Catholic Official Resigns After Phone Data Tracked Him On Grindr

(image via Mart Production/Pexels)

A high ranking official for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) resigned his position after the conference was approached by a Catholic media outlet purporting to have cellphone data indicating he regularly used Grindr, the gay dating app.

The Pillar, an online newsletter that reports on the Catholic Church, published its claims about Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill and the alleged Grindr use on Tuesday. The post also contends that Burrill “engaged in serial sexual misconduct” as well as frequented “gay bars and private residences.”

Burrill, a priest from the La Crosse, Wisconsin, diocese resigned from his position as general secretary from USCCB on the same day. As general secretary of the USCCB, Burrill was responsible for coordinating administrative work and planning for the conference, which is the country’s network for Catholic bishops.

USCCB spokeswoman Chieko Noguchi told the Washington Post it was Burrill’s decision to resign after being notified of The Pillar’s allegations of “improper behavior.”

The Pillar says an independent firm had authenticated “commercially available records” based on data Grindr collects from its users.

“A mobile device correlated to Burrill emitted app data signals from the location-based hookup app Grindr on a near-daily basis during parts of 2018, 2019, and 2020 — at both his USCCB office and his USCCB-owned residence, as well as during USCCB meetings and events in other cities,” reported The Pillar.

The “commercially available” signal data doesn’t include users’ names but instead correlates a specific numerical identifier assigned to each mobile device. Privacy experts say it’s possible to identify a specific cellphone by checking locations an individual may frequent like their home or workplace.

So, it would appear, someone searched through the “obtained and analyzed data” looking at Burrill’s residence and office space and noted the identifier.

The report went on to conflate homosexuality with pedophilia in an extremely heavy-handed manner even though there doesn’t appear to be any evidence Burrill was in contact with minors through his use of Grindr.

The Washington Post reports experts “have long raised concerns about ‘anonymized’ data collected by apps (like Grindr) and sold to or shared with aggregators and marketing companies.”

A spokesperson for Grindr described the report by The Pillar as “homophobic” and told the Post the data described in the story couldn’t be publicly accessed.

“The alleged activities listed in that unattributed blog post are infeasible from a technical standpoint and incredibly unlikely to occur,” said the representative in a statement. “There is absolutely no evidence supporting the allegations of improper data collection or usage related to the Grindr app as purported.”

$84 Million Paid To 564 Victims Of PA Catholic Church Sex Abuse

(image via Jack Sharp/Unsplash)

In the aftermath of a landmark grand jury report on sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses have paid out almost $84 million to 564 victims of sexual abuse.

The Associated Press reports seven of the Keystone state’s eight dioceses organized victim compensation funds after the release of the August 2018 grand jury report showed hundreds of priests had molested over 1,000 children since the 1940s.

One diocese, in Altoona-Johnstown, has no compensation fund saying it lacks the funds after paying out $15.7 million in an earlier clergy abuse scandal.

In addition to the abuse, the grand jury report also indicates church leaders had systematically worked to cover up the abuse.

According to the AP, the average payout to victims across the seven dioceses has been slightly more than $148,000. But that’s well below what an adult victim of childhood abuse would expect to see had they been able to sue in court.

Claims administrator Camille Biros, who was hired to handle the claims for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as well as Allentown, Erie, Pittsburgh and Scranton dioceses, told the AP, “These are all time-barred claims, so it’s not going to be the kind of numbers one sees in a courtroom.”

Pennsylvania state law limits such lawsuits to those victims under 30 years of age. State lawmakers had announced plans to amend such laws but there’s no guarantee any changes will materialize.

Biros says compensation payouts are based on “the nature of the abuse, how long it went on, the age of the child, (and) the effect of the abuse.”

But some claims are rejected due to lack of evidence or not meeting eligibility criteria.

One man who allowed his name to be used in the reporting is David Zernhelt, who tells the AP he was offered $400,000 by the diocese of Allentown and accepted it.

Zernhelt says he wasn’t willing to trust lawmakers to pass a legislative fix to the state laws any time soon.

