Gay men wrongly assume ‘attractive’ guys are less likely to have STDs, study finds

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A new study has found that gay and bisexual men are more likely to believe men they find “physically attractive” are less likely to have STDs.

Researchers from the University of Maryland surveyed roughly 200 gay and bisexual men living across the United States.

Participants were shown clips of different men then asked to rank them based on their physical appearances. Afterwards, they were asked a series of questions about the men.

The questions included: “How likely is it that you would have a one-night stand with this person?”, whether they thought the men has “positive partner traits,” whether they would have unprotected sex with this person, and “How likely do you think it is that you would get HIV… from this person?”

On average, the men who found to be more physically attractive were also rated less likely to have any STDs. Not only that, but participants also said they were less likely to use condoms with them during sex.

Researchers attribute this to the “halo effect,” which is defined as the tendency to associate positive traits with physical attractiveness even when there is no other evidence to support the association.

“Arousal associated with perceived physical attractiveness, especially in the context of sexual intercourse, may override intentions to use condoms,” Dr. Tom Nardarzynski tells Gay Star News.

“Nevertheless, the findings of this research demonstrate a specific bias in thinking that sex with an attractive person could be less risky, which is unlikely to be accurate. Also, physical attractiveness is highly subjective, therefore it cannot be a reliable determinant of HIV status.”

Related: Left-handers and little brothers are more likely to be gay, study says


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Reality star admits he was “wrong” for antigay language, says he’s “grown up a lot”

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British reality star Sam Thompson has issued an apology for insensitive tweets he wrote early in his career that have recently resurfaced.

“I was wrong to use language like that,” the 26-year-old reality star said of the tweets in which he used the word “gay” as a pejorative.

“I’ve grown up a lot since 2013 and would now never be so careless with my choice of words. As a society, we’ve also come a long way, and I think we’re now more aware of the power of the words we use.”

Thompson, who has also appeared on Celebrity Big Brother and Celebrities Go Dating, had a reputation for branding other celebrities or anything he thought stupid as “gay” via Twitter.

 

Made in Chelsea focuses on the lives of wealthy young people living in London and their on-camera jackassery. Thompson appeared on the show for 10 seasons.

Related: This Mexican reality star just came out as bisexual


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With Cryptocurrency Launch, Facebook Sets its Path Toward Becoming an Independent Nation

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Facebook has announced a plan to launch a new cryptocurrency named the Libra, adding another layer to its efforts to dominate global communications and business. Backed by huge finance and technology companies including Visa, Spotify, eBay, PayPal and Uber – plus a ready-made user base of 2 billion people around the world – Facebook is positioned to pressure countries and central banks to cooperate with its reinvention of the global financial system.

In my view as a social media researcher and educator, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is clearly seeking to give his company even more political power on a global scale, despite the potential dangers to society at large. In a sense, he is declaring that he wants Facebook to become a virtual nation, populated by users, powered by a self-contained economy, and headed by a CEO – Zuckerberg himself – who is not even accountable to his shareholders.

Facebook hasn’t behaved responsibly in the past, and is still wrestling with significant public concerns – and investigations – about its privacy practices, information accuracy and targeted advertising. Therefore, it’s important to see through the hype. People must consider who is reshaping the world, and whether they are doing it in the best interests of humankind – or whether they are just seeking to benefit the new class of elite technology executives.

Humanity needs ethical leadership, and time to think through the potential repercussions of rapid technological change. That’s why, in my view, Facebook’s cryptocurrency should be blocked by financial regulators until its design has been proved to be safe for all of global society.

You might not want to trust this man.
Anthony Quintano/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Understanding Libra

Technology companies are interested in a global currency that is native to the internet. That could allow companies like Facebook and Twitter to bring in more users to their platforms, and collect money from businesses who want to join the new system. They also want to siphon off business from the existing financial services industry. That sector is worth trillions of dollars, is enormously profitable, and yet has struggled to implement its own digital currency.

The technical details of Facebook’s plans are still emerging, but it seems that the company is not seeking to compete with Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. Rather, Facebook is looking to replace the existing global financial system with an all-new setup, with Libra at its center.

The company may be counting on increased public interest in cryptocurrencies and financial technologies, and its market strength, to overcome objections. However, I don’t believe Facebook should be allowed to wreck the global financial system like it has, as many see it, wrecked global communications.

Speeding global exchange

There is definitely a need for smoother, faster and cheaper ways to send money around the world, and to provide access to financial services to the many people who do not have formal bank accounts. There is real potential to Libra, but there are likely to be ways to improve even more, developing a payment system that better serves the world as a whole.

At least at the moment, the Libra is being designed as a form of electronic money linked to many national currencies. That has raised fears that Libra might someday be recognized as a sovereign currency, with Facebook acting as a “shadow bank” that could compete with the central banks of countries around the world.

It doesn’t help that Facebook is already positioning itself to evade regulatory scrutiny by creating a corporate subsidiary that will join an ostensibly independent governing body for the Libra.

To protect consumers, regulators should look carefully at whether the new system supporting the Libra is sound. It may be that an entirely new set of financial rules and regulations is needed to shield the existing financial system from harm if the Libra becomes more popular than national currencies. At the very least, governments need to proceed slowly and carefully when new products may introduce systemic risks into our environment. Even the CEO of Google has acknowledged that. In my opinion, Libra’s planned launch in 2020 does not allow enough time to fully vet this technology and its risks.

Protecting the global financial system

Financial regulations have developed over time to encourage trust between unknown parties, and to protect regular customers from fraudsters and corporate greed. There are also rules that help governments prevent and detect transactions that support crime and terrorism.

This is not to say that all payments and purchases should be tied to a known entity online or in real life. Cash and anonymity is also a civil right and is key to privacy and personal freedoms.

As new digital financial services, methods of electronic payment and currencies develop and become popular, they should not be allowed to undermine longstanding financial safety systems, even in the name of smoother, cheaper transactions.

My concern is not just about large-volume transactions. Facebook has shown how even small amounts of money can buy microtargeted ads with the power to influence public opinion and election outcomes in the U.S. and around the world.

Product design and risk assessment

Facebook has a long history of questionable business models and privacy practices. The public, and their representatives in government – including elected officials, financial regulators and central bank authorities – should carefully scrutinize all aspects of Facebook’s cryptocurrency plans.

This concern is especially urgent because Facebook also has a long history of launching products and services, like political ads and live-streaming video, without fully considering their potential to damage democracy and the global society at large.

Mark Zuckerberg didn’t think enough about how people could use Facebook for ill.

The company has demonstrated its inability to serve society beneficially – and it may not even be interested in trying. All the signals suggest that customers and regulators alike should carefully examine whether Facebook’s Libra is truly innovative or just a way to avoid restrictions on a potentially hazardous financial product.

Defending democracy

Facebook’s entrance into the financial industry is a threat to democracies and their citizens around the world, on the same scale as disinformation and information warfare, which also depend on social media for their effectiveness.

