Obviously the comments counter has been broken all day. Your comments are being saved but the counter isn't updating. Haloscan's new owners, JS-Kit, have been unresponsive to emailed requests for status info and to comments placed on their help forum. It's seriously time to get another commenting system. I'd hate to lose a half-million comments or whatever, but what are ya gonna do?
Gay Church Demands To Know Contents Of Church Shooter's Letter
Police won't release the contents of the letter left by the Knoxville church shooter and the local gay church wants to know what it says.
The man who ministers to East Tennessee's largest gay and lesbian congregation says his church won't rest easy until members know what Jim David Adkisson wrote. "The more clarity, the better," said the Rev. Bob Galloway, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church in West Knoxville. "We need to know what we're dealing with. Is it just liberals he was targeting? Is it just gays? Was it all these things mixed together? We need to know." Galloway said his church serves about 180 people from around East Tennessee, about 85 percent of them gay or lesbian. Some of his parishioners turned around on the way to church and went home Sunday morning when they heard a man had shot up a liberal, gay-friendly church on the west side of town. "They thought it was us," Galloway said.
The Knoxville police chief says, "If you needed to know, you would have been notified." I have a feeling that the local DA may not want to taint the jury pool with the contents of the letter. That, or they don't want to provide the "liberal media" with some major talking points.
ACLU: Two Big LGBT Victories At Florida High Schools
The ACLU has bagged big victories on two different LGBT issues at Florida high schools.
Victory One: At a rural Florida high school a federal judge has finally overruled the local school board and allowed the Gay-Straight Alliance to meet on campus.
In a move the American Civil Liberties Union is calling "groundbreaking," a federal judge has ruled in favor of students who claimed the school board discriminated against them by opposing their gay tolerance club. The Gay-Straight Alliance of Okeechobee High School may now meet on campus like all other non-curricular school groups, and their case against the School Board of Okeechobee County is closed, U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore wrote in an opinion signed Tuesday. Moore granted the GSA's motion for summary judgment and ruled the School Board violated the club's First Amendment rights by refusing to recognize it as a non-curricular student organization. Moore also ruled that the School Board is statutorily obligated by the federal Equal Access Act to grant the club the same rights to meet on campus as other non-curricular student groups do.
Okeechobee is a tiny farming town near the center of the state. The case had dragged for the last two years. Previous coverage on JMG is here.
Victory Two: The Holmes County School Board must pay $325,000 in attorney fees after a federal judge ruled that the principal at Ponce de Leon High School violated students' constitutional rights by banning gay-supportive clothing, stickers, and buttons.
"The Holmes County School Board has imposed an outright ban on speech by students that is not vulgar, lewd, obscene, plainly offensive, or violent, but which is pure, political, and expresses tolerance, acceptance, fairness, and support for not only a marginalized group, but more importantly, for a fellow student at Ponce de Leon," Smoak wrote. Smoak held that any disruption in the school was not a result of the "innocuous symbols and phrases at issue" but due to Davis' "animosity toward students who were homosexual and his relentless crusade to extinguish the speech supporting them." At trial, [Principal] Davis testified that he believes homosexuality is a sin and an abomination that God will punish.
The above case grew out of straight student Heather Gillman's protest over the principal having called the parents of a lesbian student to out her. Gillman led supportive students to wear gay pride buttons and slogans written on their bodies. Previous coverage of Heather Gillman's story on JMG is here.
Once again, we all owe the ACLU a debt of gratitude for doing the grunt work of the LGBT movement.
Remember how the right-wing eviscerated John Edwards for his $400 haircuts? John McCain wears $500 Ferragamos and lefty blogland is revenging itself into a tizzy. Nation blogger Christopher Hayes notes:
If I were a right-wing blogger, and I found out that Barack Obama was wearing Ferragamo loafers that cost $520, I would spend about 50% of my waking hours making sure everyone knew this. I would mock him for being an out-of-touch elitist and make jokes like, “If you think that’s a lot, you should see how much his purse costs ” I would send the link to Drudge and wait for Instapundit to pick it up, and then watch gleefully as Fox News ran segments about how Barack Obama’s $500 loafers vitiate his entire economic platform. But of course, I'm not a right-wing blogger. And the $520 shoes belong to John McCain. And frankly, I don't think how much his shoes cost matters one whit for how he'd govern the country.
The confessed killer of Angie Zapata, the 20 year old transgender woman murdered in Colorado last week, says that he became so enraged when he discovered a penis under Zapata's clothes, that he grabbed a fire extinguisher and beat "it" to death.
The man arrested in the murder of a 20-year-old transgender person was on date with a person he thought was a woman, 9NEWS has learned. Police say when the suspect discovered his date was actually a man, he killed her. Allen Ray Andrade, 31, was arrested in Thornton on Tuesday and faces second-degree murder and aggravated motor vehicle theft charges.
In an arrest affidavit obtained by 9NEWS, Andrade admits to police to killing Angie Zapata, 20, who was living as a woman but born as Justin Zapata. Zapata was found beaten to death in a Greeley apartment in the 2000 block of 4th Street on July 17. Authorities say Zapata had suffered fatal wounds to her head and face. The affidavit says Andrade met Zapata on a social networking site, MocoSpace, and the two arranged to meet July 15. Zapata picked Andrade up in Thornton where he lived and the pair returned to Zapata's Greeley apartment together. Andrade told police Zapata performed a sexual act on him.
The following day, the affidavit explains, Andrade started to look at photos in the apartment and questioned Zapata's sex. That night, Andrade questioned Zapata directly, according to the affidavit, and Andrade says Zapata responded, "I'm all woman." Andrade told police he grabbed Zapata in her genital area and felt a penis. He became angry and hit Zapata with his fist before grabbing a fire extinguisher and hitting her in the head twice, according to the affidavit. Andrade explained to police that he thought he "killed it," referring to Zapata but when she made gurgling noises and started to sit up, he hit her with the extinguisher again. He also admitted to police he stole Zapata's car and drove away.
Another Brandon Teena story, another "deceptive transexual" field day for the press, another likely gay/transpanic defense.
Interesting finding in Austria regarding female-to-male transexuals.
A gene variant has been identified that could explain female-to-male transexuality. The variation is found within the gene for an enzyme called cytochrome P17, which is utilised in the metabolism of sex hormones. According to researchers it leads to a high tissue concentrations of the hormones which could then influence the development of the brain.
Clemens Tempfer and his tram at the University of Vienna discovered the variant within DNA samples from 49 female-to-male transsexuals and 102 male-to-female transsexuals as 1,669 samples. The proportion of male-to-female transsexuals and non-transsexual male control samples carrying the gene was around the same. But with women 44% of transsexuals carry the gene compared to 31% non transsexual women.
