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Missing Titanic Sub Once Faced Massive Lawsuit Over Depths It Could Safely Travel To

Court documents reveal a former OceanGate employee had several safety complaints over the tourist submersible—and then he was fired.

David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

The tourist submersible that went missing while exploring the Titanic wreck was previously the target of safety complaints from an employee of OceanGate, the parent company that owns the sub and runs tourist expeditions of the wreck. That employee complained specifically that the sub was not capable of descending to such extreme depths before he was fired.

That’s according to legal documents obtained by The New Republic. According to the court documents, in a 2018 case, OceanGate employee David Lochridge, a submersible pilot, voiced concerns about the safety of the sub. According to a press release, Lochridge was director of marine operations at the time, “responsible for the safety of all crew and clients.” 

The concerns Lochridge voiced came to light as part of a breach of contract case related to Lochridge refusing to greenlight manned tests of the early models of the submersible over safety concerns. Lochridge was fired, and then OceanGate sued him for disclosing confidential information about the Titan submersible. In response, Lochridge filed a compulsory counterclaim where he alleged wrongful termination over being a whistleblower about the quality and safety of the submersible.

Lochridge, in his counterclaim, alleged that “rather than addressing Lochridge’s concerns, OceanGate instead summarily terminated Lochridge’s employment in efforts to silence Lochridge and to avoid addressing the safety and quality control issues.”

The counterclaim said that:

Given the prevalent flaws in the previously tested 1/3 scale model, and the visible flaws in the carbon end samples for the Titan, Lochridge again stressed the potential danger to passengers of the Titan as the submersible reached extreme depths. The constant pressure cycling weakens existing flaws resulting in large tears of the carbon. Non-destructive testing was critical to detect such potentially existing flaws in order to ensure a solid and safe product for the safety of the passengers and crew.

The counterclaim also details a meeting at OceanGate’s Everett, Washington, facility with engineering staff where “several individuals had expressed concerns over to the Engineering Director.” The OceanGate CEO, Stockton Rush, asked Lochridge to conduct a quality inspection of the Titan. Per the complaint:

Over the course of the next several days, Lochridge worked on his report and requested paperwork from the Engineering Director regarding the viewport design and pressure test results of the viewport for the Titan, along with other key information. Lochridge was met with hostility and denial of access to the necessary documentation that should have been freely available as part of his inspection process.

Lochridge initially verbally expressed concerns about the safety and quality of the Titan submersible to OceanGate executive management, but those concerns were ignored. Lochridge “identified numerous issues that posed serious safety concerns, and offered corrective action and recommendations for each.” Lochridge was particularly concerned about “non-destructive testing performed on the hull of the Titan” but he was “repeatedly told that no scan of the hull or Bond Line could be done to check for delaminations, porosity and voids of sufficient adhesion of the glue being used due to the thickness of the hull.” He was also told there was no such equipment that could conduct a test like that.

After Lochridge issued his inspection report, OceanGate officials convened a meeting on January 19, 2018, with the CEO, human resources director, engineering director, Lochridge, and the operations director. Per the complaint:

At the meeting Lochridge discovered why he had been denied access to the viewport information from the Engineering department—the viewport at the forward of the submersible was only built to a certified pressure of 1,300 meters, although OceanGate intended to take passengers down to depths of 4,000 meters. Lochridge learned that the viewport manufacturer would only certify to a depth of 1,300 meters due to experimental design of the viewport supplied by OceanGate, which was out of the Pressure Vessels for Human Occupancy (“PVHO”) standards. OceanGate refused to pay for the manufacturer to build a viewport that would meet the required depth of 4,000 meters.

The Titanic is estimated to sit on the ocean floor at a depth of nearly 4,000 meters.

Paying passengers wouldn’t know or be informed about Lochridge’s concerns, according to his complaints. They also wouldn’t be informed “that hazardous flammable materials were being used within the submersible.” Lochridge expressed concerns about the Titan again. But OceanGate didn’t address those concerns, and Lochridge was fired.

