Police Officer Resigns After Killing Daunte Wright

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Daunte Wright with his 2-year-old son Daunte Jr.. Photo from the Wright family.

By Terrance Turner

April 13, 2021

The Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an unarmed Black man this weekend has resigned. Kim Potter shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright on Sunday during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb. Today she submitted her resignation, effective immediately. Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon has also resigned.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the shooting happened around 2 pm Sunday at N. 63rd and Orchard avenues. Officers stopped Wright because his car had an expired tag. NBC News says Wright “also ran afoul of a Minnesota law that prohibits motorists from hanging air fresheners and other items from their rearview mirrors.”

When officers checked his name, they learned he had a warrant. According to Hennepin County District Court records, a warrant was issued on April 2 after Wright failed to appear in court. He was facing misdemeanor charges of carrying a pistol without a permit and of fleeing police. He was served a court summons, but a TikTok video by comedian Walter Masterson reveals a glaring error: “Daunte Wright had a warrant out for his arrest because the notice for the Zoom hearing was sent to the wrong address,” Masterson said.

That wasn’t the only mistake that police would make. Body camera footage shows three officers approach a white sedan. One officer opens the door, and Wright gets out of the car.
Wright is later shown with his hands behind his back. Another officer approaches while Wright is cuffed and touches his arm. Wright jerks away and tries to get back in the driver’s seat. A struggle ensues. Officer Potter can be heard saying, “I’ll tase you! Taser! Taser. Taser!” But the object pointed at Wright appears to be a gun.

“Holy s–t,” I just shot him,” Potter exclaims on the audio footage. Wright’s car sped off and crashed into another vehicle. Wright died at the scene.

“We train with our handguns on our dominant side and our taser on our weak side,” now-former Chief Gannon said to reporters after the shooting. (Meaning: a right-handed officer wears the firearm on his/her right side.) “As I watched the video and listened to the officer’s commands, it is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet.” (The Hennepin County medical examiner says Wright died of a gunshot wound to the chest.)

Somehow, Kim Potter confused her handgun with her Taser — a baffling mistake given her decades of experience. According to Axios, Potter had been with the Brooklyn Center Police Department for 26 years. She was initially placed on administrative leave after the shooting. But now she’s leaving the force for good. In a letter to city officials, Potter wrote: “I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department and my fellow officers if I resign immediately.”

Gannon has also submitted a resignation letter. But his explanation of Potter’s behavior doesn’t make sense to Daunte Wright’s grieving father. “I lost my son, he’s never coming back,” Daunte Wright’s father, Aubrey Wright, told ABC News’ Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview on “Good Morning America.” this morning. “I can’t accept that — a mistake, that doesn’t even sound right,” he added. “This officer has been on the force for 26 years. I can’t accept that.”

“He had a 2-year-old son that’s not going to be able to play basketball with him. He had sisters and brothers that he loved so much,” Daunte’s mother Katie Wright said. “He just had his whole life taken away from him. We had our hearts pulled out of our chests. He was my baby.”

Protests broke out last night in and around Minneapolis; a patrol officer says that about 40 people were arrested last night. Wright’s shooting has heightened already-high tensions in the city; the shooting took place just about 10 miles from where George Floyd was killed last year. The trial of his murderer, former officer Derek Chauvin, is happening now. And today, at a press conference that featured both the Floyd and Wright families, a heartbreaking revelation about the connection between them:

UPDATE (April 15, 2021): Kim Potter was charged yesterday with second-degree manslaughter in the killing of Daunte Wright. According to CBS Minnesota, Potter was arrested and then freed on $100,000 bond. She made her first court appearance today on manslaughter charges.

A manslaughter charge is defined by Minnesota law as “when someone acts with negligence, creating an unreasonable risk that causes death or great bodily harm.” If convicted, Potter faces up to 10 years in prison.

Julian Edelman Announces Retirement

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Photo from the Boston Globe.

By Terrance Turner

April 12, 2021

After 12 tumultuous seasons, Julian Edelman is calling it a career.

The Patriots wide receiver, 34, announced his retirement today, after the New England Patriots released him due to a failed physical. In a video posted on social media, Edelman made it official. Dressed in a black suit, he takes a seat right in the middle of the field in Gillette Stadium, then looks around as cheering crowds and exuberant announcers are heard in the background. He then looks into the camera and delivers the news.

“Nothing in my career has ever come easy and no surprise, this isn’t gonna be easy either,” Edelman said. “Now, I’ve always said I’m gonna go until the wheels come off — and they finally have fallen off. Due to an injury last year, I’ll be making my official announcement of my retirement from football.”

Edelman has been affected by a nagging injury for the past couple seasons. He had knee surgery in October, then tried to hop right back on the field in December — even though the Patriots were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. It wasn’t the first time that he’s tried to play through pain.

Born in the Bay Area, Edelman played football at Woodside High School, even though he weighed only about 100 pounds (per the San Francisco Chronicle). In an interview with the Boston Globe, his father frank Edelman remembered: “He was four-foot-nothing, just getting killed out there. And all I would say is, we kept our focus going year to year — let’s just be a better player, let’s keep our grades up, and let’s just focus on our task at hand. And then finally, at end of his junior year of high school, he added something like 50-60 pounds, he grew like eight inches . . . and everything began to turn.’’

Indeed. Edelman, who grew to 5’10”, played quarterback and led the Wildcats to a 13-0 record his senior year. He later played QB at Kent State University in Ohio, where he broke offensive records. He was the school’s leading rusher, racking up 13 touchdowns. It was only the start of what would be a record-breaking career.

Edelman was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2009. His first year was a struggle. By his dad’s count, the then-23-year-old Patriot rookie stayed on the field that 2009 season with a medical mishmash that included four hernias and a blown adductor muscle. “He would call me at night and say, ‘Oh, dad, I can’t even move.’ Just groaning,’’ the senior Edelman told the Boston Globe. “And I’d say, ‘Son, you are my hero, I don’t even care. . . . You have done enough.’ ’’

But he wasn’t done yet. Edelman evolved into one of New England’s best and most reliable receivers. His highlight-reel catches helped the Patriots to a dynasty: they won the Super Bowl in 2015, 2017, and 2019. His fourth-quarter touchdown reception put the Patriots ahead 28-24 to win over the Seattle Seahawks in 2015. And it was his dramatic on-the-ground catch (between three defenders!) that helped the Patriots pull off a dramatic comeback against the Falcons in 2017.

In 2019, Edelman had 10 catches for 141 yards in the Patriots 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams. His efforts earned him the Super Bowl MVP. He was the first wide receiver to be named MVP since Santonio Holmes in 2009. According to the Jerusalem Post, Edelman is the first Jewish player to become Super Bowl MVP.

Derek Chauvin Trial

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By Terrance Turner

March 26, 2021

Today, the trial of Derek Chauvin begins. Officer Chauvin killed George Floyd on May 25, 2020, by kneeling on his neck for over eight minutes. Despite Floyd’s repeated attempts to breathe and repeated requests for mercy, Chauvin continued to kneel on his neck until Floyd died.

The brutality of the death was recorded by bystanders. The footage of the murder spread like wildfire online and through news reports, sparking weeks of protests. Those protests spread throughout the country (including 60,000 protesters in Houston). They also spread overseas, with protests in Paris, in London, in Berlin.

This morning, the prosecution delivered its opening statement on the case. The prosecution noted that Floyd was approached by police over a fake $20 bill. He was threatened by officers, manhandled, shoved into a police car. “Chauvin at one point had his hands around Mr. Floyd’s neck in the squad car,” the prosecution says. “They pulled him out of the squad car, put him on the ground in a prone position, and that’s when the nine minutes and 29 seconds begins.”

Notably, prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell made the case that Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds — not the infamous original count of 8 minutes and 46 seconds. (Significantly, a number of activists, including Al Sharpton, kneeled outside the courthouse for 8 minutes and 46 seconds today.) But according to CNN, the opening statements of Chauvin’s criminal trial featured attorney Jerry Blackwell repeatedly emphasizing the new 9:29 timing, telling jurors they were the “three most important numbers in this case.”

“He broke down the timing of Chauvin’s kneeling into three sections: 4 minutes and 45 seconds as Floyd cried out for help, 53 seconds as Floyd’s flailed due to seizures and 3 minutes and 51 seconds as Floyd was non-responsive,” CNN added.

The prosecution played a video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, warning that the video is graphic. (For that reason, I will not be embedding the video here.) In the video, bystanders, both male and female, criticize the use of force by Officer Chauvin and the inaction of the officers nearby.

“He enjoying that s–t,” a man says on the video. “He enjoying that s—t.”

“You can’t even look me in the eye like a man, ’cause you a bum,” he says.

“His nose is bleeding,” says a woman nearby.

“He’s not even resisting arrest right now,” the man adds.

As Floyd expires, the people beseech the police to render aid. “Check his pulse!” they say. “Check his pulse.”

“Did they just kill him, bro?” a woman asks. “They just f–kin’ killed him.”

Instead of rendering aid to the man, Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd’s neck. Officer Tuo Thao stood by and watched, preventing bystanders from intervening.

“He’s heaving up his right shoulder,” the lawyer said, to expand his ribcage and allow himself room to breathe. He informed the courtroom that bystanders including Donnell Williams (heard speaking on the video) called the police — on the police. So did a major party: the prosecution revealed that a 911 dispatcher was so disturbed by the action that she did something she’d never done in her career — she called the police, on the police.

In the months after Floyd’s death, many have reported that he struggled with addiction, alleging he died of an overdose. But the prosecution firmly disputed that. “He died one breath at a time, over a long period of time,” said the prosecution. “You will learn that he did not die from a drug overdose, from an opioid overdose.” In an overdose, people appear asleep — in a stupor, the lawyer explained. 11 milligrams of fentanyl was in his system, he conceded. But that was not a lethal amount — in Floyd’s case.

The prosecution explains that Floyd had struggled with an opioid dependency for many years, and had developed tolerance to them. Counsel further states that “his behavior was not consistent with that of someone who died from an opioid overdose.”

The medical examiner said in a statement that George Floyd’s death was a homicide, which means “he died at the hands of another”. In detail, his death was a “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforment subdual restraint and neck compression,” the prosecution said. “All cardiopulmonary arrest means is that the heart stops and the lungs stop.” How did the incident occur? “Decedent experienced cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officers.”

How does injury or disease lead to death? There are five ways:

  • Natural
  • Accident
  • Suicide
  • Homicide
  • Undetermined

A heart attack is a “natural” death. A drug overdose is an example of an “accidental” death. If you can’t tell what happened, the death would be “undetermined”. The death only fit into one category, per the prosecution. “It wasn’t natural. Not accidental. Not suicide. Not undetermined. It was a homicide — death at the hands of another.”

He was a big guy — over 6’6″ — but his size is no excuse for any police abuse, counsel said. Floyd lived for years, day in, day out, with heart disease and substance dependency — until the one day that he didn’t. And he wasn’t just a figurehead or a martyr, the prosecution asserted; he was a person.

George Floyd was 46 years old. He was a father, brother, cousin and friend. He excelled in basketball and football. He moved to Minnesota for a fresh start. He worked as a security guard but lost his job when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. He was a COVID survivor, as it turns out.

Author Beverly Cleary Dies at 104

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By Terrance Turner

March 26, 2021

Beloved children’s books author Beverly Cleary died Thursday at her home in Carmel, California. She was 104.

Born Beverly Bunn on April 12, 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon, she lived on a farm in Yamhill. When she was 6, the family moved to Portland. She was a slow reader at first. “I had chicken pox, smallpox, and tonsillitis in the first grade, and nobody seemed to think that had anything to do with my reading trouble,” she later told the Associated Press. “I just got mad and rebellious.”

She had a breakthrough one rainy Sunday afternoon: “The outside world drizzled, the inside world was heavy with the smell of pot roast and my father’s Sunday after-dinner cigar, and I was so bored I picked up The Dutch Twins to look at the pictures. Suddenly I was reading and enjoying what I read! It was a miracle. I was happy in a way I had not been happy since starting school,” she wrote in her autobiography A Girl from Yamhill.

By the third grade, she enjoyed reading and spent much of her time with books from the public library. A teacher suggested that she write children’s books. The idea appealed to her. According to the Educational Books and Media Association, “In sixth grade Cleary wrote a story for a writing assignment about a little girl who goes to Bookland and talks with some of her favorite literary characters. She remembered in her autobiography that a “feeling of peace came over me as I wrote far beyond the required length of the essay. I had discovered the pleasure of writing.”

After her teacher, Miss Smith, read the story aloud, she exclaimed, “When Beverly grows up, she should write children’s books.” Miss Smith’s praise gave “direction to my life,” Cleary maintained, adding in More Junior Authors that the suggestion “seemed like such a good idea that I made up my mind that someday I would write books–the kind of books I wanted to read.”

In high school, Beverly studied journalism and wrote stories for the school newspaper. She went to Chaffey Junior College in Ontario, California. After graduating, she enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley. She graduated in 1938. A year later, she earned a degree of the University of Washington’s school of librarianship, becoming a children’s librarian in Yakima, WA.

In 1940, she married Clarence Cleary, whom she had met at Berkeley. Beverly’s parents disapproved of the couple (they were Presbyterian; he was Catholic). So the couple eloped and moved to San Francisco. While her husband served in the military, Mrs. Cleary sold children’s books and worked as a librarian. She became dissatisfied with the books available to children. So did the kids. One boy pointedly asked her: “Where are the books about kids like us?”

Mrs. Cleary wondered the same thing. “Why weren’t there more stories about children playing? Why couldn’t I find more books that would make me laugh?” she recalled in 1975. There weren’t any. So Beverly Cleary decided to write her own.

Inspired by her own childhood, Cleary began a collection of stories about children on Klickitat Street — an actual street in Portland, Oregon, where she grew up. The result was Henry Huggins (1950), a book about a third-grade boy. Henry adopts a stray dog, whom he names Ribsy because he’s so skinny that his ribs show. The book was a success — Kirkus called the book “enchanting” — and spawned several sequels, including Henry and Beezus (1952), featuring Henry’s friend Beatrice “Beezus” Quimby.

