Friday, June 23, 2017

Nevada: Sen. Dean Heller Says "No" To Senate GOP Trumpcare Bill

Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada
Republican Senator Dean Heller of Nevada (my state) announced today he will not be voting for the newly unveiled Senate version of Trumpcare.

Heller is considered the most vulnerable Republican senator up for reelection in 2018 being from a very purple state that went for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.

Via Politico:

“This bill that’s currently in front of the United States Senate is not the answer. It’s simply not the answer,” said Heller, the most vulnerable Senate Republican in the 2018 midterm election. “It’s going to be very difficult to get me to a yes."

Heller is now the fifth Republican to go public with a threat to vote against the bill, which is the culmination of seven years of GOP campaign promises. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can lose only two of his 52 members for the bill to pass when he holds a vote in a week.

On Thursday, four conservatives — Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson — said they aren’t ready to support the draft bill because it preserves too many of Obamacare's regulations but said they’re open to negotiations.

Heller did leave the door open to supporting the bill if changes are made.

"Both Republicans and Democrats can agree the [Affordable Care Act] does need some fixes," the Nevada Republican said.

Heller said he is opposed to the rollback of the Medicaid expansion because it hurts Nevada.

"This is all about Medicaid expansion. ... You have to protect Medicaid expansion states,” Heller said, adding that he wouldn't support rolling back Medicaid unless payment rates for a state like Nevada are boosted.

Trust and believe I was one of the phone calls his office received over the past couple of days.

Heller becomes the fifth Senate Republican to say they won't be supporting the GOP Healthcare bill. Republicans only have a two vote majority, so with five saying "no," this bill has to be amended. The problem is the moves to get moderate Repubs on board will push far-right GOPs away, and vice-versa.

The answer to healthcare is for Republicans to work WITH Democrats to address fixes in Obamacare. Period.

News Round-Up: June 23, 2017

Weekend bound (via Instagram)
Some news stories you may have missed:

• Who's ready for the weekend? #Yahoooooo!

• Thanks to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, the spire of One World Trade Center and the Kosciuszko Bridge to be lit with the colors of the transgender flag for Trans Day of Action today, June 23rd. The same landmarks will be illuminated in the colors of the Pride flag on Saturday and Sunday for NYC Pride celebrations.

• Also for NYC Pride - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared June 22nd officially "Laverne Cox Day" as the actress made an appearance at his official residence, Gracie Mansion.

Said Cox, “Can you believe that a black transgender woman from Mobile, Alabama, raised by a single mother has a day in New York City named after her?”

• July 1st was the date that qualified transgender people were supposed to be able to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces, but military heads are asking for a six month delay.

• California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced yesterday that four states are being added to the state-sponsored travel ban because of efforts to enshrine discrimination against LGBTQ people into law.

• Speaking of lights for Pride, the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago was lit up in rainbow colors, apparently in celebration of Chicago Pride this weekend. But the lights only lasted one night, and when asked the hotel responded with, “We’ve been told not to say anything until the PR person puts out a statement.” Of course, as we all know, President Trump ended the tradition of recognizing Pride Month after eight straight years of proclamations from President Obama.

New Music: Kirstin "Break A Little" (Madison Mars Remix)

As a member of the a cappella group Pentatonix Kirstin Maldonado has won 3 GRAMMY® Awards, and with her new EP - L O V E - moves into an exciting new chapter in her career, rebranding herself as kirstin and debuting the EP’s lead single, “Break a Little.”

The multi-platinum singer/songwriter's solo debut EP L O V E is available now for preorder and will be released on July 14th via RCA Records.

“I’m so proud of ‘Break A Little’,” Kirstin said in a statement. “I always wanted to write a sad song that sounds happy. I think everyone can relate to this emotion. It’s about longing for something. You’re attracted to a vice or person you know you shouldn’t come back to, but you can’t help it.”

Check out the Madison Mars remix of “Break a Little” below.

I think this remix actually serves the song better than the original ballad soundscape.

Indiana: Carrier A/C Plant Trump "Saved" To Layoff Over 700 Employees

President Trump

Back in December, President-elect Trump boasted as he toured the Carrier air conditioner plant in Indianapolis that he had "saved" more than 700 jobs at the plant.

It turns out the jobs weren't quite "saved."

From the New York Daily News:

Carrier was going to lay off 1,400 workers and open a new facility in Mexico where labor is cheaper.

Trump said that 1,100 jobs would stay in Indianapolis because of his actions.

As it turns out, Carrier did agree to employ at least 1,069 people at the Indianapolis plant for the next 10 years in exchange for the $7 million in incentives.

But the majority of the 1,069 positions are engineering and technical workers whose positions weren’t in jeopardy, CNBC said.

The manufacturers whose jobs were on the line in November are still at risk — and 730 of them will get the ax, CNBC reported.

