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A retail rainbow: Vendors mark LGBTQ Pride on sales racks
By VERENA DOBNIK | Sun, June 23, 2019 08:46 EDT
NEW YORK (AP) — Major retailers have diversified their inventory for Pride month, selling apparel and other goods that celebrate LGBTQ culture to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising .
In New York City, Macy’s flagship store is adorned with rainbow-colored Pride tribute windows, set in the same space as its famous Christmas displays. Times Square’s digital billboards are splashed with pitches for Pride-linked clothing and cosmetics sold at Sephora, CoverGirl and Levi’s stores nearby.
But this year, the truly game-changing Pride sales scene is not in cutting-edge New York.
In 25 years working for organizations devoted to LGBTQ causes, “this is absolutely the first year that I have noticed the retail celebration of Pride moving from larger coastal cities to smaller towns and cities,” said Stephen Macias, the Los Angeles-based head of the Diversity & Inclusion department at the MWWPR global publicity firm.
He was taken aback by what he saw visiting his childhood hometown, Fresno, California, in an agricultural part of the state politically distant from liberal Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“When I went home to Fresno, where I was bullied at the mall as an effeminate kid, I was looking at so many stores with rainbow flags, Pride displays and same-sex families set up in the windows,” Macias said. “I was shocked that in Middle America, we were being celebrated. It was no problem, with each store trying to outdo the others.”
In Oklahoma City, the locally owned Red Coyote Running and Fitness displayed shoes with rainbow Pride flags planted in them. On Saturday, it sponsored an inaugural “Love Run” race, complete with rainbow medals.
The retail push in large part is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, days of protests touched off by a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969.
It took decades, but American businesses in recent years have introduced more LGBTQ-themed items, no longer considering them anathema to mass marketing. The LGBTQ presence in retail has never been as visibly mainstream as in 2019.
“A dozen years ago, the conventional wisdom among retailers was that reaching out to the LGBTQ community means losing to the rest of consumers,” Macias said. “But the retail landscape turned out to be different; the fear of backlash by supporting LGBTQ consumers never materialized in any meaningful way.”
Not everyone praises the Pride merchandising, which some see as thinly disguised corporate promotion.
“Major corporations have turned LGBT struggles into marketing moments to make themselves look good,” said Bill Dobbs, a longtime New York gay activist. “The modern movement for gay rights was jump-started by Stonewall, and it’s still a battle for the lives of LGBT people — not about selling trinkets and clothes with rainbow colors. They’re a distraction.”
Some companies participating in Pride campaigns have also been criticized for having their apparel made in countries where being gay is illegal, or where persecution is commonplace.
“Some people in these corporations may have good intentions, but it’s just a marketing tactic,” said Terry Roethlein, a volunteer with the Reclaim Pride Coalition, which opposes major corporate sponsorship of New York’s LGBTQ events.
“So many things that we sell in this country are produced in all kinds of deplorable conditions abroad,” Roethlein said. “And that’s just another problem with retailing pride products — part of the unscrupulous nature of these marketing efforts. We want queer liberation, not rainbow capitalism.”
Many companies with Pride-branded apparel lines are also making donations to LGBTQ organizations or are giving a percentage of their sales.
H&M is putting 10% of the sales from its “Love for All” collection to the United Nations campaign against the criminalization of LGBTQ people. UGG footware is donating 25% of its proceeds from sales of “Yeah Pride” slippers this month to benefit Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.
Target, which is selling family-themed Pride merchandise, including toddler T-shirts that read “Love my Dads” and “Love my Moms,” is donating $100,000 to GLSEN, an organization focused on ensuring safe schools for LGBTQ students. Profits from American Apparel’s Stonewall-themed T-shirts are going to an initiative that provides cosmetics to low-income transgender women of color.
Macy’s sponsored dozens of Pride parades across the country this year, with employees marching in them. It is encouraging shoppers to make donations at the register to The Trevor Project, a youth suicide prevention and crisis service. It is also donating $4 to The Trevor Project for every Pride-branded INC brand shirt it sells, or $2 for every set of INC socks.
