Teen daughter of Tea Party Loudons dating 50-something actor : Lifestyles -
Those zany Loudons are back in the gossip feed, with news to make parents pause.
Lyda Loudon, 18-year-old daughter of former Gumbo Flats (aka Chesterfield) poli-power couple John and Gina Loudon, is dating an older man. Much older.
Celebrity mags report that the young Loudon — who hosts an online radio show “Sarcasm Overdose” and is active in Tea Party Youth affairs — is keeping time with Steven Bauer, 57, best known for his role in “Scarface.” (He also recently played Don Eladio in “Breaking Bad.”)
This is not the first brush with celebrity for the Loudons, who moved away in 2011 and now live in San Diego. Last year, the Tea Party sweethearts — John was a state senator and Gina hosts a conservative talk show — were participants in the reality show “Wife Swap.”
She’s just another deranged Tea Party nutbar.
h/t: Joe Holleman at STLToday.com
Fast Food Workers Will Now Use Civil Disobedience In Their Fight For Higher Wages -
At a convention of more than 1,300 fast food workers in Illinois this weekend, attendees voted to start including acts of civil disobedience, such as sit-down strikes and restaurant occupations, in their campaign for higher wages and the ability to form a union.
Workers have gone on one-day strikes multiple times since late 2012 in hundreds of cities across the country, demanding at least $15 an hour and the ability to organize. The largest and most recent hit 150 cities in May. Workers have also taken protests to companies themselves, staging a protest outside McDonald’s corporate headquarters in May where more than 100 were arrested.
One of the organizers of the convention told the Associated Press that workers will be asked to do “whatever it takes.” One worker, Cherri Delisline, a single mother who has worked at McDonald’s for 10 years and makes $7.35 an hour, also told the AP that “we need to get more workers involved and shut these businesses down until they listen to us,” including occupying the restaurants.
The actions come at a time when job growth has been stronger in low-wage jobs like fast food but the pay is barely enough to live on. The average fast food employee who works full time, year round makes less than $19,000 before taxes. While executives in the industry claim that these jobs serve as entryways for teenagers to get into the job market, the largest share are held by people between the ages of 25 and 54, and more than a quarter have a child to support. The chances of moving up the ladder and making a career in fast food are much slimmer than in other industries.
Executives, on the other hand, are doing well. Fast food CEOs earn about 1,200 times what they pay their workers. The ratio wasn’t always so high, but the industry’s executive pay increased by more than 300 percent since 2000 while pay for workers has only gone up by 0.3 percent.
Beyond staging protests and strikes, fast food workers have taken legal action. Nine out of ten fast food workers report experiencing wage theft, being made to work off the clock or purchase uniforms with their wages, and workers filed seven class-action lawsuits against McDonalds in March alleging these kinds of actions.
h/t: Bryce Covert at Think Progress Economy
Limbaugh Revises Obama's Remarks To Cast Him As Apathetic On Female Genital Mutilation -
Rush Limbaugh accused President Obama of refusing to rebuke the practice of female genital mutilation while speaking to a group of young African leaders, cherry-picking from his remarks to mischaracterize Obama’s very clear condemnation of the practice as a “barbaric” tradition that “needs to be eliminated.”
President Obama spoke on Monday at a town-hall-style meeting honoring the Washington Fellowship For Young African Leaders, urging guests to abandon oppressive traditions, such as female genital mutilation and polygamy, in favor of progress.
Cherry-picking from Obama’s remarks, Rush Limbaugh accused the president of refusing to condemn the practice of female genital mutilation on the July 28 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show. Limbaugh claimed Obama only halfheartedly stated, “‘Female genital mutilation is not a tradition worth hanging onto,’” and implied Obama’s statement didn’t go far enough, claiming "he didn’t condemn female genital mutilation. That would have been telling Africans what to do, and he would never impose his views on them because we’re from the U.S. and who are we":
Limbaugh further suggested that rather than condemn the practice, Obama would advise Africans to simply contract out mutilation to the terror group Boko Haram.
In reality, President Obama actually called female genital mutilation a “barbaric” tradition that “needs to be eliminated”:
OBAMA: Now, I have to say there are some traditions that just have to be gotten rid of. And there’s no excuse for them. You know, female genital mutilation, I’m sorry, I don’t consider that a tradition worth hanging onto. I think that’s a tradition that is barbaric and should be eliminated. Violence towards women, I don’t care for that tradition. I’m not interested in it. It needs to be eliminated.
h/t: Chance Seales at MMFA
BREAKING: Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Virginia Same-Sex Marriage Ban -
"[I]nertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws."
WASHINGTON — The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals held Monday that Virginia’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages is unconstitutional.
On a 2-1 vote, the appeals court joined the wave of court decisions declaring such bans unconstitutional. The decision, by Judge Henry Floyd acknowledged both the debate over such laws and, in the court’s view, the clear constitutional impediment to laws banning same-sex couples from marrying.
“We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable,” he wrote. “However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws.”
In considering the matter, Floyd, joined by Judge Roger Gregory, ruled, “The Virginia Marriage Laws … impede the right to marry by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and nullifying the legal import of their out-of-state marriages. Strict scrutiny therefore applies in this case.”
Judge Paul Niemeyer dissented from the decision, writing, “Because there is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage and there are rational reasons for not recognizing it, just as there are rational reasons for recognizing it, I conclude that we, in the Third Branch, must allow the States to enact legislation on the subject in accordance with their political processes.”
The court heard arguments in the case in May.
Source: Chris Geidner for Buzzfeed
BarbWire.com: When A Hate Group Creates Its Own Conservative "News" Site | Equality Matters -
The vice president of a notorious right-wing legal organization has spent much of 2014 developing one of the most extreme anti-LGBT “news” sites on the internet. Now he’s using the site to hawk a treasure trove of right-wing merchandise and souvenirs.
In January of 2014, Liberty Counsel vice president Matt Barber launched BarbWire.com, a website that claims to offer news and opinion “from a decidedly biblical worldview.”