Trump had also taken credit for getting a promise from United Technologies to invest $16 million into the Indianapolis plant.

But that money is actually going toward more automation — which will result in fewer jobs, CNBC noted.

RuPaul To Be Honored With Star On Hollywood Walk Of Fame

RuPaul is finally getting his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

"WOW! Just found out! Dream come true!"
"Sweet Cheeses! My heart is beating so fast right now! - RuPaul to Get Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame"

Also chosen this year by the Walk of Fame Selection Committee are Kirsten Dunst, Gina Lollobrigida, Linda Carter, Simon Cowell, Ryan Murphy, Taraji P Henson, Petula Clark, Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, Weird Al Yankovic, Minnie Mouse, Niecy Nash, Mary J Blige, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and posthumous stars to Steve Irwin and Bernie Mac.

It's not well known, but celebs chosen for the honor have two years to schedule their star ceremonies or they expire. Additionally, a sponsor is needed for each star as the cost for installation is $40,000.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is one of the top tourist attractions in Los Angeles.

It's been a big year for RuPaul what with winning the Emmy and MTV awards, landing on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, celebrating RuPaul's Drag Race's highest ratings ever, plus guest spots on Broad City and Girl Boss, and marrying longtime bf Georges.

Reminder: RuPaul's Drag Race airs it's season finale tonight at 8PM on VH1.

Washington Post: Intel Agencies Had Proof Putin Ordered Russian Interference

Bombshell reporting from the Washington Post this morning on the Russian interference in the 2016 elections, including the confirmation that U.S. intelligence officials captured Putin’s specific instructions to disrupt the elections.

It's a long read, but very worth it. The Post reporters chronicle each chapter of the Russian attack from the day President Obama was informed, to the very closed circle of high level officials who dealt with the issue, to how the public was finally informed.

The report consists of interviews with more than three dozen current and former U.S. officials in senior positions in government, including at the White House, the State, Defense and Homeland Security departments, and U.S. intelligence services.

Of particular note:

• Former administration officials admit that the sense of urgency was "contained" to some degree because a Clinton win was expected by virtually everyone. Obama continued to believe he would be handing over the Oval Office to Hillary. There was concern that coming forward with the details of Russian interference would further Trump's cries of a "rigged election."

• Obama ordered the planting of digital cyber-bombs in Russia's infrastructure to be used at a later date should frictions escalate. It was left to President Trump whether or not to ever use them.

Here's just an excerpt of the article:

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.

But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

The CIA breakthrough came at a stage of the presidential campaign when Trump had secured the GOP nomination but was still regarded as a distant long shot. Clinton held comfortable leads in major polls, and Obama expected that he would be transferring power to someone who had served in his Cabinet.


Obama’s approach often seemed reducible to a single imperative: Don’t make things worse. As brazen as the Russian attacks on the election seemed, Obama and his top advisers feared that things could get far worse.

They were concerned that any pre-election response could provoke an escalation from Putin. Moscow’s meddling to that point was seen as deeply concerning but unlikely to materially affect the outcome of the election. Far more worrisome to the Obama team was the prospect of a cyber-assault on voting systems before and on Election Day.

They also worried that any action they took would be perceived as political interference in an already volatile campaign. By August, Trump was predicting that the election would be rigged. Obama officials feared providing fuel to such claims, playing into Russia’s efforts to discredit the outcome and potentially contaminating the expected Clinton triumph.

I haven't bought into actual collusion theories between the Trump campaign and Russia before, but this morning I do wonder: how did Trump happen to begin dropping the "rigged election" comments when he did? Was that the collusion? Did Russia tell the Trump campaign to get out ahead of the Obama administration with the "rigged" comments expecting it might silence the administration?

Daily Dance: "Maniac"

Friday be like...

Thursday, June 22, 2017

News Round-Up: June 22, 2017

Javier Baez

Some news stories you might have missed:

• Check this sneak peek from the upcoming ESPN Body 2017 issue featuring hottie Chicago Cub Javier Baez. The issue is on newsstands July 7.

• Cincinnati plans to name a street after marriage equality plaintiff/hero Jim Obergefell and his deceased husband, Jim Arthur.

• Trans activist Janet Mock says "very privileged" Caitlyn Jenner is NOT a spokesperson for the trans community.

• Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt is getting his own show on MSNBC even as liberal hosts Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell lead the network in ratings. The good news, though, is out news anchor Thomas Roberts will now host a two hour news block on Saturday evenings from 7-9PM.

• Two years after SCOTUS made same-sex marriage the law of the land, Gallup reports that 10.2% of LGBT adults in the U.S. are married to a same-sex spouse, up from 7.9% before the ruling. Additionally, Gallup estimates 61% of same-sex, cohabiting couples in the U.S. are now married, up from 38% before the Obergefell ruling.

• Crystal Griner, the Capitol Police officer who took down the shooter at a Republican baseball practice threw out the first pitch yesterday at the Congressional Women's softball game.

