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Gilbert Baker, “Gay Betsy Ross,” creator of the Rainbow Flag, dies in NYC

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Gilbert Baker, Photo by Rex Wockner

His life was a celebration of diversity that gave us gifts to the very end.

Gilbert Baker, widely recognized as the creator (some say appropriator) of the rainbow flag, an iconic symbol of the international LGBT movement, died on Friday (March 31, 2017) of unknown causes at home in his Hamilton Heights apartment in Manhattan. He was 65.

Baker‘s work as a flag maker spanned 39 years and includes two world records for flag making. “Flags are torn from the soul of the people,” Baker told the author of  “The American Flag, Two Centuries of Conflict and Concord.” 

The colors on the first Rainbow Flag, created by Baker and his team — raised at San Francisco Pride on June 25, 1978 — were intended to reflect the diversity of the LGBT community. Each stripe on the original, eight-color flag had a meaning: Hot Pink for sexuality; Red for life Orange for healing; Yellow for sunlight; Green for nature; Turquoise for magic/art; Blue for serenity/harmony; Violet for spirit.

Baker, writing about the moment the flag was first hoisted, said “Seeing it there blowing in the wind for everyone to see! It completely astounded me that people just got it, in an instant like a bolt of lightening – that this was their flag. It belonged to all of us. It was the most thrilling moment of my life. Because I knew right then that this was the most important thing I would ever do – that my whole life was going to be about the Rainbow Flag.”

His fight for LGBT rights was a long and significant one.

Baker was born in Chanute, Kansas, on June 2, 1951. He served in the US Army 1970-1972, which stationed him in San Francisco just at the start of the gay liberation movement.

Randy Shilts, in his groundbreaking book about the experiences of gays who served in the military while LGBT people were banned from serving, “Conduct Unbecoming,” featured a story on Gilbert’s experience.

After being honorably discharged, Baker remained in San Francisco and taught himself to sew, applying that skill to creating banners for gay and anti-war street protest marches, often at a moment’s notice.  He worked alongside his lifelong friend Harvey Milk, the San Francisco City Supervisor who was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone on Nov 27, 1978.

Baker credited Milk as an inspiration for his work. 

In 1979, he worked at Paramount Flag Company in San Francisco and his flamboyant window displays caught the attention of Mayor Dianne Feinstein who commissioned him to design flags for her first elected inaugural. Baker began designing flags as the centerpiece of formal civic and state events, creating grand displays for the Premier of China, the President of France, The President of Venezuela, the President of the Philippines, the King of Spain, among many others.

He became so well known as a flag designer in San Francisco, he was commissioned to design displays for the 1984 Democratic National Convention.

Baker created flag spectacles for The San Francisco Symphony Black and White Ball, rock shows in Golden Gate Park, and fabulous stages and street displays for San Francisco Gay Pride.

For Stonewall 25 in 1994, Baker and his team sewed this nearly mile long flag that stretched up 1st Avenue from 23rd Street to the United Nations at 44th Street. Photo by Dan Davidson.

In 1994 he Moved to New York City and created a mile-long Rainbow Flag for the 25th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riot. Measuring 30 x 5280 ft. and carried by 5,000 people, it broke the world’s record for largest flag. 

He flexed his creative muscle in the years that followed and became an artist of some note.

As an artist, Baker returned again and again to variations on the Rainbow Flag motif and his artwork and flag creations have appeared in galleries and museums around the world. In 2000, he staged an exhibition of photographs and other works celebrating the flag in Rome for World Pride.

In 2002, Baker mounted an extensive showing of 180 pieces, at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York. In 2003, an expansion of that exhibit was featured in San Francisco.

In 2003, the Rainbow Flag’s 25th anniversary, Baker broke his own world record for the largest flag, crafting a flag that spanned the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean around Key West. Baker then sent sections of this flag to more than 100 cities around the world.

Friend and colleague Jay Blotcher said “Gilbert was passionate about all civil rights injustices, not only LGBT and HIV issues. We marched together in NYC in 2011 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the immigrant girls who perished because of company safety shortcuts to save money.”

