News Round-Up: March 9, 2021

A new once-a-month pill for PrEP is proving to be ‘extremely potent’ in testing

Some news items you might have missed:

Metro Weekly: Pharmaceutical company Merck has released data from the second phase of trials into its antiretroviral drug islatravir, a once-a-month pill to protect against HIV infection, which has proven to be “extremely potent.”

Billboard: Of the eight Grammy nominees for best new artist, three — CHIKA, Kaytranada and Phoebe Bridgers — openly identify as LGBTQ.

New York Daily News: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said on Monday that she’s “excited” to sign a bill banning transgender girls and women from participating in sports teams that correspond to their gender identity. South Dakota is the second U.S. state this year, after Mississippi, to pass legislation targeting transgender sports athletes.

Amazon Prime: “Love The One You’re With” (2021) is a dramatic comedy from award winning comedian and filmmaker Sampson McCormick that follows a couple, Miles and Avery as they navigate the possible ending of a long term relationship. The story offers surprise twists, lots of laughter and a mind stirring story line.

The Independent: The coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was able to combat a new variant that was rapidly circulating in Brazil, a new study has found.

Des Moines Register: Four months after Iowans voted in record numbers, Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed legislation cutting the state’s early voting period and closing the polls an hour earlier on Election Day. Every Republican present for debate in the House and Senate voted for the legislation. Every Democrat voted against it. #AndSoItBegins

Palm Beach Post: Despite his false claims about mail voting during the 2020 election cycle, Donald Trump requested a mail ballot on Friday for the third time in his Palm Beach County voter history.

Law and Crime: In their bid to get him out of the Grady County Jail in Oklahoma, attorneys for an 18-year-old defendant in the U.S. Capitol siege said another inmate attacked him. They also said their client caught COVID-19 while behind bars. He allegedly assaulted a police officer and was armed with a baton.

PA Supreme Court Unanimously Rejects Another Trump Election Challenge

Donald Trump (image via Flickr/WhiteHouse – public domain)

Another loss for Team Trump as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed an election challenge led by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, who attempted to argue that universal mail-in voting violated the state constitution.

From NBC News:

Kelly, along with several other Pennsylvania Republicans, sought to invalidate millions of mail-in votes, which could have ceded a key state won by President-Elect Joe Biden to President Donald Trump.

The ruling said, “Petitioners sought to invalidate the ballots of the millions of Pennsylvania voters who utilized the mail-in voting procedures. … Alternatively, Petitioners advocated the extraordinary proposition that the court disenfranchise all 6.9 million Pennsylvanians who voted in the General Election and instead ‘direct the General Assembly to choose Pennsylvania’s electors.'”

The high court ruled no on all counts and said, “All other outstanding motions are dismissed as moot.” It said the claim could have resulted in the “disenfranchisement” of millions of voters.

The court also criticized Kelly and company for filing their lawsuit more than a year after the law establishing universal mail-in voting was passed by the state legislature.

Today’s ruling wipes out a lower court order that had blocked officials from certifying the Keystone State’s election results.

More than 26  election challenges filed by Team Trump have now been dismissed by courts in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and elsewhere.

So. Much. Winning.

Georgia: Trump Depressed His Own Voting Base By Discouraging Mail-In Voting

A prosecutor in Georgia is reportedly in the early stages of investigating Donald Trump for attempting to overturn the election results in the state

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says Donald Trump actually depressed his own voting base by demonizing mail-in ballots.

According to the stats, 24,000 Republicans that voted by absentee ballot in the 2020 primary didn’t vote at all in the general election which President-elect Joe Biden won by 14,000.

From HuffPost:

Raffensperger, a Republican, ordered a recount. But he also told Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB that the president hurt his own cause by discouraging mail-in voting, which he portrayed as a “scam.”

Raffensperger told the station that 24,000 Republican voters who voted absentee in the primary did not vote in the general election.

“Those 24,000 people did not vote in the fall,” Raffensperger said. “They did not vote absentee because they were told by the president, ‘Don’t vote absentee. It’s not secure.’ But then they did not come out and vote in person.”

“He actually depressed, suppressed his own voting base,” he added.

Postal Worker Admits He Lied About Mail-In Ballot Tampering

(stock image of a mail-in ballot)

A postal worker in Pennsylvania who claimed that a postmaster in Erie told post office employees to backdate ballots received after Election Day has reportedly admitted he lied.

His claims have been spread by high ranking Republicans as evidence of “widespread voter fraud.” This was supposed to be the Republicans big “gotcha.”

From the Washington Post:

A Pennsylvania postal worker whose claims have been cited by top Republicans as potential evidence of widespread voting irregularities admitted to U.S. Postal Service investigators that he fabricated the allegations, according to three officials briefed on the investigation and a statement from a House congressional committee.

Richard Hopkins’s claim that a postmaster in Erie, Pa., instructed postal workers to backdate ballots mailed after Election Day was cited by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) in a letter to the Justice Department calling for a federal investigation.