FTW - British Man Wears Shorts To Work During Heat Wave, Sent Home To Change He Returns In Pink Dress

I LOVE this guy.

Joey Barge, a call center worker in Buckinghamshire, England, attempted to wear a pair of “smart shorts” to his office paired with a black button down shirt due to a stifling heat wave.

But his supervisors sent him home saying the shorts were inappropriate for the office environment.

Noting how comfortable his female colleagues were, he returned in a black/hot pink dress.

Barge then decided he would wear a pink dress to work since women were allowed to wear dresses.

According to Joey's tweets, the company changed their dress-code policy in response to his act of resistance.

After announcing a change in policy, Barge’s bosses asked him to go home and change. Barge declined.

“I got sent home and told to change into appropriate clothing but it said females could wear dresses so hey ho!” Barge told the Daily Mail.

‘They said it was a bit too colourful and asked if I wanted to go home and change because they were letting us wear shorts because of my “protest” — but I said I was happy to stay.’

President Obama: "The Senate Bill Is Not A Health Care Bill"

In a rare statement addressing current policy-making in Congress, President Obama posted about the Republican-controlled Senate's Trumpcare bill on his Facebook.

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else.

Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid?

What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again.

If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.
Pretty presidential I'd say. And refreshing.

Magnum Ice Cream Teams Up With GLAAD For Limited-Edition Pride Magnum Bar

In a collaboration with GLAAD for Pride Month, Magnum Ice Cream recently unveiled a rainbow covered ice cream bar with the slug line, "There is more pleasure in a diverse world #PleasureIsDiverse"

Via press release:

In support of diversity and inclusivity, MAGNUM and GLAAD are offering a limited-edition Pride MAGNUM bar, available through June at MAGNUM New York. MAGNUM is also making a donation to GLAAD to support its work across the country. The indulgent Pride bar is inspired by the MAGNUM brand's belief that there's more pleasure in a diverse world, and its commitment to stand up for everyone's right to find pleasure in being themselves.

Trump Admits "Tapes" Comment Was An Empty Bluff

President Trump finally admitted today that he was bluffing when he brought up the possibility that he had recorded conversations with former FBI Director James Comey.

As folks will recall, back in May, just days after Comey’s firing, Trump tweeted: “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

For weeks reporters have asked whether this was or was not true, and if true when would the President provide those "tapes" to the public?

Via Twitter today, Trump wrote, "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea... whether there are "tapes" or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings."

Clearly, Trump was merely making stuff up in order to intimidate Comey. When scared, he bluffs.

During his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey welcomed the idea of such recordings saying, "Lordy, I hope there are tapes."

5th Circuit Court Of Appeals Gives Thumbs Up To Mississippi's Anti-LGBT Discrimination Law

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the ruling by a federal judge who found Mississippi's anti-LGBT discrimination law unconstitutional.

The law allows merchants and government employees to deny services to LGBTs based on religious beliefs.

Via Lambda Legal:

Today, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the injunction against Mississippi House Bill 1523, the discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation challenged in Barber v. Bryant, the federal lawsuit brought by Mississippi civil rights attorney Robert McDuff, the Mississippi Center for Justice and Lambda Legal. The advocates will continue to fight this discriminatory law.

Overruling the lower court decision, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit denied that LGBT Mississippians are subject to imminent discrimination by HB 1523 and ordered the block to the law lifted because the plaintiffs—a group of ministers, LGBT residents, community leaders and activists—lack standing since they cannot claim a specific harm caused by the law that has yet to go into effect.

“We had to put guards in front of our church after the bill initially passed because there was a truck with a swastika parked across the street and just this week the Christian Knights of the KKK distributed flyers throughout the Hattiesburg area. Today’s ruling leaves us more exposed, so we will have to be more vigilant than ever before to protect our church, our families and our dignity,” said Brandiilyne Mangum-Dear, Barber plaintiff.

More from Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade:

The law prohibits the state from taking action against religious organizations that decline employment, housing or services to same-sex couples; families who’ve adopted a foster child and wish to act in opposition to same-sex marriage; and individuals who offer wedding services and decline to facilitate a same-sex wedding.

Additionally, the bill allows individuals working in medical services to decline to afford a transgender person gender reassignment surgery. The bill also allows state government employees who facilitate marriages the option to opt out of issuing licenses to same-sex couples, but the person must issue prior written notice to the state government and a clerk’s office must not delay in the issuing of licenses.

Trump Distorts Former Homeland Security Secretary's Testimony

President Trump lied yet again in this early  morning tweet claiming "Former Homeland Security Advisor Jeh Johnson is latest top intelligence official to state there was no grand scheme between Trump & Russia."

First of all, Johnson was Homeland Security Secretary, not "Advisor."

