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Texas governor calls for 2nd special session, anti-trans bill on agenda

Democrat lawmakers said they plan return but they will not return to the Texas Capitol to attend any future special sessions called by Abbott

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Screenshot of Texas House Chamber via KXAN NBC Austin, Texas

AUSTIN – In a statement released Thursday, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott announced that he was calling the state legislature back into a second special session commencing at noon on Saturday—twelve hours after the first special session ends.

The first special session ends at 11:59 p.m. on Friday and was effectively stalled in taking legislative action after the majority of the Democratic Texas House Caucus boarded flights to Washington D.C. on July 12 and have remained out of state denying Republicans from a quorum.

Abbott released a 17-item agenda expanding his priorities like the election bill that caused the House Democrats to flee the state at the start of the first special session, which ends Friday. But it also features six additions, including the spending of federal COVID-19 relief funds and potentially changing the legislative rules regarding quorums, the Texas Tribune reported.

There is also a new item on public education during the pandemic including masks which is an increasingly volatile issue as parents prepare to send their kids back to school with the virus on the rise statewide.

Among the Governor’s legislative priorities is once again focused on denying Transgender youth in the Lone Star state the ability to participate in athletics on teams or intermural sports in their chosen gender.

“Legislation identical to Senate Bill 29 as passed by the Texas Senate in the
87th Legislature, Regular Session, disallowing a student from competing in
University Interscholastic League athletic competitions designated for the sex
opposite to the student’s sex at birth.”

From the Proclamation by texas governor greg abbott published thursday, august 5, 2021

Trans teen activist Landon Richie told the Blade Thursday that “Once again, Governor Abbott is wasting money, time, resources, and energy on attacking trans youth in sports – kids who just want to be a part of a team and spend time with their friends. What trans kids – and adults – are told by this announcement is that the state’s leadership has no regard for our well-being, safety, or lives,” he said.

“What we need instead is to be treated not as second-class citizens, but as the valuable, beautiful, loved people that we are. The Governor would rather make it harder for trans kids to live, for people of color to vote, for students to learn about systemic racism, for immigrants to seek safety, and for people to access reproductive healthcare in our state than to protect us from COVID and extreme weather events; his actions will not be forgotten when it’s time to vote him out in 2022,” Richie added.

Photo: Late journalist and Trans activist Monica Roberts with Landon Richie

The Tribune also reported that with Thursday’s announcement, Abbott is following through on a statement he made toward the start of the quorum break, saying he would make sure the second special began the day after the first one ends. For the second special session, lawmakers will have to start over on every item, including filing bills and holding committee hearings.

Democrats and Republicans remain at a stalemate over the elections bill, which would restrict local voting options and place new statewide rules on early voting and mail-in ballots. GOP leaders have suggested they are not in the mood to further tweak the bill, while House Democrats have abandoned hope for meaningful negotiations while using their time in the nation’s capital to advocate for federal voting rights legislation.

Abbott and the legislative Republican leadership have been thwarted from passage of their agenda as the Texas Democratic lawmakers have blocked every effort by the GOP in advancing bills through to the governor.

First in the end of the regular legislative session in May, they walked off the state House floor, leaving Republicans without the quorum they needed to approve the voting legislation in the final hours before a midnight deadline. Then in July by leaving the state altogether.

The push to pass the elections reform legislation comes as Republicans in Texas have sought to join Florida, Georgia and other GOP-controlled states that have seized on former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election and adopted new restrictions that will make it harder for some of their residents to vote CNN reported.

Texas House Democrats say that they remain steadfast in their opposition to Abbott’s agenda and will likely stay in Washington where they have held a number of meetings with other Democrats including Vice President Kamala Harris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. This past week CNN reported that the Texas Democratic lawmakers were joined by more than 100 state legislators from across the country as part of a planned “week of action” on voting rights.

“A vast majority, enough to break quorum, have committed to each other to not be in the Capitol when the second called session happens,” said state Representative Eddie Rodriguez, (D-51)  who serves on the House Committees on Calendars, State Affairs and Ways & Means.

