It looked earlier this year as if President Obama would go ahead and sign an executive order prohibiting LGBT discrimination by federal contractors. Then he didn't.
Now that he's won a second term, though, groups like Human Rights Campaign plan to pressure the commander-in-chief to make good on that order and, they hope, to finally make serious progress on an issue that has lingered in Washington for decade: Employment Non-Discrimination.
From The Hill:
[HRC and others] argue that if Obama signs the order it could encourage Capitol Hill to pass broader legislation that would extend a similar ban to employers.
Allison Herwitt, legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, said gay rights supporters want to see movement from the president soon.
The push is to have them do it sooner instead of later," Herwitt said. "I do think it helps pave the way for a fully inclusive [Employment Non-Discrimination Act]. ... It is the way that the government puts its imprimatur on what's important and makes a difference in people's lives. The president would be saying it's important not to discriminate."
A poll from last year showed that about 73% of Americans support prohibiting LGBT discrimination in the work place. About 90% of people believe such protections already exist, so education is a good place to start.
YOUR FEATURE PRESENTATION
SKYFALL arrived on US screens Friday with such multiplex flattening hype that you'd be forgiven for thinking the title literal. The Cubby Broccoli estate, which controls the adventures of the super spy, was pulling no stops for the 50th anniversary installment of the granddaddy of film franchises. We've been inundated with Bond Mania for months now. So you'd think at this point that the actual film would be an afterthought. Not so.
The 23rd official Bond film delivers… and not just the five mandatory goodies no Bond film is complete without: Action (Particularly the Opening Setpiece), Theme Song, International Villain, 007 Himself and the Bond Girl. Unlike most modern franchises, the Bond series favors stand-alone storylines with only the five-pronged Bond template uniting them. Even Bond himself changes though Skyfall happily sticks with Daniel Craig's impossible zombie handsomeness and dangerously erotic icy blues.
Five mandatory goodies and Daniel Craig's sexual pull AFTER THE JUMP...
1. Action / Opening Setpiece
Skyfall's pre-title chase, as Bond frantically tries to retrieve a stolen hard drive containing the identities of all of MI6's secret agents, is a real corker. If Skyfall has a significant flaw it might well be that this proves a difficult setpiece to follow. My favorite bit finds Bond dropping into a moving train car he's just demolished with a backhoe. He adjusts his cuffs; why look sloppy when lives are on the line? The scene ends with a very tense "M" (Oscar winner Judi Dench) ordering a kill shot which doesn't go as planned. Bond plummets from the top of a moving train with excruciatingly steep verticality to the water far below and into…
2. Theme Song
…the soundscape of Adele's booming vocals and its accompanying animated title sequence, a theme-song staple. Skyfall is quite literal about its title visually, with daggers or swords falling with Bond into the bottom of the ocean landing like crucifixes to form a makeshift cemetery filled with blood and gunshot wounds. The meaning of the visuals will eventually become clear but that would involve spoilers, which you're not getting here. It's worth noting that Adele's theme song is much better in context than in the vacuum of an mp3.
3. International Villainy
The stolen hard drive traces back, eventually, to the complicated plans but simplistic end goal of Bond's newest villain "Silva" (Javier Bardem) who is obviously targeting "M" and wants to really see her suffer. In the film's most riveting scene, Bond and Silva are face to face, with Bond at a considerable disadvantage in bondage, while Silva taunts Bond and details his M fixation. "Mommy was very very bad," Javier Bardem explains with a hilariously childlike grudge. He's spooky, riveting and eventually moving in the role. It's worth noting that this sequence, the most explicitly homoerotic scene from any Bond film, might well read as homophobically perverse were it not for...