Second, that's not at all what Johnson said in testimony yesterday. What Johnson told the House Intelligence Committee yesterday was:

“In 2016, the Russian government, at the direction of (President) Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election. That is a fact, plain and simple.”

At no time in his testimony did Johnson ever state that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Intel Chiefs: Trump "Suggested" We Announce There Was No Collusion With Russia

CNN reports that in separate, private meetings last week with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators, both Dan Coats (Director of National Intelligence) and Adm. Mike Rogers (National Security Agency Director) said President Trump "suggested" they publicly announce there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers described their interactions with the President about the Russia investigation as odd and uncomfortable, but said they did not believe the President gave them orders to interfere, according to multiple sources familiar with their accounts. Sources say both men went further than they did in June 7 public hearings, when they provided little detail about the interactions.

The sources gave CNN the first glimpse of what the intelligence chiefs said to Mueller’s investigators when they did separate interviews last week. Both men told Mueller’s team they were surprised the President would suggest that they publicly declare he was not involved in collusion, sources said. Mueller’s team, which is in the early stages of its investigation, will ultimately decide whether the interactions are relevant to the inquiry.

It sounds like Trump is basically asking everyone he meets to announce there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.

Biden To LGBT Community: Hold Trump Accountable On His Promise To Be Your Friend

Vice President Joe Biden

Speaking at a private LGBT gala hosted by the Democratic National Committee in New York, former Vice President Joe Biden urged the LGBT community to push back against the Trump administration.

“Hold President Trump accountable for his pledge to be your friend. Just because you don’t have Barack and me in the White House doesn’t mean it’s time to give up, keep quiet, stay on the sidelines.”

Biden really got going, though, when he fiercely denounced that there is "no justification" for inhumane treatment of LGBTQ community in other nations. "None, none, none."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Then And Now Pics Of Gay Couple Kissing 24 Years Apart Goes Viral

Together for 25 years, married couple Kurt English and Nick Cardello shared via social media two photos of the couple kissing - taken 24 years apart.

The first was taken in front of the National Mall on April 25, 1993, at the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. They had been dating a year at that point.

The couple legally married in Massachusetts in 2008, and when same-sex marriage was recognized federally in 2015, they exchanged vows again that year in their home state of Florida. They say they've promoted LGBTQ rights and acceptance by being out and proud in their daily lives, and taking part in events like the 1993 and 2017 marches.

Fast forward 24 years as the couple attended the recent Equality March for Unity & Pride in Washington D.C. A friend encouraged the couple to recreate the earlier photo, and after posting the pics side by side, found themselves going viral.

“I only posted the photo on my Facebook page after the march. It took off from there,” Cardello told LGBTQ Nation. “Someone else copied it to Twitter, Instagram & Reddit. That’s when it really took off. A reporter from Brazil said it had over a million likes there.”

Cardello added, “The youth needs to see that it is possible to find a loving partner, and that the relationship can last,” he said, noting that portrayals of same-sex couples growing old together are rare. “A loving partner can be a difficult thing to find, once you do you must protect it and nurture it.”

I couldn't agree more. Hot hubby Michael and I have been together since October 1994, and often hear from other LGBTs wonder where longevity in a relationship comes from. I'm no expert, but I'm sure Kurt and Nick would agree honesty is one of the key ingredients to long term relationships.

Congrats to the handsome couple! Here's to 25 years more!

The viral sensation even inspired other couples to share their own then and now pics as well.

New York State Senate Confirms Judge Paul Feinman To State's Highest Court

The New York state Senate has confirmed Justice Paul G. Feinman to the New York Court of Appeals becoming the first openly gay judge to serve on the state's highest court.

Feinman spent only an hour before the Senate Judiciary Committee answering what was described as friendly questions before being unanimously approved to the floor of the Senate, where he was confirmed today.

The 57 year-old Mets fan lives with his his husband on Roosevelt Island.


Out Music: Bright Light Bright Light "New York Pretty"

Singer/songwriter Rod Thomas, recording under the moniker Bright Light Bright Light, explores and celebrates the streets of New York in the new bright and bouncy music video for “New York Pretty.”

The track is from the upcoming EP Tales of the City to be released July 7.

Thomas sets the tone from the get-go, opening the track thusly:

I hope that everyone can see me now
Now that I feel so much better about myself
Now that I feel better about myself

With Pride Month in full swing, Thomas whirls and swirls throughout gay NYC including visits to three iconic gay bars: Stonewall, Julius, and Williamsburg’s Metropolitan.

Thomas describes the feel of "New York Pretty" on his official website thusly:

'New York Pretty' came out of the blue one sunny say in New York winter. It's inspired by the Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin movie 'Big Business' and the idea of spending a long time in a place that's not quite right, eventually moving to the city and feeling like you finally belong.

