Giancarlo Stanton Continues Monster Hitting Streak for Yankees

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Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

By Terrance Turner

May 6, 2021

New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton is having a field day in the MLB. In today’s match versus the Houston Astros, Stanton extended his 11-game hitting streak to 12 by hitting his ninth home run of the season. He’s hit a home run in three straight games:

Stanton’s hot streak helped the Yankees notch a 6-3 win over the Astros yesterday in the Bronx. He went 3-for-4 with four RBI, according to CBS Sports. He hit a 3rd-inning home run off pitcher Luis Garcia at 107 mph. The ball traveled 435 feet.

That gave Stanton 20 RBIs for the season and gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead. Later, Stanton tied the game in the fifth inning with a double, according to the New York Post. But what he’d done the day before was even more impressive.

On May 4, Stanton shined again during a “Star Wars” themed telecast from New York. It was the first time the Astros had visited the Bronx since their infamous sign-stealing scandal in 2017. And the fans made their displeasure known: a hailstorm of boos rained down upon the Houston team. A sellout crowd of 10,850 fans showered the Astros with thunderous heckles. “It sounded like a full house,” Astros manager Dusty Baker told ESPN. Perhaps the loudest boos were saved for Astros player Jose Altuve (who beat out Yankees’ Aaron Judge for American League MVP in 2017.) But the crowd’s boos turned to cheers with Giancarlo Stanton stepped up to bat.

Stanton’s astronomical work helped the Yankees pull off a crowd-pleasing win. In the first inning, he hit a 2-run homer at 106 mph. His home run sailed towards the wall, traveling 367 feet (according to SB Nation). He hit a 117 mph double in the fifth, and in the sixth and eighth innings he notched singles. One of his RBIs gave the Yankees a four-run lead; they won the game, 7-3.

Stanton’s two-run homer is shown below:

Is Aaron Rodgers Leaving the Green Bay Packers? Did Adam Schefter Lie?

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Photo from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

By Terrance Turner

April 28, 2021

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers reportedly wants out.

NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported the bombshell development: “Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers is so disgruntled with the Green Bay Packers that he has told some within the organization that he does not want to return to the team, league and team sources told ESPN on Thursday.

The Packers are aware of his feelings, concerned about them and have had team president Mark Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur each fly out on separate trips to meet with Rodgers at various points this offseason, sources told ESPN.”

But the writing may already be on the proverbial wall. Former ESPN host Trey Wingo tweeted today that the two parties have been engaged in a “bleep show” for days. According to Wingo, Rodgers has already informed the team that he’s headed out the door:

Over the past week (and even before that), teams have been calling, ESPN says. “The San Francisco 49ers called the Packers on Wednesday night, a source told ESPN, and the Los Angeles Rams inquired about Rodgers in January before they traded for Matthew Stafford.The Packers quickly dismissed the Rams’ overtures, the source said.” (The 49ers part is especially interesting: Rodgers, who was born in California, had originally wanted to play for San Francisco when he began his career.)

But reporter Tom Pelissero put the brakes on these headlines, saying that there’s “zero” chance of the Packers trading Rodgers. While teams have inquired about Rodgers this offseason, no team has made a trade offer for the three-time MVP, a source told ESPN. The Packers have even offered to extend Rodgers’ contract, sources told ESPN. But veteran NFL reporter Ian Rapoport says that negotiations have broken down:

Why is Rodgers unhappy? Schefter says: “Rodgers is unhappy for a variety of reasons, with some of it dating to last year’s draft when the Packers didn’t inform him before trading up to draft a quarterback with their first-round pick. (The Packers selected Jordan Love.) Some took this as a sign that his days in Green Bay could be numbered.” But after Rodgers’ sensational performance in the 2020 season, today’s news comes as a shock.

No NFL player has ever been traded after winning the MVP award in the previous season. The only MVPs to not return to their team in the season after winning the award were Norm Van Brocklin (retired after winning in 1960) and Jim Brown (retired after winning in 1965), per ESPN. Rodgers won the NFL MVP Award in February, after a stellar season in which he threw 48 touchdowns.

