Harlem Globetrotters for a documentary by Vice, the hipster media company.

“Seeing the supreme leader of the DPRK meeting with an American in a friendly atmosphere was a positive change,” Doldo said during an interview in a student center at his school. “We were excited to see that.”

The “we” to whom Doldo was referring comprises Joseph Terwilliger, a professor of neuroscience at Columbia University with a degree in tuba, and Michael P. Spavor, a Canadian consultant based in China who is well connected in North Korea, according to several people familiar with him. Together, the three men have been the driving force facilitating Rodman’s trips to North Korea. They planned the logistical details of his last three trips, arranged visas, and facilitated Rodman’s meetings with the country’s dictatorial leader, Kim Jong Un — a man Rodman affectionately refers to as “the Marshal.” The three became involved out of a wish, Doldo said, to help Rodman’s vision of “basketball diplomacy” and increase the chances of a rapprochement between North Korea and the West.

Doldo met Terwilliger during travels to North Korea with the Pyongyang Project, a Canadian “social enterprise” that runs some tours in North Korea for which Spavor is listed as a director on his LinkedIn profile. Doldo first traveled there in 2011 and then twice in 2012, studying the Pyongyang dialect of the Korean language along with Terwilliger. The next year, Rodman made his notorious visit with Vice.

“Dr. Terwilliger contacted me after we saw Mr. Rodman in the DPRK and said ‘we should meet this guy,’” Doldo said. To that end, Terwilliger entered and won an auction in the spring of 2013 where the prize was to play horse with Rodman. He and Doldo met Rodman in New York later that spring. They shot hoops and talked about North Korea. Terwilliger already had plans to spend the summer teaching genetics at a university in Pyongyang.

“As we were finishing, his agent Darren Prince said ‘we’ll be in touch,’” Doldo said. “Shortly thereafter Dr. Terwilliger got an email from Darren Prince saying basically that Mr. Rodman wants to go back to the DPRK and doesn’t want to go with Vice.”

Rodman didn’t want to work with Vice anymore, Doldo said, because the North Koreans found the coverage of their country too critical.

“The DPRK government does not like them because they have in the past produced several documentaries that portrayed their country in a negative light and a unfair light,” he said. And what’s more, Rodman didn’t want the media attention, Doldo said, but wished for a “private visit” with Kim Jong Un — which is what he ended up getting in September 2013.

[A Vice spokesman said that the company never planned to do more than one trip to North Korea with Rodman.]

Over the summer, Spavor, the Canadian, began arranging visas from his base in China. Rodman wrote to the North Korean government announcing his return and went back in September, having promised to make a visit in August, accompanied by his bodyguard plus Terwilliger and Spavor.

Organizing the visits is “not as simple as it looks,” Doldo said. “We’ve got Mr. Rodman’s people, we’ve got the sponsors, Paddy Power, we’ve got our people, and suppliers in different countries and different continents, so I helped with that as well.” Paddy Power, the Irish betting giant, sponsored Rodman’s December trip that he took to train North Korean basketball players, but it pulled out before the latest trip in January, citing Kim Jong Un’s murder of his uncle.

The September trip, Doldo said, was more of “a small kind of vacation for Mr. Rodman.” As Rodman prepared to travel back to the country in December to train the North Korean team, Terwilliger, Spavor, and Doldo once again sprung into action. Doldo recalled working the phones in the middle of the night, calling Chinese companies to order basketball gear.

According to Doldo, Terwilliger helped grease the wheel by working with North Korea’s representatives in New York, whom he declined to name beyond saying that the organizers had gone “through the normal channels that anyone would go through to get a Korean visa.” He said Terwilliger’s contact was not Han Song Ryol, the North Korean diplomat at the U.N. and custodian of the “New York channel” by which the U.S. exchanges messages with Pyongyang.

“There are various individuals in the Korean government with whom we deal,” Doldo said. When Rodman goes to North Korea, he is officially hosted by the country’s Olympic committee.

Doldo and others involved in the trips have said that the North Korean government isn’t paying for them. Both Doldo and Jules Feiler, a publicist for Rodman, were vague on the topic of whether or not Paddy Power paid for the January trip and exhibition game.

“I’m sure it does seem strange but for obvious reasons the person who sponsored this at some point decided they didn’t want their name on it,” said Feiler.

“We withdrew all of our involvement with the project before Christmas, however honoured our contractual obligations,” Rory Scott, a spokesman for Paddy Power, said in an email.