The case between Lochridge and OceanGate didn’t advance much further, and a few months later the two parties settled.

As of Tuesday, the Coast Guard said that 10,000 square miles have been searched since the Titan submersible went missing Sunday afternoon. Five people are said to be on board, and the submarine had the capability to be underwater for about 96 hours, according to The Guardian

Trump Blames Golf Shirts for Federal Crimes in Bizarre Interview

Donald Trump gave a damning interview to Fox News on why he kept so many classified national security documents.

Donald Trump
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Donald Trump just keeps making his own legal troubles worse.

In a damning interview with Fox News on Monday, the twice-impeached, twice-indicted, and liable for sexual abuse former president pretty much confessed to stealing and hoarding classified documents.

In the interview, Fox host Bret Baier asked Trump directly about several claims in the federal indictment against him.

First, Baier asked Trump why he ignored a May 2022 Justice Department subpoena to hand over any remaining classified documents in his possession. This is a key point in the case against Trump, and Trump’s lawyers had reportedly advised him to hand over all the documents and avoid charges (advice that he ignored).

Trump’s response was to pretty much admit he kept classified documents … but it was only because his golf shirts were in the same boxes.

“Because I had boxes, I want to go through the boxes and get all my personal things out,” Trump said. “I don’t want to hand that over to [the National Archives and Records Administration] yet. And I was very busy, as you’ve sort of seen.”

Baier went on to cite the indictment against Trump, which found that the former president directly interfered to hide the documents from the Justice Department in response to the subpoena.

As the indictment notes, Trump ordered an aide to move the boxes of classified documents to another location and asked his lawyers to tell the Justice Department he had fully complied with the subpoena when he hadn’t. (The indictment even says Trump told his lawyers things like, “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?”)

Trump didn’t comment on these charges, but instead replied, “Before I send boxes over, I have to take all of my things out. These boxes were interspersed with all sorts of things. Golf shirts, clothing, pants, shoes, there were many things.”

In other words, Trump may have committed a crime, but it was only because he was busy and needed to find his golf shirts and shoes … which he kept in the same boxes as highly classified national secrets, as one does.

Later in the interview, Baier asked Trump about a classified Pentagon document he allegedly kept, which details a potential attack on Iran. The Justice Department has an audio recording of Trump in July 2021—months after he had left the White House—bragging to other people in the room about keeping this national security document, and even admitting it was classified.

“You were recorded saying that you had a document detailing a planned attack on another country that was prepared by the U.S. military for you when you were president,” Baier said. “The Iran attack plan. You remember that? You were recorded—”

“You ready?” Trump responded. “It wasn’t a document. I had lots of paper. I had copies of newspaper articles, I had copies of magazines.”

“I know,” Baier replied. “This is specifically a quote. You’re quoted on the recording saying the document was secret, adding that you could have declassified it while you were president, but ‘Now I can’t, you know this is still secret, highly confidential.’ And the indictment cites the recording and the testimony from the people in the room that you showed it to people there that day. So you say on tape that you can’t declassify it, so why have it?”

“When I said I couldn’t declassify it now, that’s because I wasn’t president,” Trump said at first, again admitting that a document existed. “When I’m not president, I can’t declassify.”

When further pressed by Baier, Trump backtracked, saying no document existed and “I didn’t have a document per se.” Trump, in other words, was saying that he was lying to his guests—one of the rare times he said something that had a ring of truth.

Again, there is an audio recording of Trump bragging about this document, and the indictment cites corroborating testimony of those who were there in the room with him that day.

The second half of the Fox interview is set to be aired Tuesday evening—and Trump’s bumbling, incoherent statements may very well come up at trial, when he faces 37 criminal charges.

