NEA Funds Climate-Change Plays, Workshops on ‘Food Justice’

The National Endowment for the Arts is funding a progressive rendition of Pride and Prejudice, a choreographed traffic jam, and a play about climate change causing the end of the world.

Aside from spending $20,000 on a musical about a lesbian illegal immigrant in love with an ICE agent and giving $100,000 to the theater company that put on a Trump assassination play, the NEA's list of new grants includes numerous frivolous art projects.

Numerous grants are dedicated to the issue of climate change. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts received $60,000 for performances and workshops on climate change and a curriculum for public schools on "food justice."

A $10,000 grant went to the San Francisco Green Film Festival, a county in Florida received $50,000 for artists to design rain gardens.

The California Shakespeare Theater in Berkeley received $25,000 for an opera based on the science fiction novel Parable of the Sower, which imagines a dystopian future because of global warming.

"Chronicling the spiritual awakening of a future America grappling with the effects of climate change, ‘Parable' is told in the form of a ritual song cycle informed by African-American spiritualism," according to the grant.

The adaptation offers "deep insights on gender, race, and the future of human civilization."

A dance performance by custodial workers is costing taxpayers $20,000.

"Featuring the skilled movement of a group of campus employees, such as dishwashers, cooks, custodial staff, physical plant employees, or grounds and maintenance crews, this multidisciplinary performance will highlight the work life of campus staff as performed by the employees themselves," according to the grant.

Forklift Danceworks received the funding for the dance, entitled, "Served," which the group says could be performed at the University of Houston or Wake Forest University.

Collide, an "eatery, drinking den, [and] creative arts space" in Austin, Texas, received $20,000 to choreograph a traffic jam.

"Artists working with local youth will choreograph automobiles, bicycles, golf carts, and pedicabs to perform skilled movements in a parking lot, making art inspired by Austin's traffic congestion," according to the grant.

Other projects focus on the LGBTQ community, including, "They, Them, Theirs: Showcasing Trans Lives." The Theater Offensive, which bills itself as the "largest and longest-running lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth theater program" in the country, received $15,000 for the performance.

"We present the diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lives in art so bold it breaks through personal isolation, challenges the status quo, and builds thriving communities," the Theater Offensive says.

The group received an award from former first lady Michelle Obama in 2016.

A retreat for "promising LGBTQ writers" in Los Angeles is costing $25,000, and part of a $40,000 grant to a center in Oakland is going to storytelling workshops for community organizers.

The San Francisco arts center "Fresh Meat Productions" received $15,000 for a "full-throttle" gay and transgender dance performance about AIDS.

"The Missing Generation features full-throttle dance, luscious partnering, intimate storytelling and theater—performed by Dorsey's stellar, multi-generational ensemble of dancers," according to the center. The performance is advertised with a picture of four topless men embracing.

Fresh Meat Productions is dedicated to promoting "social justice, solidarity and the evolution of transgender arts and culture."

The Queer Cultural Center in San Francisco received $15,000 for "new works by commissioned LGBT artists of color from the Bay Area."

The Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project received $20,000 for a filmmaking workshop. The organization says it creates "high-impact films that authentically reflect the lives of queer women of color (cisgender & transgender), gender nonconforming and transgender people of color (of any orientation), and address the vital, intersecting social justice issues that concern our multiple communities."

The Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project also says it leads "social justice movements that incorporate the power of art as cultural resistance."

An exhibition in Birmingham, Ala., received $25,000 for work by female artists that "explores social justice issues." The artist Rosa Naday Garmendia has done pieces on Tamir Rice and a text-based work entitled "God and Bombs."

Garmendia is an immigrant from Cuba, which she says "has faced hostilities from the United States since 1959."

A small town in Minnesota received $75,000 to put on dance parties and walking events.

The "Year of Play" project in Fergus Falls, which has a population of just over 13,000, will include "artist-led biking or walking events, traffic calming artwork, and pop up dance parties."

"The American people are recognized for their innovative spirit and these grants represent the vision, energy, and talent of America's artists and arts organizations," said NEA chairman Jane Chu. "I am proud of the role the National Endowment for the Arts plays in helping advance the creative capacity of the United States."