Beatrice’s younger sister Ramona was introduced in Henry Huggins almost as an afterthought. “All of the children appeared to be only children, so I tossed in a little sister and she didn’t go away. She kept showing up in every book,” Cleary remembered in a March 2016 interview.

Indeed, Ramona Quimby showed up in book after book: Henry and Ribsy (1954), Beezus and Ramona (1955), Henry and the Paper Route (1957), and Henry and the Clubhouse (1962). She would soon become one of Cleary’s most beloved characters.

Ramona had a supporting role in Beezus and Ramona — released the same year that Cleary gave birth to twins, Malcolm and Marianne. In the book, four-year-old Ramona annoys Beezus by scribbling all over her library book and disrupting a checkers game with Henry. She later ruins not one but two of Beezus’ birthday cakes. Beezus decides that she does not love her sister. But Beezus later hears her mother and Aunt Beatrice (her namesake) laughing about the trouble they caused each other growing up. After hearing the conversation, Beezus decides that it’s OK to dislike your sister every now and then.

Reviewer Heloise P. Mailloux called the story “a very funny book; its situations are credible, and it has a perceptive handling of family relationships that is unfortunately rare in easily read books.” Ramona also drew praise from reviewers. Writing in Horn Book, Ethel L. Heins called Ramona “one of the most endearing protagonists of children’s fiction,” while Publishers Weekly contributor Heather Vogel Frederick described her as “an indelible figure in the children’s book world since she burst on the scene.”

In Henry and the Paper Route (1957), Henry works doggedly to land a paper route, despite being under the age limit (all paper boys must be 11, and Henry’s ten-and-a-half). He eventually suceeds. But then he must contend with Ramona’s acts of sabotage. (She picks up the papers and throws them on other lawns because she, too, wants to be a “paper boy”.) Henry outsmarts her and continues with his route.

Henry dislikes Ramona, whom he sees as a pest. In Henry and the Clubhouse, however, Ramona follows Henry into a snowstorm when he is delivering papers. He feels sorry for her, so he loads Ramona on his sled and takes her home before going back into the storm to finish his route. Henry is commended for his kindness and responsibility and, at the end of the story, is given five dollars by his dad so he can buy the new sleeping bag he wanted.

As her children grew, Cleary wrote books around their lives and interests. According to the Educational Book Media Association, “she wrote four picture books–The Real Hole, Two Dog Biscuits, Janet’s Thingamajigs, and The Growing-up Feet–about four-year-old twins Janet and Jimmy, who are modeled on her children.” Her son Malcolm was fascinated with motorcycles and had trouble learning to read, so Cleary wrote a book that would hold his interest. The result: The Mouse and the Motorcyle (1965).

Ms. Cleary introduced the new character of Ralph S. Mouse (the S stands for “smart”), a mouse who lives in the Mountain View Inn. He befriends a young boy named Keith, whose parents Mr. and Mrs. Gridley are renting the room. Keith teaches Ralph how to ride his toy motorcycle. That puts Ralph on a series of wild adventures (he’s nearly vacuumed up, gets tossed out a window, and even ends up in a pile of sheets headed for the laundry). But when Keith gets sick, it is Ralph who brings up some aspirin and becomes the story’s hero. Writing in Young Readers Review, Phyllis Cohen commented, “This fantasy is so realistic that it is almost plausible” before concluding, “Even boys who do not care for fantasy may find this fantasy much to their liking.” 

From Morrow Books.

In Ramona the Pest (1968), Ramona Quimby at last became the star of her own story. It was the first book to feature her as the protagonist. In it, she begins kindergarten and tries to escape the “pest” label from her sister Beezus. As the series continued, Ramona slowly matures, and so does the subject matter.

In Ramona the Brave (1975), Mrs. Quimby goes from being a stay-at-home mom to being a part-time bookkeeper. In Ramona and her Father (1977), Ramona goes on a campaign to stop her father from smoking, which he does after losing his job. In Ramona and her Mother (1979), Ramona’s mother goes to work full-time so that Mr. Quimby can go back to school. After hearing their parents fight, Ramona and Beezus become convinced that their parents are headed for divorce. But the next morning, her parents have breakfast at the table, as if nothing has happened. They assure their daughters that they are sometimes short-tempered, but still love each other.

Cleary broke from her typical style with Dear Mr. Henshaw (1983). It centers on Leigh Botts, a sixth-grader distraught by his parents’ divorce. He misses his father, who works as a cross-country trucker. He seeks solace by writing to his favorite author; in the process, he reveals a lot about himself. He misses his father (and his dog Bandit, who travels with Dad); he’s often alone while his mother works part-time and studies nursing; he’s made no new friends. The author suggests he keep a diary, which he does; he eventually wins an honorable mention in a short-story contest.

The book earned praise from reviewers, who noted its sensitivity and depth. Natalie Babbitt of the New York Times Book Review, said that Cleary “has written many very good books over the years. This one is the best. It is a first-rate, poignant story in the forms of letters and a diary–a new construction for a Cleary book–and there is so much in it, all presented so simply, that it’s hard to find a way to do it justice.” According to the EBM Association, Babbitt concluded, “What a lovely, well-crafted, three-dimensional book this is.” Dear Mr. Henshaw won the Newbery Medal in 1984, one of the most prestigious prizes for children’s literature.

Cleary continued to write and receive honors throughout the 1980s. Britannica notes that Cleary published the memoirs A Girl from Yamhill (1988) and My Own Two Feet (1995). She concluded the Ramona series — and her career — with Ramona’s World (1999), written 15 years after its predecessor Ramona Forever. In that book, Ramona finds herself nine years old, with a new baby sister and a potential new crush. It was to be Cleary’s last book.

In a March 2016 interview, the author explained why she’d hung up her typewriter, saying that “it’s important for writers to know when to quit.”

Cleary’s husband died in 2004. She is survived by her children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. And her books, read by many (I devoured the Ramona series as a child) will live on forever.

A selection of Cleary’s books. Photo from the Associated Press.

Demi Lovato Tells Her Harrowing Story in “Dancing with the Devil”

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By Terrance Turner

March 23, 2021

Two hours ago, “Dancing with the Devil”, a searing documentary about singer Demi Lovato, premiered on YouTube. The first two parts of the four-part documentary have been released today; the third and fourth installments will follow in coming weeks. In the film, Lovato explains the causes and events leading up to her near-fatal overdose in July 2018.

The doc begins with footage of Lovato’s 2018 “Tell Me You Love Me” tour, titled after her album of the same name. The footage was originally filmed as part of a documentary around the tour — a film that was never finished. Filming halted after her overdose.

“The US tour was absolutely a dream come true, obviously, professionally,” says former choreographer Dani Vitale. “But emotionally, it was miserable.”

Demi admits that she wasn’t being totally forthcoming in the film — “I wasn’t showing them what I was doing behind closed doors.” In a chilling moment, her mother Dianna de la Garza congratulates Demi on a great show, unaware of the turmoil behind the scenes.

“I think this was the best show you have ever done, and you know what? It’s just only going to get better from here,” her mother says, one month before Demi’s overdose. Demi was hospitalized on July 24th; the 2018 documentary was permanently shelved. Then she stepped away from the spotlight and all filming was halted…until now.

“This is the first time where we’re really telling the truth,” says Sirah, Demi’s best friend and former sober companion. And Demi Lovato does just that, with a series of searing revelations that expose the truth behind her near-lethal OD. 

“Any time that you suppress a part of yourself it’s going to, like, overflow at some point,” Demi says. “And that’s ultimately, like, what happened to me in a lot of areas of my life, and it was what led to my overdose, for sure.”

“Dancing with the Devil” began filming in spring 2020. Accordingly, we see a “Temperature Checkpoint” sign on the premises, along with masked crew members sanitizing the stations. Even Demi and her parents are shown wearing masks, as the project began filming just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning. Demi later remarks that it took until quarantine for her to confront her traumas.

Part of that “trauma work” starts with untangling her relationship with her late father. He was bipolar and struggled with alcoholism, which ruined his marriage and his relationship with Demi. “We had an estranged relationship, so we weren’t close. And growing up my whole life I longed for that relationship with him, and then I resented him because he was an addict and an alcoholic and was abusive to my mom,” Demi says. “I cut him out because I felt like, you know, it was causing more harm than good to have him in my life.”

“His death was very complicated, because we don’t actually know the exact day that he died,” Demi says in the film. “All we know is that by the time he was found, his body was too decomposed to have an open casket. He’d been laying there, I think, for about a week and a half. And during that was Father’s Day. So every summer now that rolls around, I spend it kind of thinking, ‘Was today the day that my dad died? Or is it tomorrow?’ And also knowing that by the time Father’s Day rolls around, he was just laying there rotting. And that was the fear that I always had for him is that he would end up alone. And he did. He died alone.”

Sadly, Demi Lovato found herself repeating the same behaviors as her father. “Mental health is something that we all need to talk about, and we need to take the stigma away from it,” an emotional Lovato says in 2018 concert footage. “Six years ago, I was drinking vodka out of a Sprite bottle at 9:00 in the morning, throwing up in the car. And I just remember thinking, “This is no longer cute; this is no longer fun, and I’m just like my dad.”

“I definitely think that she had some things that were underlying that she was trying to self medicate, just like I was trying to do when I was kicking Xanax. I was trying to self medicate,” says her mother, Dianna de la Garza. “You know, she was around for some of the abuse from my first husband, and sometimes I feel like that stayed with her for many years[…] I didn’t know that she probably needed to work with a professional to work through some of that.”

Demi’s mother Dianna de la Garza and stepdad Eddie de la Garza appear in the film.

“I also felt a lot of guilt over the years,” Demi says, “because I’ve been such an advocate for mental health. Yet here was my father who had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and then on top of that the disease of addiction, and I didn’t help him the way I would have helped other people — or the way that I’ve been preaching about. And that really ate up at me. But ultimately, I know that he was kind of too far gone at that point; he needed to realize that he needed help himself.” 

“Sobriety has to be your choice, and no one else’s,” her mother says. “If it is someone else’s choice for you, then it won’t last. I tried to get him to get help and I wasn’t able to make that happen; he just — he wasn’t ready.”

Demi Lovato inherited many of her parents’ issues — drug and alcohol addiction from her father, an eating disorder from her mother. As Demi explains: “My mom has dealt with substances and an eating disorder, so I didn’t know any different. Then I was put in beauty pageants, where it’s extremely competitive and it’s all about your looks and your talent. My self-esteem was just completely damaged from those beauty pageants. I remember actually making a pact with myself saying, ‘If I don’t win this pageant, I will never eat again.’ Then you put me in front of a camera and on stage, and it’s just like, of course I’m going to be super-competitive and try to be the best at everything that I do.”

In an effort to keep her demons at bay, Lovato surrounded herself with professionals who could help her stay sober and maintain a healthy relationship with food. But that created an environment in which she felt stifled and controlled. “My team has consisted of assistants, a wellness coach, a dietitian, nutritionist, therapist… I’ve got all these people in and out of my life. I feel like decisions have been made for me more so than I’ve made decisions for myself,” Demi says in the unreleased 2018 documentary footage.

Demi Lovato in a still from “Dancing with the Devil.” (Photo from Wonderland Magazine.)

“It wasn’t until the last few years that I really fully realized the impact that even disorders have had on her. We had to be very careful what we ate around her, which sounds insane. But maybe some control that she had with her last team was put in place to help her so she wouldn’t relapse in her eating disorder. But it totally backfired,” says her friend Matthew Scott Montgomery. “The control and restriction was way too toxic for her. She was miserable.”

“There were times I had to spend the night because she, like, had a cookie,” says former assistant Jordan Jackson. Former choreographer Dani Vitale adds, “I felt like I was always walking on eggshells no matter what: what I was eating around who, what we had in our dressing room, what kind of food…” 

“It was very intense. Everybody around her had to be drug-tested,” says Sirah. Jackson adds, “There were times where I just felt like, ‘She’s miserable’.”

In a telling moment from the 2018 doc, Demi complains about not feeling comfortable with her body after having gained a small amount of weight. She says that the costumes for the tour are an issue, as are the costume sketches: “I don’t wanna go onstage every night in things that are showy[…]Everything looks good on a sketch because it’s a 10-foot, 90-pound model with a five-inch waist.” 

“There’s just so much pressure as a female in the industry to look a certain way and to like, dress a certain way,” Demi says, her voice breaking, in the clip. “That s–t’s really triggering.”

In addition to the pressure from the industry, Demi felt enormous pressure to be sober — and be the poster child for recovery. Dallas Lovato recalls: “It was hammered into her head, ‘You have to be sober. You have to be this icon, this role model,’ that my sister never claimed to want to be in the first place.” 

Demi echoes that sentiment: “Because I’ve been so open and honest about the things that I dealt with, I felt like I had to be this perfect role model,” she says. Her sober companion adds, “I think to be the poster child for perfection and mental health and all these kind of things, it’s just such a dangerous slippery slope.” Matthew Scott Montgomery, her best friend, says that Demi’s next moves were about agency for herself, but he also describes them as “a major act of rebellion.”

The issues with food and control slowly gave way to a relapse: first with the eating disorder, then drinking, then drugs. The result was a spiral that nearly turned deadly.

“I started relapsing in my eating disorder,” Demi confesses. “I was already relapsing in it with over-exercising and extreme dieting, and I also had people around me that were really policing my food intake and the things that I was eating. I was miserable, and I, like, snapped.”

Demi Lovato began to unravel. Footage from a March 16th 2018 concert shows DJ Khaled emphatically celebrating Demi for marking six years of sobriety. “God bless you,” he says. “Don’t ever give up.” The audience cheers as Demi breaks into tears.

Demi relapsed a month after the show.

