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Trump Promised to ‘Fight For’ LGBT People but Now His Administration Is Working to Demolish Protections

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From Policy Reversals to Gay Staffers Removing Wedding Rings and Family Photos, Trump’s Administration Targets LGBT America

President Trump for a brief few days on the campaign trail promised the LGBT community during 2016’s Pride Month he would “fight for” them more than any other presidential candidate. Calling it a “sharp reversal from Obama-era policies,” a new report in Politico proves that promise has been broken.

Under President Trump, the federal government is working hard to demolish, dismantle, or roll back all of the hard-fought for LGBT protections created under the Obama Administration.

“It’s only a matter of time before all the gains made under the Obama administration are reversed under the Trump administration, for purposes that have nothing to do with public health and have everything to do with politics,” Johns Hopkins School of Public Health researcher Kellan Baker told Politico. Baker worked with the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) for over a decade.

HHS staff “have raised concerns” about “Trump appointees now in senior roles who had a history of anti-LGBT comments before joining the agency,” Politico reports. “Among them is Roger Severino, a former Heritage Foundation official who has said that the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision on same-sex marriage was ‘wrong’ and repeatedly warned of its consequences.”

“[S]ame-sex marriage was merely the start, not end, of the left’s LGBT agenda,” Severino wrote in May 2016, about 10 months before he was tapped by Trump to be the health department’s top civil rights official. “The radical left is using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology over and above their right to privacy, safety, and religious freedom.”

The Trump administration has:

  • Rescinded protection guidance for transgender LGBT students.
  • froze a series of LGBT-friendly rules, including proposed new regulations to further ban discrimination in Medicare and Medicaid,” Politico notes.
  • Last year HHS blocked the public from viewing over 10,500 comments submitted in response to its proposed “faith-based” rule that would affect healthcare access for transgender patients, and access to abortion services.
  • Reassigned the Health and Human Services senior adviser for LGBT health.
  • Worked to remove questions about LGBT people from an annual HHS survey that is used to decide how to allocate over $3 billion in funding for seniors.
  • Worked to “correct” the 2020 Census by removing proposed inclusion of sexual orientation, gender identity.
  • Changed the HHS four-year strategic plan to “not make a single reference to LGBT health issues — a notable break from the two previous strategic plans, dating back to 2010,” Politico notes, adding: “political appointees ordered that the language be stripped from the document. The effort was spearheaded by Shannon Royce, the agency’s liaison with religious groups, who staff say also took steps to include other language favorable to Christian conservatives.”
  • Installed Charmaine Yoest, as the public affairs chief at HHS. Politico describes her as “a prominent anti-abortion leader who for years advocated against same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues. For instance, Yoest a decade ago said that same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children and that transgender individuals suffered from mental disorders.” (Yoest reportedly ill be leaving HHS.)
  • At the DOJ Attorney General Jeff Sessions has created an entire office to enable health care workers to file claims of anti-religious discrimination.

Trump hired for deputy general counsel at HHS a man who posted this tweet:

Politico also offers another example of discrimination and anti-LGBT animus, reporting the Trump administration has “fostered a climate” within the federal government “where six staffers who are LGBT described removing their wedding rings before coming to work in the morning, taking down photos of their partners and families or ultimately finding new jobs further away from certain political appointees. They did not want to be identified; two said they feared being reassigned for being gay.”

“When you have to hide a major part of who you are … it’s really debilitating,” one staffer told Politico. “I wish I had more courage to be out with these people.”

Image by Ted Eytan via Flickr and a CC license

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'BUCKLE UP'

U.S. government vividly shows the danger of fireworks in literally mind-blowing video

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Fireworks safety video, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

It’s the Fourth of July, American Independence Day, a holiday where Americans buy nearly $1 billion worth of fireworks (literally tens of thousands of tons of explosive material) to light up the night sky in a celebration-slash-commemoration of the firearms our colonizers gleefully discharged in open revolt against the Brits who first sent them there.

While our resentments against the British have (mostly) receded, the danger of explosives hasn’t entirely. That’s why the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently released this literally head-exploding video demonstrating the numerous ways that fireworks can blow your brain, children and limbs to bits.

Luckily, the video uses mannequins, but it gets its message across quite vividly.

They’ve even published this following list of helpful firework safety tips:

– Never allow young children to play with, or ignite, fireworks, including sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—hot enough to melt some metals.

– Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy, in case of fire or other mishap.

– Light fireworks one at a time, then move away quickly.

– Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.

– Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Move to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

– Never point or throw fireworks (including sparklers) at anyone.

– After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device to prevent a trash fire.

– Make sure fireworks are legal in your area, and only purchase fireworks that are labeled for consumer (not professional) use.

Happy Fourth, everyone!

 

 

 

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'DANGEROUS FOOLS'

Trump is making a move to endanger LGBTQ and civil rights activists around the world

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The Open Technology Fund (OTF), “a U.S. government-funded nonprofit that provides encryption technologies to journalists and activists living under repressive regimes,” is under threat from Michael Pack, an appointee of President Donald Trump who now heads the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), the group that oversees the OTF.

Pack is pressuring the OTF to change its funding allocation in a way that could endanger LGBTQ activists and others strategizing for civil rights in countries like China, Russia, Iran and Turkey, leaving them subject harassment, arrest, violence, and death.

