Arkansas Leads Nation In New COVID Cases As Vaccinations Decline

The first confirmed case of the omicron variant in the U.S. has been discovered in California.

Y’all…please get vaccinated. I’m just saying.

From USA Today:

Cases of COVID-19 have doubled in the U.S. in the past two weeks, and Arkansas is becoming a case study in how low vaccination rates can fuel the spread of the virus.

Arkansas continues to be the nation’s top state for new cases per capita, and only 35% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus appears to be largely sparing vaccinated people from the most severe illness.

“Of all of our critically ill COVID positive patients at Baptist Health facilities, none have been fully vaccinated,” said Stephanie Whitaker, chief nursing executive for Baptist Health, a major healthcare provider in the state.

The state’s Department of Health said there are 240 COVID-19 patients in the state’s ICUs and 118 on ventilators. Only 4% of the state’s intensive care unit beds are available.

Cases of COVID-19 rose in all 50 states this week.

Arkansas Legislature Overrides Governor To Enact Anti-Transgender Law

The state flag of Arkansas

The state flag of Arkansas

The Arkansas state legislature voted Tuesday to override Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto on a bill that would ban gender-affirming medical treatments for transgender minors in the state.

The Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act prohibits physicians from providing gender-affirming health care to anyone under 18-years-old including puberty blockers, hormones, and transition-related surgeries (which doctors don’t do anyway).

Less than 24 hours after Hutchinson’s veto was announced, the state Senate voted 25-8 and the state House voted 71-24 in favor of overriding the governor’s action. In Arkansas, a simple majority is all that’s required to bypass a governor’s veto. This is the only override by the legislature this year.

In doing so, Arkansas becomes the first state to prohibit physicians from providing gender-affirming treatment for trans people under age 18.

“If (the bill) becomes law, then we are creating new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people,” Hutchinson said at a news conference.

I still believe Hutchinson’s veto was a CYA move so he could emerge unscathed from the hateful bill.

In light of the legislature’s actions, LGBTQ advocates are promising a legal fight.

“Attempting to block trans youth from the care they need simply because of who they are is not only wrong, it’s also illegal, and we will be filing a lawsuit to challenge this law in court,” said Holly Dickson of the ACLU of Arkansas. “We are hearing from concerned families all over the state who are afraid about the impact of this bill and others like it.”

“We are committed to doing all we can to support these families and ensure they know how to continue to fight for their rights and get the care and resources they need,” added Dickson.

Arkansas Gov Vetoes Bill Banning Treatment For Trans Youth

Gov. Hutchinson of Arkansas announced today he will veto a bill that would have blocked medical treatments for transgender minors
Gov. Hutchinson of Arkansas announced today he will veto a bill that would have blocked medical treatments for transgender minors
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (screen capture)

In a surprising move, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed a bill Monday that would have banned gender dysphoria treatments for transgender minors in the state.

Calling his decision an embrace of restrained “conservative philosophy,” Hutchinson told reporters, “This is an example of where restraint is better than overbroad actions that interfere with important relationships in our society.”

From ABC News:

During a news conference with reporters, the Republican governor said the intentions behind the state legislature’s “Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act” were “well-intended but off course.”

The act bars doctors from providing gender-affirming health care to transgender minors, including hormones, puberty blockers and transition-related surgeries.

Hutchinson said that he had an issue with the bill that would affect patients who are currently taking treatments and how it would affect the mental health of the state’s youth.

LGTBQ rights activists, medical professionals and other groups protested the bills because it was discriminatory and would lead to more severe mental health problems for youths.

ArkansasOnline reports Hutchinson’s veto can be overridden by the GOP-controlled legislature by a simple majority vote.

Podcast: Lil Nas X, 20th Anniversary Of Marriage Equality, And More

TJ Osborne makes history at the CMA Awards, new documentary 'Mayor Pete' takes you behind the scenes of the 2020 presidential campaign, LGBTQ people are getting vaccinated at much higher rates than heterosexuals

The Randy Report podcast delivers the week's top stories in a quick, convenient podcast - 'the 60 Minutes of gay news - only shorter'

In this week’s podcast:

• President Biden issues first-ever presidential proclamation for Transgender Day of Visibility

• Arkansas has passed a series of anti-LGBTQ laws in a week

• The Pentagon erases Trump-era ban on trans military service members

• Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first legal same-sex weddings

• Lil Nas X pens a touching letter to his 14-year-old self – Link to his new music video ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’

All that and more in this episode of The Randy Report podcast.

Arkansas Gov. Signs Bill Allowing Healthcare Workers To Refuse Treatment To LGBTQs

The state flag of Arkansas

The state flag of Arkansas

From PBS:

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday signed into law legislation allowing doctors to refuse to treat someone because of religious or moral objections, a move opponents have said will give providers broad powers to turn away LGBTQ patients and others.

The measure says health care workers and institutions have the right to not participate in non-emergency treatments that violate their conscience. The new law won’t take effect until late this summer.

Opponents of the law, including the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union, have said it will allow doctors to refuse to offer a host of services for LGBTQ patients. The state Chamber of Commerce also opposed the measure, saying it sends the wrong message about the state.

Among the concerns opponents have includes LGBTQ people being denied medical care like cutting off hormone treatments for transgender patients or grief counseling for a same-sex couple.

And it’s not just LGBTQ people who could be affected. Healthcare professionals could refuse to fill birth control prescriptions, or physicians could choose to ignore ‘end of life’ directives.