Facing Climate Unrest, Biden Makes Low-Key Pitch in California

Much of his speech was spent taking a victory lap for defending climate investments in the IRA from Republicans.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images
President Joe Biden and Governor Gavin Newsom listen to a speaker before Biden’s speech on his administration’s environmental efforts at the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center and Preserve in Palo Alto, California, on June 19.

Joe Biden—now campaigning in earnest for president—made a pitch to climate voters on a windy stretch of California wetland on Monday. The headline announcement was a new $600 million effort, to be administered by the Commerce Department, for coastal communities to weather rising sea levels, storm surges, and tidal hurricanes. Another $67 million is being allocated for upgrades to the electrical grid in California, where investor-owned utility PG&E has been found responsible for a number of deadly fires over the last several years.

“Resiliency matters,” Biden said in a short, muted speech at the Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center and Preserve in Palo Alto. “I’ve toured many sites across the country that clearly show climate change is the existential threat to humanity.”

Much of his time at the podium was spent listing off climate-related investments provided for by the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, taking a victory lap for having defended the former from recent Republican attacks.

“We didn’t just protect some of the climate money and clean energy provisions. We protected every single solitary one,” Biden said.

Climate voters aren’t the only people Biden is trying to win over in the Golden State: Biden seems particularly eager to court Bay Area tech magnates, per reports about his West Coast visit. It’s possible he was reserving his energy this afternoon for the full stack of fundraisers filling out the rest of his schedule there. Later today Biden is scheduled to attend a $6,600-per-head reception at the Atherton home of venture capitalist Steve Westly and his wife, Anita Yu. Biden will also meet LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott, along with prospective donors in climate tech and private equity.

Last week, the president secured early 2024 endorsements from some of the country’s biggest green groups: the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and NextGen America. Despite the inarguably historic passage of the IRA last year, which marked America’s first major climate-related spending package, he may have to do more to win over climate voters angered by the White House’s support for fossil fuel projects ranging from the Mountain Valley Pipeline—bolstered by the recent debt ceiling deal—to new liquefied natural gas export facilities, drilling in Alaska, and a gas pipeline in Japan.

Recent polling from Data for Progress found that 48 percent of likely voters under 34 are somewhat or much less likely to vote for Biden because of his “approval of new oil and gas drilling projects on public lands, such as the Willow project in Alaska.” Hours before Biden’s speech, protesters attempted to interrupt Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm during an event in Michigan. “No MVP, no LNG, Granholm you are killing me,” activists with the group Climate Defiance chanted before being ejected from the hotel where Granholm was speaking.

Can U.S.-China Relations Be Fixed?

A surprise meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Xi Jinping suggests the two countries are trying to fix a broken relationship.

Photo by LEAH MILLIS/POOL/AFP/Getty Images
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with China’s President Xi.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, in what many hope is a sign of improving diplomatic relations. But China may be hoping for something more.

China’s economy is struggling after three years of strict Covid-19 restrictions. The past few weeks have been particularly bleak, with investment slowing and exports shrinking. The housing market has taken a hit, and young people are struggling to find jobs, a long-standing and growing problem in the country. Neither China’s rollback of Covid-19 restrictions nor its continued economic stimulus has jump-started its economy.

The meeting between Blinken and Xi could open the door to economic talks between the two countries. Former President Donald Trump imposed steep tariffs on Chinese goods, making it more expensive for U.S. companies to import from China. President Joe Biden not only left those tariffs in place, but he also convinced Congress to provide large subsidies for the U.S.-based production of certain goods, further weakening China’s economy. Other countries also diversified supply chains away from China during the pandemic.

The growing economic and geopolitical rivalry between the U.S. and China led to a nadir of diplomatic relations between the countries. After months of sky-high tensions between Beijing and Washington—over alleged spy balloons, human rights issues, and even TikTok—both sides seem ready to come to the table. China’s main diplomat for the Western hemisphere, Yang Tao, said Blinken’s visit “marks a new beginning.”

