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Liberty Counsel and Mat Staver #homophobia nbcnews.com

The U.S. Senate last month unanimously passed a bill that would explicitly make lynching a federal crime. Not everyone, however, is pleased with passage of the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act.

Liberty Counsel, an evangelical nonprofit that opposes gay rights, and its chairman, Mat Staver, are taking issue with the bill’s inclusion of LGBTQ people.

"The old saying is once that camel gets the nose in the tent, you can't stop them from coming the rest of the way in," Staver said in an interview with conservative Christian news outlet OneNewsNow. “This is a way to slip it in under a so-called anti-lynching bill, and to then to sort of circle the wagon and then go for the juggler [sic] at some time in the future."

Staver told OneNewsNow that his organization, which has been labeled an anti-LGBTQ “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is lobbying lawmakers in the House to have them remove the bill’s “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” language before taking a vote.

Similarly, the group encouraged Congress in November to remove language about "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" discrimination from a trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.

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Marcie Bianco #sexist nbcnews.com

What does a midlife crisis look like in the 21st century?

Frittering away your life savings on a red sports car is so last century. Instead, today’s man who is grappling with the limitations of his mortality spends $90 million on a rocket to launch a $100,000 electric car, helmed by a robot by the name of “Starman,” into space.

“We want a new space race,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk said in a press conference shortly after the launch of his company’s Falcon Heavy rocket — and his Tesla Roadster — into space earlier in February. Like a child, he gleefully continued, “Space races are exciting.”

And Musk isn’t the only billionaire looking to enter the space race. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has his private aerospace company, Blue Origin, while Virgin’s Richard Branson, a prominent adventurer, created Virgin Galactic back in 2004.

These men, particularly Musk, are not only heavily invested in who can get their rocket into space first, but in colonizing Mars. The desire to colonize — to have unquestioned, unchallenged and automatic access to something, to any type of body, and to use it at will — is a patriarchal one. Indeed, there is no ethical consideration among these billionaires about whether this should be done; rather, the conversation is when it will be done. Because, in the eyes of these intrepid explorers, this is the only way to save humanity.

It is the same instinctual and cultural force that teaches men that everything — and everyone — in their line of vision is theirs for the taking. You know, just like walking up to a woman and grabbing her by the pussy.

It’s there, so just grab it because you can.

The desire to colonize — to have unquestioned, unchallenged and automatic access to something — is a patriarchal one.

“I want to be clear, I think we should be a multi-planet species, not a single planet species on another planet,” Musk said at the 2015 Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit. “What kind of future do you want to have? Do you want to have a future where we are forever confined to one planet…or…one where we are on many planets?”

This Columbusing attitude — a strident business acumen laced with an imperialist ethos — comes with an air of benevolence: Musk doesn’t just want to colonize Mars to satisfy his ego. No, he wants to colonize Mars to help his fellow humans. “I really think there are two fundamental paths [for humans]: One path is we stay on Earth forever, and some eventual extinction event wipes us out,” he said.

In this way, colonizing Mars is a “collective life insurance policy.” Although considering the last 500 years of colonization on this planet alone, one could wonder whose lives, according to Musk and other rich white men like himself, are worth being insured.

But again, this impulse to enter the “space race” isn’t simply the embodiment of the American spirit of invention or forward-thinking entrepreneurship. Neither is it driven by the kind of nationalist Cold War fervor that inspired the creation of America’s space program in the 1950s.

Rather, the impulse to colonize — to colonize lands, to colonize peoples, and, now that we may soon be technologically capable of doing so, colonizing space — has its origins in gendered power structures. Entitlement to power, control, domination and ownership. The presumed right to use and abuse something and then walk away to conquer and colonize something new.

The Friday before SpaceX’s launch, legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin reiterated to me over lunch that it is imperative that we talk about space exploration in terms of “migration,” rather than using words like “colonize” or “settle” when talking about going to Mars.

Through a feminist lens, Aldrin’s deliberate word choice revealed an important reality of the space race: This 21st century form of imperialism is the direct result of men giving up on the planet they have all but destroyed.

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Luis Javier Ruiz & Christopher Doyle #fundie nbcnews.com

A survivor of the June 2016 mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left 49 people dead now says he has found Christ and is no longer gay.

