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Trump attacks expansion of vote-by-mail

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(UPDATED) #TrumpMeltdown trended on Twitter most of May 27, in part because the president of the United States whined about a wide range of topics, including how the “Radical Left Lamestream Media” and the “Do Nothing Democrats” are spreading misinformation about how fast he reacted to COVID-19. He countered by crowing that “We pass 15,000,000 Tests Today, by far the most in the World.” But Donald Trump tweeted not one word of compassion about the victims of the virus on the day the coronavirus death toll in America surpassed 100,000 souls.

But what really sparked Trump’s ire was the audacity of Twitter, his darling social media platform, to attach a fact check alert to two of his unsubstantiated tweets – one saying that mail-in ballots in the 2020 election would be fraudulent.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone…..living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one. That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!,” Trump tweeted on May 26, receiving 77.9 thousand “likes.”

Seeing absolutely no contradiction, Trump also threatened to “strongly regulate” social media platforms “or close them down” since Republicans allege the platforms “silence conservative voices,” denying them freedom of speech. Trump has 80.3 million Twitter followers.

“Get the facts about mail-in ballots” Twitter posted as an alert link leading to a fact check page saying “Trump makes unsubstantial claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud.”

For that, Trump is expected to sign an executive order Thursday that would turn the Federal Communications Commission into “the President’s speech police,” former FCC commissioner Jennifer Rosenworcel said in a statement. While legal challenges are sure to follow since Congress regulates the FCC, Trump has been packing the federal court system so a once logical legal outcome about government censorship of the First Amendment is not necessarily a given result. Meanwhile, Trump and troll-driven Black Lists akin to the Red Scare days of McCarthyism may flood social media zones before the November elections.

(UPDATE: Trump signed the executive order. “We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers,” Trump said before signing the document, the Washington Post reported.)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sec. of State Alex Padilla defended Newsom’s executive order issued in the face of the COVID-19 crisis that requires mail ballots be sent to California voters as an option to in-person voting in November.

“The foundation of democracy is built on freedom and the right to vote,“ a right for which many Americans have died, Newsom said. “In a pandemic, I don’t want to deny you that right. … It’s a noble cause. I think it’s an appropriate cause.”

Padilla tweeted  that fact-checking “is a small step in the right direction. But we can all do our part to call out the lies. The president is intentionally spreading false information about vote by mail and blatantly trying to suppress the vote.”

Though Trump sent his vote-by-mail ballot to Florida for the 2018 elections, three Republican groups have sued Newsom over his executive order. They apparently choose to ignore the fact that at least 52 people who worked the polls or stood in long lines to vote in the April 7 Wisconsin primary contracted COVID-19.

“The Republican playbook has been the same for years, and frankly voters are finally starting to see it for what it is – voter suppression,” says out Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chair Mark J. Gonzalez. “The RNC and the CAGOP’s latest attempt to use the courts to gaslight supporters is another charade to confuse and deflect from their inaction on putting forth policies designed to help working class voters. California joins South Carolina, Utah, and 26 other states who allow vote-by-mail – are they suing Republican-led states, too? If you don’t want voters to vote, then don’t run to represent them. No one should have to choose between their health and their right to vote.”

“Since 1962, California has offered its citizens the opportunity to vote by mail.  Over the years, the ability to vote by mail has been expanded and more Californians vote by mail today than go to their polling places on Election Day,” Lester F. Aponte, President of the Stonewall Democratic Club and Co-Chair of LGBT Caucus of the California Democratic Party, tells the Los Angeles Blade.

“California is one of 29 states who allow vote-by-mail. Five states currently conduct all elections entirely by mail. It is an option that makes it easier for people who have difficulty traveling, be it for economic or physical reasons or just because they have to be out of state on the day of the election, to exercise their right to vote. It is vitally important now that we are facing a pandemic of unprecedented proportions,” Aponte says.

“Recognizing the value of making it easier for more people to vote,” he says, “Stonewall pioneered campaigns to encourage vote by mail. For many years, our ‘Vote Naked’ campaign educated voters on the availability of vote by mail and encouraged voters to exercise their right to vote no matter where they are on Election Day.

“There is no evidence that vote by mail is more susceptible to fraud than in person voting,” he continues. “There is ample evidence that the more people vote the more Republicans lose. Trump’s cynical attack on vote by mail in California and other states is part of the Republican strategy to suppress the vote, especially among communities of color and other traditionally Democratic voters, including the LGBTQ community. And if they have to force voters into a choice between risking their lives or voting Republicans out of office, that is what they will do.  We do not intend to let them get away with it.”

