Sunday, February 26, 2017

News & Politics Round-Up

Arizona Senate Votes to Seize Assets of Those Who Plan or Participate in Protests That 'Turn Violent'
Claiming people are being paid to riot, Republican state senators voted Wednesday to give police new power to arrest anyone who is involved in a peaceful demonstration that may turn bad — even before anything actually happened. SB1142 expands the state’s racketeering laws, now aimed at organized crime, to also include rioting. And it redefines what constitutes rioting to include actions that result in damage to the property of others. But the real heart of the legislation is what Democrats say is the guilt by association — and giving the government the right to criminally prosecute and seize the assets of everyone who planned a protest and everyone who participated. And what’s worse, said Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, is that the person who may have broken a window, triggering the claim there was a riot, might actually not be a member of the group but someone from the other side. Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, acknowledged that sometimes what’s planned as a peaceful demonstration can go south. “When people want to express themselves as a group during a time of turmoil, during a time of controversy, during a time of high emotions, that’s exactly when people gather as a community,’’ he said. “Sometimes they yell, sometimes they scream, sometimes they do go too far.’’ Quezada said, though, that everything that constitutes rioting already is a crime, ranging from assault to criminal damage, and those responsible can be individually prosecuted. He said the purpose of this bill appears to be designed to chill the First Amendment rights of people to decide to demonstrate in the first place for fear something could wrong. But Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said that chilling effect is aimed at a very specific group of protesters.

Transgender Boy Wins Texas State Girls Wrestling Title
A 17-year-old transgender boy completed an undefeated season Saturday by winning a controversial Texas state girls wrestling title in an event clouded by criticism from those who believe the testosterone he's taking as he transitions from female to male created an unfair advantage. The family of Mack Beggs has said he would rather be wrestling boys, but state policy calls for students to wrestle against the gender listed on their birth certificates. So the junior from Euless Trinity beat Chelsea Sanchez 12-2 in the 110-pound weight class to improve to 56-0 and earn the championship. Beggs fell to his knees for a moment after the win as a mixture of cheers and boos rained down on him. He then hugged his coach and left the mat.

Canadian Law Societies Argues Trinity Western University's Christian Covenant Discriminates Against LGBTQ Community
Canada's highest court will hear two appeals concerning a proposed law school at Trinity Western University and the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario, which are both seeking to deny the accreditation of graduates from the faith-based school in Langley, B.C. The dispute stems from the university's controversial community covenant, which bans sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual marriage. All TWU students must sign the covenant. The law societies argued the covenant discriminates against people in the LGBTQ community who want to enter the legal profession.

Texas Organizations Launch 'I Pee With LGBT' Campaign
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and nonprofit Legacy Community Health have released a digital video to highlight the discriminatory nature of the Texas "Bathroom Bill" (Senate Bill 6), which aims to prohibit transgender people from using the restroom they choose. The 60-second spot, entitled "Taking a Seat, Making a Stand," was created by GSD&M and five-time Academy Award-nominated director Richard Linklater. Through targeted digital Facebook buys, the humorous video will try to encourage Texans to reach out to their state legislators to oppose S.B. 6. The campaign behind this effort is called "I Pee With LGBT" and the hashtags include #IPEEWITHLGBT and #StopSB6. To bring humor to the situation, the spot shows a number of people – some in bathrooms – discussing how there's only one way to stop the bill, "You've got to take a seat to make a stand." Watch video here.

Marketing Companies in India Are Discovering Gay Rights and Feminism
India has one of the youngest populations in the world, with 40% under the age of 20; it also has the world’s second-largest internet user base, and thousands of citizens regularly take to Facebook and Twitter to vent their frustration over everything from corrupt politicians to conservative social norms. The urban Indian mindset has evolved along with the country’s economy, influenced by global trends and greater awareness. Over the past decade, once-taboo topics such as menstruation, dating, same-sex relationships, and more have begun to be openly discussed, a sea change from the time when sanitary napkin ads were considered objectionable. Take, for instance, homosexuality, which is still a crime under Indian law. The past few years have seen a number of campaigns attempting to normalize it on screen. It began in 2013 with watch brand Fast Track’s “Come out of the Closet” spot, which featured two women straightening their clothes as they emerged together from a hot pink closet.

New Hampshire State Senate Passes Ban On Gay Conversion Therapy
The New Hampshire Senate just passed SB224, a bill to ban “conversion therapy on minors under 18.” Senator Fuller Clark, prime sponsor of SB 224, said “I applaud my Senate colleagues for taking this important step to eliminate this dangerous practice in New Hampshire. No child should be told that they are not equal, not worthy, or should somehow conform to be like everybody else. That is the antithesis of freedom and human dignity. All children should have the opportunity to grow up without being told that they should not be who they are. I commend my colleagues for their bipartisan passage of this bill to protect our children from the damaging effects of this practice."

Celebrities Voice Their Opposition to Trump's Decision to Lift Protections for Transgender Students
After it was announced on Wednesday that the Trump administration would roll back federal protections for transgender students, many took to the streets and to social media in protest. As previously reported, the Obama-era guidance allowed transgender students to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities, which advocates argued was essential in helping to protect trans students from bullying and discrimination. Without it, the decision on whether or not to allow transgender students to use their restrooms and locker rooms of choice will be given back to the states and school districts, which will now be responsible for interpreting federal anti-discrimination laws. In response to these protections being rescinded, people were quick to voice their outrage, including quite a few celebrities who've made it clear that they're a part of #TheResistance. Here are just some of the celebrities who have voiced their opposition.