Other lawmakers indicated that while they eventually plan return to Texas have told multiple media outlets that they will not return to the Texas Capitol to attend any future special sessions called by Abbott.

Gov. Greg Abbott announces plans for a second special session, 17 agenda items

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Monkeypox

Right-wing media exploit monkeypox- retread anti-vax misinformation

These anti-vax talking points are intended to stigmatize LGBTQ people by framing promiscuity as the primary driver of the disease

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Mia Gingerich | WASHINGTON – As monkeypox presents an ever-increasing threat to Americans, predominantly gay and bisexual men, conservative media figures are exploiting the global health emergency to stoke fears of the COVID-19 vaccine and related health measures and to attack queer men. 

These anti-vax talking points are often invoked alongside AIDS-era rhetoric intended to stigmatize LGBTQ people by framing promiscuity as the primary driver of the disease and gay and bisexual men as culprits in — rather than victims of — the growing outbreak. This stigmatization has already reportedly resulted in violence against gay men.

During the last week of July, the U.S. reported both the fastest rise in and highest number of monkeypox cases worldwide, leading the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency on August 4. The virus, which is endemic in certain African countries, is usually rare in Europe and the U.S. However, the virus recently found its way to men who have sex with men (MSM), where it has proliferated primarily through sexual contact. The gay community has emphasized the need to warn about the risk the virus poses to MSM while not feeding into anti-gay rhetoric that depicts gay sexuality as immoral. 

Despite this plea from those most affected by the ongoing health crisis, right-wing media quickly responded to the spread of monkeypox with homophobia – recalling the vilification that gay men experienced during the AIDS epidemic. In addition to being impacted by the latest right-wing media smear campaign risking targeted violence against LGBTQ people, queer men are also less likely to seek medical care for monkeypox in countries where their sexuality is stigmatized.

Conservative media figures invoke COVID-19 conspiracy theories and criticism of health measures in coverage of monkeypox

From early on in their coverage of the monkeypox outbreak, right-wing media figures used the story to renew efforts to sow vaccine hesitancy and undermine COVID-19 health measures. Some far-right figures have even spread conspiracy theories that falsely assert the COVID-19 vaccine is directly responsible for the monkeypox outbreak. 

On May 24, The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens said on her show that “the first person who lines up to get a monkeypox vaccine, I’m going to laugh in your face.” Owens then suggested the World Health Organization, Bill Gates, and Dr. Anthony Fauci were involved in the spread of both diseases as part of “attempts at authoritarianism” and “globalism.” This claim coincides with the recent conservative conspiracy theory claiming the U.S. was ceding power to the WHO.

From the May 24, 2022, edition of Daily Wire’s Candace

Fox News’ Sean Hannity brought anti-vax conspiracy theorist Dr. George Fareed onto the August 8 edition of his radio show, where Fareed falsely claimed “the mass vaccination with these gene therapies, COVID vaccines, have the ability to weaken the immune system and make people more vulnerable to viral infection,” suggesting the vaccine could precipitate the spread of monkeypox. 

Far-right blog American Greatness posted an article on August 3 promoting the work of Shmuel Shapira, an Israeli scientist pushing similar claims as Fareed. The article claimed “Twitter censored Shapira” after the platform flagged a tweet of his as misinformation. Shapira’s tweet read, “It is well established the mRNA vaccines affect the natural immune system. A monkey pox outbreak following massive covid vaccination: Is not a coincidence.”

Right-wing media figures have also taken advantage of the recent health crisis to reignite their crusade against public health measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. Conservative commentators claim that a double standard exists between government reactions to monkeypox and COVID-19, ignoring differences in how the two diseases spread. 

Podcaster Steven Crowder, amid a longer homophobic rant suggesting gay men were engaging in bestiality, claimed on August 2 that COVID-19 health measures were “politically motivated” and that masking and social distancing “didn’t make any difference whatsoever.” Crowder then contrasted those measures with the fact that Pride events still took place this year despite the spread of monkeypox, saying, “They won’t even cancel their gay San Francisco fuckfest.”

