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Madeleine Albright passes away at 84

Trailblazing secretary of state extended benefits to domestic partners

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Madeleine Albright speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as a U.S. secretary of state, has died at 84 after battling cancer.

Albright was nominated on Dec. 5, 1996, by then-President Clinton to become the 64th secretary of state after serving as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Jan. 22, 1997, and sworn in the next day. Albright served as secretary of state for four years, ending her service on Jan. 20, 2001, upon the inauguration of former President George W. Bush.

Albright had a long and distinguished career as a U.S. envoy.

As secretary of state, she was the first State Department head to allow domestic partners, including same-sex partners, to accompany overseas staff, and require that foreign governments officially accredit them. In 1999, the secretary advocated that Clinton go ahead with his decision to appoint the first openly gay U.S. ambassador, James Hormel, as a recess appointment, as the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.

In her role as secretary of state, Albright was a trailblazer that set an example that would be followed by two other prominent American women, former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.

Speaking with CNN during a 2005 interview, Albright acknowledged her role as a trailblazer and often spoke of the challenges of being the first woman to lead the State Department.

“I think that there were real questions as to … whether a woman could be secretary of state. And not just in terms of dealing with the issues, but in terms of dealing with the people, especially in hierarchical societies … I found, actually, that I could do that,” she told CNN. “And people, I think, now can understand that is perfectly possible for a woman to be secretary of state, and I am delighted that there is second one,” a reference to Rice.

CNN also noted Albright’s trademark personal accessories for which she was famous. Throughout her career, Albright was known for wearing brooches or decorative pins to convey her foreign policy messages.

When she found out that the Russians had bugged the State Department, she wore a large bug pin when she next met with them. When Saddam Hussein referred to Albright as a snake, she took to wearing a gold snake pin; when she was called a witch, she proudly brandished a miniature broom.

When she slammed as “completely un-American” then-acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli’s suggestion that only immigrants who can “stand on their own two feet” are welcome in the U.S., Albright wore a Statue of Liberty pin.

After her tenure as secretary of state, she went on to publish seven New York Times bestsellers including her 2003 autobiography “Madam Secretary”. Albright received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from then-President Obama on May 29, 2012.

She also was chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, she founded in 2009, part of Dentons Global Advisors, and served as a professor in the practice of diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.

Albright was born Marie Jean “Madlenka” Korbel on May 15, 1937, in Prague. Her father, Josef, was a member of the Czechoslovak Foreign Service and served as press attaché in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and later became ambassador to Yugoslavia.

After the Communist coup in 1948, the family immigrated to Denver. Albright Americanized her name to Madeleine, became a U.S. citizen in 1957, and earned a B.A. in political science with honors from Wellesley College in 1959. She earned the Ph.D. in Public Law and Government at Columbia University in 1976.

Albright served as chief legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie (D-Maine) from 1976-1978. From 1978-1981, she served as a staff member in the White House under President Carter and on the National Security Council under then-National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

In 1982 she was appointed Research Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and director of its Women in Foreign Service Program. In 1993 she was appointed ambassador to the U.N. by Clinton and served in the position until her appointment as secretary of state in 1996.

One writer, based in D.C., described Albright’s life as “Along the way, the Czech girl — whose parents brought her to the U.S. as a refugee from Communist rule, and who only much later discovered that members of her family died in the Holocaust — became a role model and a pathbreaker for professional women and for women in top government positions.”

President Biden traveling aboard Air Force One en route to Brussels for an emergency NATO meeting over the crisis in Ukraine on Wednesday issued a statement remembering Albright:

“Madeleine Albright was a force.
 
Hers were the hands that turned the tide of history.
 
As a young girl, she found a home in the United States—after her family fled their home country of Czechoslovakia during World War II, and the Iron Curtain came down across Central and Eastern Europe. Her father, a diplomat, was marked for death by the Soviet regime. She spent the rest of her days defending freedom around the world and lifting up those who suffered under repression.
 
She was an immigrant fleeing persecution. A refugee in need of safe haven. And like so many before her—and after—she was proudly American.
 
To make this country that she loved even better—she defied convention and broke barriers again and again.  As the devoted mother of three beloved daughters, she worked tirelessly raising them while earned her doctorate degree and started her career.  She took her talents first to the Senate as a staffer for Sen. Edmund Muskie, followed by the National Security Council under President Carter. And then to the United Nations where she served as U.S. Ambassador, and ultimately, made history as our first woman Secretary of State, appointed by President Clinton.
 
A scholar, teacher, bestselling author and later accomplished businesswoman, Secretary Albright continued to advise presidents and members of Congress with matchless skill and diplomatic acumen. In every role, she used her fierce intellect and sharp wit—and often her unmatched collection of pins—to advance America’s national security and promote peace around the world. America had no more committed champion of democracy and human rights than Secretary Albright, who knew personally and wrote powerfully of the perils of autocracy.
 
