Zoe Schlanger

Zoë Schlanger is Frontpage Editor at TPM. Zoë was a TPM intern in 2011, and prior to returning here she was editor in chief of NYU Local, the alternative independent student news site at NYU. Zoë has interned at places like the Nation, InsideClimate News, The Rachel Maddow Show and Gothamist. She can be reached at zoe@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Zoe

NYC mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner came under fire this week for his response to an audience member who referred to Christine Quinn as "that dyke" in an exchange reported by the Washington Post. Quinn, NYC's Council Speaker and another contender for mayor, is an openly gay woman.

Weiner gently admonished the audience member for her comment after he noticed the "incredulous reaction" of a reporter. The woman apologized, to which Weiner responded, "it's not your fault."

“You a registered Democrat?” [Weiner] asked an elderly woman wheeling a shopping cart by him.

“I am,” she said. “And I’m not voting for uh, what’s her name? The dyke.”

“Okay. I just need you to sign the petition to get me on the ballot,” said Weiner, who then noticed the incredulous reaction of a reporter and added, “and you really shouldn’t talk that way about people.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the woman said.

“It’s okay,” Weiner responded. “It’s not your fault.”

Weiner defended his reaction and his LGBT record in a statement Thursday, calling homophobia "vile and destructive" and noting that he has supported gay marriage since 1998 despite being in a district with a "heavy Orthodox Jewish and religious Catholic constituency." 

"Well let me make it clear that when I heard the person make that remark—by the way it was in a scrum of literally dozens of people around me on a street corner—when I heard the woman make that remark, I immediately admonished her not to say anything further," Weiner told reporters after a speech on health policy. "I have no memory of saying anything beyond that to the woman."

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Water levels are rising rapidly in western Canada, focing closures of highways and emptying towns. Levels are set to peak Friday at noon, possibly forcing as many as 100,000 people to evacuate their homes, the Associated Press reported.

In this photo taken Thursday in High River, Alberta, Kevan Yaets swims after his cat Momo as flood waters sweep him downstream and submerge his truck. The Highwood River had just overflowed its banks. Yeats and Momo safely arrived at higher ground.

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Fisa court submissions show broad scope of procedures governing NSA's surveillance of Americans' communication. Read this story on the Guardian here.

• Document one: procedures used by NSA to target non-US persons
• Document two: procedures used by NSA to minimise data collected from US persons

Top secret documents submitted to the court that oversees surveillance by US intelligence agencies show the judges have signed off on broad orders which allow the NSA to make use of information "inadvertently" collected from domestic US communications without a warrant.

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Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) is now the third Republican senator to support gay marriage, she announced in a statement posted to her website Wednesday. Her reversal comes days before a decision is expected from the Supreme Court on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8.

In her statement, Murkowski recalls having lunch with a military family who had adopted four siblings. The parents were a lesbian couple who she described as "everything our nation should encourage."

I bring them up because the partners were two women who had first made the decision to open their home to provide foster care to the eldest child in 2007.  Years later – and after a deployment abroad with the Alaska National Guard for one of them – they embraced the joy and sacrifice of four adopted children living under the same roof, with smiles, laughter, movie nights, parent-teacher conferences and runny noses.

Yet despite signing up and volunteering to give themselves fully to these four adorable children, our government does not meet this family halfway and allow them to be legally recognized as spouses. After their years of sleepless nights, after-school pickups and birthday cakes, if one of them gets sick or injured and needs critical care, the other would not be allowed to visit them in the emergency room – and the children could possibly be taken away from the healthy partner.  They do not get considered for household health care benefit coverage like spouses nationwide.  This first-class Alaskan family still lives a second-class existence.

In March, Murkowski said her views on the issue were "evolving," after previously expressing opposition to gay marriage. She joins her fellow Republican Sens. Rob Portman (OH) and Mark Kirk (IL) in bucking the party line. 

“Senator Murkowski’s courageous and principled announcement today sends a clear message that marriage equality must come to all 50 states in this country," said HRC President Chad Griffin in a statement. "As the Supreme Court prepares to rule in two landmark marriage cases this month, a growing bipartisan coalition is standing up for the right of all couples to marry—and there is no turning back that tide."