From the August 2, 2022, edition of Louder with Crowder, streamed on YouTube

An article for The Federalist titled “Americans Lost Fundamental Freedoms During Covid — But Halting Gay Orgies To Stop Monkeypox Is Too Far?” bemoaned COVID lockdowns and claimed, “We shut down the world for a virus that had no traceable transmission, it was entirely random. It really isn’t too much to ask for gay men to stop engaging in orgies and public sex events for their ‘mental health,’ their ‘self-esteem,’ and to continue ‘having fun.’”

On Twitter, right-wing personalities expressed a similar sentiment. 

Alt-right troll Mike Cernovich tweeted his criticism of public health advocate Dr. Gregg Gonsalves:

Far-right YouTuber Ian Miles Cheong continued his online anti-gay tirade on monkeypox:

Right-wing radio host Dan O’Donnell similarly tweeted:

Gay men are targeted with violence while right-wing media continues to depict them as threats

After the first cases of monkeypox were found among children in the U.S., LGBTQ advocates reported right-wing figures were using the news to falsely claim that gay men were guilty of abuse. This was a part of a larger attempt by right-wing media to use the monkeypox outbreak to depict LGBTQ people as a threat to society. By attempting to evoke the sort of stigmatizing rhetoric pushed during the AIDS epidemic that frames the MSM community as vectors of disease, right-wing media is feeding a culture of prejudice that has already resulted in violence against gay men. 

The above-mentioned article from The Federalist fearmongered that “as gay men spread the virus within their population at startling rates, the chances of it escaping into the mundane world through close contact in stores, crowded streets, or buses increases,” claiming that gay and bisexual men were spreading the disease through “truly selfish behavior [that] is endangering the rest of us.”

Right-wing talk show host Erick Erickson tweeted, “‘My orgy doesn’t affect you,’ said the man who spread monkeypox to the lady who worked at the gas station. Two weeks of no orgies to stop the spread is just too much to ask.”

On Hannity’s August 8 radio show, guest Dr. Brian Tyson said the virus would “spread to the heterosexual community if we don’t get a handle on the gay community to stop the transmission,” and claimed “the CDC and the NIH, they’re afraid to come out and tell the gay community to stop having intercourse until this pandemic goes away.”

On the August 5 edition of his show, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk characterized the government response to monkeypox as an attempt to avoid offending “the alphabet mafia” of the LGBTQ community, saying, “You can’t go after the gay community for maybe doing something they shouldn’t be doing,” before declaring he would “not live through another lockdown or an erosion of our civil liberties by a corrupt or usurpatious government because we’re afraid to offend people. Don’t care, and you shouldn’t either.”

From the August 5, 2022, edition of The Charlie Kirk Show, streamed on YouTube   

The effects of right-wing media’s misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine put their audience at serious risk. However, these conservative figures are now jeopardizing the health of millions of LGBTQ Americans as well by seeking to stigmatize their sexuality during a public health crisis.

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Mia Gingerich is a researcher at Media Matters. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics and government from Northern Arizona University and has previously worked in rural organizing and local media.

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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Florida school removes posters of Black heroes, teacher resigns in protest

“DeSantis’s culture wars are infiltrating every corner of our state, and it’s Florida’s students who are paying the price”

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O.J. Semmes Elementary School, Pensacola, Florida/Facebook

PENSACOLA – A career special education teacher in Escambia County, Florida resigned this past week just as classes were scheduled to start after a Escambia County Public School District staffer removed posters and pictures of historically significant Black Americans from his classroom.

Michael James, 61, who has taught special ed classes for the past fifteen years told Pensacola News Journal reporter Colin Warren-Hicks in an interview this week that he had emailed a letter to Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith in which he wrote that a district employee removed the pictures citing the images as being “age inappropriate.”

Images that were removed from the bulletin board at O.J. Semmes Elementary School included depictions of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman, Colin Powell and George Washington Carver, James said.

Michael James
Courtesy of Michael James

“It really floored me,” James told the News Journal. “I’ve been teaching special education for 15 years, and it just really floored me when she did that.”

James chose the board’s theme because the majority of the students and the residents in the neighborhoods that surround O.J. Semmes are Black, and he wanted to motivate his students with inspirational leaders they could easily look up to and see themselves.