During his acceptance speech, Rodgers casually mentioned that he’d gotten engaged. It was later revealed that his bride-to-be is actress Shailene Woodley, whom he’d been quietly dating for all of six months. The two visited Disney World in Florida weeks ago, while Rodgers was doing a guest hosting stint on the show “Jeopardy!” Rapoport adds:

UPDATE (May 1, 2021): Rodgers broke his silence today. In an off-camera conversation with Mike Tirico, Rodgers confirmed that he is discontented with the organization. The two spoke at the Kentucky Derby; Rodgers didn’t want to speak on camera. But Tirico relayed his sentiments via Twitter today, saying that Rodgers was “disappointed” about how the matter had become public.

UPDATE (MAY 6, 2021): When Adam Schefter “broke” the news about Aaron Rodgers wanting out of Green Bay — one week ago today — I went into a frenzy. I brought together data and alternate sources to form the bulk of my story, which was based partly on Schefter’s reporting. I quickly crafted this story (and took time away from packing for an upcoming trip) because I believed this to be a breaking story. It in fact was not.

Today, Schefter admitted that he had been sitting on the story for weeks, only releasing it on the day of the NFL Draft. In an interview with host Dan Patrick, Schefter conceded that he had written and released the story without new info. Schefter cited an interview Rodgers had given after the Packers lost the AFC Championship Game to the Buccaneers. That interview gave the impression that Rodgers had “unhappiness” or “uncertainty” about his future, Schefter said. Schefter eventually admitted that he had released the story with no new information. But that revelation came only after some direct questioning by Patrick.

“So you chose to release the news on Draft Day?” Patrick asked.

“That is absolutely accurate, yes,” Schefter replied.

“So it wasn’t something that you got information about…?” Patrick asked.

“No,” Schefter answered. “And it was nothing that morning that came in.”

Patrick noted that, according to Schefter, his information “didn’t come from Rodgers, didn’t come from the Packers, I was wondering: OK, you’re not gonna tell me your source–“

“Dan!” Schefter insisted. “There’s not a source.

Interesting. Schefter wrote in his article that “league and team sources told ESPN on Thursday.” But now he’s revealing that the story wasn’t based on anything that “came in” that Thursday morning. And that “there’s not a source”. Does that mean sources didn’t tell ESPN anything on Thursday? Or that there was no “source” at all? Because that would be a lie.

Schefter claimed that “it just happened to be draft day” when he released the story. Unclear how truthful that is. Updates will be made public as they become available.

Earth Day

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Photo courtesy of Socialite Life.

By Terrance Turner

April 22, 2021

Today is Earth Day, an annual holiday that demonstrates support for environmental protection. Activist John McConnell first proposed the event in 1969. A year later, Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson conceived the idea of a “teach-in” about the environment on college campuses to the national media. According to earthday.org, he persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair.  They recruited Denis Hayes, a young activist, to organize the campus teach-ins. Nelson chose the date of April 22.

He came from Wisconsin, which has cold winters, and he wanted to find a date late enough in the year that a teach-in wouldn’t be snowed in, but early enough that students wouldn’t be cramming fro final exams,” Hayes remembered in an interview with Time magazine. “And he wanted it to be in the middle of the week so people wouldn’t be away on weekend trips.” So Nelson chose April 22. “Earth Day was such a spectacular success, it started appearing on calendars,” Hayes said. In fact, the first Earth Day (on April 22, 1970) inspired 20 million demonstrators to the streets, participating in coast-to-coast rallies in cities and towns.Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against environmental destruction and the industrial pollution that had fueled it.

According to its website, “Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban dwellers and farmers, business and labor leaders.” Earth Day united millions in pursuit of a cleaner, more sustainable planet. It led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency that year, followed by the passage of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. The impact of Earth Day on America can be felt to this day.

Today, President Joe Biden pledged to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. He made the announcement today — Earth Day — during a virtual summit with about 40 world leaders. The two-day summit is about the United States’ return to the Paris Climate Agreement, according to the New York Times.

