On Thursday, the U.S. State Department released its annual report on human rights around the world, finding fault with the records of Cuba, Iran, Russia, Myanmar, and China, among other nations. In China, the report said, "repression and coercion were routine" against journalists, dissidents, ethnic minorities — Uigurs and Tibetans, especially — and lawyers that took on sensitive cases, and censorship was rampant.
China, as always, wasn't amused, and on Friday it issued its own human rights report on the United States, criticizing everything from decade-old CIA torture to campaign finance abuses to unequal pay for women to gun violence — "the U.S. was haunted by spreading guns," for example. And China's State Council Information Office spent a lot of the report poking at U.S. race relations, declaring America "a country with grim problems of racial discrimination, and institutional discrimination against ethnic minorities continued."
"Police killings of African-Americans during law enforcement have practically become 'normal' in the U.S.," China's report said, mostly citing U.S. media reports. "In 2014, multiple cases of arbitrary police killing of African-Americans have sparked huge waves of protests, casting doubts on the racial 'equality' in the U.S. and giving rise to racial hatred factors."
You can read the entire report yourself, at China's state-run Xinhua news agency, and marvel at China's mastery of English-language trolling. The critique of America's racial record would have had more of a sting, though, if U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hadn't brought it up himself, first. You can watch Kerry preempt China below. Peter Weber
Colton Underwood, former star of The Bachelor, has come out as gay in an emotional interview on Good Morning America.
Underwood, who was the star of the hit reality show's 23rd season in 2019 after previously being a contestant on The Bachelorette, opened up in a conversation with ABC's Robin Robertsthat aired on Wednesday, revealing he "came to terms" with his sexuality earlier this year.
"I've ran from myself for a long time," he said. "I've hated myself for a long time."
Underwood told Roberts he struggled with thoughts of suicide and that it was a "wake-up call" when he got to a "dark" place where he "would have rather died than say I'm gay." Looking back on his time on the show, Underwood said he wishes he hadn't "dragged people into my own mess of figuring out who I was." He apologized to the women who were contestants during his season, including winner Cassie Randolph. They ended their relationship in 2020, with Randolph filing for a restraining order against Underwood that she later dropped.
"I loved everything about her," he said. "It's hard for me to articulate exactly what my emotions were in going through that relationship with her was because I obviously had an internal fight going on."
Opening up further about struggling with his sexuality, Underwood revealed that when he was cast on The Bachelor, he thanked God "for making me straight" after being raised Catholic and taught that being gay was a sin. But since coming out, Underwood said he's received "love and support" from his friends and family, so much so that he wishes he would have had more "faith" in them before.
"I'm emotional, but I'm emotional in such a good, happy, positive way," Underwood said. "I'm the happiest and healthiest I've ever been in my life, and that means the world to me." Brendan Morrow
It seems recent reports about Sylvester Stallone joining former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club may not have been rock solid.
The Rocky star has shot down reports that he recently became a member of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, writing on Instagram, "I would like to say to everyone that this never happened. This is just not true. It NEVER ever happened."
It had previously been reported by Page Six that Stallone was at Trump's club last month after he bought an estate nearby, with a source claiming to the outlet, "Sly just became a member of Mar-a-Lago." That quickly drew backlash on the left, with George Takei simply tweeting, "Seriously?"
It sounds like Stallone really was at Mar-a-Lago recently, as his representative told The Hollywood Reporter he was there for a fundraising dinner, and "from that event it was mistakenly assumed that he was there as a member."
But the representative added that Rocky himself is "officially not a member of the Mar-a-Lago Club," as he "did not join the organization" or "pay initiation dues." He is, however, a member of the Breakers Club in Palm Beach. So there you have it. Stallone while denying the reports wrote on Instagram that he means "no disrespect to anyone," adding — in a phase that could probably use a comma — "so keep punching folks." Brendan Morrow
While India, parts of South America, and other areas of the world are experiencing another wave of COVID-19, the U.S. appears to be treading water with new cases and continuing a downward trend in deaths. According to The Washington Post's tracker, the seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths was 765 on Tuesday, a slight uptick from the weekend but a rate last seen Oct. 20. A running count by economist Patrick Chovanec put Tuesday's seven-day average at 748, the lowest rate since Oct. 17.
The US reported +819 new coronavirus deaths today, bringing the total to 577,179. The 7-day moving average declined to 748 deaths per day, the lowest level since October 17. pic.twitter.com/EBPGswqqvM
While deaths have declined 2 percent in the past week, hospitalizations rose 2.6 percent and new cases were up 11 percent, the Post reports. And some parts of the U.S., notably Michigan, are faring much worse, with per capital cases up 18 percent to a new high and deaths rising 32 percent.
President Biden isn't exactly coated in political Teflon, but he's "well regarded by voters" and "even Donald Trump, the Triumph the Insult Comic Dog of electoral politics, has had troubles landing a punch," Sam Stein writes at Tuesday's Politico Nightly. "His latest nickname for the president — 'Saintly Joe Biden' — was debuted to donors over the weekend. It was meant as derisive … we think."
But the bigger concern for the Republican Party, and a future Trump restoration campaign, is the lack of any real "grassroots movement emerging to confront the White House," Stein reports, noting that the Tea Party was already in full swing at this point in Barack Obama's presidency. "Biden’s perceived benignness — the difficulty in actually getting people to despise the guy" — is one reason, he argues, but the other big factor is Trump himself.
