Today, Texas Governor Greg Abbott made a game-changing announcement.
In remarks delivered live from Lubbock, Gov. Abbott touted the state’s economy: “If Texas were its own country, it would still have the ninth largest economy in the world.” But due to the pandemic, he said, the economy has suffered. “Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end,” Gov. Abbott said. And then, he said:
“It is now time to open Texas 100 percent.”
“Everybody who wants to work should have that opportunity. Every business that wants to be open should be open,” the governor declared, adding that “we are in a completely different position” than when he issued an executive order last March. Back then, Texans didn’t even know what PPE was, he said. He highlighted the tests and therapeutics that have become available over the past year, as well as the protective measures citizens have adopted. “Texans have mastered the daily habits to avoid getting COVID. But most importantly,” he said, “in Texas and across the country, we now have vaccines — vaccines to protect Texans from COVID.” More than 5.7 million vaccine shots have been administered in Texas, he claimed.
Gov. Abbott further promised that “by the end of this month, every senior who wants a vaccine shot will be able to get a vaccine shot.” Hospitalizations in Texas are the lowest they’ve been in four months. The same goes for the positivity rate, he said. (According to the Associated Press, “the seven-day rolling average of positive tests has dropped to about 7,600 cases, down from more than 10,000 in mid-February.”) The number of active COVID cases are the lowest they’ve been since November, the governor claimed.
Gov. Abbott cautioned that the virus has not disappeared. But state mandates are no longer needed, he says. Today, he is issuing an executive order that rescinds most of the previous orders he issued. And Gov. Abbott took his already bold pronouncement one step further: “Effective next Wednesday, all businesses, of any type, are allowed to open 100 percent. That includes any type of entity in Texas. Also, I am ending the statewide mask mandate.”
Abbott stressed that personal responsibility is still necessary regarding the spread of COVID-19. Personal vigilance is crucial, he stated: “Each person has their own role to play in their own personal safety, as well as in the safety of others.” Nevertheless, he asserted that the statewide mandates are no longer necessary. Businesses are free to continue capacity limits for safety, he said, but the governor added that “people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate.”
Abbott tempered his bold order with one caveat: if the positivity rate of counties and cities rises above 15% for seven straight days, a county judge may take action of mitigation strategies like a mask mandate. However, nobody can be arrested for breaking rules on masks.
Texas is the latest (and largest) of the states to ease COVID-19 restrictions, as cases and hospitalizations drop. (North Dakota, Montana and Iowa have also lifted mask orders in recent weeks.) But the AP reports that only California and New York have reported more COVID-19 deaths than Texas. According to the New York Times, Texas has been averaging about 7,600 new cases a day recently, a figure that rebounded after a drop in February when testing was disrupted by a severe winter storm. It is among the top 10 states in recent spread, relative to the size of its population.
Significantly, Gov. Abbott delivered his remarks from a Mexican restaurant — on the 185th anniversary of Texas declaring independence from Mexico in 1836.
Tonight, singer Andra Day won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama for her portrayal of jazz singer Billie Holiday in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”. The film, directed by Lee Daniels, dramatizes how Holiday was hounded by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics for her landmark song “Strange Fruit”.
The song, based on a poem by writer Abel Meeropol, depicts the widespread practice of lynching; the hanging of Black people was a common practice in the American South between the 1860s and 1960s. It was an unflinching description of the brutality that Black people often experienced: “The poem was inspired by a photograph of the lynching of two young black men in Indiana,” writes Edwin Moore. “Copies of such photographs were very popular in the American south, and the images can be easily found on the web […] In many cases, the hanged victims are surrounded by smiling white people waving at the camera. They sometimes have their children with them. The horrible truth is that in parts of the south in the early 20th century, the hanging of black people in public was a family occasion; lynching was part of the social fabric.” It was that practice outlined in the song:
Southern trees bear strange fruit Blood on the leaves and blood at the root Black body swinging in the southern breeze Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Meeropol wrote the poem in 1937, around the same time that a Senate bill meant to end lynching in the U.S. failed to pass. He brought the poem to Cafe Society, a club in New York’s Greenwich Village. It had already been set to music, but it was Holiday’s version that would linger. Meeropol called her version “a startling, most dramatic, and effective interpretation.” Daniels depicts Day singing “Strange Fruit” in close-up, with lines about “a fruit for the crows to pluck / For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck / For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop / Here is a strange and bitter crop.”
