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Filmmakers Boycott Georgia Over New Abortion Law

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  • Georgia’s governor signed a bill on Tuesday that bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can happen around six weeks into a pregnancy.
  • Members of the film industry, including Alyssa Milano, Mark Duplass, David Simon, Nina Jacobson, and others, are promising to pull productions out of the state unless the law is overturned.
  • Georgia’s film economy reportedly generates billions of dollars and is home to shows like Stranger Things, The Walking Dead, and Marvel hits like Black Panther.

Hollywood Vows to Step Away From Georgia

Actors, directors, and other film industry leaders are refusing to film in Georgia after the state’s governor signed a controversial “fetal heartbeat” abortion bill.

On Tuesday, Gov. Brian Kemp passed legislation banning abortions after a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus or embryo. This can happen around six weeks into a pregnancy.

Many believe that this legislation violates Roe Vs. Wade and a woman’s right to have autonomy over her body, as most do not know they are even pregnant at six weeks. As a result, many prominent figures in the film and television industry have decided to take a stand against this move by refusing to film in the state.

Back in March, when the bill started making headlines, actor Alyssa Milano wrote a letter addressing Gov. Kemp and the bill, known as H.B. 481.

“We cannot in good conscience continue to recommend our industry remain in Georgia if H.B. 481 becomes law,” she wrote. “This dangerous and deeply-flawed bill mimics many others which have already been deemed unconstitutional.”

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The letter was then signed by over 50 other actors, including big names like Don Cheadle, Mia Farrow, Debra Messing, Gabrielle Union, Ben Stiller, Mark Hamill, and Mandy Moore.

After the bill was signed on Tuesday, Milano gave a statement to BuzzFeed News saying she planned to act on her promise. While the actress is currently in Georgia filming the second season of the Netflix series Insatiable, she does not intend to return.

“I have to be there for another month but you can be sure I will fight tooth and nail to move Insatiable to a state that will protect our rights,” Milano said. “And if it doesn’t move to another state, I will not be able to return to the show if we are blessed with a third season. This is my leverage. I will use it for the betterment of society and our great country.”

Milano is not the only one using her status in Hollywood to move production out of the state. Mark Duplass, an actor, writer, and one of the heads of Duplass Brothers Productions, encouraged others to join him in taking business out of Georgia.

Other production executives have backed this idea. The C.E.O. of Killer Films, the company behind Oscar contenders like Still Alice and Carol, said the production company will not return to Georgia until “this ridiculous law is overturned.”

David Simon, the creator of The Wire and The Duece said his company, Blown Deadline Productions, will also stay out of the state. One of the industry’s biggest producers, Nina Jacobson, who has had her hand in The Hunger Games trilogy, American Crime Story, Crazy Rich Asians, and other massive money makers, echoed his statement.

Georgia’s Thriving Film Industry

Dubbed “the Hollywood of the South” by some, Georgia’s film industry is massive and thriving. According to Film LA, in 2016, 17 out of the top 100 highest domestic grossing movies were filmed there. This number is higher than both California and New York. According to Gov. Kemp, the industry creates over $60 billion in economic activity.

Incredibly popular television programs are filmed in the state, including Stranger Things and The Walking Dead. Some of Marvel’s box-office-smashes, including Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther were also shot there.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the state is home to anywhere between 30-40 productions at a time. Companies have taken their projects there as a result of both the warm weather and the 30 percent tax credit the state offers to film, television, and other productions who film there.

The Fetal Heartbeat Bill

Currently, Georgia allows abortion up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy. This time will cut dramatically by January 2020 unless the bill sees blocks in court, which it likely will.

The American Civil Liberties Union has already promised to challenge the bill, tweeting, “see you in court,” shortly after the news broke.

H.B. 481 mandates that Georgia consider “unborn children as natural persons.” It also allows for women who perform their own abortions to be liable for murder. The same applies to a woman who miscarries if prosecutors can prove her actions, such as drug or alcohol use, caused it.

Exceptions will be made in cases of rape, incest, or of the mother’s life is in jeopardy.

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (Los Angeles Times) (The Hill)

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Was an Iowa Official Asked to Resign Over His Love of Tupac? He Says He Doubts It

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  • Jerry Foxhoven, the former director of Iowa’s Department of Human Services, was ordered to resign from his job days after sending a mass email to all 4,300 employees encouraging them to celebrate Tupac’s birthday. 
  • AP news obtained 350 pages of emails between Foxhoven and staff, which included quotes, lyrics, or other references to the rapper that he sent in hopes of uplifting his staff.
  • The messages were mostly met with praise, but at least one staff member complained. 
  • Foxhoven was abruptly asked to resign without an explanation other than the office wanting to move “in a new direction,” but he says he doesn’t believe his love of Tupac was the reason for the decision.