It's no secret that New York is my place for that, and also inspired by RuPaul and the incredible RuPaul's Drag Race, I wanted to write a song about self-empowerment and self-belief, and this is what emerged. Musically, it's a mix of inspiration from Broadway, Queer As Folk's UK gay scene and Kylie's 'Light Years' which all had a large influence on my music taste growing up.

Watch the upbeat, Pride-worthy music video below.

Colton Haynes Joins Season 7 Cast Of "American Horror Story"

Colton Haynes
After his stints on horror television series' Teen Wolf and Ryan Murphy's Scream Queens, I think Colton Haynes will be quite at home as part of the upcoming 7th season of Murphy's wildly successful anthology series, American Horror Story.

Haynes confirmed the casting via Instagram posting a blood-smeared pic of his face with the caption, "American Horror Story Season 7 ... Already feels like home :) So excited @mrrpmurphy."

According to reports,  season seven’s theme will embrace aspects of the 2016 presidential election.

A post shared by Colton Haynes (@coltonlhaynes) on

First Look: "American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace"

Entertainment Weekly has the first look at the followup to last year's wildly successful mini-series by Ryan Murphy, The People v. O.J. Simpson.

American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace will star Edgar Ramírez as the murdered designer, Ricky Martin as Versace's lover, GLEE's Darren Criss as murderer Andrew Cunanan, and Penelope Cruz as Donatella Versace.

Due in early 2018.

Queen Elizabeth II Vows To Protect LGBTs From Discrimination

During Queen Elizabeth II's address to Parliament today, her Majesty specifically promised to protect LGBTs from discrimination.

From the speech:

“My ministers will seek to enhance rights and protections in the modern workplace. My  government will make further progress to tackle the gender pay gap and discrimination against people on the basis of their race, faith, gender, disability or sexual orientation.”

Additionally, there was conspicuously no mention of President Trump visiting the UK this fall causing some to wonder if the trip has now been cancelled.

The speech is cued up below for the mention of LGBT protections.

Former Homeland Security Secretary: A "Plain And Simple Fact" That Putin Ordered Cyber Attack On 2016 Election

Speaking before Congress today, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson left no doubts regarding Russia's hacking of the Democratic National Committee and interference that was meant to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.

“The Russian government, at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyber attacks on our nation for the purpose of influence our election,” he said. “That is a fact, plain and simple.”

From Raw Story:

President Donald Trump has regularly hedged in public when asked if he believes Russia interfered in the 2016 election. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday claimed that he had not spoke with the president about his views on Russia’s role in disrupting the election, and would not confirm if Trump actually believed Russia was behind the hacks of the DNC and former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

Trailer: "Hello Again"

Glad to see Michael John LaChiusa’s musical HELLO AGAIN finally coming to the big screen. I remember seeing the original Lincoln Center production on Broadway in 1994 and loved it.

The musical consists of a series of two person scenes. Each actor appears in back to back scenes as a similar character, and as the scenes play out, each actor drops for a new one. So, for example, scene one features actors A and B; scene 2 features actors B and C; scene 3 features actors C and D, and so forth. And each scene changes time periods.

Throughout the characters flip from being the pursuer to the pursued. And the music is terrific.

From the press release:

SPEAKproductions, in association with TBD Productions and Martian Entertainment, have just released a sneak peek at the first trailer for HELLO AGAIN.

The highly anticipated film adaptation of Michael John LaChiusa’s musical. HELLO AGAIN chases 10 fleeting love affairs across 10 periods in New York City history.

The ensemble cast features six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, Emmy Award-winner and Tony nominee Martha Plimpton, Emmy and Drama Desk nominee T.R. Knight, Rumer Willis, Cheyenne Jackson, SAG Award-winner and Grammy nominee Jenna Ushkowitz, Teen Choice Award-winner Tyler Blackburn, Sam Underwood, Nolan Gerard Funk and Al Calderon. HELLO AGAIN, directed by Tom Gustafson, features a screenplay by Cory Krueckeberg and music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa.

Inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s 1896 controversial play, Der Reigen, and the classic 1950 Max Ophuls film La Ronde, the film HELLO AGAIN is based on the Michael John LaChiusa stage musical of the same name. HELLO AGAIN was first presented on stage by Lincoln Center Theatre in 1994 featuring John Cameron Mitchell, Donna Murphy, Malcolm Gets, Carolee Carmello, Michael Park, Michelle Pawk, John Dossett and Judy Blazer.

The film closed Italy’s Lovers Film Fest last night and will be seen on the film festival circuit throughout the summer.

Watch the trailer below.

Georgia: Anti-LGBT Republican Karen Handel Bests Dem Jon Ossoff In Special Election 52% - 48%

After much hype, Democrat Jon Ossoff lost last night to anti-LGBT Republican Karen Handel in Georgia's special election, 52.1% -47.9%.

Republicans are elated, Democrats - not so much.