“I had a photoshoot, and I just remember being at the photoshoot thinking to myself: ‘Like, I don’t even know why I’m sober anymore. Like, I am so miserable; I’m not happy; I have all this stuff that I’m dealing with…’ I picked up a bottle of red wine that night, and it wasn’t even 30 minutes before I called someone that I knew had drugs on them. I’m surprised I didn’t OD that night.” 

“I ended up at a party. I just so happened to run into my old drug dealer from six years before and, like the odds of that happening was crazy. And he had like, a duffel bag, and I just went to town. I went on a shopping spree. That night I did drugs that I’d never done before. I’d never done meth before; I tried meth; I mixed it with molly, with coke, weed, alcohol, Oxycontin — and that alone should have killed me.” 

“It was only like two weeks before I was introduced to heroin and crack cocaine. I started using recreationally, and obviously you can’t do that with heroin before you become addicted to it,” Demi says. “It wasn’t until I went on a trip to Bali a few weeks later that I realized I had become physically dependent on it, and it was on that trip that I actually wrote ‘Sober.'”

In the poignant single, Demi sings, “Mama, I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymore/And daddy, please forgive me for the drinks spilled on the floor […] I’m sorry that I’m here again, I promise I’ll get help/It wasn’t my intention, I’m sorry to myself.”

People within her orbit sensed what was going on. In a remarkable bit of foreshadowing, a blonde woman hugs Demi during the tour and counsels her. “Hey, be careful on tour,” she tells Demi in the 2018 clip. “I don’t know why, but I just like, felt like I needed to tell you that ever since I was at your house.” 

Okay,” Demi smiles. 

“Be careful,” the woman reminds her. 

“I’m always careful,” Demi responds. Indeed, she was careful — not to let anyone know what was really going on with her. But her sober companion soon found out the truth.

Sirah remembers a night at Demi’s house where Demi disappeared. Sirah went upstairs to the bathroom. “And she’s got tinfoil and she’s smoking… something. And so I walk over to her and I grab it and I’m like, ‘WTF are you up to, bro? Like, this is not it.” And she didn’t even notice I was there. And I was horrified and devastated. So I stayed there and just made sure she didn’t like, you know, kill yourself. The next day I just told her, “You need to go get help. I can’t do this anymore.” 

But help was a long way away. Demi informed her inner circle of her plans to resume drinking. Her cool, controlled demeanor belied the danger of that plan. “So when she had texted in 2018 and was talking about deciding to drink again,” says Matthew, “I remember driving to her house running by her side, and I expected her to be face down, ass up, passed out on the floor…. And she was kind of sitting in bed, very aware of the decision that she’d made, and then she was drinking and fine… until it wasn’t fine.”

By the time Demi went on tour, she was already not fine. “I went away, went on tour to Europe. I stayed clean, kind of — like, wasn’t doing drugs, but was drinking a lot.” In Amsterdam on June 19, 2018, she’s seen downing a glass of wine and demanding a shot. “I want to get f—-d up!” she yells. A shot is poured in her mouth. “More!” she insists, right in the face of the pourer. 

Demi remembers that the drinking eventually escalated to harder drugs. “When I came back to LA, after the tour, I picked up back where I left off, and I was very heavily using.” At the California Mid-State Fair on July 22, 2018, she begins performing ‘Sober’ and then pauses. “I forgot the words,” she admits, then turns and walks off stage.

The next day, Demi Lovato began a binge that would alter the course of her life. Demi remembers: “I went out to a friend’s party and none of my friends knew what I was using so I kept it very hidden from everyone. That is one thing that I was very good at, was hiding the fact that I was addicted to crack and heroin.”

“Demi is very good at hiding what she needs to hide,” her sister Madison says. “Demi’s good at making you believe that she’s okay,” adds her stepdad Eddie. But Demi’s spiral into dangerous drug use wouldn’t stay hidden for long.

 “I had told some friends, ‘Hey, I’ve been sober since I was 18; I want to try this drinking/smoking thing. I just want to see if I can handle it. And I’ve been stir crazy… and I want to see if I can do it. So to them, I wasn’t doing these hard drugs; I was just ‘normal’ again,” she said, using finger quotes. 

“I met up with some friends; we went to several different bars. We came back to my house, and around 5:30 in the morning, I said I was going to bed. But the reality was that I had called one of my dealers over.” 

At 11:22 a.m., on July 24, 2018, a call was made to 911. We can hear the 911 dispatch call in the documentary and that’s how Part One ends. 

Beyonce Makes Grammy History with “Black Parade”

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Photo courtesy

By Terrance Turner

March 14, 2021

BREAKING NEWS: Beyonce is now the most decorated artist in Grammy history.

Just minutes ago, Beyonce won the Grammy for Best R&B Performance for her song “Black Parade”, which she co-wrote. With this win, she now has 28 Grammy Awards — more than any other artist, male or female. Grammy host Trevor Noah emphasized this historic moment after Beyonce’s name was called.

As the audience applauded her historic achievement, Beyonce sat with her hands over her (masked) mouth, stunned by the honor. Upon reaching the podium, she called the moment overwhelming. “This is so overwhelming,” she said. “I’ve been working my whole life, since I was nine years old. I just can’t believe this. This is such a magical night. Thank you,” she said.

But she also reflected on why she wrote the song. “As an artist, I believe our job is to reflect the times,” Beyonce said, noting that these times are especially difficult for so many. “I wanted to uplift, encourage, and celebrate all of the beautiful Black queens and kings that continue to inspire me and inspire the whole world.” She noted, “I know my daughter is watching tonight — my two daughters and a son…My daughter won her first Grammy tonight,” she beamed. (The award was for her appearance in Beyonce’s “Brown Skin Girl” video.) Beyonce thanked her children, her fans, and her husband (“my ROCK”) in her brief remarks.

“Black Parade” addresses Black and African culture, reparations, the COVID-19 pandemic, and police brutality (the latter two issues disproportionately impact Black people). “Ankh charm on gold chains, with my Oshun energy,” Beyonce sings, “or the Dashiki print”. (According to an analysis in Elle, ‘Ankh’ is a symbol deriving from Ancient Egypt, and ‘Oshun’ is the Nigerian Yoruba goddess of femininity, love, sensuality and fertility.)

According to the website for Black-owned clothing line D’Iyanu, the dashiki originated in West Africa and dates back as far as the 12th-13th century. It came into fashion in the United States during the 1960s as a symbol of Afrocentrism and Black pride. The lyrics also reference the universally recognized “Black Power” salute, which also become a Black pride symbol in the 1960s and 1970s. “Raise your fist in the air, show Black love,” Beyonce says.

The lyrics also reference civil rights and the protests that continue across this country in support of Black lives. “Trust me, they gon’ need an army/Rubber bullets bouncin’ off me/
Made a picket sign off your picket fence/Take it as a warning,” she continues. “Stroll line to the barbeque/Put us any damn where, we gon’ make it look cute/Pandemic fly on the runway, in my hazmat/Children runnin’ through the house and my art, all black.”

“Need another march, lemme call Tamika (Woo). Need peace and reparation for my people,” Beyoncé continues. “Tamika” is a reference to Tamika Mallory, a Black female activist who helped organize the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. (She also served as co-president of the 2019 Women’s March, according to the New York Times.) Reparations for slavery have been a long-held but never-fulfilled request from many Black activists.

“We got rhythm/We got pride/We birth kings/We birth tribes,” Beyonce sings. “Motherland, motherlands, drip on me/I can’t forget my history is herstory, yeah…Here I come on my throne, sittin’ high/Follow my parade.”

“Black Parade” was released on the historic Black holiday of Juneteenth, which originated in Beyoncé’s home state of Texas. The holiday celebrates the emancipation of slaves in 1865, as the Civil War was ending. On June 19, 1865, slaves in Texas learned that they were free, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The song arrived just hours after Beyoncé unveiled a new “Black Parade” initiative on her website.

Displayed on the website is a dizzying, dazzling directory of Black-owned businesses. The categories encompass art and design, fashion and lifestyle, bars and restaurants. The song “Black Parade” benefits her foundation BeyGOOD’s Black Business Impact Fund, administered by the National Urban League, to support Black-owned small businesses in need. And it is this song, dedicated to her people, that helped Beyonce make Grammy history.

Inside Aaron Rodgers’ Shocking Engagement

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By Terrance Turner

Feb. 23, 2021

Aaron Rodgers shocked the world on Feb. 6.

During his acceptance speech for the MVP award at the NFL Honors, Rodgers reflected on 2020 and casually dropped a bombshell: “I got engaged, and I played some of the best football of my career.” He later thanked his fiancée in his acknowledgements, though he did not name her.

Now, we know who the lucky lady is: Big Little Lies actress Shailene Woodley. She confirmed the news last night, during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. When Fallon asked her directly, Woodley answered affirmatively: “Yes. We are engaged.”

The world was shocked by the announcement of their betrothal — after a whirlwind six-month romance. But Woodley doesn’t get why everyone is so surprised. “But for us it’s not new news. So it’s kind of funny. Everybody right now is freaking out over it and we’re like, ‘Yeah, we’ve been engaged for awhile,’” said Woodley. (Maybe people are “freaking out” because of the breakneck escalation of their relationship? Rodgers broke up with racecar driver Danica Patrick in July but got engaged to Woodley by February.)

But if Woodley’s comments are any indication, this betrothal may have been official for some time: “Yeah, we got engaged awhile ago and it’s been … he’s, first off, a wonderful, incredible human being. But I never thought I’d be engaged to somebody who threw balls for a living. But I never thought as a little girl, ‘Yeah, when I grow up I’m going to marry someone who throws balls, yeah!’ But he’s really just so good at it,” she said. “He can throw fast balls, he can throw slow balls, high balls, low balls.” (Indeed: Rodgers had a 70.7% completion percentage in 2020, throwing 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions. So he throws balls very well indeed.)

Fallon then asked her if she’s spent much time in Green Bay and if she is a football fan. “I didn’t really grow up with sports, especially American sports. It was never really on my radar,” she explained. “When we met, also, I knew he was a football guy, but I didn’t know like what kind of a football guy he was. And I’m still constantly learning.”

Despite Rodgers’ legendary career — he took Green Bay to the NFC Championship this year and led Green Bay to a Super Bowl in 2010 — Woodley doesn’t know much about football. “I still have never been to a football game,” Woodley said. That includes this past season: because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Packers stadium was closed. And before she met Rodgers, she hadn’t even watched a game on TV. “Before I met him, I’d never seen one football game,” she said.

“When we met, I knew he was a football guy, but I didn’t know what kind of a football guy he was,” said Woodley. “I am still constantly learning. I don’t get it. He’s good. He’s great. But, like, I don’t understand. Because I don’t know him as the football guy! I know him as like, the nerd who wants to host Jeopardy! That’s the dude I know. He just happens to also be very good at sports.”

The engagement took many by surprise, but E! Online quoted a source who echoed Woodley’s nonchalance. “It’s a quick engagement, but for those that know them, it didn’t come as a surprise.” The source added:  “They had a very intense connection from the beginning. They both knew early on that it was something special and different from what they had experienced in other relationships.” The source also revealed: “They have spent the entire fall together and lived together throughout.”

The engagement is remarkable not just for its rapid pace but for the unusually private way that it unfolded. The two have yet to even be photographed together! Elle magazine described their relationship as “private and low-key” in an article earlier this month. Also remarkable: the sudden shift in Rodgers’ closely guarded personal life. Rodgers, who turned 37 last year, has never married and has no children. For viewers like me, who thought of him as a career-centered, eternal bachelor, the news comes as a shock.

Until now, Rodgers was something of a statistical anomaly. According to the 2015 American Community Survey, 72% of men will marry by age 37. And 76% of men are married by 40. According to a 2009 data brief by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The probability that men will marry by age 40 is 81%; for women, it is 86%.”

Cicely Tyson: In Memoriam

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By Terrance Turner

Jan. 28, 2021

Legendary actress Cicely Tyson has died. She was 96.

Tyson’s family announced the passing. “With a heavy heart, the family of Miss Cicely Tyson announces her peaceful transition this afternoon. At this time, please allow the family their privacy,” they said, in a statement issued through Tyson’s manager, Larry Thompson.

Just last Tuesday, Tyson filmed an emotional interview with journalist Gayle King. Just yesterday, Tyson appeared on CBS News, discussing her memoir Just As I Am — a 400-page chronicle of her remarkable life and career.

Tyson’s memoir, Just As I Am, was just published this week. (Photo from Harper Collins.)

Born on Dec. 18, 1924 to immigrant parents from the West Indies, Tyson was born and raised in Harlem, New York. Her mother was a domestic worker; her father was a carpenter and painter. They separated when Tyson was 10. She was raised by her mother, a strict Christian who forbade movies or even dating, according to the New York Times.

Cicely Tyson soon became a mother herself. She became pregnant at 17 and had a baby girl. Tyson raised her daughter, whom she calls “Joan” in the book, entirely out of the spotlight; indeed, many readers may not know she had a child at all. But she describes her daughter’s birth and upbringing (and the way her career affected Jane) in detail. Tyson said she and her daughter “continue to work on our relationship, as fragile as it is precious,” and she dedicated the book to her: “the one who has paid the greatest price for this gift to all.” According to the Washington Post, Tyson was forced to marry her child’s father at 18; they divorced long before she found a job typing at the Red Cross.

Then, on a fateful day in 1954 during her lunch break, a “Black man decked out in a business suit and a scarlet bowtie tapped me on the shoulder.” Struck by her beauty, he asked if she was a model. It was the kind of happenstance interaction anyone would likely write off as a weird New York City occurrence. But Tyson calls it a “love note from heaven.” The inquiry jump started a new chapter in her life.

She became a model, appearing in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. But she wanted to be an actress. Her mother wouldn’t have it. She kicked Cicely out, citing concerns over a “casting couch”. Nevertheless, she persisted. Tyson’s first role was on NBC’s “Frontiers of Faith” in 1951.