4 ...007 Himself
I urge you not to spoil the sequence for friends who haven't yet seen it but Bond's retort to Silva's sexual tease is about the most succinct example yet of how essential Daniel Craig's expert performance has been to the modernization of the series. He's arguably the best thing that happened to the franchise since Sean Connery watched Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) emerging from the ocean, wet and beautiful, in Dr. No (1962) laying the foundations for it all. It's surely no accident that the franchise confidently announced just as much by putting Bond himself in Honey Ryder's position in Casino Royale in that infamous baby blue speedo. Not for nothing did Daniel Craig first come to critical notice in two very provocative roles as Derek Jacobi's rough trade boyfriend in Love is the Devil (1998) and the randy lover of a senior citizen in The Mother (2003). His polysexual screen persona has blown a hole right in fixed sexuality of the Bond series, making Bond himself somehow less predatory, less sexist and as eroticized as any of his conquests, i.e. the…
Perhaps with Daniel Craig in the mix the notoriously heterosexual Bond series hasn't felt the need to indulge as much in its one undeniable previous camp pleasure, the ritual drag-queen naming of Bond Girls (Pussy Galore, Plenty O'Toole, Strawberry Fields, Octopussy, etc.) which is not to say that the Bond Girls have suffered; Eve (Naomie Harris) and Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) both have beautifully handled moments within good scenes that give them plenty to do besides getting Bond off. But the most satisfying subtle detail of Skyfall's screenplay may well be the narrative positioning of "M" as a sort of symbolic Bond Girl. Dench is more central than she's ever been with her "sentimental favorite" James Bond as her devoted protector. They're not fucking but you'd be hard pressed to deny that he loves her.
This is all a long way of saying that though there are 23 Bond films there is also only 1 Bond film, each a remix or variation on themes… making the best efforts indispensable (given Bond's stature in popular culture) and the worst skippable. Best and Worst are usually determined by the style with which the key ingredients are handled and Skyfall has that to spare.
If there's a problem with Skyfall it's with its sobriety in both senses of the word. Bond drinks a couple of times and there's an amusing blink and you'll miss it twist on Bond's usual ordering martini sequence, but most of the film's humor is exceedingly subtle like this. Skyfall errs, as so many modern franchises do post Chris Nolan's Batman, on the side of intense self-importance as if to crack a smile would be to invite dismissal as "mere popcorn entertainment." What's wrong with slightly inebriated popcorn entertainment?
One final note: Craig's ongoing superb rendition of 007 was not quite enough to save Quantum of Solace from itself. So the filmmakers wisely pull out all the stops here. If Skyfall lacks the element of surprise and revitalizing electricity of Casino Royale it leans hard on Craig's gifts and assembles the most remarkable group of talented craftsmen than a Bond film has ever known: the legendary cinematography Roger Deakins makes this the most beautiful of all Bond films and superbly visualizes its constant references to espionage as a life in the shadows; Sam Mendes (American Beauty) may well be the most acclaimed director ever handed a Bond film and his technical team from editors to sound engineers do fine work; the actors too are an incredible mix… if Oscar winner Javier Bardem doesn't quite steal the film it's only because Skyfall has assembled the most lauded acting troupe that 007 has ever seen. You can't entirely steal a picture when rising stars Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw, Oscar nominees Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney, and Oscar winner Judi Dench all stand in your way.
Even if you could, you'd still have Daniel Craig and Daniel Craig's Speedo to contend with.
Does Homeland dumb down the CIA?
Orlando Cruz, the first openly gay professional boxer, spoke with Germany's Der Spiegel about coming to terms with his homosexuality: "For a long time I didn't want to accept that I was gay. Better said: I couldn't accept it because I was too afraid. Homosexuals were discriminated against in Puerto Rico back then, sometimes even killed. I had a friend named José, but we called him Linoshka because he was a transvestite. He was stabbed to death in the street at the age of 19 by a homophobe because he had taken part in a gay-pride parade."
The website All Out is becoming an increasingly powerful voice in Africa's nascent gay rights movement: "The All Out website describes its objectives as 'building a truly global community able to respond to moments of crisis and opportunity, to advance the lives and freedoms of LGBT people everywhere' and credits 'the unprecedented possibilities for global people power that new social media technologies allow'."
