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Germany Bans Gay Conversion Therapy for Minors

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  • Germany’s parliament approved a new law Thursday that bans the practice and advertisement of so-called gay “conversion therapy” for minors. 
  • Parents or guardians who force children to undergo the practice through deception, coercion, or threats can also face punishments. 
  • Violators could be hit with a fine of up to 30,000 euros (about $33,000) or face imprisonment for up to one year. 
  • Though it has received much praise, some have criticized the bill, saying that it fails to protect young adults between the ages of 18 and 26.

Law Passed 

Germany has become the latest country to ban gay “conversion therapy” for those below the age of 18. 

In December of last year, Germany’s Cabinet backed a bill banning the widely discredited practice, which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The country’s parliament then voted Thursday to pass the legislation as well. 

Along with a ban on the practice against minors, the legislation also prohibits advertisements for it. Parents and legal guardians can even be punished for making children take part through deception, coercion, or threats.

Violators could be hit with a fine of up to 30,000 euros ($33,000) or face imprisonment for up to one year. 

Punishments for those who coerce minors into the practice are major. A 2019 survey by OutRight Action International, a global human rights organization, found that a third of people around the globe who have undergone conversion therapy chose to do it for themselves, while two-thirds were coerced.

Lawmakers Push for the Ban 

Conversion therapy practices can sometimes include hypnosis and electric shocks, but experts say the word ‘therapy’ is misleading because there is no scientific basis for it. In fact, conversion therapy has been associated with suicidal ideation and attempts, as well as drug abuse and depression.

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn, the Christian Democrat party’s most prominent gay politician, said in a statement, “Homosexuality is not a disease. Therefore the name therapy alone is misleading,”

“This so-called therapy makes people sick and not better. The ban is also an important signal from society to all those who are unsure about their homosexuality: It is okay to be the way you are,” he added.

Criticism of Bill’s Age Restriction  

While the bill has been widely applauded, some argue that it does no go far enough. 

A few members of Germany’s left-wing opposition refused to support the measure because it included just minors under the age of 18. Instead, they hoped the bill would use the traditional societal category of “youth,” which extends to persons 26 or younger. 

Gabriela Lünsmann of Germany’s Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD) is one who agreed that the age limit should be raised. She also objected to the inclusion of the phrase “treatment performed on humans,” which she and her organization said “has a positive connotation and suggests a promise of healing and an achievable treatment goal.”

But Spahn defended the ban ahead of the vote in the Bundestag, saying he wanted a law that could easily withstand legal challenges.

I want a ban which will be robust, including if it’s brought before the courts,” he said. 

He did not give other specifics about the reason for these age limits, but under German law, it’s easier to protect minors. Legal justifications became more tricky for adults when freedom of speech and conscience laws are taken into account. 

“Young people are being forced into conversion therapies,” Spahn explained, “and so it is very important that they should find support in the existence of this law: a clear signal that the state does not want this to happen.”

Germany is now the fifth nation to pass such a ban, following decisions from Malta, Ecuador, Brazil, and Taiwan, according to OutRight Action International. In the U.S. about 20 states and several cities have banned the practice for minors. Some members of Congress have even pushed for the ban to be established on a federal level. 

“So-called conversion therapy efforts are based on the belief that cis-gender heterosexuality is the norm, and transgender identities and same-sex attraction not only fall outside the norm, but have to be changed, if need be by brutal, inhuman force,” the group’s executive director Jessica Stern said in a statement. 

“The German Bundestag took an incredibly important step today – by banning ‘conversion therapy’ it sent a powerful message that LGBTIQ people are not in need of change or cure.”

 See what others are saying: (CNN) (BBC) (DW

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India Pedestrian Bridge Collapsed 4 Days After Renovations, Killing Over 100 People

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The company responsible for the upkeep of the Morbi bridge did not obtain a safety certificate before re-opening.


Bridge Collapses

After seven months of renovations, the Morbi walking bridge in India opened to the public. Four days later, the bridge collapsed, killing more than 130 people. 

According to the local government, there were about 200 people on the bridge when it collapsed on Sunday, despite its capacity of 125. 

During a campaign event on Monday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the state government had set up a committee to investigate the tragedy.

“I assure the people of the country that there will be nothing lacking in the relief and rescue efforts,” he stated.

Along with the investigation, the state has launched a criminal complaint against Oreva Group, the company responsible for maintaining the bridge. Oreva Group reopened the bridge after renovations without getting a safety certificate from the government. 

Shifting Blame

In response, Oreva Group spoke to a local news outlet and blamed those on the bridge for its collapse.

“While we are waiting for more information, prima facie, the bridge collapsed as too many people in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other,” the group claimed.

The state government has offered compensation for the families of the deceased, but that is not enough for some. One father whose wife and two children died in the collapse told VICE he wants answers and accountability.

“Why were so many people given tickets? Who allowed them? Who is answerable?” he asked.

Indian police have arrested nine people including ticketing clerks and security guards for failing to regulate the crowd, according to Reuters. 

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (VICE) (CNN)

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Xi Jinping Tightens Grip on China by Eliminating Rivals

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Despite the staggering power grab, Xi faces geopolitical competition from abroad as well as social and economic instability at home.


Xi Surrounds Himself With Allies

Chinese President Xi Jinping shook up politics over the weekend when he revealed the government’s new leadership, almost exclusively composed of his own hardline loyalists.

Six men — Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang, and Li Xi — will form the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top ruling body.