The song became controversial; many club owners later refused to let her perform the song. But Holiday refused to back down. “‘Fruit’ goes a long way in telling how they mistreat Negroes down South,” she once said. The film depicts the tension between her husband James Monroe, manager Joe Glazer, and Holiday over the song. In one scene, Glazer decides to remove the song from Holiday’s setlist. “I’ve scratched it,” he tells her bluntly. Holiday protests that she should be allowed to sing the song: “It’s important to me.” Besides, “People pay good money to hear me sing it.” (Indeed, her 1939 recording of the song sold over a million copies, becoming one of her best-known songs.)
Glazer retorts that it’s written by Abel Meeropol, “a commie”. “I don’t care,” Holiday responds. She accuses both Glazer and Monroe of being friends with Harry Anslinger (the first head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics). Anslinger decides to prosecute Holiday for the song. In a closed-door meeting with lawmakers, he insists that “this Holiday woman’s got to be stopped. She keeps singing this ‘Strange Fruit’ song, and it’s causing a lot of people to think the wrong things.”
“Why is this so important to you, Harry?” asks one man. (Anslinger might’ve responded that after the failure of Prohibition, his department was soon becoming obsolete. Instead, he uses Holiday’s drug problem as justification: “Drugs and niggers are a contamination to our great American civilization.”
It is that basis on which the federal government begins harassing Holiday. On May 16, 1947, Holiday was arrested for possession of narcotics in her New York apartment. On May 27 she was in court. “It was called ‘The United States of America versus Billie Holiday’. And that’s just the way it felt,” she recalled. She was sentenced to 366 days in jail — one year and one day. Forced to go cold turkey in jail, she eventually lost her cabaret card, which forced her to perform in concert venues and large halls. It was one more indignity in Holiday’s existence, which was marked by sexual abuse, domestic violence, and a heroin addiction that ruined her voice and her life. She was arrested and handcuffed to her hospital bed shortly before her death from cirrhosis in 1959, aged just 44.
Tonight, Andra Day won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama for her uncanny portrayal of Holiday. The last Black woman to win in this category was Whoopi Goldberg in 1986. (She won for her wrenching performance as Celie in “The Color Purple”.)
President Biden gets a hug from a young girl who was volunteering with her mom at the Houston Food Bank. Photo courtesy of Twitter (@dougmillsnyt).
By Terrance Turner
Feb. 26, 2021
BREAKING NEWS (12:00 pm): President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden have arrived at Ellington Airport. Upon leaving the plane, they were greeted by Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) as well as Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), Cong. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D). The President and First Lady took separate vehicles; the President is reportedly headed to NRG Park, while Dr. Biden is heading to the Houston Food Bank, in northeast Houston. (As it turned out, the president also went to Houston Food Bank. There, he and the First Lady bagged up food to give to Houstonians, according to ABC 13 Houston.)
UPDATE: In a televised address at NRG Park, Biden updated the public about the COVID-19 vaccine efforts in the city of Houston. “I wanna show the American people the extraordinary effort,” he said. “It’s remarkable. About six thousand doses a day here.” People can call by phone, sign up online, drive up, stay in their cars, and get a shot, he explained. That requires massive logistical coordination.
“VP Harris and I did a virtual tour in Arizona,” Biden noted. One nurse told him she felt like she was administering “a dose of hope”. And that’s what Biden was offering in today’s address — along with a lot of information. He’s sent millions of vaccines to local pharmacies (over 7000) because people feel comfortable going there, Biden said. That includes 50 pharmacies here in Houston. Also: pop-up clinics are being deployed to rural areas “to meet folks where they live,” Biden said. Additionally, vaccines are being sent to community health centers, to reach diverse communities. As Biden noted, Black, Latino, and Native American populations have higher rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths than any other group.
COVID-19 hospitalizations are down; they’ve declined dramatically in recent weeks. But “I need to be honest with you,” Biden said. “Cases and hospitalizations could go up as new variants emerge. And it’s not the time to relax. We have to keep washing our hands, staying socially distant, and — for God’s sake — wear your mask. Wear your mask.” The president warned that “the worst thing we could do now is let our guard down.”