“It doesn’t make me rich,” said the 45-year-old of Easton. “It creates a positive starting point for me. I can try to make my life a little bit better and put this behind me.”

Zernhelt told the administrators of the Allentown fund that Rev. Thomas Kerestus sexually assaulted him two to four times a week for five years. The abuse began when Zernhelt was only 13-years-old.

Zernhelt’s family went to the church about the abuse but says the diocese “swept it under the rug.”

Kerestus, who was named in the grand jury report, died in 2014.

Attorney Richard Serbin has been critical of the compensation funds because the process allows the church to avoid courtroom lawsuits which could become a “public airing of its dirty laundry.”

Although Serbin has worked for years on behalf of past church victims, he admits some of his clients have taken the payouts for various reasons.

“Some did it because they want to try to move forward and are looking to heal, and they feel this will be of assistance, and for those clients, I do think it’s good, and I recommend they take it,” he told the AP. Others, he said, “are in desperate financial situations, and they needed the money.”

(source: AP)

LGBTQ Member Of Congress Resigns Amid Accusations Of Affairs

Rep. Katie Hill (D-Santa Clarita)

Rep. Katie Hill (D-Santa Clarita) of California, the only openly bisexual member of the House of Representatives, recently came under investigation due to “allegations she had an improper relationship with a congressional staffer.”

Hill was accused of having a sexual relationship with her legislative director, Graham Kelly, and a female campaign staff member.

Hill denies any relationship with Kelly, but in a letter to constituents on Wednesday admitted to becoming involved with the campaign staff member during “during the final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage.”

Hill has been in divorce proceedings with her husband of nine years, Kenneth Heslep.

“I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment,” Hill wrote to her constituents. “For that, I apologize.”

“It is with a broken heart that today I announce my resignation from Congress,” Hill wrote in a letter shared on Twitter. “This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I believe it is the best thing for my constituents, my community, and our country.”

“This is what needs to happen so that the good people who supported me will no longer be subjected to the pain inflicted by my abusive husband and the brutality of hateful political operatives who seem to happily provide a platform to a monster who is driving a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation,” she added.

It was just last weekend when conservative website RedState reported that Hill and her husband had, until recently, been involved in a sexual relationship with a staffer in her 20s who worked on Hill’s campaign.

RedState posted explicit images purporting to be of Hill and the staffer. Hill subsequently told The Hill, a political news outlet, that the U.S. Capitol Police were investigating how the photo was obtained and published by RedState.

“Intimate photos of me and another individual were published by Republican operatives on the internet without my consent,” Hill said at the time.

That was followed by RedState releasing text messages that appeared to be between Hill’s husband, Heslep, and the campaign staffer.

In response to the #MeToo movement and high-profile sexual harassment accusations involving members of Congress, the House adopted rules last year that prohibited members from having sexual relationships with congressional staffers. Those rules do not, however, address any relationships that occurred prior to members taking office.

Hill has been viewed as a ‘rising star’ in the Democratic Party having flipped her district to blue when she won her election in 2018.

She is the vice-chair of the House Oversight Committee, and she is among a group of freshman Democrats who were nicknamed the “Big Six” after being selected for high-profile leadership posts.

(source: Politico)

Sec Of State Pompeo Defies Congressional Subpoena

Sec of State Mike Pompeo (image via Flickr/WhiteHouse – public domain)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has informed House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel that he plans to defy a congressional subpoena asking to interview five State Department employees.

Pompeo writes, “I’m concerned with aspects of the committee’s request that can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State.”

“Let me be clear: I will not tolerate such tactics, and I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead and serve alongside at the Department of State,” he added.

On Friday, Engel informed Pompeo that “failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry.”

A new twist in the ongoing impeachment inquiry occurred yesterday when it was revealed Pompeo was on the now-infamous July 25 call between the president of Ukraine and Donald Trump when Trump pressed the Ukrainian leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

When asked about the phone call and subsequent investigation last week, Pompeo was evasive and vague during interviews seeming to have little information about the conversation.