“We continue to call voters to encourage them to change to Vote-by-Mail status,” adds ally Jane Wishon, Stonewall Democratic Club Political Vice President, who also runs their live phonebank campaign in Arizona, in collaboration with Westside Democratic Headquarters.

Trump, the one-time consummate marketer, probably couldn’t help himself as his Twitter whines against Vote-by-Mail prompted a trend of awareness about the very method that may well unseat him in November.

(Photo by Sean Freese via Flickr)

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NBC Universal cancels Golden Globe awards broadcast for 2022

NBC Universal announced the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes awards ceremony

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Screenshot NBC coverage of the Golden Globes from previous years on YouTube

BURBANK – In the wake of an in-depth investigation into the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the organization responsible for the Golden Globes by the Los Angeles Times, which revealed a lack of racial diversity among its voting members and various other ethical concerns, NBC Universal announced Monday the network would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes ceremony.

This past February ahead of the HFPA’s 78th Annual Golden Globes ceremony, HFPA board chair Meher Tatna told Variety magazine that the organization that the organization of international journalists which covers the film, television, and entertainment industry has not had any Black members in at least 20 years.

Actor Sterling K. Brown,  a Golden Globe winner and two-time nominee, posted to Instagram; 

Criticism of the HFPA, which puts on the Globes and has been denounced for a lack of diversity and for ethical impropriates, reached such a pitch this week that actor and superstar celebrity Tom Cruise returned his three Globes to the press association’s headquarters, according to a person who was granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the decision, the Associated Press reported.

“We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform. However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right,” a spokesperson for NBC said in a statement.

“As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes,” the spokesperson added. “Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.”

NBC’s decision comes as Vogue reported that the backlash to the HFPA came swiftly and decisively. Some of Hollywood’s biggest studios, including Netflix, Amazon, and WarnerMedia, announced they were severing ties with the organization until efforts were made to increase diversity and stamp out corruption, while a group of more than 100 of the industry’s biggest PR firms released a statement in March in which they pledged to boycott the ceremony for the foreseeable future. 

The HFPA did not immediately respond to inquiries by media outlets requesting comment about NBC’s decision.

In February, the organization said it was “fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV, and the artists inspiring and educating them.”

“We understand that we need to bring in Black members as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible,” it said.

HFPA also announced a full timetable through this summer for implementing promised reform initiatives in response to NBC’s decision.

“Regardless of the next air date of the Golden Globes, implementing transformational changes as quickly — and as thoughtfully — as possible remains the top priority,” the HFPA board said in a statement. “We invite our partners in the industry to the table to work with us on the systemic reform that is long overdue, both in our organization as well as within the industry at large.”

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Coronavirus

LA County expected to hit herd immunity by mid summer

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County could reach COVID-19 herd immunity among adults and the older teenagers by mid- to late July, public health officials announced Monday. Over the weekend LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that appointments are no longer needed for Angelenos to get COVID-19 vaccinations at any site run by the city.

Garcetti’s move is intended to give people who don’t have the time or technological resources to navigate online booking platforms a chance to get the shot.

The percentage of the population the County needs to vaccinate to achieve community immunity is unknown, however Public Health officials estimate it’s probably around 80%. Currently, 400,000 shots each week are getting into the arms of L.A. County residents, and there are over 2 million more first doses to go before 80% of all L.A. County residents 16 and older have received at least one shot.

At this rate, Public Health expects the County will reach this level of community immunity in mid- to late July and that assumes the County continues to at least have 400,000 people vaccinated each week. That would include both first doses that people need as well as their second doses.

This news came as Los Angeles Unified School District officials announced that attendance numbers at all grade levels in the District have been considerably lower than expected as extensive safety measures have failed to lure back the vast majority of families in the final weeks of school.

Only 7% of high school students, about 30% of elementary school children and 12% of middle school students have returned to campuses.

As of May 7, more than 8,492,810 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to people across Los Angeles County. Of these, 5,146,142 were first doses and 3,346,668 were second doses.

On Monday the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years of age. The Pfizer vaccine is already authorized for people 16 years old and older.