The president acknowledged the history that has many Black and brown Americans hesitant about the vaccine (i.e. the Tuskegee experiment). “There is a history in this country of subjugating certain communities to terrible medical and scientific abuse,” he said. “But if there’s one message that needs to cut through all of this: The vaccines are safe. I promise you. They’re safe and effective. Listen to Dr. Fauci. Listen to the scientists,” Biden urged. “I did. And I took my shot publicly to demonstrate to the American people that it’s safe and effective. To address this challenge, we’re gonna launch a massive campaign to educate people about the vaccines,” Biden said.
‘This past year has been one of the most painful years in American history,” Biden concluded. “I met today with Gov. Abbott, Sen. Cornyn — conservatives Republicans. I’m a Democratic president. There’s plenty of things we disagree on, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s a lot of things we can work on together.” One of them, Biden said, is the virus. “We’re not giving shots to Democrats or Republicans; we’re giving shots to Americans,” the president emphasized. “None of this has a a partisan tinge or a partisan element to it.”
Biden highlighted his connection to Houston. At Houston’s M.D. Anderson Clinic, the president’s son Beau Biden was treated when he had brain cancer. “We’re gonna beat cancer. I know we will,” Biden declared. He said if he could be known for one thing, it would be ending cancer as we know it. Biden also noted the landing of a Rover on Mars. That mission was in part developed by a team here in Houston. “We can do anything!” he exclaimed. “America can do anything.”
“Americans never give up, they never give in, they never cry uncle — they just struggle, innovate, and they preserve — and persevere,” Biden said. “God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. You’re the best.”
Golf legend Tiger Woods has been hospitalized after a rollover car accident in Los Angeles. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department says that the single-car accident happened around 7:12 AM and that Woods had to be cut out of the car using the jaws of life. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The vehicle sustained major damage, the sheriff’s department said. Woods was the only occupant of the vehicle, per the department.
“Tiger Woods was in a single-car accident this morning in California where he suffered multiple leg injuries,” his manager Mark Steinberg, said. “He is currently in surgery and we thank you for your privacy and support.” The Spectator Index is saying that Woods suffered leg fractures and is currently in surgery.
UPDATE (6:33 PM): A press conference was held roughly an hour ago. Authorities told reporters that Woods was traveling north on Hawthorne Boulevard at Blackhorse Road when he crashed. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Woods was traveling at a “relatively greater speed than normal” descending down a hill, noting that the area “has a high frequency of accidents.” The sheriff said there were no skid marks and no signs of braking, adding that the golfer’s vehicle hit the center divider, a curb and a tree in the rollover crash.
The windshield had to be removed to free Woods from the vehicle. He was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center by ambulance; he is in serious condition, the Fire Department said. His injuries included a shattered ankle and two leg fractures, one of which was compound, according to a source quoted by the Los Angeles Times. His injuries were non-life-threatening. At this point, there are no signs of impairment or DUI on Woods’ part. He was awake and lucid when approached, authorities said. He was able to identify himself and the vehicle (a 2021 Genesis SUV).
UPDATE (9:37 pm): Dr. Sanjay Gupta appeared on “Anderson Cooper 360” to discuss the medical impact of the crash. Gupta stated that Woods suffered a compound fracture, which means that the broken bone may have broken through the skin (!!!). Also, he was transported to a trauma center and not the closest hospital, indicating that responders were not concerned about his ability to survive the car ride. That would be a good sign — an indication that Woods’ injuries were serious but not life-threatening.
An investigation into the crash is ongoing.
This is a developing story. Check back for more updates.
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%.”
On today’s episode of “The View”, co-host Meghan McCain once again voiced controversial views — this time on the COVID-19 pandemic. During a panel discussion about the virus and its impact, McCain played a clip from CNN. In the clip, Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked a question by CNN anchor Dana Bash. A couple who had just been vaccinated wanted to know if they can see their grandchildren, who aren’t yet vaccinated.
“There will be recommendations coming out. I don’t want to be making a recommendation now on public TV,” Fauci said. “I would want to sit down with the team and take a look at that.” Those comments drew the ire of McCain, who went on a lengthy rant. “I was very frustrated when I saw this clip,” McCain said, explaining she has “respect” for the pandemic that has now taken 500,000 American lives and doesn’t mean to “downplay” the tragedy.
“That being said, next week it will be a year since we left the studio and I have been very responsible in many different ways as so many Americans have been,” she continued. “And the fact that Dr. Fauci is going on CNN and he can’t tell me that if I get the vaccine, if I’ll be able to have dinner with my family.”