Though BarbWire isn’t exclusively an anti-LGBT website – the site spares some vitriol for immigrants, Muslims, reproductive choice, and President Barack Obama – LGBT topics have dominated its content since its inception. BarbWire’s first post championed Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson for his comments comparing gay people to murderers and equating homosexuality with bestiality.
In its short existence, the site has featured commentary some of America’s most notorious homophobes; Scott Lively, an American pastor closely linked to anti-LGBT persecution in Uganda and Russia; the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, who blames gay men for the Holocaust; Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute, another anti-LGBT hate group; and Robert Oscar Lopez, an anti-gay activist who has made a second career of publishing bizarre gay erotica novels.
Unsurprisingly, BarbWire has become a hub for the kind of anti-LGBT propaganda that even many conservative news sites shy away from:
- Marriage equality is a slippery slope towards pedophilia and incest.
- The United States should stop condemning anti-gay atrocities in countries like Uganda.
- Gay people are conspiring to establish a “homofascist tyranny.”
- The Obama administration wants to use public schools to turn your child gay.
- The left’s ultimate aims are to “purge Christians” and normalize “adult-child sex.”
But BarbWire is more than just a platform for publishing the Right’s more unsavory anti-LGBT sentiments – it’s also a money-making scheme for Liberty Counsel’s Barber.
In July, subscribers to BarbWire’s mailing list began receiving emails peddling products from Patriot Depot, a website that offers “supplies for the conservative revolution.”
There’s the “’Say Hello To My Little Friend’ Garden Gnome,” available for $18.95:
A tin “Don’t Tread On Me” sign could be yours for $14.95:
You could purchase an “Obama’s Last Day Countdown Clock” for $12.95:
And nothing will stick it to liberals quite like Rise, Kill, & Eat, a paean to “edible wildlife” from “Genesis to Revelation” featuring a foreword by Ted Nugent:
Both BarbWire.com and Patriot Depot are part of Liberty Alliance, a network of conservative web sites and web stores.
BarbWire And Liberty Counsel
BarbWire’s anti-LGBT extremism closely mirrors the work Barber is known for at Liberty Counsel.
Led by Mathew Staver, Liberty Counsel is the legal arm of the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University. Billed as a nonprofit “litigation, education, and policy organization,” Liberty Counsel is notorious for championing even the most extreme anti-gay causes in the name of religious freedom. The organization defended Scott Lively against a federal human rights lawsuit stemming from his role in a 2009 bill that would have imposed the death penalty for homosexuality in Uganda. While Liberty Counsel fancies itself as a serious conservative legal organization, it also churns out bombastic statements denouncing LGBT-inclusive education as “sexual assault” on the nation’s children.
Despite his fondness for fringe causes, Staver’s connections in conservative media and politics have helped elevate Liberty Counsel to a prominent position on the Religious Right. A close associate of Fox News host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Staver is a repeat guest on Fox and has testified before Congress in support of “ex-gay” therapy. In recent weeks, Liberty Counsel garnered headlines for defending Florida’s same-sex marriage ban in court.
And though Liberty Counsel is not formally affiliated with BarbWire.com, Staver hasn’t hesitated to be a frequent contributor to his deputy’s website. (Sample headlines: “Obama Puts Homosexual Rights Over Children’s Innocence,” “Sharia Law Is A Growing Threat To American Culture,” and “36,000 New Reasons To Impeach Obama.”)
For years, conservative outlets like Fox have reliably offered Liberty Counsel favorable, accountability-free treatment, allowing figures like Staver to depict Liberty Counsel’s work as part of a noble effort to defend religious liberty and obscuring the group’s true extremism. Now, in order to disseminate that extremism unfiltered, the group’s vice president felt compelled to create his own “news” site – offering an ugly look at the animus that motivates his organization’s work.
See Also: Right Wing Watch’s archives about BarbWire.com
h/t: Luke Brinker at Equality Matters
The Rise Of Europe's Religious Right -
ROME — On a hot Friday in late June, the walls of a 15th-century marble palace in a secluded corner of the Vatican were lit up with the face of Breitbart News Chairman Steve Bannon.
“We believe — strongly — that there is a global tea party movement,” declared Bannon, who took over the American conservative new media empire after the death of its founder, Andrew Breitbart, in 2012. Speaking via Skype to a conference on Catholic responses to poverty, he said, “You’re seeing a global reaction to centralized government, whether that government is in Beijing or that government is in Washington, D.C., or that government is in Brussels… On the social conservative side, we’re the voice of the anti-abortion movement, the voice of the traditional marriage movement.”
Events across the Atlantic do look familiar to American eyes: an uprising against long-established parties in Brussels amid economic stagnation. But these elements have been around a long time in European politics. What is new — and what feels so American — is represented by the group Bannon was addressing: Europe is getting its own version of the religious right.
“There is an unprecedented anger because the average citizen [sees] what is being done in their name without their consent,” said Benjamin Harnwell, who founded the group that organized the conference, called the Human Dignity Institute. Harnwell is a former aide to a longtime Eurosceptic member of the European Parliament, who founded the organization in 2008 to promote the “Christian voice” in European politics. It is one of many new groups that have sprouted on the continent in recent years with missions they describe as “promoting life,” “traditional family,” and “religious liberty” in response to the advance of laws to recognize same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Some are technically secular organizations, but their strength, their leaders concede, largely comes from churchgoers.
The analogy with the tea party isn’t perfect for these groups, and some bristle at the comparison because they aren’t uniformly conservative on other issues. Harnwell prefers “silent majority,” but said he draws inspiration from the tea party movement because they also see their battle in part as a fight with a political establishment that has long ignored them.
These groups are still learning to work together, but after years on the political margins in much of Europe, they have suddenly begun flexing political muscles that progressives — and maybe social conservatives themselves — never knew they had. They have made themselves a force to be reckoned with in Brussels by learning key lessons from American conservatives, such as how to organize online and use initiative drives. European progressives, who long thought debates over sexual rights had mostly been settled in their favor, were blindsided.
