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Kentucky Governor Vetoes Extreme Anti-Trans Bill Pushed by Republicans

Democratic Governor Andy Beshear vetoed the bill, saying it will lead to an increase in suicide among Kentucky youth.

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Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear

Governor Andy Beshear on Friday vetoed a massive bill targeting transgender rights in Kentucky, one of the most extreme measures in the country.

The bill passed both the state House and Senate last week in a record sprint, mainly along party lines. The Senate voted 30–7 for the measure, a veto-proof majority, and so could override Beshear’s move as soon as next week.

If it becomes law, Senate Bill 150 would ban all gender-affirming care for trans minors in Kentucky and would force doctors to detransition any minors in their care. It would prohibit discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools at any level, prevent trans students from using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, and would allow teachers to refuse to use a student’s preferred pronouns.

“Senate Bill 150 allows too much government interference in personal health care issues and rips away the freedom of parents to make medical decisions for their children,” Beshear said in a statement.

“I am also vetoing Senate Bill 150 because my faith teaches me that all children are children of God and Senate Bill 150 will endanger the children of Kentucky,” he continued, citing studies that showed a connection between receiving gender-affirming care and lowered levels of depression and suicidal thoughts in LGBTQ children. “Senate Bill 150 will cause an increase in suicide among Kentucky’s youth.”

The ACLU of Kentucky described the bill when it passed as “the worst anti-trans bill in the country.”

“This dangerous bill and others like it across the country are nothing more than a desperate attempt to score political points by targeting people who simply want to live their lives,” interim executive director Amber Duke said in a statement. “True democracy requires meaningful and informed debate and engagement from the public. The shameful process on display in the Kentucky House undermines the public trust in government.”

The bill was rushed through the House and Senate in a record daylong sprint. A different omnibus anti-trans measure had looked dead in the water last Wednesday night. But the next morning, Republicans resurrected and expanded the text, forcing it through despite long and often emotional arguments against it from Democrats and trans rights activists.

Kentucky is just the latest state to have lawmakers try to curtail LGBTQ rights. This week alone, Florida advanced an anti-trans bill so broad and extreme it could also prevent people from getting breast cancer treatment. Georgia, meanwhile, passed a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors and criminalizing medical workers who provide that care.

House Republicans Pass “Parents Bill of Rights” That Actually Just Polices Schools and Students

The bill is another Republican attack on education, this time on the national level.

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The Republican-led House on Friday passed its so-called “Parents Bill of Rights,” 213-208. Framed as a positive piece of legislation, the bill actually aims to police teachers and school staff and thus obstruct the independent flow of education for students.

The radical bill calls for school districts to post curriculum information and provide parents with lists of reading materials available in school libraries. Such practices have already been test-run in places like Florida. Teachers there have been forced to empty classroom libraries, cover them up, or even catalog each book into a central system to check for compliance with their districts’ restrictive standards.

The legislation also (incorrectly) implies that parents are never listened to in schools. It calls for school districts to consider community feedback when making decisions, allow parents to address school boards, and notify parents of violent activity happening on school grounds. By including already standard practices in the bill, Republicans are couching their more radical demands in what seems like a reasonable bill.

If anything, the bill’s nod toward school board meetings appears to be implicit approval of attacks school staff have already endured. School boards and teachers across the country have expressed concerns surrounding classroom freedom, and even for their own lives. Whipped up by Republican officials, a loud minority has targeted schools and protested everything from Covid-19 safety precautions to classroom material.

In 2021, the National School Boards Association sent a letter to the Biden administration asking for an investigation into violent threats against school board members. They described the threats as potentially “equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” After receiving the letter, Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the Justice Department to carry out an inquiry. House Republicans have since aimed to discredit the letter and the inquiry.