As the summit got underway, Biden set an ambitious new goal: bring emissions down 50-52% from a record high in 2005. His administration also said it would double its climate-related financing for developing countries by 2024 and push the private sector to fund sustainable infrastructure, mitigation initiatives and other investments. 

“These steps will set America on a path of a net-zero emissions economy by no later than 2050,” Biden said. He portrayed these efforts as part of a economic and ethical obligation. “This is a moral imperative, an economic imperative,” Mr. Biden said. “A moment of peril, but also a moment of extraordinary possibilities.”

The pledge met with varying results. “In rapid succession, Japan, Canada, Britain and the European Union committed to steeper cuts. But China, India and Russia made no new emissions promises, and even Mr. Biden’s commitment to cut U.S. greenhouse gases 50 percent to 52 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade will be extraordinarily difficult to meet, economically and politically,” the Times reported.

But Biden is undeterred. He insisted that now is the time to begin addressing the global issue of climate change. “Scientists tell us that this is the decisive decade, this is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of a climate crisis,” Biden said, quoted by USA Today. Biden’s climate czar John Kerry acknowledged the loftiness of the goal, but was also bullish. He called the aim “ambitious but appropriate and achievable” and added, “Is it doable? Yes. Will we probably exceed it? I expect yes.”

That will be a steep climb. A new report from the University of Maryland outlined steps that would need to be taken for the Biden administration to meet its goal. A fact sheet from the study says that by 2030, half of the electricity in America would need to come from renewable sources like such as wind, solar or hydropower. Most, if not all, of the coal-powered plants in the country would need to be shut down. Generation from gas-fired power plants must be a third lower than today.

To meet Biden’s goal, according to the report, transportation must be overhauled, too. “In 2030, over 65% of new cars and SUV sales will be electric (pure EV or PHEV). and 10% of new truck sales will be electric,” the fact sheet says. It adds that cleaning up transportation contributes 1/4 of the needed reductions.

All new buildings need to be 100% electric. Almost all new appliance sales will need to be electric, as part of a longer-term transition away from natural gas. Cement emissions will be 20% lower than they were in 2018. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) emissions have to be reduced by almost half. Methane (CH4) leaks from oil and gas systems must be cut by 60%.

Already, the administration is getting to work. On Thursday, the C.I.A. announced it was adding a new category covering the environment to its World Factbook. The agency’s unclassified guide will now provide the latest country data on climate, air pollutants, infectious diseases, food security, waste and other environmental topics.

Today, the White House nominated Rick Spinrad, an oceanographer at Oregon State University, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NOAA, is a government agency that seeks to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts. It houses the National Weather Service and conducts much of the nation’s climate reserach, according to Axios. Spinrad is a professor of oceanography who served as the NOAA’s chief climate scientist under the Obama administration.

UPDATE (April 23, 2021): Social media is buzzing around Zac Efron’s appearance in a new video. Efron made a cameo in the Facebook Watch special “Earth Day: The Musical,” made in partnership with EarthDay.org. In the film, scientist Bill Nye teams up with Justin Bieber to bring awareness of Earth Day and climate change. After a rumor surfaces that Nye is producing a musical, Nye turns the spotlight over to young climate activists. But the special also invovles cameos from musician Maluma, DJ Steve Aoki, and Efron himself. “Bill, I think you’re a genius,” Efron says in the film.

Yesterday, Efron marked the occasion on his Instagram. “It’s #EarthDay,” Efron wrote. “I’ve been so blessed to be able to travel and see all the amazing things people are doing for the planet. It’s a beautiful world, let’s protect it.” In recent years, Efron has been vocal about environmental causes. He is currently filming the second season of his Netflix show “Down to Earth”, which takes an in-depth look at global ecosystems and sustainable living.

In the series, Efron travels to various countries to learn about their environments and eco-friendly efforts. In Iceland, he visits the Svartsengi Power Plant, a geothermal power plant that operates entirely on renewable resources. It’s located in the middle of a lava field; magma allows for hot springs and an ideal environment for geothermal plants. According to Popular Mechanics, Iceland, with 323,000 residents, is the world’s largest energy producer per capita and produces more energy than it needs. Efron also visits a chocolate factory in Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland.

