Human Rights Campaign (HRC) slammed the plan of the Sultanate of Brunei to impose the death penalty to people found guilty of the consensual same-sex relationships calling it “outrageous” and echoed calls from the international community to stand up against the repressive policy that is set to be implemented on the first week of April.
In a blog post from the organization who have been monitoring the political climate for LGBTQ people in Brunei, HRC’s Global Director Ty Cobb said that the proposed Penal Code changes were a state-sponsored murder.
“We are facing a dangerous crisis as Brunei is close to implementing laws that impose state-sponsored torture and murder of LGBTQ people. It’s absolutely crucial that the international community speak out now and demand that the Sultan of Brunei stop these barbaric changes that threaten the lives of Brunei citizens. The Trump-Pence Administration must also immediately make clear that these outrageous human rights abuses will not be tolerated,” Cobb said as published by HRC in a blog post.
The said law, which imposes ‘death by stoning’ to those who will be found guilty of same-sex relations among other crimes that violate the Sharia law, will take effect next week, April 3. Come to its effectivity, Brunei becomes the first Asian country to criminalize homosexuality and impose the death penalty on it.
Criminalization of homosexuality is part of the national implementation of the Sharia law that the Sultanate first announced in 2014. At the time, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said: “The decision to implement the (penal code) is not for fun but is to obey Allah’s command as written in the Qur’an.”
Five years following the implementation of the first phase of Bolkiah’s legal restructuring, he and the Sultanate of Brunei plans to proceed with their plans to proceed with second and third phases. The new Sharia-based legislation will criminalize acts like same-sex relations, adultery, sodomy, rape, and blasphemy and those who will be found guilty will be whipped and stoned to death. Currently, being gay is punishable by ten years in prison in Brunei.
The Human Rights Campaign has urged the international community to apply necessary pressure for the Sultanate to rescind its plan. They said that international pressure was a huge factor that dissuaded the government from enacting the second and third phases of the Penal Code reforms when it was scheduled to be introduced in 2015.
Brunei’s Sultan, who is also the country’s prime minister, previously announced that the changes in their legal system in accordance to the Sharia law would be gradually implemented in three phases. The first phase of the law criminalized and punished people for having children out of wedlock, failing to attend Friday prayer, and being seen to be promoting any form of belief other than Islam. Those who violated these rules, that were implemented in May 2014, were subjected to an Islamic court and could face imprisonment or fines.
While Sultan Bolkiah successfully implemented the first phase of the said legal changes, the second phase was postponed following the global backlash it received from the international community. The second phase was supposed to criminalize Muslims found guilty of alcohol consumption and theft in 2015. If the second phase were successfully implemented, a final stage would have been implemented in 2016.
The organization also raised concerns on the lives of LGBTQ people living in Brunei as their lives were “constricted due to constraints imposed by anti-LGBTQ religious and social views.”
Brunei has a total population of 400,000 with which 67% are Muslims who are therefore subjected to the Sharia Law. However, since the first phase of Sharia law applied to both Muslims and non-Muslims, it looks like no one will be exempt from the violent ruling.
Other human rights advocates have condemned the new law and said that it violates major international treaties on human rights that the country was a signatory of. Brunei has signed the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane, and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, but the Sultanate never ratified it.
Matthew Woolfe, the founder of the human rights group The Brunei Project, said that the Sultanate did not make any public announcement about the new legislation that it plans to implement. Woolfe noted that it had only been known this week. A move that gives human rights advocates and external forces little time to challenge the said law.
The Human Rights Campaign and The Brunei project has been working with each other to help protect LGBTQ people in Brunei since 2014.
Outpouring Support For KyoAni After Arson Attack
Fans call for support and help via the hashtag #HelpKyoAniHeal.
A fire broke out in Kyoto Animation Co., Ltd.’s headquarters in Fushimi-ku district, Kyoto at 8:35 PM (CT), which resulted in at least 33 people dead and dozens injured.
The fire was successfully put out after five hours. Since the company’s studios are located in a residential area, neighboring establishments and private spaces were the ones who called the firefighters after hearing a loud explosion, followed by smoke rising from the building shortly. Local authorities investigated and concluded that the fire was brought upon by arson.
A 41-year-old man, who was identified by multiple witnesses as the suspect, is being treated at the hospital. The police apprehended him before being rushed to the hospital.
The motive of the crime is not yet determined since the police cannot interrogate the suspect due to his extensive injuries. Based on the suspect’s records, there is no direct connection between him and the animation studios. A witness informed authorities that the man shouted “Die!” repeatedly as he carried out his attack.
Reports have shared that the man brought 40 liters of petrol in two containers into the building. He proceeded to douse the lobby of the 1st Studio building using the gasoline he purchased at a nearby gas station.