Pfizer’s testing in adolescents “met our rigorous standards,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. “Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a statement released Monday by the White House, President Joe Biden the FDA’s decision marked another important step in the nation’s march back to regular life.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is growing, and today it got a little brighter,” Biden said.

Los Angeles County will offer the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirms the FDA recommendation, which can happen as early as Wednesday. All adolescents 12-17 will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to get vaccinated.

To find a vaccination site near you, to make an appointment at vaccination sites, and much more, visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) and www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). If you don’t have internet access, can’t use a computer, or you’re over 65, you can call 1-833-540-0473 for help finding an appointment or scheduling a home-visit if you are homebound. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that unvaccinated people — including children — should continue taking precautions such as wearing masks indoors and keeping their distance from other unvaccinated people outside of their households.

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Health

HHS takes steps to reverse Anti-LGBTQ+ healthcare policy

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule”

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HHS the Hubert H. Humphrey Building (Photo: GSA)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday morning that the Biden-Harris Administration will interpret and enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Title IX’s prohibitions on discrimination based on sex to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The announcement came minutes before a scheduled hearing before the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in BAGLY v. HHS, Equality California’s lawsuit challenging the Trump-Pence Administration’s “Rollback Rule.”

The Trump-era policy undermines the ACA’s nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sex — including pregnancy, gender identity and sex stereotyping — as well as protections for patients with limited-English proficiency and those living with chronic illnesses, including HIV. Because the issues in BAGLY v. HHS are broader than what the Administration announced today, the Court scheduled a hearing on the government’s motion to dismiss for June 3rd at 2:30 PM EST.

In reaction to the HHS announcement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement Monday:

“Today, the Biden Administration has taken essential and potentially life-saving action to affirm that all people in America have the right to quality, affordable health care – no matter who they are or whom they love.  During this time of pandemic and always, it is vital that the most vulnerable have access to care, including LGBTQ Americans, who have long suffered injustice and discrimination that has left them dangerously exposed to health risks.
 
“The Trump Administration’s decision to greenlight anti-LGBTQ discrimination in health care in the middle of a pandemic was an act of senseless and staggering cruelty, made in blatant defiance of our values and a Supreme Court ruling made just a month prior.  
 
“Congressional Democrats together with the Biden Administration are proud to uphold the equal right of every American to access the care that they need to pursue a life of dignity and health.  We must now build on this progress and enact the House-passed Equality Act to fully ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in our nation.”

In addition to Equality California, co-plaintiffs in BAGLY v. HHS include Darren Lazor, The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (BAGLY), Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Campaign for Southern Equality, Equality California, Fenway Health, and Transgender Emergency Fund.

Lazor is a transgender man near Cleveland, Ohio, who experienced numerous counts of discrimination from healthcare providers on the basis of his gender identity from 2012 to 2017. He is a member of Equality California. Plaintiffs are represented by National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the Transgender Law Center (TLC), the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) of Harvard Law School and law firm Hogan Lovells.

The lawsuit asserts that the new rule violates the Administrative Procedures Act by being contrary to law, arbitrary and capricious and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Notably, it was published on June 19,  just days after the June 15, 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found that it is unlawful sex discrimination to fire employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The lawsuit also asserts that the new rule will embolden discrimination and harm LGBTQ+ patients and people seeking reproductive health care, further stigmatize abortion and other pregnancy-related care, harm patients with limited-English proficiency, especially immigrants, and harm people with chronic illnesses, including those living with HIV. The rule will also create confusion about the scope of protections against discrimination under federal law. 

Trans people, like plaintiff Darren Lazor, already face disproportionate discrimination in health care settings, including mistreatment by insurers and humiliation and harassment by doctors – problems that are exacerbated for trans people of color and trans people living in rural regions and the U.S. South. In seeking to deny trans people access to the healthcare they need, the Trump Administration had placed trans people, and especially Black trans women, in danger through deliberately harmful governmental action.

“We are thrilled by the news that the Biden-Harris Administration will take initial steps to reverse President Trump’s dangerous, discriminatory Rollback Rule, which undermined healthcare nondiscrimination protections critical to the LGBTQ+ community, and trans people in particular,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur.

“As the world recovers from a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever that every American have access to quality, affordable healthcare without fear of harassment and discrimination. We remain hopeful that under Secretary Becerra and Assistant Secretary Levine’s leadership, HHS will continue to take further steps to rescind the Trump-era regulation and address the harms that it has caused,” he added.

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