In France, Efron learns about the tap water system; in Sardinia, Italy, he ponders nutrition. In Puerto Rico, Efron explores sustainable living and milks a goat. The Puerto Rico episode depicts the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria in 2017. The increasing intensity of hurricanes is one of the impacts of climate change. As NASA notes, “The intensity, frequency and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency of the strongest (Category 4 and 5) hurricanes, have all increased since the early 1980s […] Hurricane-associated storm intensity and rainfall rates are projected to increase as the climate continues to warm.”

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.

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%.”

UPDATE (April 26): Rodgers recently finished a two-week stint as host of the show “Jeopardy!”, which he’s been a fan of since childhood. During the trip, Rodgers and Woodley visited Disney World in Florida, where they were photographed at the Grand Floridian Resort. While there, they took part in a brief interview. Asked “What is one thing that makes you smile?” the two instantly pointed at each other. Rodgers added: “You always make me smile.”

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.

Kevin McCarthy Upset With Liz Cheney (But Not Matt Gaetz)

Photo from Getty Images

By Terrance Turner

May 4, 2021

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) was caught on a hot mic today badmouthing Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), ABC News said today. ABC played audio of the remarks on “World News Tonight”. According to Axios, the remarks were made on Fox News (predictably).

“I think she’s got real problems,” McCarthy told Steve Doocy off-air ahead of a live “Fox and Friends” interview. “I’ve had it with her. You know, I’ve lost confidence. … Well, someone just has to bring a motion, but I assume that will probably take place.”

The remarks set up what will likely be a procedural vote to remove Cheney from office. Cheney, the NO. 3 Republican in the House, committed the apparently cardinal sin of going against Donald Trump. Cheney voted to convict Donald Trump during his impeachment trial in January. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Cheney said in a statement at the time.

For her temerity, Cheney was censured by the Wyoming Republican Party, who even asked her to resign. Then she faced a secret vote that tried to oust her from power. Just 61 Republicans voted to remove Cheney from her post, while 145 voted for her to stay in a vote by secret ballot. Cheney survived, though she has faced consistent criticism from her colleagues.

But Cheney won’t back down. On Feb. 24, McCarthy defended Trump’s decision to speak at CPAC. When Cheney was asked a similar question, she doubled down: “I’ve been clear in my views about President Trump and the extent to which following Jan. 6 I don’t believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country,” Cheney said, as McCarthy closed his eyes in apparent frustration.

McCarthy is clearly frustrated enough with Cheney to threaten to remove her. But he doesn’t have that same urgency with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), who remains on the House Judiciary Committee despite a growing cloud of sex trafficking allegations. (Gaetz had the audacity to fly to Wyoming and blast Cheney in January, against McCarthy’s warning that Republicans not attack each other.)

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. Mr. Greenberg was indicted last summer on a varity of charges, including sex trafficking.

Gaetz vehemently denied the charges, claiming that he and his family were the victims of an extortion plot. 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.”

Days later, CNN quoted multiple sources who say Gaetz allegedly showed off photos and videos of nude women whom he said he had slept with — and on the House floor. One video showed a naked woman with a hula hoop. “It was a point of pride,” one source said. Then 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.”

Then, in April, came 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.”

On April 30, 2021, The Daily Beast obtained a letter from Greenberg in which he confesses that both he and Gaetz paid for sex with an underage girl. “On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself,” Greenberg writes in the letter.

“From time to time, gas money or gifts, rent or partial tuition payments were made to several of these girls, including the individual who was not yet 18. I did see the acts occur firsthand and Venmo transactions, Cash App or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the Congressman.”

Greenberg admitted that both he and Gaetz had sex with a girl that they believed was 19. (She was 17 at the time.) Greenberg says he learned the girl was underage “from an anonymous tip” on Sept. 4, 2017. He promptly notified Gaetz. “Immediately I called the congressman and warned him to stay clear of this person and informed him she was underage,” Greenberg wrote. “He was equally shocked and disturbed by this revelation.”

