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CULTURE

I Hate the Way Pete Buttigieg Kisses His Poor Husband

One small step for gay rights, one giant leap for awkwardness.

With the botched Iowa caucuses and the many inaccuracies of Trump's State of the Union address, it's safe to say this week in politics has been particularly chaotic.

Above all, there's one bit of candidate-related information that has me especially disturbed. It's a photo of Pete Buttigieg kissing his husband. I know there are a multitude of issues that should warrant my concern—like, why are we using untested mobile apps during one of the most important primary elections in American history?—but take a look for yourself, and maybe you'll understand why this graceless smooch has me losing sleep.

Don't get me wrong: It's absolutely incredible that, fewer than five years after gay marriage was legalized nationwide, a quite popular presidential candidate is able to freely and safely kiss his husband in public without risking major loss in support (except for this very stupid lady who wanted to rescind her vote for Buttigieg after learning he has a same-sex partner). What perturbs me about it is the sheer awkwardness of the kiss and the fact that their mouths don't even touch. Sure, maybe they were just trying to play it safe—you know, in regards to the notably homophobic administration we're living under—but it looks like they just straight-up missed. This is how the actors playing Maria and Captain Von Trapp in my middle school production of The Sound of Music stage kissed. This is how sexless 80-year-olds kiss. This is not how a 38-year-old who's been married for fewer than two years should kiss.

But then again, are we shocked? Buttigieg is notably inelegant, from his slightly uncomfortable paraphrasing of Lizzo to his absolutely unsightly method of eating a cinnamon bun. Not chicken wings. A cinnamon bun.

At least Mayor Pete seems happy in his marriage, however perplexing it may appear.

CULTURE

Maroon 5 Cancels Super Bowl Press Conference, Stays Silent on Kaepernick

Yesterday, the NFL announced that its Super Bowl halftime show performers will not be participating in the traditional press conference preceding this year's Super Bowl, making it clear that Maroon 5 has no interest in having participating in any sort of productive or difficult conversation concerning their decision to go on with the show.

Yesterday, the NFL announced that its Super Bowl halftime show performers will not be participating in the traditional press conference preceding this year's Super Bowl, making it clear that Maroon 5 has no interest in having any sort of productive or difficult conversation concerning their decision to go on with the show.

The band has been under fire for refusing to back out of the Super Bowl's halftime slot, even though several other acts—including Rihanna and Cardi B—have turned down the gig in support of Colin Kaepernick, the player who made waves for kneeling during the National Anthem in 2016. He subsequently opted out of his contract and was not picked up, and is now suing the NFL for collusion against him.

Image via sportslogo.net

Maroon 5 has not had much to say regarding these issues, and it looks like they are hoping to take the stage on Sunday with as little friction as possible. "As it is about music," the NFL stated, in explanation of their decision to cancel the press conference, "the artists will let their show do the talking."

But the Super Bowl halftime show has never just been about music. It's one of television's most watched half hours, with viewers in the hundreds of millions each year, and whoever performs has the chance to make a massive cultural statement. On the other hand, Maroon 5 as a unit has never been particularly full of depth or nuance. Should we have expected more from them? Or are they the band America deserves?

Photo via TMZ

Maroon 5 aren't alone; Travis Scott has also been the subject of criticisms for his decision to perform alongside them. However, he made the NFL donate $500,000 to Dream Corps in exchange for agreeing to perform. "I back anyone who takes a stand for what they believe in," he said. "I know being an artist that it's in my power to inspire. So before confirming the Super Bowl Halftime performance, I made sure to partner with the NFL on this important donation." Maroon 5 also made a $500,000 donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in partnership with the NFL and Interscope Records—on the same day the conference's cancellation was announced.

Cancel press conferences all you want, but you can't cancel the internet, for better or for worse. A change.org petition asking the band to pull out of the show has 111,800 signatures and counting as of Wednesday. "Until the league changes their policy and support players' constitutional right to protest, no artists should agree to work with the NFL," the petition reads. "The band has a chance to stand on the right side of history. If they don't, they will be remembered for choosing to side with the NFL over its players."


Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York City.


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Michael Flynn's Sentencing is Delayed

"Arguably, you sold your country out."

NBC News

On Tuesday, Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security advisor, was expected to receive his sentencing from U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, but Sullivan instead postponed the sentencing. Before postponing, however, Sullivan accused Flynn of intentionally undermining the US government and said he could not guarantee he would spare Flynn from prison: he pointed to an American flag and said angrily, "Arguably, that undermines everything this flag over here stands for. Arguably you sold your country out. The court's going to consider that," the judge said. "I cannot assure you, if you proceed today, you will not receive a sentence of incarceration."

Sullivan specifically called Flynn, "an unregistered agent of a foreign country, while serving as the national security adviser to the president of the United States", a strongly worded claim that the judge later clarified, saying, "I made a statement about Mr. Flynn acting as a foreign agent in the White House," He continued, "I was just trying to determine the benefit and the generosity of the government, don't read too much into the questions I ask."

