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Ted Cruz Thinks It’s Hilarious That He Booked It to Cancun During That Deadly Texas Storm

More than 240 of his constituents died. But to Ted Cruz, it’s all a little punch line.

Matthew Staver/Bloomberg/Getty Images

In February 2021, just one month after Ted Cruz failed to lead an effort to overturn the certification of the presidential election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania, millions of people in his home state of Texas were suffering without power during a historical and deadly winter storm. Cruz, however, was on his way to Cancun to soak in a little sun, while his constituents struggled to stay warm enough to keep breathing.

It’s a legacy that will stay with Cruz, but amid the escalating viciousness of his party, he has been able to shed the association ever so slightly. However, on Friday, he gave us a reminder of how cartoonishly callous he most certainly is.

It’s all a joke. The pain, the suffering, the heightened contradictions his departure from his constituents revealed—it’s all just funny to him.

At least 246 people died in that storm, one of the worst natural disasters in Texas’s history; victims ranged in age from less than 1 year old to 102. People were stuck in the snow, some were unable to obtain necessary medical treatments, others were found dead alone in rural communities with little support.

In Houston, The New York Times reported, an Ethiopian immigrant died in her idling car, inside her garage, where she sat while charging her phone.

“She tried to drink water,” said Negash Desta, a relative of the deceased, Etenesh Mersha. “After she told her friend she couldn’t talk anymore, there was no response after that.” Her daughter was found dead, while her husband and son were hospitalized.

Recall too: resorting to finding power wherever one could (at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning), going out into the cold for help, dying alone—all of it was happening amid the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

And still. To Ted Cruz, the human suffering, the real-world implications of an energy policy so reliant on fossil fuels, of a government system that can leave so many to die such cold, lonely deaths—it’s all a little punch line.

No, Hotels Aren’t Evicting Homeless American Vets Because of Migrants

The story was shared by Fox, the New York Post, and more. Because whenever the right can blame migrants, facts come second.

Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty Images
A migrant who was bused to New York from the Texas border in January.

“Homeless vets are being booted from NY hotels to make room for migrants: advocates,” a New York Post headline from last week read. “New York Hotels Evicting Homeless Veterans to House Migrants,” Newsweek said days later, joining in the outrage. “As many as 20 homeless veterans were booted from hotels in upstate New York to presumably make room for the influx of migrants,” Fox told its audience shortly thereafter.

And it turns out, the whole story was made up.

Mid Hudson News reports that seven homeless men have come forward and revealed they were recruited to pretend to be veterans who were displaced from a hotel—with the subtext being that migrants were taking their spots—all so a nonprofit organization could pull off a mass fraudulent scheme on the entire country.

The men told the outlet they were part of a group of 15 who were directed by the Yerik Israel Toney, or YIT, Foundation to pretend to be veterans kicked out of the Crossroads Hotel in Newburgh, New York. The men were recruited at a homeless shelter, where they were promised $200 along with food and alcohol. All they had to do was take a trip to participate in a discussion on homelessness with an elected official. After agreeing, the men were all loaded up into vehicles and moved to a diner, where they met the lead fraudster: Sharon Toney-Finch, the founder of YIT. She told them to order whatever they wanted from the menu.

“We ate like kings,” one of the men said. “Sharon introduced herself and told us we could have whatever we wanted and she would pick up the tab.” After the royal meal, Toney-Finch took them to the parking lot and laid out the real plan: Go to a meeting and act like they were veterans displaced from their hotels to make room for migrants.

The storyline was a hook, line, and sinker for the right: A hotel kicked out American veterans to make room for an influx of migrants being shipped to the town. A media firestorm quickly slammed officials for a completely made-up occurrence.

Republican Assemblyman Brian Maher even denounced the hotel by name, going on to attack the federal government’s dealings with migrants and asylum-seekers. “So the Biden administration, Governor Hochul, and the city of New York, they all have a part in this, and it’s a total embarrassment,” Maher said on Fox & Friends First. “It’s a slap in the face to veterans, to citizens of New York in this country, who are really being cast aside to allow for asylum-seekers to come here.”