It may be hard for world leaders to understand that this is an emergency, as they cannot see the virtual powers aligning against them. But they must huddle quickly to ensure they have – and keep – the power to protect their people from technology companies’ greed.

It will be key to understand if Facebook’s future cryptocurrency will ultimately function more like anonymous cash, or more like a traceable credit card transaction. Facebook has the blockchain and encryption technology to create an anonymous digital cash-like system, or a private digital currency, which has not been created yet. Anonymity would heighten the risks of abuse such as money laundering, so it’s worth watching out for a cash-like Facebook cryptocurrency that mirrors the central banks’ cash system.

In addition, I cannot help but reflect on the name that Facebook chose for this, the Libra, which is a reference to the Roman measurement for a pound, once used to mint coins. In many ways the company that Mark Zuckerberg is building is beginning to look more like a Roman Empire, now with its own central bank and currency, than a corporation. The only problem is that this new nation-like platform is a controlled company and is run more like a dictatorship than a sovereign country with democratically elected leaders. Even now, the company may have as much power as some countries – and more than others.

In the wake of the not too distant global financial crisis, and the “fake news” and disinformation culture that is developing, people must slow down and fully evaluate disruptive technology of this magnitude. Society cannot withstand a launch of a cryptocurrency in Facebook’s infamous “move fast and break things” style.

Jennifer Grygiel, Assistant Professor of Communications (Social Media) & Magazine, News and Digital Journalism, Syracuse University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The post With Cryptocurrency Launch, Facebook Sets its Path Toward Becoming an Independent Nation appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.


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Trump Refuses to Apologize Over Exonerated ‘Central Park 5’: ‘They Admitted Their Guilt’ — WATCH

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Donald Trump on Tuesday refused to apologize for calling for the execution of the five then teens (the ‘Central Park 5’) convicted of and imprisoned for the assault and rape of investment banker Trisha Meili in 1989 who were later exonerated based on a confession from a convicted killer and DNA evidence. Instead, Trump sided with prosecutor Linda Fairstein and denialists when asked by journalist April Ryan if he regretted his actions.

Said Trump to Ryan: “Why do you bring that question up now? It’s an interesting time to bring it up. You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt. If you look at Linda Fairstein and if you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should have never settled that case. So we’ll leave it at that.”

The case is the subject of a new Netflix drama called When They See Us directed by Ava DuVernay. Trump spent $85,000 placing ads in NYC papers calling for the teens’ executions.

The post Trump Refuses to Apologize Over Exonerated ‘Central Park 5’: ‘They Admitted Their Guilt’ — WATCH appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.


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The Houston Rockets’ rock-bottom was always predictable

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Pairing Chris Paul and James Harden was always a “championship or bust” move. This is what “bust” looks like.

When the Rockets traded for Chris Paul two summers ago, then signed him to a four-year, $159.7 million extension despite him being 33 years old, it was supposed to usher in an era of Houston basketball that legitimately challenged the Golden State Warriors as title contenders. And in Years 1 and 2 of the wild experiment that paired Paul with eventual MVP James Harden, it did.

But entering Year 3, we have conflicting information about both Paul’s future in Houston and his relationship with Harden. Yahoo!’s Vincent Goodwill reported both Paul and Harden want to part ways with each other and cited a source who called their relationship “unsalvageable:”

“Paul went to Rockets management and demanded a trade, and Harden issued a “him or me” edict following the Rockets’ second-round loss to the Golden State Warriors, sources said.”

Meanwhile Rockets GM Daryl Morey appeared on Sports Talk 790 the day before. Not only did Morey say Paul doesn’t want to be traded, but he insisted that instead of fielding trade offers for the aging point guard, he’s seeking a third star to add to the dynamic duo.

Regardless of which story is true, one thing is for sure: Houston’s trade for Paul was a championship or bust move. It was never a sure fire bet to work, and it could only have ended in one of two ways. That was the point.

Now, this is what bust always would look like: possible friction between the two and an immovable contract for an aging star on a team that never made it to the NBA Finals.

It’s also a situation Tilman Fertitta inherited when he bought the Rockets from former owner Leslie Alexander for a record $2.2 billion in 2017. Houston, after the Paul trade, was viewed as a team with an open title window.

Two losses to the Warriors later, that title window appears shut. ESPN’s Tim MacMahon details a Houston front office riddled with turmoil, led by Fertitta, who has “grumbled about Paul’s contract, expressing regret to Rockets staffers and even in front of rival executives.” Morey’s big gamble fell short of its ultimate goal: an NBA championship. Now, it’s hard to see a viable exit strategy.

How did we get here?

Paul’s first season in Houston inspired hope the Rockets could actually dethrone the overloaded Warriors. He was a big shot taker and big shot maker, a pressure release for Harden, who carried one of the league’s two heaviest workloads and jockeyed with Russell Westbrook in a two-man MVP race the season prior.

Last season, Paul carried the Rockets and made plays down the stretch when Harden couldn’t. The Harden and Paul-led Rockets recorded the best record in basketball, and they were potentially on their way to the NBA Finals, too.

But then Paul suffered a hamstring injury in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals that kept him out for the series. Houston went on to win the game and take a 3-2 series lead, but they weren’t the same team without him. Golden State came back and won the series, then swept LeBron James’ ragtag Cleveland Cavaliers for their second straight NBA championship.

Rather that build on that success, the Rockets botched last summer’s free agency. Instead of doubling down on the improved defense that powered their 65-win season, Houston allowed Trevor Ariza to walk to Phoenix and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to go to the Clippers. The Carmelo Anthony experiment was a wild failure, and injuries to Paul and Clint Capela sapped the team of its depth.

All the while, Harden endured another season carrying the city of Houston on his back. He may very well be the MVP front-runner, especially after a superhuman month of January, where he averaged 43.6 points and scored 61 points at Madison Square Garden. But at what cost? Without Paul, the Rockets couldn’t manage Harden’s load if they wanted to make the playoffs. His minutes ran up to astronomical levels.

Meanwhile, Paul played in his third straight season of 61 or fewer games, and didn’t seem happy about the team’s growing dependence on Harden. As a source told Goodwill: “There’s no respect at all, on either side.”

Ready for the kicker? That was only the first season of Paul’s monster four-year contract extension.

He is owed another $124 million over the next three years, while Harden will begin his own super max extension that pays $170.9 million through the 2022-23 season. Making a title run with a Paul-Harden partnership meant sacrificing the long-term for the short term, but the bill is now due earlier than expected.

If the Rockets do want to trade Paul, they will have a difficult time finding a team willing to take his contract. As popular an option as it has been, the Lakers are not a viable trade destination for Paul. They do not have enough cap space to fit his salary, and frankly, it wouldn’t be the best move for them, regardless of his relationship with LeBron James.

There are teams that could use a player with Paul’s skill set.