It’s unlikely the “Parents Bill of Rights” will make it pass Biden’s desk, but by passing the radical legislation, House Republicans are escalating animus toward already overworked and underappreciated teachers. They moreover are further nationalizing the attack on academic freedom that has already been taking place from Florida and Texas to Michigan and South Carolina.

Trump Threatens “Death & Destruction” If He’s Charged

Trump argued that filing charges against him would lead to major violence.

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In the wee small hours of the morning, one Manhattan man found himself confronting the harsh realities of what it would mean for him to actually be arrested.

Early Friday, twice-impeached former President Donald Trump, who is the subject of numerous criminal inquiries, posted on Truth Social warning that “death & destruction” could come if he is charged for paying hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels—a scheme allegedly done in order to cover up the pair’s affair occurring just months after Trump’s wife Melania had given birth to their child, Barron.

“What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting President in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime …,” Trump began in his run-on rant, “when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & Also known that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country?”

“Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely hates the USA!”

Trump’s menacing posts follow an ongoing right-wing campaign to discredit the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, tasked with investigating Trump’s role in the hush-money payment. Even members as high up as Kevin McCarthy and Elise Stefanik spread antisemitic conspiracy theories, insinuating Bragg is a puppet of George Soros for pursuing the investigation. Now the attacks have escalated to Trump calling Bragg a “degenerate psychopath” and a “Soros backed animal.”

While earlier Trump-beckoned protests brought out just a paltry handful of loyalists, the latest calls from Trump display a concerningly desperate escalation, especially given his track record in inciting violence.

The Wildest Things Members of Congress Said During the TikTok Hearing

“Does TikTok access the home Wi-Fi network?”

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies before a mic. He raises his right hand.
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TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday to answer questions about the app’s data privacy policies.

The Biden administration has ordered TikTok to sell its American operations to a U.S.-based firm or face being banned nationwide, citing national security concerns. TikTok and the broader issue of U.S.-China relations is one of the few topics on which both parties seem united.

Chew fielded—but was rarely given time to answer—questions from Democrats and Republicans alike about data privacy, content moderation, child safety, and potential ties to the Chinese Communist Party. But he was also asked a lot of weirder questions too.

Here are some of the wildest things members of Congress said during the five-and-a-half-hour hearing.

1. North Carolina Representative Richard Hudson asked, “Does TikTok access the home Wi-Fi network?”

“Only if the user turns on the Wi-Fi,” Chew replied, visibly confused. “I’m sorry, I may not understand the—”

Hudson: “So if I have [the] TikTok app on my phone, and my phone is on my home Wi-Fi network, does TikTok access that network?”

Chew: “You will have to access the network to get connections to the internet.”

2. Texas Representative Randy Weber said, “TikTok is indoctrinating our children with divisive, woke, and pro-CCP propaganda.”

That’s the whole sentence, yes.

3. Representative Buddy Carter did not understand facial filters.

Carter asked if TikTok used phone cameras to identify body or face data, to which Chew replied that the app does not collect such information. The only facial data TikTok does use is to identify where users’ eyes are if they use a filter to appear if they are wearing sunglasses, he said. That data is stored only on the user’s device and is deleted after they stop using the filter.

“Why do you need to know where the eyes are?” Carter asked.

4. Representative Kat Cammack asked about a video only one TikTok user commented on.

Cammack shared a clip of a TikTok video in which the user implied they wanted to attack the committee meeting. The Florida Republican said the video had been up for 41 days, before the hearing date was made public, and demanded to know why it hadn’t been taken down despite violating TikTok’s content policies.

The video had very low engagement and only one comment, meaning it would have taken TikTok moderators longer to find and flag it. It actually started to get more attention online after Cammack shared it. Within minutes, as the hearing was ongoing, the account was banned.

5. Multiple Texas representatives complained about the name “Project Texas.”

TikTok has already announced a plan it calls Project Texas to move all of its U.S. data to servers in Texas. The social media company says that doing so will protect U.S. data from any national security threats.