Despite all this sordid drama, Gaetz has not resigned and not been removed from any committees. McCarthy has not moved to strip Gaetz of committee assignments and has been all but mute on the cascade of allegations against him.

Biden Delivers First Presidential Address to Congress

By Terrance Turner

April 28, 2021

Tonight, President Joe Biden addressed Congress in his first speech to them as president. The speech covered a wide range of topics, reflecting the plethora of pressing issues facing Americans: COVID-19, immigration, LGBTQ equality, race and policing. Tonight, in succinct, sweeping prose, Biden outlined what he aims to do on these and other topics. Some highlights are detailed below.

Biden began his speech by greeting Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then noting the historic nature of having two women seated behind him. “Madam speaker, madam vice president,” Biden said. “No president has ever said those words from this podium. And it’s about time.”

AFP via Getty Images

 “One hundred days since I took the oath of office and lifted my hand off our family bible and inherited a nation — we all did — that was in crisis,” Biden said. “The worst pandemic in a century, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War. Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again.”

Biden boasted about the economic record of his tenure so far, making the dubious claim that his administration has created, “more jobs than the first 100 days than any president on record.”Biden also discussed the economic benefits of his $1.9 trillion dollar COVID-19 relief bill. “And, maybe most importantly, thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we are on track to cut child poverty in America in half this year.”

President Biden also addressed climate change. According to ABC News, he chose to emphasize what he felt was a long-neglected buzzword. “For too long, we failed to use the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis: jobs. Jobs. Jobs,” Biden said to a round of applause. Both are a centerpiece of his mammoth infrastructure plan, which he is trying to get passed through Congress.

But Biden also addressed American health. He grew emotional as he talked about the need to fight diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer and diabetes. He mentioned former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who once proposed naming cancer legislation after Biden’s late son Beau. (Veteran Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015.) “I know of nothing that is more bipartisan, so let’s end cancer as we know it,” Biden said. “It is within our power. It’s within our power to do it.” He also urged Congress to help lower prescription drug prices and deductibles for the Affordable Care Act.

Also on the agenda: establishing a $15 minimum wage. “No one, no one working 40 hours a week, no one working 40 hours a week should live below the poverty line,” Biden declared. “We know how to do this. The last president had that as an objective,” he said.

He also spoke about bipartisanship. “I like to meet with those who have ideas that are different, that they think are better,” Biden said. “I welcome those ideas. But the rest of the world is not waiting for us. I just want to be clear, from my perspective, doing nothing is not an option.”

Which is exactly what he feels Congress has done on immigration. Biden lamented that politicians have been talking about immigration for decades without doing anything about it. He urged Congress to provide bipartisan support for an immigration bill. “If you believe that we need to secure the border, pass it, because it has a lot of money for high-tech border security. If you believe in a pathway to citizenship, pass it,” he said. Biden also spoke of the need for legislation to protect DREAMers, those brought to America as children who now face deportation. (The Supreme Court upheld DACA, an Obama-era program to protect Dreamers, in a landmark case last year.)

“Look, if you don’t like my plan, let’s at least pass what we all agree on. Congress needs to pass legislation this year to finally secure protection for dreamers.The [ones] who have only known America as their home, and permanent protection for immigrants who are here on temporary protective status who came from countries beset by manmade and natural made violence and disasters. As well as a pathway to citizenship for farm workers that put food on our tables.

Look, immigrants have done so much for America during this pandemic and throughout our history. The country supports immigration reform. We should act. Let’s argue over it. Let’s debate it. But let’s act.”

The president thanked the Senate for passing an anti-Asian hate crimes act that passed almost universally. “I want to thank the Senate for voting 94-1 to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, to protect Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders,” he said, to applause. But he also asked Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ Americans. “For all transgender Americans watching at home, especially young people who are so brave, I want you to know your President has your back,” the president said.