“A bomb with a long fuse has been lit,” said Sylvie Guillaume, a French MEP supportive of abortion rights and LGBT rights, who recently stepped down as vice chair of the largest center-left bloc in the European Union’s parliament. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
One month before Bannon addressed the Human Dignity Institute, elections for the European Parliament sent a shockwave through the political establishment in Brussels. Far-right parties calling for an end to the European Union doubled their numbers to hold around 20% of seats. Parties like France’s National Front and Britain’s UKIP won pluralities in their countries.
Some of these parties ran on explicitly anti-LGBT platforms, particularly in Eastern Europe. (Hungary’s ultranationalist Jobbik Party, for example, printed posters featuring a blond woman with a Hungarian flag standing opposite drag Eurovision champion Conchita Wurst with an EU flag, along with the caption: “You Choose!”) For the most part, though, issues dear to social conservatives were a side issue in elections driven heavily by economic frustration. Some on the far right even support LGBT rights, most notably Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party for Freedom, who has tried to recruit LGBT voters for his anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant platform.
Social conservatives made themselves a force months before the election. In December, the European Parliament took up a resolution known as the Estrela Report that called on member states to provide comprehensive sex education in schools, ensure access to safe abortions, and take other steps that its supporters consider basic to safeguarding sexual health and rights. The resolution would have had no practical impact — the EU’s own rules bar it from regulating such issues — and its supporters considered it consistent with previously adopted resolutions. The vote was expected to be perfectly routine.
Then, as if someone had thrown a switch, emails started pouring into MEPs’ offices calling for the resolution to be rejected weeks before the final vote on Dec. 10. After an acrimonious floor debate, the center-right bloc helped defeat the Estrela Report by a small margin in favor of a conservative alternative that essentially said the EU has no business talking about these issues. The result stunned progressives, who couldn’t recall another time that the parliament had rejected language supportive of reproductive rights.
In a sense, someone had indeed thrown a switch. A few months earlier, a new online petition platform called CitizenGo sent out its first action alert. CitizenGo was conceived of as a kind of MoveOn.org for conservatives. It was based in Spain, but it had aspirations to be a global platform and now has staff working in eight languages, with plans to add Chinese and Arabic. It has an organizer in the U.S., too, named Gregory Mertz, who works out of the Washington offices of the National Organization for Marriage — Mertz actually wrote some of CitizenGo’s Esterla Report petitions. In the weeks leading up to the Estrela vote, several petitions appeared on CitizenGo, garnering 40,000 signatures here, 50,000 there.
These kinds of campaigns are so common in the U.S. that they are little more than background noise. But they were new in Brussels, especially in the hands of conservatives. Grassroots mobilization on sexual rights hadn’t been common on either side, and progressive advocacy groups had won many important victories relying heavily on an elite lobbying strategy.
MEPs had no idea what hit them and many of them folded, said Neil Datta, of the European Parliamentary Forum for Population and Development, which promotes reproductive rights.
“If you have a big cannon, the first [time] you shoot it, everyone runs away scared,” Datta said.
CitizenGo’s founder, Ignacio Arsuaga, had spent more than a decade adapting online organizing techniques from U.S. to Spanish politics before launching the group. He had been drawn into internet advocacy while studying at Fordham Law School in New York in the late 1990s. He had been “amazed” by MoveOn.org, he said in a phone interview from Spain, and he began signing petitions by groups such as the Christian Coalition, Americans United for Life, and other organizations that were “defending the rights of religious people — specifically Catholics — to express our faith in the public sphere.”
“That’s real democracy — that’s what I lived in the U.S.,” Arsuaga said. “Spanish citizens aren’t used to participating. They’re used to voting to every four years, and that’s it.”
To change this, he created an organization called HazteOír (a name that means “make yourself heard”) in 2001. It ran some campaigns throughout the early 2000s, often under separately branded sites, but it was the group’s mobilization against a 2010 bill to liberalize abortion laws passed by Spain’s socialist government that made the group a beacon to conservatives around the world. It helped get hundreds of thousands of protesters on the streets of Madrid and kept up the drumbeat through the 2011 elections when the conservative party Partido Popular won control. Its efforts appear to have paid off. In December 2013, the cabinet approved legislation that opponents say would give Spain the most restrictive abortion laws of any democracy in the world, and it seems to be on track for final approval by the parliament this summer.
Arsuaga has steadily been working to build a broader movement. His group hosted the 2012 World Congress of Families in Madrid, a global summit of social conservative leaders organized by an institute in Rockford, Ill. It bussed supporters across the border to France in 2013 when a new organization, La Manif Pour Tous (Protest for All), organized large protests against a marriage equality law reminiscent of Spain’s anti-abortion protests.
The protests organized by these two groups were a turning point for conservatives throughout Europe, said Luca Volontè, a former Italian MP who now runs a social conservative foundation in Rome and sits on CitizenGo’s board. They showed that a progressive victory was not inevitable. And, in their aftermath, conservatives have won victories, especially in Eastern Europe — in recent months, Croatia and Slovakia both enacted marriage equality bans in their constitutions.
“So many people in Europe are standing up, because this ideology appears and [is] felt, really, as totalitarian,” Volontè said, referring to advances for marriage equality.
La Manif Pour Tous is now following the same path as HazteOír, continuing the fight against marriage equality in France even though it became law in May 2013 and reorganizing itself as a permanent, international organization. The group launched a “Europe for Family” campaign in the lead-up to the EU elections in May, and 230 French candidates signed its pledge opposing marriage equality, trans rights, and sex education.
Twenty-three signatories won won seats in those elections, 11 of them members of the far-right National Front.
The suddenness with which social conservatives became a force in Brussels has many progressives speculating that they are the creations of American social conservatives seeking to “export the culture wars.”
“As far as I understand [social conservative groups] have quite some money in them [from] the U.S., similar to all those missionary and evangelical groups that do work in Uganda,” said Ulrike Lunacek, an Austrian Green Party MEP who is now vice president of the European Parliament. Lunacek, who co-chaired the Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights in the last session, authored a report on LGBT rights that groups like CitizenGo and La Manif Pour Tous tried unsuccessfully to defeat this winter.