  • The Orlando Magic made the playoffs with D.J. Augustin as their starting point guard.
  • Are the Wolves actually shopping Andrew Wiggins? A guard of Paul’s caliber would do wonders for Karl-Anthony Towns.
  • If Kemba Walker leaves, the Hornets have several contracts they could use to match Paul’s salary, and they could include Nic Batum, a versatile two-way wing who has struggled since leaving Portland.
  • And how about the Miami Heat, who have one of the ugliest cap sheets in the NBA and could unload several contracts to bring Paul to South Beach?
  • The Suns, Pacers and Jazz are also teams in dire need of a talented point guard, but the youth of these teams suggests they’d be interested in players earlier into their career.

Problem is, all of those teams would send back toxic long-term contracts of their own to make up for swallowing Paul’s deal. It will be nearly impossible to trade Paul for any positive value.

There’s one more option for Houston: ride this storm out

It may seem like the Paul-Harden partnership has run its course, but if the Rockets can’t find a deal, their only hope may be to keep Harden and Paul together one more year and try to smooth over any tension while making one last title run.

The Warriors won’t be contenders without Kevin Durant (ruptured Achilles) and Klay Thompson (torn ACL). That leaves the conference wide open for everyone, Houston included, to make a run for it all. The Lakers will be stronger than ever after pairing LeBron James with Anthony Davis, but they’ll need a third star to be championship favorites, and it’s unclear if they’ll be able to create the cap space to land one. The Nuggets will be better next season, but they’re still a young team with much to learn. The Trail Blazers will lose several key free agents without adequate means of replacing them. The Clippers could get Kawhi Leonard in free agency, or they might not.

Then there are the Rockets, armed with two of the best guards in the NBA and their $5.7 million taxpayer’s mid-level exception. They will also find it difficult to retain key free agents, including Iman Shumpert, Austin Rivers, Gerald Green, and restricted free agent Danuel House.

But the Rockets’ offense was successful despite Harden and Paul rarely, if ever, assisting each other on the court. Can they put their gripes aside to make one more run at a championship? They might have no choice.

If so, Houston needs to get more out of Clint Capela, who underperformed expectations in the first season of a five-year, $90 million extension. The Athletic’s Shams Charania notes the Rockets have had “conversations around Capela.” SB Nation’s Houston Rockets blog, The Dream Shake, suggests a trade package that sends Capela to the New Orleans Pelicans — a team without a starting center on its roster — for the No. 4-overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

If the Rockets want to add one more star, as Morey said on the radio, they could deal Capela and picks to do it. But is that enough to yield a difference maker, or did the Rockets miss their chance when they declined to include Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker in a potential deal for Jimmy Butler back in November?

The Rockets made a championship or bust move when they traded for Paul and then agreed to give him an extension. But after a first year with legit championship hopes, Houston is in the middle of the “bust” scenario playing out. This was always on the table given the long-term salary committed to their back court.

Now, it’s hard to see an attractive exit strategy. If the Rockets championship window is closed, their bust window is only beginning to open.


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Anthony Davis to the Lakers is a heck of a start to the summer, but it’s only the start

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There’s a LOT still left to be resolved after this blockbuster for both the teams involved and the rest of the NBA.

Anthony Davis is a Laker. By becoming a Laker, AD is obviously not a Celtic. Even with the benefit of 48 hours to let it all settle, the deal still comes as a surprise after a year’s worth of posturing and maneuvering between two of the league’s superpowers.

There’s so much to get into here, we’ll have to take it piece by piece.

AD and LeBron and what, exactly?

When the Lakers added LeBron James last summer they did so with the promise that more free-agent superstars would be on the way. There were three prime players available in this loaded class of superstar talent: Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard, who are free agents, and AD who is a year away from such status.

The Lakers had cap space, but neither KD nor Kawhi have shown much interest in taking it and KD’s future took an unfortunate turn during the Finals when he ruptured his Achilles. Paul George didn’t take LA’s money either, electing to sign with OKC long-term last summer rather than return home.

The Lakers simply couldn’t fritter away another year of LeBron. Rather than be left holding the bag the Lakers went all-in to acquire Davis, surrendering much of their young core and the next five years worth of draft rights. It’s a heavy price but Davis is the kind of transformational talent who is worth it, assuming he signs on for the long term. (Don’t laugh. This league, as you may have heard, is crazy.)

When healthy, Davis is one of the five best players in the league, and arguably the league’s best big man. He’s also the kind of player who should do well playing with LeBron. With apologies to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, neither AD or Bron has played with a talent of this magnitude. It’s an interesting spot for both players.

Davis never played with another star in New Orleans, while LeBron has never taken a backseat to anyone on a basketball court. AD is not a peer like D-Wade or Bosh, he’s a young alpha like Kyrie Irving and we saw how that turned out. This situation should be different because LeBron and AD need each other and it will be on both to make the relationship prosper.

The question now is what the rest of the Lakers roster will look like along their two superstars. They held onto Kyle Kuzma, which is nice, but there are no guards to be found. They have some cap space, but it’s not clear how much they’ll have after the ink is dry. AD has a trade kicker and asking him to give up $4 million after walking away from a lucrative long-term extension may be easier said than done.

The timing of the deal is also important. If the teams wait until July 30 to complete the transaction, that would open up more cap space for the Lakers to spend. There’s nothing compelling the Pelicans to wait longer than the lifting of the July 5 moratorium. Perhaps they can squeeze something else out of the transaction.

These are the kind of details that experienced general managers catch during the negotiation and it’s unclear whether Laker general manager Rob Pelinka saw those items clearly. This is the same general manager that signed a roster full of non-shooters to play with LeBron, so you’ll forgive me if I’m skeptical of his ability to skillfully execute a blockbuster or put together a competent basketball roster.

LeBron and AD is a hell of a start, but it can’t be the end point.

As an aside, don’t misinterpret Masai Ujiri’s blueprint.

The lesson from Toronto’s championship is not to throw caution to the wind in the chase for a transformational star. The lesson is that there’s a time to make that kind of bold move. By trading for Kawhi Leonard, Ujiri added the missing piece to what was already a strong foundation. Simply stockpiling superstars hasn’t always yielded such strong results.

This was a David Griffin move, all the way

When Griffin agreed to take over a President of Basketball Operations with the Pelicans, he did so with the assurance that he’d be able to run the franchise his way and make decisions that were in the best interest of the club. The word at the trade deadline was that New Orleans would never deal with the Lakers, but if getting the best possible return meant dealing with the Lakers, then so be it. Griff was clearly calling the shots.

In Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart, Griff didn’t get back a potential superstar to pair with Zion Williamson, yet all three certainly have potential. The idea of Zo and Zion running pick-and-roll lobs all the live-long day has tremendous appeal. This is a wonderful opportunity for Ball to get his career back on track.

Hart can fit in anywhere. He’s just a good player. Ingram is the wild card. While some still see untapped potential in his skinny frame, others see Andrew Wiggins. He’s still young and growing, so let’s see what he can become before passing judgment. Ball and Ingram, especially, stand to benefit from the change in scenery.