The delay in sentencing was prompted by Flynn's attorneys, who decided on the delay after Sullivan called a recess in order to allow Flynn to decide whether he wanted to proceed and let the judge sentence him, or to delay in order to further prove his willingness to cooperate with Robert Mueller's special counsel in hopes of a less harsh sentence.

This delay is a major development in Flynn's case, as both prosecutors and defense attorneys previously agreed that Flynn should not face prison time due to his early cooperation with the investigation into Russian collusion. But prosecutors said Tuesday that, "The Court should reject the defendant's attempt to minimize the seriousness of those false statements to the FBI. Nothing about the way the interview was arranged or conducted caused the defendant to make false statements to the FBI."

On Tuesday morning, President Trump weighed in on the case, reiterating that there was no collusion, despite Flynn pleading guilty in court.


Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.


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Roger Stone Admits to Posting Lies on InfoWars

Stone settled a $100 million lawsuit on Monday.

TheHill

On Monday, Roger Stone, former Trump campaign adviser, settled a suit seeking $100 million in damages for publishing misinformation on InfoWars.com about Guo Wengui, a Chinese businessman. InfoWars is a far-right website known for perpetuating conspiracy theories and spreading propaganda.

Guo Wengui fled China after posting about the corruption of the Chinese government on social media and is now seeking asylum in the US. He filed the suit against Stone in March, arguing that Stone had made false statements about him from around September 2017 to January 2018. The suit cited Stone calling Guo a "turncoat criminal who is convicted of crimes here and in China." Stone also accused him of making political donations to Hillary Clinton, which is illegal for foreign nationals, and funding a presidential run by former White House adviser Steve Bannon.

Guo WenguiYouTube

Instead of paying the $100 million, Stone is required to run ads in national outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal, apologizing for making false, defamatory statements about Guo Wengui. Stone must also retract his statements on social media. According to CNN, "He will also send his statement to Infowars, which, along with its founder Alex Jones, has faced several defamation lawsuits, including one brought by families of Sandy Hook victims."

Stone reportedly said in a text message that his actions were, "irresponsible" and that "I am solely responsible for fulfilling the terms of the settlement." In the settlement, Stone said, "All of these statements are not true," adding that he "failed to do proper research before making those statements."

While Stone has settled this suit, it's likely he'll soon return to court as a part of Robert Mueller's investigation of the 2016 election. There is mounting suspicion in Washington that Stone helped orchestrate various misinformation campaigns during Trump's run for office was.



According to the Wall Street Journal, "Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), who is expected to take control of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Sunday of Mr. Stone's testimony last year: 'I believe there's ample reason to be concerned about his truthfulness.' For his part, Mr. Stone has accused Mr. Schiff of 'smear tactics' and said he stands by his testimony."

A long time Trump supporter, Stone reportedly said earlier in 2018 that he would never testify against Trump. Trump tweeted in response:


Brooke IveyJohnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.


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DHS Blames Father of 7-Year-Old for Child's Death at the Border

The young girl's family demands a "objective and thorough" investigation while border officials allege neglect.

Sky News

Jakelin Caal Maquin, age 7, died hours after being taken into custody by Border Patrol at the Antelope Wells Port of Entry in New Mexico.

Now her father and DHS share conflicting accounts of the girl's health in the days prior to her death. Language barriers reportedly obstructed communication between the Guatemalan family and border officials, endangering the child's life.

Doctors in El Paso who attempted to revive Jakelin suggest that she died of septic shock, a severe reaction to a pre-existing infection that must have spread in the days prior to her death and ultimately ended in organ failure. However, the girl and her father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz, were both given clean bills of health when screened by Border Patrol. Her father also signed Form I-779, a survey of "yes" or "no" questions that confirms whether or not an individual "claims good health" before crossing the border.

JakelinNBC News

At the border, forms are only written in English. Officials translated the form to Spanish for Caal before asking him to sign. However, Jakelin's family hails from a remote village in Guatemala where they natively speak the Mayan language Q'eqchi' and seldom use Spanish.

On Saturday, Caal's lawyers condemned Border Patrol's practice of using English-only documents at border crossings in a statement: "It is unacceptable for any government agency to have persons in custody sign documents in a language that they clearly do not understand."

Tekandi Paniagua, the Guatemalan consul in Del Río, Texas, met with Jakelin's father to provide an interpreter who speaks Q'eqchi' and arrange a viewing of his daughter at a private funeral home. Paniagua shared a common complaint Guatemalan citizens report to the consulate, stating, "We'll ask, 'Do you speak Spanish?' And they'll say 'yes'," he said. "Then we'll ask, 'But do you understand Spanish?' And often they'll say, 'No, I need an interpreter.'"

In a statement, DHS claimed that Jakelin's father neglected to alert authorities to his daughter's worsening fever (recorded at 105.9 degrees) in time to arrange prompt medical attention. The father and daughter were being transported to a Border Patrol station in Lordsburg, New Mexico when Caal notified border agents that Jakelin had begun vomiting. By the time an ambulance met the bus an hour and half later, the girl had stopped breathing. An anonymous Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent also criticized Caal to The Washington Post, stating, "There were plenty of opportunities, if her father had noticed anything and brought it to agents' attention."