But China did not concede to the U.S.’s main point: improved communication between their militaries. The U.S. considers better military-to-military communication key to avoiding international conflict, particularly over Taiwan. Chinese officials, however, said they are not yet ready to resume contact.

Whatever happens next will prove to be a delicate balancing act for the Biden administration. One of Trump’s most-repeated attacks was accusing Biden of being “soft” on China. This has continued to be a major talking point among Republicans and will no doubt figure heavily during the GOP presidential primary. Biden faces a difficult political task in the coming months: Improve relations with Beijing without damaging his reelection chances.

More on U.S. Foreign Policy

There Is No Democrat’s Case for Ron DeSantis

A Orlando Sentinel op-ed falls into familiar traps in making the case for Florida’s governor.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

The case against Ron DeSantis from a Democrat’s perspective is straightforward and uncomplicated. For one thing, he’s a Republican. And not just any Republican: DeSantis has been one of the most odious and destructive governors in America since January 2019. He has been a vocal opponent not just of efforts to end the Covid-19 pandemic but of the vaccine that did more to control it than anything else; his anti-vaccine advocacy has also spurred on anti-vaccine activists’ assault on safe, protective measures to control diseases like mumps and polio. He has relentlessly attacked his state’s LGBTQ population, signing draconian bills into law that aid the false, dangerous idea that these people are “groomers.” His efforts in Florida have practically single-handedly brought back book banning to America, an extremely troubling development. On top of that, he is, on most issues, a bog-standard Republican: He wants to cut benefits for the poor and pass massive tax cuts for the rich. He is also, it almost goes without mentioning at this point, grotesque and charismaless, and a phenomenally unappealing figure. He has no juice.

Writing in The Orlando Sentinel on Monday, William Cooper—a Democrat and author of Stress Test: How Donald Trump Threatens American Democracy, a book with one of the most non–[citation needed] titles in the history of American publishing—made the case that none of that actually matters because DeSantis went to Harvard and Yale. Here’s Cooper:

But unlike Biden and Trump, DeSantis passes the litmus test. He’s very competent. A Yale- and Harvard-educated lawyer, DeSantis served in the Navy (including on a tour in Iraq) before entering Congress and then becoming Florida’s governor. And he’s effectively achieved his objectives in Florida—regarding both politics and policy.

DeSantis’ competence matters. Why? Because the most important quality to have in a U.S. president is competence. The biggest questions facing the country do not fall comfortably along some left-right axis but instead require prudent and empirically effective leadership to address. How should we approach our global rivalry with China? How should we regulate artificial intelligence? How should we participate in an international economy complicated by dysfunction and violence around the world? And so on.…

A simple question establishes the point. Which candidate would be better at the helm in a global crisis: an 80-year-old who can’t walk straight (Joe Biden); a 76-year-old with the emotional intelligence of a 10-year-old (Donald Trump); or a 44-year-old Harvard-law-trained Navy vet who skillfully runs his home state (Ron DeSantis)?

This is an argument that reduces politics to pure aesthetics—there is no mention of anything DeSantis could do that affects people’s lives in any way. Cooper produces no evidence that DeSantis is “skillfully” managing his home state; he addresses none of the policies that DeSantis has pursued in Florida. The office of the presidency is reduced to an almost symbolic one in which DeSantis is effective simply because he fits some sort of preordained model of what a president should look like (and also because, unlike Trump and Biden, he is not old). Similarly, there is no mention that Biden has skillfully managed an international crisis—Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ron DeSantis has spent most of the last two years losing a war against Disney. 