Maher spoke highly of Toney-Finch, perpetrator of the fraudulent story. “Sharon spoke out, and now she’s getting hate messages. She asked me to handle this interview today because she wants to focus on the veterans,” Maher said on Fox’s airwaves. “And by the way, one of these veterans, 30 years old, he was there for the Afghanistan pullout. For me, one of the most embarrassing moments for our country in our history. And after getting home, he was kicked out of this hotel trying to reintegrate back into our society.” Maher even appealed to the public to donate to the YIT Foundation.

But pulling on one lie opened up another and another. Toney-Finch used a $37,800 hotel receipt as proof she paid for the veterans’ housing herself. But a hotel manager found “no veteran organizations” in the system. “There were no, absolutely no, veterans that were staying here that were asked to leave because of, you know, the migrants that were coming to stay here. Nobody was evicted. That’s for sure.”

Maher pressed Toney-Finch to provide bank records proving that her nonprofit was paying for hotel housing for the veterans. Soon thereafter, Toney-Finch admitted to him that perhaps things were not as they seemed. Maher, for his part, has said he simply took Toney-Finch and the “veterans” at their word.

Thousands of people across the country were duped, misled, and had any potential biases and prejudices further inflamed by this story. And again, it was all made up. But Fox, the New York Post, Newsweek, and a horde of other outlets ran with it anyway.

“We are disgusted, but not surprised, to learn that the New York Post’s front-page story pitting homeless veterans against asylum-seekers was a complete lie,” said Aaron Narraph Fernando, of populist grassroots organization For the Many. “This fake story of George Santos proportions has already made its way into the national media and kicked up a storm of anti-immigrant hatred. It has turned local residents against migrants, sending xenophobic, racist outrage toward asylum-seekers who are simply trying to make a new home for themselves in Newburgh.”

Kevin McCarthy Can’t Control His Own Party on Debt Ceiling Talks

The pause on the debt ceiling negotiations is further proof that the House speaker isn’t the real leader of his caucus. Donald Trump still is.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Bipartisan negotiations on the debt ceiling abruptly stopped on Friday after Donald Trump Kevin McCarthy said Republicans weren’t getting enough concessions.

Democrats and Republicans have been locked in a protracted battle over the debt limit, which the GOP has indicated it’s willing to hold hostage in order to reduce government spending. But with the United States just weeks away from defaulting on its debt, President Joe Biden has been meeting with party leaders to try and find a solution. There appeared to have been some progress this week.

But on Friday, Republicans pulled the plug on a meeting shortly after it began. “It’s time to press pause because it’s just not productive,” Representative Garret Graves told reporters.

He said the talks have become “just unreasonable,” and it was not clear when they would start again.

McCarthy backed up what Graves said, telling reporters, “We’ve got to get movement by the White House, and we don’t have any movement yet. So, yeah, we’ve gotta pause.”

AP White House reporter Chris Megerian first tweeted the news that negotiations had ended at 11:28 a.m.

Just 18 minutes before, guess who was posting on Truth Social that Republicans should stop negotiating until all of their ridiculous demands were met?

The farthest-right members of the Republican Party are fully in control. The House Freedom Caucus had already called Thursday for “no further discussion” on raising the debt ceiling until the Senate passes the GOP’s budget bill. And by Friday morning, their wish became reality.

Remember that just three days ago, McCarthy said he’d be willing to continue meeting with the Biden administration “until this gets done.”

The Freedom Caucus members are some of Trump’s staunchest supporters in Congress, and they were also McCarthy’s biggest obstacle to the speakership. He made multiple concessions to the group in order to win the gavel, and now he is entirely beholden to them. And the country will pay the price.

Nebraska Lawmaker Calls Out Republicans for Hating Trans People More Than They Love Their Families

Megan Hunt, who has been leading a weeks-long filibuster in Nebraska, called it as it is.

A demonstrator walks down the sidewalk carrying a transgender pride flag
Eric Thayer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

As the Nebraska state legislature prepares for a final debate on a bill that would ban both gender-affirming care and abortion, one Democratic senator called out her Republicans for their blatant bigotry.