In those three, along with Williamson and veteran Jrue Holiday, Griff now has the outline of an intriguing basketball team, one that should be able to grow with Zion as he develops. The Pelicans aren’t better without AD, but they’re better positioned to maximize Zion’s prime years than they did for Davis.

A lot has been made of the fact that this deal looks a lot like the one the Pelicans turned down at the deadline. But it’s not the same deal because the draft picks have changed. When the Lakers landed the fourth pick in the lottery, it upped their package considerably. Conversely, Boston’s draft assets looked a lot worse once the ping pong balls settled.

The fourth pick in this week’s draft has value, either as a means to adding another talented young player or in acquiring one. The deep end of the pick pool is where it gets interesting. New Orleans gets LA’s top pick in 2021 unless it falls in the top eight, at which point it becomes unprotected in 2022. The Pels have swap rights in 2023 and an unprotected first in 2024 that can be rolled over to 2025.

All those future picks are liquid gold on the trade market. If the Lakers bottom out, they can be cashed in on high value choices. Even if they don’t, unprotected first-round picks carry enormous trade value in a league where picks are most valuable before they’re made. Griff did well here, especially considering the Celtics balked at the last minute.

This is very bad for the Celtics, but it’s not a total disaster. It’s still bad though.

For the last few years the Celtics have been hovering around AD, loading up on picks and other assets to use in an eventual blockbuster. The letters AD were whispered around the Garden so frequently it was as if they were attempting to speak it into existence as an inevitability.

And so Danny Ainge built the Celtics on parallel tracks. On the one side was a competitive team with a penchant for overachieving, and on the other was a locomotive filled with assets hurtling toward New Orleans. Where one began and the other ended made for an occasionally uncomfortable existence, but it was generally understood that the team was a means to an end, and that endpoint was Anthony Davis.

That was never more evident than the decision to acquire Kyrie Irving from Cleveland. Not only was Kyrie an exceptional player, he was also exactly the kind of personality that the C’s envisioning bringing other players to Boston. Like Anthony Davis.

That all changed during a wild February sequence when AD demanded a trade and Kyrie backed away from his verbal promise to re-sign. The Celtics proceeded to implode and all those years of careful planning and asset hoarding went by the wayside.

Irving is almost certainly gone after a bizarre season that saw him publicly blame his younger teammates for not living up to his standard. It ended with his oddly disengaged postseason performance. “Who cares,” indeed. The Celtics held out hope that a pairing with AD would swing Kyrie back to Boston, but even that appeared to hold little promise. After all that, the Celtics are left with neither.

This is bad, really bad. It’s not a complete disaster, however. Had Ainge gutted the roster only to see Kyrie sign with Brooklyn and AD opt out after a year … that would have been a disaster. That he blinked was a win for agent Rich Paul, who spent the last few months telling everyone that AD would not be long for the parquet.

Instead, Ainge will enter the offseason with a roster that includes Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart along with Gordon Hayward and Aron Baynes. They would like to bring Al Horford back into the fold and maybe now there’s room for free agents like Marcus Morris and even Terry Rozier to return.

That’s not a contender necessarily, but it’s still the guts of a team that went all the way to Game 7 conference finals just over a year ago. It’s also the one that nearly lost in the first round to Milwaukee and has seen the rest of the conference load up on star power.

Tatum and Brown hold the key. Their developments were stunted by Irving’s arrival and all of last season’s weirdness. Getting them back on track is vital if Boston is going to contend with this core. Still, this team needs more talent and Ainge still has all those draft assets to pursue another disgruntled young veteran star. (Bradley Beal, maybe?)

No matter who Ainge is able to get, it won’t be of the order and magnitude of Anthony Davis. Those kind of players don’t come around very often and this was yet another opportunity lost. They’ve been roasted in the past for not pulling the trigger on trades for players like Leonard, George, and Jimmy Butler. Most of those non-moves worked out just fine. Still, AD was supposed to change all that and now AD is gone too.

It’s been a very strange few years in Boston. Maybe now they can focus on what they have instead of what they hope to acquire.


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Why each AFC North team will go over and under their Vegas win total in 2019

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Vegas win totals are set for the 2019 season. With teams through their offseason workout program, it’s time to consider where each team will land.

The true NFL offseason is officially upon us. Mandatory minicamp has come to a close and players from all 32 teams have gone their separate ways. Most players will get some vacation time in while continuing to work out in preparation for the return to training camp in late July. Once training camp arrives, the road to Super Bowl 54 begins in earnest.

Each year, sports bettors are able to wager on where they think each team will finish up in the win column. Sportsbooks release a number for a team’s win total and you can bet over or under that number. If you land on the number, it’s a push, or tie.

Below are win totals for the four teams in the AFC North. The number in parenthesis is the juice on the over and the under. For example, if you bet the over on nine wins for the Browns, the payout is -130 (you bet $130 to win $100). If you bet the under, the payout is +110 (you bet $100 to win $110). That means the over is the favorite.

Sportsbooks are not predicting each team will win the number of games on the win total. Rather, they are setting a number so that they can get a similar amount of money on both sides of the wager. They do not want an extensive liability on one side or the other since then they would be relying on a specific outcome. With even money on both sides of a wager, the house will profit more often than not.

Now that roster overhauls are mostly complete and teams have finished up spring workouts, we took a few minutes to chat with site managers from each SB Nation team blog. They offered reasons why their team could end up over the win total and why their team could end up under the win total. The sites pay close attention to their teams and have more insight than your average national reporter.

Cleveland Browns: 9 (-130, +110) — Dawgs By Nature

Why over: The Browns had as strong an offseason as anybody, loading up additional talent on both sides of the ball. Baker Mayfield had a phenomenal rookie season, and if he builds on it, this team is a playoff contender. They are currently division favorites and have the ninth best Super Bowl odds. If Greg Robinson improves at left tackle and the offensive line holds up over the course of the season, this team is sufficiently stacked on both sides of the ball to get into double digits wins.

Why under: Expectations are high and the team has added a lot of talent, but they will still be counting on Baker Mayfield to build off a great rookie season. If Mayfield has a sophomore slump, the Browns might not be able to reach expectations. This is a team with a new head coach, questions on the offensive line, and a difficult schedule. They can overcome it, but finishing at or below nine wins is still a real possibility until the Browns prove otherwise.

Pittsburgh Steelers: 9 (-125, +105) — Behind The Steel Curtain

Why over: Despite a mediocre season which saw them miss the playoffs in 2018, and the departure of Antonio Brown, this team still has a very strong core of players returning for 2019. Ben Roethlisberger leads the charge on offense, and James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster are coming off Pro Bowl seasons. Defensively, the addition of Devin Bush and Mark Barron should help lift the defense which already gets to the QB as well as anyone else in the league, to new heights. If they can spread out the touchdowns Brown pulled in last year, they will be just fine.