It gets worse: 

Indeed, domestic issues matter less and less the more interconnected the world gets—and it’s getting exponentially more interconnected as time marches on. This, in turn, decreases the relevance of a president’s political party and increases the importance of a president’s competence. Far better to get the culture wars wrong but get China right than vice versa. Same with taxation: Better to tilt the code a little more toward the rich if it means we also get smarter regulations protecting humanity from the downside of artificial intelligence. Appoint conservative judges all day long if it means America’s international effectiveness and leadership improves. America’s domestic squabbles just don’t mean as much as they used to. And it’s a sign of our national decadence and complacency that our political focus is nonetheless still insular and myopic. The world is a dangerous and complicated place and the president of the United States should be—above all else—very good at dealing with global challenges.

Setting aside the myopia of this argument—issues that don’t interest Cooper, like gay rights, are reduced to baubles to be cast aside so that we can “regulate artificial intelligence,” whatever he means by that—none of this actually applies to DeSantis. There is no evidence that he could manage foreign affairs any better than Biden or, for that matter, Trump. There is significant evidence that he would arguably make lives for vulnerable people—LGBTQ people and poor people, in particular—worse than Trump.  

DeSantis’s appeal has largely always been this abstract. He does seem more normal than Trump. There are no tweetstorms at three in the morning. There are no indictments about mishandling classified information. And yet, despite the fact that he’s young and possesses his faculties, DeSantis remains a damaging political force. All you have to do is look at what he’s actually doing and saying. 

More on the Interminable 2024 GOP Primary

Federal Judge Orders Trump to Shut Up About Classified Docs

The Department of Justice won its first salvo with Trump, but there will be many more to come.

Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump is banned from talking on social media about evidence in the classified documents case, thanks to a protective order issued Monday.

Trump pleaded not guilty last week to 37 counts of keeping classified information without authorization, making false statements, and conspiring to obstruct justice. Federal prosecutors requested the protective order on Friday, arguing they needed to protect “sensitive and confidential” information.

Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart has acquiesced, issuing an order that significantly restricts the ways Trump can access evidence in the case and share it online. Unless he has permission from a judge, Trump is not allowed to share information about the evidence to anyone not involved with the case.

He also cannot see any of the prosecutors’ evidence unless he is in the presence of his lawyers, and he definitely cannot keep any copies of the evidence. If he violates any of these new rules, he could face criminal contempt charges.

Trump also had to sign a form promising, like Bart Simpson writing on the chalkboard, “I will not further disclose or disseminate the Discovery Materials.”

Given Trump’s penchant for just tweeting out important decisions or insider information, it’s unsurprising that Reinhart issued a protective order. This isn’t the first time Trump had to be disciplined before a trial even got underway: In May, the judge presiding over Trump’s Manhattan criminal case on the alleged payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels issued a protective order stating that the people involved in the lawsuit are not allowed to share evidence from the case on social media. Trump can still discuss the case publicly and is only restricted from sharing information about the evidence.

Prosecutors had argued Trump has a “long-standing history” of attacking people involved in his legal disputes. The judge also ordered Trump to attend a hearing specifically to be told to stop trying to intimidate witnesses.

Why Did the DOJ Resist Investigating Donald Trump’s Role in January 6?

A new Washington Post report suggests the Department of Justice did not want to seem “partisan” by investigating the former president’s attempt to overturn a legitimate election.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Donald Trump at a rally shortly before his supporters stormed the Capitol

The Department of Justice waited a year to investigate Donald Trump for his alleged role in the January 6 insurrection, The Washington Post reported Monday.

A new investigation by the Post found that the DOJ resisted looking into Trump or members of his inner circle, even as evidence of an organized scheme to overturn the 2020 election piled up. Instead, newly sworn-in Attorney General Merrick Garland and his team opted for a “bottom-up” strategy, focusing first on the rioters and working their way up. Garland and his team refrained from directly investigating the former president out of fear of looking politically partisan.

Just hours after he was sworn into office, Garland met with acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherman, who along with the FBI was responsible for prosecuting all crimes related to the January 6 attack. Sherman presented their work, which had resulted at the time in charges for nearly 300 rioters, with nearly 900 in  total identified.

