Baltimore Buzz: Happy National Puppy Day!
- Associated Press
A Sri Lankan Catholic archbishop appealed to the country's Muslims on Wednesday to reject extremism and join Catholics in determining the truth behind Easter Sunday suicide bombings in 2019 that killed 269 people. Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith made the appeal during a commemoration of the second anniversary of the attacks. Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim leaders joined the commemoration at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, where the first bomb exploded during its Easter service.
- The Daily Beast
HBOTrinity is an “invisible” spy, accomplishing missions impossible because, as a plus-sized Black woman, society doesn’t see her.Elisa is the leader of gang orientation, instructing new members on updated work-from-home procedures and paid parental leave policies.Commanch Pitters II is a “Blackstorian” who explains that, in 1896, two Black women were eaten to death by zombies after being the first people to arrive at a party, a trauma that “reverberates across generations of Black people who refuse to be on time for anything, for fear of meeting certain death.”These are the three of the approximately 30 characters—each—that Ashley Nicole Black and Gabrielle Dennis, along with their co-star and series creator Robin Thede, play on A Black Lady Sketch Show, which launches its second season on HBO on Friday.When it premiered in August 2019, A Black Lady Sketch Show made history as the first-ever sketch show featuring an all-Black female cast and all-Black female writers’ room. As Thede told The Daily Beast at the time, “We’re just showing the world that we can do everything that other sketch shows really haven’t given us the opportunity to do.”The series corrected the industry’s lie whenever a show is called out for its lack of diversity: that there aren’t women of color with enough experience or talent to fill the roles. “They’ve been here,” Thede said. “So that is a big lie, in front of and behind the camera, that needs to be debunked. And I think that’s what this show can do.”Robin Thede on Defying TV’s ‘Lie’ About Black Women in Comedy With ‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’Suffice to say, that’s exactly what the show did. It earned three Emmy nominations, won the Television Critics Association award for best sketch/variety series, scored the rare 100 percent fresh rating from reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes, and, maybe more importantly, inspired weekly Twitter viewing parties from enthusiastic fans relishing in sketch comedy that celebrated and showcased a Black female perspective.“The best compliment that I ever get about this show—and I’ve gotten it a lot—is people saying, ‘I feel seen,’” says Black, talking to the Beast the week before the show’s premiere. “That’s all I ever wanted growing up as a little girl. Comedy didn’t even feel available to me because all the people you saw doing comedy didn’t look like me. I didn’t even know that it was an option for me.”She remembers that, after the first season premiered, an interviewer asked what she hopes happens in the industry as a result of the show. “I said I hope a lot more fat people get into comedy,” she laughs. “Because there hasn’t been a lot of representation for us. The real point of it for me is for women, people of color, people with different bodies, and LGBTQ people to see themselves in a comedy show and not be getting made fun of, but being the one who’s having the fun.”Adds Dennis, speaking with Black in a Zoom call, “Our show does a really good job of not punching down with our jokes. We uplift equally with our comedy.”Before A Black Lady Sketch Show, Dennis was known for her roles on the TV series The Game and Luke Cage and for playing Whitney Houston in the BET miniseries The Bobby Brown Story. Black was a writer and correspondent for Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, winning an Emmy in 2017, and is on the writing staff for The Amber Ruffin Show.What strikes them about being a part of the Black Lady Sketch Show cast is being able to tap into the different sensibilities and talents that, because of the limited opportunities for Black women in television and the instinct to protect themselves against stereotypes, they’d never been able to fully embrace before.“One of my favorite hands-down things to do is physical comedy, and I haven’t gotten a chance to do that in the past. Usually that’s reserved for men,” says Dennis.“As artists, we train,” says Black. “When you’re coming up, you learn how to sing, how to dance, how to do Shakespeare. I did Thai classical dance in college. You learn how to do all these things, and then you get into the industry and it’s like, ‘Stand here and say the setup so the man can say the punch line.’ You don’t get to do all those things. What I love about this show is we do get to incorporate all those different styles.”Last season there was a sketch written in iambic pentameter. That Shakespeare class paid off.“This is going to sound weird, but I also love getting to play characters that are bad,” Black says. “When you’re the only Black woman on a show, you’re kind of representing Black women. Often you feel a pressure not to be mean or ugly or nasty because then you question, ‘Are you saying all Black women are mean?’ Now when you’re playing so many characters you can really indulge those other sides, because obviously we’re not saying all Black women are like this one character when there are 300 Black female characters on this show.”The show also gets to make the point that not every type of person who earns the honor of being mocked—or, in this case, celebrated—has to be the outrageous, over-the-top variety. Especially when it comes to marginalized communities for which TV representation has often meant presenting the idealized version of that identity.Take, for example, season one’s “Basic Ball,” a spoof of the ballroom competitions from Pose with categories such as “Clinical Depression” and “Just Awkward in the Body,” with contestants including “Mother Exhausted from the House of Tired” and “one of the eternal children of the House of Forever 21.” The commentary here: Unlike what you see on TV, not every LGBT+ person in the world is extremely attractive or talented. Even the normal gays deserve to be seen.“I love that there’s so much more gay representation on television, but they’re all so hot,” laughs Black, who wrote the sketch. “I’m like, a lot of the gay people I know are just, like, dropping their kids off at preschool. Like, not everybody is this hot. So I really wanted to celebrate the basic people, of which I am one.”Of the many systemic reasons why a series like A Black Lady Sketch Show took so long to exist, one is the fallacy that’s long-circulated in the industry: that white audiences wouldn’t relate to characters and stories revolving around people of color, or that convincing them to watch a show would require too much hand-holding to bridge a perceived cultural gap.One of the things Black Lady Sketch Show explicitly does not do is waste its airtime educating or over-explaining its references or the experiences that may be specific to the Black community that it’s sending up in the show.“It’s such a gift as a writer because, often when you’re the Black writer, you’re the only one,” Black says. “So you start your pitch by being like, ‘OK, here’s the thing that Black people do…’ and you kind of have to, like, educate the room. Then when you actually write the piece, you have to then build into the piece educating the audience.”“I think the audience is much, much smarter than that,” she continues. “And I think what we’ve seen in the response to this show is that lots of people who are not Black women love this show. I feel like the more specific you are, the more universal it becomes.”To that point, there was a decision that Thede made about the series when she, Black, and Dennis were partway through production that, while seemingly inconsequential, made a profound point. She changed the working title from “The” Black Lady Sketch Show to “A” Black Lady Sketch Show. Just because their show was the first, it shouldn’t be the only one. “What is the point in creating A Black Lady Sketch Show if I can’t open that door, you know?” she told the Beast.While the pandemic shutdown may have slowed the reverberation of the show’s impact—season two is premiering 19 months after season one—Dennis and Black say they already see the effects of that door being opened.“A lot of times we’re up against other images of what the country thinks and feels that we are and should be,” Dennis says. “It’s nice to have a sketch comedy show where you’re laughing with Black women and not at Black women.”Plus, their show isn’t the only one with Black women in the forefront, and each one “helps add another step to the staircase in the right direction,” she adds. Together, these shows prove there are “other ways to take in Black women that are not in a traumatic space.”“We’re showing our joy, our silliness, our craziness, our love of science fiction—these things that you haven’t seen a lot of Black women getting to play in this space,” says Black. “But I think we’re going to see more.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- The Daily Beast
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos GettyAs Rep. Matt Gaetz combats allegations that he was involved in a sex ring, the Florida Republican’s latest campaign finance report reflects a public relations scramble that began even before he acknowledged being the focus of a federal investigation.The filing, which covers the three months between January and March, shows that Gaetz has incurred unprecedented fundraising expenses during a typically quiet period. In that time, Gaetz dropped six figures on a direct mail blitz, shelling out more for fundraising services than he did in all of 2020.Gaetz also paid $5,000 in “strategic consulting” fees to notorious political operative Roger Stone, and he gave money to a number of GOP Florida state lawmakers that he’s never supported before. The report also indicates that Gaetz—who cites his lack of friends in Washington as a point of pride—may be increasingly isolated; he’s received no contributions from his GOP colleagues.How Scandal-Plagued Matt Gaetz Became ‘Excommunicado’ at Fox NewsMore than anything, the filing reflects a concerted effort to bolster support ahead of the creeping shadow of the investigation. Gaetz has spent roughly $170,000 on direct mail outreach this year, $116,543 of it on one day—March 31. The previous day, The New York Times broke the news that the Justice Department was looking into whether the third-term congressman had sex with a 17-year-old and paid for her travel, a possible violation of federal sex-trafficking laws.Gaetz has also invested heavily in fundraising, paying Nevada-based Red Rock Strategies nearly $160,000 for fundraising consulting. That’s roughly $10,000 more than the campaign spent on fundraising services in 2019 and 2020 combined, according to The Daily Beast’s analysis of filings in the FEC database.Last week, Politico also reported that Gaetz recently spent six-figures on TV ads punching back against the accusations. The 30-second spots, slated to run in his panhandle home district and on select national cable networks, ask