The four new members are all Xi loyalists, pushing out Premier Li Keqiang and the head of China’s top advisory body Wang Yang, two key party figures outside Xi’s inner circle who retired despite being eligible to serve another term.

For the first time in a quarter-century, China’s 24-member Politburo will be made up entirely of men, underlining the exclusion of women from Chinese politics.

An official account of the selection process said that a top criterion for leadership was loyalty to Xi, and rising officials must stay in lockstep with him “in thinking, politics and action.”

Topping off the developments, Xi officially secured an unprecedented third term as leader, something that was only made possible in 2018 when the government abolished term limits on the presidency. The weekend marked China’s greatest consolidation of political power in a single figure in decades.

As the 20th Communist Party Congress came to a close Saturday, China’s former leader Hu Jintao appeared reluctant as he was suddenly and inexplicably escorted from his seat next to Xi out of the Great Hall of the People.

Some commentators have argued that a tightly knit band of yes men may help Xi fend off internal party dissent, but it could ultimately result in poor governance as his subordinates fear giving him bad news.

The Arc of History Bends Toward China

Despite the extreme concentration of political power, China’s Communist Party stares down a gauntlet of challenges both foreign and domestic.

Beijing remains locked in a strategic competition with Washington, which has sought to contain the East Asian rival’s rise as a global superpower, but the past week’s congress may portend a stubbornly defiant China for years to come.

Xi is expected to use his firmly secure position within the party to pursue his agenda in full force — by strengthening Beijing’s claim over Taiwan, expanding China’s economic foothold in developing countries, and achieving self-sufficiency in strategic technologies such as semiconductors.

At home, China’s economy has faltered during the pandemic, with high unemployment, low consumption, and slow economic growth putting pressure on a government that stakes much of its legitimacy on promises to deliver prosperity to the population. Between July and September, the country’s GDP grew by 3.9%, according to official data released Monday, which is above many analysts’ expectations but still far below the state’s target of around 5.5%.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics postponed the data’s publication last week ahead of the 20th party congress, reinforcing concerns that Xi’s leadership will put politics before economics.

Monday’s announcement roiled stock markets, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index plunging 6%, as well as the Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Composite Index both falling by about 2%.

Beijing has also seen increased political resistance from the population, from anti-lockdown protests in Shanghai to widespread mortgage boycotts over delays from real estate developers.

Last week, a man unfurled two large banners from an overpass in Beijing and called President Xi a “dictator” through a megaphone.

Such small-scale demonstrations are not new, but they took place in the capital just before the congress drew enough attention for photos of the stunt to go viral on social media, where an equally swift censorship campaign stamped out any mention of it.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Washington Post)

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Elon Musk Walks Back Threat to Cut Ukraine’s Starlink Internet Service

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Although the satellites have been invaluable for Ukrainian military operations, outages have left soldiers without communication devices in recent weeks.


Let Them Eat Satellites

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Saturday that his company would continue funding internet service for Ukraine after declaring that he would have no choice but to cut it off the day prior.

“The hell with it,” he tweeted. “Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the often jocular billionaire was being sarcastic, but in response to another Twitter user he said, “We should still do good deeds.”

SpaceX’s Starlink satellites help the Ukrainian military operate drones, receive intelligence updates and communicate out in the field, which is vital since many regular internet and cellular phone networks have been destroyed by Russia.

At least 20,000 satellite terminals have been donated to Ukraine since the spring, but SpaceX has footed the bill for a small minority of them. According to a letter the company sent to the Pentagon last month, around 85% of the terminals were paid for in part or in full by the United States, Poland, and other entities, who also covered some 30% of the internet connectivity.

SpaceX claimed in the letter that Starlink services for Ukraine would cost over $120 million for the rest of the year and nearly $400 million for the next 12 months.

“We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” it said.

The company, therefore, requested that the Pentagon take over funding for the satellite terminals.

Earlier this month, Musk claimed on Twitter that Ukraine’s Starlink services had cost SpaceX $80 million so far.

On Friday, following CNN’s publication of the SpaceX letter, Musk reaffirmed that his company “cannot fund the existing system indefinitely, *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households.”

He added, however, that it was not seeking to recoup past expenses.

On Monday, Politico reported that the Pentagon is considering paying for the Starlink satellite network from a fund that has been used to supply weapons and equipment over the long term, according to two U.S. officials who are involved in the deliberations.

Starlink Leaves Ukraine’s Soldiers Stranded

Ukrainian troops experienced “catastrophic” outages in their Starlink communication devices in recent weeks, according to a Financial Times report earlier this month.

The services reportedly stopped functioning at critical moments, such as when soldiers breached the front lines into Russian-controlled territory or engaged in pitched battles.

“They were acute in the south around the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, but also occurred along the frontline in eastern Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk,” an official told the outlet.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to annex all four regions and held referendums widely considered to be a sham justification for his conquest of the Donbas.

The regions are also the focus of a massive Ukrainian counteroffensive that has sent Russian troops scrambling in recent weeks.

One Starlink donor reportedly believed the outages were a result of SpaceX’s efforts to block Russian forces from misusing Starlink terminals.

As Ukrainian soldiers liberated Russian-occupied territory, the sources said, public announcements of their gains lagged behind, and so did Starlink’s coverage.

Another official told the outlet that connection failures were widespread and led to panicked calls from soldiers to helplines.

Musk responded to the report by tweeting, “As for what’s happening on the battlefield, that’s classified.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (Financial Times)

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