New York’s Democratic governor banned state travel to North Carolina this week, citing its residents’ supposed lack of equal protection under the law, weeks after he announced efforts to facilitate travel from New York to Cuba, which is ruled by a repressive communist dictatorship that routinely imprisons political dissenters.
“In New York, we believe that all people – regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation – deserve the same rights and protections under the law,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo in announcing a ban on “non-essential” state travel to North Carolina.
The move came in response to a new North Carolina law that restricts gendered restrooms to people of their respective biological sexes.
New York will no longer sponsor official travel to North Carolina, but Cuomo himself has recently undertaken official travel to Cuba, and teamed up with JetBlue airlines to encourage travel to the island nation, where the government has imprisoned and tortured transgender people.
Attitudes towards gay and transgender individuals on the island have liberalized in recent years, but many say they are still “harassed and detained by police,” according to a January report from Public Radio International. “They also say they can’t get jobs.”
One transgender individual described her attitude:
And even with US and Cuba relations normalizing now, she still can’t bring herself to ever go back home.
“I suffered too much trauma in Cuba. It would cause me too much panic to return there. I wouldn’t go back, even for a short visit.”
Her resolve hardens when she looks down at her arm. The self-inflicted scars left from her life in Cuba’s prisons are a permanent reminder of a time when she could not be free — could no [sic] be herself.
The attackers smashed a bottle over his head and put a staple in his forehead.
Zwolinski was assaulted outside his campaign office in Chicago.
On Thursday Rep. Cynthia Soto’s daughter and her boyfriend were arrested for the attack.
Illinois Rep. Cynthia Soto’s daughter and another campaign volunteer are accused of attacking aspiring politician Robert Zwolinski, who ran against Soto in the Democratic primary this week.
Jessica Soto and Bradley Fichter, both 26, are each charged with three felony counts of aggravated battery in connection with the assault on the 30-year-old man.
The suspects’ attorney, Frank Avila, said his clients were volunteers for Cynthia Soto’s re-election campaign and that Jessica Soto is the incumbent’s daughter.
Illinois Rep. Cynthia Soto’s daughter and another campaign volunteer are accused of attacking aspiring politician Robert Zwolinski. (ABC 7)
When it came to hiring prostitutes for sex, Stuart Dunnings III preferred escort websites such as Escort Vault and Backpage.com.
Most of the time, police say, Dunnings would meet the women at motels. Occasionally, they’d meet at a pimp’s house.
His was a ferocious habit, one that led the 63-year-old to shell out hundreds of dollars three or four times a week for a revolving cast of heroin-addled sex workers.
By the time he was arrested Monday outside a Lansing, Mich., coffee shop, Dunnings had racked up hundreds of illegal encounters in three Michigan counties between 2010 and 2015, according to an arrest affidavit.
But Dunnings wasn’t just any John, authorities say.
For the past 20 years, he’s been the top prosecutor for Ingham County, a man who put sex traffickers in jail and built a reputation as “an outspoken advocate for ending human trafficking and prostitution,” according to a statement released by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R).
“This is not a going into Barnes and Noble and buying something as a client or a customer,” Schuette said. “This is an instance where an officer of the law, an officer of the court, the prosecutor in the capital city of Michigan has a responsibility to enforce the law, report crimes, but he did just the opposite. He was a participant in commercial sex activity.”
Dunnings faces 15 criminal charges across three counties, including willful neglect of duty and pandering. The latter charge stems from the prosecutor paying for sex with a woman who was seeking help resolving a child custody dispute, according to the affidavit.
He was also charged with 10 counts of engaging in the services of prostitutes, a misdemeanor, in Ingham, Clinton and Ionia counties.
After being processed in the Ingham County jail, Dunnings was arraigned and released on bond.
If convicted, he could spend more than 20 years behind bars, authorities told The Washington Post.
The prosecutor’s arrest was preceded by a year-long investigation by the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office, assisted by the FBI and the state attorney general’s office, authorities said.
“I’ve known Stuart for a long time,” Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth said at a news conference. “We’ve done some campaigning together. This was a huge betrayal of his trust, his oath of office, his service to the people of this county.”
Dunnings is a Democrat who was first elected in 1996. He is now the highest-paid elected official in Ingham County, with a salary of $132,000, according to the Lansing State Journal.
For much of his career as a prosecutor, he appeared to be an unlikely candidate for engaging in illegal activity.