Aside from petrol, the suspect carried several knives, which were found in the backpack discarded in the aftermath.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent via Twitter his condolences to all casualties and wished those that were injured a speedy recovery. He also stated that the crime has rendered him speechless.
The studio’s president and co-founder Hatta Hideaki spoke to reporters later in the day, in front of the studios’ burned building. He has expressed his disappointment and frustration over the incident. He said, “This has just broken our hearts.”
Kyoto Animation Co., Ltd., also known as KyoAni, estimates that there were 70 people already in the building when the suspect launched his attack. Several members are still in the hospital in critical condition.
Fans worldwide mourn with grief upon hearing the news of the incident.
Fans posted on Twitter with #PrayForKyoAni, expressing their grief and support to the affected. Most of the Twitter users posted artworks from KyoAni’s anime series and movies and shared how much the company’s art has touched them.
Others called for support by asking fans to purchase merchandise from the company’s site to help KyoAni financially. Another hashtag, #HelpKyoAniHeal, is trending on Twitter.
Sentai Filmworks, an American licensing company that brings Japanese animation and film into the American Market, has set up a GoFundMe account, titled as Help KyoAni Heal, as a response to the incident. GoFundMe’s target goal is $750,000. Within 10 hours, the fundraiser has already raised $724,000.
The President of Sentai Filmworks, John Ledford, shared his thoughts about the incident in the GoFundMe page’s website. He wrote, “Although the situation is still developing, it is clear that our friends at Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) have suffered greatly. In addition to the loss of life, many lives will be forever changed. Like all of you, we wanted to take action to help; however, we can.”
Ledford goes on, stating that many of KyoAni’s works have “inspired, influenced, and entertained us over the years.” Sentai Filmworks is already coordinating with their counterparts in the Japanese anime industry to ensure that the funds they have collected will reach KyoAni and its employees.
KyoAni was founded by couple Yoko and Hideaki Hatta in 1981. Instead of establishing a studio in Tokyo, as most animation studios do, the couple made Kyoto their business’ home.
The company is considered one of the highly-competitive and employee-friendly animation studios. Unlike others, the studio does not pay its animators per frame, but rather as an employee with a monthly salary. KyoAni has indeed embodied its philosophy, such as “Keep our corporation a humanitarian one” and “Do our best.”
Fans have known KyoAni for their high-quality animation pieces. The studio has brought life to A Silent Voice: The Movie and Violet Evergarden. The latter can be streamed on Netflix. Other works, such as K-On!, Sound! Euphonium, and Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu gained popularity and have reached worldwide success.
Fans also noted that KyoAni’s films and TV series often spread the message of love, helpfulness, and hope. In KyoAni’s time of need, many have responded to give back to the beloved animation studio.
President Trump VS ‘the Squad’: Here’s What Both Sides Are Saying
Both sides have aired their responses on Twitter and press conferences.
Political figures and celebrities are weighing on President Donald Trump’s tweets over the weekend.
President Trump tweeted a comment about “Democrat Progressive Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe.” He goes on, suggesting that these Congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”
The tweet, which was posted last Sunday, drew both positive and negative criticisms.
Though no names were included in President Trump’s post, the public has identified that his statements were directed to Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Ilhan Omar (Minneapolis), Rashida Tlaib (Michigan), and Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts).
The following Congresswomen have responded to the President’s tweets on their Twitter accounts as well.
The Congresswomen were united in calling out the President’s tweet as “racist.” Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, and Pressley were born in America; while Rep. Omar had gained citizenship when she came to America during her childhood.
Officially, the women responded to the President via a press conference yesterday.
Rep. Pressley asked the public to “not take the bait” to steer the conversation away from the current issues at hand. “This is a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern, and consequence to the American people that we were sent here with a decisive mandate from our constituents to work on,” Rep. Pressley said.
Rep. Omar stated that the President is dividing the country. “He would love nothing more than to divide our country based on race, religion, gender, orientation or immigration status because this is the only way he knows he can prevent the solidarity of us working together,” she continues.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s message was directed for children of the US. She shared an anecdote from her childhood memory when her father reminded her that this is her country. The representative goes on to highlight the agenda of Congress to bringing service to the public, especially the children. She reiterates, “No matter what the president says, this country belongs to you.”
Rep. Tlaib echoed the sentiments shared by the others. “We cannot allow this hateful actions, by the President, to distract us from the critical work to hold this Administration accountable to the inhumane conditions at the border,” she emphasized.
All Congresswomen reminded the public about the issues on immigration needs additional focus, more than ever.
President Trump Clarified his Tweets
President Trump addresses the issue in a Made in America showcase on Monday. Reporters asked the President about his statements during the events’ Q&A portion.
The President pointed out that if the Congresswomen are not happy with the country, the lawmakers can leave. “If you’re not happy in the U.S., if you’re complaining all the time, very simply, you can leave. You can leave right now. Come back if you want, don’t come back, it’s OK too. But if you’re not happy, you can leave,” President Trump clarifies.