Sherman had made waves when he said Trump could be considered guilty of the attack, but according to the Post’s investigation, his presentation made no mention of investigating Trump or his advisers. Investigators stayed away from Trump, even as more and more evidence appeared of numerous schemes intended to overturn a legitimate election.

More than a year later, in November 2022, Garland finally appointed special counsel Jack Smith to investigate Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents and his alleged role in the January 6 attack. The Post attributes this delay to “a wariness about appearing partisan, institutional caution, and clashes over how much evidence was sufficient to investigate the actions of Trump and those around him.”

Sherwin, senior Justice Department officials, and the deputy FBI director all opposed investigating Trump or his allies directly, arguing it was too early, the Post reported. But Garland then continued with this approach, giving Trump more time to spread lies about the 2020 election.

Trump pleaded not guilty last week to 37 counts of keeping classified information, some of it relating to national security, without authorization, making false statements, and conspiring to obstruct justice. He is still under investigation for his role in January 6 and under a separate investigation for his role in trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia.

More on Trump's Lawlessness

Donald Trump’s Former Attorney General Thinks He’s a Child

The former president is also seen as a national security risk by many of the people who worked closest with him in his former administration.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Two of Donald Trump’s ex-advisers warned over the weekend that the former president poses a massive threat to national security, in light of his recent indictment for allegedly mishandling classified documents.

Former Attorney General Bill Barr called Trump’s conduct “indefensible” on Sunday. Although he defended some of his former boss’s behavior, Barr opposed Trump running for office again.

“Should we be putting someone like this forward as the leader of the country, leader of the free world?” Barr told CBS’s Face the Nation. “He will always put his own interests, and gratifying his own ego, ahead of everything else, including the country’s interest, there’s no question about it.”

“He’s like a … defiant 9-year-old kid who’s always pushing the glass toward the edge of the table, defying his parents to stop him from doing it,” Barr continued. “It’s a means of self assertion and exerting his dominance over other people. And he’s a very petty individual … but our country can’t be a therapy session for, you know, a troubled man like this.”

Also on Sunday, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN’s State of the Union that Trump’s alleged handling of classified material was “unauthorized, illegal, and dangerous.” He compared Trump’s actions to those of Jack Teixeira, the Massachusetts Air National Guard member accused of leaking sensitive military documents online.

When asked if he thought Trump could ever be trusted with national secrets again, Esper replied, “Based on his actions, again, if proven true under the indictment by the special counsel, no.”

“I mean, it’s just irresponsible action that places our service members at risk, places our nation’s security at risk. You cannot have these documents floating around.”

Trump was charged with a total of 37 counts for keeping classified information, some of it relating to national security, without authorization, making false statements, and conspiring to obstruct justice. Barr and Esper are the latest former Cabinet members to turn on Trump over the indictment.

Former national security adviser John Bolton said the indictment should end Trump’s political career, and former chief of staff John Kelly said Trump was “scared shitless” at the prospect of actually being held accountable for once.

It’s worth noting, though, that all of these men defended Trump during his time in office and continue to justify some of his behavior. Still, their comments underline just how serious the charges Trump faces are and how indefensible his actions were.

Don’t Debate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Elon Musk and Joe Rogan aren't interested in the "truth" about vaccines. They just want a circus.

Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images

Dr. Peter Hotez is a respected vaccine scientist, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, who has devoted his career to improving global public health. He is also the author of Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism: My Journey as a Vaccine Scientist, Pediatrician, and Autism Dad, a book that draws on his experience as a doctor and the father of an autistic daughter. Podcaster and conspiracy theorist Joe Rogan and profoundly unfunny Twitter CEO Elon Musk spent the weekend trying to bully him into debating Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the efficacy of vaccines.