Working with Secretary Albright during the 1990s was among the highlights of my career in the United States Senate during my tenure on the Foreign Relations Committee. As the world redefined itself in the wake of the Cold War, we were partners and friends working to welcome newly liberated democracies into NATO and confront the horrors of genocide in the Balkans.
 
When I think of Madeleine, I will always remember her fervent faith that America is the indispensable nation.
 
In the years after she left government, Albright never stepped away from that belief. As the chairman of the National Democratic Institute for over two decades, and through other organizations she advised, she continued to champion democratic principles as vitally important to America’s interests in freedom, prosperity and security.
 
She continued to mentor and nurture new generations of foreign policy experts at Georgetown University, the Korbel Center for International Studies at the University of Denver, named after her father, and beyond. As always, she shared her insight and wisdom widely, but she was especially dedicated to supporting the next generation of women leaders, including through the establishment of the Albright Institute for Global Affairs at Wellesley College.
 
Madeleine was always a force for goodness, grace and decency—and for freedom.
 
Jill and I will miss her dearly and send our love and prayers to her daughters, Alice, Anne and Katie, her sister Kathy, her brother John, her six grandchildren and her nephews and grandniece.”

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State Department

U.S. diplomat says negotiations to release Brittney Griner have stalled

WNBA star remains in Russian penal colony

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In remarks published Monday, Elizabeth Rood, the U.S. chargée d’affaires in Moscow, told Russia’s state-owned RIA news agency that talks to free jailed Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan were continuing through the “designated channel.”

During the long ranging interview covering a variety of subjects, Rood was asked if she intended to visit the imprisoned WNBA star who is serving time in a Mordovian prison.

“Of course, we are going to do this as soon as the Russian authorities give us permission to visit Brittney Griner in the new colony where she was recently transferred,” the American diplomat responded and in answer to a follow-up question regarding Griner’s status. “As far as we understood from talking to her, she is healthy and doing as well as can be expected in her difficult circumstances.”

RIA then focused on the negotiations asking for some of the details including the possibility of convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout being included in the “exchange list” in the potential prisoner swap deal between the Russian and American authorities.

“I can say that the United States continues to discuss with the Russian authorities through special channels the issue of the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.  As we have already said, the United States has submitted a serious proposal for consideration. We finalized this proposal and offered alternatives. Unfortunately, the Russian Federation has so far received no serious response to these proposals, ” the U.S. chargée d’affaires answered.

“However, I would like to emphasize that the main concern and the first priority of the U.S. Embassy is to ensure the well-being of the American citizens who are here. And the situation is not limited to the names of those who are mentioned in the media headlines — a number of American citizens are kept in Russian prisons. We are extremely concerned about the condition of each of them, and we continue to follow their affairs very closely and support them in every possible way,” she added.

RIA then asked: “What did you mean by ‘serious response’ from Russia? Moscow has repeatedly stressed that the negotiations are being conducted through professional channels … What does the American side mean by “serious response”?

Rood answered telling RIA; “I mean, we have made a serious proposal that reflects our intention to take action to free American prisoners. We did not see a serious response from the Russian side to our proposal.”

“By ‘serious answer’ do you mean consent?” RIA asked in a follow-up question.

“I mean an answer that would help us come to an agreement,” she answered.

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Colorado

Biden calls Club Q owners as community grapples with aftermath

Focus on the Family headquarters vandalized

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Entrance to the Focus on the Family complex in Colorado Springs after the mass-murder at LGBTQ+ Club Q (Photo by Nic Grzecka/Instagram)

As the LGBTQ community continues to mourn the loss of the five people killed in last weekend’s mass shooting, focus is now shifting to a reflection of anti-LGBTQ sentiment that has evolved from prejudice to incitement according to Nic Grzecka, a co-owner of Club Q.

In an interview with the Associated Press, one of his first since the chaos of the aftermath created by the mass-shooting, Grzecka said he believes the targeting of a drag queen event is connected to the art form being cast in a false light in recent months by right-wing activists and politicians who complain about the “sexualization” or “grooming” of children.

Even though general acceptance of the LGBTQ community has grown, this new dynamic has fostered a dangerous climate, he said.

“It’s different to walk down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand and getting spit at (as opposed to) a politician relating a drag queen to a groomer of their children,” Grzecka said. “I would rather be spit on in the street than the hate get as bad as where we are today.”

On Thursday, President Joe Biden spending the Thanksgiving holiday with the first lady and family members in Nantucket, Massachusetts, called Grzecka and Club Q co-owner Matthew Haynes.

The president and the first lady offered condolences and reiterated their support for the community as well as their commitment to fighting back against hate and gun violence. They also thanked the two men for the ‘incredible contributions they have made and will continue to make to Colorado Springs.’