“It’s terribly inconsistent messaging and it continues to be inconsistent messaging,” she said, comparing the U.S. response to a billboard from Israel she saw online—“Get a shot, take a shot”—that promised people they could go to bars with their friends after getting vaccinated.
“The fact that I, Meghan McCain, co-host of The View, don’t know when or how I will be able to get a vaccine because the rollout for my age range and my health is so nebulous, I have no idea when and how I get it,” the 36-year-old pundit said. “I want to get it. If you call me at three o’clock in the morning, I will go any place at any time to get it.”
“I want to be responsible and obviously wait my turn,” she continued, “but this rollout has been a disaster. And I understand President Trump can take much of the blame, but now we’re in the Biden administration and I, for one, would like something to look forward to and to hope for because if getting the vaccine means that just nothing changes and we have to wait another few years until everyone gets it, there’s already a lot of people not getting it.
“So I’m over Dr. Fauci,” McCain declared. “I think we need to have more people giving more opinions and honestly quite frankly, I think the Biden administration should remove him and put someone in place that does understand science or can talk like these other countries about how we can be more like these other places that are doing this successfully.”
Whoopi Goldberg noted that Israel is a much smaller country than the U.S., and its residents didn’t express as much resistance to mask-wearing. She added that Fauci might be avoiding recommendations for fear they might turn out to be wrong later. McCain wasted not time with a rebuttal: “I know what I’m saying is controversial, I really do. But I’m not a phony and I’m not going to come on air and say something different than what I’m saying privately.”
“It has nothing to do with you,” Goldberg said, attempting to explain that it was time for commercials. McCain continued to argue her point, forcing Goldberg to talk over her and cut to break: “We’ll be right back.”
As you might have guessed, McCain was swiftly pilloried by many on Twitter. Many criticized her as being self-absorbed and entitled:
Singer Demi Lovato appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show today. She discussed her new documentary “Dancing with the Devil”, which chronicles her journey to recovery after a near-fatal overdose in 2018. (Lovato has struggled with both an eating disorder and bipolar disorder. She’s been open about both — and the addiction that nearly claimed her life.)
“I talk about a lot [in the docuseries],” Lovato, 28, told show host Ellen DeGeneres. “The world has been so loving and accepting of me telling my story and just, there’s been so much love and support. What’s great is we live in a time when nobody’s perfect, and we’re not gonna get role models by watching people not make mistakes.”
“We are going to meet and learn from our role models who have overcome their deepest darkest struggles,” she continued. “I wanted to show everyone — first, I wanted to set the record straight.” Lovato explained that “a lot of stories were going around that time that didn’t really know what exactly had happened.” She gets to tell her own story in “Dancing with the Devil,” a four-part docuseries that premieres on YouTube on March 23.
She also opened up about why she cut off all her hair (Lovato appeared with a dramatic short cut, dyed pink). “I just feel so free,” Lovato said in a recent interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “I feel more authentic to who I am. I also feel like I used to hide behind my hair. I’ve talked a lot about my past being in recovery from an eating disorder, and I used to use my hair to hide behind. It would cover my body. So when I started doing all this work on myself, I thought, ‘What is something I’ve been holding onto my whole life that I need to let go of?’ It was that and… yeah, I just feel more myself now.”
Lovato appeared with singer-songwriter Sam Fischer, who wrote her new song “What Other People Say”. The power ballad explores expectations of other “So the writing session that I wrote ‘What Other People Say’ was supposed to be another artist. They didn’t turn up,” Fischer explains. “It was before anything had happened for me, and I was kind of in a pretty rough mental place; I didn’t think anything was gonna happen for me as an artist,” he said. The song was inspired by Fisher thinking about other people’s expectations of him — expectation he hadn’t met. The confessional lyrics speak of someone who’s lost their way by trying to be what everyone else wants.
