Saturday, February 16, 2019

CNN: Chicago Police Believe Jussie Smollett Orchestrated 'Assault'

Jussie Smollett

Update via CNN:

Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN that Chicago Police believe Jussie Smollett paid two men to orchestrate the assault.

The brothers, who were arrested Wednesday, were released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of "new evidence." The sources told CNN that the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement.

Chicago news anchor/reporter Rafer Weigel tweets:


Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted an update to the ongoing investigation into the alleged assault on Empire star Jussie Smollett today.

Guglielmi tweeted  that the two individuals being questioned by police in the case were released without being charged. He also noted  that "detectives have additional investigative work to complete."

Earlier this week, media outlets were reporting the CPD was looking into the possibility that Smollett faked the alleged attack.

But Guglielmi quickly responded to those reports calling them 'unconfirmed' and that the sources being used by those outlets were 'uninformed and inaccurate.'

FX's 'Pose' Snubbed In NAACP Image Award Nominations

(image via Instagram/PoseOnFX)

The NAACP announced the nominees for this year's Image Awards this week, and noticeable among those not recognized was the ground-breaking series, Pose, from super-producer Ryan Murphy.

Although the show was nominated for 2 Golden Globe Awards, 2 Critics Choice Awards, a GLAAD Media Award and a Gotham Independent Film Award, the nominating committee for the NAACP Image Awards chose to leave the FX series out in the cold.

Note: the show wasn't nominated for this year's Emmy Awards due to missing the cutoff date for eligibility.

Many felt principal actors Billy Porter, MJ Rodriguez and Indya Moore would have been included in the nominations thanks to fairly universal acclaim for their performances, as well as a nod for Outstanding Drama Series.

The Image Awards recognize not only performances and creative achievement of people of color, but also projects that promote diversity and inclusivity.

You would think a show like Pose, which chronicles the lives of trans women of color in the 1980s ballroom culture, would be a perfect fit. Five main characters are trans women of color, plus there's the added diversity of other queer characters.

But, no.

Out received this statement from Robin Harrison, acting director of the NAACP Hollywood Bureau, after this year's nominations were announced:

“The NAACP Image Awards works with networks, studios, and other industry professionals to make sure we receive nominations that promote the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts, as well as those who promote social justice, diversity and inclusion through their creative work.

“Each year, our vast field of eligible submissions are voted on by a general committee of NAACP and industry representatives. As an organization, the NAACP is proud of shows like Pose that are breaking new ground and bringing issues that impact the LGBTQ community to the forefront of public consciousness.”

That said, there were several nominations acknowledging the achievements by queer artists of color.

• ABC's How To Get Away With Murder and Netflix'a Orange in the New Black, which feature LGBTQ characters and storylines, received nominations

• RuPaul for Outstanding Reality Program and Outstanding Host

• Tituss Burgess for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

• Amandla Stenberg for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for The Hate U Give

• Out writer Lena Waithe picked up two nods for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series for episodes of The Chi

• Justin Simien for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series for Dear White People

• Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer was recognized in both the Outstanding Album category as well as snagging a nom for Outstanding Female Artist

The 50th NAACP Image Awards will be broadcast on March 30 from the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles on TV One.

Click here for a full list of nominees.

Awkward: Pence Gets Silence After Offering Greetings From Donald Trump To Conference

Vice President Mike Pence

Addressing the Munich Security Conference, Vice President Mike Pence was met with steely silence when he paused for applause after sharing Donald Trump had sent his greetings.

“I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump,” Pence said.



(still silence)

Watch below.

Trump Defensive When Questioned About Reality Of "National Emergency"

Reporters noted before Donald Trump's press conference yesterday in the White House Rose Garden that no teleprompters were set up, a sign that Trump might be a bit freewheeling at the event.

Other than a few cards with notes, Trump announced he was declaring a 'national emergency' over border security, and then took questions from reporters.

CNN's Jim Acosta tried to ask about the 'disconnect' between Trump's proclamations of 'emergency' versus data coming from the federal government that border crossings have been declining for years and presently at near record lows.