Linda Geddes writing in the New Scientist said: "While there are many women with the variant who are not transsexual and many female to male transsexuals who lack it, the finding raises the possibility that the variant makes women more likely to feel that their bodies are of the wrong sex, and that this is a result of their brains having been exposed to higher than average levels of sex hormones during development."
Mikael Landén of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm told the publication: "The present study found that a mutant gene that ultimately results in higher testosterone levels is overrepresented in female-to male transsexualism. "This is in line with what we previously know about masculinisation of the brain and is therefore less likely to be a chance finding. "Hence, the study is important and adds to the notion that gender identity is influenced by sex hormones early in life, and that certain gene combinations make individuals more vulnerable to aberrant effects."
Janett Scott, formerly the president of transsexual support group, the Beaumont Society said: "Nature may have made us the way that we are, but nurture is what gives us a problem."
Bush Signs Landmark AIDS Bill, HIV Travel Ban Repealed (But Only Sort Of)
In what AIDS activists are hailing as one of the true positive legacies of his administration, yesterday George Bush signed the most extensive global AIDS relief bill in history.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), hailed President Bush for signing legislation to re-authorize PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). The measure, which was signed in a formal signing ceremony earlier today in Washington, increases funding for the successful global AIDS program from $15 billion up to $48 billion over the next five years. As a result, PEPFAR, which is likely to be among the President's most successful and lasting legacies, will save five to seven million lives over the next five years.
"Passage of this historic legislation is a crucial turning point in the battle to control AIDS around the world," said Michael Weinstein, President, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which provides medical care and services to more than 79,000 individuals in 20 countries worldwide. "Over the past several months, AHF worked diligently to persuade legislators to restore PEPFAR's priority on treatment. We take our hats off to everyone who helped ensure that this lifesaving global AIDS bill became a reality."
Attached to that bill was a rider that repealed the administrative ban on travelers with HIV coming to the United States. But activists point out that the repeal merely ends the "blanket" ban on HIV travel and returns the case-by-case decision responsibility to the Department of Health and Human Services. Warns one activist:
"HHS is where the ban lived, administratively, for the first 6 years of its life [1987-1993], and it did plenty of damage there. If the entry ban ends up solely an HHS matter, it will be critical for us to maintain our vigilance and unity, so that the administration doesn't split the ban – lifting it for travelers and some visa holders, but keeping it in place for long-term visa seekers and immigrants."
In other words, there's still work to be done here. Andrew Sullivan may have celebrated prematurely.
California does not permit proxy marriages, both parties must be present. Therefore male and female prisoners have not been allowed to marry each other. But what if both parties are in the same prison?
If prisoners in the same prison apply for permission to marry, the California proxy law doesn't apply. State officials are scrambling to come up with a policy. They are concerned about security issues if two inmates marry: What about conjugal visits from one cell to another, and how will the rest of the prison population react?
Those problems will have to be worked out, gay rights activist Eduardo Morales says. He's director of a nonprofit in San Francisco that provides support to gay and bisexual men. "According to the court, it's a civil right for people of the same sex to marry. So given that, then the rights need to be extended to the prisoners as well," Morales says. Ultimately, the question of inmate-to-inmate marriage may be decided in court, Morales says.
A number of national gay and lesbian organizations contacted say they won't comment on the issue right now. There is a concern that any focus on the rights of prisoners to same-sex marriage could affect a November ballot initiative in California seeking to ban gay marriage altogether.
Hansom cabs line up along Central Park South for rides through the park and around midtown. Most of the colorful carriages are made in Amish Country. The movement to ban horse carriages in Manhattan gained steam in 2006 when a spooked horse ran headfirst into a parked car, critically injuring the carriage driver. The horse had to be euthanized. While the hansom cabs do provide what many consider a quintessential Gotham experience, between the poo smell (horrendous on hot days) and the issue of animal cruelty, I wouldn't mind seeing them go.
"The vast amount of human activity ought to be none of the government's business. I don't think it is the government's business to tell you how to spend your leisure time. I cannot think there are many people who are in favor of using limited federal resources in law enforcement to arrest people because those people decide to smoke marijuana." - Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank at his press conference announcing his plan to file a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession.
Frank's bill would remove those penalties for possession of up to 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of pot or the transfer of up to an ounce as long as no money is made from it. When asked if passage of the bill would change his personal behavior, Frank joked, "I obey every law I vote for," but added that he didn't smoke marijuana and did not encourage others do so either.
According to NORML, there have been over 20 million marijuana-related arrests in the United States over the last 40 years.
For 25 years my Orlando pal Tony Hayden has chronicled his life on videotape. Over the last few years Tony has published his stories on his award-winning website in what he calls his "ME-ality Series. Today he published a five-part series on his coming to terms with his gayness via his discovery of Fort Lauderdale's now-legendary early '80s beach/bar/boys culture.
If you remember the Marlin Beach Hotel, Backstreet, Tacky's and the rest of that glorious period, start with Part 1. And even if you weren't there, what Tony Hayden has created is surely a unique historical and amusing document of a special and fun time in gay culture. The production values are quite good and each segment is about five minutes long. Highly recommended.
Some female athletes at the Beijing Olympics will undergo controversial gender tests to ensure that they are genetically women.
Organizers of the Beijing Olympics have set up a sex-determination laboratory to evaluate “suspect” female athletes, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported Sunday. The lab is similar to ones set up at previous Olympics in Sydney and Athens, and will draw on the resources of the Peking Union Medical College Hospital to evaluate an athlete’s external appearance, hormones and genes.
Some medical ethicists have said the practice is too intrusive. “Real people are going to be hurt by this,” said Alice Dreger, an associate professor in medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University. Real Olympic athletes who have spent their whole life waiting for this moment.”
Although only athletes whose gender has been questioned will be tested in Beijing, the lab is a relic of an earlier Olympic era, when every female athlete was required to submit to a sex-verification test before competing in the Games. The tests emerged in the 1960s, when the Soviet Union and other Communist countries were suspected of entering male athletes in women’s events to gain an edge. At first, women were asked to parade nude before a panel of doctors to verify their sex. At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, officials switched to a chromosomal test.
Some scientists are blasting the testing as unfair, saying that gender is not always a "cut and dried" issue. Some people who appear physically female have a Y chromosome while some people who look like men may not. Only one case of deliberate gender cheating has even been proven in Olympic competition - a 1936 German high-jumper who 20 years later revealed that the Nazis had forced him to compete as a woman.
The Black AIDS Institute has issued a stunning comparison:
If black America were a country, it would rank 16th in the world in the number of people living with the AIDS virus, the Black AIDS Institute, an advocacy group, reported Tuesday.