Friend Ken Kidd, a New Yorker, said of his work, “Gilbert was so proud when MoMA honored the Flag with inclusion in its permanent collection. He just told me the Flag had been acquired to be a part of the collection of The British Museum of Design.Gilbert was also excited about Gov. Cuomo’s design competition for the LGBT Memorial to be erected on the West Side, in the park near the piers. He’s been breathlessly telling me about the project he submitted for nearly a year.  I am bereft.  This is a huge loss.”

Author, activist and writer Michelangelo Signorile, who attended World Pride with Baker in 2000, said “I had a chance to watch him in Rome, during World Pride in 2000. We had a amazing time — he was so much fun to be around. He also was revered by the activists who gathered from all over the globe and spent time with them, inspired by them as much he had inspired them in their work.”

Signorile added, “He was a hero and a pioneer, and an amazing activist — always full of energy and ready to take on the next fight. He was also pretty damned fabulous, a true star who were revered around the world for giving millions an iconic symbol of liberation, hope, power and love.”

In a Facebook post, Cleve Jones, a longtime gay activist and friend of Baker’s, told the Bay Area Reporter, “I am heartbroken. My dearest friend in the world is gone. Gilbert gave the world the Rainbow Flag; he gave me forty years of love and friendship. I can’t stop crying. I love you forever Gilbert Baker.”

Jones called for a community gathering on the night of Baker’s death at the large rainbow flag in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood.

Early in 2008, Baker returned to San Francisco and recreated his 1970s pageantry for “Milk,” the Academy Award-winning movie about the life of Harvey Milk.

More recently, Baker had become involved the resurgent protest movements, joining with Queer Nation in protesting the limitations of the Employment Non Discrimination Act.  He protested against Donald Trump and was involved with Gays Against Guns.  He had become involved in Resistance March efforts in New York City and urged Heritage of Pride, the organizing committee for New York City’s LGBT Pride March, to declare its support for #ResistMarch.

Gilbert Baker leaves behind a mother, Patricia Baker of San Antonio, Texas and a sister, Ardonna Baker Cook, who lives in Cypress, Texas. He has written an unpublished memoir about his life.

In an extraordinary flourish in the last days of his life, he crafted a message to the world about diversity .

“Adding the color Lavender,” said Gilbert Baker, “is to represent diversity.” He had hand-sewn 39 of these flags to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the creation of the Rainbow Flag, with plans for them to be displayed in San Francisco in June. Photo by Jay Blotcher.

Just this week he completed a final update to the Rainbow Flag, a nine-color flag, adding the color lavender for diversity.  

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California

Newsom calls out gas companies, says they’re fleecing Californians

The governor announced oil refineries could roll out winter-blend gas ahead of schedule, which could reduce price up to 25 cents per gallon

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Screenshot/Twitter

SACRAMENTO – On Friday California Governor Gavin Newsom in a scathing video on his Twitter account castigated oil and gas companies for what he termed fleecing consumers in the Golden State.

“Oil companies are ripping you off. Their record profits are coming at your expense at the pump,” the Governor said. “I’m calling for a NEW windfall tax exclusively on oil companies. If they won’t lower their prices we will do it for them. The money will go directly back to you.”

According to the Triple A Auto club of Southern California, gas prices statewide crept up yet again overnight, reaching an average of $6.36/gallon for regular unleaded Saturday.

In the Los Angeles area, gasoline hit $6.45/gallon, up 7 cents from the day before. Ongoing Southern California fuel supply issues pushed Los Angeles wholesale gasoline prices to new records this week and pump prices may also break new records soon if they keep increasing at the current pace of 10-15 cents a day.

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $6.18, which is 66 cents higher than last week. The average national price is $3.78, which is ten cents higher than a week ago.

“The degree of diversions from the national prices has never happened before, and oil companies provide no explanation,” Newsom said. “We’re not going to stand by while greedy oil companies fleece Californians.”

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $6.26 per gallon, which is 67 cents higher than last week, 98 cents higher than last month, and $1.85 higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $6.20, which is 67 cents higher than last week, 96 cents higher than last month, and $1.85 higher than last year.