“The giving campaign, with proceeds from the pride collection, is fundamental for an organization supporting diversity and inclusion,” said Abigail James, a Macy’s senior vice president. “That’s a core value for us, it’s something that is a part of who we are in a world that has changed and evolved.”
Associated Press photojournalist Sue Ogrocki in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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The Latest: Ethiopia spokesman says military chief killed
Sun, June 23, 2019 04:35 EDT
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The Latest on unrest in Ethiopia. (all times local):
A spokesman for Ethiopia’s prime minister says the head of the country’s military has been shot dead in the capital, Addis Ababa.
Nigussu Tilahun told reporters Sunday that Gen. Seare Mekonnen was killed by his bodyguard at his residence in Addis Ababa. He said a retired army general visiting the army chief at the time was also killed in the same attack late on Saturday.
He said the attack followed a violent incident in the Amhara region, outside Addis Ababa, where soldiers allegedly led by a renegade brigadier raided a meeting of the regional government and killed officials including the region’s president.
He said most of the perpetrators of the attack in Bahir Dar, capital of Amhara, have been apprehended and others are being hunted down.
He said the attack in Bahir Dar and the assassination of the army chief are linked.
Ethiopia’s government foiled a coup attempt in a region outside the capital, Addis Ababa, the country’s prime minister said in a televised address late Saturday.
The failed coup in the Amhara region was led by a high-ranking military official and others within the country’s military, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told the state broadcaster.
Some people had been killed and others wounded in the operation, Abiy said in his address without giving details.
The U.S. Embassy reported gunfire in the capital Saturday and urged people to be careful.
In Bahir Dar, capital of Amhara, residents told The Associated Press they could still hear gunshots late Saturday. Ethiopia’s internet appeared to be shut down on Sunday.
The attempted coup in Amhara is the latest challenged to Abiy, who was elected last year as a reform-minded young leader.
Abiy has captured the imagination of many with his political and economic reforms, including the surprise acceptance of a peace agreement with bitter rival Eritrea, the opening of major state-owned sectors to private investment and the release of thousands of prisoners including opposition figures once sentenced to death.
Along the way he has faced some challenges. In June 2018, only months in office, an attempt to hurl a grenade at Abiy caused a deadly explosion at a massive rally in support of the sweeping changes in Ethiopia. Nine police officials were arrested over that incident, state media reported.
In October rebellious Ethiopian soldiers protested over pay, causing a security incident in the capital. Ethiopia’s army is one of the largest in Africa.
The country is a key regional security ally for the United States and others in the restive Horn of Africa region.
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Turkey opposition seeks to repeat win in Istanbul redo vote
By DEREK GATOPOULOS | Sat, June 22, 2019 06:09 EDT
ISTANBUL (AP) — Standing on a white campaign bus heading into Sunday’s repeat election, Istanbul mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu shouted to ecstatic supporters in a hoarse voice: “Never bow your heads. We are right and we’ll win.”
The crowd on the bank of the Bosphorus Strait roared back approval Saturday, singing his campaign slogan “Everything will be great!” as thousands formed a heart shape with their hands hoping their candidate will repeat his victory of 12 weeks earlier.
Imamoglu, 49, is vying to become the first Istanbul mayor in a generation backed by Turkey’s opposition Republican People’s Party. He narrowly defeated former Prime Minister Benali Yildirim, the candidate of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, in the city election held March 31.
But the governing party challenged the results and Turkey’s election commission voided the vote after Imamoglu already had been inaugurated and taken office.
His campaign for the redo election galvanized his supporters, who flocked to daily rallies in Istanbul. Vans playing music and messages in support of Imamoglu drove around the city of 15 million people all.
Yildirim, who campaigned on a promise to modernize the city’s infrastructure and transport systems, thanked thousands of supporters who attended his final rally Saturday as campaigning officially ended. “By God’s grace look at this crowd,” he said. “This is such a passion, this is such an excitement.”
Imamoglu’s campaign focused on urban poverty. He also took aim at what he alleged is the Turkish government’s cronyism and use of public contracts to enrich Justice and Development Party backers. Erdogan’s government denied the allegation and pointed to its long-term record of delivering economic growth.