In 1961, Tyson appeared with James Earl Jones, Louis Gossett, Jr., and Maya Angelou in Jean Genet’s play The Blacks. It became the longest-running off-Broadway play of the decade, running for 1,408 performances. Tyson’s portrayal of Stephanie Virtue garnered the attention of actor George C. Scott. He suggested she play his assistant on the the gritty CBS drama East Side/West Side (1963-64). The Hollywood Reporter noted that this role “made her perhaps the first African-American actress to have a continuing role on a network series”.

Throughout the 1960s, Tyson appeared in several films, including A Man Called Adam (1966), The Comedians (1967) and Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968). But the role she took four years later would change everything.

Tyson played Rebecca Morgan, a sharecropper’s wife, in Martin Ritt’s drama Sounder (1972). In the film, her husband (played by Paul Winfield) is imprisoned for stealing food for his children. Rebecca becomes head of household, cleaning houses, caring for children, and tilling fields. And when her husband returns, she greets him joyously, running down the road to embrace him.

Critics took notice. Rebecca was “the first great black heroine on screen,” said film critic Pauline Kael. “She is visually extraordinary. Her cry as she runs down the road toward her husband, returning from prison, is a phenomenon—something even the most fabled actresses might not have dared.”

For her performance in Sounder, Cicely Tyson was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She lost to Liza Minnelli, who won for Cabaret. But Tyson nonetheless made history. For the first time, three Black actors were nominated for Oscars in leading roles. (Winfield was nominated Best Actor for Sounder. Also nominated for Best Actress: Diana Ross, for Lady Sings the Blues.)

Tyson later said that Sounder changed her approach to acting. A white journalist interviewed her for a story and said he was “uncomfortable” when one of the children called Winfield “Daddy” in the film. Tyson later recalled the moment in an interview with Gayle King. “I said, ‘Do you have children? What do they call you?’ He said, ‘They call me Daddy,'” Tyson remembered. “And I thought, ‘My God. This man is thinking that we’re not human beings.’ And I made up my mind that I could not afford the luxury of just being an actress.”

Tyson decided she would only take roles that conveyed the dignity and humanity of Black people. It would be her platform. “I saw that I could not afford the luxury of just being an actress. So I made the choice to use my career as a platform to address the issues of the race I was born into,” Tyson told The New York Times in 2013.

Tyson’s next part would take her to even greater heights. At 50, she took on the greatest role of her career — in the CBS telefilm The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974). Tyson played the title role: a woman who was born before the Civil War, witnesses its ravages, and lives to see the unrest of the civil rights movement. Then, a century old, she defies segregation by sipping from a “Whites Only” water fountain.

The role required Tyson to range from ages 23 to 110. She spent six hours in the makeup chair to age convincingly, per Newsday. She visited nursing homes to study the halting speech and shaking hands typical of old age. The work and preparation paid off: Tyson drew raves for her performance. The New York Times wrote that Tyson “absorbs herself completely into Miss Jane, in the process creating a marvelous blend of sly humor, shrewd perceptions and innate dignity. Following the film ‘Sounder’, ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’ firmly establishes Cicely Tyson as a major American actress.”

Tyson became the first African-American to win a lead actress Emmy Award when she was recognized for her astonishing performance. She won Best Actress in a Special and, in a fitting tribute, Actress of the Year.

Tyson poses with her two Emmys for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Photo from PBS.

“I was madly in love with Jane Pittman. She was so fabulous,” Tyson later recalled.

Image
Tyson and Davis at the NAACP Image Awards in 1981. Photo from Twitter (@EricaBuddington).

But Tyson was also madly in love with a legendary man. For over two decades, she had a passionate but tempestuous relationship with iconic jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. It was a relationship marked by anger, violence, and philandering — but also deep truth and tenderness.

In her memoir, Tyson wrote that their conversations were “rippled with honesty, with depth of understanding. There is a love that gently guides your palm toward the small of another’s back, a care that leads you to ensure no harm ever comes to that person. From the beginning, that is the love I had for Miles. That is the soft place where our connection rested its head.”

The two met in 1965, according to USA Today. They were on and off for nearly two decades before reuniting in their fifties. They married on Thanksgiving Day 1981.

Tyson nursed Davis back to health after years of drug abuse that took a toll on his health. But Davis continued to struggle with addiction. His behavior was unpredictable; his temper was volatile. In her memoir, Tyson writes that Davis was unfaithful and even abusive. In a revealing interview with the New York Times, Tyson revealed that Davis once punched her in the chest after a minor misunderstanding. The transcript of the conversation is replicated, in part, below:

NYT: You dropped a knife on the floor.

Tyson: Yes, and he thought I threw the knife on the floor because of something he said. I hadn’t even been listening to what he was saying. And he came to me, yes he did, and he punched me in the chest. That’s the only time he ever struck me […]

People don’t behave in that way for no reason. It comes from something or someplace. And nine times out of 10, it’s because they have been deeply hurt. The way people would refer to Miles, ‘He’s bad, he’s this, he does that’ — not in a vacuum, he doesn’t. Nine times out of 10, the abuse came out when he was under the influence of the drugs, of the alcohol.”

But drugs were really but one of the couple’s problems. Davis’ mercurial temper accompanied a wandering eye. It was the cheating that ultimately drove them apart. The Los Angeles Times reports that Tyson left Davis in late 1987, after she found out about another affair. Their marriage unofficially ended at the door to their Upper West Side apartment; Davis tried to stop Tyson from leaving and she grabbed him by the back of his hair, she writes. “By the time he struggled free, I was holding a whole bushel of his weave in my right hand. I hurled it to the ground, marched out the door and slammed it shut.” The divorce was finalized in 1989.

Two years later, Davis was dead, ravaged by organ failures due to his addiction. In the end, Davis felt remorse for his behavior and made amends. Perhaps that’s why Tyson remembered him fondly and with compassion. She told the Times: “I got to know the soul of a man who is as gentle as a lamb. He covered it up with this ruthless attitude because he was so shy. And in trying to be the kind of tough person that people thought he was, he ruined his life. Yes, gentle as a lamb, you hear me? That’s the Miles Davis I knew.

When he was dying, a friend of mine went to the hospital to see him, and he was trying to tell her something. But he had had surgery, and she couldn’t understand what he was trying to say to her. The nurse came in and said to my friend, ‘Why don’t you go for a walk and come back in about 45 minutes, and he will be able to talk to you.’ So she went for a walk. And she came back to the hospital, and he was able to talk loudly enough to tell her this: ‘Tell Cicely I’m sorry. Tell her I’m very, very sorry.’

“Basically, it was complicated,” she said. “But a love story nonetheless.”

Their complicated history may explain why Tyson was often reticent to speak about him. She initially stonewalled CNN’s Don Lemon when he asked if Davis was the love of her life. But now, we have an answer. “I was in love with him,” she told Gayle King.

House Votes to Impeach Trump — Again (Updated)

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By Terrance Turner

Jan. 13, 2021

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) walking to the House Floor for a vote at the U.S. Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives voted 232-197 to impeach Donald Trump. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have cast votes to impeach President Trump again in a historic first, according to CNN. The final vote was 232-197. “On this vote, the ayes are 232; the nays are 197. The resolution is adopted,” said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, banging her gavel. The impeachment resolution charges Trump with a single article, “incitement of insurrection,” for his role in last week’s deadly Capitol riot.

In the end, 232 House members voted to impeach the President, including 10 (!) Republicans. They are: Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Rep. John Katko (N.Y.), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Rep. Peter Meijer (Mich.), Rep. Dan Newhouse (Wash.), Rep. Tom Rice (S.C.), Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.), and Rep. David Valadao (Calif.). “This is the most bipartisan impeachment vote in the history of the United States,” said CNN reporter Phil Mattingly.

The next step is a trial. But the soonest Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell would start an impeachment trial is next Tuesday, the day before Trump is set to leave the White House, McConnell’s office told the Associated Press. Though Trump won’t be convicted before his term is up, impeachment is also intended to prevent Trump from ever running for office again. (If convicted, Trump would lose funding for traveling and office staff, according to lawyer and View co-host Sunny Hostin. Trump would also lose the presidential pension: $200,000 a year, for life.)

McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable offenses, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press on Wednesday. McConnell told major donors over the weekend that he was through with Trump, said the strategist. But in a note to colleagues Wednesday, McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote.”

As soon as the gavel came down, Trump became the only President in history to be impeached twice. The vote took place after hours of vigorous and often heated debate.

At around 11:15 am, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi opened debate with a poignant seven-minute speech. In her remarks, Pelosi noted that “in his annual address to our predecessors in Congress in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln spoke of the duty of the Patriot, in an hour of decisive crisis for the American people. ‘Fellow citizens,’ he said, ‘we cannot escape history. We will be remembered in spite of ourselves; no personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We, even we here,’ he said, ‘hold the power and bear the responsibility.’ In the Bible St. Paul wrote, ‘Think on these things.’ We must think on what Lincoln told us,” Pelosi said.

“We, even here — even us, here — hold the power and bear the responsibility. We, you and I, hold and trust the power that derives most directly from the people of the United States, and we bear the responsibility to fulfill that oath that we all swear before God and before one another: that oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help us God.

We know that we face enemies of the Constitution; we know that we experienced the insurrection that violated the sanctity of the people’s Capitol and attempted to overturn the duly recorded will of the American people. And we know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

Pelosi continued: “Since the presidential election in November — an election the president lost — he has repeatedly lied about the outcome, sowed self-serving doubt about democracy, and unconstitutionally sought to influence state officials to repeal reality. And then came that day of fire we all experienced.

The president must be impeached, and I believe the president must be convicted by the Senate, a constitutional remedy that will ensure that the Republic will be safe from this man who was so resolutely determined to tear down the things that we hold dear, and that hold us together.

It gives me no pleasure to say this. It breaks my heart. It should break your heart. It should break all of our hearts, for your presence in this hallowed chamber is testament to your love for our country, for America, and to your faith in the work of our founders to create a more perfect union.

Those insurrectionists were not patriots. They were not part of a political base to be catered to and managed. They were domestic terrorists, and justice must prevail. But they did not appear out of a vacuum. They were sent here by the president with words such as a cry to ‘Fight like hell.’ Words matter. Truth matters. Accountability matters. In his public exhortations to them, the president saw the insurrectionists, not as the foes of freedom, as they are, but as the means to a terrible goal, the goal of his personally clinging to power, the goal of thwarting the will of the people,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi asked her colleagues: “I ask you to search your souls and answer these questions. Is the president’s war on democracy in keeping with the Constitution? Were his words and insurrectionary mob a high crime and misdemeanor? Do we not have the duty to our oath to do all we constitutionally can do to protect our nation and our democracy from the appetites and ambitions of a man who has self-evidently demonstrated that he is a vital threat to liberty, to self-government, and to the rule of law?”

Rep. Jim Jordan answered none of those questions. Instead, he talked about a four-year-old article in a local paper. “On Jan. 20, 2017, 19 minutes into President Trump’s administration, at 12:19 p.m., The Washington Post’s headline was ‘Campaign to impeach President Trump has begun.’ Now, with just one week left, they are still trying.” Jordan argued that the impeachment was an example of “cancel culture”, that Democrats were trying to cancel the president.

Jordan offered little commentary about the riot itself. Instead, he threw out false equivalence between the Capitol riots and the Black Lives Matter protests this summer: “Riots are OK for some,” he claimed. “Democrats can raise bail for rioters and looters this summer. But somehow when Republicans condemn all the violence, the violence this summer, the violence last week, somehow we’re wrong.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: 93% of Black Lives Matter protests this summer were peaceful. Yet black protesters were met with chemical dispersants, rubber bullets and hand-to-hand combat from police. More than 14,000 arrests were made, per the Associated Press. But when pro-Trump white people stormed the Capitol — swarming steps, climbing walls, smashing windows, breaking glass, throwing fire extinguishers, acting like BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD — police welcomed them through barricades and in some cases took selfies with them. Barely more than a few dozen arrests. Members of a wild mob were escorted from the premises, some not even in handcuffs. But Rep. Jordan didn’t mention that.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy was more measured. He not only condemned the riots but held Trump accountable for them. “Madam Speaker, let me be clear: last week’s violent attack on the Capitol was undemocratic, un-American and criminal. Violence is never a legitimate form of protest. Freedom of speech and assembly under the constitution is rooted in non-violence. Yet the violent mob that descended upon this body was neither peaceful nor democratic. It acted to disrupt Congress’s constitutional responsibility.” He, too, quoted Lincoln:  “A young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln famously said, ‘There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.’ Yet for several hours last week, mob law tried to interfere with constitutional law.”

McCarthy added: “The President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” But he added: “I believe impeaching the President in such a short timeframe would be a mistake.” That line was echoed by Republicans throughout the day.

They maintained their opposition even in the face of stirring rhetoric by Democrats. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) made the case in bold-faced terms. “Donald Trump is the most dangerous man to ever occupy the Oval Office,” Rep. Castro said. “I want to take you back one week ago today, when people were barging through these doors, breaking the windows — with weapons. Armed. Pipe bombs. Coming here to harm all of you. To harm the Senate. To harm the Speaker.” He asked his fellow lawmakers: “What do you think they would have done if they had gotten in? What do you think they would have done to you? And who do you think sent them here? Thw most dangerous man to ever occupy the Oval Office.”

“If inciting a deadly insurrection is not enough to get a president impeached, then what is?” Mr. Castro asked. “All of us must answer that question today. The Constitution requires us to impeach and remove Donald John Trump.”

But few Republicans seemed swayed — until that afternoon. “Madam Speaker, this is a sad day. But not as sad or disheartening as the violence we witnessed in the Capitol last Wednesday. We are all responsible,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA). “We must all do better,” he said.

