Monday, February 19, 2018

News Round-Up: February 19, 2018

Ryan Cleary (via Instagram)

Some news items you might have missed:

• UK "Survival of the Fittest" reality show contestant Ryan Cleary (above) recently came out as bisexual.

• Sally Field is trying to hook her gay son up with Winter Olympics darling Adam Rippon.

• Trump’s proposed budget cuts for HIV/AIDS funding would lead to 300,000 more deaths per year.

• A homophobic ad in Russia warns folks the gays will take over unless they vote.

• A top Republican pollster says Oprah Winfrey is "triggering" for Donald Trump.

• Out crossover artist Andre Xcellence has released I’m Coming, his highly charged EP of Xcellent music that he calls the soundtrack of his life.

The EP includes “So What?”, a celebratory anthem that invites gays and straights to party on the dance floor together. Check out the release on iTunes here or on Spotify here.

Andre Xcellence EP "I'm Coming"

Trump Lies: Obama "Did Nothing" To Stop Russian Meddling

Donald Trump, who has denied any Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election for over a year, is a sudden convert to the concept after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian actors last Friday.

Trump thought the news of the indictments was good news for him. But, watching cable news over the weekend, Trump realizes most folks don't see it that way.

The Donald has continually called the investigation into Russian meddling a "witch hunt." And, as the New York Times noted, "has made little if any public effort to rally the nation to confront the Russians for their intrusion."

The Trumpster's latest tact is to blame President Obama who Trump claims "did nothing."

That isn't true though.

Obama directly addressed Vladimir Putin about the transgressions as well as issued sanctions on Russia while expelling dozens of Russian diplomats in the aftermath of the meddling.

Trump expressed his frustrations via Twitter (for a change):

Even Fox News called Trump out on his lies:

Happy Presidents Day: Political Scientists Rank Donald Trump Worst President In History

Barack Obama (L) and Donald Trump (R)
Donald Trump will not be happy with the results of the latest Presidents & Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey which ranks American presidents from best to worst.

The last iteration of the survey was released back in 2014 and, in that time, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan find their pole positions improved, Bill Clinton dropped 5 spots, and Donald Trump lands in dead last place.

The survey results were based on responses from 170 current and recent members of the Presidents and Executive Politics section of the American Political Science Association.

Among the findings:

• Barack Obama moved up from 18th to 8th.

• Ronald Reagan bumps up two spots from 11th to 9th.

• Bill Clinton fell from 8th to 13th (some feel that may be in response to the current #MeToo movement).

• Donald Trump came in dead last.

The top 7 remain unchanged since 2014 with Abraham Lincoln holding steady at #1, followed in order by George Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

Politico points out "even among self-identified Republicans and conservatives, Trump came in 40th out of 44."

Note: The survey doesn't count Grover Cleveland's non-consecutive terms separately, thus the survey ranks presidents from number one to number forty-four.

Report: State "Religious Exemption" Laws Threaten LGBTQ+ Freedom

(image via Movement Advancement Project)

A new 41-page report released by the Human Rights Watch details how so-called “religious freedom” laws allow for a vast number of individuals and corporations to discriminate against LGBTQ+ folk.

Human Rights Watch researcher Ryan Thoreson says anti-LGBTQ+ legislators like using the term "exemptions" even though the term is misleading.

“Given the dearth of laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination in the first place, legislators are getting it exactly backwards and creating exceptions before they’ve ever established the rule,” said Thoreson.

The report lists several examples like:

• Mississippi allows for individuals and businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity/presentation, and persons having extramarital affairs due to religious or moral objections.

• Michigan, Alabama, and North Dakota have passed legislation that allows for adoption/foster care agencies to explicitly discriminate against queer couples or individuals.

• Tennessee law allows for mental health counselors to decline to see LGBTQ+ clients.

In the United States, only 19 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, public accommodations, and housing.

New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Utah offer protections based on sexual orientation (not gender identity), though Utah doesn’t prohibit such discrimination in public accommodations.

In 2018, Illinois, Georgia, Washington, Oklahoma and Florida have all seen new "religious exemption" bills filed in their state legislatures.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Issues New Congressional District Map

Click image to enlarge

ABC News reports that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has issued a new congressional district map for the state's 2018 elections.

