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LGBT Members Of Congress Object To Trade Agreement With Anti-Gay Brunei And Malaysia

Lgbt

Five out gay members of Congress have written to President Obama to ask why Malaysia and Brunei - two countries with severe anti-gay laws - have been included in a free trade pact which the administration is currently negotiating and seeking to fast-track, reports Buzzfeed News.

Ddcda4647e4d3900da0f2b57c8fd68bd_400x400Sent yesterday, the letter was signed by Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan, David Cicilline (above left), Sean Patrick Maloney (above middle), Kyrsten Sinema (above right) and Mark Takano, five of the six co-chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which also includes several other nations in Asia and Latin America, became a serious concern for gay rights groups last year after the sultan of Brunei imposed a version of sharia law that included a punishment of death by stoning for homosexuality. Some states in Malaysia also have criminal sharia codes, and the government is appealing a court ruling striking down a law that criminalizes transgender people.

The five representatives argue in the letter that although Obama’s administration announced in December that it would remove the Gambia from a trade pact for African nations because of a crackdown on gay rights, negotiations continue with Brunei and Malaysia.

The letter reads in part:

“In light of the decision to end trade preferences for Gambia, we write today to ask for clarification on the inclusion of Brunei and Malaysia in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

“These two countries are responsible for severe human rights abuses, including adopting penal codes permitting the imprisonment and physical harm of LGBT people. It seems inconsistent for the United States to expand trade privileges to these two countries while taking action against Gambia.”

Jared Polis, the sixth Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus co-chair, is the only out member of Congress who did not sign the letter.


John Legend Pulls Out of Beverly Hills Hotel Party Over Boycott of Anti-Gay Sultan of Brunei

LegendOscar-nominated singer-songwriter John Legend has pulled out of a party that was to be held in his honor at the Beverly Hills Hotel because of a boycott of the hotel that was launched over the hotel's owner, the Sultan of Brunei, enacting sharia law in his country, law that calls for the stoning of gays and adulterers. The party is to be hosted by L.A. Confidential magazine. Legend currently appears on the cover of the magazine's December/January issue.

The Hollywood Reporter (THR) reports:  

The party would be the first notable event held at the BHH since early 2014 when the boycott started following the Sultan of Brunei's passage of barbaric Sharia Law, which calls for the stoning of gays and adulterers. (Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah owns the BHH and the Hotel Bel-Air through his Dorchester Collection.)

Reached by THR on Monday, the magazine's publisher Alison Miller said in a statement: "Los Angeles Confidential Magazine is an avid supporter of equal rights for all people. Our decision to hold our event at the hotel in no way suggests that we support any anti-human rights policies."

A day later, Legend's rep Amanda Silverman told THR that her client is no longer going. "John Legend will not be attending the L.A. Confidential party at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Thursday, February 5th in light of the horrific anti-women and anti-LGBT policies approved by the hotel's owner, the Sultan of Brunei. These policies, which among other things could permit women and LGBT Bruneians to be stoned to death, are heinous and certainly don't represent John's values or the spirit of the event. John does not, in any way, wish to further enrich the Sultan while he continues to enforce these brutal laws."

Beverly-hills-hotelL.A. Confidential has not commented since Legend made his announcement. Legend and wife Chrissy Teigen are still listed on the media alert. Reports have surfaced that Legend requested that the magazine move the event to a different venue, a request the magazine was allegedly unable to accommodate given the short notice and the fact that most major event spaces in Los Angeles are booked in the lead up to this Sunday's Grammy Awards.

THR also speculated as to whether L.A. Confidential was attempting to test the waters, so to speak, to see if it would be safe from a PR stand-point to return to the Beverly Hills Hotel as the boycott has drawn on without an end in sight.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has urged L.A. Confidential to find another venue for the event:

"We feel strongly that those who support the rights of women and the LGBT community should take their business elsewhere. I write to ask that you reconsider your decision to host an event at the Beverly Hills Hotel, or any hotel owned by the Sultan of Brunei, and join other prominent organizations who have found alternative venues," HRC global director Ty Cobb writes in the letter, obtained exclusively by THR. "LGBT citizens in many countries around the world remain persistent targets of harassment, arrest, and violence. Though it has long been the case that LGBT Bruneians and LGBT travelers to Brunei are considered criminals for simply being who they are, this decision means that Brunei will soon become the tenth nation that includes the death penalty as an option for 'punishing' LGBT people."