California Gas Prices vs. National Average

CaliforniaNationwide
Saturday, Oct 1. = $6.358/gallonSaturday, Oct 1. = $3.80/gallon
Friday = $6.293Friday = $3.797
Week Ago = $5.682Week Ago = $3.700
Month Ago = $5.252Month Ago = $3.829
Source: AAA

The governor also announced on Friday that oil refineries could roll out winter-blend gasoline ahead of schedule, which could reduce the price of gas up to 25 cents per gallon.

“In light of the dramatic increase in gas prices that California is experiencing, we should not wait until the end of the month to start distributing or to ramp up production of our winter-blend gasoline. Allowing refiners to make an early transition to winter-blend gasoline could quickly increase fuel supply and provide a much needed safety valve with minimal air quality impacts,” Newsom said in a letter to Liane Randolph, chair of the California Air Resources Board. “Accordingly, I am directing that the Air Resources Board immediately take whatever steps are necessary to allow for an early transition to gasoline to be manufactured, imported, distributed, and sold in California.”

Switching from the summer to winter blend would likely save consumers 15 to 20 cents per gallon, said Doug Shupe, a spokesman for the Southern California Automobile Club said.

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Russia

Putin slams LGBTQ+ people in Ukrainian annexation speech

The Russian President implied directly that the U.S. and its NATO allies assisting Ukraine were trying to erase Russian culture

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Screenshot/YouTube AFP/NBC

MOSCOW – In a rally ceremony resembling a political convention Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his signing a degree that Russia had annexed four regions of Eastern Ukraine that were overrun by Russian military forces and Russian-backed separatists.

“The people made their choice,” said Putin in the formal signing ceremony at the Kremlin’s St. George hall. “And that choice won’t be betrayed” by Russia, he said.

This past week, in an election President Joe Biden labeled fraudulent and a sham, Ukrainians in the occupied territories of of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia voted to join Russia in elections supervised by heavily armed Russian troops.

Speaking from the White House Friday, Biden said the United States and its allies will not recognize Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian regions and reaffirmed that NATO nations will defend all territory in the alliance.

Addressing the Russian leader, the president said “Mr. Putin, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Every inch.”

America and its allies are not going to – I’m going to emphasize, are not going to be intimidated, are not going to be intimidated by Putin and his reckless words and threats. He’s not going to scare us and he doesn’t- or intimidate us.

Putin’s actions are a sign he’s struggling. The sham referenda he carried out and this routine he put on, don’t worry, it’s not there if you’re looking, OK. The sham routine that we put on this morning that’s showing the unity and people holding hands together. Well, the United States is never going to recognize this and quite frankly, the world is not going to recognize it either. He can’t seize his neighbor’s territory and get away with it. It’s as simple as that.

And they’re going to stay the course. We’re going to continue to provide military equipment so that Ukraine can defend itself and its territory and its freedom, […] And we’re fully prepared to defend, I want to say this again, America is fully prepared with our NATO allies to defend every single inch of NATO’s territory, every single inch. So Mr. Putin, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Every inch.”

Putin in his long and rambling speech at the ceremony, held on the massive stage in Moscow’s Red Square opposite the Kremlin’s walls, took aim at the West with particular emphasis on Western values and culture(s).

“Western countries have been repeating for centuries that they bring freedom and democracy to other peoples. Everything is exactly the opposite: instead of democracy – suppression and exploitation; instead of freedom – enslavement and violence.,” Putin said.

Later during the speech Putin decried the LGBTQ+ community and Western nations that allow equity and equality/human rights:

“In fact, they spit on the natural right of billions of people, most of humanity, to freedom and justice, to determine their own future on their own. Now they have completely moved to a radical denial of moral norms, religion, and family.

Let’s answer some very simple questions for ourselves. I now want to return to what I said, I want to address all the citizens of the country – not only to those colleagues who are in the hall – to all the citizens of Russia: do we want to have, here, in our country, in Russia, parent number one, number two, number three instead of mom and dad – have they gone made out there? Do we really want perversions that lead to degradation and extinction to be imposed on children in our schools from the primary grades? To be drummed into them that there are various supposed genders besides women and men, and to be offered a sex change operation? Do we want all this for our country and our children? For us, all this is unacceptable, we have a different future, our own future?”