“These articles of impeachment are flawed,” Newhouse continued. “But I will not use process as an excuse. There is no excuse for President Trump’s actions. The President took an oath to protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Last week, there was a domestic threat at the door of the Capitol, and he did nothing to stop it. That is why, with a heavy heart and clear resolve, I will vote yes on these articles of impeachment.”

A stunned House burst into applause.

UPDATE (Jan 25, 2021): The House of Representatives delivered the article of impeachment to the Senate roughly an hour ago, in a procession broadcast as a CBS Special Report. Rep. Jamie Raskin read the article aloud on the Senate floor. “In his conduct while President of the United States and in violation of his consitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States […] and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, Donald John Trump engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by incitng violence against the Government of the United States,” Raskin read.

Article I, “Incitement of Insurrection,” formally charges the president with inciting a violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. With this motion, former president Donald Trump becomes the first president in history to be impeached twice. His trial begins next month.

UPDATE (8:40 pm): In an exclusive interview with MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says that the trial negotiations are still underway. Asked whether it’s been decided that there will be no witnesses in the trail, Schumer said no. “We have only negotiated the preliminary motions in the trial,” Schumer said. That includes the date, which will be Feb. 8.

In a telling aside, Schumer told Maddow: “I don’t think there’s a need for a whole lot of witnesses. We were all witnesses.” He asked rhetorically: “Who were the witnesses? The entire American people.”

UPDATE (Jan. 26):45 Republican senators voted to declare the impeachment trial unconstitutional this afternoon. Backing Sen. Rand Paul, the senators voted against allowing the trial to go forward. Senator Paul,(R-Kentucky) forced the vote after arguing that it was unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial of a former president. But that assertion widely disputed by scholars and even the Senate itself in the past, as the New York Times points out.

In the end, the trial will proceed. The Senate voted 55 to 45 in favor of its continuation. But that means that it is unlikely enough Republicans will vote to convict Donald Trump. Two-thirds of the Senate must agree to conviction, meaning 17 Republican senators would have to join Democrats in a vote. But only five Republicans voted today to continue the trial: Senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Nebraska) and Patrick Toomey (Pennsylvania).

In a typical display of defiance, Sen. Paul also refused to wear a mask on the Senate floor today, even though President Biden signed an order requiring them in federal buildings. Biden made mention of this in remarks today:

UPDATE (8:11 PM, Jan. 31): CNN reported last night that all five of the lawyers on Trump’s impeachment defense team have left. “Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier, who were expected to be two of the lead attorneys, are no longer on the team. A source familiar with the changes said it was a mutual decision for both to leave,” CNN said. “As the lead attorney, Bowers assembled the team. Josh Howard, a North Carolina attorney who was recently added to the team, has also left, according to another source familiar with the changes. Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris, from South Carolina, are no longer involved with the case, either.”

The move leaves the former president with no lawyers on his defense — barely a week before the impeachment trial is scheduled to begin. In the absence of any trained lawyers, Trump was at one point considering defending himself. CNN analyst Maggie Haberman wrote:

IUPDATE (Feb. 4, 2021): The former president will not testify at his impeachment trial next week. House Democrat and impeachment manager Jamie Raskin wrote a letter to Trump requesting that he testify:

“Two days ago, you filed an Answer in which you denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment. You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense,” Raskin wrote in the letter.

“In light of your disputing these factual allegations, I write to invite you to provide testimony under oath, either before or during the Senate impeachment trial, concerning your conduct on January 6, 2021. We would propose that you provide your testimony (of course including cross-examination) as early as Monday, February 8, 2021, and not later than Thursday, February 11, 2021. We would be pleased to arrange such testimony at a mutually convenient time and place.”

Hours after the letter was released, Trump adviser Jason Miller told NPR that “the president will not testify in an unconstitutional proceeding.” Separately, Trump’s lawyers dismissed the request as a “public relations stunt.” After his legal team quit on Saturday, Trump did manage to secure two lawyers: David Schoen and Bruce Castor.

Please watch this space for further updates.

Kim Kardashian West Files for Divorce

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By Terrance Turner

July 23, 2020 (Updated Jan. 5, 2021; Feb. 19, 2021)

Photo from Harper’s Bazaar magazine.

Kim Kardashian West has filed for divorce from husband Kanye West, according to her spokeswoman Christy Welder. Mrs. West, 40, and Mr. West, 43, have four children: North, Saint, Chicago and Psalm. (The children range in age from seven years to 21 months.) Mrs. West’s filing comes after months of reports and speculation about marital troubles. It also ends a nearly seven-year marriage. The couple wed in May 2014.

This split was a long time coming. Last month, multiple sources told Page Six that “divorce is imminent” for the couple, as Kardashian hired divorce attorney Laura Wasser. “They are keeping it low-key but they are done,” says a source. “Kim has hired Laura Wasser and they are in settlement talks.” People magazine quotes a source who says Kanye West is aware of the looming decision: “He knows that she’s done. She has had enough, and she told him that she wants some space to figure out her future,” the source tells People, adding that West, 43, is bracing for a filing but doesn’t know when it will take place.

NBC News adds a more nuanced view, quoting a source that says the two have been in counseling. “They have been going to therapy. They are working on their marriage,” the source said. They are “100% aligned when it comes to the kids,” per the source. The couple is dealing with “regular relationship issues,” and there is “no one else involved.”

“Divorce has been discussed off and on,” the source said, but Kardashian West has not filed for divorce. “They are working through it … (and) trying to work through things.”

Kim, 40, hasn’t been seen wearing her wedding ring, and Kanye, 43, remained at his $14 million Wyoming ranch over the holidays instead of spending it with the Kardashian family, who drew criticism for their extravagant celebrations. While Mr. West has remained in Wyoming over the past few months, Mrs. West has stayed in Los Angeles, along with the couple’s four children. People magazine article last month described the pair as “living separate lives”.

The writing has been on the wall for months now. I wrote about this imminent split in July of last year. The original content is below:

After breaking down at a campaign rally on Sunday, West said he and his wife had considered abortion when expecting their daughter North. “I almost killed my daughter!” he sobbed, breaking down in tears before revealing that he and his wife had considered terminating the pregnancy. The revelation made headlines and reportedly caught Mrs. West off guard. But between late Monday night and Tuesday morning, West upped the ante with some explosive tweets.

“Kim was trying to fly out to Wyoming with a doctor to get me locked up like in the movie Get Out,” the rapper tweeted late Monday, before claiming that the movie is actually about him. “Kim tried to bring a doctor to lock me up with a doctor,” he tweeted. (Mrs. West has been consulting with doctors and has been trying to get Kanye help “for weeks”, per People.)

Late Tuesday night, he went even further: “I’ve been trying to get divorced since Kim met with Meek at the Waldorff [sic] for ‘prison reform’.” He praised Meek — “Meek was respectful. That’s my dog” — but claimed, “Kim was out of line”. She was out of line, he said — a day after he told the world that he and his wife had considered aborting their firstborn child. (Editor’s note: Kim K and Meek Mill met publicly at a restaurant in November 2018. They were joined by philanthropist Clara Wu Tsai, according to Complex. Mrs. West left the restaurant immediately after the meeting.)

The tweets are the latest in a string of provocative (and sometimes nonsensical) comments Mr. West has made in recent days. They include a suggestion on Sunday that every woman who has a baby should be awarded $1 million. Among the statements are some baldly untrue claims. “Harriet Tubman never actually freed the slaves,” West claimed on Sunday night. (She freed hundreds.) West also claimed that rapper Lil’ Baby was his favorite rapper, but he “won’t do a song with me”. Lil’ Baby responded by saying he had never heard of such a thing.

Today, Kim addressed the issue(s) head-on in a series of posts on Instagram Stories. “As many of you know, Kanye has bi-polar disorder,” she wrote. “I’ve never spoken publicly about this because I am very protective of our children and Kanye’s right to privacy when it comes to his health. But today, I feel like I should comment on it because of the stigma and misconceptions about mental health.”

“Those who understand mental illness or even compulsive behavior know that the family is powerless unless the member is a minor,” she continued. “People who are unaware or far removed from this experience can be judgmental and not understand that the individual[s] themselves have to engage in the process of getting help, no matter how hard family and friends try.”

“I understand Kanye is subject to criticism because he is a public figure,” she wrote, adding that West can be polarizing. But she also painted a nuanced, loving picture of a man in pain: “He is a brilliant but complicated person who, on top of the pressures of being an artist and a black man, [also] experienced the painful loss of his mother, and has to deal with the pressure and isolation that [are] heightened by his bi-polar disorder.”

“I kindly ask that the media and public give us the compassion and empathy that is needed so that we can get through this,” she added. 

The Wests have been married since May 2014 and have four children: North, 7, Saint, 4, Chicago, 2, and Psalm, 14 months. But it appears that their six-year marriage is in serious trouble. Two sources contributed to People magazine’s stunning report today about the state of their marriage. One source said that the two have been mulling a split “for several weeks”, even before West’s outburst on Sunday. A second source added: “There has been enough communication, both in the past few days and in the weeks prior, to establish that both sides feel the marriage is over.”

UPDATE: People reported last week that the pair are doing well, quoting a source who said Kim is quietly supporting her husband: “She just wants to get through the next few months peacefully. She is kind of standing back while Kanye does whatever makes him happy.”

While Mrs. West is freezing her Facebook & Instagram acccounts in protest of Facebook’s practices, her husband is tweeting up a storm. Within an hour, Mr. West posted a video of himself urinating on a Grammy, tweeted out pages of his record contract, AND posted the phone number of a Forbes magazine editor whom he calls a “white supremacist”. (Where was all this energy when his friend Donald Trump was defending white supremacists and Nazis as “very fine people”?)

The Forbes post violated Twitter’s private information policy, which carries a first-time penalty of having to remove the tweet and having the user temporarily unable to tweet.

Beyonce and Megan Thee Stallion Make Grammy History with “Savage” Remix (UPDATED)

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Photo courtesy of Instagram.

By Terrance Turner

April 30, 2020 (Updated Nov. 24)

BREAKING NEWS: (March 14, 2021): Tonight, Megan the Stallion and Beyonce won the Grammy for Best Rap Song for their work on the remix of Megan’s song “Savage”. They are the first female duo ever to win in this category. This is also a significant win for Beyonce: with this award, she has 27 Grammy Awards — the most ever by any singer, male or female.

Both Beyonce and Megan reacted with shock to their wins. Megan sat there, open-mouthed, as the Best Rap Song award was announced. In her acceptance speech, she reminisced about going to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and seeing Destiny’s Child. She paid high compliments to Beyonce: “I love her work ethic; I love how she carries herself,” Megan said. Beyonce, in turn, thanked Megan for inviting her to be a part of the song.

“Houston, we love you,” Beyonce said. Then, just as she and Beyonce were about to descend the stairs of the outdoor stage, host Trevor Noah stopped them. He then announced the news that this is Beyonce’s 27th Grammy win — tied for the most ever all-time. As previously mentioned, she also now holds the record for the most Grammy Award wins by any singer.

Earlier tonight, the two won Best Rap Collaboration for their song “Savage”. They are the first all-female team ever to win this award. Megan was stupefied by the honor when it was annoucned, taking several seconds to compose herself.

“Thank you, Lord; God is the first person that I want to thank,” Megan said. In her acceptance speech, she also thanked her late mother, along with her grandmother, her fans, and Beyonce. “My grandma — thank you, Nanny. Thank you, Mama, for pushing me and knowing that I was gonna be here,” she went on. “Thank you, Hotties. Thank you, Houston.”

THIS JUST IN: MEGAN THEE STALLION HAS BEEN NAMED BEST NEW ARTIST AT THE GRAMMY AWARDS. MORE DETAILS WILL BE FORTHCOMING.

Today, social media is buzzing about Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s remix to her song “Savage”. She is joined by singer, rapper, icon, and fellow Houstonian Beyoncé. According to genius.com, the two met at a New Year’s Eve party in December. They are among nine writers on the track — Beyoncé’s husband Jay-Z has a writing credit.

Beyonce opens the song with layered harmonies: “My whole team eat, chef’s kiss, she’s a treat/ Ooh, she so bougie, bougie, bon appétit,” she sings. Megan contributes an entirely new verse to the song, which epitomizes her raunchy, confident style. “I’m a savage (Yeah), attitude nasty (Yeah)/Talk big s–t, but my bank account matchin’/Hood, but I’m classy, rich, but I’m ratchet/Haters kept my name in they mouth, now they gaggin’.”

Queen Bey hops on the track next to deliver some lascivious bars of her own. She name-checks TikTok (a Chinese-based video app), OnlyFans ( a subscription site featuring homemade adult videos) and DemonTime (a stripper performance series on IG Live). She shouts out her Texas roots, her mother Tina Knowles Lawson, and her clothing line Ivy Park in a blistering second verse:

IVY PARK on my frame (Frame), gang, gang, gang, GANG!
If you don’t jump to put jeans on, baby, you don’t feel my pain
Please don’t get me hyped (I’m hyped), write my name in ice
Can’t argue with these lazy b–ches, I just raised my price
I’m a boss, I’m a leader, I pull up in my two-seater
And my mama was a savage, n—a, I got this s–t from Tina

From “Savage (Remix),” Beyonce and Megan Thee Stallion

Twitter exploded with chatter about Beyonce’s rapping, propelling her to #1 on Twitter’s trending topics earlier this afternoon. (She’s still trending, by the way.)

https://twitter.com/Beyfan891/status/1255590518869852166

The song has provided some welcome excitement to those stuck inside the house due to COVID-19. Best of all, Beyonce and Megan are donating the proceeds from this song to Houston nonprofit Bread of Life. Located at 2019 Crawford St, the charity aims to end homelessness and improve the quality of life for the needy. Rudy and Juanita Rasmus founded Bread of Life in December 1992, with the serving of hot meals to homeless men and women inside St. John’s United Methodist Church.