[Pre-Chorus] I’m better than that, I’m better than that I’m livin’ my life so I go to Heaven and never come back But look where I’m at, look where I’m at I’m livin’ the life that I said I wouldn’t and wanna go back
First verse and pre-chorus of “What Other People Say”
Lovato belted out the song’s emotional chorus: “I used to call my mom every Sunday, so she knew her love wasn’t far away. But now I’m all ‘messed’ up out in LA, ’cause I care more about what other people say.” After Lovato sang the hell of the song’s first half, Fisher delivered the second verse, which sounds as if it were ripped right from his diary:
The two joined forces on the second chorus, which they cleaned up for TV. The original lyrics are printed below, courtesy of Genius:
I used to call my mom every Sunday So she knew her love wasn’t far away But now I’m all fucked up out in LA ‘Cause I care more about what other people say I used to not take chances with God’s name But it’s been so long since I last prayed And now I’m all fucked up and my heart’s changed ‘Cause I care more about what other people say
“What Other People Say”
The two blended beautifully, but Lovato was a stunner: she delivered the gut-wrenching chorus with a level of vocal and emotional power I’d forgotten she had. (It’s easy to forget what a great singer she is.) Her duet with Fischer brought me to tears. The performance is embedded below:
“Have you ever engaged in any freak hoe activity?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know, Mr. Producer.”
So begins tonight’s episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, with cast member Kenya Moore lighting cigarettes and dressed in a sleeveless white dress — in homage to the hit film Basic Instinct (1992). Tonight, cast member Cynthia Bailey celebrated her bachelorette party, ahead of her wedding to longtime love and FOX host Mike Hill. But things got a little out of hand at the party.
Kandi Burruss-Tucker threw a dungeon-themed bachelorette party for Bailey, with all the women dressing up in lingerie and affecting “alter egos” consistent with light BDSM vibes. Kenya Moore went by “Chocolate”; Cynthia went by “50 Cynt”, the nickname she created after she turned 50. (Cynthia turns 54 this year, although you’d never know it by looking at her). Kandi is “Mistress Angel”, setting the rules for the party. “The dungeon is a judgement-free zone,” Kandi tells the girls. “So if you came to judge, take your ass home.” Sexual liberation is the theme of the night.
“I am a teacher of sorts,” Kandi explains in a confessional interview. “I teach people how to not give a f–k. Own who you are, and have a good-ass time.” That’s exactly the vibe we get when we see Kandi and Porsha Williams — once fierce combatants — laughing and talking about the party in an earlier scene. Kandi points out that Porsha doesn’t have a mask, only a face shield. “No, I’ma be unprotected,” Porsha laughs. “I want it raw.”
Indeed. The party is a celebration of raw sexuality, planned without Bailey’s knowledge. Kandi arranges the party festivities with the other women, while Cynthia has no idea what’s in store for her. “She’s totally clueless — which, to be honest, isn’t really anything new,” Kandi comments in a confessional.
But Cynthia soon finds out. Kandi gives her a scandalous outfit, complete with vibrating panties, and gives the women $4000 in $1 bills to spend on the exotic dancer who arrived at the party. He is none other than the infamous Bolo the Entertainer — a gorgeous, muscular stripper with pillow-soft lips. He’s inside a glass box, clad in what Marlo Hampton claims is “fake” Chanel. (But that statement rings very hollow coming from a woman whose real job is still unclear after 10 years on reality TV.)
The women go inside. Bolo later joins them, performing a sexy striptease for the ladies that includes somersaults and indecent exposure. Kandi shows Cynthia a sex swing, which she apparently intends to give her as a wedding gift. (Cynthia is caught off guard, to say the least.) Bolo finishes his routine and exits the room, but Kenya demands he return. Porsha goes to a room to recruit Bolo. He asks if the crew are still filming.
The camera crew agree to wrap filming. They leave. The cast members (including Porsha) cover up the remaining cameras. “One of you bitches is eating me out tonight,” Porsha says. But according to Kenya, the story goes further than that. “I heard sexy music, so I come downstairs,” she recalls. Latoya was straddling Porsha, “and they were making out and grinding”, Kenya reveals.
A conversation takes place between Bailey and Bolo. “Congratulations, bride-to-be,” Bolo tells Cynthia. (It’s a conversation that takes place off-camera.) Apparently, Bolo was having conversations with more than just Cynthia. A couple more of the women join him for a “group hug”, Bolo says. In another off-camera conversation — only the audio is captured — Bolo invites interactions with a lewd come-on: “As long as I got a face, you always got somewhere to sit.”
“Oh, my God,” Bolo moans on the videotaped audio. He doesn’t leave until 7:06 AM, according to the Bravo timestamps and footage. Cast member LaToya Ali later reveals she didn’t go to bed until the sun came up. So what actually went down that night?
” A lot of things happened throughout the night,” Kandi says in her interview. But she doesn’t provide many details. The other girls do. The next morning, the women commiserate on the events of the night before. Cynthia and Drew try to piece together what happened that night. Cynthia is asked whether she plans to tell her fiancé Mike what happened. She says she will — but she wants to tell him in person.
