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Palm Springs is getting a facelift and its star is rising

Though it’s 120 degrees outside, you’ll love it

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Joshua Tree is not only a much cooler gay destination near Palm Springs, but August is also when meteors swarm the night sky from all directions leaving glowing trails in their wake. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

I escaped the Palm Springs midday desert heat in a UFO. Okay, not a real UFO, but in the dome-shaped quirky desert landmark known as the Integratron. While it kind of looks like a 1950s sci-fi spaceship, the 38-foot tall white cupola was constructed by ufologist George Van Tassel in 1959 to attract extraterrestrials and was funded in part by billionaire Howard Hughes.

While ET never paid a visit to the Integratron, desert tourists regularly pay to take a “sound bath” in the wooden building that is billed as an acoustically perfect structure. For $30, participants lie on cushions on the floor of the upper level of the building and listen to a concert of sorts by someone playing a series of huge round glass bowls, using a wand around the inside of the glass to put out a series of tones.

The Integratron is in the high desert, near Joshua Tree National Park, which stays about 10 degrees cooler than Palm Springs. The building itself has AC, making it comfortable no matter how hot it gets outside. The high desert, including Joshua Tree, is still doable in the summer, but hike before 11 a.m., bring plenty of water and avoid any long or strenuous walks. The summer nights in Joshua Tree are popular for stargazing. August is the best month for viewing the Perseid Meteor Shower.

If you don’t want to drive the 45 minutes to get to the high desert, perfect summer hiking can be found around the summit of Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Summer temperatures shed about 30 degrees in the 10-minute ride to the top in the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

Greater Palm Springs is seeing more summer visitors than ever before and businesses are not taking that for granted. Hotels, spas and restaurants are offering deals to entice you to head to the desert in the summer.

LGBT businesses have banded together again this year to offer a “Summer Splash” program showcasing hotel and restaurant deals. The sitepalmspringssummersplash.com spells out the offers. An example of some of the bargains include the fabulous InnDulge, which offers $99 rooms for weekday stays. InnDulge deservedly stays very busy throughout the summer. La Dolce Vita throws in free spa treatments with room stays. Escape Palm Springs and the Bearfoot Inn have $99 rooms and if you pay for two nights, you get the third free.

Of the Greater Palm Springs’ 16 gay resorts, all are for men and clothing optional. All but Cathedral City Boys Club (CCBC) are in Palm Springs proper. Sadly, the city’s formerly lesbian resorts Casitas Laquita, Queen of Hearts and its sister property Desert Hearts Inn, have been sold and have gone mainstream. Century Palm Springs also, unfortunately, is no more. The Warm Sands resort shut down after being sold recently.

If you have been to CCBC recently, you would have noticed room renovations and redone play spaces. But the resort’s big change will be unveiled later this summer when a brand-new restaurant and bar called Runway will open. The bar will aptly feature a runway that will showcase drag shows and other live entertainment. The resort plans to offer all-inclusive options that will include all meals and beverages. Plans are in the works to add 20 condo-style units in a five-story building on the back of the property where the waterfall is now. If the final plans are approved, that could be up and running in a couple of years. The hip new building will be lit up in Pride rainbow colors at night.

If a summer visit to the desert isn’t in the cards, fall is a busy time for Palm Springs. Things start to cool down but activities heat up in late September with Cinema Diverse, the Palm Springs LGBT film festival on Sept 20-23. Desert AIDS Walk is Oct 20. Palm Springs Leather Pride runs October 25-28. Halloween is big with a street party on Arenas Road and Palm Springs Pride week runs November 1-4.

Nightlife

Old timers will remember that gay nightlife in the desert was centered just south of Palm Springs in Cathedral City. But that began to change in the early 1990s when Streetbar, Palm Springs’ oldest gay bar, opened on Arenas Road. There are still three gay bars in Cathedral City and soon to be four with the addition of CCBC’s Runway. Cat City’s other bars include the piano lounge bar, Studio One 11, the leather/bear bar Barracks, and Trunks, formerly Digs and with the same ownership as the WeHo institution by the same name.

