Body Health, Mental Health, Politics

THE SENATE RELEASES THEIR HEALTHCARE BILL

Read my articles about the CBO analysis for the House bill here and the March AHCA bill here

In other news, before we get started—President Trump took to Twitter today to confirm that there were no tape-recordings of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey; tapes he insinuated weeks ago he had.


Written when I was going to write about using self-tanner in preparation for New York Pride, and the realization that the healthy, sun-kissed glow I actually needed was for my soul—but more pressing matters have arisen.

This morning—Thursday June 22, 2017—the new healthcare plan was released after a cloud of mystery while it was being written in private by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a small group of colleagues. The bill’s mystery was protested by Democrats and Republicans alike, who feared that this bill would be introduced and forced into a hasty vote before anyone had a chance to read it. according to CNN, the bill will have a one-week-turnaround, meaning that McConnell hopes to get it voted on within a week.

After a disastrous first attempt to vote on the original bill, the American Health Care Act, in March (the bill was pulled when it became clear that there were not enough votes for it to pass), the revised bill passed in the House of Representatives in early May. The next step was to bring it to the Senate for a vote, where GOP lawmakers such as McConnell revised and reworked the bill in an attempt to get it to pass in the Senate. If it passes the Senate, and then gets affirmed by the House, the bill would go to President Trump’s desk and, at his sign-off, become law. We good?

So, this morning, the bill was released. CNN also released an article comparing the three (the ACA, the AHCA, and the new bill) on key issues such as Medicaid expansion, coverage for pre-existing conditions, essential health benefits, Planned Parenthood and more. If you’re too lazy to read the article, here’s the major breakdown on some issues.

The Senate bill provides “skimpier coverage” for pre-existing conditions in states that get waivers for “essential health beneifts.” It allows states to redefine essential health benefits, which under the ACA were required for insurers to cover. These include mental health, maternity care and prescription drugs. The Senate bill cuts funding for Planned Parenthood for one year, which isn’t a surprise because the AHCA did that as well. It eliminates tax cuts for the wealthy and for insurers, taxes the ACA imposed to expand healthcare coverage. The ACA put a 3.8% tax on incomes $200,000 and higher ($250,000 for married couples). It gets rid of the individual insurance mandate, keeps the ACA provision for young people to remain on their parents’ insurance until 26, and removes the employer mandate to provide affordable healthcare to their employees.

At the moment, the bill can only afford to lose the support of two Republicans, which would put it at 50-50 and require a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Pence. As of writing this, four Republicans said they would oppose the bill in its current form and two more have withheld support.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to release their independent findings on the bill early next week, a key component for some senators while considering their vote. The CBO will look at how many people could lose insurance under the new plan (24 million in the AHCA, and 23 in the House version) and the effects on the overall federal budget (the House bill would reduce the deficit by $119 billion).

In the near future, the bill will go into several hours of debate as well as something called the “vote-a-rama” where senators can suggest amendments that are relevant to the dialogue. The vote-a-rama can potentially go on indefinitely, but is largely centered on how long it takes for the senators to burn out and get tired. After all of that, the bill goes back to the House for affirmation, and if the House votes yes on it, then it goes to the White House. At the moment, it’s unclear if there’s enough support in the House for the bill to pass.

In the meantime, the public is reacting. Several dozen protestors were arrested Thursday after they staged a “die-in” outside of McConnell’s office. The protest was organized by the national disability rights group ADAPT. The cuts to Medicaid would greatly reduce access to medical care and services for the elderly and disabled. According to the police statement, several protestors removed themselves to “lay themselves on the floor, obstructing passage through the hallway and into nearby offices.”

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LGBTQ, Life, Politics, Pride 2017

ONE YEAR LATER: THE PULSE NIGHTCLUB SHOOTING

One year ago today, June 12, 2016, the world woke up to the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history when a gunman entered Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 and injuring 53.

This was not only the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history and the deadliest terror attack since 9/11, it was also a hate crime of epic proportions. The gunman went into Pulse, a gay nightclub, and killed 49 people, queer men and women and those outside of the gender binary, as well as their friends, family and allies. It was also Latin Night, so most of the victims were Latinx and people of color.

