• Our border with Mexico has become more and more militarized, with the number of border patrol agents quintupling over the past 20 years and the agency's budget swelling to $18 billion. In 2012, the Border Patrol used that money to arrest 364,000 people—mostly harmless migrants, not a single one of them a terrorist threat. [New York Times]
• The biggest movie at the box office this weekend was Lee Daniels' The Butler, about a black butler who served seven presidents. [Ebony]
• In notably less-awesome Obama news, the president's unresolved pledge to close Guantanamo Bay has left the naval base with more than 60 inmates still on hunger strike in what is now the sixth month of protests. [Colorlines]
Elena Kostyuchenko (in the yellow hat) at the pro-gay Day of Kisses protest.
On January 25, 2013 the Russian State Duma swiftly passed a bill banning the "promotion of homosexuality." The bill will have to undergo two more readings and be signed by the Russian president before it becomes law. If this happens, it will give the Russian government the right to fine publications and individuals up to half a million dollars for "promoting homosexuality." Meanwhile, the law does not define what constitutes "promoting" and conflates homosexuality with, among other things, pedophilia. LGBT rights activists speculate that the passage of this law will lead to the government shutting down organizations, websites, and print publications that support the already besieged Russian LGBT community.
Protests for LGBT rights in Russia have a history of violence. Along with those brave enough to participate in them, protests often attract thugs calling themselves Russian Orthodox activists who pelt the LGBT protesters with eggs and physically attack them. The thugs discuss their plans for the beatings in their online forums on V Kontakte (a Russian version of Facebook), and cover their faces with scarves and masks in order to avoid being identified. Although the police are always present at such protests, the Orthodox activists seems to have their tacit approval.