Why under: Speaking of those touchdowns Brown pulled in, there were 15 of them. Sure, they signed rookie Diontae Johnson, and free agent Donte Moncrief, but is that good enough? While the defense should be better next season, the offense, and their inability to score regularly, could be the reason the team underachieves when it comes to the over/under total for this upcoming 2019 regular season.

Baltimore Ravens: 8.5 (+105, -125) — Baltimore Beatdown

Why over: Greg Roman builds a strong scheme, utilizing sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson’s running and passing ability. Jackson takes the next step in fixing his mechanics and accuracy, which in turn provides more scoring opportunities for the Ravens’ offense. The 2019 draft class of WR Marquise Brown, WR Miles Boykin and RB Justice Hill instantly contribute and perform well. Meanwhile, the Ravens defense avoids a drastic plummet from their free agent losses earlier in the year with the addition of Earl Thomas III and the already dominant secondary. At least one of the junior pass rushers develop to pair opposite of Matt Judon, or rookie Jaylon Ferguson comes out of the gate ready to play. Health, as always, is a factor, and the Ravens avoid critical losses in the trenches on both sides of the line.

Why under: The offensive scheme is still built towards Jackson and the running back unit carrying the rock over 30 times a game, while failing to open up the passing attack. Jackson’s accuracy inconsistencies continue and the rookie class can’t establish chemistry with the man under center. The offensive line doesn’t develop further, which leaves the most of the interior offensive line as a liability. On defense, the pass rush losses of Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith can’t be replaced by Tim Williams, Tyus Bowser and rookie Jaylon Ferguson. The inside linebacker unit doesn’t step into the role left behind by C.J. Mosley and offenses strike early and often with tight ends across the middle of the field. Injuries hamper either side of the ball for long periods of time, which result in late-game breakdowns and losses.

Cincinnati Bengals: 6 (-120, Even) — Cincy Jungle

Why over: The Bengals would have easily won 8+ games last season if not for the injuries to A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. They were 5-3 before Green’s toe became an issue, and they wound up finishing 1-7 down the stretch. The roster got slightly better this offseason through free agency and the draft, not to mention Zac Taylor will breathe new life into this franchise. As long as the Bengals’ heavy-hitters stay healthy, they’ll get to seven wins and will be a dark horse playoff contender. Don’t sleep on defenders Sam Hubbard and Jessie Bates having huge sophomore seasons that make this defense a formidable unit.

Why under: As much as Marvin Lewis needed to be fired, he did take this franchise to seven playoff trips, and several of those teams were undermanned units that Lewis got the most out of. Zac Taylor may be a better offensive mind, but he’s still got a weak defense that may actually look worse under first-year coordinator Lou Anarumo compared to what it was when Lewis was running the defense. The linebacker unit is still arguably the worst of any NFL team. The offensive line is also still a major question mark that could easily cripple the offense and turn this into a bottom-five team that struggles to just win five games, let alone the seven needed to beat the over/under. Another thing to consider is Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap are in their age 30+ seasons and should see a decline in their play, which could turn this defense into the NFL’s worst.


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Mayoral candidate caught on tape shouting antigay slurs at cyclist says he was exercising free speech

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Ryan Thompsen was riding his bike home from work last Thursday in San Jose, California when the driver of a grey Nissan illegally blocked the bike lane.

When Thompsen stopped his bike to confront the man about it, the driver went off on a homophobic tirade. And the whole thing was caught on tape.

“That’s the bike lane,” Thompsen can be heard saying in the video, which appears to have been recorded from his helmet cam.

“Hey, no sh*t,” responds the driver.

When Thompsen tells him to get out of the bike lane, the driver says, “F*ck you” then calls him an “Aryan” and an “asshole” before directing him to go a different way.

“You’re a f*g,” the driver snarls. “You’re a f*g.”

“What does that have to do with it?” Thompsen replies.

“All Aryans are f*gs, motherf*cker!” the driver says. “Am I wrong?”

A local CBS news station identified the driver as Cornelius Lopes, who confirmed to the station that it is, indeed, him in the video hurling homophobic slurs for seemingly no reason at Thompsen.

Lopes is a former city council candidate from Newark, California who is said to be running for mayor next year.

He told reporters he was merely “exercising his right to free speech” and  “violated no laws” when he called Thompsen a “f*g.”

But this isn’t Lopes’ first run-in with a cyclist. The Mercury News reports:

According to court documents, Lopes was also involved in an incident involving a bicyclist in 2004, when he allegedly extended his arm, striking a moving cyclist in the chest during a road race, and responded to a bystander who warned him not to go into the roadway during the race,  “F— you, Jew.”

Lopes was later arrested and charged with “misdemeanor battery” for intentionally causing the collision with the cyclist, but according to the court documents “was never convicted.”  He then sued the city of Newark, the Newark Police Department, the Newark police union and members of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office for wrongfully arresting him. The lawsuit was dismissed.

Watch.


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Tig Notaro, P!nk, Michael Wolff, Arthur, Orlando Rally, Jon Stewart, Gay Veterans, Lizzo, Top Gear: HOT LINKS

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ORLANDO. Trump opponents launch protests at gay bar with mariachi band and drag queen: ‘Organizers of the “Win With Love Rally” said Trump’s announcement in Orlando Tuesday night is an affront to a city with a large Puerto Rican population and a visible gay community. Orlando is at the center of the Interstate 4 corridor, stretching from Tampa to Daytona Beach, which is considered the swingiest part of the nation’s largest swing state.

ALABAMA. Hundreds celebrate Arthur’s gay rat wedding at church. ‘Last month, Alabama Public Television chose not to air an episode of “Arthur” that contained same-sex rat nuptials. Mike McKenzie, director of programming at APT, cited parents’ trust in APT as the reason behind the decision.’

LOCK HIM UP. Democrats flirt with calls to prosecute Trump: ‘A role reversal is starting to play out, with some Democrats openly taunting President Donald Trump with threats he’ll be the one spending time behind bars after he’s out of office. And some White House hopefuls have started weighing in, teeing off on the norm-busting Trump presidency and arguing that no person should be above prosecution if the evidence is there. Yet in the process, they’re alarming law enforcement veterans across the political spectrum who see the Democrats engaging in their own version of the politicization of the country’s criminal justice system…’

MITCH MCCONNELL. Jon Stewart isn’t letting him off easy.

POSE. Renewed for Season 3! “Pose has elevated our culture and the TV landscape like few shows before it,” FX chairman John Landgraf said in a statement, “and we are honored to partner with co-creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals on a third season.”

PBS NEWS HOUR. 2 gay veterans on their 25 years of love

GAY PANIC. New York Governor Cuomo reportedly strikes deal with legislature to approve ban on gay and trans panic defenses.