From Pompeo’s letter today (via Twitter):

“This amounts to an attempt to circumvent the Executive Branch’s unquestionably legitimate constitutional interest in protecting potentially privileged information related to the conduct of diplomatic relations.

“Therefore, the five officials subject to your letter may not attend any interview or deposition without counsel from the Executive Branch present to ensure that the Executive Branch’s constitutional authority to control the disclosure of confidential information, including deliberative matters and diplomatic communications, is not impaired.”

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta Resigns Amid Epstein Controversy

Former Labor Secretary Alex Acosta

The New York Times reports that R. Alexander Acosta, his embattled secretary of labor, will resign following controversy over a lenient plea deal he made with Jeffrey Epstein when he was a prosecutor in Florida.

Donald Trump made the announcement as he left the White House for travel to Milwaukee and Cleveland.

Mr. Trump said Mr. Acosta called him this morning and that it was Mr. Acosta’s decision to resign.

Trump continues to moan about how poorly Acosta has been treated over a 12-year-old case.

But, you don’t hear him expressing concern for the allegedly victims in the Jeffrey Epstein case.

Report: Trump Lawyer Handled A Situation For Jerry Falwell Jr Before 'Game-Changing' Endorsement

Jerry Falwell Jr. (image via Twitter)

Reuters reports that Donald Trump’s ‘fixer,’ Michael Cohen, says he helped evangelist Jerry Falwell Jr. with a “situation” regarding some racy photos.

And shortly thereafter, Falwell surprised the world by endorsing Cohen’s boss for president.

Months before evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr.’s game-changing presidential endorsement of Donald Trump in 2016, Falwell asked Trump fixer Michael Cohen for a personal favor, Cohen said in a recorded conversation reviewed by Reuters.

Falwell, president of Liberty University, one of the world’s largest Christian universities, said someone had come into possession of what Cohen described as racy “personal” photographs ― the sort that would typically be kept “between husband and wife,” Cohen said in the taped conversation.

According to a source familiar with Cohen’s thinking, the person who possessed the photos destroyed them after Cohen intervened on the Falwells’ behalf.

Now you know why Falwell directed his evangelical flock to support the man who cheated on his wives, cheated the vendors who worked for him, and bragged that he liked to “grab ’em by the p*ssy.”

It will come as no surprise that the Falwells declined to comment for the article.

Out Mayor Pete Buttigieg Shades Mike Pence As ‘Cheerleader For Porn Star Presidency’

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, in the hunt for the Democratic presidential nomination, said Sunday night that he and Vice President Mike Pence (former governor of Indiana) have different views on biblical scripture.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, in the hunt for the Democratic presidential nomination, said Sunday night that he and Vice President Mike Pence (former governor of Indiana) have different views on biblical scripture.

CNN’s Jake Tapper, hosting a town hall in Austin, Texas, asked Buttigieg if Pence would be a better or worse president than Donald Trump.

After several moments of bewilderment, the 37-year-old mayor said that, while he disagreed with Pence ‘ferociously’ on things, he always felt Pence “at least believes in our institutions and he’s not personally corrupt.”

However, Buttigieg wondered aloud, “But then, how could he get onboard with this presidency?”

The openly gay mayor shared that his view of the Bible is based on “protecting the stranger and the prisoner and the poor person – that idea of ‘welcome,’” while Pence’s take on scripture seems to have ”a lot more to do with sexuality and a certain view of rectitude.”

“But, even if you but into that, how could he allow himself to become the cheerleader of the porn star presidency?” asked Buttigieg, referencing the allegations that Donald Trump made hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

“Is it that he stopped believing in scripture, when he started believing in Donald Trump? I don’t know. I don’t know.”

The Harvard alum also talked on coming out as gay in his traditionally conservative state.

“Frankly, when I first got into politics, elected politics at the beginning of this decade in Indiana — In Mike Pence’s Indiana — I thought you could either be out or you could be in office, but you couldn’t be both,” Buttigieg said.

“I came out in the middle of a re-election campaign because it was just that time in my life when I had to do that,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “Pence was governor. We weren’t sure what it would do to my political future in a socially conservative community.”

