Malaysia launched contest for best “gay prevention” videos

 

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Image courtesy of “RT.com”

-Article by Maneesha Khalae

Last June, the Malaysian government announced a competition on the health ministry’s official website where participants submit videos dedicated to teenagers embracing “gender confusion.” The winner will receive up to 4282 Malaysian ringgit ($1000) when the competition ends in August. The overarching topic of the contest being “Value Yourself: Healthy Lifestyle Practice,” the government-selected themes are focused on prevention, control, and the issues and consequences of homosexuality.

Despite the outcry from local LGBTQ activists such as Nisha Ayub and Pang Khee Teik who denounce the contest as alienating and dangerous for an already vulnerable demographic, the Malaysian deputy director general of health, Lokman Hakim Sulaiman, declares it is aimed to “tap the creativity” of teenagers’ minds about sexual and reproductive health. However, while homosexuality prevention is one of Malaysia’s main social concerns, instructive sexual education for teenagers is still missing. According to a 2011 report from the Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, 65% of teenagers in rural areas of the country, such as Kelantan and Terengganu, claimed that their main source of sexual information was friends.

This competition announcement comes when conditions for LGBTQ Malaysians have been worsening due to the rapid rise of social and religious conservatism, which marked a shift from the more liberal attitudes in the 1970s and 1980s. It is important to note that in addition to being socially taboo, homosexuality remains forbidden and punishable by law.

A few months ago, Malaysia gained a certain notoriety for intending to ban “Beauty and The Beast” for a purportedly “gay moment” between the characters Le Fou and Gaston. The film was eventually allowed to be screened in full without any cuts. However, the screening of a 2011 Vietnamese film, ‘Lost in Paradise,’ depicting a romantic relationship between two men, was canceled at a local Penang Performing Arts Center after State Religious Affairs Committee Chairman Datuk Abdul Malik Abul Kassim sent an official letter to the organizers regarding its “sensitive” content. The Chairman of Muslim Network of Penang, Hafiz Nordin, quipped: “If they really are Malaysians, they should know that such movies should not be screened for the public. This can be construed by some as a way of promoting homosexuality in our country.”

Malaysia remains a state which criminalizes homosexuality on many levels, even going so far as to organize seminars, in 2012, for parents on how to “spot” indicators of possible homosexual tendencies in their children. The government-established signs of potential homosexuality were intrinsically based on clichés: men wearing tight clothes and carrying large handbags, and women spending large amounts of time in the company of other women.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced new government after ongoing corruption investigation leaves doubt on ministers’ integrity

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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (image courtesy of Ouest-France)

 

-Article by Alice Ferré

On June 9, a preliminary investigation was launched to enlighten an alleged fund embezzlement by major figures of the centrist party MoDem and extreme-right party National Front.

France’s new government was affected by the investigation as many ministers, also members of the MoDem party, resigned this week. Those concerned are the Minister of the Armies Sylvie Goulard, the Minister of European Affairs Marielle de Sarnez, and the Minister of Justice and MoDem party leader Francois Bayrou, who had viscerally supported President Macron during his campaign. The Minister of Territorial Cohesion Richard Ferrand also resigned after rumors of a real estate affair that would have benefited his wife in 2011.

The information that put oil on fire was disclosed by the famous weekly satirical newspaper “Le Canard Enchaine,” the same publication that unveiled the Fillon scandal and caused the rightist candidate his presidential bid last January.

Although the government was supposed to be redesigned after the legislative election results on Sunday- as the tradition wants it –  to reinforce the executive power by limiting ideological cohabitation between the legislative and the executive branch, the reform took an unexpected turn.

“Le Canard” accused Francois Bayrou, as the same time as the now-former Minister of Justice was working on “a moralization of the political life” law project to fight corruption and facilitate transparency in politics, and other MoDem European deputies of using the European Parliament’s funds to pay their personal aides, thus creating fake jobs. On June 8, a former MoDem employee, who wished to remain anonymous, revealed to the highest Paris court, that he had been remunerated as a parliamentary aide to MoDem-affiliated deputy Jean-Luc Bennhamias in 2011 while his contract postulated he was simply working for the party.