supporters to “fight back” against “a multi-week fake news cycle,” targeting CNN specifically. The ad buys came after the quarterly filing deadline and aren’t included in the latest report, but should appear in the next filing, which is due in July.However, one expense in particular will raise eyebrows: A $5,000 “strategic political consulting” fee to Drake Ventures, the company belonging to longtime GOP smear artist and Gaetz associate Roger Stone. On Friday, the DOJ sued Stone and his wife, Nydia, alleging that the couple owes millions in unpaid taxes and have used Drake Ventures to shelter more than $1 million.The campaign paid Stone’s company on March 24, just days before Gaetz’s father held an in-person meeting with a former DOJ prosecutor, according to a person familiar with the meeting. In a bizarre March 31 interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, Matt Gaetz claimed that his father recorded that conversation at the direction of the FBI, alleging without evidence that the former prosecutor was at the center of a convoluted scheme to extort the congressman. The Gaetz campaign had never paid Drake Ventures until then.The report also suggests that Gaetz has few friends in Washington. While Gaetz swore off donations from corporate PACs, he kept the door open to donations from candidate committees. But he has so far reported no financial support in 2021 from friends in Congress such as Jim Jordan and Stephen Scalise, both of whom donated to his 2020 campaign. And while he made same-day $4,000 donations to Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) in mid-February, Gaetz did not give money to any House colleagues.Gaetz did, however, send out $1,000 donations to five GOP Florida state senators on Jan. 26. Gaetz hadn’t donated to any of their campaigns previously.One of the contributions reflects Gaetz’s ties to Joel Greenberg, his longtime friend whose federal indictment on a range of offenses—including sex trafficking—led to the probe targeting Gaetz. The contribution went to Jason Brodeur, a longtime Gaetz ally who was also close with Greenberg through local GOP circles. Brodeur’s campaign drew scrutiny for dirty tricks, including an alleged sham candidate scheme. Brodeur has denied involvement and went on to win that race, now representing Greenberg’s Seminole County at the state level.Gaetz has also continued to rack up legal fees, a pattern established last summer around the time the DOJ investigation was reportedly launched. The Daily Beast reported earlier this month that weeks after Greenberg was first indicted—in June 2020—Gaetz paid the law firm Venable LLP $38,000, nearly four times the combined amount of legal fees incurred in the previous five years. The new filing reveals a $21,000 payment to Venable in February, bringing total legal expenses up to $85,000 since Greenberg was charged.Caleb Burns, a partner at Wiley Rein who specializes in campaign finance law, told The Daily Beast that spikes in legal fees are often accompanied by a parallel spike in fundraising.“The law permits candidates and officeholders to use campaign contributions for legal expenses that arise from their candidate and officeholder duties and responsibilities,” Burns explained. “But if an officeholder gets into a car accident on the way to the grocery store—which has nothing to do with running for or holding office—the law bars the use of campaign funds to cover any resulting legal expenses. Therefore, it is not uncommon for candidates and officeholders facing scrutiny for their political activities to raise additional funds into their campaigns to help offset associated legal expenses.”While the thrust of the Gaetz investigation is said to focus on the sex trafficking allegations, CNN reported earlier this month that federal investigators are also examining campaign finance irregularities as part of their broader inquiry. Gaetz can legally tap his campaign coffers for those expenses.The congressman has already raised money from the scandal. On April 7, Talking Points Memo published a fundraising email in which Gaetz slammed “The far-left New York Times” for reporting “salacious allegations against me in an attempt to end my career fighting for the forgotten men and women of this country.” The email added that it was “a shame that the Left tries to drag my dating life into their political attacks,” and included a donation link asking supporters to “fight back against the fake news.”Gaetz donor Richard Bell, who gave to the congressman late last month, told The Daily Beast that while he has liked Gaetz’s policies since he arrived in D.C., Gaetz “should pay the price” if the allegations are true.“I know there is a big expense in defending and felt I wanted to help out,” Bell said.Another recent donor, Florida resident Jerry Klinger, told The Daily Beast that he gave to Gaetz because he agreed with the congressman’s “small-government philosophy.” However, Klinger said that “the shadows that have come out since may have given me pause to reconsider.”Klinger expressed skepticism about the merits of the DOJ investigation, and said he has “no objection” if Gaetz uses his donation for legal expenses. But he pointed out that the congressman comes from a wealthy and influential family.“If daddy wants to pay for junior, that’s a different story,” he said.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- Business Insider
Marjorie Taylor Greene is holding another gun giveaway - despite there having been at least 156 mass shootings in the US since the start of the year
Greene is giving away a Honey Badger AR Pistol, which she claims is the "same type of gun the hate-America gun-grabbers in DC would love to ban."
