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On Grammy red carpet, stars speak out against anti-LGBTQ legislation

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GLAAD’s Anthony Ramos speaks with Brittany Howard on the red carpet at Sunday’s Grammy Awards (Image via YouTube)

The tragic death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash, alongside his 13-year-old daughter and 7 other people, cast a somber mood over Sunday night’s 62nd Grammy Awards ceremony. A breathtaking opening number by host and multiple Grammy-winner Alicia Keys and members of Boys II Men paid tribute to the basketball superstar, setting the stage for an evening which was peppered with speeches and performances dedicated to Bryant’s memory.

The passing of Bryant was not the only shadow hanging over the evening, however. With this week’s news of the signing into law by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee of his state’s controversial measure allowing adoption agencies to deny service to same-sex couples on the basis of “religious freedom,” the resurgent specter of anti-LGBTQ discrimination also haunted the proceedings, made all the more glaring by a lack of any mention in a presentation that included several wins by out LGBTQ artists.

For her remix of Madonna’s “I Rise,” DJ Tracy Young picked up the Best Remixed Recording Grammy, becoming both the first woman and the first lesbian to win this category. Tyler, The Creator, who has been public about having relationships with both men and women, took home the Grammy in Best Rap Album for “Igor.”

Brandi Carlile, who came out as lesbian in 2002, picked up a Grammy for Best Country Song as one of the writers of Tanya Tucker’s “Bring My Flowers Now.” She and Tucker performed the song during the show.

Lil Nas X continued his juggernaut trip through the year’s music awards by winning for both Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Music Video for “Old Town Road” with Billy Ray Cyrus. Nas and Cyrus also performed the song, alongside BTS, Diplo, and Mason Ramsey, who had all been featured on previous remixes of the recording.

Other notable LGBTQ-relevant moments at the presentation were the wins by Lady Gaga (Best Song Written for Visual Media, “I’ll Never Love Again” from “A Star is Born”) and Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media (“A Star is Born,” Original Soundtrack), and the return of Demi Lovato to the Grammy stage for a performance of her song, “Anyone.” Lizzo was also a big winner, for Best Pop Solo Performance (“Truth Hurts”), Best Traditional R&B Performance (“Jerome”), and Best Urban Contemporary Album (“Cuz I Love You” [Deluxe]).

Also on hand was out singer Brittany Howard, who joined Keys for her performance, and out actor/singer Ben Platt, who introduced a performance by Ariana Grande. Platt returned to the stage later to sing “I Sing the Body Electric” (from the film “Fame”) in a tribute to musical education in schools.

In light of the strong inclusion of LGBTQ and allied artist at this year’s Grammys, GLAAD Head of Talent Anthony Ramos took to the red carpet before the show to speak with artists about the legal situation in Tennessee, which in addition to the new anti-LGBTQ adoption law has an upcoming slate that includes several pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation.

Among the artists Ramos asked for reactions was Billy Ray Cyrus, who responded by saying, “A human being is a human being. You treat everybody right, live by the law of what is right, and always try to do the right thing. All people are created equal in His eyes, and that’s just the way it is.”

Brandi Carlile, interviewed beside collaborator and country music legend Tanya Tucker, told Ramos, “As a woman in a same-sex marriage with two daughters, I can tell you that we’re fabulous parents.”

“I can vouch for that,” Tucker interjected assertively.

Carlile went on to say she couldn’t boycott the state, “because there are LGBTQ people in Tennessee, and I need to go there and be their friend,” but she encouraged others to explore the option as a means to exert economic pressure against the anti-LGBTQ policies. She concluded by saying, “Let’s just hope it doesn’t catch on.”

Alabama Shakes singer and solo artist Brittany Howard may have summed up the most popular point of view for many when Ramos asked her what she would say to a person who thinks LGBTQ people should have different rights than everyone else.

“I guess we have nothing to talk about,” said Howard. “You either get out of the way, or we’ll walk over you.”

You can watch the full video from GLAAD below.

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Travel

July 4 travel woes in flight cancellations, record number Americans driving

A record number of Americans are expected to travel by car this upcoming July 4th holiday weekend, per the Triple A auto club

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – As the 4th of July weekend approaches, Americans getting underway to travel are facing heavy delays and cancellations amid staffing strains, weather, among other issues with U.S. air carriers.

On Friday according to tracking website FlightAware.com as of 7PM Pacific there were 27,544 total delays, domestic flight cancellations were 2,975 and international flight cancellations within, into, or out of the United States were 571.

(See the MiseryMap for a live visualization of flight delays.)

CNBC reported that consumer complaints are piling up. In April, the latest available data, the Transportation Department received 3,105 from travelers about U.S. airlines, up nearly 300% from April 2021, and at nearly double the rate during the same period last year.

The unprecedented number of airline cancelations and delays is causing travelers to choose to drive and fly. Delta, American Airlines and United are all trimming their schedules even further to accommodate staffing shortages, despite passenger levels hitting post-pandemic highs.

Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration have sparred over who’s to blame. Airlines chalk up the disruptions to bad weather, their staffing shortages and staffing problems at the government’s air traffic control.

Yesterday, the FAA’s acting Administrator Billy Nolen and other top agency officials held a call with airline executives to discuss weekend planning, including the agency’s use of overtime to staff its facilities, traffic and routing plans, according to a person familiar with the meeting. The call was in addition to regular planning meetings with airlines.

U. S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks with reporters on Zoom call about flight cancellations and expected delays this July 4th holiday weekend.

U. S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg: “It is time for the airline industry to deliver.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters Friday that, “passengers have high expectations from an industry that we have supported with tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer funding through the pandemic to keep it up and running so that it can serve passengers. Now we need them to deliver.”

Concerned about flight cancellation trends, Buttigieg said he has spoken directly with airlines.

“Something I’ve asked them to do so that if you’re selling a ticket, you know you can back that up, that you have the staffing to do it,” he added.

A record number of Americans are expected to travel by car this upcoming July 4th holiday weekend, per a new report from the Triple A auto club.

Screenshot/NBC News

Just in time for that Fourth of July travel, gas prices are continuing to drop from their record high points of two weeks ago as the Energy Information Administration reports that gasoline stockpiles across the country have increased, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch.

Since Monday, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has decreased by four cents to $4.85.

Despite the highest 4th of July gas prices on record, 42 million Americans are driving this holiday.

Travelers Driving This 4th of July Weekend To Avoid Airport Chaos:

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Sports

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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