This method of falsely recruiting party members as parliamentary aides increased over the years in the MoDem, according to France Info. Each European deputy or national deputies and senators have at their disposal a 24.000 euro-credits to pay their assistants, would they be either in Brussels, Strasbourg, or other circumscriptions. They are not allowed to employ aides that already have a position in their party, as it not only creates illegal mandate accumulations but also fake jobs. This fund embezzlement means the party leader and members don’t spend much of the party’s money.

Mr. Bayrou told the French newspaper “Le Monde” that his decision was “a personal choice” that will “simplify” the current investigation. Echoing Mr. Bayrou, Mrs. Goulard, who quit the day before, said her move was out of “good faith,” regarding the ongoing investigation planning over her party.

Edouard Philippe’s second government remains in line with President Macron’s promises of parity and involvement of civil personalities and new faces. Mrs. Nicole Belloubet, who now replaces Mr. Bayrou as the Minister of Justice, was a former law teacher; Mrs. Genevieve Darrieussecq, 61, a doctor and the mayor of a small town in West Southern France, was named as Minister of the Armies.

NATO, Trump, Macron, and Counterterrorism

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New NATO headquarters (Image courtesy of interbuild.be)

-Article by Alice Ferré

In their first official meeting at the United States Embassy in Brussels, President Donald J. Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron mostly tackled the terrorism and climate change issues, two of the many transatlantic major concerns. The 43rd G7 summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, this week will allow European leaders and President Trump, along with Canada and Japan, to further discuss these topics.

Mr. Macron and Trump’s handshake caught everyone’s attention: in a “white-knuckled handshake,” the two leaders confirmed their collaboration and marked their territories, with Mr.Trump’s aggressive grip and Mr. Macron’s withholding Trump’s palm longer than expected.

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US President Donald J. Trump and France’s President Emmanuel Macron in the United States Embassy in Brussels. (image courtesy of LeFigaro.fr)

Although Mr. Macron wishes that Mr. Trump “does not make any precipitated decision” regarding the Paris agreement, he said the talk was “frank” and “pragmatic” and demonstrated a “will to reinforce our partnership and cooperation regarding our fight against terrorism.” Mr. Macron had previously sent signals of hope to Mr. Trump on the U.S. role; while visiting the soldiers of the “Barkhane” operation in Mali, Mr. Macron claimed that Mr. Trump’s allegations against Islamic terrorism did not make him doubt that he will maintain this kind of cooperation.

In this optic, President Trump convinced the European leaders to join him in an international coalition against the Islamic State, after a year of reluctance. European leaders, although already fighting terrorism nationally and internationally and engaging in this Washington-led coalition, feared that the formalization of this union under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization banner would trigger hostile comments from recent allies in the Middle East. “We will win this battle,” concluded President Trump referring to the Manchester bombing, an event that influenced the European leaders in their decision.

Jens Stoltenberg, the 13th Secretary General of NATO, said this union would “send a strong political message of unity in fighting terrorism. However, this will not mean that NATO will engage in fighting abroad.” 
One fear remaining is that Mr. Trump did not explicitly endorse the article 5 of the Washington Treaty, NATO’s mutual defense pledge assuring that the WWII allies must bring assistance to one of them if they are attacked; such omission might frighten the Baltic states that wish to escape Russia’s exponential hegemony in the region.