A review of tax disclosures conducted by the progressive advocacy group People for the American Way found that several U.S. groups — many of which boomed in the 1990s — had recently invested in conservative drives across Europe: The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by Pat Robertson, sent $1.1 million to its European branch, the European Center for Law and Justice, in 2012, which is the most recent year for which tax disclosures are available. Another group founded by well-known American social conservatives called the Alliance Defending Freedom spent more than $750,000 on European programs that year. The Federalist Society, which promotes conservative legal philosophy, reported spending nearly $800,000 in “conferences and seminars” in Europe that year. Personhood USA, a small Colorado-based group that has tried to pass ballot measures that would give fetuses the legal status of “persons” — a strategy for rolling back abortion rights that is controversial even among pro-life activists — poured $400,000 into Europe in 2012, just after one of its ballot measures went down in flames in Mississippi. (Personhood USA President Keith Mason declined to answer questions from BuzzFeed about which organizations received the funds or what they were used for.)
But while there are links to the U.S., the movement is very much homegrown. Arsuaga said neither HazteOír nor CitizenGo get funding from U.S. groups — and they don’t need it. Arsuaga said 99% of HazteOír’s 1.9 million euro ($2.5 million) annual budget comes from donations from Spanish citizens. CitizenGo has been raising 30,000 to 40,000 euros (roughly $40,000 to $55,000) each month from the 1.2 million members it’s signed up worldwide since its October launch.
Today, American ties seem much more about a shared vision to build a global conservative movement rather than leaning on stronger and wealthier U.S. partners for support. Arsuaga, Volontè, and La Manif Pour Tous President Ludovine de La Rochère were all in Washington on June 19 to support the National Organization for Marriage’s March for Marriage. Their more important business, however, might have been in a closed-door summit the next day, where representatives of around 70 countries met to discuss creation of an International Organization for Marriage, according to Volontè and another participant. A follow-up meeting is planned for next year.
Many LGBT rights supporters mocked the March for Marriage’s paltry turnout. So these Europeans appeared as if they were there to encourage a beleaguered movement, not the other way around — they now possess the vigor that has evaporated from the U.S. movement as opposition to marriage equality has collapsed.
European social conservatives contend that they may have a new energy and sophistication, but Europeans have never been pro-abortion rights or pro-marriage equality. Dissenters just weren’t given the floor, and they didn’t know how to fight back. “[We] didn’t know how to arrive here at the European [Union] level and make their voice heard in parliament,” said Sophia Kuby, director of a four-year-old organization based in Brussels, European Dignity Watch.
Polling data doesn’t appear to bear this out, at least in Western Europe. Support for marriage equality ranges between 52 and 79% in all seven Western European countries included in a June Ipsos poll. Less than a third of respondents from the two Eastern European countries included — Poland and Hungary — support same-sex marriage (and both countries have banned it in their constitutions), but more than 50% support some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples. Opinion seems to range more an abortion, which is available in most countries at least before 12 weeks, though waiting periods and other restrictions are not uncommon. An April Pew study found substantial pluralities in countries including France, Spain, and the Czech Republic say they believe abortion is “morally acceptable,” while there are even more lopsided pluralities saying abortion was “morally unacceptable” in places such as Poland and Greece.
But anti-abortion activists effectively used a new mechanism for direct democracy that the EU introduced in 2012 — called the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) — to make a show of popular support. One of the first ECIs ever launched, dubbed “One of Us,” was a proposal to cut off EU funding to any activity that destroys a human embryo, which in practical terms would mean ending support for stem cell research and foreign aid to family planning programs that perform abortions. If organizers could get at least 1 million signatures from seven countries, the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, would have had to hold a hearing on it.
The signature drive was led by Grégor Puppinck of the European Center for Law and Justice, but the continental campaign itself was funded entirely by Spanish and Italian foundations. It quickly sailed past the 1 million signature hurdle, collecting over 1.8 million signatures from more than 20 countries by the time the hearing was held on April 9. Despite this impressive show of popular support, there was little doubt that the commission would reject the proposal even as the witnesses for One of Us walked into the hearing room — Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn had said as much in a January press conference.
The commission summarily dismissed the proposal in a seven-page statement issued on May 28 — just three days after the European elections, which left some organizers feeling like the commission was deliberately trying to prevent it from affecting the vote.
But that doesn’t mean it was a defeat for opponents to abortion rights. Well before the process had come to an end, the One of Us campaign signalled on its website that it had bigger goals than just changing EU funding policy.
The drive “could be a starting point of a new Europe-wide mobilization of the pro-life movement,” the site said. “Every experience we collect here can be used for campaigns on other pro-life issues in further course. In that sense, it can be expected that the outcome may be very enduring.”
It also taught anti-abortion rights activists that they didn’t have to pull their punches.
“For too long a time in Europe, pro-life people did not really say clearly and directly what they believe because [they feared] it was too much” for most Europeans to accept, Puppinck said in an interview in his Strasbourg office. “We are more direct, more open, more clear, we don’t really try to negotiate on the truth…. This is why, for us, the most important [thing] is to be able to speak.”
And from a political standpoint, the rejection of the One of Us initiative may have been a blessing for social conservatives hoping to build a movement. The U.S. anti-abortion movement was built in response to the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing abortion rights, a ruling that thrust abortion into the center of American politics for the last 40 years. And they can now frame it as a question, not just abortion.
That’s exactly how the Parliament’s largest bloc, the center-right European People’s Party, is already poised to embrace One of Us’ cause. The EPP chair, German MEP Manfred Weber, told BuzzFeed he was “disappointed” that the European Commission did not act “when there are so many people standing behind an initiative.”
“We have to bring people closer to the European process,” Weber said, adding that the EU must not go beyond its mandate. “Europe should not be the political body which is intervening … in this question of family rights, of abortion. Very crucial and very important.”
This battle now heads to the courts. On Friday, Puppinck filed a challenge before the EU’s judicial arm asking that it take away the European Commission’s veto power over initiatives. The suit “is not only about the right to life, but firstly about democracy,” Puppinck stated in a press release announcing the suit.