The attack was at a nightclub during Pride month, both are deliberate and significant. June is Pride Month, where queer people join together to not just celebrate their queerness, but to express their political activism and energy. The fact that Pulse was a nightclub is also significant: clubs have long been safe havens for queer people. When we could not be accepted in “society” or by our families and friends, we went to the clubs to find community. The Stonewall Riots began in a club, when police officers led a raid into Stonewall Inn. That moment is widely considered to be the beginning of the modern LGBTQ rights fight.

One year after the Pulse massacre, we have a president who has yet to acknowledge June as Pride month and wanted praise for being “right on radical Islamic terrorism,” a vice president who legalized discrimination against LGBTQ+ in Indiana and was a proponent for conversion therapy, a First Daughter who only thanked queer people for their “economic” contributions to America, and an Attorney General who advocated for the rescinding of federal protection to transgender students.

The massacre was another example that queer people are not safe in America, especially queer people of color. Do not be fooled into believing that because we have marriage equality that we have equality. We don’t.

Not when there are trans women of color being murdered for existing, or kids being denied access to bathrooms. Not when a man can walk into a gay nightclub and murder 49 people and there are politicians who would refuse to call it a hate crime but send their “thoughts and prayers” to people who minutes earlier they were debasing as pedophiles and mentally ill.

Being queer in itself is a both political act and a danger in this America. Our bodies, and the people we love, and our genders are being argued and picked over by politicians like vultures. We are an inherently political minority because our identities have been placed in the political conversation without our consent. So fight on, and fight harder because we don’t have the option to be neutral.

Fight on for women and for people of color and immigrants and those with disabilities (both visible and invisible). Because there cannot be equality for one minority if there is not equality for all minorities. The way the government treats women directly affects queer people. The way the police treat people of color directly affects queer people. Our fight is everyone’s fight, and everyone’s fight is our fight.

To the people who died that night in Pulse, who were primarily Latinx and black, on Latin Night; I’m sorry that we could not do enough. I’m sorry that you didn’t get a chance to be a part of the fight today. You would have all done amazing things in a world that was always, always against you. But we take on your memory and your love and your identity as we march forward and against. We will not forget you. I did not know you, but I love you, and I grieve for you.

The fight for equality is the fight for love, for choice, for freedom. It’s about our right to exist in public spaces, as Laverne Cox said in the aftermath of Trump’s administration revoking federal protection for transgender students.

I’d like to end with two quotes from James Baldwin, a gay black writer who was born in 1924 and whose work pushed the boundaries of queerness and blackness in a time that was particularly lethal to both.

“Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.”

And,

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” 

These things that cause us such deep pain are the things that unite us, the things that make us stronger. They break our bones and they make us bleed over and over, endlessly. But we fight onward and upward and together because that pain is nothing compared to the joy of being together, and fighting together and loving together.

People will try always to tear us apart; whether it be through violence or legislation or words. But we are stronger than that and wilder than that and more beautiful than that.

Be strong in the face of adversity, loving in the face of hate, and kind in the face of unkindness.

Happy Pride.

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Politics

CB-OH NO: The Latest on the AHCA

The Congressional Budget Office releases its estimates on the new AHCA bill.


On May 24, 2017, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released new scoring for the latest iteration of the American Health Care Act. In their findings, the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that over the next decade, the federal deficits would be reduced by $119 billion and that by 2026 23 million more people would be uninsured compared to the current law. Most of that 23 million would occur within the first year, with the CBO estimating that in 2018, 14 million people would be uninsured under the new bill (H.R. 1628).

The bill was passed in the House on May 4, 217 to 213 with 20 Republicans voting against and no Democrats voting for. The first attempt to pass the AHCA ended with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) pulling the bill hours before it was about to be voted on because it lacked the numbers to pass.

The new version passed without an official CBO score, having had mostly cosmetic tweaks to garner more support. According to The Atlantic, the AHCA stops states from “enrolling new people under Medicaid expansion” and it “incentivized states to drop the expansion altogether.” The new bill would also introduce per-capita caps on federal spending, reducing the number of people covered and their benefits. The AHCA also removes the employer mandate, which forces employers to provide affordable health insurance to 95% of their full-time employees and children up to the age of 26.

The bill also removes the individual mandate, which penalizes people who don’t sign up for health insurance. What this does, essentially, is take the burden off of healthy people who might not necessarily need insurance. But without those people paying into the system, the onus is on the sicker, older people to pick up the deficit.