Senator Megan Hunt has helped lead the charge on a marathon filibuster to block anti-trans legislation during the entire legislative session. Her son is trans, making the issue particularly personal. Republicans have rallied to push this latest bill through, including Senator Ray Aguilar, who is recovering from two knee surgeries, and Senator Lou Ann Linehan, who said she had to miss her grandchild’s preschool graduation for the initial vote.

“I’m asking you to love your family more than you hate mine,” Hunt said. “If your family wants you home to recover from surgery, maybe you should do that. If you want to go see your grandson graduate from preschool, you should do that.”

“We don’t need you here.”

Elon Said Twitter Users Can Post Two-Hour Videos, So Someone Immediately Shared the Entire Shrek 3 Movie

New CEO shift going well *thumbs up*

Altan Gocher/DeFodi Images/Getty Images

On Thursday, Elon Musk announced that Twitter Blue subscribers now have the ability to upload two-hour videos—eight gigabytes worth of content—into their tweets. And one of the top replies showed yet another of many potential legal entanglements Musk faces because of his mismanagement of Twitter.

While this user’s viral post has since been disabled “in response to a report by the copyright owner,” scores of other accounts are continuing to post full-length films on their Twitter accounts. A scroll through the replies to Musk’s announcement of yet another ill-thought-out benefit of his money-losing Twitter Blue regime shows numerous users posting high-quality videos of copyrighted movies.

The episode follows Musk’s announcement of a new CEO, Linda Yaccarino, whose appointment was ostensibly meant to symbolize a serious pursuit to appease and attract advertisers. That pursuit was somewhat deflated after a scratch beneath the surface showed how much Yaccarino seems to appreciate conspiratorial and far-right content.

And a bunch of accounts committing copyright violations left and right—amid a decimated content and standards team—probably doesn’t help Twitter one bit.

Mark Your Calendars for the Next Big Trump Indictment

The Georgia prosecutor investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election has signaled when in the summer new charges will likely come.

Donlad Trump wears a MAGA hat on a golf field
Robert Perry/Getty Images

Donald Trump has been indicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in efforts to pay hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels, who he was alleged to have an affair with. He has been found civilly liable for sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll. And now, the twice-impeached former president is looking down the barrel of another set of criminal charges to come as soon as early August.

The New York Times reports that the Georgia prosecutor leading an investigation into Trump and his allies’ efforts to overturn the 2020 election has announced that most of her staff will be working remotely during the first three weeks of August. She has also asked judges in an Atlanta courthouse not to schedule trials for a portion of that time, as she looks to finally bring charges in the investigation.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis sent out the requests and plans in a letter addressed to 21 county officials, including the chief county judge and county sheriff, the Times reports.

“Thank you for your consideration and assistance in keeping the Fulton County Judicial Complex safe during this time,” Willis wrote, making explicit what the remote work policy and requests were related to. She has already asked local law enforcement and the FBI to help with security in and around the courthouse as well.

Though the Times doesn’t say this, it’s possible the Georgia indictment won’t come until August, in order to give special counsel Jack Smith the space to bring his own charges against Trump first. As a reminder, Smith is also investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, as well as his mishandling of classified documents.

The investigation into whether Trump and company interfered with the 2020 election in Georgia has been ongoing for over two years. A special grand jury that heard evidence in the case for some seven months has recommended indictments of more than a dozen individuals—and Trump is highly suspected to be among the recommended culprits.

Willis’s security concerns are in direct response to Trump’s own attacks on the slate of investigations being led all over the country into his and his allies’ conduct. He and the right have viciously attacked Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Stormy Daniels, E. Jean Carroll, and those in the Georgia investigation as well. In Willis’s letter to the FBI last year, she noted that Trump had called the investigators “vicious, horrible people” at a rally and encouraged protests in cities where he was being investigated.

Trump is 0–2 in just the most recent investigations he has faced. And given how much paper trail has already been exposed showing Trump and his allies’ widespread efforts to overturn the election, it is not unlikely that the Georgia investigation will present insurmountable charges once again.