He declined to say whether the former NBA players had been paid, saying: “I’m afraid we never discuss our commercial arrangements.”

Doldo said that the only thing the North Koreans might have paid for was Rodman’s hotel room.

“As far as I’m aware the most the DPRK government might have done in terms of sponsoring or funding this would have been for hotels,” he said. “I don’t know for certain whether Mr. Rodman is paying his own hotel bill.” Doldo later said that he had confirmed that the North Koreans had not paid for the hotel.

“I don’t have any answer for you” on the topic of the hotel room, Feiler said on Thursday. “We’re trying to get to the bottom of it and I don’t have an answer for you right now.”

Both Terwilliger and Spavor spoke to Canadian magazine Maclean’s for a lighthearted article on their North Korean adventures last year. According to the story, Spavor has been traveling to North Korea since 2005 and “developing key contacts in the regime along the way. Spavor speaks the North Korean dialect—a more formal variant of the southern—so fluently that he fools people on the phone, and he ran a school specializing in DPRK Korean in Yanji, the city in a largely Korean corner of northeast China where he now lives.” Terwilliger, for his part, “had become fascinated by the DPRK as a kid listening to shortwave radio from Pyongyang; he’d been on North Korea’s propaganda mailing list for years and found the material he received ‘interesting.’”

“For the past seven years, I have amassed a considerable amount of experience, and made many contacts and friends working within the DPRK,” Spavor writes on his personal website. “In addition to working in many organisational leadership and management positions, my past roles have involved close cooperation with various governments, UN organisations, humanitarian and development NGOs, academics, investors, tourists, professional athletes, celebrities, and world leaders.”

“In the media, Marshall Kim Jung Un is portrayed as serious,” Spavor told Maclean’s. “But we were able to see a more charismatic, friendly side to him. He has a good sense of humour.”

Spavor did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. Terwilliger said he was under a “media embargo as Rodman has the right to first interviews.”

“All I can say regarding your questions is that I paid my own way on all trips and was not reimbursed for travel costs, nor was I compensated in any way by anyone,” Terwilliger said. “Paddy Power paid the players consistent with their preexisting contracts, as far as I know, and Rodman received no compensation whatsoever, as far as I know. Sorry I cannot answer any other questions, but we are prohibited from discussing details of the trips before Rodman gives his exclusive interviews in a few weeks.”

According to people involved in a tour group that traveled to Pyongyang to watch the exhibition game between the North Korean team and the former NBA players, the experience was bizarre, though at times thrilling.

Koryo Group, a company that organizes guided tours to North Korea on a monthly basis, brought a group of 20 to the country during the time that the players and Rodman were in Pyongyang. The price, according to more than one person who attended the tour, was about $10,000. Accoding to Koryo Group organizer Simon Cockerell, who said the trip cost 6500 euros, the extremely high price “reflects the exclusive nature of the tour (single rooms, higher quality restaurants, etc. and all inclusive nature of the tour throughout) but also the charitable aspect of it.” Cockerell said that some of the proceeds from this trip are going to a charity for the deaf called Together, a German initiative that he said was involved in building a school for deaf children in Pyongyang. Another tour group run by a group called Uri Tours was also in Pyongyang at the time, though they did not attend the game.

The tourists stayed at the same hotel in Pyongyang as Rodman and his teammates, and had drinks with them at night, mostly with the other players but one night with Rodman himself.

“On the last night we hung out and talked with Rodman,” said Sean Agnew, a music promoter from Philadelphia. “It was definitely pretty weird and unusual.”

“He didn’t talk about the game much other than saying it was history making,” said one American tourist who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not willing to speak publicly about the trip. “But he kept asking personal questions to the group of guys at the table, asking about women we’ve slept with, etc.” The tourist said Rodman didn’t mention Kenneth Bae, an American citizen currently being held in a North Korean labor camp, but “did talk up ‘the Marshal’ Kim Jong-un though, saying he’s a good guy and that what the media says about him is not true.”

Rodman “seems to have a completely different conception of [North Korea] than pretty much all other Americans,” the tourist said.

The group got to attend the game itself, traveling there as part of a diplomatic caravan arranged by countries that have relations with North Korea . They were told that they were not allowed to take pictures or bring their phones into the game.

“There were 15,000 people in monochrome outfits, and everyone’s sitting there quietly,” said John Milton, an American investment banker based in Budapest who went on the trip.

