Bob Costas took a moment during NBC's coverage last night to comment on the state of human rights in Russia, one the first times during the Sochi Olympics wherein the network has acknowledged the issue on air.
Said the newscaster:
The Sochi games have gone much better than many feared and predicted. So far security has held fast, venues have been praised, athletes and spectators have almost unanimously cited the warmth and hospitality of their hosts. All of which is truly wonderful but should not serve to obscure a larger and more lasting truth.
While in many significant ways, Russian citizens have better lives than Soviet citizens of a generation ago, there’s is still a government which imprisons dissidents, is hostile to gay rights, sponsors and supports a vicious regime in Syria - and that’s just a partial list.
The Sochi games are Vladimir Putin's games, from their inception to their conclusion, and all points in between. And if they are successful on their own terms, as appears to be the case, then at least in some corners it will help to burnish the image of a regime with which much of the world takes significant issue. No amount of Olympic glory can mask those realities any more than a biathlon gold medal, though hard-earned and deeply satisfying as it is, can put out the fires in Kiev.
Watch the full clip here.
The first same-sex couples was married in Cook County, Illinois yesterday, just hours after a federal judge ruled that gay couples could start marrying immediately.
WLS-TV explains how the very first gay couple to marry made their decision:
Charlie Gurion, 25, saw that U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled Friday morning that there was no reason for same-sex couples to wait for marriage until June, which is when an Illinois law goes into effect making gay marriage legal. So he called his partner, David Wilk, 30, at work, and talked him into heading the courthouse. The two have been together for three and half years.
The Chicago Tribune reports:
U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman's ruling was announced late Friday morning, drawing 46 gay couples to the lower level of the Daley Center to get a marriage license. Thanks to a waiver from a judge, Cook County Clerk David Orr even married a couple Friday, giving them red roses to celebrate.
Orr said the office looks forward to long lines but he was not sure how many to expect. Extra staff will be brought in to cover the longer hours today.
Marriage licenses take effect the next calender day and are valid for 60 days. “Don’t rush to get your license if you have a summer wedding planned because you don’t want the license to expire before your big day,” Orr cautioned.
The $60 license fee will be waived for any couple who already has an Illinois civil union license. Couples who wish to convert their prior civil union date to a marriage will have to wait until June 1 because it was not addressed in Coleman’s order, Orr said.
Only the downtown Chicago office issued same-sex marriage licenses yesterday. According to the Tribune, "all offices will begin issuing licenses on Monday."
Virginia Delegate Mark D. Sickles publicly came out in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post yesterday. This makes him the second openly gay member of the state legislature.
My life is hardly a secret to political friends and foes. In my first reelection campaign to the House of Delegates in 2005, my opponent used homophobic innuendo in an attempt to discredit me with voters who, he must have presumed, would be appalled to discover that their elected representative was a gay man in a long-term relationship. He told this newspaper and others that mail I sent out (featuring a picture of me playing with a toddler) was “deliberately misleading the voters” because “Mark Sickles does not have a child or a family.” His campaign manager added: “His sexual orientation is a mystery to us. We were just looking for honesty in the campaign.”
He notes that many close friends and family have known he is gay for decades.
The focus on Sickles' opinion piece was the pre-Valentine's Day ruling by a federal judge on marriage equality, which he calls "a historic turning point in the long struggle for equality in the commonwealth."
According to The Richmond Times-Dispatch, "the announcement comes as Sickles and state Sen. Adam P. Ebbin, D-Alexandria, the state's other openly gay legislator, vie with nine other Democrats for the nomination to run for the Northern Virginia congressional seat of retiring Rep. James P. Moran, D-8th."
The polar vortex has caused record ice coverage on the Great Lakes this year.
NASA published this photo taken by its Aqua satellite on February 19, 2014:
Ice cover on North America’s Great Lakes reached 88 percent in mid-February 2014—levels not observed since 1994. The average maximum ice extent since 1973 is just over 50 percent. It has surpassed 80 percent just five times in four decades. The lowest average ice extent occurred in 2002, when only 9.5 percent of the lakes froze...
...The second, false-color image (below) uses a combination of shortwave infrared, near infrared, and red (MODIS bands 7-2-1) that helps distinguish ice from snow, water, and clouds. Ice is pale blue (thicker ice is brighter), open water is navy, snow is blue-green, and clouds are white or blue-green (depending on temperature and composition).
The polar vortex is scheduled to return next week.
Michael Sam Holds First Press Conference, Says He Wants To Be Seen As 'Michael Sam The Football Player': Video
Missouri defensive end and NFL draft prospect Michael Sam held his very first press conference today since he publicly came out as gay. Some highlights are below.
On gay slurs in the locker room: “I’ve been in locker rooms where all kinds of slurs have been said. I don’t think anyone means it. It might be a little naïve and uneducated but as time goes on, everyone will adapt.”
Sam was also asked how he would feel about being drafted into the Miami Dolphins, this since the release of the Ted Wells report, an investigation which revealed extensive bullying within the team: "If the Miami Dolphins drafted me, I would be excited to be a part of that organization. I'm not afraid about going into that environment. I know how to handle myself, I know how to communicate with my teammates, I know how to communicate with coaches ... and whoever I need to communicate with."
Addressing the type of questions he's been asked by the media recently: "'How's football going? 'How's training going?' I would love for you to ask me that question. But it is what it is and I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player, not Michael Sam the gay football player.”
When he was asked if he felt like a trailblazer, he echoed the same response: "I feel like I'm Michael Sam."
Watch a video of the press conference, AFTER THE JUMP.
At a ‘pro-family’ press conference in D.C. on Friday, evangelist Scott Lively was caught on camera being heckled by Viacheslav Revin, a Russian gay activist and refugee in the U.S.
Revin disrupted Scott Lively’s presentation and made a statement with a help of Ellen Sturtz translating his speech into English:
"Homophobia is a first step toward dictatorship! Putin is a dictator who condemned to death thousands of orphaned children by banning foreign adoptions. Putin is a corrupted thief who invents scapegoats and deflects attention from his crimes. His latest invention is the anti-gay law, so gays in modern Russia feel like jews back in the USSR. Declaring support for Putin means denying the democracy and demanding racial segregation. This is what Putin doing in Russia now in regards to gays and migrant workers from Central Asia."
Lively's speech was intended to announce the creation of the Coalition for Family Values, which includes Peter LaBarbera, Linda Harvey, and others dedicated to “confronting LGBT agenda” and supporting the Russian government’s anti-gay efforts.
Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...
Earlier this week, HRC released a video denouncing Lively and other prominent U.S. anti-gay activists for their work in helping Russia pass its gay propaganda law.