“I should have been number 50!,” Luis Javier Ruiz said in a message posted to Facebook. “Going through old pictures of the night of Pulse, I remember my struggles of perversion, heavy drinking to drown out everything and having promiscuous sex that led to HIV. My struggles were real! The enemy had its grip, and now God has taken me from that moment and has given me Christ.”

Ruiz shared this revelation just ahead of the Freedom March, to be held May 5 in Washington. The event bills itself as a “celebration of freedom from homosexuality and transgenderism. The event's organizers have partnered with Voice of the Voiceless, a religious group whose mission is “to defend the rights of former homosexuals, individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction, and their families,” according to its website.

Christopher Doyle, founder of Voice of the Voiceless, told NBC News this weekend's event is "about celebrating our lives and not hating the LGBTQ movement."

"We made a conscious choice to leave homosexuality, and we should be able to do that without being mocked," Doyle wrote in an email.

Ruiz, who was featured in a social media post for the Freedom March above the words “Homosexuals Can Change!,” is expected to attend Saturday's event along with others “celebrating freedom from homosexual/transgender lifestyles,” according to the Freedom March’s Facebook page.

Ruiz did not respond to NBC News' request for comment.

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Tajikistan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs #sexist nbcnews.com

Tajikistan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs recently announced it has compiled a list naming 367 suspected gay citizens to test them for sexually transmitted diseases, according to the official journal published by the Central Asian country's Prosecutor-General’s Office.

The journal also said prosecutors and police identified the 319 men and 48 women through operations called “Purge” and “Morality” but did not describe the methods used or the purpose of the operations.

An anonymous police source told news agency AFP that the government created the registry, because “strict medical records were needed for members of the gay community because such people have a high risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections through infectious diseases.”

Neither the Ministry of Internal Affairs nor the Prosecutor-General’s Office could be immediately reached to comment on these statements.

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Various Neo-Nazis #racist nbcnews.com

[Excerpt of news article entitled German Neo-Nazis Embrace Vegan Cooking, Techno Music, Hipster Clothes]

MUNICH, Germany — Neo-Nazis are keeping their black combat boots and bomber jackets in the closet as they try to force their way into mainstream German society.

Security officials say many young fascists are adopting more stylish and less intimidating images, with some branded "nipsters" after embracing hipster-style clothing as well as techno and hip hop music.

Far-right extremists even recently launched a "Vegan Cooking Channel" on YouTube featuring masked young men preparing simple recipes and providing household tips.

"If the young people don’t find skinhead types attractive, then they [the neo-Nazis] will simply die out, so they have to find something new," said Daniel Koehler, an expert on radicalization who has counseled right-wing extremists in the past. “There are many different ways in which neo-Nazis now portray themselves" that are "not immediately seen as the violent skinhead, neo-Nazi type," he added.

“When they find new recruits, who have grown up with the Internet, a different type of music, a different clothing style, they will bring them in,” Koehler told NBC News.

Issues such as animal rights, the environment, equality for women are sometimes used as a smoke screen by the extremists as they try to lure followers to their scene.

Germany’s far-right NPD party once launched a youth welfare service, which offered to help young people find jobs. It has also tried to bring its extremist ideology to young people through with the release of so-called "schoolyard CDs."

Contemporary right-wing bands such as Kategorie C, which offer "Anti Sharia Team" T-shirts to fans on its website, and rapper Makss Damage, whose lyrics include "Kill these anti-German sons of b******," are among the new generation of artists making waves.

And in April, two far-right extremists wearing Cookie Monster costumes were arrested by police, while trying to lure in young children with leaflets reading, "To be German is cool."

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Anti-Trump protesters #fundie nbcnews.com

The protesters seemed polite at first.

"Please move," one of them told limo driver Luis Villarroel as he stepped out of a stretch Lincoln at 12th and K streets. He'd just dropped off clients headed to President Trump's inauguration, and was looking for a spot to wait for the return trip.

Before he could do anything, things turned ugly.

Several people began pounding on the car. Villarroel, who is 58 and has driven trucks and limos for a quarter century, said he asked them to stop.

With that, they turned on him.

Random objects rained down. A sandwich. A half of a brick. Something cut his hand.

"These kids, mostly they were kids, you couldn't see their faces but you could tell they were young," Villarroel recalled later. "I think they think that the limo represents people who are rich and use the limo."