In this fight, Puppinck said, “You can really say it’s the opposition between the people and the elite.”
h/t: J. Lester Feder at BuzzFeed
Sarah Palin Wants A Piece Of Fox's Audience (And She's Employed By Fox) -
The Fox News Channel has more competition for its conservative audience, this time from one of its own employees.
Sarah Palin is launching the Sarah Palin Channel, an online “news channel” that will ”cut through the media’s politically correct filter” and address “the issues that the mainstream media won’t talk about.” Rupert Murdoch launched his Fox News Channel in similar fashion by decrying the alleged liberal bias of the media, and targeting his channel to a disaffected audience.
Palin is a Fox News contributor who has a rocky history with her employer. Earlier this month she called for President Obama’s impeachment in an op-ed for Breitbart News. This came in apparent violation of her Fox contract, which reportedly “guarantees the cable-news leader exclusive rights to her work on television and on the Internet.” If that description of her contract is accurate, it’s unclear how the Sarah Palin Channel could be permitted under the terms of her agreement with Fox.
The Sarah Palin Channel is backed by TAPP, a company building “niche” digital channels and founded by former NBCU executive Jeff Gaspin and former CNN executive Jon Klein.
Palin’s “news channel” joins an already crowded universe of networks attempting to whittle away at Fox News’ Republican audience.
Glenn Beck launched TheBlaze after his messy 2011 exit from the Fox News Channel. Beck’s network is accessible through Internet subscriptions, and several television operators. The Blaze and Palin’s channel both offer subscription plans for roughly $10 a month or $100 a year.
In June conservative publisher Christopher Ruddy launched Newsmax TV online and on providers like DirecTV and the Dish Network. Bloomberg Businessweek wrote that Ruddy wants Newsmax TV to be “a kinder, gentler Fox” and that Ruddy “doesn’t need to beat Fox News, he just needs to shave off a little of its audience—particularly those conservatives who feel Fox has drifted too far to the right. ‘If we take 10 to 15 percent of the Fox audience,’ he says, ‘and they are making $1 billion a year, then we are going to be hugely profitable.’”
San Diego-based Herring Broadcasting and The Washington Times launched One America News Network in July 2013. It caters to viewers “with self-described independent, conservative & libertarian values.” Charles Herring, president of Herring Broadcasting, “said his network also would provide a platform for a broader spectrum of voices on the right than Fox now offers.” One America has struggled to gain a foothold on cable networks, has a small social media presence (currently less than 4,000 Twitter followers), and lacks well-known conservative personalities.
RightNetwork, a network launched in 2010 by actor Kelsey Grammer and Philadelphia sports owner Ed Snider, failed in its mission to attract a Fox-like audience with programming featuring people like "Joe The Plumber." It went defunct in 2011.
Other internet video ventures include Pajamas Media’s Next Generation TV, a “multimedia platform” for millennials whose most visible personality is former Daily Caller reporter Michelle Fields. The site gained notoriety when BuzzFeed reported that former Rep. Allen West (also a Fox News contributor) left the site “after an altercation with a female staffer in which he allegedly called her a ‘Jewish American princess.’” Former Republican presidential candidates Ron Paul and Herman Cain (whose subscription model has “withered away”) also have their own video sites.
H/T: Eric Hananoki at MMFA
BREAKING: Confirmed: Congress reaches deal to reform VA health-care system, but the details of a plan aren't known yet -
Despite hurdles, both sides promise deal that addresses short-term and long-term problems at VA.
After the massive scandal at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress reportedly reached an agreement on how to the fix the nation’s publicly run health-care system for veterans — despite at times appearing like both sides of the debate would fail to set a deal.
Negotiations between Senate Democrats and House Republicans seemingly broke down on Thursday, July 24, as both sides held dueling press conferences accusing each other of bad faith.
The negotiations appeared to be on much better ground as of the weekend, with staffers from both sides resuming discussions. House VA Chair Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Senate VA Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also agreed to fly back to Washington, DC, if it would push the negotiations forward.
THE NEGOTIATIONS APPEARED TO BE ON MUCH BETTER GROUND AS OF THE WEEKEND
On Sunday, congressional staffers confirmed they had reached a deal. Neither side disclosed details on what, exactly, the final compromise will look like. A joint press conference scheduled for Monday will presumably lay out the details of the plan.
"I can say that an agreement has been reached to deal with both the short-term and long-term needs of the VA," said Michael Briggs, a spokesperson for Sanders.
The debate centered around how Congress should fix a VA health-care system that simply doesn’t have enough doctors and staff for the number of patients it sees every year. The lack of capacity is one of the reasons schedulers and administrators in Phoenix and at other VA hospitals around the country manipulated records. The falsified reports made it look like VA hospitals were still hitting goals, which were linked to bonus payments, for seeing patients in a timely manner.
Before Congress reached a deal, they had to work through one remaining hurdle: funding.
The debate focused on money
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill passed by the Senate would cost $35 billion. The final cost will likely change in the final bill, but the high CBO estimate gives a rough idea of just how much money was being debated — and why a highly budget-conscious Congress had so much trouble reaching an agreement.
On Thursday, Miller released what he framed as a compromise between the original House and Senate proposals. The bill would, among other changes, fund a $10 billion, two-year pilot program that would let veterans get private care outside the VA system, allow the VA to hire more doctors, and establish more accountability measures.
But the bill didn’t include the full $17.6 billion in funding requested by the VA. The VA said the funds would help expand its infrastructure and hire new staff, including doctors, to get ahead of a surge of veterans coming home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"IF THERE’S ONE THING WE’VE LEARNED OVER THE LAST FEW MONTHS, IT’S THAT WE CAN’T TRUST VA’S NUMBERS"
Sanders spokesperson Briggs said the senator doesn’t necessarily want the final compromise to include all of the VA’s requested funding, but he would like to see at least some of it in a compromise.
House Republicans, a staffer said, would prefer to see the additional funding requested by the VA dealt with in separate discussions about broader budget bills. Republicans haven’t decided whether the request is too much, but they would like more time to work through the issue in separate budget negotiations to see what justifies such a big increase in funds and how the money should be appropriated.