Almost all of Palm Springs’ nightlife is on Arenas Road. The newest bar is Stacy’s, with the same owner of the popular Stacy’s in Phoenix. It’s next to Bongo Johnny’s which is still closed after its kitchen was destroyed in a fire in March. Another newer Arenas Road addition is the video bar QUADZ, formerly Spurline, a newly remodeled streetbar. Beloved owner Dick Haskamp passed away in March but Haskamp left the business to a couple of employees who continue to run the bar in the same way that has made it a Palm Springs mainstay. The other popular bars on the block include Chill, Hunters, Score and around the corner on Indian Canyon, Tryst. Since the closing of Delilah’s years ago, there are no lesbian bars in Palm Springs, but all the Arenas nightspots are lesbian-friendly.

The leather/bear bar Tool Shed is on the edge of Warm Sands on E Sunny Dunes Road, next to the cool LGBT-themed store Q Trading and nearby Gear leather shop and Townie Bagels.

Toucan Tiki Lounge continues to be very popular on N Palm Canyon Drive, on the north end of town. It regularly hosts a lesbian party known as Velvet. For information on the next Velvet search on Velvet-PS on Facebook. By the way, Toucans is next to the fabulously gay WorkOUT Gym. The facility is small but has all the equipment you need and has reasonably priced day, week and weekend passes, If you are staying at the Vista Grande, Bearfoot Inn, or InnDulge, you can work out there for free.

For more information, check out the official Greater Palm Springs visitor’s site,visitgreaterpalmsprings.com, The city’s official tourism site includes a comprehensive LGBT section, visitpalmsprings.com.

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Welsh Olympic distance swimmer Dan Jervis comes Out

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming at the Olympics in Tokyo said he was inspired by Blackpool FC soccer player Jake Daniels

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Dan Jervis (Screenshot via British Swimming Livestream-archive)

NEATH, Talbot County Borough, Wales – In a recent interview with BBC Radio Cornwall, 26-year-old British Olympian distance swimmer Dan Jervis revealed that he had given considerable thought before announcing to the world that he is gay.

Jervis told the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast; “I was adjusting to everything else, just trying to fit in — until I thought, Just be you.”

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming for the British team at the Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan, told the BBC he was inspired by 17-year-old Blackpool FC forward Jake Daniels, the professional soccer player who made history as only the second person in the past 30 years to acknowledge their sexual orientation publicly in that sport in the United Kingdom.

The swimmer also told the BBC it was important to be seen as a role model as he readies to compete in the upcoming Commonwealth Games. Jervis has previously competed winning a 1500m freestyle silver and bronze at the 2014 and 2018 Games in Glasgow, Scotland and Australia’s Gold Coast respectively.

“It took me 24 years to be who I am,” he said and added, “You know, we’re just before the Commonwealth Games and there are going to be kids and adults watching who will know that I’m like them, and that I’m proud of who I am.”

The Olympian reflected on his decision to announce he was gay: “For so long, I hated who I was – and you see it all the time, people who are dying over this. They hate themselves so much that they’re ending their lives.

“So if I can just be that someone people can look at and say, ‘yeah, they’re like me,’ then that’s good.”

Jervis then said he revealed his sexuality to a close friend when he was 24: “At that point, I’d never said the words out loud to myself.”

“I said to her: ‘I think I’m gay.’ I couldn’t even say: ‘I’m gay.’ I was basically punching the words out.

“She was quite shocked but great, and it was exactly the reaction I wanted. I’ve had all good reactions, and the way I’ve described it is I’m not going to change as a person.

“Everyone’s journey is different, but I think I’ve always known.

“It was something in the back of my mind, bugging me. I thought I was bisexual and had girlfriends that I loved – but it came to about three years ago where I knew I had to deal with this.