Other projects include $90,000 for a three-week songwriting class for elderly people who live in federal public housing, and $10,000 for a class taught by master clowns in San Francisco.

National Public Radio received $130,000 to create a book concierge app and funding for music programming.

Several arts grants are going toward police and community training. A $50,000 grant is going towards training "local artists, community members, and police officers in crime prevention" in Indianapolis.

James Madison University received $20,000 to study using songwriting to "explore issues of incarceration, equity, justice, and community."

Two projects totaling $35,000 received funding to do exhibits on the terrorist attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. One will focus on "themes of understanding and unity," while another will be a dance in Seattle about the "mass shooting." Neither project mentions terrorism.

An artist group in New York City that recently raised a "resist" flag over its headquarters received $40,000 for an installation about "capitalism, immigration, and the promise of the ‘American Dream'" near the Statue of Liberty.

A choral festival at Philadelphia churches featuring songs based on conversations with homeless men and environmentalism received $30,000, and exhibitions in Pittsburgh of refugees, gentrification, and personal space received $20,000.

The NEA is spending $30,000 to write "love poems to San Antonio," and $10,000 for an annual gathering of basket weavers.

An "Art Truck" that will take artists to parking lots and farmers' markets in Arlington, Va., is costing $25,000.

A play that questions whether Cain, who committed the first murder in the Bible, was a criminal is costing $10,000.

"We will ask the question; was Cain a criminal? It will be up to you to decide if his actions were justified," the Synetic Theater said.

Finally, a "fresh take" on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice to "provide greater voice and agency for women and diverse casting," is costing $35,000.

"Playwright Kate Hamill imbues new life to this classic love story with a decidedly progressive take on the trials and travails of Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, and, of course the delightful Bennet clan," according to a synopsis for the play.

The total price tag for the above listed projects is $1,070,000.

California Recall Over Gas Tax Hike Gains Traction

California Republicans opposed to the latest gas tax increase said they have gathered more than enough signatures to launch a recall effort against Assemblyman Josh Newman, a recently elected Democrat whose surprise win gave his party a super-majority that could pass tax increases without a single GOP vote.

Carl DeMaio, a conservative San Diego talk radio host who is leading the recall effort, said Republicans opposed to the most recent gas tax hike Newman backed submitted 84,988 signatures for the recall effort on Tuesday, nearly 20,000 more than the 63,592 the law requires.

"The overwhelming number of signatures we collected in just six weeks demonstrates a real rebellion is brewing in California against the out-of-control tax raisers in the state legislature," DeMaio told the Washington Free Beacon.

If the counties where the signatures were collected do not dispute their validity, the recall election would be held shortly after Nov. 1, the start of the new gas tax increase.

DeMaio and other like-minded Republicans say that Newman cast the deciding vote April 6 in favor of a $52 billon transportation package that included an increase in gas taxes and car registration fees to pay for it. Newman won a narrow victory against Republican Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang in November in a seat that had been held by termed-out Republican Bob Huff.

The recall campaign against Newman is only the beginning of a broader state-wide push to repeal the gas tax increases—one that DeMaio said could resonate enough to impact the mid-term congressional races as well.

"This recall against the state senator who cast the deciding vote to approve the car and gas taxes is just the start," he said. "We intend to place a repeal of the car and gas tax hikes on the ballot for the November 2018 election which we believe will significantly impact legislative races."

"It is possible our measure to repeal the gas tax will influence the control of Congress in 2018," he said.

A Newman spokesman did not immediately respond to a Free Beacon inquiry about the signatures. Newman has previously pointed out that the most crucial vote for the April 6 gas tax increase was that of GOP Sen. Anthony Cannella of Modesto, who supported the bill in return for $500 million in projects for his district.

Democratic Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon has said his side will marshal its resources to protect Newman should the recall effort gain traction.

Himes: Obama ‘Didn’t Do Enough’ to Respond to Russian Hacking

Rep. Jim Himes (D., Conn.) believes that President Barack Obama did not do enough to respond to Russian hacking in the 2016 presidential election.