The Russian President then implied directly that the U.S. and its NATO allies assisting Ukraine were trying to erase Russian culture and then justified the illegal annexations of the four regions in Eastern Ukraine:

“Today we are fighting so that it would never occur to anyone that Russia, our people, our language, our culture can be taken and erased from history. Today, we need the consolidation of the entire society, and such cohesion can only be based on sovereignty, freedom, creation, and justice. Our values ​​are humanity, mercy and compassion.

And I want to end my speech with the words of a true patriot Ivan Alexandrovich Ilyin: “If I consider Russia my Motherland, then this means that I love in Russian, contemplate and think, sing and speak Russian; that I believe in the spiritual strength of the Russian people. His spirit is my spirit; his fate is my fate; his suffering is my grief; its flowering is my joy.”

Behind these words is a great spiritual choice, which for more than a thousand years of Russian statehood was followed by many generations of our ancestors. Today we are making this choice, the citizens of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, the residents of Zaporozhye and Kherson regions have made this choice. They made the choice to be with their people, to be with the Motherland, to live its destiny, to win together with it.”

The Russian president has long held homophobic and transphobic opinions and has signed multiple pieces of legislation that has sharply curtailed LGBTQ+ rights and expression in the Russian Federation during his 18 years as president including Russia’s infamous Don’t Say Gay law signed in 2013 that has been strengthened and augmented by succeeding measures.

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Southern California

Triple A: Local gas prices rocket up at second-highest pace of 2022

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $6.18, which is 66 cents higher than last week

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Screenshot/YouTube KTLA 5

LOS ANGELES – Ongoing Southern California fuel supply issues pushed Los Angeles wholesale gasoline prices to new records this week and pump prices may also break new records soon if they keep increasing at the current pace of 10-15 cents a day, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch.

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $6.18, which is 66 cents higher than last week. The average national price is $3.78, which is ten cents higher than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $6.26 per gallon, which is 67 cents higher than last week, 98 cents higher than last month, and $1.85 higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $6.20, which is 67 cents higher than last week, 96 cents higher than last month, and $1.85 higher than last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $6.20, which is 67 cents higher than last week, 80 cents higher than last month and $1.84 higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $6.11, which is 67 cents higher than last week, 95 cents higher than last month and $1.79 higher than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $5.97 average price is 51 cents higher than last Thursday, 58 cents higher than last month and $1.62 higher than a year ago today.

“This week saw the most significant gas price increases since they jumped 77 cents in one week in March. Local wholesale gasoline prices are now 35 cents higher than their all-time record reached in June, when gas prices climbed to an all-time record average of $6.46 in Los Angeles,” said Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe. “Until the state receives significant amounts of imported gasoline and local refineries are fully operational again, we will likely continue to see pump price increases.”

The Auto Club reminds drivers of the following tips to save money on gas:

  • Only use premium unleaded fuel if it is required for your vehicle, not just recommended. The Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center found that vehicles with recommended (not required) premium fuel performed safely with regular unleaded gasoline.
  • Make sure your tires are properly maintained and inflated to the correct level.
  • Maintain your car according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Regular service will ensure optimum fuel economy.
  • Avoid “jackrabbit” starts and hard accelerations. These actions greatly increase fuel consumption.
  • Slow down and drive the speed limit. Fuel economy peaks around 50 mph on most cars, then drops off as speed increases. Reducing freeway speeds by 5 to 10 mph can increase fuel economy by as much as 14%.
  • Use cruise control on the highway to help maintain a constant speed and save fuel. However, never use cruise control on slippery roads because you could lose control of the vehicle.
  • Minimize your use of air conditioning.
  • Avoid extended idling to warm up the engine, even in colder temperatures. It’s unnecessary and wastes fuel.
  • Remove unnecessary and heavy items from your car.
  • Minimize your use of roof racks and remove special carriers when not in use.
  • Download the AAA App to find the cheapest gas prices near you. 

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on Sept. 29, averages are:

Sept 29 22
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