One condition for President Trump to abide NATO (the President previously declared the organization was “obsolete”) is that European nations spend more on national defense and the military, which echoes Trump’s claim in Saudi Arabia that the fight against terrorism is a “shared burden.” So far, the decision taken in 2014 that each country should spend 2% of their GDP on defense seems to be slowly but surely achieved; according to NATO, the nations’ cumulated budgets raised by 3,8% in 2016 (or 10 billion dollars). Europeans have until 2024 to achieve their goal. Mr. Trump, however, complained about “chronic underpayments” to the military alliance during his speech yesterday. “If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO would be even stronger than it is today.” Mr. Trump later said that the assembling of the 2% was a failure, “with 23 of the 28 member nations still not paying what they should be paying.”

Regarding other defense resources, France, for instance, will not invest in NATO-stamped missions, such as the failed “Unified Protector” operation launched in Libya in 2011 to oust dictator Muhammad Qaddafi.

Mr. Trump was received in the new NATO headquarters, which will officially open this December. The new building, representing eight fighters crisscrossing each other, will have at its entrance a vestige from the Twin Towers, a symbol of the counterterrorism fight.

South Korea’s second presidential debate

From left to right: Sim Sang Jung, Hong Joon Pyo, Yoo Seong Min, Moon Jae In, and Anh Cheol Soo (image courtesy of Nikkei Asian Preview)

by Min Bae

The five leading presidential candidates faced one another in their second TV debate last Wednesday, hosted by Korean Broadcasting System. The event drew nationwide attention as it was the first Korean presidential debate with candidates speaking without a script while standing up. The discussion was divided into two sessions: one on politics and national security, and the other on educational, economic, and sociocultural issues.

Although the pulpit method was implemented to facilitate discussion and appeal to voters, the two-hour debate seemed to revolve around grilling the dominant frontrunner Moon Jae In and the runner-up Ahn Cheol Soo over remarks they had made throughout their political careers.

Yoo Seong Min of the right-wing Bareun Party was first to unleash series of attacks on Moon, mostly concerning the controversy over the liberal front-runner’s decision to follow Pyongyang’s opinion on a 2007 UN resolution regarding North Korea’s human rights situation.

Hong Joon Pyo of the right-wing Liberty Korea Party accused Moon of condoning a charitable giving of $4.4 billion to North Korea when he was the chief aide to the liberal president Roh Moo Hyun. Hong also claimed that the money was used to fund North’s nuclear weapon program.

While Moon spent most of his discussion time defending himself, he asserted that the former President Kim Dae Jung’s Sunshine Policy and Roh’s engagement policy toward North Korea played a significant role in improving the relationship between the two Koreas. Moon also re-asserted his position against North Korea’s nuclear program, saying that the North’s nuclear issue has become much more serious and resolving it should be our priority.

Sim Sang Jung of the progressive Justice Party made sharp attacks to both Moon and Anh regarding the dispute around the deployment of an advanced missile defense system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), the predominant topic in the debate’s first session. She criticized Moon’s description of the deployment as “strategic ambiguity.”

“I was perplexed by Moon’s expressions such as ‘strategic ambiguity’ or ‘strategic prudence.’ These are words of a critic, not of a political leader.”

Moon was also criticized by Sim on his recent change in viewpoint on the THAAD issue from opposition to conditional approval. Ahn was criticized for shifting his opinion earlier last week; He proclaimed that the continuing military provocation from North Korea made the deployment inevitable.

An early election has been scheduled to take place on May 9 following the impeachment of the former right-wing president Park Geun Hye over her participation in a multi-million dollar corruption scandal. Park is currently under arrest on 13 charges including bribery and abuse of power. Anh and Moon, influential candidates with left-wing affiliations, emerged as two leading presidential contenders in public opinion polls.

It seems that the biggest winner of the second debate is Moon Jae In, with 41% of support. He managed to distance himself from the runner-up, Anh Cheol Soo by 11 % in a recent poll as Anh has lost 7 % of support after the debate.

According to the Yonhap News Agency, the second debate was watched by 26.4 % of Korean households, tripling the 7- 8 % average of viewership of public network broadcasting.