The report, financed in part by the Ford Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, provides a startling new perspective on an epidemic that was first recognized in 1981.
Nearly 600,000 African-Americans are living with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, and up to 30,000 are becoming infected each year. When adjusted for age, their death rate is two and a half times that of infected whites, the report said. Partly as a result, the hypothetical nation of black America would rank below 104 other countries in life expectancy.
Those and other disparities are “staggering,” said Dr. Kevin A. Fenton, who directs H.I.V. prevention efforts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal agency responsible for tracking the epidemic in the United States.
Metromedia Restaurant Group, the parent company of Bennigan's and Steak & Ale, abruptly declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy yesterday and more than 300 locations nationwide were immediately closed. A few privately owned franchises will remain open for now. Industry watchers knew Metromedia was in trouble, but were shocked at how quickly the shut-down came. Other national casual dining chains may follow suit in the months to come.
Yesterday the Massachusetts House repealed the state's 1913 ban on out-of-state residents marrying there, clearing the way for gay tourist nuptials. The ban had already been repealed by the state Senate and Gov. Duval Patrick will sign it into law shortly. An analysis by the state predicts that up to 30,000 gay couples may visit to marry there in the next three years, with most of that business coming from New Yorkers whose Massachusetts marriages will be recognized at home.
Perhaps the Republican National Committee needs to lay off the prescription drugs. It certainly should consider laying off web videos. Consider this monstrosity, which "provides a parody of what an Obama TV ad in Berlin, Germany might look like, with video commentary from Obama's international fan base." Among other things, the ad:
* Insinuates that Obama is a commie * Insinuates that Germany has anointed Obama "king of the world" * Shows that no one at the RNC knows what the word "parody" means.
Sure, it annoys me that Germans have the gall to lecture America about anything. Hey, you're the people who fell for Hitler. You're the people who plunged the entire world into war twice. (Maybe you liked Obama so much because he completely forgot to mention that.) You're the ones who got to build a nice little socialist democracy while we footed the military bill to protect your western half from your eastern half. So don't go acting morally superior and telling me who to vote for. Send over your beer and sausage, but keep your opinions to yourselves.
All of that said, this is still one of the worst "ads" I've ever seen.
Oklahoma pol Brent Rhinehart, who made national news with his homophobic comic book, came in last in yesterday's three-way primary. Which gives him plenty of free time to fight those felony corruption charges.
After being denounced for mailing out a crude campaign comic book and trounced in his Republican primary, Oklahoma County Commissioner Brent Rinehart now can move on to his next battle — in district court. Rinehart is scheduled to appear at an Oklahoma County District Court hearing on Thursday in connection with several felony campaign corruption charges he's facing in connection with his previous campaign.
On Tuesday, Rinehart was tossed out of office by voters in his district, finishing third in a three-way primary with 1,900 votes, or 21 percent. "I've been battling and battling for many years, and I believe even though I still had some fight left in me, I don't believe the public had it left in them," Rinehart said Tuesday night. "I don't in any way blame them."
Pacific Gas & Electric, which provides Northern California with most of its electricity and natural gas, has donated $250K to the fight against Proposition 8.
Giving a financial and public relations boost to gay marriage proponents, PG&E announced today that it is giving $250,000 to the No on Proposition 8 campaign.
The utility also said it will spearhead the formation of a business advisory council that will seek to get other businesses around California to to defeat the ballot initiative that would amend the state constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. "We are thrilled to partner with PG&E," Geoff Kors, exeutive director of Equality California, said in a statement.
The donation from the utility, and the formation of the business council, represents a shift from the last time that the question of gay marriage was on the ballot, in 2000. Back then, many businesses stayed on the sidelines. This time, in addition to PG&E, other large corporations such as AT&T and Wells Fargo also have donated to defeat Proposition 8.
Analysts said businesses may be more willing to get involved this time because they have more gay and lesbian employees who are out and in positions of power and because they believe the amendment could hurt business if passed, by giving the impression that California is not friendly to gay and lesbians.
I can't wait for the fundies to start their boycott of electricity. Bwah ha ha.
A strong earthquake centered east of Los Angeles occurred today just before noon Pacific time, but early reports indicate only light damage.
The jolt was felt from Los Angeles to San Diego, and slightly in Las Vegas. Preliminary information from the U.S. Geological Survey estimated the quake at magnitude 5.8, centered 29 miles east-southeast of downtown Los Angeles near Chino Hills in San Bernardino County. Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said there were no immediate reports of damage or injury in Los Angeles. San Bernardino County fire dispatch also had no immediate reports of damage. The quake struck at 11:42 a.m. PDT. Buildings swayed in downtown Los Angeles for several seconds. Workers quickly evacuated some office buildings. "It was dramatic. The whole building moved and it lasted for a while," said Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore, who was in the sheriff's suburban Monterey Park headquarters east of Los Angeles.
Since some office towers are being evacuated as a precaution, I imagine a lot of you Left Coasties will have the rest of the day off. It's a California snow day!
UPDATE: Follow-up reports have downgraded the quake to 5.4
Homophobe Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) Indicted For Corruption
Squeeee! Sen. Ted "The Internet Is A Series Of Tubes" Stevens (R-AK), the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, has been charged with seven felony counts of corruption.
A federal grand jury in Washington has handed up the indictment against Stevens -- which the Justice Department is set to announce very shortly. Stevens, 84, faces seven counts of false statements involving VECO, the oil services company in Alaska, and the renovations done on his home.
All seven false statement counts relate to the statements he made on financial disclosure forms from 1999 to the 2006 form. The indictment says Stevens "knowingly and intentionally sought to conceal and cover up his receipt of things of value by filing Financial Disclosure Forms that contained false statements and omissions."
The press release says Stevens received $250,000 in things of value during "the eight year scheme." The gifts included new and used furniture, a new stationary tool storage cabinet with new tools, and a new professional Viking gas grill. Stevens used these things at his home in Girdwood, Alaska. The former CEO of VECO, Bill Allen, cooperated in the case against Stevens.
Stevens has a 0% rating from the Human Rights Campaign and has always voted the party line to thwart the advance of LGBT rights.
During his six term career in the Senate, Stevens has been no friend to the GLBT community; he received a 0% on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard in the last Congress, voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 and 2006 and even opposed the Matthew Shepard Act in 2007.
Trivia: noted LGBT blogger John Aravosis (AmericaBLOG) once worked as a staffer for Stevens. Aravosis says that he resigned once he accepted his homosexuality.
Dubya's done gone crazy with the nation's credit card and we'll be paying it off until gas comes free with bubble gum.