“It wasn’t affecting my swimming, but me as a human being. It sounds quite drastic, but I wasn’t enjoying my life. Yeah, I was smiling, but there was something missing to make me properly happy.

“I’m still the Dan you’ve always known. You just know something else about me now.”

The Commonwealth Games open in Birmingham, UK on July 28.

Listen: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0chqfhn

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Online Culture

FCC asks Apple & Google to remove TikTok app from their stores

Its pattern of surreptitious data practices that are documented show TikTok is non-compliant with app store policies and practises

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Graphic by Molly Butler for Media Matters

WASHINGTON – In a series of tweets Tuesday, Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr disclosed a letter sent to both Apple and Google’s parent company Alphabet asking the two tech giants to remove TikTok from their app stores over his concerns that user data from the wildly popular social media platform is disclosed and used by bad actors in China.

In his letter dated June 24 to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Carr noted that because of its pattern of surreptitious data practices documented in reports and other sources, TikTok is non-compliant with the two companies’ app store policies and practises.

“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or meme. That’s the sheep’s clothing,” he said in the letter. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”

Carr stated that if the companiest do not remove TikTok from their app stores, they should provide statements to him by July 8.

The statements should explain “the basis for your company’s conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. user data by persons located in Beijing, coupled with TikTok’s pattern of misleading representations and conduct, does not run afoul of any of your app store policies,” he said.

Carr was appointed by former President Trump in 2018 to a five-year term with the FCC.

In March of this year, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a nationwide investigation into TikTok for promoting its social media platform to children and young adults while its use is associated with physical and mental health harms to youth.

The investigation will look into the harms using TikTok can cause to young users and what TikTok knew about those harms. The investigation focuses, among other things, on the techniques utilized by TikTok to boost young user engagement, including strategies or efforts to increase the duration of time spent on the platform and frequency of engagement with the platform.

TikTok’s computer algorithms pushing video content to users can promote eating disorders and even self-harm and suicide to young viewers. Texas opened an investigation into TikTok’s alleged violations of children’s privacy and facilitation of human trafficking last month.

TikTok has said it focuses on age-appropriate experiences, noting that some features, such as direct messaging, are not available to younger users. The company says it has tools in place, such as screen-time management, to help young people and parents moderate how long children spend on the app and what they see, the Associated Press reported.

“We care deeply about building an experience that helps to protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users,” the company said. “We look forward to providing information on the many safety and privacy protections we have for teens.”

TikTok has also had a problematic relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. Recently The Washington Post confirmed that the ‘Libs of TikTok,’ an influential anti-LGBTQ account regularly targets LGBTQ individuals and their allies for harassment from its more than 640,000 Twitter followers while serving as a veritable wire service for Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media to push anti-LGBTQ smears.

Libs of TikTok regularly targets individual teachers and their workplaces – releasing their personal information that includes school and individual names as well as social media accounts, and leading its audience to harass the schools on social media.

A year ago, an investigation by Media Matters found that TikTok’s “For You” page recommendation algorithm circulated videos promoting hate and violence targeting the LGBTQ community during Pride Month, while the company celebrated the month with its #ForYourPride campaign. 

Numerous LGBTQ+ content creators have shared stories with the Blade about TikTok’s seemingly arbitrary algorithms that target otherwise benign content that is not listed outside of the platform’s polices and removed the content. In many cases restoring the posts after appeals or in the worst case scenarios banning the users.

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Online Culture

Facebook banning users who post that abortion pills can be mailed

When Facebook started removing these posts is unclear. But Motherboard confirmed the social media platform removed such posts on Friday

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Facebook/Meta Headquarters Menlo Park, Calif. (Blade photo by Brody Levesque)

MENLO PARK, Ca. – Social media giant corporation Meta’s Facebook platform has removed posts and has banned some users who wrote posts detailing that abortion pills can be mailed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Friday that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Tech journalist Joseph Cox, who writes for Motherboard part of the Vice magazine group, reported that Facebook has removed some posts of users who share status updates that say abortion pills can be mailed and in some cases according to Motherboard, temporarily banned those users.