“I wonder if you could comment on this disconnect that we seem to have in this country where you are presenting information about what’s happening at the border,” Acosta said, “calling it an invasion, talking about women with duct tape over their mouths and so on, yet there is a lot of reporting out there, a lot of crime data out there, there is a lot of Department of Homeland Security data out there, that shows border crossings at a near record low.”

And Acosta is correct. Check out these stats from Trump's own Customs and Border Protection:

Acosta also noted government data that shows “undocumented immigrants committing crimes at lower levels than native-born Americans.”

But the Trumpster became very defensive saying he uses "a lot of stats" to come up with his position, and soon segued into a classic episode of Trumpism attacking Acosta.

Trump: “You don’t really believe that, do you? Do you really believe that? Look at our federal prisons.”

Acosta: “I believe in facts and statistics. What do you say to your critics who say that you are creating a national emergency? That you are concocting a national emergency here to get your wall?”

Trump: “What do you think? Do you think I am creating something? Your question is a very political question because you have an agenda. You are CNN, fake news. You have an agenda.”

“The numbers that you gave are wrong,” Trump added. “Take a look at our federal prison population. See how many of them percentage-wise are illegal aliens. Just see. Go ahead and see. It’s a fake question.”

This was something. The video below is cued up to Acosta's question, but you can watch the full on press event as well.

Adam Rippon Teams With Superfruit For "The Promise"

Mitch Grassi, Scott Hoying, Adam Rippon

Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying, of the Grammy Award-winning a cappella group Pentatonix, teamed up with Olympic medalist Adam Rippon, for their new music video, a cover of the 1988 When In Rome hit, "The Promise."

Recorded under Grassi and Hoying's side gig as Superfruit, the boys deliver an updated version of the song as Rippon returns to the ice for visuals.

Rippon recently announced that he's retired from competitive skating, but great to see he'll still indulge his fans with a skate here and there :)

Beautifully shot and edited as Rippon glides and spins effortlessly around Hoying and Grassi.

Nice for a Saturday :)

Friday, February 15, 2019

News Round-Up: February 15, 2019

• Took our friends to see Mariah Carey this week at Caesar's Colosseum this week. Michael and I took the outside positions (above) just in case folks wanted to crop us out for a more 'intimate' photographic Mariah moment :)
Backstage with Mariah Carey in Las Vegas

Some news items you might have missed:

• Took our friends to see Mariah Carey this week at Caesar's Colosseum this week. Michael and I took the outside positions (above) just in case folks wanted to crop us out for a more 'intimate' photographic Mariah moment :)

• Police in Venezuela have raided and confiscated lifesaving medications from an HIV service organization.

• Disney is on a winning streak when it comes to the LGBTQ community. A character on the Disney Channel recently said "I'm gay;" Disneyland Paris is hosting an official Pride event this year; the upcoming film Jungle Cruise will have an openly gay character; and now Disney's Instagram account posted a pic of a gay couple getting married at Disney World as part of its Fairy Tale Weddings package.

• Out football player Michael Sam told an audience in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he regrets coming out before the NFL draft in 2014. “The NFL gave me a raw deal,” said Sam. “It was tough to forgive them. I love football. Football gave me an education and gave me the opportunity I so desperately needed at the time.”

• Special counsel Robert Mueller said in a new court filing that search warrants have uncovered communications that connect longtime GOP operative Roger Stone to “Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1,” which is widely believed to be WikiLeaks.

• Handsome classical crossover singer, Daniel Emmet, released the music video for his latest single “PasserĂ .”

You may remember Emmet as a finalist on Season 13 of America’s Got Talent who was challenged by Simon Cowell to learn a new song in one hour, in Italian, and then perform it on national television - which he did.

This is a voice, kids... Hit play below.

Federal Judge Orders Trump Administration To Stop Discharging HIV+ Military

A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to stop discharging HIV+ members of the U.S. military for the time being.

A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to stop discharging HIV+ members of the U.S. military for the time being.

The order came in the case of Roe and Voe v. Shanahan, filed by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN, with partner law firm Winston & Strawn, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Airmen who were given discharge orders in November of last year.