President Bush's budget chief blamed the faltering economy and the bipartisan stimulus package for the record $482 billion deficit the White House predicted for the 2009 budget year. The White House blames a faltering economy [JMG: Also his fault] and the stimulus package for the increased budget deficit. Jim Nussle, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the deficit would be about 3.3 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, the measure of the nation's total economy. The fiscal year begins October 1, 2008.
Dubya came into office with a $128B budget surplus. Back in February a Nobel Prize-winning economist estimated that the total cost of the war in Iraq could be $5 trillion.
Last night Jon Stewart ripped into the idiots testifying in support of continuing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Special fun was made of Elaine Donnelly of the Center For Military Readiness. Jon Stewart=win.
Don't try to use your ATM card to buy a MetroCard today. Even though a "system-wide" outage means that none of the machines are producing cards, your account is still being chargedevery time you swipe. The MTA says your account will be credited in two business days, but I bet there'll be a lot of people left busted after trying their card on three or four machines. According to reports, some stations have posted warning signs, but some have not.
Ugh, an old idea has returned. Some Brooklyn outfit is selling a "safe sex license" so that players can "prove" that they don't have HIV or other STDs. Via Thrillist.
STF promotes responsible uglies-bumping via a Safe Sex License, a clinically backed, wallet-sized photo ID that says "I'm so clean, the condom should wear me". How it works: sign up online, download the clinic verification form, and get tested; mail the results to STF, and they'll send a card w/ your unique member ID and photo . Then simply hand the card to whomever, reveal your secret password and ID, and tell her to dial the card's 1-800 number; she'll then be privy to the dates and results of your last two HIV/AIDS tests, irrefutable proof that you were disease-free on at least two specific occasions in the past.
While we obviously want to encourage any program that could increase testing for HIV, do we really have to go through this again? Time tunnel, time tunnel, time tunnel. HIV tests can only tell that you didn't have HIV in the past. The antibodies tested for can take up to two months to be detectable. A "safe sex license" is meaningless unless you hadn't had sex for at least eight weeks before the test and not since. Some dumb ideas never die.
Have you been reading the hype about Cuil (pronounced "cool"), the new search engine that supposedly tracks three times the number of web pages as Google? I just Cuil-ed myself and among the first ten results are my year-old post about the death of Jerry Falwell, a couple of years-old Daily Kos pages tagged with my name, and other ancient shit. Craptastic. And deserving of the bad reviews.
On Day 1 yesterday of its attempt to dethrone Google Inc. as king of the Internet search engines, Cuil was shaping up to be a New Coke-style fiasco. Vitriol was flying fast on tech maven Chris Brogan's IT blog. After waiting two hours for Cuil to return two results for his name, contributor Gopal Shenoy wrote: "(Cuil) is basically unusable – paint dries faster. Did they test this thing to see what the results are before they got coverage on CNN on how Google needs to be scared of them?"
Back to the drawing board, you former Google engineers.
Opponents of gay marriage in California were quick to announce that they would sue to overturn last week's rewording of Proposition 8, which makes it clear to voters that they would be overturning an existing right. The haters claim the Attorney General Jerry Brown had the proposition reworded in order to bolster his gubernatorial chances in 2010.
Jennifer Kerns, spokeswoman for the Protect Marriage coalition, called the new language "inherently argumentative" and said it could "prejudice voters against the initiative." Proponents of the measure said they want voters to see ballot language similar to what was on the petitions that began circulating last fall. "This is a complete about-face from the ballot title that was assigned" when the measure was being circulated for signatures, Kern said.
On the other side, Steve Smith, campaign manager for No on Proposition 8, applauded the language change. "What Proposition 8 would do is eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry, which is exactly what the attorney general put in the title of the measure," he said. "It will be very difficult for them to win the case."
Political analysts on both sides suggest that the language change will make passage of the initiative more difficult, noting that voters might be more reluctant to pass a measure that makes clear it is taking away existing rights.
There was trouble during NYC's Critical Mass this weekend too. Via Gawker, watch a cop totally bodyslam a rider to the ground as the ride passes through Times Square. The rider was initially charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer for "aiming" his bike at the cop. But we're in the YouTube era and the video seems to tell a different story. It's presently unknown why the cop singled out this particular rider, but the NYPD has stripped him of his badge and gun pending an investigation. The cop may be charged with assault and perjury.
Unshocking: Church Shooter A Fan of Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly
Police searching the home of Tennessee church shooter Jim David Adkisson found the following books:
"Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder" by radio talk show host Michael Savage, "Let Freedom Ring" by talk show host Sean Hannity, and "The O'Reilly Factor," by television talk show host Bill O'Reilly.
I'm sure those three's chests are swelling with pride today. Seriously. I bet they each raced to check their Amazon rank.
Police say that according to Adkisson, his hatred was not directed towards Christianity or any other religion, but rather towards the social advocacy of the specific church he attacked. The Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church has a sign on its lawn welcoming gays to service and hosts meetings for PFLAG. Two people were killed by Adkisson's shotgun and five others remain hospitalized in grave condition.
And of course, the God-loving Freepers are blaming the Unitarian Church and saying that since the murdered congregants weren't "true Christians", they are now in hell.
- "What do you expect? God is NOT in the center of this church. Human beings are." - "It’s a “progressive” church. They probably had The Vagina Monologues scheduled for the evening service." - "It was probably a mini-rally for The Obamassiah and they were singing 'The sun will come out tomorrow ....'. Now maybe, if there were a lesbian relationship between Annie and Mommy Warbucks or Annie got pregnant and had to get raise money for an abortion, that would be truly a part of the UU world view." - "An early report I saw indicated that the man who died may have been shielding the children. Just shielding someone from attack doesn't gain you entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. I hope the people in this "church" will use this wake-up-call as a way to get closer to the Lord Jesus Christ and reject their secular humanism."
Last week after testifying before Congress on the the issues of childhood obesity and exercise, Richard Simmons mused about his interest in running for national office.
"I want to have the respect of a Congressman, I want to talk like a Congressman, and maybe, someday, I'll be a Congressman." Then, answering about three minutes of follow-up questions, Simmons adopted a politician’s rhetoric to address the press. Simmons said at one point that he would be available for the people. "However I can be of use," he said, "If my country wants me, I'll be there for my country."
Using professional wrestler turned Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura as an example of a celebrity figure who successfully transitioned to a politician, Simmons said he’s not ruling the idea of running for Congress out. Simmons closed the hearing by saying he would defer to his advisers to determine how to proceed. “After this Congressional hearing, I will go home," Simmons said, "I will talk with my Dalmatian dogs, I will pray to God and then I'll see what else I can do to help."