He watched someone throw a flare into the car. He stamped out the flames with his shoes.

Then police came, releasing pepper spray and flash grenades. They told him to get out of there.

Before he left, Villarroel saw the crowd jumping on the limo. Then he saw the car catch fire.

Later, he saw footage of it burning on TV. Police and witnesses said windows of businesses were also smashed, and bricks were thrown at police during the day of protests that roiled the nation's capital.

He called his employer, who sent a replacement limo to ferry his clients home again.

"I had a bad experience today, but I am still alive," the married father of one said.

As for the protesters, Villarroel had a clear message: "They have the right to protest but they don't have the right to destroy things."

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Donald Trump and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. #fundie nbcnews.com

Anti-Vaccine Activist Says Trump Asked Him to Head Commission on Vaccine Safety

After meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower Tuesday, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. told reporters that Trump has asked him to "chair a commission on vaccination safety and scientific integrity" and that he has accepted.

Both Trump and Kennedy have spread fringe theories linking vaccines to autism in children, an idea that medical experts overwhelmingly reject and have warned is endangering public health by discouraging parents from immunizing their kids.

"President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies and he has questions about it," Kennedy told the press. "He says his opinion doesn't matter ... but the science does matter, and we ought to be reading the science and we ought to be debating the science."

A spokesman for Trump, Hope Hicks, told NBC News later that the president-elect was "exploring the possibility of forming a committee on autism" with Kennedy but that "no decisions have been made at this time."

Kennedy drew fire last year for describing a "holocaust" of children allegedly hurt by immunization at a screening of a film on the topic (he later apologized for the term).

Trump tweeted several times in 2014 that the use of multiple vaccinations caused autism, claiming at one point "the doctors lied." Doctors and researchers who specialize in infectious diseases expressed concern after Trump and other candidates promoted the theory in a Republican debate in September 2015.

"Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic," Trump said at the time.

He offered no details or evidence on the case. The American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement after the debate calling his comments "dangerous to public health."

On Tuesday, the AAP's leaders offered "to share the extensive scientific evidence demonstrating the safety of vaccines" with the new commission.

"Claims that vaccines are linked to autism, or are unsafe when administered according to the recommended schedule, have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature," the group said in a statement. "Delaying vaccines only leaves a child at risk of disease."

Autism Speaks, an organization that advocates for individuals with autism, released a statement to NBC News after Trump's meeting with Kennedy, reiterating its conclusion that vaccines were unrelated to the condition.

"Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism," the statement said. "The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism."

Doctors trace the popular fear to a debunked 1998 study in the British medical journal Lancet that the publication later retracted after discovering its lead author was involved in a lawsuit against drug companies and used flawed methods.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that there is no link between autism and vaccines, citing numerous subsequent studies. An Immunization Safety Commission organized by the Institute of Medicine examined the issue and reached the same conclusion in multiple reports.

But the theory persists, aided in part by celebrity advocates. Experts have warned that this small but vocal group of doubters is helping fuel outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough in communities where parents decline to vaccinate their children.

Health experts who have worked on vaccination policy and science strongly criticized Kennedy's reported new role in interviews.

Marie McCormick, a Harvard professor of maternal and child health who chaired the Immunization Safety Commission, expressed concern that Trump and Kennedy might lend a presidential seal to misinformation.

"If the committee comes out saying there is an [autism] association, there will be people who avoid vaccines," McCormick told NBC News. "There have been actual deaths attributed to lower immunization rates."

Dr. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and father of an adult daughter with autism, said he feared the commission could provide new momentum for vaccine skeptics at home and abroad.

"By appointing [Kennedy], it's going to create a new national 'anti-vaxxer' movement," he said.

Trump has generally been skeptical of scientific expertise, however. He has repeatedly claimed the overwhelming body of research linking climate change to human activities is a hoax.

He is one of several politicians to draw rebukes from medical experts in recent years for entertaining vaccination and autism links. Former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann claimed an HPV vaccine caused a child to become "retarded" after a Republican debate in 2011. More recently, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), an ophthalmologist, and Dr. Ben Carson, a surgeon, also raised concerns that too many vaccines pose a danger.

In 2008, then-candidates Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain indicated to activists concerned about the issue that they supported research into the matter. Obama and Clinton later said that the science was settled and urged families to vaccinate their children.