But multiple Texas representatives took issue with the name. “Please rename your project,” August Pfluger said. “Texas is not the appropriate name. We stand for freedom and transparency, and we don’t want your project.”

While this was not the main issue of the hearing, Pfluger’s comments are ironic considering Texas has made several moves in recent weeks to restrict its residents’ ability to control their own bodies and access information online.

Republicans Want to Remove Endangered Species Protections for the Gray Wolf and Grizzly Bear

After we worked so hard to try to save them

Representatives Matt Rosendale and Lauren Boebert seated beside each other
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Representatives Matt Rosendale and Lauren Boebert

Not to be outdone by their push to target the lives of human beings, Republicans want to remove endangered species protections for the gray wolf and the grizzly bear too.

During a House hearing Thursday, Representative Lauren Boebert discussed her bill to remove protections for the gray wolf, claiming the animal is “fully recovered.” In reality, last year, a district court judge ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or FWS, acted improperly when it delisted the gray wolf from the endangered species list under Trump.

Boebert moved on to argue that the Endangered Species Act has been “weaponized by extremist environmentalists to obstruct commonsense, multiple-use activities that they disagree with.” Meanwhile, her push to remove protections for the gray wolf has been applauded by organizations including the National Rifle Association and hunting advocacy groups.

Boebert also decided the hearing was the right time to show images of human fetuses, asking colleagues whether they would “put babies on the endangered species list.” Boebert’s analogy was numerically fraught, regardless of one’s personal views on abortion: There are over 330 million people in the country.

For states that have maneuvered around protections, hunters have gone ahead and razed away at the still recovering species. In 2021, Idaho and Montana passed laws to bypass restrictions on wolf hunting; as of February 2022, at least over 500 wolves had been killed since the laws passed, out of a total population of around 2,600. The alarming uptick has also interrupted research into how wolves help shape ecosystems.

Meanwhile, Republican Representative Matt Rosendale has been lobbying the FWS to delist the grizzly bear from the endangered species list too—something the FWS is now doing. Similar to the gray wolf, the grizzly bear has only recently begun to spring back, and certainly not to the same extent as before human-caused overhunting and habitat loss. Grizzly bears are currently classified as “threatened” with extinction.

“Representative Boebert and Representative Rosendale are demonstrating how out of touch House Republicans have become by pushing these cruel, extreme anti-wolf and anti-grizzly bear bills that the vast majority of Americans oppose,” said Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Representative Boebert continues to thumb her nose at Colorado voters, who’ve made it clear they want wolves to return to their state. Meanwhile Representative Rosendale was seen posing with neo-Nazis. They shouldn’t be taken seriously on any subject, let alone the future of two of America’s most iconic wildlife species.”

Rosendale has also introduced a bill to undermine wildlife protections in national forests by enabling the Agriculture and Interior Departments not to revisit land management plans when new information is made available, for example when a species or habitat is designated endangered, or if climate change-induced conditions introduce cause for concern.

“Days after the U.N. climate report’s stark warning about the disastrous path humanity is on, Republicans can’t even muster the slightest effort to conceal their pro–clear cutting agenda,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Instead of these nonserious bills, they should be focused on protecting our remaining mature and old-growth forests, which are one of our most underutilized tools in pulling carbon dioxide out of the air.”

Concert Attendees Randomly Arrested During Cop City Protests Are Being Denied Bond

Welcome to America’s justice system.

Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty Images

The vicious absurdity of America’s “justice” system is on full display.

Earlier this month, at least 35 people were indiscriminately detained at a music festival organized by the people protesting Cop City, an under-construction gargantuan police training facility that would raze the Weelaunee Forest in Atlanta. Twenty-three of them were charged with domestic terrorism.

The arrested protesters are accused of participating in vandalism and arson at a construction site over a mile away from where the music festival was held. While all were charged with domestic terrorism, there has been no proof they were involved in illegal activity.