Same-Sex Marriage Becomes Legal in Slovenia
Same-sex marriage has officially become legal in Slovenia. The law was originally passed ten months ago after a referendum rejected a draft that would also have granted adoption rights. According to Politco, a lesbian couple will be getting married today (February 25) in celebration of the move. Ksenija Klampfer, who will be hosting the lesbian wedding, said: “We are very happy and proud that we will perform the first same-sex wedding. We believe that such marriages are an important step towards formation of an inclusive society where people have equal rights.” LGBT activists have praised the move, but state there is more work to be done. While the law gives couples the same rights as heterosexual ones, it still bans them from jointly adopting children. Lana Gobec for the Legebitra LGBT rights group, said: “This is a big step forward. But we will continue to strive for complete equality of heterosexual and same-sex couples.”

Albuquerque Public Schools Policy Will Retain Transgender Students’ Rights
President Trump eliminated protections for transgender students that allow them to use the bathroom of their choice on Wednesday. In New Mexico’s largest school district, those rights are preserved. Albuquerque Public Schools policy respects the rights of transgender students to have access to the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. It’s been in place since May 2016, in large part because the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico fought for it. Adrien Lawyer, the executive director of the center, said he’s worried about students in the rest of the state. "What we hear from trans students is that they try not to drink water so that they don’t have to navigate the bathroom," he said. "So that becomes a really serious health disparity for these young people, and of course, obviously an enormous distraction from being able to learn." The APS policy also covers gender expression and dress codes, using a student’s preferred name and pronoun, discrimination and bullying, and more. Santa Fe Public Schools has a similar policy supporting transgender student rights. But with the federal protections removed, policies all over the state—and country—will be spotty. "We’ve known a lot of young folks who didn’t graduate and did leave school early just because of the lack of safety that they felt in the school environment," Lawyer said.

Swastika Scrawled in Human Waste At The Rhode Island School of Design
Vandalism in a dormitory bathroom has RISD students' stomachs turning for several reasons. “It's pretty shocking because I think everybody is wondering, you know, who it is,” student Cooper Thompson told NBC 10 News. The Rhode Island School of Design confirmed to NBC 10 News Thursday that anti-Semitic graffiti was found in a dormitory bathroom during the weekend. Students told NBC 10 the school informed them it was a swastika made with human waste. “It's kind of disgusting, actually, and really sad that somebody would go to that length to kind of express their frustration or some kind of angst or mental disease,” RISD student Rory Hernandez said. “What they did is anti-Semitic. I have a feeling most likely they're really just trying to shock people,” said Thompson. A RISD spokesperson shared a statement with NBC 10. "This level of disrespect and vitriol is completely unacceptable and RISD Public Safety is investigating it as both an act of vandalism and a crime of hate,” the statement noted. And the bathroom is a gender-neutral one.

Trump's Family Trips Cost Taxpayers Nearly As Much In A Month As Obama's Cost In A Whole Year
Donald Trump's regular jaunts to his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida appear to be costing taxpayers a small fortune. The president's three trips have probably cost the federal Treasury about $10 million, the Washington Post estimates, based on an October 2016 Government Accountability Office analysis of White House travel. By comparison, Barack Obama's travel expenses averaged just $12.1 million during each year of his presidency. In total, Obama's eight year travel bill came to $97 million and unbelievably, Donald Trump is on pace to outspend him in less than one year. The Washington Post says "the elaborate lifestyle of America’s first family is straining the Secret Service and security officials, stirring financial and logistical concerns in several local communities, and costing far beyond what has been typical for previous presidents."

Activists Prank CPAC Attendees Into Waving Russian Flags At Trump
When President Donald Trump took the stage Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he was greeted with cheers, chants of "USA," and dozens of Russian flags. Two young, progressive activists from DC, Jason Charter and Ryan Clayton with the group Americans Take Action, purchased tickets to the conference, and handed out nearly 1,000 flags to attendees as a prank. After they were thrown out of the conference, they told Talking Points Memo they wanted to "shed light on an important issue"—namely, the drip of revelations of backchannel communications between the Russian government and the Trump campaign—and allow people to "get a laugh out of their day." Charter, 22, told Talking Points Memo by phone that he and Clayton organized the prank in order to "honor Trump's relationship with Putin." He said almost no one at CPAC seemed to realize the flag he handed them bore the horizontal red, white, and blue stripes of the Russian Federation underneath Trump's name. "I asked people if they wanted a Trump flag and they took it," Charter said. "Many Trump supporters were proudly waving their Russian Trump flag. I think it says a lot about Donald Trump's base and their education level. I don't want to insult anyone, but I think you should know what the Russian flag is. They are one of the world's major powers, and it's a pretty easily recognized flag," he added. CPAC staff quickly confiscated the flags, but not before the embarrassing image went viral on social media.

New York Times, CNN, Others Barred From White House Briefings After Trump Threatens to 'Do Something' About the Media
Journalists from The New York Times and several their news organizations were prohibited from attending a briefing by President Trump’s press secretary on Friday, a highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps. Reporters from The Times, CNN, BuzzFeed News, The Los Angeles Times and Politico were not allowed to enter the West Wing office of the press secretary, Sean M. Spicer, for the scheduled briefing. Aides to Mr. Spicer allowed in reporters from only a handpicked group of news organizations that, the White House said, had been previously confirmed to attend. Organizations allowed in included Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all news outlets with conservative leanings. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Fox News also attended. Reporters from Time magazine and The Associated Press, who were set to be allowed in to the briefing, chose not to attend as a form of protest of the White House’s actions.

MORE News and Pop Culture Round-Up