Previously, Kim Kardashian and Rose McGowan have criticized the boycott of The Beverly Hills Hotel, arguing the boycott hurts the hotel staff more than it does the Sultan.


Australian Football League Axes Partnership With Brunei Airlines Over Country's Anti-gay Laws

Afl

The Australian Football League has nixed a sponsorship deal between its European affiliated league and Brunei's state airline over the country's implementation of Sharia law that includes death by stoning as a punishment for homosexuality. 

ABC News reports:

The AFL released a statement that said its European affiliate was unaware of Brunei's adoption of the laws.

"These laws are counter to everything the AFL stands for in regards to inclusion and diversity," the statement said.

An AFL spokesman said that after examining the issue, the league was now working with AFL Europe to wind up the agreement.

The spokesman said the sponsorship deal will be terminated "possibly within days, at most within a few weeks".

Gay rights group All Out, which organized a Twitter campaign pressuring the AFL to drop its sponsorship ties, praised the decision, saying:

‘This is a game changer in the push against Brunei’s proposal to mandate inhuman punishments like stoning, whipping and amputation for being gay and other offences. The AFL has taken a strong stand against homophobia today that shows the Sultan of Brunei that killing people because of who they are is not only wrong – it’s very bad for business.’

Last month we reported that Hassanal Blkiah, the homophobic Sultan of Brunei who championed the new laws, was eyeing the New York's iconic Plaza Hotel for purchase. 

[photo via AFL]


Grindr Addresses Security Breach, Rolls Out Easily Bypassed Patch: VIDEO

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Grindr’s administrators temporarily disabled the popular hookup app’s location-awareness features yesterday afternoon following widespread concerns about a security exploit that exposed 600,000 users’ exact locations worldwide regardless of their privacy settings. The flaw in Grindr’s infrastructure allowed anyone, including people not using the service on a phone or tablet, to triangulate a specific users precise location by pinging Grindr’s servers. Though popularly thought to be a predominantly western app, Grindr boasts a global userbase of over 6 million people, many of whom are logging on from within countries with explicitly homophobic laws.

After discovering the potential security breach, an anonymous European Grindr user took to demonstrating just how easy it was to parse out other users’ personal information. Despite being alerted to the problem, Grindr’s developers initially responded to the backlash by asserting that the application was merely functioning the way it was meant to.

The sudden shutdown of the app’s location functionality was seemingly meant to address the bug. However, hours after users were able to seek one another out from their phones, America Blog’s John Aravosis easily found other users in Brunei, Russia, and Iran. This raises particular concerns in light of a slew of Grindr-assisted arrests in Egypt. Rather than fully patching the problem, Grindr’s development team has implemented a series of roadblocks:

"It appears, according to the anonymous Grindr user who uncovered the security breach, that Grindr is blocking the IP address of anyone attempting to find the exact location of its users. (Grindr is also requiring you to register a new account before massively [violating] the privacy of their users.) But if Grindr thinks this is a sufficient fix, they might want to have a chat with the following gay men I just found in Tehran and Brunei. All you have to do, apparently, is create a new IP address and a new account, and voila, you’re in."

It is important to note that Grindr users who disable their location sharing from within the app should be protected from the break.

Watch a video demonstrating the Grindr security breach AFTER THE JUMP...

UPDATE: Grindr has issued a statement on the security concerns:

"In light of recent security allegations surrounding a user’s specific location, Grindr has made modifications to no longer show distance information for users.  Grindr will continue to make ongoing changes to keep all users secure, as necessary."

