Thomas Bach, IOC President, Urged To Investigate Russia’s Anti-Gay Law By Activists

PARIS (AP) — IOC President Thomas Bach met with Russian gay rights activists who urged an investigation before the Sochi Olympics into national laws banning “gay propaganda.”

International gay rights group AllOut said Russian campaigners asked Bach in Paris on Saturday “to launch an independent investigation on the legal implications of the anti-gay laws in effect in Russia during the Olympic Games.”

Read More…
More on Russia

Celebrities React To Paul Walker’s Death On Twitter

Paul Walker‘s death in a tragic car crash has shocked the world and now celebrities have been pouring in tributes to the “Fast & Furious” star on Twitter.

Messages from people who had a chance to work with him, like his Fast & Furious franchise co-star Ludacris and his Into the Blue co-star Tyson Beckford, and other celebs who just admired his work sent out their love via the social media site.

Read More…
More on Movies

UCLA Tops USC 35-14 For Second Straight Win In L.A. Showdown (PHOTOS)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Brett Hundley passed for 208 yards and rushed for two touchdowns, leading No. 22 UCLA past No. 23 Southern California 35-14 Saturday night and winning the crosstown showdown for the second straight season.

Linebacker Myles Jack and defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes also rushed for touchdowns as the Bruins (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) earned their first win at the Coliseum since 1997, retaining the Victory Bell by grinding out just their third victory over USC (9-4, 6-3) in 15 years.

Read More…
More on College Football

Missouri Clinches SEC East With Win Over Texas A&M 28-21 (VIDEO)

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Henry Josey broke loose for the go-ahead score on a 57-yard run with 3:34 to go and No. 5 Missouri wrapped up the SEC East, riding a strong second half to a 28-21 victory over No. 19 Texas A&M on Saturday night.

Missouri (11-1, 7-1 SEC) advances to the conference championship game against Auburn — a matchup of schools very lightly regarded before the season. Missouri has made a six-win improvement from its initial SEC season and fourth-ranked Auburn (11-1, 7-1) has topped last year’s total by eight after stunning No. 1 Alabama.

Read More…
More on College Football

Leaked Paper Reveals UN Split Over War On Drugs

Major international divisions over the global “war on drugs” have been revealed in a leaked draft of a UN document setting out the organisation’s long-term strategy for combating illicit narcotics.

The draft, written in September and seen by the Observer, shows there are serious and entrenched divisions over the longstanding US-led policy promoting prohibition as an exclusive solution to the problem.

Read More…
More on War On Drugs

Russian ‘Gay Propaganda’ Law Investigation By Olympic Committee Sought By Activists

PARIS, Nov 30 (Reuters) – Gay rights activists on Saturday asked International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach to launch an independent investigation into the implications of Russian law during next year’s Sochi Games, they said.

Bach met Russian activists during his two-day visit to Paris, IOC and gay rights organisation All Out told Reuters.

“I can confirm a constructive meeting did take place,” an IOC official said.

The activists, who had flown from Moscow after others failed to meet Bach in Sochi earlier this month, raised their concerns over the law passed in June that bans “gay propaganda” among minors.

The law has been denounced by critics and in the West as discriminatory and aimed at stifling dissent, prompting some calls for a boycott of the Games.

President Vladimir Putin, who has hoped to make the Games a showcase of modern Russia, last month said all people would be welcome in Sochi.

However, gay rights activists have reported a rise of violence toward their community and stressed on Saturday that the law was not compliant with the Olympic charter.

“During the meeting, the IOC was urged to launch an independent investigation on the legal implications of the anti gay laws … as these laws are infringing the Olympic charter and notably the sixth principle of non discrimination,” All Out said in statement.

A list of questions that could help steer the investigation was handed to Bach, they added, saying they were expecting the IOC to announce within days whether it would proceed.

Though they did not receive any assurance of an investigation, the activists praised Bach’s willingness to listen to their point and urged him to take a stronger stance.

“It was a valuable conversation and we delivered first-hand evidence that a clear and strong action is needed,” Anastasia Smirnova, who attended the meeting, told Reuters.

According to Smirnova, who represents several gay rights groups in Russia, the so-called “propaganda law” has stirred a fresh wave of violence toward gays.

“The environment is becoming increasingly hostile, with private meetings broken into, gay clubs attacked and various homophobic groups calling for violence against LGBT people,” she said.

Gay activists in Russia and worldwide are hoping the Games will be more than a sporting event and will leave a social legacy.

“The Olympics are not simply a good way to draw attention. The Olympics have specific mission and goal of promoting non-discrimination and respect through sport,” Smirnova said.

“Russia is the place where this mission is much needed, allowing the 2014 Games to leave a positive legacy.”