Recap: François Fillon’s corruption cases: a legal, ethical, private, and public affair

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Image courtesy of JAMnews

-Article by Alice Ferré

The French presidential election’s first round will be held on April 22nd; here is a recap of the corruption scandals that surrounded the candidate François Fillon over the past weeks.

So far, the right party has been in hot water. Although its candidate had always claimed their honesty and high morals, recent events proved the contrary.

François Fillon from the right party Les Républicains (LR) has been involved in more corruption scandals over the past few months than he has been during his entire political career as revelations poured:

On January 24, the French newspaper “Le Canard Enchaîné” revealed that the right party candidate’s wife, Pénélope Fillon, was paid for fictional work as a parliament assistant for 15 years, earning a total of 680.000 euros. Her severance pay amounted to 45.000 euros. Later on, during an interview on French channel TF1, Mr. Fillon declared that, while he was Senator, he employed his children as parliamentary attachés, which violated the Senate’s legislation. They earned 84 000 euros.

Mr. Fillon is also charged with influence peddling, as Penelope Fillon was employed by « La Revue des Deux Mondes, » from 2012 to 2013, and paid 5000 euros per month, regardless of having written only two notes for it. The publication’s owner, Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, is close to the Fillons and received the Legion of Honor in 2011.

Finally, Les Républicains are accused of misappropriation of funds earned by the parliamentary aides from 2005 to 2007. Mr. Fillon received 21.000 euros.

Following these revelations, Mr. Fillon’s investigation procedure started on March, 15. He, nonetheless, chose to remain in the presidential race. The investigation procedure allowed Mr. Fillon to access the accusation files and build a defense against all the charges. The investigation is however disturbed by the electoral calendar: if Mr. Fillon is elected, he cannot be prosecuted.

The seventh article of the French Constitution allows postponing the election if a candidate withdraws themselves from the race, or is impeached, and if they are not replaceable by another candidate from the party’s primary election. The Constitutional Council decides whether the election should be postponed.

However, such scenario seems unlikely, as Mr. Fillon declared he will remain in the race. The UDI (Union of Democrats and Independents), which had previously abandoned their support for Mr. Fillon early March, changed their minds and agreed to endorse him again – for the sake of the party. Thierry Solère, Mr. Fillon’s campaign spokesman who also resigned early March, stayed in his position.

‘Children of La Creuse’

 

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Former Prefect of la Réunion Michel Debré (left), “Children of la Creuse” (right) – Le journal de la Réunion

 

-Article by Alice Ferré

From 1963 to 1981, 2150 children ages four to six, were dragged out from the French island of La Réunion and shifted to the mainland in order to repopulate the Central and South West rural regions. This month, the victims of forced deportation, now in their thirties and forties, will be heard by a special commission created for this case in 2014.

The processing was implemented by Michel Debré, Prefect of La Réunion at the time. Erased from French national memory until 2002, the case unveiled a carefully planned transfer of children to a foster care in the city of Guéret in la Creuse, where they waited for their new family to adopt them. However, not all of them had this opportunity; many ended up as illegal workers in farms or servants, alike to modern slavery.

Victims now seek reparation for their stolen life. Anne David, 48, was adopted by a family from Finistère when she was two. Interviewed by French newspaper Le Point, she discussed her discoveries: she comes from a family with seven children in La Réunion and seeks to learn more about her estranged family. She called for the special commission to deliver all details of the case in complete transparency, with available access to state files for the victims. Valérie Andanson, Head of the Department of Deported Children from Overseas and abducted from her family at three years old, demands reparation with state-financed traveling and housing in La Réunion. Like David, she learned later on, at the age of 16, that she has five siblings – all deported to separated families.

But the victims do not only fight for themselves; they extend their help to other lost children, those unaware that they too may face a similar situation and bring global awareness to these crimes against children.

In February 2014, the French National Assembly alleged moral responsibility of the state in the case. The resolution lays out three major points: the extensive and comprehensive diffusion of facts, the acknowledgment that the state failed to care for those children, and the obligation for the state to financially help victims to reconnect with their heritage.