Another legislative item is the Violence Against Women Act, which Biden himself wrote in the 1990s. “The act that has to be authorized now will close the ‘boyfriend loophole’ to keep guns out of the hands of abusers. The court order said: this is an abuser, you can’t own a gun. It’s to close that loophole that existed,” Biden explained. “You know, it’s estimated that 50 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month in America. 50 a month. Let’s pass it and save some lives.”

While on the topic of shootings, Biden turned to gun violence. “I need not tell anyone this, but gun violence has become an epidemic in America. A flag at the White House was still flying at half mast for the eight victims of the mass shooting in Georgia, when 10 more lives were taken in a mass shooting in Colorado. And in the week in between those two events, 250 other Americans were shot dead in the streets of America. 250, shot dead.”

“I know how hard it is to make progress on this issue. In the 90s we passed universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines that hold 100 rounds that could be fired off in seconds. We beat the NRA. Mass shootings and gun violence declined. Check out the report, over 10 years.

But in the early 2000s, the law expired. We’ve seen daily bloodshed since,” Biden said.”I’m not saying if the law continued, we wouldn’t see bloodshed,” he admitted. But, he cautioned, there are a number of things that must be done. “One of them is banning so-called ‘ghost guns.’ These are homemade guns built from a kit that includes directions on how to finish the firearm.

The parts have no serial numbers, so they show up at crime scenes and they can’t be traced. The buyers of these ‘ghost gun’ kits aren’t required to pass any background check. Anyone, from a criminal or a terrorist, could buy this kit, and within 30 minutes have a weapon that’s lethal.”

“But no more,” Biden vowed. “I’ll do everything in my power to protect the American people from this epidemic of gun violence, but it’s time for Congress to act as well.”

President Biden also addressed race and policing — specifically the case of George Floyd. “My fellow Americans, look, we have to come together to heal the soul of this nation. It was nearly a year ago, before her father’s funeral, when I spoke with Gianna Floyd, George Floyd’s young daughter. She’s a little tyke, so I was kneeling down to talk to her so I could look her in the eye. She looked at me, she said, ‘My daddy changed the world.’

“Well, after the conviction of George Floyd’s murderer, we can see how right she was, if — if we have the courage to act as a Congress. We’ve all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black Americans. Now is our opportunity to make some real progress. The vast majority of men and women wearing a uniform and a badge serve our communities and they serve them honorably. I know them. I know they want–“

Biden was interrupted by applause. Even Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) stood to applaud.

“As I stand here tonight before you in a new and vital hour of life and democracy for our nation,” Biden concluded, “I can say with absolute confidence, I have never been more confident or optimistic about America — not because I am President, because what’s happening with the American people.

We’ve stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy, pandemic and pain, and we the people did not flinch. At the very moment our adversaries were certain we’d pull apart and fail, we came together, we united. With light and hope, we summoned a new strength, new resolve to position us to win the competition of the 21st century.

On our way to a union more perfect, more prosperous and more just, as one people, one nation and one America.”

Rudy Giuliani’s Apartment Searched by Feds

By Terrance Turner

April 28, 2021

This morning, federal investigators executed search warrants on the apartment and office of Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s lawyer. The New York Times first broke the story, citing three people with knowledge of the search. “The investigators seized Mr. Giuliani’s electronic devices and searched his apartment on Madison Avenue and his office on Park Avenue at about 6 a.m., two of the people said.” The Times added: “Executing a search warrant is an extraordinary move for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president.”

This is the latest in an investigation into Mr. Giuliani by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office — the very same office he once led. The question is whether Mr. Giuliani broke lobbying laws in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs, who at the same time were helping Mr. Giuliani dig up dirt on Mr. Trump’s political rivals. That includes now-President Biden, who was then a frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Times reports that the investigation of Mr. Giuliani grew out of a case against two Soviet-born men who aided his mission in Ukraine to unearth damaging information about Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Prosecutors charged the two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, with unrelated crimes in late 2019. According to CNN, the two were indicted on campaign finance charges stemming from an alleged straw donor scheme. Parnas and Fruman have pleaded not guilty. A trial is scheduled for October.