People Close to Dianne Feinstein Are Joking That She’ll Resign When She’s Dead

Apparently, the California senator has been battling inflammation of the brain and facial paralysis too.

Senator Dianne Feinstein close-up (she looks ill)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Apparently, Dianne Feinstein forgot she had encephalitis—inflammation of the brain. Either that, or the California senator (or her surrogates) have been lying about the degree of health issues she has been dealing with.

On Thursday, The New York Times reported that Feinstein has been dealing with more complications than shingles alone. The virus spread to her face and neck, causing vision and balance problems and facial paralysis, also known as Ramsay Hunt syndrome. The virus also brought on encephalitis. Both conditions were not publicly disclosed.

When asked about the nondisclosed conditions, Feinstein claimed she did not have encephalitis, that it “really has never been diagnosed,” and that it “was really a bad flu.”

The utter bleakness of it all cannot be overstated. “People close to her joke privately that perhaps when Ms. Feinstein is dead, she will start to consider resigning,” the Times wrote.

Feinstein has already been feared to be fighting several cognitive and physical health issues; the new reports affirm the nature of those fears. Encephalitis can impact people’s memory and language function and incur sleeping or mood disorders, spells of confusion, headaches, and difficulties walking.

Since the revelation, a Feinstein spokesperson has said the encephalitis “resolved itself shortly after she was released from the hospital in March” but that the senator “continues to have complications from Ramsay Hunt syndrome.”

The Times reports follows a discouraging episode on Tuesday, in which the senator seemed to have forgotten she has not been in the Senate for over two months.

“No, I haven’t been gone,” Feinstein said. “You should follow the—I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working,” she continued.

A reporter followed up, asking if she meant she had been working from home.

“No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting,” she insisted. “Please. You either know or don’t know.”

Sincerely, this is heartbreaking to watch. Feinstein surely has her own agency, but it is abjectly cruel if anyone is forcing or encouraging her to stay in her role. If Feinstein indeed insists of her own accord on staying, may we pray she comes to her senses on how her absence has debilitated the machinations of government and how her insistence on working debilitates the rest of her own livelihood.

Ron DeSantis’s Drag Ban Is Already Killing Pride Events in Florida

Pride in Florida this year will look very different.

Sean Drakes/Getty Images
Celebrated drag personality and Palace ambassador Tiffany Fantasia co-hosts the fifteenth annual Miami Beach Pride Parade in April.

Ron DeSantis’s war on queer people has already wrecked multiple Pride celebrations this year.

The group that organizes Pride festivals in Tampa, Florida, announced Thursday it will cancel one of its annual events in light of the newly signed law that effectively bans drag performances.

The law, which DeSantis signed Wednesday, prohibits government entities and employees from issuing permits to organizations that may hold “adult live performances” in the presence of minors. Anyone that does can be charged with a misdemeanor. The law is so vaguely worded, and the punishment so high, that at least one Pride Parade was canceled before the measure was even signed.

The new law would also ban businesses from allowing minors to attend an “adult live performance,” which is defined as a show performed in front of a live audience that “depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or specific sexual activities … lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.” Any business that breaks this law will face a fine of up to $10,000 and could lose its license.

“It is with deep sorrow and sadness that the TAMPA PRIDE BOARD has had to CANCEL PRIDE ON THE RIVER this Fall. The law the governor signed into effect against LGBTQ+ Community yesterday is sickening,” Tampa Pride said on Facebook. Pride on the River is a festival that takes place every fall and features a boat parade, drag brunches, and kid-oriented activities such as balloon animals and face painting.

We are all sick for our LGBTQ+ Community,” Tampa Pride said. “Put on your thinking caps Floridians..... We have to come together for our lives.”

Screenshot via Facebook

Florida Republican lawmakers have made a point of aggressively targeting LGBTQ people since the start of the year. DeSantis signed a slew of anti-LGBTQ bills on Wednesday—the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia—including a measure that lets the state take trans children away from their families if they are receiving gender-affirming care. The effects of these cruel measures are already being seen, as some LGBTQ people clearly no longer feel safe expressing themselves in public.