An initial report from CBP also alleged that "Jakelin reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days." In response, Caal's lawyers refuted all accounts that the child was neglected or involved in illegality, noting in Saturday's statement: "Jakelin's father took care of Jakelin — made sure she was fed and had sufficient water." They added, "She and her father sought asylum from border patrol as soon as they crossed the border."

Jakelin's autopsy report is due to be finalized in the coming week. Her family is demanding an "objective and thorough" investigation into her death, with their lawyers stating, "Premature and inaccurate statements undermine the integrity of the investigation." Border Patrol has not commented in response.

Claudia Maquin with 3 remaining childrenSlate


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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China Detains Two ​Canadian Citizens

The government's charges against a Canadian ex-diplomat are thought to be retaliation for Canada's arrest of a high-profile Chinese executive.

Toronto Star

Updated Story:

Tensions in the U.S.-China trade war intensified once again this week when Chinese authorities confirmed they'd arrested a second Canadian citizen, Michael Spavor, for "endangering national security." Spavor's arrest follows a former Canadian diplomat's detainment under the same suspicion. Both sets of charges are thought to be reprisals for the highly-publicized arrest and possible extradition of a powerful Chinese executive, Meng Wanzhou, for violating U.S. sanctions while in Vancouver.

On Wednesday, Canada's foreign minster, Chrystia Freeland, confirmed that Spavor went missing earlier this week when he was due to travel between his home in Dandong, a Chinese city bordering North Korea, and Seoul, South Korea. Chinese authorities soon reported that Spavor was arrested the same evening that a former Canadian diplomat, Michael Kovrig, was arrested. Freeland expressed concern for both men, but the political charge of detaining an ex-diplomat was clear: "The fact that [Kovrig] is an employee of my department means a lot of us know him and that adds another layer of concern," she said. "We care and we work and fight hard for every Canadian detained abroad."

Yet Spavor's arrest brings its own bizarre twist to the political tensions between China, Canada, and the U.S. As the founder of Paektu Cultural Exchange, an organization promoting tourism and investment in North Korea, Spavor is notable for facilitating Dennis Rodman's personal visits with Kim Jong-un. He's fluent in Korean (with a North Korean accent), has lived in Pyongyang, and is a long-time acquaintance of Kim's. In 2017, he spoke to Reuters about introducing Rodman to Kim: "That was the most amazing experience I've had in my life," he said. "We hung out for three days."

CNN

While President Trump has made the base-less pronouncement that he would use Meng's arrest as leverage to negotiate a new trade deal with China, Freeland warns, "Our extradition partners should not seek to politicize the extradition process or use it for ends other than the pursuit of justice."

12/12/18

A former Canadian diplomat is being detained in China in rumored retaliation for Canada's arrest of a high-ranking Chinese executive.

Michael Kovrig is a former diplomat who's worked for the United Nations and the Canadian foreign service as vice consul at the embassy in Beijing. He's been working in Beijing as an advisor for the International Crisis Group, covering East China for the ICG's CrisisWatch, which helps "decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises."

As such, Kovrig hasn't brought good publicity to the Chinese Communist Party, highlighting reports of violence and possible human rights violations in areas such as Xinjiang, where millions of Muslim Uighurs have been forcibly detained by the government. In China, state-run media reported that Kovrig was being held and investigated for "engaging in activities that endanger China's national security," a thinly veiled allusion to suspected espionage.

The president and chief executive of ICG, Robert Malley, contested the claim: "I am not willing to speculate as to the reason why the Chinese authorities chose to do what they did. I am willing to state categorically what is not the reason for Michael's detention. He did not engage in illegal activities. He was not endangering Chinese national security." He added, "He was doing what all Crisis Group analysts do: objective and impartial research and policy recommendations to end deadly conflict."

It's widely believed that the Chinese government arrested Kovrig in retaliation for the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co. (and also the daughter of the powerful company's founder). She was arrested by Canadian authorities in early December on the charge that she helped Huawei violate U.S. sanctions by misleading banks about her company's business in Iran. Officials in Beijing publicly demanded that Meng be released, threatening there would be "severe consequences" for Canada otherwise.

Meng's arrest reignited tensions over the trade battle between the U.S. and China. With Meng still detained in Canada and possibly facing extradition to the U.S., the Chinese government conveniently found charges to bring against a well-known Canadian citizen with diplomatic ties. A former Canadian ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, has publicly declared, "In China there are no coincidences. In this case it is clear the Chinese government wants to put maximum pressure on the Canadian government."

Meng WanzhouHuawei Central

Saint-Jacques doesn't doubt that the arrest is a government ploy to exchange the release of Kovrig for Meng, adding, "When things happen and they want to send you a message, they will send you a message."

If so, the machinations are too transparent to seem beneficial in the long run. Jude Blanchette, China analyst at U.S. advisory firm Crumpton Group and long-time acquaintance of Kovrig, said, "If Michael's detention was intended to send a message to the Canadian government, it has been a serious political miscalculation." The analyst warned, "The message it sends to businesses around the world is that they need to think twice about sending executives to China."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau only commented that the case is being taken "very seriously" while negotiations are still underway.


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.



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