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:

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.