Miller put it more candidly in a recent statement: “I am committed to giving VA the resources it needs to provide our veterans with the care and benefits they have earned. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last few months, it’s that we can’t trust VA’s numbers. That includes the $17.6 billion in additional funding Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson asked for today.”
No one expected to be completely happy with the final bill
Prior to reaching a deal, both sides said they would each need to ultimately give something up if they were to reach a deal in time for the August recess.
"We’re trying to reach a middle-ground that probably nobody will be completely happy with," Briggs said, "but it will do a lot of good for the VA and for veterans."
Some veterans advocates, meanwhile, don’t like the idea of putting veterans into private care. As they see it, veterans are multifaceted patients with all sorts of injuries, both mental and physical, that need a comprehensive, specialized approach that the VA is built to take on. The private system, on the other hand, is structured more for an everyday patient that might deal with fewer physical and mental health problems.
"I’m not sure that our members would benefit greatly from this legislation," Carl Blake of Paralyzed Veterans of America said. From Blake’s perspective, veterans with major disabilities, like those his organization represents, are never going to find the kind of care they need at a private hospital.
"I’M NOT SURE THAT OUR MEMBERS WOULD BENEFIT GREATLY FROM THIS LEGISLATION"
A major concern for veterans groups is that Congress will enact the two-year pilot program for private care, assume the VA’s problems have been fixed, and leave the system to deteriorate after the pilot program ends. That, veterans advocates argued, would leave the VA worse off than it is today, because the pilot program would expire at a time more veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan will be entering the system.
Joe Violante, national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, said adding more funding to the system, as veterans advocates have recommended for years in independent budget proposals, is key to a successful bill that will leave the VA in better shape. He argued, “If they’re not going to ensure that there’s funding available for the VA to expand during these two years, … I’d rather see them do nothing at this point.”
Congressional staffers confirmed on Sunday that Congress will do something, although the details of the deal weren’t disclosed. As they see it, the final compromise might not satisfy everyone, but it could help alleviate a system that’s been clearly strained by too many patients, too few doctors, and misguided regulations for years.
Update: This article was updated to reflect the announcement of a deal on Sunday.
Source: German Lopez for Vox
a person’s a person no matter how small — Dr. Seuss, a pro-choice advocate who publicly donated to Planned Parenthood and actively sued pro-life organizations for using this as a slogan. Stop using this to justify your bullshit pro-life ideals. Not even the original author of the phrase agrees with you. (via celestialfucker)
Anti-Choice Groups Seek to Stack State Courts -
Over the past two years ultra-conservatives have seen a slate of victories in Kansas, long a bastion of political conservatism. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback instituted the most aggressive income tax cuts in state history, leading to extreme budget shortfalls; he cut public education funding so severely that the Kansas Supreme Court had to interfere; and he removed nearly 45 percent of poor families from state welfare.
Less noticed was Brownback’s move to change the way judges are selected for the state court of appeals—an action that had the full backing of the leading anti-choice group in the state.
“We have a pro-life house and a pro-life senate and a pro-life governor,” Mary Kay Culp, the executive director of Kansans for Life, told RH Reality Check. But, she said, there’s a problem. “We pass pro-life legislation—and we get sued. The next frontier is the courts.”
Stung by the wave of state court cases consolidating marriage equality across the country, conservative groups in many states are now focusing on judicial elections to ensure the array of laws they’ve passed are upheld when challenged in state courts.
The result is that judicial selection—once a relatively obscure topic—has emerged as the focus of a new conservative strategy to reshape the way people become judges at the local level, according to experts who monitor judicial fairness.
“We’re seeing more interest in merit selection in a number of states, especially as high spending and political pressure become a bigger issue in contested judicial elections,” said Laurie Kinney, director of communications and public education at the national nonpartisan group Justice at Stake. “Special interest groups of many stripes have known for years now that judicial elections can provide an opening for political influence and spending that they believe will advance their agendas.”
While RH Reality Check did not find large donations from anti-choice groups to judges in the campaign finance records we examined, our reporting exposed a more profound strategy at work: an effort to cement conservative policy by changing the rules of the game.
Currently, 22 states have contested elections for judges, while 16 have some type of merit selection or governor-appointed system, according to Justice at Stake. Merit systems are intended to insulate the judicial selection process from political and special interest groups. The systems take different forms; a popular iteration establishes a non-partisan commission that accepts applications for judicial posts, and recommends three candidates to the state governor.
Recognizing the potential to influence judicial elections in the era of unlimited campaign contributions and “shadow money,” conservatives in multiple states have begun agitating to switch from merit-based appointment systems to open elections for judges. These groups are also active in opposing efforts to move toward merit-based systems.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, which lifted caps on campaign contributions, spending in state court races has skyrocketed. Total spending in 2011-2012 high court state races reached $56.4 million, up from just $31.7 million in 2001, with special interest groups and political parties spending 43 percent of that total, according to a joint report published in October 2013 by the Brennan Center for Justice, Justice at Stake, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
The New York Times recently published a story about the heated judicial election in North Carolina, where national groups like the Republican State Leadership Committee poured money into the state supreme court race as part of an effort to put more conservative judges on the bench nationwide. And as Dahlia Lithwick noted in Slate, “knocking off a state Supreme Court justice is one of the cheapest political endeavors going.”
But instead of knocking off particular judges, anti-choice groups seem to be mobilizing to change the entire system of judicial selection. Once they’ve successfully implemented contested elections or gubernatorial appointment, they can then fund judges and governors who will push a conservative agenda.
That’s why Kansans for Life supported the state legislature in 2013 when they moved to swap the court of appeals merit selection committee for a system in which the governor selects judges, which the senate then confirms. The bill, which became effective July 1, 2013, allows Gov. Brownback to hand-select justices, without making the application pool, interview process, or selection criteria public. The only oversight is that the Republican-controlled senate must confirm the nominee.
Now, Kansans for Life has its eyes set on the state supreme court.
Unlike the lower state courts, where the process for selecting judges could be changed with a simple majority vote, Kansas’s state constitution specifies the way that judges are selected for its highest court. Changing that system requires a constitutional amendment.