“Every seat is completely full but it’s pin-drop quiet,” said Agnew. “Then Kim Jong Un came in and the place erupts, goes crazy. It probably lasted around 15 minutes or so. Loudest applause I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Rodman took the microphone and started singing “Happy Birthday” to the North Korean leader.

“It was creepy,” said the American tourist who asked not to be named. “I’ve been saying that the only time I felt nervous in the DPRK was when Rodman had the microphone and was speaking to the stadium.”

“I think he was intoxicated, to be honest,” said Milton.

Rodman played for one quarter and spent the rest of the game sitting with Kim Jong Un, smoking cigars while Kim smoked cigarettes.

Of Spavor, Agnew said: “He was the ringleader for sure. During the game he actually spoke to Kim Jong Un.”

At night, the tourists spent time with the players accompanying Rodman, though not with Rodman and them at the same time. According to Agnew, Rodman traveled in a separate car while the rest of the players traveled in a bus.

“I actually never saw Rodman hanging out with the players,” the tourist said. “The players didn’t seem too unhappy when we were drinking, although some of them expressed that they were ready to go home even before the game.”

Rodman brought along with him several former NBA stars, including Cliff Robinson, Kenny Anderson, Doug Christie, Vin Baker, Charles Smith, and Eric “Sleepy” Floyd.

“There was animosity between a few of the guys,” said Milton. “A lot of people might have been upset that Dennis was being outspoken,” he said, particularly after a now infamous CNN interview in which Rodman appeared to blame Bae for his own imprisonment in North Korea.

Rodman’s publicist later blamed the outburst on the attitudes of the players, telling BuzzFeed, “A lot of these comments and the mood there with some of the players really contributed to his lashing out at [CNN anchor Chris] Cuomo.”

Several of the players have publicly said they regret traveling to North Korea with Rodman, including Smith, a former Knicks player, who told the Associated Press, “Some of the statements and things that Dennis has said has tainted our efforts. Dennis is a great guy, but how he articulates what goes on — he gets emotional and he says things that he’ll apologize for later.” Through a representative, Smith declined requests for an interview.

Floyd told ESPN last week that he was “misled” about the trip.

“I wasn’t given all the information regarding the events that were going to take place,” Floyd said. “In no way shape or form did I know that I would be crossing paths with the leader of North Korea, and definitely not attending a birthday celebration or ceremony or anything like that.” Floyd said “none of this was stated” on the itinerary given to players.

“After the first 10 hours I was in North Korea and I realized what the agenda was, I was trying to arrange a flight out the very next day,” Floyd said.

Floyd declined requests to do an interview with BuzzFeed and did not respond when asked how much he and others were paid to be there.

Kenneth Bae’s parents, Sung Seo and Myunghee Bae, attend a vigil for him in Seattle on Aug. 10. Matt Mcknight / Reuters

Hanging over all of Rodman’s trips to see his “friend” Kim Jong Un has been the issue of Bae, an American tour guide and missionary who has been imprisoned in North Korea for more than a year and charged with “hostile acts” against the government.

Rodman tweeted over the summer about the issue, calling for Kim Jong-un to “do him a solid” and release Bae. But since then, Rodman has retreated and even cast aspersions on Bae in the CNN interview, which “outraged” Bae’s family. Asked by CNN about Bae, Rodman launched into a rant, saying, “The one thing about politics, Kenneth Bae did one thing. If you understand — if you understand what Kenneth Bae did,” and asking Chris Cuomo, “Do you understand what he did? In this country?”

“Mr. Rodman did not state that Mr. Bae had deserved to be in prison in the DPRK, that’s not what he said,” Doldo said. “He simply said that Mr. Bae had done something. In other words the DPRK did not arrest him without any apparent reason. That interviewer was saying no charges had been released, and that’s not correct.”

Doldo cited “Operation Jericho,” a missionary operation in which North Korean state media accused Bae of participating.

“I would refer you to the report in the Korean Central News Agency that announced that Mr. Bae was convicted of engaging in subversive activities, especially his Operation Jericho, which allegedly entailed setting up bases in China and encouraging DPRK citizens to act against their government,” Doldo said. He added that he hoped the North Korean government releases Bae in the interest of improving relations with the United States.

Rodman later apologized for the CNN interview, saying that he had been drinking. But he has shown no signs of helping Bae despite his status as the only Westerner with any personal access to Kim Jong Un.

Rodman’s agent Darren Prince did not respond to requests for comment. Feiler said Rodman was not yet available for interviews.