Some analysts said a second defeat in Istanbul would be a blow to Ergodan, who started his political rise as the city’s mayor. Turkey slid into recession at the end of 2018 and has suffered two debt rating downgrades in the past year.
“A second loss would constitute a major humiliation for Erdogan and could incite some of (his party’s) old guard to come out with a new political offering,” Wolf Piccoli of the New York-based risk analysis firm Teneo Intelligence said.
“Imamoglu is the first politician in almost 20 years who could become a credible challenger to Erdogan,” Piccoli added.
Many of Imamoglu’s supporters view him as the opposition’s new hope.
“For us, he’s a hero,” said Ozan Yilmaz, who wore white T-shirt stenciled with an image of Imamoglu’s face to the final opposition campaign rally Saturday. “He’s our man. He’s real, he’s happy, and he’s nearly always smiling. We need that positive energy. In five years, we might not be talking about Istanbul but all of Turkey.”
Imamoglu ended his campaign by climbing into a boat with his wife, Dilek, for a sail along the Bosphorus, followed by photographers and camera crews.
Just over 10 million people are eligible to vote Sunday, with polls open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (0500-1400GMT). Results are expected late Sunday.
Derek Gatopoulos on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dgatopoulos
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North Korea says Kim received ‘excellent’ letter from Trump
By TONG-HYUNG KIM | Sun, June 23, 2019 08:03 EDT
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump sent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un an “excellent” letter, the North’s state-run news agency reported Sunday, quoting Kim as saying he would “seriously contemplate” the content.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said Trump sent a letter and “correspondence between the two leaders has been ongoing.”
Formal talks between the U.S. and North Korea broke down after a failed summit between Kim and Trump in February in Vietnam. But earlier in June Trump told U.S. reporters he received a “beautiful” letter from Kim, without revealing what was written. In an interview with TIME magazine last week, Trump said he also received a “birthday letter” from Kim that was delivered by hand a day before.
The official stances remain the same. The U.S. is demanding that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons entirely before international sanctions are lifted. North Korea is seeking a step-by-step approach in which moves toward denuclearization are matched by concessions from the U.S., notably a relaxation of the sanctions.
Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency’s report on the Trump letter said Kim “said with satisfaction that the letter is of excellent content.”
“Appreciating the political judging faculty and extraordinary courage of President Trump, Kim Jong Un said that he would seriously contemplate the interesting content,” the agency said, without elaborating.
South Korea’s presidential office said it sees the exchange of letters between Kim and Trump as a positive development for keeping the momentum for dialogue alive.
News of Trump’s letter came days after Kim’s summit with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping, which experts say underscored China’s importance in the diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear standoff with the North.
North Korean state media said Kim and Xi discussed the political situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula and reached unspecified consensus on important issues.
Xi is expected to meet with Trump next week in Japan during the G-20 summit. Analysts say he could pass him a message from Kim about the nuclear negotiations.
Kim said during his New Year’s speech said he would seek a “new way” if the United States persists with sanctions and pressure against North Korea. After the collapse of his meeting with Trump in Hanoi, Kim said Washington has until the end of the year to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal to salvage the negotiations.
Following a provocative run in weapons tests, Kim initiated negotiations with Seoul and Washington in 2018, which led to three summits with South Korea’s president and his first with Trump in Singapore on June 12, 2018. Kim and Trump issued a vague statement at that summit saying they would work toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing how.
The lack of substance and fruitless working-level talks set up the breakdown of Kim’s second meeting with Trump, which the Americans blamed on excessive North Korean demands for sanctions relief in exchange for only a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.
Nuclear negotiations have been at a standstill since.
Trump and Kim also exchanged letters in 2018 after their first summit. Sanders said at the time that the letters addressed their commitment to work toward North Korea’s “complete denuclearization.”
In September 2018, Trump told a cheering crowd at a campaign rally in West Virginia that Kim “wrote me beautiful letters and they’re great letters. We fell in love.”
Analysts say the gesture of sending letters is part of North Korean efforts to present Kim as a legitimate international statesman who is reasonable and capable of negotiating solutions and making deals. Because of the weight of formality they provide, Kim might see personal letters as an important way to communicate with leaders of countries the North never had close ties with, they say.