- The Telegraph
Johnny Mercer sacked by text message after row over NI veterans At least 13 bureaucrats had second jobs during time at Whitehall Liz Truss to hold showdown talks with Australia over trade negotiations Coronavirus latest news: India reaches record 2,000 Covid deaths in 24 hours amid warning hundreds of variants could be circulating Subscribe to The Telegraph for a month-long free trial Boris Johnson is under renewed pressure over a fresh lobbying row, after it emerged he told Sir James Dyson he would "fix it" so that staff would not have to pay extra tax while working in the UK during the pandemic. Sir James, whose firm is now based in Singapore, sent a series of text messages in March 2020 to the Treasury and the Prime Minister, with Mr Johnson replying: "I will fix it." According to the BBC, the PM later messaged Sir James saying: "Rishi [Sunak] says it is fixed!! We need you here." Labour has seized on these revelations, saying: "Boris Johnson is now front and centre of the biggest lobbying scandal in a generation, and Tory sleaze has reached the heart of Downing Street." Shadow business minister Lucy Powell told the Today programme it was "jaw-dropping". "It stinks, really, that a billionaire businessman can text the Prime Minister and get an immediate response and apparently an immediate change in policy," she said. But Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, defended the move, telling BBC Breakfast: "This was not normal times, this wasn't business as usual of a government in peace time - we were essentially at war with this virus and people rightly expected us to move rapidly." He stressed the result was not "for personal gain" but to ensure the country had more ventilators, saving "many, many lives". MPs also had the opportunity to vote on the "temporary" change, he dded. Follow the latest updates below.
- The Telegraph
A black teenage girl was shot dead by police in Ohio on Tuesday minutes after a guilty verdict was returned in the case of the officer who killed George Floyd. Officers were responding to a call on Legion Lane in the city of Columbus when police shot the girl, who was named locally as 16-year-old Makiah Bryant. Police later released body camera footage showing an officer shooting the victim, who was holding a knife and was poised to attack another girl. Police Chief Michael Woods, who called a late-night press conference, said they took the unprecedented step of releasing the footage within hours of the incident as the force wanted to provide some answers for what exactly happened, with America on edge after the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin. A video taken by a witnesses circulated on social media which appeared to show a victim wearing jeans and trainers lying motionless on the ground as a police officer stood nearby. Witnesses say the girl was shot in the chest. Crowds gathered near the scene shortly after the shooting, which occurred around 4.45pm, and began shouting “no racist police” and "enough is enough" at officers gathered.
- Business Insider
Minimize discomfort by moving your arm or taking hot showers. Use cold washcloths or ice instead of Advil.
- Business Insider
The STRATCOM commander says he needs a modern nuclear force because he cannot deter "leftovers of the Cold War" forever.
- Business Insider
AOC reacts to Derek Chauvin verdict, says the fact that George Floyd had to die 'to be seen and valued is not justice'
"That a family had to lose a son, brother and father; that a teenage girl had to film and post a murder ... just for George Floyd to be seen and valued is not justice," AOC tweeted.