“”I saw Toya on top of Porsha, grinding and kissing,” Kenya says. “And then, Tanya was on top of Toya,” Cynthia adds. “Like, they could’ve been kissing. A titty fell in somebody mouth…”
“It was chill…and then it just kept escalating and escalating,” Kenya remembers. “It was some breasts out, and it was some Bolo.”
“Wait. What?” Cynthia asks, in disbelief.
“They heads was disappeared,” Kenya answers. In a later scene, she remarks that castmate Drew Sidora surprised here with her level of commitment to the shenanigans. “Drew — I was totally shocked,” she later comments.
Taken aback, Cynthia asks, “What was Drew doing?”
“What wasn’t she doing?” Kenya asks. She takes it upon herself to launch an investigation into the events of the night before. “I wanna know whose p—y got murdered in these sheets.”
While some of the girls (including Cynthia and Kenya) stay at home, a group involving Kandi, Marlo and Porsha go out to fish. A terrifying moment occurs when Marlo inadvertently catches a shark! Thankfully, the fisherman on site is able to cut the line. The girls discuss the outstanding issues between Kenya and Marlo, who have tangled numerous times over the years. But in the end, Marlo and Kenya appear to have resolved any lingering disagreements in their “friendship”.
The women return to the house to find that no food has been cooked while they were gone. Instead of preparing food, Kenya (the “host”) has prepared to open deliberations in “Bolo Court”. Kandi pointedly asks if any dinner was made. Cynthia responds: “Kandi’s hungry. It’s about to go left.” And it will — once the truth finally comes out.
While Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) faces backlash for his trip to Cancun amid Texas winter storms, one of his political rivals is doing his job for him. House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) flew to Houston last night, joining Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) to help out struggling Texans. On Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez (known as AOC) launched a fundraiser to help millions facing freezing temperatures without heat, lights, or water as a result of the storm (and Texas’ failure of an energy grid). The fundraiser was a rousing success.
“Wow. We officially raised $1 million for Texas relief at 9:17pm.,” she tweeted Thursday night. “Thank you all so much.” By Friday, she tweeted, that figure had risen to $2 million. She announced she would fly to Houston to join with Texas Rep. Sylvia Garcia to distribute supplies. Ocasio-Cortez is using Act Blue to fundraise, a Democratic fundraising tool that helps her build an email “listserv” as she receives donations, according to CNN.
This morning, AOC partnered with two Texas lawmakers to continue relief work. AOC joined Garcia and Shelia Jackson-Lee of Texas on Saturday morning. According to KPRC, the elected officials met at the Houston Food Bank to pack boxes of meals and share their plan to help Texans hit hard by this week’s deadly weather event. Today, at 11:42 am, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez announced that she helped to raise $3.2 million.
The link included in her tweet (Support relief efforts in Texas — Donate via AB Charities (actblue.com) brings together groups that assist homeless, hungry and elderly Texans. (When you click on the link, you’re taken to a page that requests donations. Your contribution will be split evenly between 12 organizations, including the Central Texas Food Bank, The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center, Family Eldercare, ECHO (Ending Community Homelessness Coalition), Southeast Texas Food Bank, Feeding Texas, and the Houston Food Bank — the largest food bank in the United States.) The chosen organizations either provide food support, elder care, or shelter assistance.
The congresswomen then made a stop to Texas’ 29th District, Garcia’s district, to knock on doors and talk to families impacted. As AOC noted, those impacted were already on the margins to begin with, struggling to make ends meet. “Disasters don’t strike everyone equally,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “When you already have so many families across the state and country, that are on the brink, that can’t even afford and emergency to begin with, when you have a disaster like this, it can set people back for years, not just days.”
UPDATE: The total amount has now reached $4 million, according to AOC.
On Monday, a historic winter storm blanketed the state of Texas. A mix of rain, snow and sleet fell on the ground in Texas as temperatures reached historic lows. By Tuesday morning, the temperature was 9 degrees, as opposed to the normal low of 47 degrees. Texas had 4.3 million power outages that morning — more than any other state, according to ABC 13. (By 12:15 pm Tuesday, 4.5 million Texans — 35% of state residents — had lost power, according to the New York Times.)