(Reporting by Gregory Blachier; Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Gene Cherry)

Read More…
More on Civil Rights

SpaceX Falcon 9 launch rescheduled again due to oxygen in fuel

SpaceX‘s rescheduled Nov. 25 launch on Nov. 28 was rescheduled yet again due to a slow rocket thrust buildup. The Thanksgiving Day launch was ready to go and seconds from liftoff, but the on-board computer automatically aborted the sequence. SpaceX (and Tesla) CEO Elon Musk announced the event on Twitter — and shared a few […]

Croatian Gay Rights Activists Protest Ahead Of Marriage Equality Referendum

Gay rights supporters in conservative and mainly Catholic Croatia staged protests on Saturday on the eve of a controversial referendum that could outlaw same-sex marriage in the EU’s newest member state.

More than 1,000 people braved the cold and rainy weather to gather in a square in downtown Zagreb for a protest march against Sunday’s vote, which they see as discriminatory.

“We urge voters… to protect minority rights so that no one in Croatia becomes a second class citizen,” gay rights activist Sanja Juras told the crowd.

At the end of their hour-long march through the city centre, under a heavy police presence, the protesters unfurled a giant rainbow flag outside the parliament building.

Demonstrators taking part in the “I vote against” march also carried banners in rainbow colours, reading: “Homosexuality is not a choice but hatred is” and “Let’s protect all loves”.

Sunday’s referendum on whether to amend the country’s constitution to define marriage as a “union between a woman and a man” is the result of a Church-backed initiative. Croatia’s constitution currently does not define marriage.

The vote has sparked a heated public debate, splitting the country’s 4.2 million inhabitants.

Many conservatives in Croatia, which joined the European Union this year, began fearing that same-sex marriage would be allowed in the country after the centre-left government announced a bill enabling gay couples to register as “life partners”.

In May, the Church-backed In the Name of the Family group collected over 700,000 signatures seeking a nationwide vote on gay marriage.

“We believe that marriage, children and family are so important issues that the whole society has to decide on them,” the leader of the initiative, Zeljka Markic, told AFP.

The government, human rights activists and prominent public figures have all spoken out against the referendum, urging people to cast a ‘no’ vote.

“With this sentence in the constitution we would make lives of our fellow citizens, who are a sexual minority, more difficult,” warned Damir Kovacic, who took part in Saturday’s protest with his wife.

“And tomorrow a referendum about someone else’s rights might be on the agenda,” the 34-year-old electrical engineer told AFP.

But in a country where almost 90 percent of population are Roman Catholics, the Church has vehemently urged followers to vote ‘yes’.

“Marriage is the only union enabling procreation,” said Croatia’s Cardinal Josip Bozanic in a letter read out in churches.

“This is the key difference between a marriage… and other unions.”

The latest survey showed that 68 percent of Croatians on Sunday would vote ‘yes’ compared to 27 percent against.

“It is natural and normal that a child grows up in a marriage of a man and a woman,” Katarina Mitermajer, a doctor in her 50s, who plans to vote ‘yes’, told AFP.

Attitudes towards gay rights have slowly been improving since Croatia’s first Gay Pride parade was held in Zagreb in 2002, when dozens of participants were beaten up by extremists.

Pride parades are now staged regularly if still under strong security, while gay rights are more openly discussed in the media and people are becoming less fearful of “coming out”.

In 2003 Croatia adopted a law recognising same-sex couples who have lived together for at least three years. Yet apart from official acknowledgement, the measure granted them few rights.

Sunday’s vote is the first citizens-initiated referendum since Croatia’s independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

Under Croatian law, a referendum does not require a majority voter turnout to be valid.

Read More…
More on Gay Marriage

BCS Standings, Title Race Shaken Up By Auburn Victory Over Alabama

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn’s latest miracle victory, and Ohio State’s thrilling win against Michigan, has opened the door to the BCS title game to the Buckeyes.

Or has it?

The debate has already begun, though there is still so much left to be decided. And as Saturday proved, nothing can be assumed in college football.

Read More…
More on AP

Eye On 2016, Clintons Rebuild Bond With Blacks

Inside Bright Hope Baptist Church, the luminaries of Philadelphia’s black political world gathered for the funeral of former Representative William H. Gray III in July. Dozens of politicians — city, state and federal — packed the pews as former President Bill Clinton offered a stirring eulogy, quoting Scripture and proudly telling the crowd that he was once described as “the only white man in America who knew all the verses to ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing.’ ”

But it was the presence and behavior of Hillary Rodham Clinton that most intrigued former Gov. Edward G. Rendell: During a quiet moment, Mrs. Clinton leaned over to the governor and pressed him for details about the backgrounds, and the influence, of the assembled black leaders.

Read More…
More on Hillary Clinton