Both men had tested positive for HIV in 2017 during routine screenings, and after beginning antiretroviral treatment they were deemed asymptomatic and declared physically fit to deploy, according to The Washington Post.

Even though they had the backing of their commanding officers, they were informed in November that the military prohibits personnel with HIV from being deployed to the Middle East, where the majority of Air Force members are expected to go.

In February 2018, the Trump administration announced its “Deploy or Get Out” policy which ordered the Pentagon to identify service members who cannot be deployed to military posts outside the United States for more than 12 consecutive months, and to separate them from military service.

Both men say they can deploy with no issues as long as they take a supply of medication with them.

One of the airmen told The Washington Post he'd already been deployed to the Middle East twice, and both times his duty didn't require him to leave his base where proper medical facilities were available.

Neither men were given the option of alternative jobs, which they say they would have accepted.

U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema issued the preliminary injunction Friday after hearing oral arguments in regarding Lamda Legal and Outserve-SLDN’s motion for a preliminary injunction as well as the Trump administration’s motion to dismiss.

Judge Brinkema granted the injunction after ruling the plaintiffs (who filed pseudonymously as “Richard Roe” and “Victor Voe”) were likely to prevail in stopping their discharge.

Peter Perkowski, OutServe-SLDN’s Legal & Policy Director, issued a statement which read:

“We are thrilled that Judge Brinkema recognized not just that the military’s policies were harming our members who are living and serving with HIV. But also indicated that, at least on the evidence before her, the military’s decisions were based on outdated medical science and are categorically denying people living with HIV the same opportunities as their fellow service members. We look forward to a final decision in the case.”

Two Men Arrested In Connection To Alleged Attack On EMPIRE Star Jussie Smollett

The Chicago Police Department has announced the arrests of two men in connection to the alleged homophobic attack on Empire star Jussie Smollett.
Jussie Smollett

The Chicago Police Department has announced the arrests of two men in connection to the alleged homophobic attack on Empire star Jussie Smollett.

According to CNN, the men are the same that were previously identified in surveillance video as “persons of interest.”

Tom Ahern, Chicago Police communications deputy director, told the press that the men are being viewed as “potential suspects,” but have not been charged at this time.

The men were taken into custody for questioning Wednesday night at O’Hare Airport as they returned from a trip to Nigeria.

One of the men previously pleaded guilty to aggravated battery in 2012, and was sentenced to 2 years of probation, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Earlier today, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said detectives “had probable cause that they may have been involved in an alleged crime.” Guglielmi didn’t specify what the alleged crime might have been.

"Interrogations will resume today with the two individuals and their attorney," Guglielmi said in his statement. "While we haven't found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is also no evidence to say that this is a hoax."

Smollett told the authorities that on January 29, he was attacked by two men who assaulted him, put a noose around his neck and poured an undetermined liquid on him. According to Smollett, the men used homophobic and racial slurs during the attack as well as yelling, “This is MAGA country!”

On Thursday, the CPD shared they had identified the two men, reportedly brothers from Nigeria, using surveillance cameras, public transportation records and corroborating info provided by Smollett.

Chicago news station CBS2 reports police raided the home of the two men finding bleach, shoes, electronics and more.

According to their lawyer, Gloria Schmidt, the men know Smollett as at least one of them has reportedly worked as an extra on Empire.

"They do know Jussie,” she told CBS2. “They have worked with him on Empire. My preliminary investigations show that on set it’s very tight. They’re all very cordial with each other, so they’re baffled why they are people of interest.”

There were conflicting press reports Thursday night as some outlets claimed the Chicago Police Department was looking into whether Smollett staged the attack himself and falsely reported the crime.

Among the theories was that Smollett might have faked the assault to raise his profile as his character on Empire was to be written off the series.

But Guglielmi announced via Twitter that media reports alleging the attack was a “hoax” were “unconfirmed by case detectives.”

The police spokesman added that media sources regarding the attack are “uninformed and inaccurate.”

Additionally, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released the following statement regarding the reports:

“The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of EMPIRE is patently ridiculous. He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”