You know, I think having an actual clown like Simmons in Congress could be a lot of fun. He could show all those unintentional clowns how to be funny on purpose.
BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York will begin allowing spousal health care benefits to validly married gay and lesbian couples, the New York Civil Liberties Union announced today. The news comes less than three weeks after the NYCLU filed a lawsuit against the company on behalf of a Buffalo lesbian couple that said it was denied such health benefits.
Jeanne Kornowicz, a school psychologist in the Cheektowaga Central Schools, and her partner, Joy Higgins, have been together for a decade, and they were married legally in Canada two years ago. The lawsuit, filed July 9 in State Supreme Court in Buffalo, cited the NYCLU's landmark legal victory in a Monroe County case, in which an appeals court unanimously ruled that New York State must recognize the valid out-of-state marriages of lesbian and gay couples.
"We applaud BlueCross & BlueShield of Western New York for following the law and treating all married couples the same," Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director, stated in a press release. "Families who were denied coverage up until this point will now be able to protect themselves with health care coverage."
It's unclear if this policy change applies across the state or only in the territory covered by BlueCross of Western New York. Anybody know?
My barbershop is a little three-chair place on Christopher between Hudson and Washington. As expensive as NYC is for most things, you can still get a decent inexpensive haircut. My barber used to work up the street at the barbershop across from Ty's, but he opened his own place here about a year ago. I'd tell you to ask for the short swarthy guy named Alex, but both barbers that work weekends are short swarthy guys named Alex.
As Michael Bloomberg heads towards his final year as Gotham's mayor, speculation is growing that that an effort to rescind mayoral term limits may be launched. According to the NY Post, major big business players are quietly supporting a movement for a third term for Bloomberg.
The two-term limit can be lifted by a charter referendum, by state legislation, or by the city council. Since City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is expected to run for mayor herself in 2009 (despite her recent slush fund scandal), few expect her to support a change in term limits and she has stated in the past that she opposes such a change. Bloomberg himself has said that he has no interest in a third term, but in typical fashion he recently commissioned a poll of New Yorkers to assess their feelings on the issue.
Were limits to be lifted, Bloomberg's third term would be all but guaranteed. However, you may recall that when Rudy Giuliani tried to finagle himself a third term (9/11 happened on NYC's mayoral primary day), even "America's Mayor" (ugh) was shot down. Still, with the economy where it is and where it seems to be headed, it does make good sense to have a billionaire businessman with eight years experience at the helm of the world's most important city during what may be its most difficult times in many years. I've had a few issues with Bloomberg over the last seven years, but I'd vote for his third term in a New York Minute.
WordPerfect Founder Bruce Bastian Pledges $1M To Fight Prop 8
Utah resident and WordPerfect cofounder Bruce Bastian has pledged $1M to fight California's Proposition 8 as out-of-state money continues to roll in on both sides of the issue.
When Bruce Bastian of Utah stood up Saturday night at a San Francisco dinner and wrote a $1 million check for the campaign against Proposition 8, he made it clearer than ever that November's ballot fight over a ban on same-sex marriage won't be a California-only affair.
Supporters of the effort to ban same-sex marriage already have taken in more than $1.2 million from out-of-state contributors for the fall campaign. And even before Bastian, a co-founder of the WordPerfect software company, opened his checkbook, gay and lesbian rights groups and their supporters from around the country had put more than $1.3 million into the fight against the ballot initiative.
"This is a campaign that's important to the entire country, not just California," said Brad Luna, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, sponsor of the fundraising dinner that brought more than 750 people to the St. Francis Hotel on Saturday. "The result will have effects across the United States."
Those national concerns are echoed from the backers of the same-sex marriage ban.
When the state Supreme Court overturned Proposition 22's ban on same-sex unions, it opened the way for "nationwide legal chaos" and allowed gay rights groups "to force their radical redefinition of marriage upon the nation," according to a statement from the California Family Council, one of the supporters of Prop. 8.
The outside money is arriving in supersized chunks. Focus on the Family, a Colorado Springs group headed by James Dobson, has given more than $400,000 to the Prop. 8 campaign. The American Family Association, out of Tupelo, Miss., has contributed $500,000. The Knights of Columbus, a national Catholic men's organization headquartered in New Haven, Conn., has put $250,000 into the campaign.
The opponents also have cast a national net for donors. The Human Rights Campaign, which works for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights out of its Washington headquarters, has raised more than $570,000 for the fight against Prop. 8. Another Washington group, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, has given $200,000. David Maltz, a Cleveland businessman, has donated $500,000 to the anti-Prop. 8 effort.
Bastian: "One thing I learned as a Mormon was that preaching costs money. The Mormons will raise a lot of money to support Proposition 8 in November. You can't change people's minds. They have to change them for themselves. If people are shown the truth and have fear taken out of the equation, I believe they will stand up for what's good and fair."
Tennessee: Two Killed, Seven Injured In Shooting At Gay Friendly Church, Shooter's Letter Says He Hates Liberals And Gays
Days after the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville put up a sign welcoming gays to worship, yesterday a gunman shouting "hateful words" killed two people and injured seven others during a youth performance of the musical Annie at the church. The gunman was tackled by congregants and eventually taken into police custody.
Jim D. Adkisson, 58, was charged with first-degree murder and was being held on $1 million bail, according to city spokesman Randy Kenner, who did not know if the suspect had retained an attorney. Authorities were searching Adkisson’s home in the Knoxville bedroom community of Powell, Kenner said.
The man slain was identified as Greg McKendry, 60, a longtime church member and usher. Church member Barbara Kemper told The Associated Press that McKendry “stood in the front of the gunman and took the blast to protect the rest of us.” Linda Kreager, 61, died at the University of Tennessee Medical Center a few hours after the shooting, Knoxville city spokesman Randall Kenner said. Five people remained hospitalized, all in critical or serious condition. Two others were treated and released.
The gunman’s motive is not yet known. The church, like many other Unitarian Universalist churches, promotes progressive social work, such as desegregation and fighting for the rights of women and gays. The Knoxville congregation has provided sanctuary for political refugees, fed the homeless and founded a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to its Web site.
Kemper said the gunman shouted before he opened fire. “It was hateful words. He was saying hateful things,” she said, but refused to elaborate. The FBI was assisting in the case in case it turns out be a hate crime, Police Chief Sterling Owen said. Police were taking statements from witnesses and collecting video cameras from church members who taped the performance. There were about 200 people watching a performance by 25 children based on the musical “Annie” when the shooting took place.
Tennessee LGBT newspaper Out & About notes that gunman was not a member of the church. I'll have more on this story as it develops.