- Associated Press
A first round of direct talks between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran signaled a possible de-escalation following years of animosity that often spilled into neighboring countries and at least one still-raging war. The talks, hosted by Iraq earlier this month, were confirmed Tuesday to The Associated Press by an Iraqi and a Western official in Baghdad. Saudi Arabia is recalibrating its regional position after losing an unflinching supporter in President Joe Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump.
- Yahoo News
Speaking to reporters at the White House, the president said he believes the evidence against the former Minneapolis police officer charged with George Floyd's murder is "overwhelming."
- Business Insider
From toilet paper to diapers, here's a list of household staples that are about to get more expensive
From Huggies diapers to Tampax, Dunkin coffee, and Cheerios, many top goods will get more expensive in the coming months.
When big ships go out of service, they're got to a graveyard in India - but work there has ground to a halt as oxygen is diverted to fight COVID
Oxygen is vital to operate the hissing gas torches that slice large chunks of metal ships at the Alang-Sosiya scrapyard, but it's now being diverted for COVID patients.
- Associated Press
California Gov. Gavin Newsom's critics almost certainly have qualified a recall election for the ballot, a remarkable feat in the heavily Democratic state. The chance to recapture the governorship in the most populous state is an energizing prospect for Republicans who have been locked out of statewide office for more than a decade.
The Ingenuity drone completes the first powered, controlled flight by an aircraft on another world.
- Associated Press
The Las Vegas Raiders got angry backlash for a tweet the team sent after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd. The tweet sent by the team's official account on Tuesday said “I CAN BREATHE 4-20-21.” Floyd told officers “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times before he was killed when Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd's neck last May.
- Business Insider
Russia seems to be preparing to invade Ukraine but it's not clear whether Putin will go through with it
It looks as if he is planning to invade. Or at least that is what he wants everyone to think.
Derek Chauvin's defense focuses on reasonable doubt in a closing argument that compares the murder case to baking cookies
Attorney Eric Nelson told jurors they must consider all the facts and circumstances Chauvin had to assess when he used force on George Floyd.
- The Daily Beast
Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/ReutersA day after the European Union’s top diplomat warned that over 100,000 Russian troops have now gathered on Ukraine’s border and in annexed Crimea, new satellite images show the mighty stockpile of military equipment that the Kremlin has deployed to back them up.On Monday, the EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said a massive Russian army has gathered on the Ukraine border, adding: “It’s the highest military deployment of Russian army in Ukrainian borders ever... When you deploy a lot of troops, a spark can jump here or there.”Top Kremlin Mouthpiece Warns of ‘Inevitable’ War With U.S. Over Another Ukraine Land GrabOn Tuesday, the satellite images published by the Wall Street Journal showed the extent of the Russian force that’s causing so much concern. The photos, taken between March 27 and April 16 by commercial satellite company Maxar Technologies, show that Russia is gathering fighter jets, attack helicopters, and even building a new military hospital.Experts say the range and number of fighter jets gathered are a cause for sharp concern. Philip Breedlove, a retired U.S. Air Force general who was the top NATO military commander when Russian forces annexed Crimea in 2014, told the Journal: “They have appropriately deployed the various elements of airpower that would be needed to establish air superiority over the battlefield and directly support the ground troops.”Dan Jablonsky, the chief executive of Maxar Technologies, said the company decided to make its images public so that the world knows more about what Russia is planning on the Ukraine border. “I think it removes some of the uncertainty and doubt about what is really happening in a fairly critical region of the world,” said Jablonsky.Putin Reignites Ukraine Conflict as Rift With Biden Blows UpU.S. officials are also showing increasing concern about what could happen in the region. The U.S. estimate of the number of Russian troops in Crimea or near Ukraine stands at 80,000, according to the Journal—double the number of troops deployed to the region just one month ago. However, the officials said they would expect to see bigger ammunition stockpiles and more military hospitals if a large-scale invasion was imminent.Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the Journal: “In a few weeks from now they will be close to sufficient combat readiness to pursue a military escalation. By our estimations, their combined military force will reach over 120,000 troops by then... We don’t know whether Putin will decide to attack, but he will certainly be ready to do so.”Last week, during a call between President Joe Biden and Putin, the White House said the U.S. president “emphasised the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
A deadly second wave has overrun hospitals and even crematoriums in India.