The Pensacola News Journal reported that Escambia County Public Schools Superintendent Tim Smith  said that “teachers are permitted to decorate their classrooms with educational materials and he was unaware of any policies that would prohibit a teacher from displaying pictures of inspirational American heroes on their walls.”

Smith said a full investigation of the incident, which he called an “anomaly,” has been launched.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, (D-FL 13th District) who is running to secure the Democratic Party nomination to oust DeSantis in the November elections took aim at the sitting governor in a Facebook post:

On Wednesday afternoon the Congressman expanded his remarks saying:

“This is the sad reality of Ron DeSantis’ Florida — a teacher, in a predominantly Black community, comes into their classroom to see posters of historically Black American heroes, including President (Barack) Obama, taken down for being ‘inappropriate,’ Crist said in a statement. “DeSantis’ culture wars are infiltrating every corner of our state, and it’s Florida’s students who are paying the price.”

Florida Politics reported that the controversy comes as the first Florida schools, including Escambia County schools, begin their first academic year under legislation signed by DeSantis that targets “critical race theory.”

Among other rules, the law prohibit lessons teaching students that they are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race, color, sex or national origin. It would also ban instruction that they are personally responsible and should feel guilty for the past actions of members of their race, color, sex or national origin.

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Log Cabin GOP compares FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-A-Lago to Stonewall

In February, the National Archives asked the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records

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former President Donald J. Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan stand in the main entrance to Trump's exclusive private club & Florida residence Mar-A-Lago on April 17, 2018 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

WASHINGTON – As the outraged fallout continued in Republican Party circles Tuesday, after special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a search warrant Monday at the South Florida estate of former President Donald Trump, the LGBTQ political group Log Cabin Republicans, (LCR) joined the growing chorus on the right angered by the search.

“Just as the patrons of Stonewall were not intimidated by police, we will not be intimidated by the weaponization of the FBI and DoJ against President Trump or his home, Mar-A-Lago… …where (as we announced hours ago) we will be holding our annual gala later this year!” the group tweeted Monday after news of the search broke.

Reaction to the LCR tweet was swift ranging to from disgust as expressed by LGBTQ writer and radio host Rob Watson to outright anger as noted by former Advocate editor and LGBTQ journalist Matthew Breen.

The FBI’s action was described as unprecedented by legal experts and analysts, however the execution of the search warrant underscores the fact that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland will order investigations into criminal wrong doing to include the former president.

Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have dismissed the FBI search as politically motivated.

While a copy of the search warrant was delivered to Trump’s attorneys, little is known about the predicate probable cause found significant enough that a federal judge authorised the search. The affidavit which is the foundational document showing that a crime had been committed and that evidence would likely be found during the search provided to the judge to make that determination has not been made public.

A Justice Department source told the Blade that last January Trump had been found in possession of 15 boxes of materials at his Florida home, which he relinquished to staff from the National Archives amid concerns he may have violated the Presidential Records Act, (44 U.S.C. Chapter 22).

A certain portion of the paperwork that Trump had in his possession was classified which the Justice Department official noted is by itself criminal in nature.

In February, the National Archives asked the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records. The National Archives said some of the documents Trump turned over to them had been ripped up and taped back together CBS News noted.

It remains to be seen whether the search will lead to criminal charges against the former president or anyone in his immediate orbit, but former prosecutors noted there are serious penalties for violating public records laws the Hill reported Tuesday.

“Highly classified information is treated that way because of its extreme sensitivity. There is a whole range of material that is really a crown jewel, national security, high-consequence sequence. And if that’s what a person carried away rather than leaving it in the hands of the government and complying with the Presidential Records Act, that’s a gravely serious matter,” said John Barrett, a former federal prosecutor who worked for the independent counsel investigating the Iran-contra scandal and served in the DOJ inspector general’s office.

The former president had issued a lengthy statement Monday evening in which he called the raid an “attack by Radical Left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for President in 2024.”

The House GOP minority leader Kevin McCarthy promised retribution in a tweet should his party retake control of Congress in the Fall midterm elections:

The Justice Department and the FBI both declined to comment.

Former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Home Being Searched Causes Immediate Political Fallout:

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