According to its website, Bread of Life began serving one hot meal weekly that eventually led to serving 500 meals per day to the homeless in the sanctuary at St. John’s. Years later, the Bread of Life has “changed the landscape of Downtown Houston and provides an array of services to families in peril and homeless individuals.” The project works with HIV/AIDS prevention, providing solutions to food insufficiency, housing the homeless, and disaster relief. More recently, Bread of Life also teamed up with Beyonce and Lawson to provide housing for 40,000 flood victims in Houston.

The song is now available on Tidal.

UPDATE (Nov. 24): “Savage” has been nominated for Record of the Year at the 2021 Grammy Awards. The song is also nominated for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. Megan Thee Stallion is nominated for Best New Artist, and Beyoncé leads all artists with nine nominations. Megan’s album “Good News” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts, selling 100,500 units this week.

Gronk Comes Out of Retirement to Join Brady on Bucs — And Win! (UPDATED)

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By Terrance Turner

April 21, 2020

(updated Dec. 26; updated Feb.7)

Last night, former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski appeared on “Watch What Happens Live” (at Home). Host Andy Cohen said rumors were swirling that Gronkowski wanted to join ex-Patriots teammate Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cohen asked Gronkowski if he was considering coming out of retirement to join Brady on the Bucs.

Gronkowski (aka “Gronk” to fans and teammates) responded equivocally. “Andy, you wanna know what’s so great, man? The day that I retired — within 24 hours — there were already rumors that I was coming out of retirement,” Gronk said. “I’m feelin’ good right now; I’m happy where I’m at–“

“You’re done,” Cohen interjected.

“You just never know, man,” Gronk replied.

“Oh, you never know,” Cohen repeated.

“You never know,” Gronk said. “I’m not totally done.”

He isn’t. The next day, NFL reporter Ian Rapoport confirmed a stunning update:

Earlier this afternoon, NFL insider Ian Rapoport tweeted: “Retired #Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski has told New England that he’s interested in playing football again — and would want to do it with the Bucs and Tom Brady. A trade would have to be worked out for this to happen.” Rapoport later added that Brady was interested in such a deal, too. At 3:21 pm, Rapoport confirmed that the Patriots were trading Gronk and a seventh-round pick to Tampa Bay in exchange for a 4th-round pick.

Gronkowski, 30, played the entirety of his NFL career with the New England Patriots. During the 2011 season, Gronk had 17 touchdown catches — the most ever by a tight end in one season. A Week 13 score was classified as a rushing touchdown, giving him a total of 18 TDs. He became the first (and only) tight end EVER to lead the league in touchdowns. The next season, he tacked on 11 more touchdown receptions, making it his third season in a row with 10 or more TDs. (He would achieve that impressive touchdown feat again in the 2014 and ’15 seasons.)

He won three championships with the New England Patriots in 2015, 2017, and 2019. (He told Cohen that the last match — the 13-3 snoozefest vs. the Rams — was the easiest to win.) It was his 29-yard catch late in Super Bowl LIII that set up the game’s only touchdown (courtesy of teammate Sony Michel). That catch helped him set two more records. His 23 receptions and 297 receiving yards are the most by a tight end in Super Bowl history.

As news broke of the trade, Andy Cohen added another credit to his multi-hyphenate career:

Gronk’s return to the NFL was something of a surprise move, after a storied career riddled with injuries. “Since 2012, he has, among other things, fractured the same forearm twice, fractured a vertebrae, torn his A.C.L. and M.C.L., and suffered from a bruised lung, herniated discs, various ankle injuries, and at least two concussions,” wrote New Yorker columnist Ian Crouch in March 2019.

Gronkowski retired in 2019 after a painful quad injury sustained during the Super Bowl that year. An NBC Sports reporter spoke with Gronkowski after the game, and Gronk showed him the ugly aftermath of a second-quarter hit to the thigh. The reporter noted the swelling: “It looked stupidly big. Swollen from just above the knee for about 20 inches.” 

Gronkowski recounted the injury’s impact in August, at a press conference for CBDMedic. “I got done with the game; I could barely walk,” he told the audience. “I try to go to bed; I slept for five minutes that night. I couldn’t even think.”

“I was in tears, in my bed, after a Super Bowl victory,” Gronkowski recalled. “And then, for four weeks, I couldn’t even sleep for more than 20 minutes a night, after a Super Bowl win. It didn’t make much sense to me,” he said. “And I was like, ‘Damn, this sucks’.” During that period, he said, Gronkowski had 1,000 milliliters of blood drained from his swollen thigh.

It was that bruising physical toll that drove his retirement — along with the emotional toll. “I want to be clear to my fans: I needed to recover. I was not in a good place. Football was bringing me down,” Gronkowski said, choking up, “and I didn’t like it. I was losing that joy in life — like, the joy.

With the help of rest and CBDMedic, however, he began to recover. “I feel great, and I am pain-free. I truly believe I can get to another level with my body,” he said in August, “and I’m just in the first stage right now. And when that time comes down in the future, if I have the desire to play football again, if I feel passionate about football again, if I feel like I need to be out there on the field, I will go back to football. But as of right now, that is not the case. It could be the case in six months; it could be the case in two years. Could be the case in three years. Could be the case in three months.”

In the end, it took roughly eight months for Gronkowski to turn the corner. And today, the day after Christmas, Gronkowski gave fans a gift for the ages. The Buccaneers played the Detroit Lions today; QB Tom Brady opened the game by throwing a 33-yard touchdown to Gronkowski. It’s the 96th career touchdown between Brady and Gronk.

That score put the Buccaneers ahead 7-0. By halftime, it was 34-0! After throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns (!), Brady rested in the second half. Backup QB Blaine Gabbert took over — and opened the third quarter with a thrilling throw to Gronkowski. The ball sailed from the 30-yard line; Gronk caught it for his second touchdown of the day, to make it 41-0.

UPDATE: Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski combined for two touchdowns tonight, fueling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ dominant win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Buccaneers won 31-9 at Raymond James Stadium in Florida. 45% of the Buccaneers’ points tonight came from Brady and Gronkowski. They connected twice in the first half, setting an NFL record. The two have the most postseason touchdowns by a QB-receiver duo with 14 total, breaking the record held previously by Joe Montana and Jerry Rice (12).

Rob Gronkowski now has the most catches, most receiving yards and most receiving touchdowns of any tight end in Super Bowl history. And he’s earned his fourth Super Bowl ring. He celebrated his good fortune with Brady after their historic game:

UPDATE: Gronk’s coming back! The #Bucs are bringing back TE Rob Gronkowski, giving him a 1-year deal worth up to $10M, per @DrewJRosenhaus.

As “Lion King” Premieres, Beyonce’s “Spirit” Soars

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Photo courtesy of Tom & Lorenzo.

By Terrance Turner

July 17, 2019

Last night, ABC aired its prime-time special on “The Lion King”, the live-action retelling of the classic 1994 animated film. The special featured intriguing details about the making of the original film and its adaptation to the stage. ABC also included interviews with the voices behind the current version: Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Alfre Woodard, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, among others. But the most memorable voice was that of the film’s Nala: Beyonce Knowles-Carter.

The special premiered the official music video for “Spirit”, the first single off the Lion King: The Gift, an album of original music inspired by the film. (Spin magazine writer Tosten Burns points out that this album is separate from the actual Lion King soundtrack, which came out last week.) In an exclusive interview that aired during the special, Beyonce called the album “a love letter to Africa”.

“Spirit” begins with two men chanting “Long live the king” in Swahili. Beyonce gently delivers the song’s opening verse, which escalates to a stirring chorus. Her sultry voice is joined by a choir, and the song begins to build. By the second chorus, she and the choir are at full-throttle, backed by a driving beat and synchronized handclaps.

“Your destiny is coming close,” she sings. “Stand up and fight.” Suddenly, the swelling arrangement drops to a whisper in the bridge — hushed vocals and soft piano. “So go into that far off land, and be one with the great ‘I AM’. A boy becomes a man,” Beyonce sings, in a gorgeous falsetto that rises higher and higher. By the three-minute mark, she’s in the stratosphere, displaying her incredible range.

That stunning moment leads to a rousing, gospelly finale. Beyoncé belts out the final choruses in impassioned, melismatic fashion, powerfully combining with the choir. Their voices swell as the song continues, rising even higher for a dramatic key change. Beyoncé returns to a gentle, delicate head voice for the song’s final bars.

“Spirit” was written by Ilya Salmanzadeh, Timothy Lee McKenzie, and Beyonce. Salmanzadeh is a Swedish-Persian producer and songwriter; McKenzie is a Grammy-nominated British songwriter who performs as “Labrinth”. The two sent a rough demo to Beyonce, who loved it. “She started helping us write the rest of the record,” McKenzie told ABC News. He described the moment as “incredible.”

McKenzie said Beyoncé is meticulous in her work: “She’s a perfectionist and she’s a Virgo, like my wife. Virgos are serious perfectionists.” He added: “She cared about everything that was in the record. She cared about what piano we were going to use. Is there enough bass? Not many artists care that much.” But despite her perfectionism, Beyoncé wasn’t demanding, he said.

“A lot of artists in her position, they can be divas and they can be hard to deal with. Her energy and the messages she sent to us in terms of saying thank you for contributing to ‘The Lion King’ — she sent really beautiful messages. I was really kind of surprised to see that someone in her position still has that humility.” 

The song itself is noteworthy, but the music video, which premiered last night, only amplifies its quality. Beyoncé explained the video in an interview for the ABC special. “The concept of the video is to show how God is the painter, and natural beauty — and nature — needs no art direction,” she said. “It’s the beauty of nature, the beauty of melanin, the beauty of tradition.”

“Spirit” was filmed at Havasu Falls, a waterfall within Arizona’s Grand Canyon. The Arizona Republic reported that on July 8, a location manager called the head of Arizona’s film office, asking for permission to film at Havasu. The man he called was Matthew Earl Jones, director of Arizona Film and Digital Media. (Jones is the nephew of actor James Earl Jones, who voiced Mufasa in both “Lion King” films.) Mr. Jones put the manager in touch with the Havasupai Tribal Council, who quickly granted the request. The shoot took place just two days later, with Beyoncé flying in by helicopter.

The request’s approval came as a surprise to Jones, given that permits are hard to come by. But the Council was glad to oblige Beyoncé. A Council spokeswoman said that given Bey’s support of water rights worldwide, “we were particularly pleased to be able to accommodate her request.” The video offers spectacular views of the waterfalls and accompanying scenery.

Beyoncé is shown seated, wearing a voluminous, ruffled dress of lilac and red. Early on, there’s an appearance by her daughter Blue Ivy Carter, who walks up (in lavender ruffles) to take her mother’s hand. The Havasu Falls appear about a minute in; draped in dramatic royal blue, Beyoncé begins the chorus in front of the waterfall. Throughout the four-minute video, scenes from the film are interspersed with shots of Queen Bey. Clad in colorful, flowing costumes, Beyoncé performs the song with an array of dancers in various desert locales.

In less than 24 hours, “Spirit” has amassed 5.3 million views on YouTube. It is currently #1 in YouTube’s “Trending” section. Beyonce’s album will debut the same day as the film. “The Lion King” hits theaters on Friday, July 19. Watch the “Spirit” video below.

Colton Underwood Comes Out

By Terrance Turner

April 14, 2021

Former “Bachelor” star Colton Underwood revealed that he is gay in an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America” today.

“Obviously, thgis year’s been a lot, for a lot of people. And it’s probalby made a lot fo people look themselves in the mirror and figure out who they are and what they’ve been running fro or what they’ve been putting off in their lives,” he began. “For me, I’ve ran from myself for a long time and hated myself for a long time…and I’m gay. I came to terms with that this year and have been processing it,” Underwood said. “The next step in all this was sort of letting people know. I’m still nervous, but it’s been a journey, for sure.”

“Through the nerves, I can see the joy,” Roberts noted.

Underwood smiled. “I’m emotional, but I’m emotional in such a good, happy, positive way,” he continued. “I’m, like, the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been in my life. That means the world to me.”

That happiness was a long time coming. Underwood was named “The Bachelor” in 2019, after appearing on “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in Paradise” previously. He became known as the “Virgin Bachelor” because, as he says, “I fully was a virgin before that, and I could never give anybody a good enough answer about why I was a virgin. The truth is, I was the ‘Virgin Bachelor’ because I was gay, and I didn’t know how to handle it.”

Instead, he pretended. “The Bachelor” essentially requires a bevy of young women to compete for the affections of the titular character. So Colton Underwood dated a slew of eligible bachelorettes, none of whom knew the truth.

Roberts addressed the fact that both the contestants and fans of the show might feel deceived by Underwood’s behavior. “I thought a lot about this… Do I regret being ‘The Bachelor’? And handling it the way that I did?” he said. “I do think I could have handled it better, I’ll say that. I just wish I wouldn’t have dragged people into my own mess of figuring out who I was. I genuinely mean that, but also at the same time I can say ‘I’m sorry’ to all of those women, I can also say ‘thank you,’ because without them and without the ‘Bachelor’ franchise, I don’t know if this would have ever come out.”

For Colton Underwood, the franchise gave him a chance to have the life he’d prayed for. “I literally remember praying to God the morning I found out that I was ‘The Bachelor’ and thanking Him for making me straight,” he said. “I remember that vividly, of saying, ‘Finally, you’re letting me be straight. Finally, you’re giving me a wife, a fiancée, and then I’m going to have the kids, then I’m going to have the house, and then I’m going to have all this’.”

But that’s not what happened. Colton eventually chose Cassie Randolph for the “final rose”; the two were in a relationship for a year and a half. They broke up in 2020, and the aftermath got very messy, amid accusations of stalking and harassment. Randolph filed a restraining order against Underwood in September, alleging that he placed a tracking device on her car. According to People magazine, she also charged that he’d showed up unannounced at both her L.A. apartment and her parents’ house.

Underwood apologized to Randolph during the interview. “I would like to say sorry for how things ended,” he said. “I messed up. I made a lot of bad choices.”