Himes said as much during an interview on CNN on Wednesday in which he discussed Obama and President Donald Trump's responses to Russia's meddling efforts.

Trump tweeted a claim Monday that his predecessor "did NOTHING about Russia after being notified by the CIA of meddling," saying that this was because Obama expected Hillary Clinton to win the election. Trump was likely responding to a Washington Post report detailing Obama's response to information about Russian interference in the election.

Himes voiced his own criticism of Obama in response to a question from CNN host Wolf Blitzer, who asked Himes not about Trump's tweet, but about a CNN report that Trump's advisers were still struggling to convince him to take the Russian threat seriously.

Himes was critical of Trump's management issue, saying that "the reality is this administration is not taking the Russia threat at all seriously," and alluding to a "soft spot" Trump may have for Russia.

But, notably, he agreed with Trump's tweeted claims that Obama did not do enough.

"I don't disagree with the president that our last president, President Obama, he did not do nothing, he did a lot, but he didn't do enough," Himes said. "He didn't do enough to cause Vladimir Putin to know that this sort of attack on the United States will be met by painful retribution. So Trump is right in that regard."

Study: TV News ‘Obsessed’ With Russia Investigation

More than half of all evening television news coverage of the Donald Trump presidency has been dedicated to discussion of the Russia investigation since the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller on May 17, according to a new study.

The Media Research Center studied every broadcast network evening newscast in the past five weeks and found in a study released Tuesday that 55 percent of all coverage, or 353 minutes of airtime, focused on the ongoing probe into potential ties between President Donald Trump's campaign and the Russian government.

The Russia investigation received 20 times more airtime than the new health care bill, 100 times more airtime than the Trump administration's infrastructure initiatives, and 450 times more airtime than tax reform.

Coverage of the Russia investigation far outstripped any coverage of administration policy moves. Just 47 minutes were spent on the decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, 17 minutes were spent on the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, and only 47 seconds were spent on tax reform initiatives.

The study reviewed 364 evening news stories, covering 640 minutes, focused on Trump or members of his administration. The reports included 246 full stories, 36 anchor-read items, and 82 mentions of the administration. Of these, the Russia story featured in 171 stories—126 full reports, seven anchor-read items, and 38 other mentions.

ABC's "World News Tonight" was number one in Trump-Russia coverage, devoting 63 percent of its Trump news to the topic. CBS's "Evening News" and NBC's "Nightly News" came in with 54 and 48 percent, respectively.

Fifty-eight out of 171 stories, or 34 percent of all coverage of the investigation, were based on anonymous sourcing, the MRC found. Some of those sources later proved erroneous, or were merely speculative. For example, on May 17, CBS correspondent Jeff Pegues reported that "CBS News has learned that investigators believe Flynn may have been acting on orders from someone else."

In one example of poor information from anonymous sources, ABC claimed that an unnamed source had said former FBI Director James Comey was expected in his upcoming congressional testimony to dispute Trump's claim that Comey had told the president three times that he was not under investigation.

"Tonight, a source familiar with Comey's thinking tells ABC News that the former FBI director will directly contradict what the president wrote in the letter telling him he was fired: ‘I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I'm not under investigation.' … According to our source, Comey will dispute that," ABC News reporter Jon Karl said.

The next day, Comey said exactly the opposite in his testimony.

Half of all voters think reporters are biased against Trump, according to a recent Rasmussen poll; 68 percent of Republican voters rate the media's coverage as "poor."

Wheelchair-Bound Woman Uses Gun to Scare Off Armed Burglars

A wheelchair-bound Cleveland woman is safe after drawing her gun on a pair of attempted robbers on Monday.

Melinda Vandal told Fox 8 she was in her laundry room when she noticed two men standing outside her window. "It was last Monday morning around 10:30," Vandal said. "I looked at the door and there was a man, right there, right outside looking like he was going for my door. The other one was by my garage cutting my screen in my garage window to get in."

She then called the police and retrieved her gun.

"It's my home," she told the news station. "I have to protect myself."

She then told the men she would defend herself and her home.