The new bill also introduces a set of waivers: one that would allow states to “modify the requirements governing essential health benefits” (Remember that from last time?) and one that would allow insurers to “set premiums on the basis of an individual’s health status.” Roughly 1/6 of the population resides in areas where states would utilize those waivers and the result would be increasing difficulty for less healthy people to purchase insurance on account of rising premiums.

The waivers were the result of an amendment from Representative Tom MacArthur. Business Insider reported that it was the MacArthur amendment that gathered the support of 20 members of the Freedom Caucus, the conservation caucus that largely withheld support for the first AHCA on account of it being too lenient.

A CNBC article quoted Dr. Andrew Gurman, president of the American Medical Association, as saying, “Today’s estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office show that last-minute changes to the AHCA made by the House offered no real improvements.”

The bill will now go to the Senate, where it requires at least 50 votes for it, thus leading to Vice President Mike Pence acting as a tiebreaker. Even with majorities in both chambers of Congress, and a 52-percent majority in the Senate, there is still the likelihood that the AHCA will not pass. Or that if it does, it will have to be severely rewritten to get any support.

Bottom line, even after months of rewriting, the AHCA bill has barely improved and, if anything, has gotten crueler by allowing states waivers on essential health benefits. Older, sicker Americans will see increased premiums and restricted care, and younger, healthier Americans won’t see any incentive to buy insurance. The GOP was more concerned with cosmetic Band-Aids to get conservative support than they were with crafting a bill that would benefit their constituents.

There is one bright side to the AHCA passing: this is probably the first time in months that Paul Ryan hasn’t had violent diarrhea from Congressional stress. Unfortunately, Congress-related diarrhea is no longer covered under the new plan.

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Politics

SALLY YATES REVEALED THAT SHE WARNED THE WHITE HOUSE ABOUT MICHAEL FLYNN

Header Image: Chicago Tribune


Oh snap.

Former acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Monday May 8. In her testimony, she says that she warned White House counsel that former National Security Adviser had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and that he, Flynn, was susceptible to blackmail. This comes the same day that President Obama revealed that he warned then-President-Elect Donald Trump against putting Flynn in the position. In 2014, Flynn was removed from his senior position at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Flynn resigned weeks after his appointment after it came to light that he had lied to the vice president about his contact with Kislyak, where he had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia. Those sanctions were from the former administration of President Obama as a result of the tampering Russia had undergone in the 2016 election.

Yates, who was fired by President Trump for refusing to enforce his (later to be ruled unconstitutional) travel ban, visited WH counsel Donald McGahn on Jan. 26 to inform him that the Justice Department had discovered that Flynn had lied about the sanctions. Flynn had lied to VP Pence, who vouched for Flynn publicly. Allegedly, it was Pence, after finding out that he had inadvertently lied to the American public, that gunned for Flynn’s replacement.

The knowledge that Flynn had lied, and that Russians had proof of that lying, put him at risk for blackmail, according to Yates. She did not advise any actions, instead just provided the information. The Trump administration waited 18 days after Yates visited to have Flynn resign.

It was not until four days after a Washington Post article came out exposing the visit that the administration took action and fired Flynn.

The testimony today illustrated that the Russia-Trump narrative has not, despite laying low, blown over. Trump has refused to condemn Vladimir Putin for his actions, instead offering him several different instances of praise.

The former director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr., who was testifying at the same time, said that Russia had been “emboldened” by the success of their influence campaign, the facts of which have still stand even four months later that the Russians interfered to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign. This testimony comes just days after Emmanuel Macron, newly-elected President of France, accused Russia of leaking documents before the election to aid his far-right opponent, Marine Le Pen.

The testimony depicts a chaotic and turbulent White House, one where distrust is dissolving traditional processes and vetting. During the hearing, Clapper said the vetting process is typically “far, far more invasive and far, far more thorough.”

It’s been a recurring theme in the new administration. To appoint Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the GOP had to filibuster and block President Obama’s choice for an entire year and then enact the “nuclear” option to ram Gorsuch’s nomination through. Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, did not have a proper ethics hearing, which would have outlined how she would avoid conflicts of interest. The first version of the ACA repeal and replace had to be pulled hours before voting because it did not have enough support, and the second version, voted on by the House this past week, did not go through the traditional testing and forecasting (particularly by the Congressional Budget Office) that is usually required.