UPDATE: According to Knoxville police chief Stewart Owen, a letter found in the shooter's car professed his hatred of liberals and gays.
Jim D. Adkisson, 58, of Powell wrote a four-page letter in which he stated his “hatred of the liberal movement,” Owen said. “Liberals in general, as well as gays.” Adkisson said he also was frustrated about not being able to obtain a job, Owen said.
The letter, recovered from Adkisson’s black 2004 Ford Escape, which was parked in the church’s parking lot at 2931 Kingston Pike, indicates he had been planning the shooting for about a week. “He fully expected to be killed by the responding police,” the police chief said.
Owen said Adkisson specifically targeted the church for its beliefs, rather than a particular member of the congregation. “It appears that church had received some publicity regarding its liberal stance,” the chief said. The church has a “gays welcome” sign and regularly runs announcements in the News Sentinel about meetings of the Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays meetings at the church.
After Kate Perry performed her hit record I Kissed A Girl on this morning's episode of The View, Whoopi Goldberg surprised the pop singer by bounding onstage and planting a kiss on her. Whoopi then turned to the delighted audience and proclaimed, "And I liked it!" Go, Whoopi!
New Study: Life Expectancy For People With HIV Rises By 13 Years
A new study published in The Lancet says that advances in treatment since the late 90's have added 13 years to the average life expectancies of people with HIV. In high-income countries with the appropriate health care available, a 20-year-old infected with HIV in 2008 can expect to live another 49 years with the disease.
The team, involving Bristol University staff, looked at over 43,000 patients. The study found a person now diagnosed at 20 years old could expect to live for another 49 years. But the Antiretroviral Therapy Cohort Collaboration, which includes scientists from across Europe and Northern America, warned this was still short of the life expectancy for the wider population which stands at about 80.
Antiretroviral treatment for HIV consists of drugs which work against the infection itself by slowing down the replication of the virus in the body. This method of therapy was introduced in the 1990s, but has since become more effective and better tolerated. The researchers looked at life expectancy during three time periods after the introduction of the drugs - 1996-9, 2000-2 and 2003-5 - in high income countries.
Just over 2,000 patients died during the study periods. They found that while patients aged 20 diagnosed in the 1990s could expect to live another 36 years, that had increased by 13 years by 2003-5. During the middle time period, life expectancy stood at an extra 41 years.
If you are 20 years old (and even if you aren't), don't let that "you'll live to 69" fact cloud your judgment. That's still far below the life expectancy for the uninfected and that number is only valid if you immediately begin to monitor and/or treat your infection. Test, test, test.
A huge kerfuffle has erupted in Seattle over this weekend's Critical Mass cyclists' rights event in which a driver hit two cyclists, then was pulled from his vehicle and hit in the head with a bike lock while uninjured cyclists smashed his windows and slashed his tires. There are many conflicting reports on Slog. Cyclists are claiming that the driver screamed about being late for a dinner reservation before hitting the riders, but the driver claims he hit the gas accidentally and was panicked by intimidating riders who were threatening to "tip over" his car.
Says the remorseful driver: "I sympathize with [cyclists’] cause. I ride bikes too. I’m a liberal hippie democrat. I’m gay, the person with me was a lesbian and we were a attacked by eco-terrorists. It’s the most Seattle thing that could have happened."
Critical Mass, in case you are unaware, is a global cyclists movement (spawned in San Francisco in the early '90s) in which riders "take over" a city's downtown streets once a month to bring awareness to the need for bike lanes and rider safety. I used to think Critical Mass was kinda awesome until more and more of the rides turned confrontational and violent like in Seattle this weekend. Anybody remember the huge Critical Mass riot in SF back in '97? Helicopters, SWAT teams, hundreds of arrests. Many of the riders are self-proclaimed anarchists who use the rides as an excuse to create as much mayhem as possible, only to the detriment of their professed cause.
Woman On Cell: Hey, I just signed the lease! The truck doesn't come until Wednesday but I already met some of the neighbors and they said they'd help. Very nice guys. You should see them. I think everybody in the building is, like, a bodybuilder or something.
While I don't personally subscribe to the concept of heaven or hell, Pam Spaulding tips us to the latest question on WayToGod.org, which she describes as a "fundie Dear Abby."
I am a born-again Christian, having come to faith 10 years ago when I admitted to Christ I was a sinner, believed that Christ is God's Son and that He died for me and rose again, and choosing to live my life with Him as my Savior. I have a problem with your response to the homosexual question. You write that homosexuals do not go to heaven. If homosexuals do not go to heaven, then neither do boasters, adulterers, self-centered people, thieves, liars, or anyone for that matter.
You write that "So, you see, there is hope for anyone, homosexual, adulterer, drunkard, etc., to become one of God's family. But when a person does become a believer, the homosexuality ends." I'd like to examine the last of those two sentences...You say that when a person becomes a believer, the homosexuality ends. I would pose this question to you...When a prideful person becomes a believer, does his pride end? When a selfish person becomes a believer, does his selfishness end? When a liar becomes a believer do his lies end?
Thanks for these thoughts. I do agree with you in one sense. However, I'm trying also to work with the biblical language. The Bible states that homosexuals do not go to heaven, in a variety of ways and passages. What that means is that a person who is a believer is really entirely different, including the way he thinks of himself. Many religious people have borrowed from the therapeutic view related to alcoholism that a person is merely a "recovering alcoholic" or in this case, a "recovering homosexual". This is not true for true Christians as far as the Bible is concerned. "Such were some of you" (1 Cor. 6:9-11), means that lifestyle is in the past and the old man has died. You are not a homosexual any more. You are a Christian. But you might be a Christian who still has some problem with remaining habits and sins. In fact, we all do. You are substantially different, as indicated by your behavior. The fact that the old you has died, however, is a necessary assertion, from Romans 6. And sin is an aberration and an infiltrator. You are not what you were, but your are new. And your behavior validates that if your salvation is real.
May God give you continued hope and help as you trust Him.
- "To enter Heaven, there's no back door..." - "Once you are in heaven the sexual behavior stops so you are not a homosexual." - "My Pastor had a good answer to this question.'There is no sex in heaven'" - "You may be right! However, when I told my wife there is no sex in heaven she said 'Now that's heaven!'"
The California Attorney General's office has reworded Proposition 8 so that voters understand that they would be rescinding an existing right. The new text:
ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME-SEX COUPLES TO MARRY. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
Changes California Constitution to eliminate right of same-sex couples to marry. Provides that only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
Fiscal Impact: Over the next few years, potential revenue loss, mainly sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars, to state and local governments. In the long run, likely little fiscal impact to state and local governments.