The state senate passed such a constitutional amendment—which would eradicate the merit selection nominating commission for the Supreme Court—in January 2013, but there was no vote in the house. The legislative session is now over.
Ryan Wright, the executive director of Kansans for Fair Courts, is wary of the push by Kansans for Life to change the constitutionally mandated selection process.
“Take the actual issue of abortion out of it; anytime you have a special interest group that is championing and cheering the [judicial selection] process, I think that should give everybody pause. Wait a second—what have they been promised? What have they been told privately? And why are they so excited about this?”
In the past three years, state legislatures in 11 states, including Montana, Tennessee (where merit selection will be on the general ballot in November), and Arkansas have attempted to pass merit selection bills in response to growing concerns about the politicization of state judiciaries, RH Reality Check’s research shows.
But legislators in some states have found those initiatives opposed by anti-choice groups.
Early this June, Pennsylvania state Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Peach Bottom) received an e-mail from the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation urging him to vote against HB 1848, a merit selection bill.
“This will be a scorecard vote for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, which represents more than 40 pro-life organizations and tens of thousands of members in Pennsylvania,” the email read. “A ‘yes’ vote will be considered a pro-abortion vote.”
As chief sponsor of the bill, Rep. Cutler was aware of the intense politics involved in selecting judges.
HB 1848 did not appear to be a “pro-abortion,” or even a particularly charged, bill. It proposed adding an amendment to the state constitution so that Pennsylvania’s statewide appellate judges would no longer be selected by partisan elections, but instead by a citizen nominating commission, gubernatorial appointment, and senate confirmation. Periodic retention elections—where voters simply vote “yes” or “no” to keep an incumbent—would ensure that extraordinarily unpopular judges couldn’t stay on the bench.
Rep. Cutler, who is also the chairman of the Pennsylvania House Pro-Life Caucus, was unswayed by the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation’s email.
“I respectfully disagree with some of the issues they raise,” he told RH Reality Check in an interview. Rep. Cutler introduced a bill to prohibit abortion coverage in health insurance exchanges, and he would like to see a law in Pennsylvania (similar to the Wendy Davis-filibustered HB 2 in Texas) requiring abortion practitioners to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals. Even so, he doesn’t think “pro-life” groups should be able to choose Pennsylvania’s judges.
“I personally have concerns when judges have to go out and enter the political process in the way of traditional candidates. I’ve always thought that raised a lot of red flags, when they sit on cases at a later time,” he said. “From my perspective, this is not a pro-life or a pro-choice issue. It is really an issue around the integrity of the judiciary.”
Due in part to the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation’s email, the bill was never debated in the house. Because legislators are proposing a constitutional amendment, they will need to vote on the bill in two consecutive sessions before putting the question to the voters. Since the bill failed in this legislative session, it can’t appear on the general ballot until at least 2017.
In other states, merit selection of state judges appears to be a sleeper issue.
Minnesota hasn’t faced the same high-level spending on judicial elections that other states have, which means the push for reform has been less urgent. Still, the legislature came close last year to passing a bill that would present a merit selection constitutional amendment to voters in November.
The state’s main anti-choice group—Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL)—says on its website that it opposes merit selection because it believes citizens should be able to vote for specific judges, and because retention elections are equally politicized as open elections.
The group declined to comment for this story, but Sarah Walker, president of Minnesota’s Coalition for Impartial Justice, attributes the bill’s failure to strong opposition from MCCL.
“There was some fear about this becoming a campaign issue,” Walker said.
For the most part, MCCL, like its anti-choice counterparts around the country, did not launch active opposition to the merit selection bill until it was time for a hearing, Walker said. Then they sent last-minute letters to legislators promising to “score the issue”—present it to voters as an anti-abortion vote in election season voting guides—just as the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation did.
“Regardless of what side of issues you are on, I think that everyone should be able to agree that we want our judiciary to be accountable to the rule of law and the Constitution,” said Walker. “We don’t want anyone making campaign promises.”
h/t: Zoe Greenburg at RH Reality Check
Ohio State Fires Marching Band Director For Tolerating Culture Of Harassment
Jonathan Waters, the now-former director of the Ohio State University Marching Band, speaking at the 2013 Leading Through Excellence Summit. (Courtesy FisherCOE’s Flickr feed)
The Ohio State University dropped a bombshell late Thursday afternoon when it announced it had fired the director of the world-famous Ohio State University Marching Band, Jonathan Waters, for tolerating of harassing and…
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New York Times Editorial Board Calls For Legalization Of Marijuana -
The most authoritative paper in the United States has put its weight behind the federal legalization of marijuana, a momentous endorsement in the prolonged fight to end to the criminalization of marijuana that has been in place since 1937. Debutin…
The most authoritative paper in the United States has put its weight behind the federal legalization of marijuana, a momentous endorsement in the prolonged fight to end to the criminalization of marijuana that has been in place since 1937.
Debuting what is to be a six-part series, The New York Times editorial board called for an end to the “prohibition” of marijuana, saying the current ban “[inflicts] great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.” The interactive series is to run from July 26 to August 5, beginning with Saturday’s editorial, “High Time: An Editorial Series on Marijuana Legalization.” An accompanying blog post by editor Andrew Rosenthal stated the decision to back legalizing marijuana was “long in the making,” and “as more and more states liberalized their marijuana laws in open defiance of the federal ban, it became clear to us that there had to be a national approach to the issue.”
The board argues that after weighing the pros and cons of legalization, the scale tips in favor of ending the ban. The Times acknowledges that there are concerns about certain forms of marijuana use, including that by minors. Thus, the board advocates for restricting sales of marijuana to those under the age of 21. Addressing other health, social and legal concerns, the board writes that “there are no perfect answers … but neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol.” But as the Times argues, the concerns are outweighed by the “vast” social costs of marijuana laws.
From the Times editors:There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.