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Conservative group Personhood Ohio is hard at work trying to get a "personhood" amendment on the state ballot that would define life as beginning at conception, effectively banning all abortions. Patrick Johnston, the group's leader, recently penned an email blast with his newest fundraising effort, RH Reality Check reported:

“I’m selling some of my favorite things—some powerful rifles and ammo,” Johnston wrote.

“I’m a firm believer that the Second Amendment protects the future of freedom, but not as much as justice for the preborn,” Johnston’s email continued. “The shedding of innocent blood will bring God’s wrath on the land — and then you can wave freedom goodbye. So protecting Ohio’s children is more important than securing your right to keep and bear arms.”

Three of Johnston's own firearms and 2,550 rounds of ammo are up for auction on Johnson's Facebook page. Two of the guns include high capacity magazines and one has a drum that holds 100 rounds.

Plunderbound posted a photo of a person identified as Johnston wearing a shirt that says 'Intolerance.' The back of that shirt, according to the blog, reads: Homosexuality is a sin, Islam is a lie, abortion is murder.

[h/t Think Progress]

[Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock.com]

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who helped push the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell to a surprise victory in 2011, is hopeful that federal Defense of Marriage Act will be repealed by the end of the year.

"I'm actually quite optimistic we can build the support we need over the next several months," said Gillibrand at a same-sex marriage forum hosted by Third Way in Washington, D.C.

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Six cities in Idaho have ordinances in place that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Now, leaders in the Idaho Republican Party want them voided, the Spokesman-Review reported Monday.

The Idaho GOP passed a resolution asking the state legislature to make the local ordinances "unenforceable" if they seek to expand on state anti-bias law.

Cornel Rasor, chairman of the Idaho GOP’s resolutions committee and self-described "liberty person," said he would like to retain the legal option to dismiss or not employ gay people.

“I’d hire a gay guy if I thought he was a good worker. But if he comes into work in a tutu … he’s not producing what I want in my office,” Rasor told the Spokesman-Review.

“If a guy has a particular predilection and keeps it to himself, that’s fine,” Rasor continued. “But if he wants to use my business as a platform for his lifestyle, why should I have to subsidize that?”

[h/t Towle Road]

[Image via Shutterstock / dgmata]

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The Louisiana legislature passed a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to publicly name people who hold concealed-carry permits for handguns, the Associated Press reported Thursday. The bill heads to Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) desk for final passage, and he is expected to sign it into law.

Anyone who publishes or releases the identies of people with permits (or applications for permits) could be fined up to $10,000 and could spend up to six months in jail, according to the text of the bill.

The bill was in response to an online map of gun owners and their addresses that was published by a New York newspaper after the Newtown shooting, bill sponsor Rep. Jeff Thompson (R) told the AP.

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The blind Chinese activist Chen Guangchen came to NYU's law school last year after escaping house arrest in China. Now it appears he is leaving the university.

The New York Post ran a story Thursday morning that claimed NYU was pushing Chen out "under pressure from the Communist government." The university is due to open a degree-granting campus in Shanghai this fall. 

The university dismissed those claims, but acknowledged to TPM that Chen and the university were parting ways.

"The story’s claims of ‘outside pressure’ are fanciful and false," John Beckman, NYU's vice president for public affairs, said in a written statement. "We indicated that beyond this academic year he would need to make a transition to a more self-supporting life."

The NYU administration has been besieged by criticism from its faculty this year. Professors have held several votes of no confidence against NYU President John Sexton, many of which highlighted NYU's rapid global expansion as a central gripe.

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Doctor turned host of popular show provides laughs for his viewers but a headache for the Muslim Brotherhood. Read this story on the Guardian here.

He belongs to no party and has never stood for election, yet 39-year-old satirist Bassem Youssef has immeasurable political influence. He presents Egypt's most popular TV programme, al-Bernameg ("the programme"), which scrutinises the failings of the Islamists and has made him a leading opponent of President Mohamed Morsi and an enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood.

None of Morsi's political adversaries - Amr Moussa, former secretary-general of the Arab League, or Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or the Nassir-style leftist, Hamdeen Sabahi - can rival Youssef. In this internet era his videos spread like wildfire, and his parodies of the Egyptian president and lampooning of the Islamists' edicts have made him the champion of the liberals and, more broadly, of an Arab world badly in need of political, social and cultural emancipation.