Proto-Tea Partier former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) and other Republicans told Politico that "a movement like the Tea Party emerges when people galvanize around ideas. When they galvanize around an individual, they're really just waiting for that individual to act or guide them. Put another way: While the Tea Party exploited a GOP leadership vacuum in 2009, there is a need for a vacuum in 2021." And "that may very well be the gift that Trump has given Biden," Stein said. "As the former president sits in Mar-a-Lago, plotting his next move, he has brought stasis to the Republican Party." Read more at Politico. Peter Weber
"In the last few months, we've gotten all sorts of vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Montero — but for at least a little while, it looks like there's gonna be one less," Trevor Noah said on Tuesday's Daily Show. "The FDA has temporarily halted the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while they look into six cases of rare blood clots in people who got that vaccine." And sure, "you don't want the vaccine for one disease to give you another disease," he said, but "you're more likely to get struck by lightning 10 times" than get blood clots from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Noah listed dangerous symptoms of COVID-19, including, yes, blood clots.
The odds of getting blood clots from the Johnson & Johnson shot is "less than one in a million," Stephen Colbert said at The Late Show. "To put that in perspective, it's slightly better odds than you have of getting to visit Willy Wonka's Fantabulous Chocolate Factory — which, for the record, kills or maims four out of the five children who set foot inside." He also caught up on the latest Matt Gaetz troubles — the only "feel-good story on the news horizon," he deadpanned — and tried to dissuade Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson from running for president.
The FDA and CDC are only "recommending a 'pause'" in Johnson & Johnson vaccinations, though "anyone who's ever been dumped was like 'Oh boy, we know what pause means,'" Jimmy Fallon joked on The Tonight Show. "Johnson & Johnson is owned by the same family who owns the New York Jets, so don't think of this as a pause, think of it more like a 50-year rebuild. And today if you had a Johnson & Johnson appointment in New York, they gave out Pfizer instead. Yeah, it's like going to a restaurant and hearing, 'We're out of Coke, is Dom Pérignon okay?'"
"I blame the second Johnson — he never graduated high school," Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "But now the White House is scrambling to restore confidence in vaccines. Public trust is already a major obstacle to achieving herd immunity, so what does this setback mean?" Well, "six out of 7 million means getting the vaccine is safer than not getting the vaccine," he said. "You got it? Then get it."
Well, Lin-Manuel Miranda is still going to get his shot, The Late Show sang.
Late Night's Seth Meyers regretted not making that same Hamilton joke. Peter Weber
IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday that the gap between federal taxes owed and paid "could approach and possibly exceed $1 trillion per year," more than double the official estimate of $441 billion. IRS research shows that $175 billion of those underpayments come from the wealthiest Americans, Rettig said, and other factors include the rise in untaxed cryptocurrencies, income from foreign sources, and illegal income.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called the $1 trillion tax gap "a jaw-dropping figure" and asked Rettig how the IRS could fit that. Rettig suggested better reporting of income from third parties, more electronic tax return filing, more regulation of tax return preparers, and a larger enforcement budget. After years of budget cuts, the IRS is "outgunned" by tax cheats and dodgers, he said, endorsing a proposal to take agency funding out of the discretionary stream subject to congressional whimsy and politics. President Biden has proposed raising the IRS budget by 10.4 percent, mostly to boost enforcement.
Rettig also said that while it will be a challenge and require extra hiring, the IRS expects to be ready to start making monthly payments of $250 to $300 per child by July 1, as set out in Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief law. The IRS is "not historically" a benefits agency, he said, but it "will be working hard to deliver this program quickly and efficiently." The IRS was also responsible for sending out three rounds of COVID-19 stimulus checks over the past year. The Week Staff
Officially, Jessie Hamilton was a cook at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house at Louisiana State University, but she was also a therapist, a cheerleader, and a friend.
Starting in 1982, Hamilton worked at the Phi Gamma Delta (also known as Fiji) house for 14 years. She made about 100 brothers delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, but was also available to lend an ear, offering advice on everything from relationships to coursework.
"I was always there to talk things through with them," she told The Washington Post. "They'd come in the kitchen and sit on top of the counter and tell me their problems." Fiji brother Andrew Fusaiotti graduated in the late 1980s, but can still remember his talks with Hamilton. "She was truly like a mother to us," he told the Post. "She treated us like we were her own kids. She was always looking out for us."
A sharecropper's daughter, Hamilton started working at 14, and has had at least two jobs at a time ever since. She's kept in touch with several of the brothers, and they decided for her 74th birthday this month, they were going to give her the gift of retirement. Fusaiotti found out from Hamilton's children that she needed $45,000 to pay off her mortgage, so he started a fundraiser. More than 90 brothers from across the country donated a total of $51,764.
On April 3, a dozen vaccinated brothers surprised Hamilton outside of her Baton Rouge home, and after singing "Happy Birthday," they gave her two checks — one to pay off the mortgage, with the rest to spend on whatever Hamilton wants. "If I hadn't been sitting, I would have fell down," she told the Post. Hamilton has put in notice at her two jobs, and plans to spend part of her retirement visiting with the Fiji brothers. "They were my kids," she said. "They still are." Catherine Garcia