Confirming to Roberts that he was indeed in love with Randolph, he continued, saying, “That only made it harder and more confusing for me. if I’m being very honest, I loved everything about her. And it’s hard for me to articulate exactly what my emotions were, and going through that relationship with her was, because I obviously had an internal fight going on. I would just say that I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart. I’m sorry for any pain and emotional stress I caused. I wish it wouldn’t have happened the way it did. I wish that I would have been courageous enough to fix myself before I broke anybody else.”

It took years for Underwood to develop that courage, even though he’d known he was “different” since childhood. I’ve known that I’ve been different since the age of six, and I couldn’t process it and put my finger on it until high school, my freshman year, when I knew I was gay. And by that time I had already grown up in the Catholic church, I have gone to Catholic grade school, I learned in the Bible that gay is a sin. I had made mistakes in my sports and in my athletic career, and when you make mistakes, ‘that play was gay’ or that was a bad… gay was always affiliated with a connotation of negativity, and I think there’s a lot of things when I look back, like, ‘No wonder I held it in.’”

When Roberts asked what gave him the courage to come out, Underwood said, “I got into a place in my personal life that was dark and bad. I can list a bunch of different things, but they’d all be excuses. I think overall the reason why now is because I got to a place where I didn’t think I was ever going to share this. I would rather have died than say ‘I’m gay,’ and I think that was sort of my wake up call.”

Roberts then asked if Underwood ever thought about harming himself. He answered yes.

“There was a moment in L.A. that I woke up and I didn’t think I was going to wake up,” he said. “I didn’t have the intentions of waking up, and I did. And I think for me that was my wake up call, that, ‘This is your life. Take back control.’ I think looking back even beyond that is… even just suicidal thoughts and driving my car close to a cliff, like, ‘Oh, if this goes off the cliff, it’s not that big of a deal.’ I don’t feel that anymore.”

Having come out to his parents, family and friends, Underwood says that he couldn’t have come out publicly without their support. “I’m still the same Colton everybody met on TV. I’m still the same Colton to my friends and family. I just happen to be able to share with people now all of me. And I am proud of that. I am proud to be gay.”

Lakers Blow Out Nets in Brooklyn

By Terrance Turner

April 10, 2021

It was a battle of two shorthanded teams. The Brooklyn Nets were without James Harden and DeAndre Jordan; Kevin Durant was limited in action. The Los Angeles Lakers were without LeBron James (high-ankle sprain) and Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma (calf strain). Yet somehow they managed to overpower the Nets with a series of high-scoring runs. The Lakers won 126-101 in Barclays Center tonight, winning on the road in a blowout in Brooklyn.

Dennis Schroder started the scoring; power forward Markeith Morris added a pair of three-pointers. Then Schroder himself hit a three to put the Lakers 11-2. L.A. wound up going 7-for-8 to push the lead to 18-7. They continued to dominate the undermanned Nets (Harden has missed 18 games; Durant, 15). The Lakers led 33-25 at the end of the first quarter.

The Lakers maintained a lead through part of the second quarter, but the Nets fought back to briefly take the lead. A two-pointer by Kyrie Irving made it 43-35. Blake Griffin picked up an offensive foul when he collided with Lakers’ Dennis Schroder, who was knocked to the ground. Griffin also fell on the play, but Schroder took some time to get back up. He was seen limping afterward (from a possible tailbone injury), but continued to play.

The Nets came from behind in the second quarter, shooting 63%. Kyrie Irving had a highlight-reel shot to make the score 49-41. After avoiding a block by Drummond, Irving tossed an underhead shot off one hand. The ball swooped up from underneath the net, rose into the air, and fell right in.

Durant added a jumper, and after a missed layup by LaMarcus Aldridge he added a putback to tie the game at 52. Then, after a miss by Drummond, Durant surged down the field for the slam. The Nets, after trailing for nearly the whole game, now had a 54-52 lead.

Markeith Morris tied it again at 56 with two minutes left, then hit another shot to help L.A. regain the lead. The Lakers led at halftime, 61-58.

The second half began with what turned out to be a wild third quarter. Durant narrowed the Laker lead even more with a two-pointer, but Drummond hit a three to give L.A. a 64-60 edge. Then he answered a layup by Aldridge with another two points, putting the Lakers up 66-62.

And then, after a foul, Irving confronted Schroder on the court. According to CBS Sports, “Schroder tried to drive to the basket, and Irving was called for a foul. As the Lakers tried to take the ball out of bounds, the two point guards got into it a little bit, and were given double technicals.”

The two had to be physically separated by referees and other players, but the jawing continued, and Irving was disqualified from the game. Then Schroder was ejected, too!!! The referees’ move drew loud boos from fans, but it also lit a fire under the Lakers. They would outscore the Nets 60-39 after the ejections.

Durant came close to closing the gap with a surging layup and then made three free throws, narrowing the lead to four. It was 71-67. But that was as close as the game would get. The Lakers went on a 15-2 run, going up 88-71. A basket by McLemore made it 92-77 as the fourth quarter got underway.

Two consecutive three-pointers by Ben McLemore extended the Lakers lead to 21. Brooklyn cut it back down to 15, with Blake Griffin making both his free throws and then landing a huge block on Lakers’ Montrezl Harrell. But with McLemore on a tear — he scored the Lakers’ first 11 points of the quarter — L.A. pulled away. They went up 105-83 with 8:29 remaining, and with 6:31 left the score was 109-85. With about five minutes left, Nets coach Steve Nash rested both Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin, a sign of resignation in what would be a blowout loss. The Lakers won, 126-101.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel called the game “the best win of the season”. Dennis Schroder agreed: “This is the best win of the year, I would say,” he told the media after the game. When reporters asked Ben McLemore what he’s noticed about the Lakers, he answered: “Togetherness … everybody is there for each other. Communication. Chemistry … it’s my second game here, and already building a good chemistry with guys. Great win for us tonight.”

Per Lakers writer Ryan Ward, Frank Vogel also called the Lakers’ performance “a complete team effort”. The statistics prove him right. According to Lakers reporter Brad Turner, the team had eight players (including all five of its starters) score in double digits during its commanding win:

MLB Moves All-Star Game, Opposing Georgia’s Voting Law

Photo courtesy of Omni Hotels.

By Terrance Turner

April 2, 2021

Major League Baseball is moving the MLB All-Star Game and MLB Draft out of Atlanta in response to the restrictive voting law passed in Georgia last week. In a statement, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement: “I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.”

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States,” he continued. “We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp last week signed a bill that restrits voting by mail, absentee ballots and other aspects of voting in the state. The bill was finalized on March 25, just about 15 miles from the Atlanta Braves’ stadium, according to ESPN. Kemp signed the bill in a closed room, surrounded by white men, in front of a painting depicting a plantation. (It’s the notorious Callaway Plantation in Wilkes County, Georgia, now a museum. In an oral history narrative, Mariah Callaway, born into slavery on the plantation, said that when slaves escaped the master would send hounds “to bite plugs out of their legs“.

Photo released by Brian Kemp.

In addition to the outcry over the obvious issues of the photo, there was also widespread objection to the content of the bill itself. Activists, critics, and even residents all decried what they saw as discriminatory intent behind the legislation. The New York Times did an analysis of the 98-page bill and identified 16 provisions “that hamper the right to vote for some Georgians or strip power from state or local elections officials.” Some of them are outlined below.

“Georgia has cut by more than half the period during which voters may request an absentee ballot, from nearly six months before an election to less than three,” the Times reported. The time period has been cut from 180 days down to 78. In the 2020 election, 1.3 million Georgians (26% of the electorate) voted with absentee ballots — and more blacks did than whites. (65% of absentees voted for Biden.) Additionally, the Georgia law has strict new ID requirements for absentee ballots.

Page 38: In order to confirm the identity of the voter, such form shall require the elector to provide his or her name, date of birth, address as registered, address where the elector wishes the ballot to be mailed, and the number of his or her Georgia driver’s license or identification card issued … If such elector does not have a Georgia driver’s license or identification card … the elector shall affirm this fact in the manner prescribed in the application and the elector shall provide a copy of a form of identification … The form made available by the Secretary of State shall include a space to affix a photocopy or electronic image of such identification.

From text of bill

Before this, voters simply had to sign the application for their ballots. Now, they have to provide the number of their license or other ID card. 200,000 Georgia residents have no driver’s license or ID card, according to CNN.

Across the country, about 11 percent of Americans do not have government-issued photo identification cards, such as a driver’s license or a passport, according to Wendy Weiser of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. The American Civil Liberties Union adds: “Minority voters disproportionately lack ID. Nationally, up to 25% of African-American citizens of voting age lack government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of whites.”

Drop boxes are highly limited under the new law. In 2020, there were 94 drop boxes across the four counties that constitute most of metro Atlanta: Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, and Gwinnett. The new law limits those boxes to, at most, 23, per the Times. They must be placed indoors at government buildings or early voting sites and thus will be unavailable for voters to drop off ballots during evenings or after business hours.

Mobile voting centers (like RVs) are now banned under the new law. Last year, Fulton County (the seat of Atlanta) had two vehicles that brought polling sites to people at churches, parks and libraries in the county (which is 45% Black). The new law bans their use unless Gov. Kemp declares a state of emergency to allow them.

Perhaps most egregiously, the law criminalizes offering refreshments to those waiting in line to vote. Offering food or water to voters in line is now a misdemeanor.

No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector, nor shall any person solicit signatures for any petition, nor shall any person, other than election officials discharging their duties, establish or set up any tables or booths on any day in which ballots are being cast: (1) Within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established; (2) Within any polling place; or (3) Within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place.

Page 73 of the Georgia law

This is particularly galling, given the long lines that voters faced last year in the general election. Some were stalled in line from morning to night. On October 10, NowThis writer Ashleigh Carter revealed, “On Monday [October 5], Georgia residents reported waiting in line for up to eleven hours — and in some cases, voting machine malfunctions caused even more delays. On Tuesday afternoon [October 6], The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that voters were given estimated wait times of eight hours in Gwinnett County and five hours in Cobb County.” 

An analysis by Georgia Public Broadcasting and ProPublica found a significant disparity in wait times after the 7 pm poll closures. For polling places in which voters were 90% white, the average wait time was 6 minutes. For polling places with voters who were 90% non-white, the average wait time was 51 minutes.

The decision by MLB drew heated reaction on both sides. One voice of approval was NBA star LeBron James:

Georgia activist Stacey Abrams was more measured:

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who is to guide the National League All-Star team, applauded MLB for moving the game from Georgia.

“I think in a world now where people want and need to be heard — and in this particular case, people of color — for Major League Baseball to listen and do something about it, to be proactive, it sets a tone,” said Roberts, the son of a Black father and Japanese mother.

On the other hand, the Atlanta Braves expressed disappointment about the decision:

Conservatives lamented the decision as an example of “cancel culture”, criticizing the MLB for “caving” to what they saw as liberal outrage. Today, at a press conference, Gov. Brian Kemp blasted the decision. “Yesterday, Major League Baseball caved to fear and lies from liberal activists,” Mr. Kemp said at a news conference, flanked by the state’s Republican attorney general, G.O.P. members of the legislature and grass-roots activists. “In the middle of a pandemic, Major League Baseball put the wishes of Stacey Abrams and Joe Biden ahead of the economic well-being of hard-working Georgians who were counting on the All-Star Game for a paycheck.”

Republicans, including Mr. Trump, have called for a boycott. “Don’t go back to their products until they relent,” the former president urged in a statement on Saturday night, naming companies including Delta and Coca-Cola. “We can play the game better than them.” Fox News host Laura Ingraham added on Twitter: “Patriots will choose another beverage. Big mistake by @CocaCola. Don’t poke the bear.”

But so far, Delta and Coca-Cola — two of the state’s largest corporations — have held firm. “I want to be crystal clear,” James Quincey, the chief executive of Coca-Cola, said on Wednesday. “The Coca-Cola Company does not support this legislation, as it makes it harder for people to vote, not easier.”

UPDATE (April 6, 2021): The MLB has decided to move the All-Star Game to Coors Field in Denver. The news was delivered by an anonymous source. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday night because MLB hadn’t announced the move yet. The commissioner’s office was expected to declare Tuesday that the Colorado Rockies will host the game. ESPN was first to report the decision.

“We are excited about the possibility of hosting the All Star Game and are awaiting MLB’s decision,” Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock told KDVR. Coors Field has not hosted the MLB All-Star Game since 1998.

Significantly, Colorado has automatic and same-day voter registration — and allows up to 13 different forms of voter ID whereas Georgia allows only six. It had the second-highest turnout for a state in the 2020 election (behind only Minnesota), and its voting system has been praised by sources including the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Daily Kos reporter Stephen Wolf also lauded Colorado:

Matt Gaetz Sex Scandal

April 1, 2021

By Terrance Turner

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) is under fire (and investigation) for his alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl. On March 30, a New York Times story revealed that Mr. Gaetz is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with the girl and paid for her to travel to him. If true, Gaetz has violated several federal trafficking laws, including the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting a minor across state lines for sex or other “immoral purposes”.

The findings are part of a larger investigation into Mr. Gaetz’s associate Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in Florida. Federal authorities seized Greenberg’s phone and laptop, finding evidence of fake ID cards for him and a teenage girl. (They also found holograms associated with concealed handguns, per the Times.) Mr. Greenberg was indicted last summer on a varity of charges, including sex trafficking. He pled not guilty and was sent to jail last month for violating terms of his bail. His trial is set for June. It is not clear how he and Gaetz know each other.

Significantly, Matt Gaetz was the only House member to vote against a 2017 bill that would’ve given the federal government more power to combat sex trafficking.

Gaetz, 38, strongly denied the allegations. “It is veritably false that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman,” he said on Tuesday, March 30. He then went even farther, claiming to be the victim of an extortion plot. He tweeted Tuesday: “Over the past several weeks my family and I have been the victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name.” He added that “my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals.”