"Buy Ikhwanosol, the insecticide that will rid you of everything that is not Ikhwan [the Muslim Brotherhood]," Youssef joked in reply to a Muslim Brotherhood leader who asserted that members could not marry women outside the movement. In a previous episode he had heaped praise on Qatar, which allegedly finances the Muslim Brotherhood, with a chorus in the background singing "Save us from bankruptcy my dear Qatar" to the tune of Beloved Country, a famous Nasser-era operetta.

"I'm a clown, my work consists of poking fun at power," he explained during a recent trip to Paris for a conference. "Laughter destroys fear and opens the doors of the imagination. It is the strongest weapon for deconstructing an oppressive system." Time Magazine recently included him in its list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Youssef trained as a cardiologist and did not immediately understand the impact of the first street demonstrations in Cairo on 25 January 2011. He waited a few days before joining in and was among the doctors and nurses who helped the wounded during the attack on Tahrir Square by the Mubarak regime's henchmen on 2 February.

His rise to fame came after the revolution and the fall of Hosni Mubarak on 11 February. He and a few tech-savvy friends created hilarious parodies of Egyptian state television in his flat, which became an instant hit on YouTube. "After nine episodes I received a job offer from a TV station," he said. "And that very same day I obtained a visa allowing me to work in the United States. I had a job at a paediatric hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. That would have been the job of my life, but I chose TV and up to now I haven't regretted it."

His show is broadcast every Friday at 11pm, Egyptian prime time. Pedestrians hurry home, while in cafes and shopping centres conversation stalls and all eyes turn to the nearest TV set. Temporary halts have even been called in demonstrations to set up a makeshift screen and relay the show for police and protesters alike. Al-Bernameg is broadcast on CBC, a private channel set up during the revolution, and before the show became an instant hit, only the Friday prayers and retransmissions of national football matches were able to silence Cairo, the city that never sleeps.

Youssef is a great admirer of Jon Stewart's satirical Daily Show in the US and al-Bernameg takes its format from that. Egyptian viewers will long remember the episode in March when Youssef mocked Morsi's oratorical skills. Shots of the Egyptian president in Berlin, where in an odd mix of Arabic and English he attempted a ponderous comparison of western and eastern cultures, were cut with Youssef's mimicry. The Egyptian president's statement to a floor of German businessmen, that "El drunk byiruh el sign iza kan driving" (drunken drivers go to prison), was countered by Youssef's, "El liar byiruh el fire" (and liars go to hell), and both have become cult phrases, posted on the social networks as political manifestos by a generation that wants to demystify political and religious power.

The battle is far from won. Since the beginning of the year Youssef has been under attack by Islamist lawyers for insulting Islam and the president. It is not clear if Morsi himself took umbrage or whether his entourage has given instructions to silence the satirist - or at least remind him of the line not to cross. That is the explanation favoured by the liberals who tend to see the hand of the president and the Muslim Brotherhood behind every case brought against the media.

However, the current spate of harassment could also come from the Salafists. Youssef's caricatures tread in dangerous waters. Recently he went to town on a "tele-Qur'angelist" who claimed that the sexual violence plaguing Egypt is the fault of women because they entice the men in the first place, adding that because "women's strongest muscles are their thigh muscles" they can easily prevent rape from occurring. Youssef also finds material for his sketches in these legal skirmishes. He was arrested at the end of March and went to the prosecutor wearing an enormous black hat, an outsize reproduction of the one Morsi wore at a ceremony at the University of Islamabad. He kept his sense of humour throughout his five-hour interrogation and after being released on bail he posted on Twitter: "The police officers and magistrates want to have their photos taken with me. Maybe that's why I was summoned?"

But by breaking taboos and constantly provoking does he not fear for his life? He is evasive about the precautions he takes, but admits that the central Cairo theatre in which his show is recorded every Wednesday is under special surveillance. But he will not be silenced.

By over-exaggerating - to the point of comparing the Islamists to the Nazis - is he not afraid of exacerbating the showdown between Islamists and liberals and paralysing the transition under way? "I attack those in power," he replied. "They have put themselves in that position. We are not trying to exclude them from the political field. We just want them to change and not think they are above us mortals."

In a recent episode, a video shows a Muslim Brotherhood leader declaring, "We are purer than a drop of water." In the next shot, Youssef is drinking from a bottle of mineral water labelled Ikhwan. "That's odd," he says stone-faced, "there's a bit of sand in it." Truly incorrigible.

This article appeared in Guardian Weekly, which incorporates material from Le Monde

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