The extreme weather disrupted water service for more than 12 million residents, per MSN, forcing many of the more than 680 water systems in Texas to issue boil water notices. Pipes began to burst, flooding the homes of Texas residents. That further exacerbated the situation for Texans, already without wifi, lights or heating. Without power or heat, some Texans posted videos on social media of them burning old furniture to stay warm. Others shared images of flooding caused by burst pipes and collapsed ceilings.
The New York Times revealed that burst pipes even extended to a Dallas domestic violence center. “The power had been out for two days when the waterlogged ceiling caved in at the Family Place, a domestic violence shelter in Dallas, unleashing a freezing waterfall onto the 120 women and children seeking refuge there on Tuesday,” the Times reported. The clothes of vulnerable women and children were soaked, their important legal documents ruined.
“They lost basically everything,” said Shelbi Driver, a resident advocate at the shelter. The Times added that three other shelters in the area had to be evacuated due to burst pipes. Here in Houston, pipe-bursting cold was a problem for residents, too. I know this problem all too well.
On Tuesday morning, I noticed dripping water coming from a light fixture in my laundry room. The dripping rapidly intensified into a heavy downpour. Though I tried to absorb the water by placing laundry baskets under the leak, the leak became a deluge. Within minutes, the roof had collapsed, destroying the layers of sheet rock that used to be my roof.
While water flooded the homes of Texas residents, the drinking water remained unsafe to drink or even cook with. According to the Associated Press, “Texas officials ordered 7 million people — one-quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking the water, after days of record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes.”
While his city froze, Texas Senator Ted Cruz hopped on a flight to Cancun.
Sen. Cruz flew to Cancun, Mexico for a family vacation on Wednesday, as thousands of his constituents were literally freezing in their homes. Photos emerged of Cruz at Bush Intercontinental Airport (which canceled flights earlier this week, due to ice on the roads. The airport was also under a boil water notice, per ABC 13). Then cameras caught him on board a flight to Mexico. (The CDC has advised that individuals “should avoid all travel to Mexico” due to the coronavirus pandemic.)
Yet there Cruz was, on a flight to Mexico. His staff reached out to the Houston Police Department to confirm the senator’s arrival at the airport, according to HPD spokeswoman Jodi Silva. She said that the officers were present to “monitor” Cruz’s movements as he prepared to fly away. (By the time pictures of Cruz surfaced on Wednesday night, blackouts in Texas had affected 1.8 million customers Wednesday night, according to tracking website poweroutage.us. That number was down to just over 511,000 as of 11:28 a.m. local time, the site said.)
In Houston, more than 1 million people remained without power Wednesday, Mayor Sylvester Turner said, adding that service would not be restored fully for another couple of days. The city has been under a boil water notice since Wednesday morning. It is not clear whether Cruz knew (or cared) about any of this when he jet-setted to Cancun.
As Microsoft News noted, “Mr. Cruz had been acutely aware of the possible crisis in advance. In a radio interview on Monday, he said the state could see 100 or more deaths this week. ‘So don’t risk it. Keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids,’ he said. More recently, in December, Mr. Cruz had attacked a Democrat, Mayor Stephen Adler of Austin, for taking a trip to Cabo while telling constituents to “stay home” during the pandemic.
As one might expect, Cruz’s actions were met with opprobrium:
Sen. Cruz issued a statement in response to the reports, claiming that he took the trip per a request from his daughters. The statement reads, in part:
With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon. My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas. We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm. My team and I will continue using all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe.
Sen. Ted Cruz
UPDATE (4:11 pm): Sen. Cruz has now returned to Houston. He was spotted in Bush IAH just minutes ago:
Meanwhile, part of Texas is still under a boil water notice. ABC reporter Steve Campion noted that it is not safe to drink, eat with or cook with the water at this point. The Houston Chronicle noted: “A boil water notice is still in effect for the city of Houston, which means that all water consumed by residents and pets should be boiled to kill potential bacteria. This includes water used for cooking, brushing your teeth, preparing baby formula, preparing food or given to pets for drinking. Even water used for hot beverages, like coffee made with a coffee maker, should be boiled beforehand. It’s also a good idea to throw away any ice that may have been contaminated.”
The Chronicle added: “Once boil water notices are lifted, flush home plumbing systems by running cold water through all faucets for at least five minutes. Residents should also flush out all appliances connected to the water line, such as refrigerators and dishwaters.”