According to Vice News, Pack has packed USAGM’s board with Trump loyalists who are working to funnel tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to closed-source technologies. Closed-source technologies are privately developed apps that could contain backdoor and security vulnerabilities allowing repressive regimes to track users and monitor their online communications.

Pack’s shift to closed-source technology is a fundamental change to the OTF’s long-running investment in “open-source technology,” tech whose publicly available source code can be studied and tested to ensure others can’t access user data.

Pack’s USAGM is currently pushing for OTF to invest in Freegate and Ultrasurf, two closed-source apps that purport to get around the Great Firewall of China, a censorious and domestically controlled internet that blocks activists from any sites critical of the Chinese government.

Open-source software experts that spoke to Vice said, “[Ultrasurf’s] code is out of date, dangerously vulnerable to compromise, and lacks the user base to allow it to effectively scale even if they secured government funding.”

Laura Cunningham and Libby Liu, who very recently served as OTF’s president and CEO respectively, told Vice News that in March 2020 (shortly after Trump installed Pack), Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation Human Rights and Justice (one of the groups pushing Ultrasurf) threatened them to fund the app or else risk being ousted by Pack and his board.

On June 13, 2020, Michael Horowitz, former director of the Project for International Religious Liberty (another group pushing Ultrasurf), then went on the radio show of white supremacist-enabler and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and called for Pack to fire Liu — four days later, he did. A day later, Pack fired Cunningham without providing any reason whatsoever.

Current and former OTF staff members told Vice they’re worried about the OTF’s direction under Pack. Longtime open-source technology advocate Cory Doctorow summed up the worry in a Twitter thread that linked to a petition urging Congress to intervene:

The Trump admin wants to nuke the OTF and give all its money to a bunch of grifty, closed-source privacy and firewall-circumvention tools. These tools are NOT auditable, and the companied that make them stand to make BANK from the move… If i was a Uyghur in Xinjiang or a dissident in Tehran, I would NOT trust my life to these tools. No goddamned way.

OTF’s ironclad rule of funding open, free code isn’t just a way to allay suspicions about the tools’ true purpose – it’s also a preventative against corruption, because the projects OTF funds CAN’T insert spy code without being caught right away… Based on this administration’s track record, I’m about 70-30 that this is just a bro deal that lets some cronies suck up millions in corporate welfare while hanging out tools used by vulnerable people around the world to dry.

Remember, Congress allocated this money for the OTF, not as pork for a bunch of connected insiders. This money built the tools that #BlackLivesMatter protesters use, to say nothing of the #HongKongProtests and many other movements around the world.

It will be a genuine, deep, widespread tragedy if this move isn’t stopped.

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'AS AN AMERICAN'

Conservatives are freaking out over the NFL playing “The Black National Anthem” before games

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NFL Black National Anthem

In a performative gesture that does nothing to discourage police from killing Black people, the National Football League has decided to jump on the feel-good Black-ally bandwagon and play “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” (aka. the Black National Anthem) at the start of every week one game when the season opens on September 10.

The song, which was written in 1900 and set to music in 1905, will reportedly play before the usual national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, and will be presumably be all but forgotten by the NFL after one week.

Predictably, conservatives on social media are using the hashtag #BoycottNFL to express their displeasure:

There are an equal number of other Twitter users mocking such “fans” for turning their backs on the league at a moment’s notice. But as Black writer Panama Jackson at The Root points out, the playing of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” could backfire if cameras capture scores of NFL fans turning their backs as the anthem plays. However, perhaps that would show the NFL just how widespread racism among its fandom really is, despite 70 percent of its players being Black.

Beyond the playing of the Black National Anthem, ESPN explains, the NFL has other plans to make symbolic gestures against anti-Black police violence, though none (except for the final one mentioned below) are sure things:

Having recently displayed increased awareness about the problems of systemic racism, the NFL, in collaboration with the NFL Players Association, is also considering listing the names of victims on uniforms through decals on helmets or patches on jerseys. The NFL also may produce educational programs about victims, among other plans…. [like] plans to increase its social justice footprint by pledging to donate $250 million over a 10-year period.

In other race-related NFL news, this week the NFL said it will finally conduct a “thorough study” on possibly renaming the Washington state football team whose name is an old-timey slur for Native Americans.

In early June, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL was wrong to ban players from protesting anti-black policing in America. However, his apology didn’t name Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL player whose 2017 on-field kneeling protest compelled the NFL on May 23, 2018 to threaten fines against any players who didn’t stand during the national anthem.

The national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” as Teen Vogue reminds us, was written by a slave-owning Washington lawyer, Francis Scott Key, who referred to African-Americans as “a distinct and inferior race of people.”

Lastly, on Friday the National Basketball Association (NBA) said it would allow players to wear slogans on their jerseys in the upcoming season including the following messages: Black Lives Matter, Power to the People, I Can’t Breathe, Say Their Names, Vote, Justice, Peace, Equality, Freedom, Enough, Justice Now, Say Her Name, Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can), Liberation, See Us, Hear Us, Respect Us, Love Us, Listen, Listen to Us, Stand Up, Ally, Anti-Racist, I Am A Man, Speak Up, How Many More, Group Economics, Education Reform, and Mentor.

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