Justin Welby, the former oil executive Queen Elizabeth named to be the new Archbishop of Canterbury, is more open-minded on gay and lesbian inclusion than his predecessor, the at-times obstructive Rowan Williams. Though he doesn't support marriage equality, Welby said, "I am always averse to the language of exclusion... Above all in the church we need to create safe spaces for these issues to be discussed honestly and in love."
Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel lent a hand for the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
The royals came out for Britain's Remembrance Day.
Rent at the 1996 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Scenes from Hong Kong Pride 2012.
Counterfeits are so gauche: "A new type of thread woven into patterns invisible to the naked eye could put an end to fake designer clothes - and dull outfits... To extend the method to other valuables, Christian Müller at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, made a semi-transparent thread from polyethylene and a polymer used in clothes dye. This thread has unique optical properties that allow only certain polarizations to pass through."
Ezra Klein reflects at The Washington Post: "Step back and take an accounting of these last few years: The United States of America, a land where slaves were kept 150 years ago and bathrooms were segregated as recently as 50 years ago, elected and reelected our first black president. We passed and ratified a universal health-care system. We saw the first female Speaker of the House, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, and the first openly gay member of the Senate."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells the New York Times' Gail Collins that she looks forward to some well-earned R&R once she leaves the State Department. "I just want to sleep and exercise and travel for fun. And relax. It sounds so ordinary, but I haven’t done it for 20 years. I would like to see whether I can get untired. I work out and stuff, but I don’t do it enough and I don’t do it hard enough because I can’t expend that much energy on it," said the Democrat.
50 Ways to celebrate timeless Demi Moore's 50th birthday. Idea 29: "Indulge in late night pottery sessions."
The Kardashians are terrifyingly popular in the UK.
Finally, here's video of Anne Hathaway reprising her Katie Holmes impression.
There was some Beltway gossip that the CIA may have played a role in unraveling former director David Petraeus' affair with Paula Broadwell, and the four-star general's entire career.
But the Washington Post reports today that Broadwell, being investigated for allegedly trying to access Petraeus' email, sparked the entire scandal by sending threatening emails to another woman in Petraeus' life.
[The story was] triggered when a woman with whom he was having an affair sent threatening e-mails to another woman close to him, according to three senior law enforcement officials with knowledge of the episode.
The recipient of the e-mails was so frightened that she went to the FBI for protection and help tracking down the sender, according to the officials. The FBI investigation traced the threats to Paula Broadwell, a former military officer and a Petraeus biographer, and uncovered explicit e-mails between Broadwell and Petraeus, the officials said.
Both Petraeus and Broadwell were then interviewed by FBI officials and spilled the beans about their affair. The officials would not say who the woman Broadwell emailed was but did say she is not Petraeus' wife, nor is she a CIA employee and that Broadwell "perceived her as a threat," says the paper.
You can't make this stuff up.
The end of election season means that we have at least a year (468 different Congressional races are just around the corner!) before we're again inundated by an endless stream of polls, proclamation and other numerical electoral predications.
Taking advantage of this lull, master stastician Nate Silver has rated the most prominent polls cited during the 2012 election. Gallup, one of the most popular, appears to be the least accurate.
An excerpt of Silver's analysis:
Among the more prolific polling firms, the most accurate by this measure was TIPP, which conducted a national tracking poll for Investors’ Business Daily. Relative to other national polls, their results seemed to be Democratic-leaning at the time they were published. However, it turned out that most polling firms underestimated Mr. Obama’s performance, so those that had what had seemed to be Democratic-leaning results were often closest to the final outcome.
Conversely, polls that were Republican-leaning relative to the consensus did especially poorly.
Well at least the GOP exceled at something this election season: failing.
The new Sky Arts mini-series A Young Doctor's Notebook, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm, airs next month in the UK and though there's no word when the project will make its way Stateside, it's only a matter of time before we get to enjoy the adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's autobiography.
Get excited with the trailer, which of course includes a clip of the instant fan-favorite scene featuring Radcliffe and Hamm in the tub together, AFTER THE JUMP...