According to the New York Times, the boil water notices aren’t just limited to Houston. “About 13 million Texans remain under a boil-water advisory, and 797 water providers are reporting problems, Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said at a news briefing on Thursday.” The Times added that the state capital of Austin is also under a “boil water” notice.
Houston and Galveston remain under a “hard freeze” warning from midnight through 9 am on Friday. Lows are broadcast in the mid-20s for at least the next two days, KTRK says.
At least 25 deaths have been attributed to the storm. 11 of the victims were from Texas, according to CBS News. Widespread outages left over 3 million without power this week, although most had been restored. More than 500,000 residents were still without power as of Thursday afternoon. As the sun goes down and the struggles continue, Cruz tried to do damage control today with some inelegant spin.
“I certainly regret that this has become a distraction,” Cruz said today, about a distraction that he created. “I started having second thoughts almost the moment I sat down on the plane.” He stressed that “leaving when so many Texans were hurting didn’t feel right,” which prompted his return to Houston today.
In his statement issued earlier today, Cruz said his daughters wanted to take a trip; he said he and his wife flew to Cancun, dropped them off, and flew back to Texas. In an interview with KTRK, he admitted that he had, in fact, planned to stay through the weekend. Beyond that obvious contradiction lay a seamy report. Cruz said his intention wasn’t to abandon constituents: “My intention was to take care of my family,” he insisted. But that explanation rang especially hollow after some bombshell reporting by the Times.
“Text messages sent from Ms. Cruz to friends and Houston neighbors on Wednesday revealed a hastily planned trip. Their house was ‘FREEZING,’ as Ms. Cruz put it — and she proposed a getaway until Sunday,” wrote Times reporters Shane Goldmacher and Nicholas Fandos. “Ms. Cruz invited others to join them at the Ritz-Carlton in Cancún, where they had stayed ‘many times,’ noting the room price this week ($309 per night) and its good security. The text messages were provided to The New York Times and confirmed by a second person on the thread, who declined to be identified because of the private nature of the texts.”
Goldmacher appeared on CNN’s AC360 to detail the report further. He claimed that Mrs. Cruz’s texts did not mention their daughters’ wishes. “This is a multilayered issue for Ted Cruz,” Goldmacher said, noting the obvious issue with Cruz leaving in the middle of this crisis in Texas and the additional issue that we are still in a pandemic. He echoed Cooper’s sentiment about the CDC’s warning against travel to Mexico.
UPDATE (Feb, 19, 2021): There are now 22 confirmed deaths from the winter storm in Texas. One of them was a local Vietnam War vet with COPD. He relied on an electric oxygen tank to live. But the lack of electricity — then a water main break — led to Mr. Anderson going to his truck in search of power. He died from hypothermia. “He’s gonna be missed terribly,” sobbed his widow in an interview with KTRK.
UPDATE (Feb. 26): While President Joe Biden is heading to Houston to survey the damage, Ted Cruz is in Orlando, Florida, speaking at the CPAC conference. Cruz made light of his trip to Cancun before the crowd. “I gotta say, Orlando is awesome. It’s not as nice as Cancun, but it’s nice,” Cruz quipped in his speech, titled “Bill of Rights, Liberty, and Cancel Culture.”
Cruz also criticized physicians who recommend mask-wearing: “This is just dumb,” Cruz said, downplaying the importance of wearing a mask to curtail the spread of COVID-19. “We’re gonna wear masks for the next 300 years. And by the way, not just one mask—two, three, four—you can’t have too many masks! How much virtue do you wanna signal?”
As if that weren’t enough, Cruz also took aim at Black Lives Matter, a favorite target of conservatives: “In Houston where I live, I have to tell you: there weren’t any rioters because let’s be very clear, if there had been, they would discover what the state of Texas thinks about the 2nd amendment right to keep and bear arms.” Cruz appeared not to remember the 60,000 protesters who gathered in Houston (peacefully) to march for George Floyd.
He also conveniently forgot to mention that 93% of Black Lives Matter demonstrations were peaceful — yet Black people were still assailed as “violent thugs” on the right and met with tear gas and hand-to-hand combat by police officers. A report by the Armed Conflict Location and Data Project found that police “disproportionately used force while intervening in demonstrations associated with the BLM movement, relative to other types of demonstrations.” That seems not to matter to Cruz or Rand Paul or Jim Jordan — all of whom took special care to cast aspersions on Black Lives Matter during (and after) the impeachment trial.