Foxhoven Asked to Resign

A former Iowa official, who many believe was fired over his love of Tupac Shakur, says he thinks his firing had nothing to do with his support of the rapper. 

Jerry Foxhoven, the former director of Iowa’s Department of Human Services, was ordered to resign from his job days after he sent a mass email to employees celebrating Tupac. 

On Tuesday, the Associated Press issued a report that said it had obtained emails that showed Foxhoven routinely sent messages to employees about Tupac.  According to AP News, the agency released 350 pages of email with the words “Tupac” or “2Pac” in then, which were sent to and from Foxhoven’s account during is two-years on the job.

The mass email in question was sent on June 14 and was sent to all 4,300 agent employees. In it, Foxhoven reminded employees that Father’s day was just a few days away and coincided with Tupac’s birthday. He encouraged staff to celebrate by listening to one of his songs and included what he said was an “inspiration quote” from the artist: “Pay no mind to those who talk behind your back, it simply means that you are 2 steps ahead.” 

Along with celebrating the rapper’s birthday, Foxhoven also noted that he was celebrating his two-year anniversary as director and thanked the staff for their work. 

The following workday, Governor Kim Reynolds’ chief of staff asked him to resign. 

Longrunning Love For Tupac 

Foxhoven says he had been a huge Tupac fan since the ‘90s. “I’m a 66-year-old white guy from the Midwest who likes rap music, who likes Tupac!” he told NPR. 

Foxhoven hosted weekly “Tupac Fridays” to play his music in the office and even celebrated his 65th birthday with Tupac-themed cookies, including ones decorated with the words “Thug Life.” 

However, he was also known to quote other celebrities in holiday-themed messages. In other emails, Foxhoven marked the anniversary of the rapper’s death and sent a Valentine’s day message that shared lyrics and quotes about love.

Foxhoven also allegedly told employees that Tupac’s lyrics inspired him to improve the company’s culture, specifically pointing to lyrics like “It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.”

Many praised Foxhoven for using his love of hip hop music to lift up the workplace, “I love your 2Pac messages,” one manager wrote June 14. “And the fact that you still send them (despite the haters) makes me appreciate them even more.”

“You are such a breath of fresh air Jerry!” another staff member wrote. “Thanks for all you do, to lift us up and help us feel better about what we do than we have felt in a long time!”

However, not everyone was a fan of the messages. According to AP News, at least one person complaining to lawmakers last year about them. 

Motivation For Firing Unclear

Foxhoven’s departure comes after numerous controversies at the agency including difficult contract negotiations with companies that run the Medicaid program, a trial concerning alleged mistreatment of boys at a state juvenile home, and an increase in deaths at a center for the disabled. 

While it hasn’t been confirmed that Foxhoven was pushed to leave over various Tupac messages, the timing is making many suspicious. Employees have been speculating that the two must be linked, thought Foxhoven has said they might not be. 

In a text message to AP News, he said believed that the governor had made the decision to “go in a different direction” before he sent his mass email. He said he wasn’t given a reason for the resignation request, but added that he doubted Tupac was a factor.

“I think it’s a coincidence,” Foxhoven told The New York Times in a phone interview, adding that the governor’s office had requested a meeting with him days before he sent the email. 

“I always try to assume the best of everybody, and I can’t imagine that [the governor] would base her decision on the Tupac incident,” he told NPR. “If this is the reason, I’m really disappointed.”

However, Foxhoven also told NPR that his tenure at the Department of Human Services ended without warning or a chance for an orderly transition. He said he was not even granted a meeting with Reynolds and added that the governor’s chief of staff confiscated his cellphone and ID cards on the spot, ordering him not to return to his office. 

Foxhoven also said that many directors do not serve long terms and said that his two-year tenure meant that he had outlasted many of his predecessors. Foxhoven, who had previously worked as a lawyer, professor, and children’s rights advocate, told the Times that he believed Reynolds was simply filling posts with “more political people.”

Pat Garrett, a spokesperson for the governor, told the AP: “As the governor has said, a lot of factors contributed to the resignation of Jerry Foxhoven and now Gov. Reynolds is looking forward to taking DHS in a new direction.”

According to the AP: “The governor’s office has refused to elaborate on those factors, despite an Iowa law that requires state agencies to release the “documented reasons and rationale” when employees resign instead of being terminated.”