North Korea has shown no sign it intends to release Bae anytime soon, even rescinding an invitation for a State Department envoy who planned to visit Pyongyang late this summer and negotiate Bae’s release.

“I think if people want results you shouldn’t ask a retired NBA star who happens to know Marshal Kim Jong Un to make this request again,” Doldo said. “You should appeal to President Obama to pick up the phone and speak with Marshal Kim Jong Un about this and other issues.”

Doldo said that he and his partners were not involved in the project for any political reason beyond a real belief in Rodman’s concept of “basketball diplomacy.”

“We are no Marxists,” he said. “Dr. Terwilliger is a lifelong Republican with libertarian leanings. We are involved with this simply because we want to help Mr. Rodman realize his dream of using sport to develop mutual understanding between the U.S.A. and the DPRK, at the very least on a people-to-people level.”

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/rosiegray/how-dennis-rodman-got-to-north-korea

21 Ways Indians Reacted To A Diplomat Being Strip-Searched By The U.S.

The arrest and strip-search of Devyani Khobragade, an Indian diplomat in New York accused of alleged visa fraud, has strained relationships between India and the U.S. This is how India reacted to her “humiliating” and “barbaric” treatment by the U.S.

Stringer / Reuters

2. No one was hurt in the attack according to the police and the Indian franchise of the U.S. pizza chain.

Mansi Thapliyal / Reuters

A policeman is seen through a broken glass window of the Dominos Pizza outlet after it was ransacked by activists of the Republican Party of India (RPI) in Mumbai on Dec. 20.

3. The student wing of the Congress, India’s ruling party, protested outside the U.S. consulate in Mumbai. The message on the sign “Atithi Dev Bhavo” translates to “The Guest is God.”

AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool
4.
Danish Siddiqui / Reuters
5.
Danish Siddiqui / Reuters

6. Supporters of a Hindu hardline group, the Rashtrawadi Shiv Sena, shouted anti-U.S. slogans during a protest near the U.S. embassy in the nation’s capital of New Delhi.

Ahmad Masood / Reuters
7.
Ahmad Masood / Reuters

The Washington Post explained the photograph above:

“The half-naked man is meant to represent both the United States (see: American flag) and President Obama; he is naked both to symbolize the affront of Khobragade’s strip-search and as a declaration that the United States and Obama deserve similar humiliation as punishment. The man in the suit with the Obama mask is tied up to likewise symbolize Khobragade’s arrest.”

8.
Ahmad Masood / Reuters

9. Members of the Democratic Youth Federation of India protested outside the U.S. consulate in Kolkata on Dec. 19.

Stringer/India / Reuters

Police detain members of the DYFI during a protest outside the U.S. consulate office in Kolkata.

10. Activists from a political party affiliated with India’s main opposition party — the BJP — burned Obama effigies during a protest in the eastern Indian city of Bhubaneshwar.

Stringer/India / Reuters

11. Protestors burned an Obama effigy in the city of Ajmer in west India.

AP Photo/Deepak Sharma
12.
AP Photo/Deepak Sharma

13. India’s Left Party activists protested near the U.S. consulate in the city of Hyderabad.

AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.
14.
AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.

Left Party activists shout slogans from inside a truck after being detained by police during during their protest near the U.S. Consulate in Hyderabad on Dec. 19.

15. Police removed security barricades that were erected as a safety measure outside the U.S. embassy in New Delhi.

AP Photo

16. On one of the top-rated primetime shows on an English news channel, anchor Arnab Goswami blatantly criticized the U.S.’s handling of the matter.

On his primetime show, The Newshour, Arnab Goswami grilled Martina Vandenberg, President of Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center, on America’s handling of the case. He said, “There has been considerable time for America to understand the deep mistake it has made and the hurt it has caused.”

He also came down strongly on America’s “supercop attitude” and asked Vandenberg if the American authorities have had time “to reflect on the massive mistakes they are making one after the other.”

He added that “America can no longer expect to get away with this rubbish.”

Goswami said Preet Bharara was the man “responsible for the arrest and humiliation of an honest diplomat.”

He added that Bharara’s comments have led him to being “completely isolated tonight, so much so that even America has distanced itself from his biased and prejudiced view in the case.”

19. A Facebook group called “I support Devyani Khobragade” was started and has more than 900 likes.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/tasneemnashrulla/21-ways-indians-reacted-to-a-diplomat-being-strip