January 31, 2020

Mike Pompeo Snubs Ukraine’s Embattled LGBTQ Community
KHARKIV, Ukraine—Anna Sharyhina, one of Ukraine’s outspoken LGBTQ leaders, wishes she had a chance to speak with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his visit to Kyiv this week. Sharyhina has several examples of hate crimes committed against her growing community that she’d like to share with him. She could tell Pompeo, she says, about violence against gays and lack of state support for the LGBTQ community.How Russia Drove Crimea’s LGBT Community UndergroundBut LGBTQ activists were not asked to join Pompeo’s Friday meeting with Ukrainian civic society leaders. The U.S. State Department determined who received invitations, and offered no explanations about who did not.So Pompeo will not see any of the documentation from PrideHub, a community center on Podylskyi Lane in the center of Kharkiv. He’ll miss, for instance, the video footage of far-right activists pouring animal blood all over the center’s door a few weeks ago; and of somebody in a balaclava writing “Death to LGBT” on the same door in December.Over the past three years, in fact, attacks on the center and LGBTQ activists of the advocacy group called Sphere have grown uglier and uglier. LGBTQ haters have sprayed pepper gas at gay men and women and severely beaten the activists at PrideHub, the LGBTQ community’s center.In July 2018 about a dozen attackers in gas masks and balaclavas ran into the center and threw smoke grenades at about a dozen activists. This was a clear offense that compromised security while threatening the life and health of PrideHub’s visitors and staff. “We complained to police, after the most recent incidents we collected about 1,000 letters addressed to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, but unfortunately nobody has been punished so far,” Sharyhina told The Daily Beast. “The attacks provoke further actions by aggressive groups, first a flash bomb flies at you in our space, where we watch films, have roundtable discussions and trainings, next thing we know, that some thugs collected animal blood to terrify us.” Just once, in 2017, the Kharkiv LGBTQ community tried to have a public action in support of gay marriage with banners that said, “The rights of LGBTQ are human rights.” Several dozen muscled-up “nationalists” surrounded the activists, chanting “Glory to Ukraine! Traditional family means strong Ukraine!” Several of the attackers tore the LGBTQ banners and set them on fire. After every incident, leaders of the LGBTQ community asked police to investigate the attacks, without visible results.This year, the official answer from the Interior Ministry said the incidents on Nov. 11, Nov. 26, and Dec. 16 near PrideHub, “have been registered” and police are going to make efforts to identify the perpetrators. But the LGBTQ community has heard this before. “Police have closed down several previous investigations into the attacks on us by far-right groups who used tear gas and smoke grenades against us,” Sharyhina said. “Nobody has been punished. That means violence is not going to stop.”In spite of the threats, last September up to 2,000 people joined the first Pride parade in the history of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Two gay women, twin sisters Vera and Nadia Chernyginas, helped to organize the march. “Things are changing in Ukraine, progress is coming, we talk about feminism, gender rights,” Vera said. “We talk with youth, with students, who do not want to go back to the old conservative world, we work on convincing our liberal politicians to see the violations.” But she also said, "That is what makes local far-right groups so furious.”Georgy Tarasenko would agree. He leads a group of far-right Ukrainian war veterans called Freikorps. “LGBT is not about sexual minorities and their rights, absolutely not,” he insists. “This is their political power we fight, we want to ban their propaganda, just like they did in Russia.” “We don’t accept that these LGBT activists come to schools and universities to speak with kids about same-sex relations, trying to turn LGBT into some privileged group, apply their LGBT values politically,” said Tarasenko.Although his particular group of veteran militia volunteers from Donbas probably numbers only about 100 people, views such as Tarasenko’s have traction among many conservative Ukrainians. “Our organization has conservative views, we defend traditional values,” he says. “Our society is conservative, people do not like these things.”Kiev’s Battle of the Rainbow: Gays, Thugs, and a Soviet MonumentA few days before 2,000 people joined the first Kharkiv Pride parade, Tarasenko initiated meetings with the city’s police and security service commanders. “We knew we could not prevent that gay parade, whether we wanted to or not, and not least because there were about 2,500 policeman guarding it,” Tarasenko said. Kharkiv’s LGBTQ activist community, despite all the pressure on it, remains remarkably resilient. The menacing “Death to LGBT” graffiti was cleaned off the door, and about 200 people showed up at PrideHub for a New Year Party.  The twin sisters Nadia and Vera, 36, have been a part of Kharkiv’s LGBTQ community for the last 12 years but, as Nadia said, “We try to stay low key, protect our parents, who don’t have much tolerance for our nature.” The sisters  wonder if Ukraine’s young President Volodymyr Zelensky is going to make a difference. “Our President Zelensky might be a homophobe, but we believe he is a democrat, so sooner or later he should recognize our rights,” Vera added, hoping that for now Western leaders will support Ukraine’s LGBTQ people, even if Pompeo doesn’t want to hear about them. 
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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