The list goes on and on, but the point is the same. The Trump administration, and the GOP in government, is not making ethics a priority. They are skirting around traditions and rules to jam their agenda through—which makes that agenda both sloppily and potentially dangerous. It’s a scary and dangerous time in the world, and the fact that the leaders in our government are doing nothing to abet that is alarming, to say the least.

And at the worst, it’s life-threatening.

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Politics, Thinkpiece

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

Header Image Source: CNN


Public figures like Caitlyn Jenner and Ivanka Trump are shying away from disclosing their political activities.

While promoting her new book, Secrets of My Life, Caitlyn Jenner sat down with Andy Cohen at Sirius XM Radio for a town hall-style meeting Wednesday, April 26. Jenner made headlines when she came out as transgender in 2015. In their discussion, Cohen steered the conversation towards politics—Jenner is famously a conservative Republican. Jenner said that she had been making trips to Washington, D.C. but that her influence in politics would be private and unseen.

It was a reiteration of the point she made the night before on CNN with Don Lemon. She said that she would not take up President Trump’s offer to go golfing after he revoked the former administration’s protection for transgender students. However, Jenner said she would go golfing with President Trump in private, because if she did it in public, her community would “go nuts” and ostracize her.

Besides the puzzling contradiction of going on public television to say that you will golf with President Trump in private, Jenner’s statement that much of her involvement in politics would be behind closed doors is troubling at best and dangerous at worst.

Jenner is markedly tone-deaf when it comes to issues of LGBTQ equality. On The Ellen Show, she did not express complete support for same-sex marriage, and that it was an issue that she used to be completely against as a self-identified “traditionalist.” Instead, she said that if “the word marriage is so important to you, then I can support that.” She claimed that the hardest part of being a woman was picking out “what to wear.”

These can be dismissed as tragically unfortunate choices of words, but the root of the issue is that Caitlyn Jenner is a person of immense privilege who wants to speak for, represent and negotiate on behalf of arguably the most disenfranchised and least privileged subsection of the U.S. population.

According to a 2016 Reuters article, “almost 60 percent of transgender Americans have avoided using public restrooms for fear of confrontation, saying they have been harassed and assaulted.” According to the Office for Victims of Crime, one in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted in their lifetime. 13 percent of African-American transgender people surveyed were sexually assaulted in the workplace, and 22 percent of transgender homeless individuals reported assault whilst staying in shelters.

And while Jenner is transgender, it cannot be denied that for 65 years she presented as a white, privileged man. And after she transitioned, she had unfettered access to the best surgeons and doctors, a private Malibu estate for recovery and no monetary restrictions. Some transgender people choose to not go through surgery, but for those that would like to the costs are usually prohibitive.

Jenner has also been largely isolated from the daily discomfort that many queer people experience every day—catcalling, harassment and discrimination. All of these things, combined with her inexperience with politics and her position as a conservative Republican who voted for Trump, make me uncomfortable that she might be the touchstone for Republicans and the representative of the LGBTQ community. That she would do it with no cameras, at private dinners and meetings behind closed doors is even more concerning.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Ivanka Trump in her interview with Gayle King for CBS News. “I don’t think that it will make me a more effective advocate to constantly articulate every issue publicly where I disagree,” she said. “And that’s okay. That means that I’ll take hits from some critics who say that I should take to the street. And then other people will in the long-term respect where I get to. But I think most of the impact I have, over time most people will not actually know about.”

This idea of silent impact does a few things. Firstly, it absolves people like Trump and Jenner from any responsibility. If you don’t know what they’ve done, you can’t blame them. Secondly, it’s impossible to hold them accountable for anything. If they never pledge any sort of action, it’s impossible to keep them in line. Lastly, it’s difficult expect them to operate within a rational, ethical framework because you have no idea what they’re doing.

And lastly, as a person with unparalleled influence and platform, you don’t get to be private. If Ivanka wanted to operate as a private citizen, she shouldn’t have moved to Washington, D.C. and taken a position in her father’s administration. When she made that deal with the devil, she gave up the right to be private. When you’re operating from the most powerful building in the world, the American public deserve to know what you’re up to. If Caitlyn Jenner wanted to remain private, she shouldn’t have dropped the tantalizing tidbits that she was taking meetings in Washington.

You can’t have it both ways. If you want public power, then you don’t get to wield it privately.