Often, a win is a win; a loss is a loss. But a few things come to mind:

• Ossoff received the same 48% he got in the April primary. Handel consolidated her base moving from about 20% in April to 52% last night. It's possible that 48% is about as high as Dems can get in the district. You can't create voters out of thin air.

• The one sliver lining for Democrats is that these special elections for Congressional seats in traditionally red states are much, much tighter than just months ago.

For example, when Republican Tom Price won the Georgia seat back in November, it was by 24 points. Handel clinched the win last night by only 4 points. That's a lot of lost margin.

There was also a special election in South Carolina last night that received less coverage, and was even tighter. Mick Mulvaney won the 5th District seat in SC last November by 20 points. Last night, Republican Ralph Norman won the special election by only 3 points.

Similarly, Mike Pompeo won his seat in Kansas' 4th District last November by 31 points; Republican Ron Estes took the seat in a special election this spring by a margin of only 7 points.

As you can see, there is some clear movement happening here. Will it be enough to make a difference come the fall of 2018 and the midterm elections? We shall see.

• While a lot has been made of the fund raising and money spent by the Ossoff campaign on this race, national Republican groups spent far more (nearly $14 million the NRCC, RNC, and Congressional Leadership Fund Super PAC) than national Dems did (about $6 million). According to NBC News, the total GOP price tag (NRCC, CLF, RNC) for the four recent special elections (Kansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Montana) was around $19 million versus $7 million for Democrats (DCCC, House Majority PAC, Patriot Majority).

What does that say? That Dems viewed the prospects of winning the traditional red seats pretty realistically, while the Repubs were clearly nervous.

Predictably, President Trump boasted about the Democrats loss this morning:

The comment about Dems working with Republicans in Congress is interesting in that the Repubs have literally shut the Dems out of any policy-making process.

More from the Twitterverse on last night's election.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Former NFL Player Ryan O’Callaghan Comes Out

Ryan O’Callaghan

In an deeply personal interview with Outsports, five-season NFL veteran Ryan O’Callaghan (New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs) came out of the closet having conquered years of suicidal thoughts.

O’Callaghan learned very quickly that football was the best place in the world for a gay teenager to hide. The brute, physical nature of the sport went against every stereotype of gay men he knew. At his size, few people would suspect he was gay, and if he was a football player on top of that, he felt his secret would be buried.

"No one is going to assume the big football player is gay," he said. "It’s why a football team is such a good place to hide.

So he dove into football and made a pact with himself: As long as he put on those pads, he was good to go. Once football was over, he’d take a gun to his head and end it all. That was the deal, and he would hold himself to it.

Watch the video interview below, but make sure you head over to the full article here.

News Round-Up: June 20, 2017

Lony Pizzaro via Instagram

Some news items you may have missed:

• It's 112 degrees here in Las Vegas - I can't imagine grilling in my backyard. So, I'll just look at fitness model Lony Pizarro tend to his grill ;)

• Virulently anti-LGBT activist Tony Perkins does NOT appreciate the irony that Rep. Steve Scalise, who has attended white nationalist events in the past, was saved at last week's DC shooting by a married, black lesbian.

• Barbie's boyfriend Ken got multiple makeovers including seven skin tones, three body types and even a man-bun. I wonder if Barbie knows all the Kens are attending Pride this year...?

Ken gets a makeover

• Ryan Phillippe reflects on playing the first openly gay teenager on TV: “There had never been a gay teenager represented on television up until that point: It’s before Will & Grace, it’s before Ellen came out, it’s before any of that stuff. I remember the fan mail that we would get, my mother and I would get, from gay teenagers or from parents of gay teenagers who found a way in to relate to or talk to their child through the show. Entertainment media can do those things, it can make people think differently or see a different side of something and I do remember and appreciating that — even back then when I was only a teenager myself. But in terms of like the larger view, I didn’t have a full understanding of how important it could have been, but I’m proud to have done it, I’m proud that that’s something I can say was a part of my career.”

• Asked why White House press briefings are becoming less frequent and off-camera, Trump advisor Steve Bannon replied to The Atlantic, "Sean (Spicer) got fatter."

• The woofy Kilted Coaches show their support for Pride Month via this "rainbow-y" (kilt-less) video:

New Music: Hercules & Love Affair - "Omnion" Feat. Sharon Van Etten

Hercules & Love Affair drop their new single release “Omnion” ft. Sharon Van Etten today, and the electronica collaboration is clearly the result of a mutual admiration society between the artists.

Balancing lithe and soothing vocals with a crackling rhythmic texture, “Omnion” is the title track of the act’s forthcoming fourth studio album, scheduled for release on September 1st via Big Beat Records.

Featuring vocals from New York singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten, the track is, according to Hercules front man Andy Butler, an ode to “a childlike dialogue with a higher entity voiced through the filter of a broken adult male.”