“The laws recently signed by the autocratic [governor] are unclear and he wants to scare the LGBTQ+ Community,” Tampa Pride President Carrie West told The New Republic. He said the group still plans to have its annual Pride festival in March 2024 and will bring back Pride on the River next fall.

Florida is the second state to pass a law attacking drag performances, which have become a particular target for the right wing in recent years. In March, Tennessee became the first state to pass such a law, although the measure was blocked by a judge before it could go into effect on the grounds that it was overly broad and violated free speech rights.

Ron DiSaster Loses $1 Billion Disney Project Days Before 2024 Announcement

Congrats to Ron DeSantis and his dumb “war on woke”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Ron DeSantis’s childish attacks on Disney have now led to his state losing out on a $1 billion project.

On Thursday, the company announced that it was pulling the plug on a massive office complex scheduled to be developed in Orlando. According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the project would have hosted more than 2,000 jobs with an average salary of some $120,000, reports The New York Times.

Disney’s move follows a yearlong clash between the massive company and the Florida governor after DeSantis was miffed by Disney’s outward opposition to his notorious “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The project would have relocated over 1,000 employees to the new complex; The New York Times reports that while some employees were not eager to do so, Disney persisted due to a tax credit it would have received that would’ve had the company securing as much as $570 million over 20 years for the development.

The company still has $17 billion worth of development planned for Disney World over the next decade, which would create some 13,000 jobs. “I hope we’re able to,” Josh D’Amaro, Disney theme park and consumer products chairman said in a memo Thursday.

The foreboding tone matches that of Disney CEO Robert Iger in an earnings call last week: “Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not?” Iger’s question was a warning shot sent amid DeSantis’s escalating attacks against the company.

DeSantis has had a personal vendetta against Disney since the company dared criticize the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law last year.  Last week, he signed a bill to specifically subject Disney World’s monorail system to enhanced state inspections and regulations. DeSantis has also canceled Disney’s long-standing agreement with the state to self-govern its resort.

Incidentally, DeSantis is reportedly set to finally announce his bid for presidency next week. Not sure if one’s ideal runway to a bid involves dropping a $1 billion bag for your state, a series of robotic public appearances, getting in a race-to-the-bottom argument with your main opponent about who is worse on abortion, and having your endorsed mayoral candidate historically lose to a Democrat!

GOP “FBI Politicization” Hearing Features Witnesses Paid by Trump Adviser

Surprise, surprise, Republicans’ big investigation into the FBI is a sham.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Jim Jordan

Representative Jim Jordan admitted Thursday that two FBI whistleblowers testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee were paid by one of Donald Trump’s advisers.

The Judiciary Committee held a hearing Thursday on the alleged “weaponization” of the federal government. Republicans have charged that the FBI has unfairly targeted conservatives, pointing to things like the Trump-Russia investigation.

During the hearing, Democratic Representative Dan Goldman got two FBI whistleblowers to admit that they had been paid by Kash Patel, a former member of the Trump administration and a current Trump adviser.

When asked whether he thought that was appropriate, given this is allegedly a hearing on politicization, committee Chair Jordan implied that it was, shouting, “They got a family! How are they supposed to feed their family?”

One of those paid witnesses also refused to participate in the January 6 investigation, while another former FBI agent directly interfered in said investigation.

Republicans have launched multiple wild-goose chases of investigations since taking control of the House, wasting everyone’s time as the United States draws closer to defaulting on its debt. House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer recently admitted that not only does he have no concrete proof of wrongdoing by President Joe Biden, but he also lost track of one of his main informants.

Democrats also called out Republicans for not following standard protocols regarding the whistleblowers. Judiciary ranking member Stacey Plaskett said Jordan had violated committee rules by not sharing the whistleblowers’ testimony ahead of the hearing, but Jordan brushed her off.

Plaskett slammed Republicans for giving Democrats next to no information and pushing conspiracy theories. “My colleagues on the far right are on a mission to attack, discredit, and ultimately dismantle the FBI,” she said. “This is ‘defund the police’ on steroids.”