Meanwhile, a hate crime bill that would impose tougher penalties from crimes targeting certain people with certain characteristics like sexual orientation or gender identity has stalled in the Arkansas legislature due to objections by conservative lawmakers.

 

News Round-Up: March 25, 2021

Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers
Joe Jonas (image via Instagram)

Some news items you might have missed:

Socialite Life: Joe Jonas (above), of the Jonas Brothers, has NOT been a gym slug during the pandemic. All props to him and his many abs on display in this selfie from Instagram.

Edge Media: Police officers in the virulently anti-LGBTQ country of Chechnya arrested 20 relatives of two gay brothers who had fled persecution in the Russian province.

Laughing Squid: The Melodica Bros created this truly beguiling and compelling cover version of the traditionally upbeat anthem “Y.M.C.A” by the Village People. This version features a change from major to minor, a slower tempo, and a quiet performance that included an acoustic guitar and a double bass. I love reinvention when well-done.

The Advocate: Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill into law today that will bar transgender student athletes from competing under their gender identity. In a statement, Hutchinson said that female athletes “should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition.”

CNN: The Republican-controlled Georgia legislature quickly passed a sweeping elections law that substantially reduces voter access. The Georgia bill would limit drop boxes, make giving food or drinks to a voter a crime, & grant state officials broad rights, including the ability to replace local election officials.

Variety: Late-night host and comedian Jay Leno has issued an apology for decades of jokes told over his career targeting Asian communities.

News Round-Up: March 22, 2021

Beauty and the Beast star Luke Evans got ripped during COVID lockdown
Beauty and the Beast star Luke Evans got ripped during COVID lockdown
Beauty and the Beast star Luke Evans (via Instagram)

Some news items you might have missed:

Instinct Magazine: Beauty and the Beast star Luke Evans shared the above photo with his Instagram followers proving that everyone didn’t get out of shape during the pandemic. #bastard #morewine

Kenneth-in-the-212: If you’re a fan of classic TV sitcoms, don’t miss Kenneth’s 25 facts about the finale episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Hubby Michael and I recently binge watched all 168 episodes and, yep, we still love it.

Pantene: The hair care giant recently shared this ad spot about a trans teen and her two moms – “Hair is a large part of our identity. And for LGBTQ+ youth like Sawyer, who choose to express themselves, their style, & their creativity through their hair style, it can help them feel seen. Catch up with Sawyer and her mom Ashley & see how this family is.” #BeautifulLGBTQ

The Advocate: The Arkansas legislature has passed a bill allowing health care providers or insurers to deny care that conflicts with their religious beliefs. Civil rights groups say it opens the door to widespread discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and others. For instance, pharmacists could refuse to fill prescriptions for transgender patients’ hormone treatment.

NY Times: Normally one of the ratings stalwarts of daytime TV, The Ellen DeGeneres Show has seen a huge drop in ratings over the last six months. DeGeneres has lost over a million viewers since the beginning of 2020.

Gr8erDays: Believe it or not, William Shatner (Star Trek, TJ Hooker, Boston Legal) is 90 years old today. #LiveLongAndProsper

Sheriff’s Racist Rant Results In His Resignation

Former Arkansas County Sheriff Todd Wright (photo: ARSheriffs.org)

Arkansas County Sheriff Todd Wright resigned from his position after a recording of him repeatedly using the n-word began circulating on social media.

In the clip, Wright goes on an ugly rant yelling at a woman who had spoken to a Black employee at a Piggly Wiggly grocery store in Dewitt. He was apparently embarrassed she had spoken to someone Black.

Here’s the transcript:

“Shut up you f**king n***er lover! … Every motherf**ker in this store and you gotta talk to the f**king (inaudible) n***er. Right there in front of me, like y’all f**king best buddies. It is a big f**king deal. People f**king see me and see you talking to f**king n***ers.”

Here’s the video which appears to have been captured by a friend of the woman.

The video was initially shared on social media back in May but began circulating again this week.

At a special session of the Arkansas County Quorum Court on Friday, August 28, Wright acknowledged that it was him in the recording and offered an apology for any offense his comments caused adding that his remarks were made ‘in the heat of the moment.’

During a rambling statement, he added he was “disturbed my career was in shambles because of something I said.”

He also – wait for it – insisted he’s not racist.

Initially, Wright refused to resign, but the court (which doesn’t have the power to remove Wright from office) unanimously approved a resolution asking for his resignation.

Following comments from the public demanding he step down, Wright offered to leave his position in a month as he wanted time to find another job.

But Bobby Webb, a longtime friend of Wright, told the sheriff he needed to resign immediately.

“I’ve known you all my life,” said Webb according to the Stuttgart Daily Leader. “You need to take that badge and you need to lay it on that table and you need to walk out of here. You know I love you.”

After a brief recess, Wright submitted his official resignation, which the court voted unanimously to accept.

Out of ‘compassion,’ the court also unanimously decided to allow Wright to be paid through September 30, although he will not be an active law enforcement officer.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of the county Wright has been serving for years is 25 percent Black.

After listening to the repeated use of the n-word in this recording (nine times he uses the slur), it’s not hard to imagine what Wright thought of the local Black citizens he encountered in the line of duty.

I’m going to close this post by saying I believe the vast, vast majority of law enforcement officers are good people. But people like Wright make their jobs much, much harder.

If you ever wonder why football players kneel, and Black Lives Matter protests are happening, this is part of the reason why.