"I put the gun up to the window of the door and I yelled, ‘get off my property,'" she said.

After seeing the gun, the man by the garage dropped his knife and the two men ran away. Vandal did not have to fire any shots at them. The police arrived a short time later but were unable to locate the two men. They are still investigating the matter.

Vandal told Fox 8 she has seen the two men in her neighborhood since the incident. She said she has trouble sleeping because of what happened. She now keeps her gun close at hand.

"I don't want to ever hurt anyone, but I feel like I need to protect myself," she told the news station.

Nearly 20 Percent of Rhode Island’s Voter Rolls Are ‘Inaccurate’

Rhode Island voter rolls inaccurately contain 150,000 people that they should not, according to the secretary of state.

The Providence Journal reported Wednesday that Nellie M. Gorbea, Rhode Island's secretary of state, has found around 150,000 people who are erroneously on the rolls. "It's not really fraud. It's really just inaccuracies," Gorbea said.

Gorbea has already removed 65,000 names since 2015, the Journal says. An additional 30,000 names were deemed inactive. Gorbea has spent $60,000 on the effort to clean up the state's voter rolls.

Rhose Island had a total of 781,770 registered voters during the 2016 elections, meaning that nearly 20 percent of their voter roll is inaccurate.

Logan Churchwell, communications director for the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a group that litigates to protect election integrity, says that this is a problem that extends beyond Rhode Island.

"This isn't only a problem in Rhode Island. The News & Observer reports today how PILF client Voter Integrity Project-NC inked a settlement with Wake County, North Carolina to more frequently review voter rolls each year," Churchwell said. "One example is the requirement that National Change of Address records will be compared to voter rolls on a quarterly basis, rather than the current bi-annual regimen. Elements of the deal will remain in place until 2023."

Reporter Angered at ‘Near Total Refusal’ by White House to Take CNN’s Questions

CNN's senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, took to Twitter on Wednesday to complain that the White House would not take his question.

Acosta, who has vocally opposed the White House's press briefings not being on camera, said that he tried asking White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about fundraisers President Donald Trump is hosting for Republicans at Trump-owned properties.

Acosta said in a tweet that he had asked Sanders at the briefing, "Isn't holding a fundraiser at the Trump hotel rather swamp-like?"

The reporter then tweeted that he never got a response.

Acosta finished off his series of tweets by saying video coverage of the briefing was "outlawed."

U.S. to Unveil Enhanced Airline Security Plan to Avoid Laptop Ban

By David Shepardson and Alana Wise

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) — U.S. Homeland Security officials on Wednesday will unveil enhanced security measures for foreign flights arriving in the United States but not an immediate expansion of an in-cabin ban on laptops and other large electronic devices because they might carry bombs, sources briefed on the matter said.

The decision not to impose new restrictions on laptops is a boost to U.S. airlines, which have worried that an expansion of the ban to Europe or other locations could cause significant logistical problems and deter some travel. Airlines that failed to satisfy new security requirements could still face future in-cabin electronics restrictions, the sources said.

European and U.S. officials told Reuters that airlines have 21 days to put in place increased explosive screening and have 120 days to comply with other security measures, including enhanced screening of airline passengers.

Reuters reported earlier this month that the United States had suggested enhancements, including explosive trace detection screening, increased vetting of airports' staff, and additional detection dogs.

Since laptops are widely used in flight by business class passengers—who pay double or more than the average ticket price—the airline industry had feared expanding the ban could cut into revenue.

Airline officials said they will have to bear the brunt of expanded screening costs. Officials told Reuters they are concerned about adding new enhanced security measures to all of the roughly 280 airports that have direct flights to the United States rather than focus them on airports where threats are highest.

The U.S. imposed restrictions on laptops in March on flights originating at 10 airports in eight countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Turkey. They came amid fears that a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken aboard aircraft. Britain quickly followed suit with a similar set of restrictions.