On Thursday, Georgia’s DeKalb Court held the second bond hearing for the arrested individuals. Out of the 10 defendants in Thursday’s hearing, eight people were outright denied bond, and two were “granted” a $25,000 bond with numerous conditions. Twelve others had received consent bonds prior to the hearing. The reasons people were denied bond were shocking, according to Hannah Riley, communications director at the Southern Center for Human Rights, who was monitoring the hearing.

One person, the sole caretaker of her aging uncle afflicted with dementia, was denied bond on the grounds that they are from New York and are therefore a flight risk, Riley reported. Another was denied bond on the basis that, though there was no evidence of them being anywhere near the site, they were “part of the team” because they were wearing black.

Other reasons used to deny bond included that they were muddy and wet (they were all in a forest, and it had rained) and had the jail support number on them (common practice during protests).

Another individual was a law student arrested at a food truck who would have been forced to withdraw from law school if they weren’t given bond. Because there was a lack of evidence, the individual was released with a $25,000 bond and ordered to wear an ankle monitor, refuse to join future protests, avoid contact with other defendants, and surrender their passport.

While Republicans make faulty comparisons of “if they can arrest a former president for using a shell company to pay hush money to a porn actress, imagine what they can do to you,” they, alongside much of the Democratic Party, are signing off on a militarized police state recklessly arresting protesters (and even plausible bystanders) and sentencing them to inordinate bond payments and even jail time.

Democrats promised a “New Civil Rights Act” and efforts to guarantee due process, human rights protections, and civil equality—so long as voters would give them the Senate majority. Still, there hasn’t been much word from the party on what happened at Cop City. Democratic Georgia Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have had markedly little to say about the violent police action, nor even about the police murder of activist Manuel Esteban Paez Terán (also known as Tortuguita), the first known forest defender ever killed by the police.

Ron DeSantis Is Building a State Where Media Criticism of Him Is No Longer Allowed

A pair of bills in the Florida legislature make it easier to sue journalists and harder to get public records.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis smiles at a podium
Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis is building a near-bulletproof shield against criticism in the news. A pair of bills working their way through the Florida state legislature would make it easier to sue media outlets for defamation, and also shield records on how and where the Florida governor goes (including retroactively).

DeSantis has adopted a classic Republican talking point: casting the news media as an enemy. These two bills are just the latest efforts by his government to curb news in the state.

The first bill, passed by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee last week, would make it easier to sue journalists for defamation. The measure expands the definition of defamation but makes it harder to sue elected public officials. The bill also dictates that information from an anonymous source is “presumptively false,” with no exceptions for whistleblowers.

People accused of discriminating against someone’s sex, gender, sexual orientation, or race based on personal scientific or religious belief would be protected against defamation charges. Judges and juries would be allowed to “infer actual malice,” instead of the plaintiff needing to prove it. If the plaintiff wins, they could collect legal fees from the news organization they sued, instead of both parties paying their own costs.

People on both sides of the political spectrum have decried the measure, with Bobby Block, the executive director of the First Amendment Foundation, calling it a “death knell for American traditions of free speech.”

But he also warned that conservative outlets would be even more vulnerable to defamation lawsuits, because “much of conservative programming centers on commentary and opinion,” which is usually “purposefully provocative and colorful.”

James Schwartzel, the owner of a conservative talk-radio station, said the bill would mark “the death of conservative talk throughout the state of Florida.”

Separately, the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee advanced a bill Wednesday that would block reporters from accessing information about how and where DeSantis and other government officials travel. The bill, the first of its kind, would also work retroactively to prevent anyone from examining how officials have used state travel in the past.

DeSantis is currently on a press tour for his book, which many suspect is doubling as a warmup for his anticipated presidential campaign. Questions are rising about whether taxpayer funds have been used to pay for his travel—and soon, we may never know the answer.