As Politico notes, the “The Times is the biggest U.S. newspaper to endorse the legalization of marijuana.” Adding to the significance is the Times’ history of being conservative when it comes to legalization. In 2013, an article stressed the dangers of more potent forms of marijuana as well as use of the drug by teenagers. Following Colorado’s legalization of marijuana in January 2014, a Times article sounded alarm over having more users of the drug behind the wheel. The article was accompanied by a photo of Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin in the film “Up in Smoke,” lighting up in a vehicle. Fears over food laced with marijuana being more accessible to children were sparked by tales of a rise in youth being taken to the emergency room after consuming snacks with the drug. As Washington state moved to join Colorado in legalizing recreational marijuana, the Times wrote on the manyhurdles that medical marijuana providers would encounter. In June, the Times hosted an op-ed column where the writer said “Marijuana is more dangerous than many of us once thought,” pointing to a link between marijuana use and schizophrenia. And of course, there was New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s “bad trip,” where she detailed being “curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours,” after trying a marijuana candy bar while on assignment.
Given the Times influence, it could be that the endorsement of federal legalization of marijuana could spur politicians, organizations and publications to do in kind. The Times’ endorsement is strengthened by the paper’s history on issues concerning marijuana and strong language, likening the ban on marijuana to the prohibition of alcohol. Set beside an interactive American flag where stars transform to marijuana leaves as readers scroll, the editorial opens:It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.
The Times editors close with certainty, “It is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.”
President Barack Obama said in 2012 that prosecuting pot users in states that have legalized it would not be a top priority for his administration, telling ABC News’ Barbara Walters, “We’ve got bigger fish to fry.” The New York Times editorial board endorsement of legalizing marijuana counts as another key voice sounding for a change in how the U.S. approaches marijuana.
CORRECTION: 10:30 p.m. ET — This article previously stated that marijuana had been banned in the United States for 40 years. As Frontline notes, the Marijuana Tax Act effectively criminalized marijuana in the U.S. in 1937.
Explosive Report Uncovers Extreme Homophobia In Ohio State University’s Marching Band [TW: Anti-LGBT Bigotry, Homophobia] -
Ohio State University marching band director Jonathan Waters was abruptly fired this week, following a two-month investigation of the band’s rumored hazing rituals that found he witnessed and silently approved of the deeply offensive, disgusting and blatantly homophobic conduct happening among its members. According to the report, obtained and published by Deadspin, band members kept…
Ohio State University marching band director Jonathan Waters was abruptly fired this week, following a two-month investigation of the band’s rumored hazing rituals that found he witnessed and silently approved of the deeply offensive, disgusting and blatantly homophobic conduct happening among its members.
According to the report, obtained and published by Deadspin, band members kept a physical booklet that included the lyrics to the vulgar parody “fight songs” they wrote. While many of the songs are directly inspired by the fight songs of rival schools (“Come blow us, Michigan, Our cocks are waiting for you”), some of the most vulgar songs are totally out of left field.
Take, for instance, this one called “Proud to be a Homosexual”. Set to the tune of “God Bless the USA”, the chorus reads:
And I”m proud to be a homosexual,
Where at least I can run free.
And I won’t forget the fags with AIDS,
Who gave that right to me.
And I’ll gladly bend over,and spread my cheeks,
So you may sodomize me.
The lovely “Pieces of Baritone Shit” is even more shocking:
Bite my ass and lick my balls you mother fucking queers,
Get on your knees and tell me how the megaphone fits up your mother-fucking ass YOU GAY FAGS!
Lick my balls and lube up your ass,
Anal sex gives you nasty gas.
Fuck you, you big gay fags.
You pieces of Baritone shit!
Another song, titled “Brigham Young is a Goddamn Queer”, is…well…here:
The report also reveals the disgusting nicknames given to underclassmen, almost all inspired directly by sexual acts. A female student “pretending to be a vibrating sex toy” was named “E Row Vibrator”; a male student “conducting a full-body demonstration of a flaccid penis becoming erect” was “Jizzy.”
Other names given to students included “Jewoobs,” “Squirt,” “Testicles,” “Twat Thumper,” and “Twinkle Dick.”
As expected, the news has led to media hunt in search of Waters’ all-time lows. Early this morning, Ohio State University released an audio clip of Waters “disciplining” a band member:
The public, understandably, is outraged:
This Illini fan HATES Ohio State, and this is yet more reason I HATE them.
Report: Over 2,500 Ground Zero Workers Have Cancer -
“I knew that day that a lot of us would get sick,” one retired FDNY captain told the New York Post .
“I knew that day that a lot of us would get sick,” one retired FDNY captain told theNew York Post.
Last year, 1,140 cases of cancer were reported among Ground Zero responders and rescuers, but now the number has grown to over 2,500, the New York Post reports.
The World Trade Center Health Program at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital has a record of 1,655 responders with cancer among the total of 37,000 9/11 workers in its program, including police officers, sanitation workers, and city employees.
When firefighters and EMTs are added, the number of cancer cases rises to 2,518.
On Friday, the FDNY said that 863 of its members have been certified to receive 9/11-related treatment.
World Trade Center epidemiologists report that 9/11 workers suffer from cancers at a much greater rate than seen in the general population, specifically lung cancer, prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, leukemia and multiple myeloma.
One retired FDNY captain, now 63, suffers from lung disease and inoperable pancreatic cancer. He worked at Ground Zero for a week following the attacks of September 11, and recently received $1.5 million from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.
Th captain, who was not named, took control of a city bus and managed to close the Brooklyn Bridge after the terrorist attack so that he and his crew could rush to Ground Zero and join in the search for victims. He is one of hundreds who was forced to retire due to lung damage and other ailments.
The former fireman reportedly brought the Victim Compensation Fund Special Master Sheila Birnbaum to tears after he testified at a hearing in May and spoke on how much he loves his grandchildren and his wife of 40 years.
“I’m hoping they rush more cases like mine, where we’re not expected to last long,” he told the Post. “I knew that day that a lot of us would get sick.”
So far, the VCF has awarded 115 cancer patients with a total of $50.5 million, in sums ranging from $400,000 to $4.1 million.
Many more 9/11 responders or their next-of-kin are likely to file claimants by the Oct. 14 deadline.
Source: Alison Vingiano for Buzzfeed