Speaking of Van Etten, Butler says, "I feel so blessed to have had Sharon Van Etten sing ‘Omnion.’ She is an artist of incredible depth and authenticity and her voice is so inviting yet truly has a mystery about it. Those qualities rendered a beautiful interpretation of a song that is ultimately an appeal to the divine for help and healing. With such a generous spirit and kindness about her, she was a joy to work with.”

Van Etten clearly shares the sentiment: "This song is so vulnerable, but strong. Coming to terms with identity and finding community... It's a very important time to share in that sentiment. I really appreciate Andy reaching out to collaborate. His heart beats in his songs.”

Check out "Omnion" below.

Trump's Approval Rating Drops To Lowest Level In CBS News Poll

CBS News Poll this morning shows President Trump with a 36% approval rating, his lowest in a CBS News Poll since he took office.

His disapproval rating stands at 57%.

The drop in approval comes, in great part, in an 11 point drop in support from Republicans, from 83% in April to 72% approval now.

Almost two out of three Americans (63%) disapprove of Trump's handing of the Russian investigation into interference in the 2016 election. Only 28% of those polled approve.

The poll also found 40 percent of Republicans now think it is at least somewhat likely the Trump campaign had improper contact with Russia, up from 25 percent in March.

Viral Video: Adult Elephants Jump Into Action When Baby Elephant Falls In Pool

This feel-good moment has gone viral on the interwebs today.

Watch the adults jump into action without pausing.

New York City To Host WorldPride 2019 To Coincide With 50th Anniversary Of Stonewall Riots

Via press release:

NYC & Company, New York City’s official destination marketing organization, today joined with Heritage of Pride, organizers of NYC Pride, to formally announce the two-year countdown to WorldPride 2019.

Set to take place in New York City in June 2019, the global celebration of Pride will coincide with the historic 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots—the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement—making it a year to underscore New York City’s progress and resilience as a global LGBTQ capital.

The announcement was made as New York City’s 2017 Pride celebrations are currently underway this week. A new invitational campaign, titled “One World, One Pride, One New York City – Unite in 2019” launched yesterday in New York City, with additional promotion and activations taking place in Madrid during the upcoming WorldPride celebrations there June 23–July 2.

“As a city with such a rich history of fighting inequality and an unwavering dedication to social progress, we are thrilled to host WorldPride 2019,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I can think of no better time to celebrate the LGBTQ community than on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall—a seminal moment in the struggle for inclusion and human rights that has reverberated across the country for decades.”

Click here for more info on WorldPride 2019 as well as NYC 2017 Pride.

HBO's Vice News Goes Inside Chechen Prison Where Gay Men Were Tortured & Killed

HBO's Vice News goes inside the prison in Chechnya where gay men were allegedly held, tortured and killed as part of the country's "anti-gay purge."

VICE News obtained exclusive access to the now-abandoned buildings where the local prison warden and his officers reportedly beat and tortured men they suspected of being gay. Human Rights Watch has confirmed that this site is at the center of their investigation into homophobic abuse in Chechnya.

Ayub Kataev, prison warden and head of the ministry of internal affairs, initially stuck to the official Chechen response: absolute denial, not only about abuse but even the existence of gay people. “We don’t think these people exist among us,” he told VICE News, accusing those who reported the story of seeking to destabilize Chechnya.

“My officers would not even want to touch such people, if they exist, let alone beating or torturing them.” Kataev continued, accusing both the victims and Human Rights Watch of lying. Kataev suggested that the men making claims of torture were doing so in order “to get asylum, to leave the country and obtain free foreign citizenship.”

At one point, Kataev lines up his officers and asks them, for the cameras, “Was there a single case when I told you to arrest some kind of gays? Have you even heard about them?”

It will not surprise you to learn they all obediently answer, "No."

Laverne Cox Shares Summer Schedule For CBS Series DOUBT

While Laverne Cox's nascent CBS series Doubt only ran for two episodes this past season, Cox shares the news that all remaining episodes will get airtime this summer on Saturday nights at 8PM beginning July 1.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Out Film: "God's Own Country"

One of the most talked about film's at this year's Sundance Film Festival was God's Own Country, the debut feature film from director Francis Lee which chronicles the story of a rural romance set in the lonesome hills of West Yorkshire.

The film has been compared to Brokeback Mountain, but that's neither a fair nor accurate oversimplification.

"I love Brokeback Mountain," Lee tells Empire. "The comparison feels like an honour, but they are very different. Brokeback is of a particular time and place – its two central characters can't be together because of society's attitudes. In God's Own Country, it's all to do with the central character's inability to open up."

The film follows Johnny Saxby (Josh O'Connor), a young farmer who is joined on his West Yorkshire farm by a gentle Romanian migrant worker, Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), when Johnny's father suffers a stroke. Working the farmlands, the two men find a quiet intimacy.

Due for release September 1st.

Video Highlights: Broadway Bares 2017 Raises $1.6 Million

Produced by and benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Broadway Bares: Strip U raised $1,568,114 in two performances on June 18, 2017 at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom.