Florida lawmakers are clamping down on journalism in the state in a way that smacks of authoritarianism. Earlier this month, a Republican lawmaker introduced a bill that would require paid bloggers who write about elected officials to first register with the state.

DeSantis himself has remained a constant in headlines as of late for cracking down on human rights in his state, particularly for people of color and women and gender minorities. The Republican, seen as a front-runner for the Republican 2024 presidential nomination, has declared war on all things “woke” and is clearly making good on his promise.

Kyrsten Sinema Literally Gives Democrats the Middle Finger

A new report reveals what the Arizona senator really thinks about the Democratic Party.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema hugs an old white man in a suit (we can only see their back)
J. Scott Applewhite/Pool/Getty Images
Senator Kyrsten Sinema

Kyrsten Sinema is a Republican.

Once a Green Party member, Sinema subverted expectations enough by coming into herself as an extremely conservative Democrat. And since she turned the dial further by becoming an independent, the political media has inquired with great curiosity about Sinema’s political future and where she sees herself in the battleground of American politics.

But a new report from Politico has shed more light on what she really thinks about Democrats. The Arizona senator has reportedly gone on a national tour to schmooze with corporate lobbyists and donors, often of the Republican persuasion, criticizing Democrats and in one instance even flipping off a White House aide while talking about him.

“I’m not caucusing with the Democrats; I’m formally aligned with the Democrats for committee purposes,” Sinema said to a select group of Republican lobbyists at a Washington, D.C., reception. “But apart from that I am not a part of the caucus.”

At that same reception, Sinema bragged about her apparent role in getting a federal judge from Arizona confirmed in the divided Senate. She recounted a White House aide calling to enlist her help. Boasting of the judge’s successful confirmation, Sinema revealed the identity of the aide to her enraptured Republican lobbyist audience. “That was [Ron] Klain,” she noted, flashing her middle finger in the air about the former White House chief of staff.

She also dismissed Senate Democratic luncheons. “Old dudes are eating Jell-O, everyone is talking about how great they are,” she reportedly said. “I don’t really need to be there for that. That’s an hour and a half twice a week that I can get back.”

Beyond White House staff, Sinema has derided everyone from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to “honorary” leader and fellow moderate Joe Manchin.

At one point, a Republican donor told Sinema it was not Manchin but her who “carried the water for us in this last Congress.” She responded: “You’re hired.”

“Without you our taxes would’ve gone through the roof,” the donor glowed. “They would have,” Sinema agreed.

Sinema has reportedly complained about Manchin, saying that “people often assume that we’re the same person.” She then repeatedly noted to a corporate audience that she has “better tax policy ideas” than Manchin’s more traditional Democratic stance on taxing the wealthy.

The Arizona conservative also went to Georgia earlier this month to visit the American Enterprise Institute’s annual forum, where she sat alongside Republican Senator Susan Collins and spoke glowingly of her relationships with other Republicans. To other exclusive crowds, she has mocked House liberals as “crazy people” and her Democratic colleagues overall as being not “familiar” with tax policy. And just as Republican donors and lobbyists can’t get enough of her company, Republican elected officials themselves are laying out a red carpet for her.

Sinema’s work has paid off, with Senator Mitt Romney telling Politico he “could very easily endorse” her in 2024.

The Politico report is another reminder that the political press would do well to stop perpetuating the mystique surrounding Sinema. While some point to her generally Democratic voting record, that alone is not enough to see her as more friendly to the Democratic agenda than not (after all, recall her elemental role in watering down Biden’s infrastructure bill, for instance). And given the fact that the senator insists on spending her free time chumming it up with Republican lobbyists and corporate donors, she cannot be mistaken as a Democrat and certainly is not someone with an “independent ideology.”

Florida GOP’s New Anti-Trans Bill Is So Extreme It Could Ban Treatment for Breast Cancer

The bill is one of the cruelest in the country targeting transgender people.