Attorney General William P. Barr subsequently authorized federal prosecutors to open probes into credible allegations of voting irregularities and fraud, a reversal of long-standing Justice Department policy.

But on Monday, Hopkins, 32, told investigators from the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General that the allegations were not true, and he signed an affidavit recanting his claims, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation.

The original allegations were reported last week by Project Veritas, an organization that has been caught spinning fiction into made-up ‘facts’ trying to demonize the mainstream media.

After being hailed as a hero among Trump supporters, a GoFundMe campaign was launched that raised over $135K for Hopkins – until the campaign was yanked down today in light of his reversal.

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee tweeted the revelations late Tuesday.

Las Vegas: Trump Campaign Sues To Stop Counting Mail-In Ballots

The Trump campaign and the Nevada GOP are attempting to stop the count of mail-in ballots in my home city of Las Vegas (Democratic stronghold Clark County) by suing the Nevada secretary of state and Clark County registrar on Friday.

From The Hill:

The lawsuit, filed less than two weeks before the Nov. 3 elections, says observers cannot get close enough to workers and machines as they tally votes in Nevada’s largest and most Democratic county, which includes the city of Las Vegas.

Republicans are arguing that observers cannot confirm that votes get second- and third-step validation, warning that the situation runs the risk of permitting fraudulent votes from being tabulated.

Judge James Wilson in Carson City later decided to not issue an immediate order to stop the count but did schedule a hearing on the issue set to take place next Wednesday.

The Nevada Democratic Party dismissed the lawsuit as an effort by Republicans to suppress the vote, casting it as a “desperate play.”

“This lawsuit from Trump and Republicans is nothing more than an obvious attempt to impede record-breaking momentum in Clark County, the most diverse county in the state,” said Nevada State Democratic Party Chairman William McCurdy. “The demands articulated in the GOP’s lawsuit amount to voter suppression, plain and simple.”

Currently, 516,000+ ballots have been cast in Nevada in the 2020 general election. As you can see via the Secretary of State’s website, Democrats are voting by mail at more than twice the rate of Republicans.

• 304,448 mail-in ballots – 160,125 received from registered Democrats; 74,384 from registered Republicans; 69,939 Other

• 211,930 in-person votes have been cast – 70,504 by registered Democrats; 99,808 by registered Republicans; 41,618 Other

Democrats Mail-In Votes Outpace Republicans In Battleground States

Michelle Obama encouraging voting by mail (photo: Jocelyn Augustino/Obama for America)

We all know Donald Trump has bad-mouthed and demonized voting by mail because Democrats tend to use the voting method more than Republicans.

Plus, with the ongoing pandemic, Dems have (in general) been more likely to embrace safety guidelines regarding the COVID-19 crisis than Repubs.

Which brings me to these tweets.

While we don’t know which presidential candidate received votes in the returned ballots, if the majority of ballots are for the party aligned with the voter, you can see why Trump has been so vocal about mail-in ballots.

As of today:

• Florida – Democrats 791,730; Republicans 450,447; No Party 287,704

• North Carolina – Democrats 238,789; Republicans 81,913; No Party 142,633

• Maine – Democrats 56,623; Republicans 16,623; No Party 18,502

• Iowa – Democrats 59,768; Republicans 23,247; No Party 12,917

• Pennsylvania – Democrats 198,448; Republicans 42,447; No party 19,448

As Amy Siskind says below, we need to build up these “cushions” because the Trumpers will show up as well.

Questions Surround ‘Discarded’ Ballots Discovered In PA

What interesting timing… After months of Donald Trump railing at mail-in ballots, a handful of ballots were discovered discarded in battleground state Pennsylvania.

It’s almost as if a Trump supporter did the deed to give the Donald’s claims of “voter fraud” some credibility just at the right time.

From CBS News:

U.S. Attorney David Freed from the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced Thursday that a federal investigation found that nine military general election ballots were discarded in Luzerne County. Seven were marked for President Trump, and the other two are unknown, said Freed, a Republican.

David Pedri, the Luzerne County manager, said in a statement Friday that the nine ballots that sparked a federal probe were “incorrectly discarded” by a temporary independent contractor in the county election office who has since been fired. Pedri also said the Luzerne election director altered the local district attorney’s office about the incident.

Justin Levitt, a Loyola Law School professor and former Justice Department official, told CBS News that, while it’s typical for the Department of Justice to investigate ballots not being counted, releasing preliminary findings prior to an investigation being completed is odd. And to announce the contents of the ballots is very unusual.

“There is no—literally no legitimate law enforcement reason to identify the candidate for whom those ballots were cast,” he told CBS News. “It does not matter who they were voting for. The ballots were either properly or improperly handled. To include that information makes this a partisan act rather than a legal one.”

Further reports now say the ballots in question weren’t general election ballots but from the Republican primary. The ‘discarded’ ballots were discovered days ago, but Pennsylvania is apparently just now mailing out general election ballots.

