The government of Malaysia hired a US PR firm to pay conservative journalists to write articles critical of a opposition leader running on a pro-democracy platform for The Huffington Post, The Guardian, The National Review, The San Francisco Examiner, Red State, and The Washington Times. The writers who took the money then wrote for their usual places, but didn't disclose that they were getting money from a third party to criticize Anwar Ibrahim.
The payments to conservative American opinion writers — whose work appeared in outlets from the Huffington Post and San Francisco Examiner to the Washington Times to National Review and RedState — emerged in a filing this week to the Department of Justice. The filing under the Foreign Agent Registration Act outlines a campaign spanning May 2008 to April 2011 and led by Joshua Trevino, a conservative pundit, who received $389,724.70 under the contract and paid smaller sums to a series of conservative writers.
Trevino lost his column at the Guardian last year after allegations that his relationship with Malaysian business interests wasn't being disclosed in columns dealing with Malaysia. Trevino told Politico in 2011 that "I was never on any 'Malaysian entity's payroll,' and I resent your assumption that I was."
According to Trevino's belated federal filing, the interests paying Trevino were in fact the government of Malaysia, "its ruling party, or interests closely aligned with either." The Malaysian government has been accused of multiple human rights abuses and restricting the press and personal freedoms. Anwar, the opposition leader, has faced prosecution for sodomy, a prosecution widely denounced in the West, which Trevino defended as more "nuanced" than American observers realized. The government for which Trevino worked also attacked Anwar for saying positive things about Israel; Trevino has argued that Anwar is not the pro-democracy figure he appears.
I'm not entirely certain where I first encountered Zee Avi. All I know is that I've got a couple of Avi tracks in my "shuffle top-rated MP3s" playlist, and when they come on, they skewer me with her beautiful voice, like a young Peggy Lee by way of Bjork. Today, "No Christmas For Me" shuffled into my headphones and I sat transfixed by that angelic voice. It literally froze me where I sat. I'm on the road in the USA, which makes it basically impossible to buy downloadable music (Amazon UK's webstore won't sell MP3s to people with US IP addresses; Amazon US's MP3 store won't sell to people with UK credit-cards), but I found a handful of her MP3s from various song-of-the-day promo releases, and one of those was Swell Window, which I have since played twenty times in a row and am falling ever more deeply in love with.
Ms Avi, who hails from Malaysia, sells her CDs direct on her website, along with some rather lovely original artwork. She also has a deep and glorious YouTube channel (her career was launched when one of her YouTube uploads gained popularity). And if you're not caught in an Amazonian overseas travel payment snafu like me, you can buy her MP3s, too.
In Malaysia, being gay can get you a caning and 20 years in prison. Now the Malaysian government is holding seminars to help teachers and parents figure out which kids are gay (boys with "tight, light-coloured clothes and large handbags" are under suspicion; girls who "have no affection for men and like to hang out and sleep in the company of women" are also suspect). The seminars are reportedly hugely attended, with 1,500 people turning up to last week's event, which was organized by the Teachers Foundation of Malaysia. The official reasoning for this is that being gay is contagious, so straight kids who are around gay kids might catch it. More a Reuters report:
The latest seminar for the teachers and parents was run by deputy education minister Puad Zarkashi, his office confirmed.
Zarkashi wasn't immediately available for comment but national news agency Bernama quoted him as saying that being able to identify the signs will help contain the spread of the unhealthy lifestyle among the young, especially students.
"Youths are easily influenced by websites and blogs relating to LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] groups," he was quoted as saying.
"This can also spread among their friends. We are worried that this happens during schooling time."
Police in Kuala Lumpur said Hamza Kashgari, 23, was detained at the airport "following a request made to us by Interpol" the international police cooperation agency, on behalf of the Saudi authorities. Interpol later denied that its notice system had been involved in
the arrest of Kashgari.
A spokesperson said: "The assertion that Saudi
Arabia used Interpol's system in this case is wholly misleading and
Kashgari's tweets are said to be blasphemy, and blasphemy is punishable by execution in Saudi Arabia.