Parnas and Fruman helped introduce Giuliani to Ukrainian officials while he was searching for information about the Bidens. NPR states that Giuliani’s involvement took place before, during and then after the core events of the Ukraine affair in 2019. As president, Trump ordered assistance to Ukraine be frozen until its president announced an investigation into Joe Biden.

Ultimately the aid was released, and Ukrainian officials did not give Trump the political ammunition he wanted — but Democrats nonetheless called the exchange an abuse of power. That led to the first impeachment of Trump later that year. (He was ultimately acquitted.)

The impeachment inquiry featured testimony from Marie Yovanovitch, who had served as the American ambassador to Ukraine. Giuliani became fixated on her, viewing Yovanovitch as an obstacle in his search for dirt. Urged by Giuliani, Trump ultimately fired her. Now, Giuliani’s efforts to have Yovanovitch dismissed are also being investigated by authorities.

In November 2019, Yovanovitch testified about the efforts to remove her. She said that in the days leading up to her removal, she was told to “watch my back”, and she accused Giuliani of leading an “irregular channel” of diplomacy between the U.S. and Ukraine. “These events should concern everyone in this room,” Yovanovitch said. “Shady interests the world over have learned how little it takes to remove an American ambassador who does not give them what they want.”

What Trump and Giuliani wanted, evidently, was damaging information on Joe and Hunter Biden. They didn’t get it. Hunter Biden’s payments by a Ukrainian company at the time his father was vice president got a lot of press, especially on the right. But investigators have concluded that no laws were broken.

Important note: Giuliani denies wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime. However, authorities had been seeking the search warrant for quite some time. The Times explains: “To obtain a search warrant, investigators need to persuade a judge they have sufficient reason to believe that a crime was committed and that the search would turn up evidence of the crime.”

UPDATE: The feds also searched the home of Victoria Toensing, a lawyer close to Rudy Giuliani. She also reportedly had dealigns with the Ukrainians in the effort to malign the Bidens. It turns out that the authorities had requested a search warrant for Giuliani several times, but then-Attorney General Bill Barr (a Trump loyalist) blocked the requests from being fulfilled. Now, with AG Merrick Garland, the warrants have been activated. And the mission may not be over:

The Oscars

By Terrance Turner

April 25, 2021

Tonight’s Academy Awards were unlike any other — a socially distanced ceremony where only the nominees and presenters were invited. Instead of the historic Dolby Theatre, the ceremony was held in L.A.’s Union Station. Instead of a red carpet dotted with photographers and blinding flashbulbs, the red carpet this year was scaled-back due to the pandemic. But that was just one of many changes made to the Oscars.

The first award of the night went to French director Florian Zeller for Best Adapted Screenplay (The Father). He thanked Anthony Hopkins (“I think he’s the greatest living actor”), adding that “working with him was like a dream”.

Best International Feature Film went to Denmark’s “Another Round”. Director Thomas Vinterberg accepted the award. The director dedicated his win (and the film) to his late daughter Ida, who died in a car accident just four days before filming began. “We miss her, and we love her,” he said. “We ended up making this movie for her; it’s her monument.”

Daniel Kaluuya won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for playing Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah”. In his speech, Kaluuya thanked his mother and sister before thanking Fred Hampton. “He was in this earth 21 years. He found a way to feed kids, educate kids, and provide free medical care,” Kaluuya said. “What a man.”

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom won the prizes for both Best Costume Design and Best Makeup & Hairstyling. Another historic moment followed when Chloe Zhao become the first woman of color to win the Academy Award for Best Director (for Nomadland). Zhao is the first Chinese woman and only the second woman ever to win Best Director.

In accepting the award, Zhao recalled a game she’d played with her father and a phrase she had learned as a child, that she said translated to “people at birth are inherently good.”

“I have always found goodness in the people I met, everywhere I went in the world,” she said. “So this is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold on to the goodness in themselves. And to hold on to the goodness in each other, no matter how difficult it is to do that.” She urged listeners to not give up.