When exactly Facebook started removing these and similar posts is unclear. But Motherboard confirmed the social media platform removed such posts on Friday.

Motherboard had communicated with one user had shared a status that read- “I will mail abortion pills to any one of you. Just message me,” who then told the publication in an email:

“I posted it at 11 a.m. and was notified within a minute that it was removed. I was not notified until I tried to post later that I was banned for it.”

Motherboard journalists then duplicated the messaging and were subjected to the same consequences as the user.

The post was flagged within seconds as violating the site’s community standards, specifically the rules against buying, selling, or exchanging medical or non-medical drugs. The reporter was given the option to “disagree” with the decision or “agree” with it. After they chose “disagree,” the post was removed. 

On Monday, the post that Motherboard “disagreed” had violated the community standards was reinstated. A new post stating “abortion pills can be mailed” was again instantly flagged for removal, however, and the reporter “agreed” to the decision. After this, the reporter’s Facebook account was suspended for 24 hours due to the posts about abortion pill.

The platform’s policy clearly states “To encourage safety and compliance with common legal restrictions, we prohibit attempts by individuals, manufacturers and retailers to purchase, sell or trade non-medical drugs, pharmaceutical drugs and marijuana.”

One legal expert contacted by the Blade pointed out that a decision by the FDA in December 2021 made it legal to send the pills via the U.S. Postal Service.

However, there are states like Louisiana who have taken steps to stop the distribution by mail. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) into law a bill that will prohibit pregnant people from getting abortion pills via mail.

Axios reported that Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Friday, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, that states cannot ban mifepristone, a medication that is used to bring about an abortion, based on disagreement with the federal government on its safety and efficacy.

“In particular, the FDA has approved the use of the medication Mifepristone. States may not ban Mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy,” the Attorney General said.

As part of efforts to limit abortion access, some states have taken action to block the use of telehealth for abortion. Six states, ArizonaArkansasMissouriLouisianaTexas, and West Virginia, have passed laws specifically banning telehealth for abortion provision. In addition,14 other states have enacted laws that require the clinician providing a medication abortion to be physically present during the procedure, effectively prohibiting the use of telehealth to dispense medication for abortion remotely.

The question for social media platforms is what can be ‘policed’ especially in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision and the FDA deciding that patients to have a telemedicine appointment with a provider who can prescribe abortion pills and send them to the patient by mail.

Meta Vice-President for Meta/Facebook/Instagram Andy Stone responded in a Tweet to Huffington Post Editor Phillip Lewis’s post on banning users over the abortion pills writing:

“Content that attempts to buy, sell, trade, gift, request or donate pharmaceuticals is not allowed. Content that discusses the affordability and accessibility of prescription medication is allowed. We’ve discovered some instances of incorrect enforcement and are correcting these.”

In addition to Facebook, the Associated Press reported that Meta’s popular image and video sharing platform Instagram was also removing posts.

The AP obtained a screenshot on Friday of one Instagram post from a woman who offered to purchase or forward abortion pills through the mail, minutes after the court ruled to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion. “DM me if you want to order abortion pills, but want them sent to my address instead of yours,” the post on Instagram read. Instagram took it down within moments.

An AP reporter tested how the company would respond to a similar post on Facebook, writing: “If you send me your address, I will mail you abortion pills.”  The post was removed within one minute. The Facebook account was immediately put on a “warning” status for the post, which Facebook said violated its standards on “guns, animals and other regulated goods.” Yet, when the AP reporter made the same exact post but swapped out the words “abortion pills” for “a gun,” the post remained untouched.

The Los Angeles Blade has reached out to Meta/Facebook for a comment.

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