The president told reporters enroute to Nantucket, reflecting on the mass-shooting at the LGBTQ+ club and then another mass-shooting Tuesday, at a Walmart store when a night manager opened fire in a breakroom in Chesapeake, Va., killing six, and wounding at least half a dozen more, said he has plans to support a bill banning assault rifles during the lame-duck session before the next Congress is seated in January.

“I’m going to do it whenever — I got to make that assessment as I get in and start counting the votes,” Biden said

As the memorial outside Club Q grows, more attention is now being focused on the needs of the survivors and others in the LGBTQ community in Colorado Springs affected by the mass-shooting.

An annual ‘Friendsgiving’ feast for the members of the LGBTQ community unable to spend time with relatives because of their being LGBTQ and which was normally held by the owners and staff of Club Q was shifted to a community dinner at the Colorado Springs MCC Church.

In an Instagram post, earlier in the week, Grzecka thanked Colorado Governor Jared Polis, state Attorney General Phil Weiser, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez and city councilmember Nancy Henjum in whose district the LGBTQ club is located, “for your hard work to ensure there was a Crisis Center to service the Club Q and Colorado Springs community during the holiday.”

Fallout over the shooting continues as anger mounts at what many in the LGBTQ community see as targeted hate amplified by a resurgence of anti-LGBTQ hate speech online and by right-wing media outlets and far-right figures such as Fox host Tucker Carlson.

Colorado Springs is also home to Focus on the Family, one of the largest anti-LGBTQ groups in the U.S. The Christian ministry group has opposed same-sex marriage, LGBTQ+ service in any branch of the U.S. armed forces and continues to advocate for the discredited practise of conversion therapy.

Late Thursday person or persons unknown vandalized the sign at the main entrance to the group’s headquarters complex. “We went out there to investigate if there was a crime that took place,” Colorado Springs Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Jason Ledbetter told the Gazette regarding the overnight incident. “There is no suspect information at this time.”

In a Instagram post, Grzecka displayed a picture of the vandalized sign with graffiti spray painted in black reading; “Their blood is on your hands five lives taken.”

In his message accompanying the picture, Grzecka noted:

Focus on the Family moved to our city in the 90’s, was a large group behind pushing through Amendment 2 along with Colorado for family matters. People such as Dr. James Dobson and Will Perkins have spread a nasty, false and hurtful narrative about our LGBT community.

Amendment 2 was passed in 1992, and Colorado Springs (El Paso county) were the votes to pass the amendment, the same amendment that gave our city the nickname “hate city USA”

Words have consequences and your continuous false narrative about the LGBT community has consequences,
@focusonthefamily this message added to your sign has more truth to it than you may actually be able to understand.

This is not vandalism this is not an attack on Christian’s. This message is just that a message that was delivered in a way to ensure you receive it.

@cityofcos, Mayor Suthers when can we meet to discuss how this type of anti-gay speech, is coming from our own backyard.

The Gazette also reported that people from around the nation are holding in-person and online fundraisers for victims and families of the Club Q mass shooting. 

While the state has an official online donation site, the Colorado Healing Fund, a private online drive, also has become one of the largest appeals.

Good Judy Garage in Denver, an LGBTQ business, raised $25,000 in two hours after starting a GoFundMe drive on Sunday. The initial goal was upped to $50,000 and now is at $750,000, as donations continue to pour in. As of Friday, the amount collected was $761,707 raised.

Link to the GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-for-the-club-q-families-and-survivors.

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Colorado

Defense attorneys say Club Q suspect is nonbinary

Alleged shooter to make virtual court appearance Wednesday

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(Photo courtesy of Facebook)

The suspect in the killing of five people and the wounding of over a dozen others in the Saturday night mass shooting at Club Q is nonbinary say attorneys in documents filed Tuesday in the 4th Judicial District and El Paso County, Colorado Combined Courts.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that lawyers for suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich filed a series of motions after they were released from the hospital and transferred to the El Paso County jail in downtown Colorado Springs.

Joseph Archambault, who is the chief trial deputy for the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, and Michael Bowman, another state public defender, included a footnote in the documents which read: “Anderson Aldrich is nonbinary. They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal [court] filings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich.”

The suspect has 10 charges stemming from the shooting. Five felony counts of first degree murder and five felony counts of bias-motivated crimes causing bodily injury.

In a press briefing earlier, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said the suspect had not made any statements to investigators, despite attempts to interview Aldrich.

The Gazette reported that Aldrich is scheduled to make a virtual appearance for an advisement hearing at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in 4th Judicial District Court. There is no date set for the suspect’s first in-person court appearance. 

According to the Gazette the six motions filed by the defense include a motion to unseal the arrest affidavit for the defense, a motion to limit pretrial public comment, a motion to provide ongoing disclosures to the defense, a motion for the court to prohibit ex parte search warrants by law enforcement, a motion for preservation of discoverable materials, and a motion demanding a preliminary hearing. 

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