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By Susan King and Rene Lynch, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

LOS ANGELES — Birdman soared at the 87th Academy Awards on Sunday, winning best film as well as directing honors for Alejandro G. Iñárritu.

The dark comedy, starring Michael Keaton as a washed-up movie superhero who seeks redemption on the Broadway stage, won four Oscars, including original screenplay and cinematography.

Heading into Sunday’s ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Birdman was pitted against Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s unique coming-of-age story shot over a 12-year period. But Boyhood managed to win only one Academy Award: Patricia Arquette for supporting actress as a beleaguered single mom.

Arquette’s win was expected as were the other three acting honors.

Julianne Moore won lead actress for playing a professor with early Alzheimer’s in Still Alice, while Eddie Redmayne won lead actor for portraying theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and his struggle with ALS in The Theory of Everything.

J.K. Simmons won supporting actor for his ruthless music teacher in Whiplash.

The quartet had not only been critical darlings this awards season but had nabbed nearly every top honor in their categories, including the Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild Award and the BAFTA.

The star-studded ceremony at times turned political, with equal pay, women’s rights, and the struggle for justice — especially for minorities and immigrants — taking center stage.

Iñárritu called for better treatment of Mexican immigrants in America as well as a better government for Mexicans. Singer-songwriters John Legend and rapper Common earned Oscars for original song for “Glory” from the movie Selma, the historical drama about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s crusade for voting equality. And Legend took the moment to eloquently question how much has really changed in the past half century.

“Selma is now,” Legend said, “because the struggle for justice is right now.” He went on to say that voting rights are being compromised in some parts of the country and called America “the most incarcerated country in the world,” adding that more black men are under the control of the correctional system than were enslaved in 1850.

Arquette used her acceptance speech to call for equality and wage parity for women.

But there was plenty of entertainment, with Lady Gaga performing a rousing medley from The Sound of Music, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. She was hugged at the finish by the film’s star, Julie Andrews, who gave the original score Oscar to Alexandre Desplat for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The win meant that Wes Anderson’s whimsical comedy about an eccentric hotel concierge also won four Oscars. Besides score, Budapest won Oscars for production and costume design as well as makeup and hairstyling.

Meanwhile, Whiplash, a drama about a young drummer and his ruthless teacher, won three — for editing, sound mixing and for Simmons.

“I am grateful every day for the most remarkable person I know, my wife,” Simmons said, commenting on her “love, kindness, wisdom, sacrifice.” He then goaded his two kids — as well as kids everywhere — to call, not text, their parents.

Graham Moore got a rousing standing ovation from the star-studded audience as he accepted his trophy for adapted screenplay for The Imitation Game, about the struggles of gay Enigma code breaker Alan Turing, who eventually committed suicide.

After thanking friends, family and co-workers, Moore said that at 16 he tried to kill himself because “I felt weird and different, and I felt like I didn’t belong.” He said his trophy sends a message to all of those who feel like they’re weird and don’t belong. “Yes, you do,” he said, welling with emotion. “Stay weird, stay different, and then when it’s your turn, and you’re standing on the stage, pass along the same message.”

In other honors, Disney claimed two Oscars — one for animated feature for Big Hero 6 and the other for animated short for Feast. Interstellar took honors for visual effects. American Sniper won for sound editing. The best foreign language film went to Poland’s Ida, which has been an awards season favorite. And The Phone Call won for live action short film. Citizenfour won for documentary. Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 won for documentary short subject.

Host Neil Patrick Harris kicked off the awards with a valentine to the movies — but with a bite.

“Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest, er, brightest,” he quipped as he opened the show, referring to controversy over the lack of diversity in the nominees. He then moved into a lavish musical number celebrating the films with dazzling special effects that placed him in such films as Star Wars and Risky Business.

Photo: Alejandro G. Iñárritu accepts the award for best director for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), in the press room of the 87th Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. (Ian West/PA Wire/TNS)


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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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