The new map was approved in a 4-3 decision from the high court and rids the state of bizarrely contorted districts, including one labeled "Goofy Kicking Donald Duck."

Dave Wasserman, the U.S. House editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report & a contributor to NBC News and FiveThirtyEight, broke down the new map thusly on Twitter:

Breaking: PA Supreme Court adopts new congressional map, and with few exceptions, it's Democrats' dream come true. GOP not going to like this at all.

Biggest changes to GOP seats: open Meehan seat becomes safe Dem, Costello/Rothfus seats get much more Dem, open Dent seat becomes a Clinton district, open 10th CD becomes a Dem opportunity.

Also, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R) seat in Bucks barely becomes a Clinton district. Overall, Dems have a good chance in up to 11 CDs & an outside chance at a 12th seat in Erie.

Last month, the Keystone state's high court ruled the congressional district map put in place in 2011 by Republicans was a partisan gerrymander that “clearly, plainly and palpably” violated the state’s Constitution.

The New Yorker: Trump Rigged Miss Universe To Boost Business In Certain Countries

Donald Trump
It will come as no surprise to anyone today that back when Donald Trump owned the Miss Universe Pageant, his picks for finalists often overrode the decisions of the judges.

And often, those finalists came from countries where Trump had business interests.


Jeffrey Toobin writes for The New Yorker:

From 1996 to 2015, Donald Trump co-owned the Miss Universe Organization, which also included the Miss U.S.A. and Miss Teen U.S.A. pageants. A day or two before a pageant began, Trump would casually visit the contestants while they conducted their final rehearsals. Former contestants told me that Trump would circulate among the young women, shaking hands and chatting with each of them, periodically turning to speak with Paula Shugart, the president of the Miss Universe Organization, who followed him at a discreet distance. (Paula Shugart declined to comment.)

Adwoa Yamoah, who competed as Miss Canada in 2012, told me, “He made comments about every girl: ‘I’ve been to that country.’ ‘We’re building a Trump Tower there.’ It was clear the countries that he liked did well. He’d whisper to Paula about the girls, and she’d write it down. He basically told us he picked nine of the top fifteen.”

Kerrie Baylis, who was Miss Jamaica in 2013, described a similar scene and added that, when the finalists were announced, “the list looked like the countries that Donald Trump did business with, or wanted to do business with.” Shi Lim, who competed that year as Miss Singapore, told me, “The finalists were picked by Trump. He was really in charge. We called it the Trump card.” (A Miss Universe spokeswoman said that the pageant rules allowed the company’s staff, including Trump, to participate in naming the finalists.)

Toobin goes on to chronicle Trump's obsession with Russian business, and explains how the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant (held in Russia) helped create many connections between Team Trump and several wealthy Russian businessmen.

Well worth the read.

Daily Dance: Yanis Marshall "Cover Girl" Choreography

Yanis Marshall, who has choreographed dances to the sonic powers of George Michael, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera drops this new dance to RuPaul’s runway classic, “Cover Girl.”

Marshall shared the video with this dedication:

"Ok, this one is for all my gays !!!!!!!!!!!!! Be you do you and f**k everyone else and f**k that closet too !!!!!!!!! love you all be proud and don't forget to live your life."

These kids are DANCING!

Happy Monday!

White House: Trump Is "Supportive" Of Efforts To Improve Background Checks For Gun Purchases

The White House has announced Donald Trump "is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system" in the aftermath of the Florida shooting last week which left 17 dead and dozens injured.

Via CNN:

Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said in a statement on Monday that Trump spoke with Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, on Friday about a bill he introduced with Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, that aims to strengthen how state and federal governments report offenses that could prohibit people from buying a gun.

"While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the President is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system," Shah said. Students, teachers and lawmakers have urged Trump and other Republican lawmakers to take action on guns in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting.

Trump, however, ran for president as a pro-gun candidate and tied himself to the National Rifle Association throughout the campaign. The White House didn't vigorously push the Cornyn-Murphy bill when it was introduced, and the President also said he was open to banning bump stocks, devices that enable rifles to fire more rapidly, in the wake of last fall's Las Vegas shooting -- but there hasn't been significant further action by the White House on that front, either.

To date, the only action taken by Donald Trump on the issue of guns was to roll back regulations that made it more difficult for those with mental health problems to get firearms.