Continue reading "Grindr Addresses Security Breach, Rolls Out Easily Bypassed Patch: VIDEO" »


Anti-Gay Sultan of Brunei Eyeing Iconic New York Hotels - VIDEO

Sultan

Hassanal Bolkiah, the homophobic Sultan of Brunei, has offered to pay around $2 billion to buy New York’s Plaza Hotel, along with Grosvenor House in London and the Dream Hotel in lower Manhattan, reports Huffington Post.

Bolkiah has faced severe criticism for Brunei’s new penal code which includes death by stoning as a punishment for homosexuality.

A number of celebrities - including Virgin founder and CEO Richard Branson - have protested against the Brunei-owned luxury hotel operator Dorchester Collection following the implementation of the country’s anti-gay laws. However, Russell Crowe announced his support for Dorchester, claiming that protests would “throw employees under the bus to make a political point.”

A statement from the hotel chain said that the company continues to “abide by the laws of the countries we operate in and do not tolerate any form of discrimination of any kind.”

However, activist group Human Rights Campaign’s Director of Global Engagement Ty Cobb said “the American profit stream that flows from [Bolkiah’s] hotels back to his regime needs to stop. We urge all New Yorkers to have one simple and straight-forward message for the Sultan: take your business elsewhere."

Watch a CBS News report, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Anti-Gay Sultan of Brunei Eyeing Iconic New York Hotels - VIDEO" »


Kim Kardashian: ‘Boycotting The Beverly Hills Hotel Won’t Affect the Sultan of Brunei'

Kardashian

Kim Kardashian took to her blog today to speak out on the boycott of The Beverly Hills Hotel aimed at its owner the Sultan of Brunei. The boycott began in the wake of the Sultan’s implementation of sharia law in the Southeast Asian nation late April. Under the law individuals can be stoned to death if proven to have committed homosexual acts. Celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Richard Branson and Jay Leno have been vocal in their support of the boycott. And while Kim originally supported the boycott, pulling her bridal shower from the famed LA destination, she now believes that it is not the best way forward: 

For a sultan that has 20 billion dollars, this loss of business doesn’t even make a dent in his fortunes. But the hotel staff are being negatively affected every day with the boycott that has gone on for weeks now… We shouldn’t punish the amazing hard-working people who have been so good to us for years! …There must be other ways to express our views without punishing the workers, some who I know personally have families at home and depend on the city’s business and tips to survive…I support Rose McGowan and Russell Crowe’s takes on this matter. The unjust treatment and violation of rights of the LGBT community around the world is never justified and I will continue to proudly support the LGBT community in every way imaginable. I do believe though that instead of this boycott, there has to be another solution. I’m glad to hear that industry executives like Jeffrey Katzenberg and Casey Wasserman are reaching out to leaders of the hotel chain to discuss a way to potentially end the protest.

You can read Kim’s blog post in its entirety HERE

UPDATE: The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has pointed out that The Beverly Hills Hotel leadership promised to guarantee the jobs, incomes and gratuities of its employees following the uproar over the Sultan of Brunei's draconian laws. In an op-ed in The Hollywood Reporter this month, HRC Vice President Jeff Krehely said the sultan was turning his employees into 'human shields':

Dorchester [Collection -- the hotel group that runs The Beverly Hills Hotel] has said that its employees are the “victims” of these [protests] and that only they would feel the financial impact of Americans taking business elsewhere. Now the company has begun to parade employees -- some of whom would be subjected to the laws in Brunei -- and their stories into the media and online.

The ploy comes despite assurances that the company has guaranteed the jobs, income, gratuities and benefits of all of its employees during the controversy. This stands in stark contrast to its claim that actions against the sultan’s hotels will result in a big income loss for its staff. Its leadership is talking out of both sides of their mouths. Given the guarantees, how will its staff actually be impacted?

We urge Hollywood to see past this smokescreen. With $20 billion in the bank, the sultan can afford to support his employees. But what his company cannot afford to do -- if it wishes to fix its badly damaged reputation -- is continue to shamefully use its employees in a deceptive effort to shield the sultan from criticism.


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