Actress Yuh-Jung Youn won the Academy award for Best Supporting Actress (for Minari). She said she didn’t believe in competition; she felt she was just luckier than her fellow nominees. She thanked her two boys. “I’d like to thank my two boys, for making mom go out and work…This is the result because Mommy works so hard.”

Tyler Perry received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his charity work during the pandemic and through his Tyler Perry Foundation. He remembered his mother: “My mother taught me to refuse hate. To refuse blanket judgement. I would hope that we each teach our children to refuse hate.”

Nomadland, which follows a woman who travels across the country in an RV, won Best Picture. Frances McDormand won Best Actress (for Nomadland); Anthony Hopkins won Best Actor (The Father).

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Academy sent out non-fungible tokens with Chadwick Boseman’s face on them and put them in gift bags for the event. Then it moved the Best Actor category to the end of the ceremony (Best Picture is usually presented last). Then, instead of selecting Boseman as Best Actor, the award went to Anthony Hopkins — who wasn’t even there. (Hopkins asked if he could accept the award via Zoom; the Academy said no.)

Astros Explode for 16-2 Win vs. Angels

Photo courtesy of Twitter (@Astros).

By Terrance Turner

April 24, 2021

The Houston Astros dazzled fans at Minute Maid Park today, racking up a slew of base hits and high-flying home runs. The Astros’ explosive offense paired with a stout defense to demolish the Los Angeles Angels. According to Astros beat reporter Brian McTaggart, the Astros set season records for hits (18), extra-base hits (11), and runs scored. They went on to win, 16-2.

The scoring got off to a hot start in the first inning, when the Astros added three runs. Carlos Correa homered to left field to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. Later in the inning, left fielder Michael Brantley scored on a single by Yordan Alvarez, and third baseman Alex Bregman advanced to third base. Then Bregman scored when Yuli Gurriel ground out to shallow infield. Yordan Alvarez out at second. The Astros led 3-0.

Angels first baseman Albert Pujols homered before the end of the first inning. Then, in the second, pitcher Shohei Ohtani hit a home run as well. But that would be the last run scored by Los Angeles. When the Astros took over, their bats were lit up. Correa hit a single, then advanced to third base after Michael Brantley doubled to right field. And then, Alex Bregman hit a home run that sent the ball soaring towards the back of the wall at Minute Maid Park. Bregman, Brantley, and Correa all scored. The Astros led 6-2.

In the fourth inning, Myles Straw scored on a center-field single by Jason Castro. Then Alex Bregman reached on a fielder’s choice to shallow infield, advancing to 2nd base. Michael Brantley made it to third. Jason Castro scored after a fielding error by Kurt Suzuki. Then both Bregman and Brantley scored (again) after a center-field single by Gurriel.

In the fifth inning, with the score 10-2, Alvarez nailed his first career triple home run. His three-run homer brought Bregman, Brantley and Castro home to score. That gave the Astros a massive 13-2 lead.

Somehow, in just five innings, the Houston Astros had racked up 13 runs. But they weren’t done yet. In the eighth, Gurriel hit a double. Then, during a commercial break by AT&T Sports, Kyle Tucker hit a 61 mph fastball to send it into the stands. That two-run homer gave the Astros 15. Straw hit a fair ball down left field for a double. Then Castro earned yet another RBI with a double that sent Straw back home. The Astros won, 16-2.

Bregman and Brantley had 4 runs apiece; Alvarez had 4 RBI. Tucker hit a two-run homer. Despite all the offensive firepower, it was pitcher Kent Emanuel who was named Player of the Game. In his MLB debut, Astros pitcher Kent Emanuel took over for the injured Jake Odorizzi, pitching for over eight innings and 26 outs. It was the longest relief appearance by an Astros pitcher since 1962, according to McTaggart. Per ESPN and the Assoiated Press, the last relief pitcher to pitch 8 and 2/3 innings in his debut was in 1974. His solid pitching helped the Astros seal an unforgettable win.

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.”

Police Officer Resigns After Killing Daunte Wright

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.