“Charlie is still alive”

-Article by Alice Ferré

        On January 7, 2015, Islamist extremists Saïd and Chérif Kouachi attacked French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo‘s offices in Paris, sweeping away nine members of its team. Motives of their grudge were numerous publications of satirical drawings of Prophet Mohammed. In the aftermath, on January 11, two million people, including more than 40 world leaders, met in Paris for a rally of national unity. 3.7 million people joined demonstrations across France.
The “Je Suis Charlie” phrase became an anthem for freedom of expression worldwide, and the newspaper received spectacular support from the international press. Wolinski, Charb, Tignous, Cabu, Elsa and Honoré became martyrs in the war against religious extremism.

This attack also debuted a series of others, spreading feelings of fear and helplessness across the country: the Hyper Casher, the Thalys train, the November, and the Bastille Day attacks, the Magnanville stabbing, and the Saint-Etienne du Rouvray church attack – amongst many other less mediated ones, in only two years.
Before this ongoing wave of terrorism, how could we make a fresh start without forgetting?

Some would argue Charlie Hebdo itself is an example of this demeanor. Indeed, the periodical did not lose its spirits and stands strong, not going backward in going forward. The newspaper answered the attacks with a cover of teary-eyed Mohammed holding a “Je Suis Charlie” sign. The text above read “All is forgiven.” Charlie chose to fight back with its best weapons: cynicism and dark, crude humor.

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It kept on this trend: the newspaper had published, in 2015, another controversial cartoon about the young child refugee Aylan Kurdi who drowned while fleeing Syria. A McDonald’s advert is next to him, with the caption “So close…” A second cartoon had for note: “Christians walk on water, Muslim children sink.”

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In September 2016, Charlie had honored its reputation with a cartoon describing victims of Italy earthquake as Italian dishes – which sparked anger on social media. “Good taste has boundaries.” “All I would like to say is if Charlie Hebdo was bombed again I shall not be participating in the status ‘Je Suis Charlie’.

Charlie has always been controversial, even when the victim of events was Charlie itself.  On May 5, 2015, the periodical received the ‘Courage and Freedom of Expression Prize’ from the Pen Club International; but international recognition after the attacks was mixed. While six American authors boycotted the ceremony and launched a petition signed by 240 authors against the awarding, author Salman Rushdie strongly reacted to this petition.

Interpretations of this backlash against Charlie once again showed discord: a “moral and intellectual self-immolation of the American intelligentsia,” for Russian-American writer Vladislav Davidzon, or an understandable act as “this prize magnifies an offensive content that only exacerbates anti-Islamist feelings,” claimed French newspaper Marianne

On the other hand, some would argue that the newspaper is the mere shadow of what it was before the attacks. Parting journalist Zineb El Rhazoui considers it “has gone soft” on Islamist extremists. “Charlie Hebdo died on January 7,” El Rhazoui said to the AFP. She claimed that stopping Prophet Mohammed’s caricature equalled to surrendering and bowing in front of the enemy.

Contrarily, reporter Laurent Léger, who survived the attack but has been on long-term sick leave, told Agence France Press “Charlie should have stopped after we did the survivors’ issue after the attack.” He added that “the price has been too heavy to pay for the journalists and for normal human beings.”

Nevertheless, frowns and sermons were – and will remain – the newspaper’s trademarked reactions. The cover of this week’s Charlie Hebdo claims “2017, finally the end of the tunnel,” the tunnel representing the barrel of a gun, held by a bearded man.
For the two-year anniversary of the attacks, Libération paid tribute to the newspaper with a Charlie-style satirical cover depicting President Vladimir Putin, a neo-nazi, a cardinal, a jihadist, and a vulture, all saying “Zut.”; they are not all so happy that the newspaper is still thriving.

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Charlie Hebdo is a punch in the face….
Against those who try to stop us thinking.
Against those who fear imagination.
Against those who don’t like us to laugh.