In 2001, according to the Journal, Dunnings began prosecuting the city’s prostitution-related crimes. Chief among the prosecutor’s goals, the paper reported, was imposing harsher penalties on lawbreakers.
He took an aggressive approach to his job and quickly cracked down, impounding Johns’ vehicles and smacking prostitutes and their clients with felonies after three offenses, according to the Journal.
“In the first two years alone, his prosecutors charged 19 people with felonies and impounded 53 vehicles,” the paper reported.
Only seven years later, Dunnings had adopted the illegal behavior of the very people he was putting behind bars, according to the affidavit.
He met most of the sex workers online. Over time, he became increasingly involved with them, taking them to dinner, paying their bills, buying them groceries, and even revealing his identity as a prosecutor, according to the arrest affidavit.
He paid one woman’s YMCA membership and spent $80 a week for methodone treatments for her heroin addiction, the affidavit states.
Dunnings also shared a prostitute with his brother, Steven Dunnings, a Lansing attorney who is facing two charges of engaging in the services of a prostitute, according to the affidavit.
The prosecutor became involved with another woman in 2010 after she told him she had been the victim of domestic violence and sought assistance in a “custody matter,” the affidavit states.
Dunnings invited the woman to lunch on two occasions. During their second meeting, the affidavit states, Dunnings said he knew she was struggling financially and had a proposition: money for sex.
After initially declining his offer, the woman told investigators that she eventually felt she had no choice but to accept, fearing he might “cause her problems” if she backed out, according to the affidavit.
The woman – who estimated that the district attorney paid her $600 every two weeks – told investigators that “she would not have gone along with the commercial sex if Dunnings had not been the prosecutor,” the affidavit states.
Wriggelsworth, the sheriff, told the Journal that authorities were aware of “chatter” about Dunnings’s activities, but they lacked proof. A 2015 FBI investigation into an alleged trafficker eventually led authorities to Dunnings.
Before Dunnings was arraigned Monday, his lawyer, Michael Hocking, declined to comment, according to the Journal.
The paper reported that Hocking was overheard outside the courtroom telling one of Dunnings’s relatives that the attorney general’s motivations were political in nature. He repeated a variation of that line in court, the Journal reported, telling Magistrate Laura Millmore that the charges against his client were “somewhat of a political case” full of “titillating-type accusations.”
Schuette has called on Dunnings to resign, according to the Journal.
“We live in a time where people wonder if government actually works,” the attorney general said. “People wonder if the system is rigged. People wonder whether we have a ‘wink and a nod’ justice system where the chosen few skate and escape punishment because of who they know or because they hold an important position in government.”
“Well, let me be very direct and crystal clear,” he added. “The system in Michigan is not rigged. Not on my watch.”
At a Democratic town hall in Las Vegas, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders declared himself not only a “strong feminist,” but also an “honorary woman,” a distinction given to him by feminist icon Gloria Steinem.
“I consider myself a strong feminist,” Sanders told a young woman from the audience who asked the question. “And in fact, Gloria Steinem – everybody knows Gloria is one of the leading feminists in America – made me an honorary woman many, many years ago.”
“I don’t know exactly what that meant, but I accepted it when she came to campaign for me,” Sanders added.
The answer elicited laughter from the audience. But it comes at a time when Sanders’s campaign has taken heat for the comments made by a surrogate, rapper “Killer Mike.”
At an event in Georgia this week, the rapper repeated the words of a female activist who he said told him that a “uterus” doesn’t qualify a person to be president. Sanders has dismissed the controversy as “gotcha politics.”
And on Thursday night, he did not address it but noted his efforts to pass legislation mandating equal pay for equal work for women.
“Women are making 70 cents on the dollar compared to men,” Sanders said. “Minority women, women of color… are making substantially less.”
“That has nothing to do with economics. That has everything to do with sexism,” he added.
The comments prompted nearly instant condemnation from Clinton’s allies.
Abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America slammed Sanders, saying that he failed to demonstrate that he had earned his “honorary woman” title.
“Bernie is a good man, and being a woman means understanding that we need equal pay but that equal pay doesn’t buy us much if we can’t plan our families,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement. “Being a woman means knowing that undoing Citizens United doesn’t secure our fundamental freedoms and restore abortion access under assault daily by anti-choice forces in this country.
“Being a woman means understanding that no man ever had to say ‘Hey guys, let’s stand together, and vote for a man’ because the status quo in this country has supported that for over two hundred years,” she added. “Even as an ‘honorary woman,’ Bernie Sanders doesn’t quite get it.”