“I wound up getting re-elected with 80 percent of the vote,” he concluded.

Asked how he could be qualified for the White House having never held statewide office, Buttigieg pointed to his resume: “I actually think that experience is one of the best reasons for somebody like me to be in this — I have more years of government experience than the president.”

“I have more years of executive government experience than the Vice President, and more military experience than anyone to walk into that office since George H. W. Bush,” said the former Navy intelligence officer and veteran of the war in Afghanistan. “Experience is what qualifies me to have a seat at this table.”

Openly Gay Senate Majority Leader Resigns Amid Charges Of Using Campaign Funds For Personal Use

Former Nevada lawmaker Kelvin Atkinson

Nevada’s Democratic Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson resigned from his legislative seat on Tuesday in an emotional speech telling his colleagues he would plead guilty to charges of using campaign funds for personal use, according to The Nevada Independent.

It was recently discovered that Atkinson had misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal use.

Misuse of campaign funds is a state and federal crime which carries a possible prison sentence of 20 years.

“I am embarrassed, I am ashamed and I am truly, truly sorry,” Atkinson said a tear-filled speech from the floor of the Senate. “I pray for your forgiveness.”

“I hope to have the opportunity to prove someday that this is not who I am, just something I did wrong,” said the 49-year-old former lawmaker.

“I have no one to blame but myself,” he added. “I just pray that someday I will have the opportunity to contribute to my community once again in a meaningful way.”

Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak publicly denounced Atkinson’s deeds in a statement Tuesday morning.

“I am extremely disappointed in the news that Kelvin Atkinson misappropriated campaign funds for his personal use,” the governor said. “This admitted violation of the law goes against the integrity every elected officer in the state of Nevada should uphold.”

“Saddened and disappointed” were the words used by the executive director of the Nevada Senate Democratic Caucus, Cheryl Bruce.

Atkinsons’s deputy, state Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, is reported to replaced him. She will be Nevada’s first female Senate Majority Leader.

First elected to the Nevada state Assembly in 2002, Atkinson joined the Senate in 2012. He was the Silver state’s first openly gay Senate leader, and only the third African American to hold the position.

Atkinson famously came out during a 2013 debate in the Senate regarding repealing Nevada’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The following year, he and his husband were among the first same-sex couples to be married in Nevada.

As a proud gay Democratic Nevadan, living in Las Vegas for 15 years, I’m disgusted that Atkinson would be so unethical.

There are no excuses for such a blatant disregard for the law and personal integrity.

I am appreciative that Atkinson seems to be taking full responsibility for his actions, but it’s reprehensible that he so flagrantly broke the law.

Everyone has to follow the law, but being a minority and gay means having to work twice as hard to succeed. Any and all episodes like this only set us further back.

(h/t Nevada Independent)

Virginia Governor Apologizes For Racist Photo, Then Claims It’s Not Him

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam addresses blackface scandal

High profile Democrats are calling for their colleague, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, to step down after photos from his 1984 medical school yearbook appear to show him dressing up in racist costumes.

The Virginian-Pilot obtained a photo of his yearbook page showing what appears to be men in either blackface or a Ku Klux Klan uniform, although it wasn’t clear which person was the future governor.

Initially, Northam issued an apology:

“I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now,” Northam said. “This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment. I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their governor.”

And that was followed by a video where he again asked for forgiveness but promised to serve out his term as governor which ends in 2022.

But this morning, Northam is reversing saying it isn’t him in the photo.

According to today’s Virginian-Pilot, he called state Sen. Louise Lucas to say, “I”m not going to resign because it’s not me in the photo.”

Her response – “Then you waited too long to say it wasn’t you.”

“He should have said that yesterday then,” Lucas told The Washington Post. “He just told me he didn’t think it’s him. And I said, ‘Ralph, this is a day late and a dollar short. It’s too late.’”

Virginia Democrats have asked the governor to step down as well as former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro was the first 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to call on Northam to resign, followed by Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Democratic New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy also called on Northam to resign.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax would become governor should Northam step down.