He further defended himself in an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson. “It is a horrible allegation, and it is false,” Gaetz insisted. “Providing for flights and for hotel rooms for people that you’re dating is not a crime.” He added: “I can say that actually, you and I went to dinner about two years ago — your wife was there. And I brought a friend of mine — you’ll remember her — and she was actually threatened by the FBI.”

“I don’t remember the woman you’re speaking of, or the context, at all,” Carlson responded.

Today, the saga reached a shocking new height. CNN is quoting multiple sources who say Gaetz allegedly showed off photos and videos of nude women whom he said he had slept with, including on the House floor. One video showed a naked woman with a hula hoop. “It was a point of pride,” one source said.

Now, the Times has learned that cash payments are involved. The Hill confirms: “Receipts on mobile payments apps reviewed by the Times show money from Gaetz and Greenberg was sent to one of the women, who told friends it was for having sex with both men.” The Times reports:

Investigators believe Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, initially met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances, according to three people with knowledge of the encounters. Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them, the people said.

One of the women who had sex with both men also agreed to have sex with an unidentified associate of theirs in Florida Republican politics, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. Mr. Greenberg had initially contacted her online and introduced her to Mr. Gaetz, the person said.

From “DOJ Probe Into Gaetz Involves Cash Payments”

Mr. Gaetz got engaged to girlfriend Ginger Luckey, 26, on New Year’s Eve, per the Pensacola News Journal. He proposed to her at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago ranch, according to the Times. Gaetz has been a vocal defender of Trump, storming congressional offices during his first impeachment and opposing certification of the 2020 election. But Trump’s response to the plight of his devoted ally has so far been radio silence.

UPDATE (April 8, 2021): After The Times reported yesterday that Gaetz sought a preemptive pardon from the White House and was rejected, Trump issued a short statement. “Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” Trump said. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”

Gaetz remains firm in his denial: “My lifestyle of yesteryear may be different from how I live now, but it was not and is not illegal,” he wrote in a column in the Washington Examiner on Monday. “First, I have never, ever paid for sex,” he stated. “And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old.”

Today, word broke that Greenberg may be cooperating with federal prosecutors. Politico reports that prosecutors and a defense attorney for Greenberg appeared before a judge today to discuss the next steps in a recently expanded criminal case charging Greenberg with sex trafficking of a minor, as well as stalking, bribery and defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program.

“We believe this case is going to be a plea,” federal prosecutor Roger Handberg said at the outset of the brief hearing. Greenberg’s defense attorney, Fritz Scheller, agreed. “I expect this case to be resolved with a plea,” the lawyer told reporters after the hearing. He added: “I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.” 

Gaetz’s discomfort will likely be amplified by a lurid report in The Daily Beast. “In two late-night Venmo transactions in May 2018, Rep. Matt Gaetz sent his friend, the accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, $900. The next morning, over the course of eight minutes, Greenberg used the same app to send three young women varying sums of money,” write reporters Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger. “In total, the transactions amounted to $900.”

The memo field for the first of Gaetz’s transactions to Greenberg was titled “Test.” In the second, the Florida GOP congressman wrote “hit up ___.” But instead of a blank, Gaetz wrote a nickname for one of the recipients. (The Daily Beast is not sharing that nickname because the teenager had only turned 18 less than six months before.) When Greenberg then made his Venmo payments to these three young women, he described the money as being for “Tuition,” “School,” and “School.”

“Gaetz Paid Accused Sex Trafficker, Who Then Venmo’d Teen”

The Daily Beast obtained Greenberg’s past online transactions (partially) through a source and also obtained credit card data that paints a damning portrait: “Greenberg and Gaetz are also connected on Venmo to at least one other woman that Greenberg paid with taxpayer funds using a government-issued credit card. Seminole County auditors flagged hundreds of those payments as ‘questioned or unaccounted for,’ and in total found more than $300,000 in suspicious or unjustified expenses. The Daily Beast was able to obtain that credit card data through a public records request.”

Biden Announces “American Jobs Plan”

Photo from the Tribune Review.

By Terrance Turner

March 31, 2021

Today, at a union training center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, President Joe Biden introudced the American Jobs Act. The sprawling, ambitious bill will invest about $2 trillion over the next eight years (amounting to about 1 percent of America’s GDP per year) to repair, rebuild, and reinvent infrastructure in the United States. Its goals are multifold, from roads and bridges to caregiving and climate change.

“It’s time to build our economy from the bottom up and the middle out,” Biden said, emphasizing the need for more good paying and union jobs. “Wall Street didn’t build this country; you, the middle class, built this country. And unions built the middle class.”

The White House fact sheet on the bill outlines the reasons for its creation: “The United States of America is the wealthiest country in the world, yet we rank 13th when it comes to the overall quality of our infrastructure. After decades of disinvestment, our roads, bridges, and water systems are crumbling. Our electric grid is vulnerable to catastrophic outages. Too many lack access to affordable, high-speed Internet and to quality housing […] The American Jobs Plan will invest in America in a way we have not invested since we built the interstate highways and won the Space Race.”

“It is not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” Mr. Biden said, quoted by the New York Times. “It is a once-in-a-generation investment in America. Unlike anything we have seen or done, since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago.” In fact, Biden said today, it is “the largest American jobs investment since World War II.”

Vox has compiled a list of the bill’s highlights, which I have augmented by selections from the White House Fact Sheet. Here are the toplines of what’s in the American Jobs Plan:

  • “The $621 billion in infrastructure spending is the largest chunk of Biden’s plan, aiming to modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main streets, fix the 10 most economically significant bridges in the country, and repair 10,000 smaller bridges. Biden’s plan calls for $85 billion to modernize public transit and $80 billion to be put toward Amtrak for repairs and improving train corridors.” – Vox
    • The Department of Transportation states that there’s a “repair backlog” of over $105 billion, including 24,000 buses and 5,000 rail cars.
    • The American Rescue Plan will double federal spending for public transit and work to end the repair backlog.
  • “One in five miles, or 173,000 total miles, of our highways and major roads are in poor condition, as well as 45,000 bridges,” the White House says. Thus the President’s plan proposes $115 billion to modernize bridges, highways, roads, and main streets that are in need of repair. As summarized below:
    • “The President’s plan will modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main-streets.”
    • “It will fix the ten most economically significant bridges in the country in need of reconstruction.”
    • “It also will repair the worst 10,000 smaller bridges, providing critical linkages to communities.”
  • Invests $174 billion in the electric vehicle market, building out a network of 500,000 EV chargers on roads by 2030.
    • Plan will support U.S. workers to make batteries and electric vehicles (EVs)
    • Establish grant/incentive programs for local government/private sector to build 500,000 EV chargers by 2030
  • The plan also calls for the electrification of 20 percent of the school bus fleet, and using federal procurement to electrify the entire federal fleet, including the US Postal Service,” Vox says.
    • “It also talks about giving consumers point of sale rebates and tax incentives to buy American-made electric vehicles, incorporating a plan from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).”

An estimated 6-10 million homes still receive drinking water through lead pipes and service lines, according to the White House Fact Sheet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintain that there is no safe level of lead exposure for children. Lead exposure can slow learning and cause kidney/brain damage in children. Thus, Biden’s plan:

  • Eliminates all lead pipes and service lines in drinking water systems, and puts $56 billion in grants and flexible loans to states, tribes, and territories to upgrade drinking, wastewater, and stormwater systems.
  • Calls on the federal government to contribute $45 billion in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, a federal-state partnership to ensure safe drinking water.
  • Invests $100 billion to build out the nation’s high-speed broadband infrastructure to 100 percent coverage, including in remote and rural areas. Biden’s plan also commits to working with Congress to reduce the price of broadband, but doesn’t specify exactly how.
  • Invests $213 billion to build and retrofit over 2 million homes and commercial buildings, including community colleges, aging schools, child care facilities, veterans’ hospitals, and federal buildings.
    • Biden’s plan calls for 1 million affordable housing units to be produced or retrofitted, and over 500,000 homes for low- and middle-income homebuyers to be built or rehabilitated.
    • The plan also calls for the elimination of exclusionary zoning.

“As the recent Texas power outages demonstrated, our aging electric grid needs urgent modernization. A Department of Energy study found that power outages cost the U.S. economy up to $70 billion annually,” the White House said. “The President’s plan will create a more resilient grid, lower energy bills for middle class Americans, improve air quality and public health outcomes, and create good jobs, with a choice to join a union, on the path to achieving 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035.” President Biden is calling on Congress to invest $100 billion to build a more resilient electric transmission system.

  • Primary goal: creation of a “targeted investment tax credit” that incentivizes buildout of at least 20 gigawatts of high-voltage capacity power lines.
  • Puts $16 billion toward plugging “orphan” oil and gas wells (which have been abandoned by defunct companies that can’t afford to plug them) and abandoned coal and uranium mines
  • Plan also works towards funding environmental resiliency jobs including restoring forests, wetlands, and watersheds.
  • The plan calls for $10 billion to create a Civilian Climate Corps to conserve public lands and waters, one of Biden’s campaign promises. Conservation advocates argued that environmental restoration and resilience jobs like these can put people to work even more quickly than clean energy jobs.
    • “Some of the earliest job wins you’re going to see are going to be in the restoration space,” Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, told Vox. “They don’t require materials or construction, new fabrication of different goods and materials. The only thing that’s needed is money.”
  • Invests $100 billion to modernize the nation’s electrical grid, and extend and expand the production and investment tax credits to accelerate clean energy jobs and projects in wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy.

Per Vox, “The bill also includes some ideas that might stretch the traditional definition of infrastructure:

  • Bolsters unions by calling on Congress to pass the pro-union Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Biden’s plan similarly asks Congress to tie federal investments in clean energy and infrastructure to prevailing wage laws, and requires that investments in transportation meet existing transit labor protections.
  • Bans “exclusionary zoning” and harmful land-use policies, including minimum lot sizes, mandatory parking requirements, and prohibitions on multifamily housing.
  • Expands long-term care under Medicaid,increasing access to home and community-based services and giving more people the chance to receive care at home. The Biden administration’s plan aims to increase the quality of care-giving jobs and offer home health workers more chances to unionize and increase their wages.
  • As part of a plan to target workforce development in underserved communities, Biden’s plan would put$5 billion over eight years to support evidence-based community violence prevention programs, and invest in job training for formerly incarcerated individuals.
  •  $400 billion toward expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities.

“It’s worth repeating that this wide-ranging plan is Biden’s opening bid, not a final product,” Vox noted. “The next few months of negotiations with Congress will ultimately determine how many of these provisions will make it into a final bill — and it will take even more negotiations to get that bill passed.”

Biden said his proposal would be paid for in 15 years by raising taxes on corporations, NPR reports. The corporate tax rate would be raised from 21% to 28%, and Biden’s “Made in America” tax plan would close loopholes that allow businesses to store money in offshore accounts. The president said he’s open to other ideas, but Biden vowed Wednesday that no one making less than $400,000 a year would see their taxes increased — “period.”

LaMarcus Aldridge Signs With Brooklyn Nets — Then Retires!

By Terrance Turner

March 26, 2021 (Updated April 15, 2021)

Former Spurs star LaMarcus Aldridge has signed a one-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets, according to multiple sources including The Athletic. Basketball agent Jeff Schwartz confirmed the trade to ESPN. It is a one-year “veteran’s minimum” deal, according to reporter Shams Charania.

Aldridge (6’11”, 250 lb.) spent nine seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers and six more with the San Antonio Spurs. He was averaging 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, according to Yahoo! Sports. Aldridge, 35, hadn’t played since he agreed to part ways with the Spurs on March 10. Today, the seven-time All-Star signed with the Nets.

Courtesy of NBA.com.

This news comes after weeks of wheeling and dealing by the Nets organization. Earlier this month, they signed forward Blake Griffin to a deal. Terms of the deal were not released, but Griffin had stopped playing for the Detroit Pistons in February, seeking a trade. The trade to Brooklyn reunites him with former teammate and friend DeAndre Jordan (both played on the Los Angeles Clippers).

According to the NBA website, Griffin (6’10”, 250 lb) was named Rookie of the Year after his first season of play with the Clippers. He was named an All-Star for five consecutive seasons between 2011-2015. In 2014, Griffin scored 20 points or more a game for 20 consecutive games, according to Bleacher Report. He earned his sixth NBA All-Star selection while averaging a career-best 24.5 points and leading the Pistons to the NBA Playoffs in 2018-19. Griffin joins Grant Hill as the second player in franchise history to average at least 20 points, six rebounds and five assists during his tenure in Detroit.

Blake Griffin signed with the Nets earlier this month. (Google Images)

On Jan. 13, 2021, the Houston Rockets traded star James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets in a massive blockbuster deal. The Rockets received four first-round picks and four pick swaps, all of which came from the Nets — except for a 2022 Milwaukee pick currently owned by Cleveland. Harden, a nine-time All-Star (2013-2021), led the league in scoring for three consecutive years and powered the Rockets to a franchise-best 65 wins in the 2017-18 season.

With these additions, the Brooklyn Nets now have six All-Stars — Aldridge, Griffin, Harden, Jordan, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant — making them the team to beat.

UPDATE: LaMarcus Aldridge is retiring from the NBA.

In a letter posted to social media, Aldridge, 35, revealed that he has a heart condition that has forced him to retire. “My last game, I played while dealing with an irregular heartbeat,” Aldrige wrote. “Later on that night, my rhythm got even worse, which really worried me even more. “The next morning, I told the team what was going on and they were great getting me to the hospital and getting me checked out. Though I’m better now, what I felt with my heart that night was still one of the scariest things I’ve experienced.”

“With that being said, I made the difficult decision to retire from the NBA. For 15 years, I’ve put basketball first, and now, it is time to put my health and family first.” Aldridge thanked his teams (the Portland Trail Blazers, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Brooklyn Nets) and closed his letter with a poignant message. “You never know when something will come to an end, so make sure you enjoy it everyday. I can truly say I did just that.”