Slap in the face. President Barack Obama took a not-so-subtle stand against Russia’s policies on homosexuality by appointing two gay athletes among those who will represent the United States at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The president will not attend the opening or closing ceremonies, nor will any former president, first lady, or vice president. This past summer Russia passed a law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.” The law effectively bans all public pro-homosexual demonstrations such as gay pride parades. Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended the law saying it is designed to protect children from those who would distort their sexual concepts. The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) has made no comment about the sexual orientation of the delegation. But in a nod to its disapproval of the law, the USOC recently revised its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation. The athletes selected are former tennis star Billie Jean King and ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow.
Obama’s ratings slump. A majority of Americans disapproves of President Barack Obama’s handling of foreign and domestic policies, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll, with the president rating higher on foreign than domestic policy. Nearly half of those polled (49 percent) approve of his handling of U.S. relations with other countries, while 50 percent disapprove. In contrast, just 40 percent approve of his handling of the economy, while 59 percent disapprove. And on healthcare, the approval rating stands at 39 percent, with 61 percent disapproving. His overall job approval is at 42 percent, with 58 percent disapproving. The president did get higher marks for the preliminary deal between Iran and six global powers to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions: six in 10 people voiced approval. Meanwhile, a recent Quinnipiac poll shows Obama’s approval rating has dropped to 38 percent in the Democratic stronghold of Iowa.
Jackpot. Two winning lottery tickets were sold in San Jose, Calif., and Atlanta for Tuesday’s near-record $636 million Mega Millions drawing. The winners have not yet claimed their prizes, but the owner of one of the stores that sold the tickets has been awarded $1 million. The winning numbers in the drawing were: 8, 14, 17, 20, 39, and 7. The jackpot was the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history. Twenty-two draws came and went without winners before Tuesday’s drawing, Mega Millions executive director Paula Otto said. The winners can choose to be paid over time or in a cash lump sum. Based on the $636 million figure, the winners would receive $318 million each over time or $170 million each in cash.
Intolerance complaint. Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) has filed a discrimination complaint against a Maryland school board and its superintendent. The complaint, filed last week with the U.S. Department of Justice, derives from statements made by the Montgomery County, Md., superintendent Joshua Starr about fliers PFOX gives students with information on unwanted same-sex attractions. Starr reportedly called the fliers “reprehensible and deplorable” and said their sexual-orientation freedom stance was “a really, really disgusting message.” PFOX’s executive director Regina Griggs said in a statement, “When the school superintendent promotes intolerance of former homosexuals, then students and teachers will follow his example and learn to disrespect sexual minorities like the ex-gay community.”