Equality California notes:
Although the changes to the proposed amendment are subject to legal challenge, this summary accurately describes what the proposition will do. Prop. 8 would eliminate a constitutional right guaranteed to same-gender couples and would decrease revenues coming in to the state from marriages between same-gender couples.
Yesterday John McCain appeared on This Week with George Stephanopolous where he flip-flopped back to his original position against gay adoption. Earlier this month McCain came out against gay adoption only to have his campaign backtrack later from that position. "Family values, family values, family values," said the man with the spotless personal track record.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa abruptly pulled out of his planned keynote speaker role at Saturday's Human Rights Campaign gala in San Francisco. Some local gay rights leaders and activists had called for a boycott of the gala in protest of last year's ENDA/transgender debacle. When the San Francisco Labor Council joined the protest, that put Villaraigosa in the uncomfortable position of having to cross a union picket line, which he decided not to do.
Matt Szabo, Villaraigosa's spokesman, said the mayor's decision was more a byproduct of the Human Rights Campaign controversy than a snub of the group itself.
When Villaraigosa agreed to appear at the dinner at the Westin St. Francis Hotel, he was unaware that the San Francisco Labor Council had urged its members to boycott the event, which would have put the Democratic mayor, who is mentioned as a possible 2010 gubernatorial candidate, in the position of having to cross a union picket line, according to Szabo.
"We made a commitment and we understood the controversy, but we are now aware the Labor Council had voted for an official boycott," he said. Szabo added that Villaraigosa searched for a way to be able to fulfill the obligation before alerting the Human Rights Campaign late Friday night that he was canceling his appearance.
Villaraigosa issued this statement: "As Mayor of the largest city in California, I am committed to creating a world in which no member or group in society is denied full and equal rights. It is my hope that this time next year will find us all united by victory in the fight against Proposition 8 and ever more determined to establish equal rights, with no exceptions, for every one of us."
Opened in 1994, last year the tiny Cubbyhole was voted the best lesbian bar in NYC. Perhaps that's faint praise for a town that has less than a handful of such establishments, but the few times I've been inside I found a generous and friendly staff and a welcoming clientele. The Cubbyhole is on W.12th Street in the West Village. I'm told there used to be a different Cubbyhole at another location, but maybe one of y'all can fill us in about that.
Nike has announced that it has canceled its "That Ain't Right" campaign after it was widely criticized as homophobic by gay bloggers and advertising critics. Via ESPN, here is Nike's statement:
Nike is strongly opposed to discrimination of any kind and has a long history of supporting athletes regardless of their sexual orientation. The advertisement in question is based purely upon a common insight from within the game of basketball -- the athletic feat of dunking on the opposition, and is not intended to be offensive.
However, after listening to concerns expressed around specific executions, we have decided to drop them from the campaign to underline our ongoing commitment to supporting diversity in sport and the workplace.
Nike has a strong record of support for diversity and is proud to have been honored with a 100 percent score over several consecutive years in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Corporate Equality Index.
ESPN notes that the most offensive images (including the one posted above) have been removed from the site of the creative agency, Wieden+Kennedy.
Good for Nike and good for Wieden+Kennedy. I don't know what they were thinking.
“For those who oppose the death penalty and want to see it end, our best bet is to vote for Barack Obama because his supporters have been working behind the scenes to end this practice. God bless America. It has been great living here. That’s all.” - Mississippi death row inmate Dale Bishop, shortly before he was put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday.
The trouble is, Obama does support the death penalty in many instances.
Christianists Gets Pennsylvania's Hate Crimes Law Overturned
Acting on a petition filed by the Christianist group Repent America, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld a lower court's ruling that struck down that state's 2002 hate crimes law, saying it was inappropriately attached to an unrelated bill.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision striking down amendments that added sexual orientation, gender identity, ancestry, gender, and mental and physical disability to the state hate crime law. The law, known as the Ethnic Intimidation and Institutional Vandalism Act, was amended in 2002 to include protections for these groups by a two-thirds majority of the state legislature. Then-governor Mark Schweiker signed it into law.
The lower court ruled last November that the law was invalid because it had been tacked onto another, nonrelated bill. The ruling did not criticize the content of the law, only the way in which it had been passed. “We are extremely disappointed that some of the most vulnerable people in Pennsylvania are now unprotected by our state’s hate crimes law,” Equality Advocates Pennsylvania said in a statement.
Stephen Glassman, chairman of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, said that the court ruling will make it more difficult to fight hate crimes. “It is vitally important for our agency to be able to respond to every act of hate and bias in the Commonwealth no matter who the victim may be,” said Galssman. “We must protect the rights of people to be free from these hate crimes just as surely as we protect them on the basis of their religion, race, ethnicity or national origin.”
Last year Gov. Ed Rendell asked the legislature to enact legislation reinstating the bill, but there has been no action thus far.
Waiting for George Michael to take the stage on Wednesday, I was grumbling to Aaron that I only went to see "oldies" acts these days, how everybody I'd seen in concert this summer had been around for 25 years or more. Yaz, Donna Summer, B-52's, Cyndi Lauper, Laurie Anderson, etc. Aaron said, "Well, don't you know of any new bands you like?" And I really couldn't think of any. I said, "Well, there's that Dashboard-something that I saw on TV. The lead singer was kinda cute. And I heard a song by the Dinner Jackets that I like. Dinner Jackets? Is that their name?" Aaron shrugged and went back to his program. Ten seconds later the Jumbotron flashed: "Neil Diamond! Five unforgettable shows!" And I couldn't help it, I went "Ooh!" Dammit.
- The screenplay for Hairspray 2will be written by John Waters. "Also set to return are director/choreographer Adam Shankman, the song-writing team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron." The first Hairspray: The Musical grossed over $200M and the sequel is set to open in July 2010. But somebody also thought Grease 2 was a good idea.
- A filmed performance of Rent will hit movie theaters in late September shortly after the show closes its Broadway run. The release is part of a new digital distribution network of live shows called "The Hot Ticket."
- The musical Robin And The Seven Hoodswill play Broadway during the '09-10' season. The show is based on the 1964 rat pack movie of the same name.
- Shubert Theater head Phillip Smith was granted a divorce from his wife Tricia "YouTube" Walsh, after the judge blasted her posting of videos mocking her ex-husband's sexual prowess. Walsh will get a pittance of her ex's wealth as per a prenuptial agreement.
- Two time Oscar winner Emma Thompson will co-write the screenplay for a remake of My Fair Lady. Keira Knightly is in talks to play Eliza. Wouldn't it be grisly? The original opened on Broadway in 1956 and ran for six years, winning nine Tonys.