Broadway Bares: Strip U was the 2017 edition of the striptease spectacular that is one of the hottest tickets in town each year.

At Broadway Bares 2017, a spirited audience of thousands went back to campus with stripped-down collegians who offered a sexy lacrosse scrimmage, Pavlovian psychology experiment, pumped-up pep rally and fierce feminist studies class.

Broadway Bares 2017 stripped away the fears of freshmen and saluted seniors as a journey across the Strip U campus took us to a seductive observatory, exploding chemistry lab, steamy fine arts class, frat party-turned-Greek god fantasy, a lesson in stiletto strutting and on a trip to Cuba for a sizzling semester studying abroad.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations.

By drawing upon the talents, resources, and generosity of the American theatre community, since 1988 BC/EFA has raised more than $285 million for essential services for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States.

CNN's Jim Acosta: White House Spokesman Sean Spicer Is "Kind Of Useless"

CNN's Jim Acosta is pretty much DONE with the lack of communication coming out of the White House these days.

Today saw the White House daily press briefing devolve into an off-the-air, no cameras, no audio recording "gaggle" where Spicer basically offered no answers to questions asked by the White House press corp.

“The White House press secretary is getting to a point, Brooke, where he’s just kind of useless,” Acosta told CNN's Brooke Baldwin. “You know, if he can’t come out and answer the questions and they’re not going to do this on camera or audio…why are we having these briefings or gaggles in the first place?”

According to Politico, Spicer is pushing to move into a new position that would oversee communications for the entire White House, advocating for a new press secretary to take his place. Fox News personality Laura Ingraham has apparently met with the powers that be in the Trump administration about the position.

The president hasn't held a true press conference since February.

Watch Acosta's justified frustrations below.

Have You Heard About The "New" Rainbow Flag?

You may have heard about the recent kerfuffle regarding the Pride folks in Philadelphia adding black and brown stripes to the Rainbow Flag in an effort to display inclusivity for black and brown LGBTs.

The new stripes opened a can of worms between those who appreciated the added inclusivity and those who think the flag was perfect as it is.

My thoughts?

Whatever gets your Pride on. I'm all about everyone being included. So, if you want to fly an 8 striped rainbow flag versus a six striped flag, have at it.

If you were to ask me which flag I prefer, I have to say the six striped version we've all come to love for 40+ years.

Why? Because as an artist I honor the flag that was designed with thought by LGBT activist Gilbert Baker. His flag was based on values, not race - Life, Healing, Sunlight, Nature, Serenity, Spirit.

Baker's flag was/is fundamentally inclusive of everyone already.

That said, over the years there have been other variations on the rainbow flag to represent certain groups within the LGBT tribe like the bear flag and the transgender flag.

Bear community flag

Transgender flag

At the end of the day, I say go with whatever flag gets your pride up. What matters to me is that everyone get out and proud and visible as your authentic, awesome selves.

Happy Pride, kids!

Watch out my buddy and radio host Joe Votruba share both sides of the (silly) argument.

Mark Your Calendars - Will & Grace Returns To NBC September 28

Will & Grace will return to NBC on September 28th as part of the peacock network's Thursday night "Must See TV" comedy block.

With Superstore slated for 8PM, followed by The Good Place at 8:30PM, the long-awaited Will & Grace revival will premiere at 9PM, and Great News will close out the laugh-fest.

News Round-Up: June 19, 2017

Facial hair didn't keep these two from finding gay bliss
(via Instagram)

Some news items you may have missed:

• A religious leader for Russia’s Old Believers is urging Russian men to stop shaving because growing a beard will “protect themselves from homosexuality.” The man has clearly never attended Bear Week.

• A straight man, who was the victim of anti-gay animus for years because his employers perceived him to be gay, has been awarded $17.4 million in a discrimination law suit.

• As the Texas legislature heads back to Austin for a special session called by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in part to consider an anti-transgender "bathroom bill," a new poll by the University of Texas/Texas Tribune shows only 44% of Texas voters feel the bill is "important" while 47% do not.

• No Justice No Pride, the group that temporarily disrupted the Capital Pride Parade in Washington, D.C., last week, say they are planning a similar action for the upcoming New York City Pride March this coming Sunday. The group opposes, among other things, allowing police officers to march in Pride parades, increasing the number of black and brown queer and trans on Pride committees and ending corporate sponsorships by companies that have a determined negative impact on the LGBTQ community.

• The New York City Council is considering a proposal that would make it illegal for anyone to charge a fee for therapy that aims to change a person's sexual orientation.

• MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle highlights the increasing number of anti-LGBTQ bills, noting that more than 100 bills in 29 states have been introduced in statehouses across the country. The majority of these bills target the transgender community, or aim to give taxpayer-funded agencies and employees a ‘license to discriminate’ against the LGBTQ community. Watch below.

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