PAUL MANAFORT. Department of Justice intervenes, stops transfer to Rikers Island: “The former Justice Department officials and current state prosecutors, who regularly handled the transfer of federal inmates to state custody, said they were surprised that the second-highest official in the Justice Department would take an interest in the case. The decision is usually made by the warden at the prison where the inmate is being held. Justice Department officials were unable to say who made the decision in Mr. Manafort’s case; the Bureau of Prisons, which is part of the Justice Department, did not respond to a request for comment.”

JUICE. Lizzo channels Sister Act for 2019 MTV Movie and TV Awards.

TOP GEAR. The UK motoring show sprayed two cars used in its Brunei episode with the rainbow flag to make a statement. “We would never have filmed in Brunei had the law been announced beforehand. Like millions of other people around the world, I utterly condemn Brunei’s actions. No one deserves to be stoned to death, whoever they love. Love is love,” said Flintoff.

BURGER AND FRIES. Taylor Swift on the Katy Perry reconciliation.

FIRE AND FURY. Michael Wolff on why Mueller didn’t indict Trump: ‘Mueller was thinking that Donald Trump wears a suicide vest of sorts. If Mueller had pushed Donald Trump into a corner he would blow up everything. Donald Trump would take the country’s political institutions down with him. Trump would take down the Department of Justice. Trump would not care. For somebody like Robert Mueller, this was a reality he had to confront. Mueller was likely thinking to himself, “I have to deal with the fact that somebody who has as much power as I do, or more, can use this power in a way that could harm everybody in a much greater way.” Robert Mueller decided it was much better to let Donald Trump just run out the clock than to give Trump the opportunity and the cause to destroy everything, the country’s political institutions.’

MUSIC VIDEO OF THE DAY. P!nk featuring Wrabel “90 Days”.

UNDER A ROCK. Tig Notaro tries to figure out who Wyclef Jean is.

TWO SWEET FOR TUESDAY. Saulo Costa.

The post Tig Notaro, P!nk, Michael Wolff, Arthur, Orlando Rally, Jon Stewart, Gay Veterans, Lizzo, Top Gear: HOT LINKS appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.


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“trump and republican party” – Google News: McConnell Redefines “Socialism” to Include the Entire Democratic Party – Vanity Fair

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Michael_Novakhov
shared this story
from 1. Trump from Michael_Novakhov (197 sites).

McConnell Redefines “Socialism” to Include the Entire Democratic Party  Vanity Fair

As the new Congress convened earlier this year, featuring a freshmen class of progressives, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to do all he could …

“trump and republican party” – Google News


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mikenov on Twitter: Defense Secretary Shanahan Not Going Forward With Nomination, Trump Twee… youtu.be/ulYHTnDEgxs via @YouTube

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Defense Secretary Shanahan Not Going Forward With Nomination, Trump Twee… youtu.be/ulYHTnDEgxs via @YouTube


Posted by

mikenov
on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019 6:16pm

mikenov on Twitter


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LeBron James has never had a teammate as perfect as Anthony Davis

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Their games complement each other perfectly.

If LeBron James could pick any other person on Earth to be his running mate, it would be Anthony Davis. There are other superstars who’d be productive and pleasant in a winning situation, but none can accentuate James’ strengths, capitalize off them, and conceal his defensive limitations.

Davis lands in Los Angeles at an ideal and fascinating time. There is no unbeatable juggernaut in LeBron’s path, thanks to the Warriors’ injuries. He’s about to team up with a fellow megastar and arguably the most talented teammate he’s ever had. (Dwyane Wade was awesome in 2010-11, but there are numerous reasons why it shouldn’t surprise anyone if 26-year-old Davis exceeds that impact).

Moreover, the two cross paths at a reputation-curving pivot point in their careers. Both failed to make the playoffs last year. Both were humbled. And now, both exist on the same frequency. Empathy won’t be an issue because they desperately need each other. Davis will help LeBron delay the age-related physical decline that invaded his body last season, while LeBron’s general omniscience should summon a more realized version of Davis than any we saw in New Orleans.

LeBron is about to enter his 17th season and has played 10,000 more minutes than any other active player. (Yes, 10,000. Read that again). His time at the top of the league’s food chain is ending, if not over.

But at the same time, LeBron still deserves more touches, responsibility, and decision-making power than whoever else is on his team. While any other star teammate would, in one way or another, veer into his lane by needing and/or wanting the ball, Davis is comfortable eating off his teammates. Since 2015-16, he’s scored 3316 points on assisted two-pointers, despite missing 59 games over that period. No other player has more than 3000.

Self-creation has never been the primary way Davis gets buckets. Twenty-seven players averaged at least 20 points per game during the 2017-18 season. Among that group, only Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis averaged fewer seconds and dribbles per touch than Davis. Throw in his physical dimensions, discipline, and awareness that makes Davis a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and he checks every box James should want in a co-star.

The big picture advantages for the pairing are self-evident. Davis should lower James’ usage and let him rest more, both on the sideline and on the floor. He yanks opposing big men into foul trouble, and is as comfortable steadying the game’s tempo as he is sparking it into a sprint. (Since 2014-15, Davis has ranked above the 92nd percentile in the percentage of non-shooting fouls he drew per team play, according to Cleaning the Glass.)

That help goes both ways. Minus a brief, somewhat-unnecessary collaboration with DeMarcus Cousins, Davis’ Pelicans’ tenure was defined by a tragic evasion of needle movers. His Pelicans teammates weren’t scrubs — Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Omer Asik, and a couple others weren’t bad — but the talent level still topped out at “All-Star snub.” Years from now we’ll look back at the first seven years of Davis’ career as a worst-case scenario for building around a young superstar. In LeBron, Davis now has a consummate problem solver by his side. What neither has is all the time in the world, and how they interact in year one is everything.

On paper, LeBron and Davis should elevate each other’s very best qualities from the start.

In 2017-18, James Harden and Clint Capela, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams, and Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic were the top three duos that generated more assisted baskets at the rim than anyone else. Fourth was Davis, from Rajon Rondo. Fifth was … Davis, again, from Holiday. That supreme ability to finish in the paint will add a vibrant set of colors to LeBron’s palette. James was born to orchestrate a half-court offense with someone this galactically awe-inspiring, and those two in transition is legitimately one of the scariest visuals an opposing basketball coach can imagine.

But their most direct connection will be in the pick-and-roll. Davis induces a special brand of panic whenever he dives towards the basket. No pass is out of his reach, and halting whoever has the ball usually turns into the defense’s secondary objective. But there’s only so much a defense can do when James, who’s impossible to stop downhill with one man, is the ball-handler. (LeBron finished 7.5 plays per game as a pick-and-roll ball-handler last season, up from the 5.2 he averaged over the previous three seasons, per NBA.com. Expect that number to go up a little bit.)

Watch Karl-Anthony Towns as Holiday barrels into the paint off Davis’ drag screen.


The spacing here is critical, with three Pelicans lined up behind the three-point line on the left side. Towns is responsible for the help, but if he leaves his feet to contest Holiday’s layup, Davis will dunk on his head.