Oli SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

A Florida House of Representatives committee on Wednesday advanced an anti-trans bill that is so broad and so extreme that it could also prevent people from getting treated for breast cancer.

The bill passed the Healthcare Regulation Committee by a vote of 12–5 and now heads to the House for a vote. The measure is one of the cruelest in the country to target transgender and LGBTQ rights and care. It bans gender-affirming care for minors and would force them to medically detransition, or stop receiving treatments such as hormone therapy. But the bill’s vague wording has larger repercussions as well.

The text defines gender clinical interventions as “procedures or therapies that alter internal or external physical traits,” including surgeries that change “primary or secondary sexual characteristics.” During the debate, Democratic Representative Christine Hunschofsky pointed out that this could prevent people from getting treatment for breast cancer, as the overly broad language could apply to mastectomies.

Bill sponsor Randy Fine—who prior to being a Republican representative was a gambling industry executive, not a doctor—was surprised to learn that young people can get breast cancer.

By the same definition, people who need prostatectomies to treat prostate cancer could also be denied treatment. The bill also bans hormone treatments, which could potentially affect care for menopause, stunted growth, and birth control.

Republicans across the country have introduced bills targeting gender-affirming care, insisting that by doing so, they are protecting children. But the Florida bill goes a step further and says the quiet part out loud: It targets care for trans adults too. The bill bans health insurance policies from covering gender-affirming care, which would prevent adults from accessing treatment. It also prohibits anyone from changing the gender on their birth certificate to reflect their identity.

As civil rights attorney Alejandra Caraballo pointed out, the measure could also dissuade medical providers from providing care to anyone because they could face felony charges and risk losing their license to practice. Anyone who gets a procedure that inadvertently alters a primary or secondary sexual characteristic can sue their care provider for malpractice for up to 30 years after.

Bills such as the latest Florida measure make it clear that Republicans don’t really want to protect children; they want to erase LGBTQ people from public life. Gender-affirming care decreases the amount of depression and anxiety that trans and nonbinary teenagers feel, and it makes them less likely to consider suicide. Instead, lawmakers are criminalizing LGBTQ people of all ages and putting them at risk of real harm.

Michigan GOP Compares Gun Regulation to the Holocaust

The official Michigan Republican Party seems to think gun reform is the same as a genocide.

Michigan state Capitol building
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Michigan state Capitol building in Lansing

As people still reel from a mass shooting at Michigan State University that left three people dead and another five injured, Michigan Republicans are now comparing modest gun regulation to the Holocaust.

In a Twitter post Wednesday morning, the official Michigan GOP account posted a photo referencing the Nazis’ seizure of wedding rings from Jews they killed during the Holocaust, with the caption: “Before they collected all these wedding rings … they collected all the guns.”

The post comes as state Democrats are advancing a gun regulation package that includes basic reforms like implementing safe storage laws, requiring individuals to obtain a license in order to own a gun, and allowing a judge to temporarily restrict gun access for individuals who are at a higher risk of harming themselves or other people.

Michigan GOP Chairwoman Kristina Karamo later doubled down on the Twitter post. She compared the enslavement of Black people, genocide of Native Americans, internment of Japanese people, and forced sterilization of marginalized people as historical analogues to the push for gun regulation. (Beyond the wild comparison, some of Karamo’s own colleagues may shake their heads at such an invocation of critical race theory.)

And the Michigan GOP Party applauded Karamo for defending the “legitimate comparison” of Nazis exterminating Jews to lawmakers trying to make people’s lives safer after college kids were shot and killed.

Karamo (again, leader of the entire Michigan Republican Party) made national headlines last year for allegedly threatening to kill her now-ex-husband and their two daughters, after her husband asked for a divorce. Karamo allegedly attempted to grab the steering wheel while her husband was driving the family. “Fuck it, I’ll kill us all,” Karamo said. A 2020 election denier, Karamo has also called for the “citizenship arrest” of George Soros and has compared abortion to “child sacrifice.”