More from the Washington Post:

Because these ballots were returned in envelopes similar to absentee ballot requests, elections officials opened them. If the ballots weren’t then enclosed in another envelope which shielded the actual vote being cast, they may have been considered “naked ballots,” a term used to describe mail ballots returned without the voter’s intent being protected.

If that’s the case, which again isn’t clear, that meant that elections officials who were opening the envelopes to see what they contained would have had to discard the votes, given a recent ruling by the state’s Supreme Court.

There are several reports saying the ballots found were from the

On Friday, ABC News reported that Attorney General Bill Barr personally briefed Trump on the investigation prior to it being announced.

It’s important to note that Trump won Luzerne County by 20 points in 2016. So, tossing 7 ballots marked for Trump is hardly efficient “voter fraud,” you know?

If someone was honestly trying to commit “voter fraud,” wouldn’t they have actually destroyed the ballots? Burned them or something?

I’m not the only one thinking this doesn’t pass the smell test.

News Round-Up: September 4, 2020

Gustavo Naspolini (via Instagram)

Some news stories you might have missed:

InstaHunks: Woofy Gustavo Naspolini (above) in Greece reminds me that I was SUPPOSED to be there right now on a cruise. #NoWorriesImOk

Washington Blade: Richard Grenell, the former acting director of national intelligence and who’s now the quisling face of the Trump campaign’s LGBTQ outreach, snapped at a reporter Friday at the White House briefing for asking him about the global initiative Grenell himself had led to decriminalize homosexuality. #SoMuchWinning

KIT212: Don’t miss Kenneth’s round-up of the latest from LGBTQ publications like DNA Magazine (below) currently serving up “The Sexiest Men Alive 2020” with Argentine model Leonel Ledesma.

(image via DNA Magazine)

Boy Culture: Even the widow of Mr. Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood) can’t stand Donald Trump – “The fact [is] that I can’t believe anything he says, not even the simplest thing. This man is pathologically ill. Mentally ill.”

Associated Press: North Carolina began sending out more than 600,000 ballots to voters today — responding to a massive spike in requests that has played out across the country as voters look for a safer way to cast ballots during the pandemic. The 618,000 ballots requested in the initial wave in North Carolina were more than 16 times the number the state sent out at the same time four years ago. The requests came overwhelmingly from Democratic and independent voters.

The Hill: A key forecasting model – often cited by experts and used by the White House – has revised its prediction of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., now estimating a peak of 410,451 by January 1.

InstaHunks II: One more from Gustavo Naspolini in Greece. I’ll get there someday. In the meantime, I’ve got a pool and Chardonnay to keep me happy 🙂 #HappyLaborDayWeekend

Data Group Warns Of Election Night ‘Red Mirage’ For Trump

(graphic via Axios)

Josh Mendelsohn, CEO of Michael Bloomberg’s data/analytics firm, recently told Axios there’s “a very real possibility that the data is going to show – on election night – an incredible victory for Donald Trump.”

That is – until all the mail-in ballots are counted over the subsequent days.

With many more Democrats voting by mail this election cycle – Hawkfish predicts up to 40% of Americans might vote by mail – it could take several days (if not weeks) for states to add up all the ballots.

So, on election night, with Republicans voting primarily in person, the tallies may show Trump with a huge lead, but Mendelsohn calls that a “red mirage.”

“When every legitimate vote is tallied and we get to that final day, which will be some day after Election Day, it will in fact show that what happened on election night was exactly that, a mirage,” Mendelsohn told Axios.

A new NBC/Survey Monkey poll echoed Hawkfish’s findings showing 50% of Democrats plan to vote by mail this cycle while only 18% of Republicans plan to mail in their ballots.

How To Avoid Lines During Voting & Make Sure Your Ballot Gets Counted

Photo showing a hand dropping a ballot in a ballot box at the polls

My friend Jerome shared this advice on Facebook for people who might feel unsafe about voting in person but now fear the USPS will be unable to deliver a “mail-in” ballot in a timely fashion.

There is a way around it:

1. Request a mail-in ballot.
2. Do not mail it.
3. Google your supervisor of elections to see where you can drop off your mail-in ballot. Its usually NOT THE POLLING PLACE. All states allow this!

Here is what you’re accomplishing by doing this:

1. Your ballot gets in on time no matter what happens to the USPS.
2. You don’t have to worry about standing in long lines and risking infection. You’re just stopping by to drop it off.
3. You still voted! Hooray!

Also, when you drop it off, find out how to track it online to make sure it is verified. California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado have systems that can track your ballot just like tracking a package from Amazon.

All CA vote centers (which are open for weeks to a month before election day) have ballot drop-off boxes too! Many government buildings have them as well, so there’s no need to wait until election day when it’s crowded to drop them off.

The list of drop-off sites is always posted on each county’s voter info website.