The saga started on Saturday, when Hotez shared a Vice article about how Spotify—which signed Rogan to a multiyear exclusive contract in 2021 that is rumored to be worth $200 million—has stopped “even trying to stem” the podcast host’s “vaccine misinformation,” which was focused on Rogan’s three-hour-long interview with Kennedy. “Peter, if you claim what RFKjr is saying is ‘misinformation’ I am offering you $100,000.00 to the charity of your choice if you’re willing to debate him on my show with no time limit,” Rogan tweeted. Musk quickly backed him up, writing, “He’s afraid of a public debate, because he knows he’s wrong.”

Hotez has offered to appear on Rogan’s podcast but has rightfully refused to debate Kennedy on the issue. Given the popularity and influence of Rogan’s show, there are persuasive arguments for appearing, if only to correct the wild statements that are frequently shared about not just the Covid-19 vaccine but all vaccines. But appearing with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. would likely only legitimize those views. Kennedy has spent more than a decade spouting conspiracy theories with no basis in fact about vaccines. As Hotez noted to MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan, “Anti-vaccine disinformation … is now a lethal force in the United States. I offered to go on Joe Rogan but not to turn it into the Jerry Springer show with having RFK Jr. on.”

The goal of the “debate” Rogan is trying to host is not to hash out the truth or to finally decide if vaccines are safe and effective or not. Vaccines are safe and effective: This is settled science. The goal is to sow doubt and confusion over both settled science and the value of expertise, both in medicine and in the wider world. Hotez is right to avoid it. But he is already paying a price: He says he was “stalked” on Sunday by anti-vax protesters who were waiting for him outside his Houston home.

Texas Just Got Closer to Banning Drag Shows

Texas has become the fourth GOP-led state to try to ban drag performances.

Photo by Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images
A Drag Story Hour in Ohio

Governor Greg Abbott signed an extreme bill targeting drag performances on Sunday, making Texas the fourth Republican-led state to enact such a law.

The bill passed both the House and Senate in May, following last-minute changes that opponents worry will create a slew of new, unforeseen crimes when the measure goes into effect in September.

The new law will criminalize any performances that occur or could occur in front of a minor if they appeal to “prurient interest” or are of a sexual nature. Performers could be charged with a misdemeanor (and face up to one year in jail, a $4,000 fine, or both), while any business that hosts the show would face a $10,000 fine. The bill’s sponsor stripped out any specific references to drag, but opponents argue the vaguely worded legislation would still target LGBTQ people.

The text was amended during debates to remove specific mentions of the word “drag,” and just before the final vote, lawmakers also removed the definition of “premises,” raising concerns that drag performances in private homes could also be policed.

The law is extremely broad, which actually creates a host of other complications. A group of lawyers previously told The Dallas Morning News that the measure could restrict performances by artists such as Madonna and Miley Cyrus, which often feature sexual dancing. The text could even affect bachelorette parties, if they involved sex toys or other paraphernalia. The new changes could even impact cheerleading and criminalize sexual conduct between consenting 17-year-olds (17 is the age of consent in Texas).

Movie screenings and art history classes could similarly come under fire. And of course, the law will affect its original target: drag performers, Pride parades, and transgender people just trying to live their lives.

Some people say the measure was already singling out LGBTQ people before it was even signed. Kerry Lynn, who runs a business that sends drag queens to people’s homes for birthday or bachelorette party performances, said drag venues and performers have seen a spike in threats over the past year and have been targeted by neo-Nazis.

“Regardless of the content, the proposal of these bills have created an excruciating year for my business and drag performers,” Lynn said when the bill was heard in a House committee in late April. “These words in this bill create movements which become headlines that pave the way for those to feel justified in acting out hostilely and violently.”

Texas is now the fourth state to pass a law banning drag performances. Tennessee was the first, in March, followed a month later by Florida. A Tennessee bill was blocked before it could go into effect, on the grounds that it violated free speech. But LGBTQ groups in Florida are already canceling Pride celebrations in light of the new law. In May, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a drag ban so broad it could prevent glam rock, wrestling, and even performances by Dolly Parton.