And look at what happens here to poor Jarrett Allen. A simple ball fake in Davis’ direction shifts Brooklyn’s seven-footer two feet into the paint.


James has played with roll partners that demanded respect before, but Davis is one of the feared divers of all time.

Not every defense will drop Davis’ man. Some might duck under the screen and welcome an open pull-up for LeBron. Those with appropriate personnel will switch. Some may trap LeBron and force AD to create in a 4-on-3 situation. Help defenders will swarm the paint and force kick-out passes to the three-point line, especially in the playoffs. James will find teammates on the perimeter, but we don’t yet know who, exactly, will be taking those shots. This obviously matters. (Free agents like JJ Redick, Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Ross, Marcus Morris, Wesley Matthews, Danny Green, Wayne Ellington, and Seth Curry will all be affordable and should be on the Lakers’ radar this summer). But assuming they’re even average spot-up threats, LeBron and Davis will supply ample opportunity on the back side.


One of the most intriguing ways they’ll collaborate is off ball. LeBron will set and receive pin-downs and cross screens with Davis (and vice-versa) in ways that generate terror. The simplest form will come with LeBron curling off the baseline and using his momentum to infiltrate a defense that’s mid-rotation, lower on the floor.


Expect Los Angeles to borrow a few sets from Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry’s playbook, too. In one simple action the Pelicans occasionally ran last year, Davis would start in the corner, receive a wide pin-down screen from the initial ball-handler, then flare behind the three-point line. He hasn’t had the most success from deep, but not all of Davis’ attempts can come at the rim. Swapping several long two-point jumpers — nearly a quarter of his shots over the past two seasons were mid-range pull ups — for open threes is part of his evolution.


Doing so is also necessary to create wider driving lanes for LeBron. A tenet of James’ success over the past few years has been his ability to feed big men from the outside, knowing one or two open threes early on tends to make an opposing big man hesitate with help. During his second stint with the Cavaliers, LeBron assisted on 502 of Kevin Love’s baskets, more than any other teammate by a significant margin. Chris Bosh was his number one assist partner in his final three seasons in Miami, too, and in 2017, James assisted more of Channing Frye’s threes than Draymond Green did for Klay Thompson.

There are straightforward ways to get Davis going from the perimeter, like a pick-and-pop higher on the floor. There are also some more elaborate actions. The Pelicans found different ways to hide what they really wanted to do. Sometimes Davis would be the one who set a wide pin-down, then whoever he picked free would immediately return the favor.



This stuff was complicated enough to stop before, and with LeBron either directly involved in the screen or drawing attention at the top with the ball in his hands, defenses will have no other choice but to wilt.

Regardless of who else is on the team, these are some ways LeBron and Davis will work together. If new coach Frank Vogel elects to stagger their minutes, one or both can feast on opposing bench units more than they have before. They’ll of course be a devastating duo on the fast break.

James has teamed up with some hypnotic talent in the back half of his career, but placing him beside Davis is like introducing Martin Scorsese to Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s invigorating, a mind-expanding partnership that not only alters how he’ll navigate through the season, but also each game, quarter, and possession. The potential is boundless.

Even though they sacrificed most of their future to make this tandem real, what matters is the short term. And, assuming they use their cap space to sign logical complementary pieces, nobody will have a higher ceiling than the LeBron-AD Lakers, at least for this coming season.


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mikenov on Twitter: Germany’s #Merkel visibly shakes during ceremony timesofisrael.com/germanys-merke… via @timesofisrael

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Germany’s #Merkel visibly shakes during ceremony timesofisrael.com/germanys-merke… via @timesofisrael


Posted by

mikenov
on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019 5:31pm

2 retweets

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Twitter drags Nicholas Sparks for his pathetic non-apology for leaked homophobic emails

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Bestselling author Nicholas Sparks is fielding a public relations nightmare and it doesn’t show signs of letting up anytime soon.

It all started last week when Saul Benjamin, the former headmaster at the Epiphany School of Global Studies, a faith-based prep school founded by the Sparks in 2006, accused the author of trying to ban an LGBTQ student group.

A series of leaked emails showed that in 2013, Sparks ordered Benjamin to break up the group and threatened at least two teachers with termination for defending the students, insisting that “not allowing them to have a club is NOT discrimination.”

Related: Nicholas Sparks apologizes for homophobic emails but forgets to apologize for racist ones

In another set of emails, Sparks made racist comments about African American kids, claiming that the lack of Black students at his school had less to do with racist policies and more to do with African-Americans being “too poor and can’t do the academic work.”

Yesterday, he apologized for the homophobic emails; however, he has yet to address the racist ones.

“I regret and apologize that mine have potentially hurt young people and members of the LGBTQ community,” Sparks posted to his social media pages on Monday, “including my friends and colleagues in that community.”

He went on to say that he is “an unequivocal supporter of gay marriage, gay adoption, and equal employment rights and would never want to discourage any young person or adult from embracing who they are.”

Sparks also said the emails were written “in haste under stressful and tumultuous conditions” and if he had had more time to reflect on his works, he surely would have been more careful in what he wrote.

Unfortunately for him, people aren’t buying the apology.

And now, the responses…

Related: Leaked emails reveal author Nicholas Sparks’ true feelings about LGBTQ people and they’re not nice


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Cop forces trans woman to perform oral sex under threat of arrest, tells her “that’s what you do”

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The Chicago Police Department has stripped an officer of his badge after allegations by a transgender woman that he forced her to perform oral sex on him.

The woman, whose identity has not been released, provided DNA evidence of the March 5 attack. According to her, she was out walking with her boyfriend when the officer approached.

The officer threatened to arrest her for prostitution unless she performed oral sex on him. He then demanded she get into his vehicle, telling her “that’s what you do.”

The Chicago Tribune reports:

The sergeant directed her to get into the front passenger seat of the police vehicle, and as her boyfriend looked on, the sergeant drove off, ultimately ending up in an alley near Kostner and Lexington avenues — with the Eisenhower Expressway visible in the distance.

At some point, the sergeant closed the cover on a computer mounted between the driver and passenger seats, the alleged victim told detectives.

On the night of the alleged assault, the woman later told detectives, she had given staffers at Rush [Hospital] four numbers that had been written on the computer with what appeared to be magic marker.

The transgender woman told detectives that the sergeant exposed himself and ordered her to perform a sex act. She said she complied out of fear.

Without the sergeant’s knowledge, the woman told detectives, she was able to preserve some DNA evidence, which she turned over to staffers at the hospital later that night, according to the police reports.

Within an hour after the attack, she went to the hospital for rape kit testing and filed a police report.

In April, the department stripped the sergeant of his rank and power. He opted to retire at that time.

No criminal charges have yet been filed in the case, pending additional DNA test results.