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Politics, television, Thinkpiece

BILL O’REILLY IS LET GO FROM FOX NEWS BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING HAS BEEN SOLVED

Header Image Source: ABC News


On Wednesday, April 19, Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, announced that they would be terminating their professional relationship with Bill O’Reilly, the prime-time host of The O’Reilly Factor. A.k.a. they fired him.

The announcement comes after an April 1 New York Times story about an investigation into O’Reilly. Namely, that during his twenty-year career at Fox, O’Reilly and Fox paid out roughly $13 million to women who made allegations of sexual harassment by Mr. O’Reilly.

Social activists applauded the triumph of justice over injustice. However, in their haste to crow about this immediate victory, they forgot that the poison root of the issue still festers.

Since the article’s publication, more than 80 advertisers pulled support for The O’Reilly Factor, which was consistently the top-rated program in cable news. The initial Times article placed The O’Reilly Factor‘s earnings from 2014 to 2016 as $446 million from advertising. According to market research group Kantar Media, the amount of on-air advertisement bought dropped from nearly 16 minutes to eight minutes in just two weeks.

The Times reported that women inside the company expressed outrage and questioned “whether top executives were serious about maintaining a culture based on “trust and respect,” as they had promised last summer when another sexual harassment scandal forced the ouster of Roger E. Ailes as chairman of Fox News.”

The investigation found five women who had been paid off to avoid continuing forward with allegations of sexual harassment. Some of the alleged harassment consisted of O’Reilly taking interest in a woman, promising to help her career, and then making sexual advances on her. Other reported actions from Mr. O’Reilly were lewd comments, verbal abuse, and phone calls where it sounded and seemed as if O’Reilly were masturbating.

In the initial statement, and in articles from Fox since, the company has characterized O’Reilly positively. An internal memo, signed by Rupert Murdoch and sons Lachlan and James, all company executives, described O’Reilly as “by ratings standards…one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news…In fact his success by any measure is indisputable.”

In an article centered on the news of O’Reilly’s departure, author Howard Kurtz called O’Reilly “the biggest star in [Fox’s] 20-year history.” Kurtz ended his article by writing, “Even most of his critics acknowledged that O’Reilly…is an extraordinary broadcaster.”

Wednesday evening, Fox News anchor Bret Baier addressed O’Reilly’s departure on air, saying, “Bill O’Reilly, the biggest star in the 20-year history of Fox News, is leaving the network in the wake of mounting allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct.” CNN reported on Thursday morning that the payout O’Reilly would be receiving will end up somewhere in the “tens of millions.” In the payout after his ouster, Roger Ailes received $40 million.

The continued characterization of O’Reilly as a star is troubling. It undercuts any progress the company claims to have made in the aim of strengthening “trust and respect.” The language and message Fox is sending is clear. By refusing to condemn O’Reilly they are making the point that his sexual harassment was acceptable as long as he was making them money.

They were fine paying $13 million dollars because what he was bringing in was so much more. And it was not until investors began pulling out—until O’Reilly became a liability— that he was let go from the company.

It also actively reinforces the notion that bringing complaints about things like sexual harassment against people in power is oftentimes fruitless. O’Reilly preyed particularly on women in subordinate positions, promising them jobs or promotions or access. He outranked them in power, money and influence. And he outranked them in importance, at least in the eyes of Fox. For the five women who had the courage to come forward, to deal with the career ramifications of being honest, there might be countless others, who did not want to come up against the might of an entire corporation.

Yes, eventually Bill O’Reilly was out of a job. But if the Times had not done their investigation, if the advertisers had not pulled out, it’s impossible to gauge when Fox would’ve grown tired of bankrolling O’Reilly’s predation. They didn’t grow tired of it in the twenty years O’Reilly was in their employ. Because that’s what it boils down to—they paid money, to the women in payouts and to him in salaries, to keep him in a position of power, the same one he would abuse to harass women. If they hadn’t been caught, every sign points to the likelihood that 21st Century Fox would’ve kept bailing O’Reilly out.

And so while Twitter erupts in the small and immediate victory of O’Reilly’s firing, we lull ourselves into complacency and forget the real meaning behind the story. Fox News is not dedicated to an atmosphere of “trust and respect.” They tolerated sexual harassment in exchange for monetary benefits.

They did not fire Bill O’Reilly because he was a sexual harasser. They did not fire him because people found out. They fired him because he cost them money.

O’Reilly is the head of the hydra—you cut it off and another one grows. The poison and power of corporations like Fox does not lie in extremities like O’Reilly. They originate from the core. The problem with Bill O’Reilly wasn’t just Bill O’Reilly. It always was, and still is, Fox.