- Bizarre: Somebody broke into the warehouse storing props for Off Broadway's Gazillion Bubble Show and stole 3.4 tons of bubble liquid. Somehow, the show will gurgle on.
A Ventura County, California judge has ruled that the 14-year-old killer of gay teen Lawrence King will be tried as an adult.
Relying on past court decisions, a judge ruled Thursday that trying a 14-year-old boy accused of murder in an adult court does not violate the constitution, swatting down legal arguments raised by the boy's attorney that it was cruel and unusual punishment to do so.
"I cannot say that this is unconstitutional," said Ventura County Superior Court Judge Douglas Daily.
Teenage defendant Brandon McInerney of Oxnard is charged with first-degree murder and a hate crime in connection with the Feb. 12 killing of classmate Larry King, 15, who sometimes wore makeup and told friends he was gay.
McInerney's mother fled the court in tears. Per a 2000 California constitutional amendment, prosecutors have much more authority over whether to pursue adult charges against youthful offenders. This decision comes as a blow to the broad coalition of LGBT and progressive groups who pleaded in April for a juvenile court trial for McInerney.
The Human Rights Campaign has announced that candy giant Mars Inc. has agreed to pull their new campaign for Snickers. The commercial features Mr. T machine-gunning an effeminate-appearing Olympic race-walker. Earlier this week, AdAge critic Bob Garfield issued an open letter to the head of the ad agency responsible for the ad, calling for its immediate withdrawal.
Following conversations between the Human Rights Campaign and senior Mars representatives, the company has agreed to pull its most recent ad using stereotypes of gay men to sell its Snickers product line. HRC applauds Mars for taking swift and appropriate action.
In 2007, another distasteful Snickers advertisement was aired during Super Bowl XLI. The company subsequently pulled the ad. Following that, HRC began a constructive dialogue with Mars on workplace inclusion for GLBT employees. We were of course surprised to see the company return to the same practice it had just recently rejected.
These kinds of ads perpetuate the notion that the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community is a group of second class citizens and that violence against GLBT people is not only acceptable, but humorous. We are hopeful that Mars will make the necessary changes in their organization to ensure this does not happen yet again."
As part of Central Park's 150th anniversary celebration, beginning today you can ride a tethered balloon to a height of 300 feet over over the trees.
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Olmsted and Vaux's Greensward plan — the original design for the world's most famous park — the Central Park Conservancy and New York City Department of Parks & Recreation invite New Yorkers and visitors to see the City and the Park as they've never seen it before: floating in silence 30 stories in the air!
AeroBalloon™ is an anchored, helium-filled, state-of-the-art balloon that ascends to a height of 300 feet. The balloon will fly daily from July 25 to August 22, 2008 at Cherry Hill in Central Park, and will take up to four passengers at a time for a 10 minute ride. Riders are welcome from 7am to 10pm. Get a spectacular daytime view of Central Park and bustling streets, or wait until sundown and float above dazzling city lights.
The balloon is tethered at Cherry Hill, just west of the Bethesda Fountain. Phone reservations are accepted from 7-10am. After that it's first come, first served. The 10-minute ride is $25, versus $18 to visit Rockefeller Center's Top Of The Rock, which is more than twice as high and you can stay as long as want, but definitely isn't as cool as a balloon ride. I'd think I'd wanna go up at night.
Reviews of Barack Obama's speech in Berlin yesterday appear to be mixed, with the New York Times calling it "vague on crucial issues of trade, defense and foreign policy." However, The Nation loved it, saying, "To much of the world, Bush's talk of freedom is code for messianism, arrogance and empire. Obama reframed the debate--and reclaimed the word--with his spectacular speech in Berlin today, when he spoke of 'the dream of freedom' as something both Americans and Europeans shared and could be proud of. "
Over 200,000 Berliners heard Obama speak in person and the speech was carried live on all four German national networks. Berlin officials decided not to allow Obama to have his Reagan moment at the Brandenburg Gate after all, and the speech took place nearby at the Victory Column. Time will only tell if his speech yesterday will have the same historic resonance as Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" or JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner." The entire speech is below in two parts.
Last night I trekked to Midtown with Aaron for my fourth "oldies" concert in a week, George Michael at Madison Square Garden. Neither of us are particular fans, but while the last George Michael record I bought was probably the 12" of 1982's Wham Rap, I'm not not a fan either.
Most of my interest in George Michael over the last 25 years has come from his progression to being an (albeit initially unwilling) out gay man who has still remained globally popular. Therefore I was curious to experience this phenomenon of a major openly gay, LTR'd but unapologetically non-monogamous pop star playing the "world's most famous arena."
Last night was the second of two sold-out shows at the Garden, where we arrived to find the audience comprising about 70% females (lots of mother/daughter combos), 20% gay men, and 10% very patient boyfriends/husbands. About 45 minutes after the advertised "8PM Prompt" showtime, George Michael took the stage with six backup singers and with his band semi-hidden on the three-story riser tucked behind a mammoth trio of innovative video screens which were also part of the stage floor.
Over the next 2 1/2 hours we got 22 songs culled from George's Wham! and solo years, plus two covers: Roberta Flack's First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, and a torchy version of The Police's Roxanne. I thought the show leaned too heavily on the ballads, but 15,000 screaming females probably would disagree.
In light of George's frankness regarding his love of park cruising and his open relationship, it would have been amusing to hear him perform his 80's paean to safe sex and monogamy, I Want Your Sex. Oh, well. However, it would be unfair to deny that I got a tingly thrill to hear George introduce Amazing as being "about the man that I love" and then hear the entire arena roar its approval. Throughout the show, George was rather chatty and personable, with a few of the usual rock star shout-outs thrown in: "You are the best audience of the entire tour!"
After two encores, George returned to proclaim that the final song was about "being whatever the fuck kind of person you want to be", then launched into Freedom '90 as the massive video screen throbbed with a cartoon iteration of the gay freedom rings. Nice. Very, very nice.
Love or hate him, fan or not, you've got to admit that George Michael has, against all probable odds, somehow created something oddly magical. He hasn't charted a hit single in America in over a dozen years, but I'd bet that in a dozen more, he'll still be able sell out the Garden. I'm not about to rush to download his catalog, but after last night, I like him personally much more that I had.
Madison Square Garden Setlist: Waiting, Fastlove, I'm Your Man, Father Figure, Hard Day, Everything She Wants, One More Try, First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, An Easier Affair, Too Funky,Star People. [Intermission] Faith, Spinning the Wheel, Feeling Good, Roxanne, Kissing A Fool, Amazing, Flawless, Outside, A Different Corner, Careless Whisper, Freedom '90.
Video: Closing number Freedom '90 was a 20,000-person sing-a-long.