From the President’s perspective, the lawmakers do not love their country based on the statements the women released. “I’m sure that they’ll be many people that won’t miss them, but they have to love our country. They’re Congresspeople,” the President further adds.
The President also reiterated that he didn’t use any names in his tweets.
Positive and Negative Reaction to the Tweet
Political figures such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and some Republicans spoke against the President’s Tweets.
Schwarzenegger, the former California governor, issued a statement urging the President to rise above his personal attacks to do his job as America’s leader. “At some point, you have to dial down Donald and dial-up President Trump,” Schwarzenegger wrote. “I know it isn’t easy, but the job you hold is bigger than you. It is bigger than any man or woman. The American people put great trust in you to serve, and it is time to rise to their trust instead of dragging them down and tearing them apart.”
House Speaker Pelosi shared her opinions via a Dear Colleague letter to House Democrats. The Speaker urged his fellow lawmakers to join in “condemning the President’s xenophobic Tweets.
Republicans also shared their disappointment regarding President Trump’s tweets. Senator Lisa Murkowski shared that the comments were “spiteful.” Senator Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania) commented that “We should defeat their ideas on the merits, not on the basis of their ancestry.”
Celebrities like Susan Sarandon, Chris Evans, Janelle Monáe, and Stephen King also tweeted support for the Congresswomen.
Meanwhile, other politicians also came out to defend President Trump’s tweets. Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, reiterated to reporters that the President is “not racist.” He further cited that the President appointed an Asian woman of color in his cabinet, referring to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
Representative Andy Harris (Maryland) emphasized that the President’s message were not racist. “They’re obviously not racist. When anyone disagrees with anyone now the default is to call them a racist and this is no exception,” Harris repeats.
[Breaking] Democrats Move To Ban Big Techs From Issuing Digital Money
The bill is bluntly named as “Keep Big Tech Out Of Finance Act”
Facebook’s announcement of its biggest financial venture called Libra has prompted multisectoral discussion among tech companies, banking, and financial ecosystem, as well as government and regulatory official regarding the effect of cryptocurrency and digital money on the global economy.
The polarized discussion has seen lawmakers and executives on the opposite side of the poles arguing the harms of allowing tech giants like Facebook to issue currencies that have the potential of disrupting banking systems around the world.
Some say that it is on its way to a full-blown legal and social battle between regulators and the tech stratosphere. Some even suggest that this war has already begun.
A new draft proposal for the bill, bluntly named as “Keep Big Tech Out Of Finance Act,” that circulates among Democrats majority that leads the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, proves that the US government is not joking about its position against Libra and other similar ventures in the future.
According to the proposed bill, no tech company should be allowed to issue any form of financial services. “A large platform utility may not establish, maintain, or operate a digital asset that is intended to be widely used as a medium of exchange, unit of account, store of value, or any other similar function, as defined by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,” reads a copy of the bill obtained by Z6Mag.
Furthermore, while the bill does not specify any company, it clearly refers to Facebook, and it’s planned blockchain-based currency, Libra. The “large platform utility” is defined as a technology company with “an annual global revenue of $25,000,000,000 or more” and one that is “predominately engaged in the business of offering to the public an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties.” This definition seems to be crafted to include Facebook rather than exclude other companies.
It is also worth noting that the proposed legislation also prohibits “large platform utilities” from affiliation with “persons who are a financial institution.” This further includes Facebook’s proactive workaround against possible future laws that may prohibit them from owning Libra.
Libra is actually not owned by Facebook. Instead, it is governed by a group of companies that are based in Switzerland called the Libra Association with Facebook as one of its founding members.
Nonetheless, the bill is still on its earliest phase yet, and many could happen to move forward. For it to become a law, it still has to withstand the possible opposition by Republicans in both the House and the Senate.
But it seems like the bill has an unlikely ally in the person of Donald Trump as the new proposal came out after Trump criticized cryptocurrencies.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, the POTUS said that he is not a “fan” of cryptocurrencies, asserted that America has only one currency, criticized bitcoin, as well as told Facebook that they need a banking charter if they want to launch their newly announced crypto-based money called Libra.
Trump said cryptocurrencies are not money, and “Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity.”
“If Facebook and other companies want to become a bank, they must seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations,” said the president.
According to the President, the dollar is the only currency in America, and Libra, among other cryptocurrencies, are not “real money.”
“We have only one real currency in the USA, and it is stronger than ever, both dependable and reliable. It is by far the most dominant currency anywhere in the World, and it will always stay that way. It is called the United States Dollar!” Trump said in a tweet.
Trump’s sentiments echoed similar apprehensions from cryptocurrency critics who have been advocating against the growth of the “volatile” blockchain technology and crypto money. Many argue that those attributes count against the wider adoption of digital currencies.
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