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Politics

SPICER, CHECHNYA AND THE DANGERS OF THE 24-HOUR NEWS CYCLE

On Tuesday, April 11, Press Secretary Sean Spicer mistakenly claimed that, in response to the chemical attack in Syria, not even Adolf Hitler used chemical weapons against people during the Holocaust.

The point was to drive home the notion that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who was suggested as to have ordered the attack, was monstrous for using chemical weapons. Spicer was given the chance to recant and clarify his statements, which he did sloppily and called concentration camps “Holocaust centers.” His statement is false: gas chambers were used to kill Jews (the exact number of dead is estimated in the six millions). In the following minutes, hours and days, Spicer’s malapropism was dissected endlessly. He has since apologized.

In 1980 CNN, the first 24-hour news station, superseded previous models of “nightly news.” With the advent of a continuous news cycle came the need to not only fill the empty hours between breaking stories and crises, but also compete with other cable news outlets. The negative space between reporting led to expert analysis, panelist commentary and soft-news pieces. That model, the culture of commentary, has become so prevalent in the Internet age that continuous news access leads to focus and dissection of the same incident, over and over again. That excessiveness is to the detriment of coverage in other areas.

And while this has been going on, major media outlets do not cover news out of Russia, that more than 100 allegedly gay men have disappeared in Chechnya and according to a Russian newspaper, local authorities are behind it. At least three men have been killed, according to the paper, which released the story on the fourth of April.

And since then, at the time of research, the New York Times has written one article about the kidnappings. The Washington Post has written two. The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and Fox News have not covered it at all. But in the days since Spicer’s mistake, there has been a flurry of activity and articles. Four from the New York Times, 14 from the Washington Post (just on the first search page), four from the Wall Street Journal, one from Fox News and four from the Los Angeles Times. This does not include the hours of screentime dedicated to covering Spicer. All articles took a similar approach to describing the event, and later articles reframed the incident with various angles.

And while major news stations have focused on the salacious scandal of Spicer, smaller outlets like BuzzFeed, TheSkimm, and Teen Vogue, as well as international media like the BBC and The Independent have covered the disappearances.

The independent Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta covered the incidents in Chechnya (in Russia, most media is either associated with or owned by the Kremlin, the central power authority). According to the paper, at least 100 men have disappeared over the last few weeks. When some return, they are badly beaten. Three have died from their injuries. According to Novaya Gazeta, the men are arrested by local authorities who then look through their phones for condemning evidence. These “honor killings” have apparently been under the authority of Chechen provincial leader, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Through spokesman Alvi Karimov, Kadyrov denied the allegations, saying, “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic. If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them since their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.” The Chechen Republic is a conservative Muslim society, where homosexuality is taboo.

Humanitarian groups, like the Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Campaign have called for Russian authorities to recognize these attacks and for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss the kidnappings while in Russia.

It’s highly possible that the reason no new articles have been written about these kidnappings is because there is no new information. However, the fact that, in an age of unprecedented access and information, there can be fourteen articles about a linguistic misstep but one article about the potential systematic killing of queer people is startling. And not just startling, but dangerous.

The 24-hour news cycle breeds an environment of rapid competition. News stations want to keep the attention of their audiences, and to do that, they narrow in on the daily foibles of the Trump administration. They host panels to discuss what Trump meant by his wiretapping claims, Spicer’s comments about the Holocaust, or Kellyanne Conway’s infamous “alternative facts.”

 

In a video discussing political satire, Vox’s Carlos Maza said of the wiretapping claims, “[Major news networks] correctly reported that Trump’s claims were false but then went on to spend segment after segment after segment hosting debates about it…They spent hours fixating on whether there might be evidence at some point down the road maybe that shows Trump wasn’t just making it up.”

The problem, Maza asserts, isn’t that the news stations are inaccurate, but they take “bullshit way too seriously.” These debates serve no purpose but to fill air time, and actually, according to studies, hurt the audience’s ability to identify falsehoods. In other words, saying the same “bullshit” enough times confuses consumers into believing it’s viable.

Maza’s solution is to cover the news the way political satirists like Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers do—recognize the bullshit for what it is, and move on to cover actual news. Because while major news outlets spend hours going over the same small blunders, real news slips through the cracks.

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