U.S. airline stocks were higher on Wednesday, with United Airlines up 1.4 percent and Delta Air Lines Inc and American Airlines Group each up 2.3 percent. None of the airlines immediately commented.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said last week that U.S. authorities want to take the 10 airports off the restrictions list "by simply doing the kind of things that we're talking about here in terms of raising aviation security." He said the United States would boost security to a "much higher level."

Homeland Security officials plan to announce that those airports can get off the list if they meet the new security requirements.

Starting in April, Kelly repeatedly said it was "likely" the laptop ban would expand to other airports—and even said in May the government could potentially expand the ban worldwide.

Kelly, who was speaking in Washington on Wednesday afternoon, said he planned a "step by step" security enhancement plan that included short, medium-term, and longer-term improvements that would take at least a year to implement completely.

He said last week that airlines must take the issue seriously. "The threat is very real," he said.

Kelly met with senior airline executives in May and Homeland Security officials have had repeated meetings with U.S. airline executives.

Robert Mann, analyst at R.W. Mann & Co, said if U.S. officials had insisted on an expanded laptop ban, it could harm business travel.

He said new computer tomography or "CT" scanners being tested in Boston and Phoenix could help address long-term screening issues. Current screening of carry-on luggage "can’t tell the difference between a block of cheese, a romance novel, and a block of semtex plastic explosives because they're all about the same density," Mann said.

One big issue facing policymakers was the potential safety implications related to past problems with laptop batteries and storing large numbers of laptops in the cargo hold.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said at a June Senate hearing that lithium ion batteries on airplanes can be a problem and pose a fire risk.

Maxine Waters Attacks Ben Carson at Town Hall, Wants to ‘Take Him Apart’

Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) went after Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson at a town hall on Saturday.

At the town hall in Gardena, Calif., Waters said that Carson should go back to his former profession of being a surgeon, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Waters also told the crowd that the next time Carson went before the House Financial Services Committee, she would "take him apart." Waters is the top Democrat on that committee.

One woman in the audience carrying a sign that read "Impeach Mad Max" was yelling that Waters had to go. Waters responded by leading the chant "Impeach 45." The chant lasted for over four minutes while her supporters gathered around the woman with the sign.

"Stay woke," Waters said.

Waters has been one of the most hostile members of Congress toward the Trump administration and has repeatedly called for impeaching President Donald Trump. Her vocal opposition has made her a hero to millennial liberals, who call her "Auntie Maxine."

Trump: ‘We Could Have a Big Surprise’ on Health Care

President Donald Trump had some fun meeting with the Chicago Cubs at the White House on Wednesday, but also mixed in some business as he told reporters in the room that health care is "working along very well" and there could be a "big surprise."

Trump welcomed Cubs manager Joe Maddon and several players who were part of the 2016 World Series team, calling them a "great team."

The players gave Trump a Cubs jersey with a "45" printed on it recognizing his status as the 45th president.

Trump asked the team whether they wanted to see the Oval Office and then told the players that they would leave the media behind during the visit before pivoting to talk about the status of the Senate health care bill.

"Just to do a little official business, health care is working along very well. We could have a big surprise with a great health care package, so now they're happy," Trump said, referring to the media being happy.

"What do you mean by big surprise, sir?" a reporter asked.

Trump responded by saying that the Republican health care bill is going to have a "great, great surprise."

Hours earlier Trump castigated Obamacare and said that it was "dying" while reflecting on his meeting with Republican senators on Tuesday.

"Yesterday we had a tremendous meeting," Trump said. "The Republican senators met on health care and the meeting went really well. We're talking about a great, great form of health care."

"Obamacare is dying. It's essentially dead," Trump added. "If you don't give it the subsidy, it would die within 24 hours. It's been a headache for everybody. It's been a nightmare for many."

President Donald J. Trump: "ObamaCare is dying, it is essentially dead."

Posted by Fox News on Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) announced early Tuesday afternoon that he would be delaying the health care vote, which was originally scheduled for Thursday, until after the July 4 recess, according to CNN.

McConnell told GOP senators that he wants to make changes to the bill, get a new Congressional Budget Office score, and have a vote after the holiday, two sources told CNN.

McConnell said that President Donald Trump had invited all Republican senators to the White House on Tuesday afternoon.