Related: This gay Chicago cop and his boyfriend are accused of viciously beating another gay couple


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mikenov on Twitter: Broidy and Nader received a defense contract worth nearly $4 million – Google Search google.com/search?q=Broid…

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Broidy and Nader received a defense contract worth nearly $4 million – Google Search google.com/search?q=Broid…


Posted by

mikenov
on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019 4:40pm

mikenov on Twitter


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Natasha Howard could be the most improbable MVP ever

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Major injuries to Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird have given Howard a key role in Seattle, just two years after she was a mere backup scoring four points per game. She’s proving ready for a star’s role.

Welcome to The W Is It, a weekly column about all the stuff that freakin’ rules in the WNBA. Here’s last week’s debut column on Chelsea Gray. Have any tips of topics to cover? Find me @mellentuck on Twitter.

How deep is the talent pool in the WNBA? Consider that when one MVP went down with a torn Achilles, her teammate, two years removed from being a 12-minute-a-game reserve, has become a candidate herself.

Natasha Howard’s meteoric rise has been so rapid that she’s lifted the Seattle Storm out of the injury-plagued wasteland so determined to crush their back-to-back title hopes. With star Breanna Stewart and legend Sue Bird sidelined due to injury, Howard has become an absolute terror. She’s averaging 20 points per game in leading the remaining Storm roster, which has no business holding a record above .500, to a solid 5-4 start nearly one month into the season.

The offseason wasn’t kind to Seattle basketball. Like at all. A month before the WNBA season was set to begin, Howard watched as reigning league MVP Stewart, her Storm and Dynamo Kursk teammate, tore her Achilles in the EuroLeague Final Four. Five days later, Seattle’s head coach, Dan Hughes, announced he was diagnosed with cancer. Then, four days before the Storm were set to make their season debut, legendary point guard Sue Bird needed arthroscopic knee surgery, for which she’ll be out indefinitely.

The heartbreak was infinite and the Storm’s chances at a back-to-back title were barren.

But Howard, the 6’2 slashing, three-point shooting, shot-blocking, court-running and position-bending big, has instead developed her game to a level few thought she’d be able to sustain. Despite double- and triple-teams, she’s scoring over defenders in the paint, seeing the floor better than ever and continuing to serve as a defensive anchor.

Her rise is even more remarkable considering the Storm poached her from the Minnesota Lynx for a mere second-round pick and a pick swap that never happened prior to the 2018 season. Stuck behind 2017 MVP Sylvia Fowles and Rebekkah Brunson, Howard didn’t have a clear path to earn playing time. It’s criminal, really. But it shows the surplus of talent a league with only 12 teams and 144 roster spots has.

“It’s something a lot of teams deal with,” Storm GM Alisha Valavanis told SB Nation. “There’s depth that given a starting opportunity on different teams, they may be able to break out.”

Through her game, Howard made her need for a bigger role clear. Anyone who’d seen Team USA’s 2016 Olympic team nearly lose in a scrimmage to the USA Select Team because of a Howard onslaught knew where her ceiling stood. The forward who averaged four points per game in the season prior broke out for 18 fourth-quarter points against the next-best players in the world. After hitting just one three-pointer in eight tries in her first three seasons, she hit three in that one night.

“I think that’s when everyone opened their eyes even more like ‘Wow Howard is really good,’” she told SB Nation. “They didn’t know I was that good because I hadn’t had the opportunity to show my talent [like that.]”

Now, finally, after four years of learning — and being overlooked just a bit — Howard has taken her chance to shine and is running with it. The Storm are out to an impressive start given the devastating injuries to its most coveted pieces, and that doesn’t happen without Howard’s quick bursts to the rim and much-improved range. She’s proving she can handle a larger plate.

This isn’t just the silver lining to crap offseason luck. The Storm, as they stand right now, are a damn threat because of her.

Here are a few other things to celebrate from Week 4 of the season.

Megan Gustafson is back in the W

Let’s GO! Gustafson, the NCAA National Player of the Year and leading scorer in all of college basketball last year at 28 points per game, was drafted by the Dallas Wings in the second round of April’s draft, but then cut before the season started. That’s how much damn talent is in this league. Anyway, the Wings re-signed her on June 13.

Though she didn’t see any action in the ensuing game, shouts to her dad, who drove 20 hours to see her suit up for the first time. Gustafson had to fly out to Texas the morning after she found out she’d been offered a contract, so he drove from Wisconsin to Iowa, where she lived, to take her car all the way down to Dallas. The day before Father’s Day too!

Dan Hughes is coming back this week!

Specifically, Friday against the L.A. Sparks, GM Alisha Valavanis told SB Nation. “We are excited to have Coach Hughes back on the sideline.”

Hughes, the Storm’s head coach, was diagnosed with an undisclosed form of cancer in April, and he’s been progressing well. On June 6, he said his surgery had been successful and that he’d been at team practices watching interim head coach Gary Kloppenburg take the helm.

Fever guard Erica McCall rapped on stage with Carrie Freaking Underwood

Who needs Ludacris when you can get the GOAT of WNBA rap, Erica McCall. This was HYPE. I’m delighted to welcome out newest WNBA stan, Carrie.

Amanda Zahui B LIT UP the Sparks

In a win over L.A., the New York Liberty big scored a career-high 37 points in 36 minutes and made seven of the eight threes she took. She came into the season with only 38 made threes in four YEARS, yet she came out with flames on the second night of a back-to-back.

WNBA Stan(s) of the Week – LeBron James, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook

The Las Vegas Aces really are the biggest bandwagon franchise in the league, huh. Please watch as Kelsey Plum daps everyone up.

I’m obsessed with this video for a number of reasons, not limited to the fact that RUSS is part of the banana boat squad now? How? When? Future Laker?

Anyway, this might not be the last we see of Aces Stan Bron. He said he wants to come back for Vegas’ playoff run.

Candace Parker is BACK

On Tuesday night at 10:30 p.m. ET, Candace Parker will make her 2019 season debut at home against the Washington Mystics. She suffered a hamstring injury in the team’s first preseason game, and her team was able to cling on to a 4-3 record in her absence.

Let’s GOOOOOO!


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How many bases can you rack up in a single MLB game?

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Probably not as many as Shawn Green.

From the early total base leaders the likes of Ty Cobb and Lou Gehrig to today’s leaders, Shawn Green and Josh Hamilton, the total base record has always required a player’s single best game of their career. Today, the best route to the top of the list is with MLB’s first five home run game, but it’s not the only way.

There are only 18 players who have ever hit four home runs in a game and the leaders in total bases for a single game tend to be a four home run game with flair. Whether it be tacking on a single or double. This makes Green’s 19 total base game extremely difficult to surpass. Even Mike Cameron, who hit four home runs plus a shot to the warning track a few weeks before Green’s outburst, finds himself three bases short of the top of the leaderboard. One thing is for sure, when the total base record is broken, it will be a performance for the history books.

Be sure to check out more episodes of High Score at www.youtube.com/sbnation.


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