For now, Gerd W. Clabaugh, the director of the Department of Public Health, will serve as interim director of human services.

As for Foxhoven, he told NPR that he was glad his emails are making headlines because it allows for discussions about stereotypes and music. He then noted being especially upset by a recent story about a 17-year-old teen in Arizona who was fatally stabbed by a man who said the victim’s rap music made him feel “unsafe.”

“It’s important for us to break down those stereotypes: if you listen to rap music, you’re a criminal or dangerous. It’s not true at all,” he said., adding that he hoped his situation could lead to “having open discussions about race and what we have in common, instead of what separates us.”

See what others are saying: (AP News) (The New York Times) (NPR)


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Bill Pickett to Lil Nas X: The Untold Story of Black Cowboys…

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Cowboys are the ultimate Americana. They are an image ingrained in our culture and ever-present in film and television throughout the years. There are old western movies starring John Wayne, the classic TV show The Lone Ranger, and famous outlaws like Billy the Kid and Butch Cassidy. What you may not know, however, is some of these classic images have actually whitewashed the real history of cowboys in the American West.

Because while most of our classic references of cowboys are traditionally white men, many cowboys weren’t white. Historians estimate one in four cowboys in the wild west were black. This is the untold story of black cowboys in the American West.

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Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad Discriminated Against Openly Gay Official, Jury Finds

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  • On Monday, an eight-person jury in Polk County, Iowa found that former governor, Terry Branstad, discriminated against a state official because of his sexual orientation. 
  • The former official, Chris Godfrey, filed the lawsuit against Branstad as well as other officials in the state of Iowa in January 2012. 
  • After seven years, the case finally went to trial in June 2019 and ended six weeks later with the jury awarding Godfrey $1.5 million for emotional distress. 
  • Branstad resigned as Governor in May 2017, after he was appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to China, a role he still holds. 

The Ruling 

A jury in Iowa awarded former state official Chris Godfrey $1.5 million after they determined that he had been discriminated against for his sexual orientation by the governor at the time, Terry Branstad. 

Godfrey, who was Iowa’s commissioner of workers’ compensation, filed a lawsuit against Branstad, the state of Iowa, and other state officials in January 2012. Court records show that after seven years, the case finally went to trial in June 2019 and ended six weeks later with the decision to award Godfrey.

The former state official was awarded $1 million for being denied his constitutional due process rights and another $500,000 for the discrimination and retaliation he faced. 

How This Happened 

Godfrey was appointed Iowa’s workers’ compensation commissioner in 2006 and was reappointed just before Terry Branstad became Iowa’s governor in 2011. Godfrey says that once Branstad came into office, he asked Godfrey to resign from his role. The state official refused and as a result, his salary was cut by almost $40,000. 

In Iowa, a commissioner holds their position for 6 years to protect it from partisan politics. However, the governor is able to ask a commissioner to step down from their role and if that request is refused, the governor can reduce the commissioner’s pay. According to local reports, Godfrey was one of 29 appointees Branstad asked to resign when he came into office. 

Throughout the lawsuit, Branstad insisted he did not know Godfrey’s sexual orientation and asked him to resign due to concerns that businesses had. 

However as the case continued, Branstad later admitted that Godfrey had only received positive reviews. 

When the lawsuit went to trial in June 2019, Godfrey’s lawyer argued that he was shunned by Branstad’s office because he was the only openly gay man working as an executive at the time. The attorney noted specific examples, like how Godfrey was not invited to a retreat for Branstad’s department heads and executive staff. 

In addition to Godfrey, other officials in Iowa have spoken out about Branstad, like current Polk County Supervisor Matt McCoy. 

During the trial, McCoy testified that Branstad’s administration was a “men’s club,” and added that “being gay in 2011 through 2015 was not an easy thing and [Godfrey] was definitely experiencing discrimination.” 

As for Godfrey, he explained that the lawsuit for him was about getting justice. “After I had been asked to resign twice, after my pay was slashed, I felt obviously personally attacked, I needed justice,” he told the court. 

What happened to Branstad?

As for the former governor, in December 2016 he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to China by President Donald Trump. Branstad was later confirmed in May 2017, after a vote 82 to 13, and he resigned as governor two days later. 

According to The Economist, Branstad and China’s ambassador are “old friends,” which is considered a great compliment in Chinese culture. The two met in 1985 during Branstad’s first term as Iowa’s governor. The article notes that in 2015, Iowa’s agricultural exports to China made up $1.4 billion of the $2.3 billion exported from the U.S.

See what others are saying: (AP News) (13NOW) (Des Moines Register)

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