Best grills to shop in 2020, according to experts

2 0 13 Aug 2020

With many Americans forgoing big travel plans while the country continues to practice social distancing, backyards and balconies might be turning into exotic oases for those staying home this summer. This has people turning to their backyards — and grills — more than ever before as barbecues replace meals out, vacations and warm-weather excursions. For those who plan on spending quality time grilling this summer, it’s an ideal time to consider upgrading your game — or investing in a new model. But from charcoal and wood to pellet grills, it can be daunting to know which direction to go. “It’s estimated that 62 percent of grill owners have a grill that’s fueled by gas,” says Matt Moore, author of “Serial Griller.”

“Gas offers an affordable, efficient fuel to quickly and readily get to grilling your favorite foods,” Moore notes. “In other words, we are creatures of convenience.”

SKIP AHEAD Best gas grills

Gas grills dominate the backyard barbecues game not only because they can be portable and easier to operate with the click of a switch, though. “More than anything — cleanup is a breeze,” says Dave Anderson, founder of Famous Dave’s. “Plus, with a charcoal grill, temperatures can fluctuate like this year’s stock market. You think you’ve found the right temperature only, within minutes, your coals have died down.”

You also don’t have to worry about a gust of wind or playing a temperature guessing game when grilling with propane — it’s a constant heat source. “And firing up hot, glowing charcoal briquettes to add to the grill is not only dangerous but it’s a royal pain,” adds Anderson. “Whereas once you light a gas grill, you can cook all day at the temperature you want. Gas grills are just so easy to manage consistent heating.”

How to shop for the best gas grills

Before setting out to buy a gas grill, the first thing to know is that there are two types of gas grills:

  1. Propane tank gas grills are usually smaller and portable — but the tanks need to be replaced
  2. Natural gas grills use a dedicated line that you can have connected to your home’s natural gas line.

Once you establish the type of gas source you prefer, then it’s time to get shopping.

Grill burners, ignition and cooking area

Most shoppers want at least two burners so they can set up different heat zones. This way, meat can be cooking on the highest heat while veggies are grilling on a medium zone, and maybe buns get thrown to the lowest zone, if possible. But the number of burners a grill has isn’t the only consideration — it’s just as important to be aware of the distance between the burners. “The closer they are, the more even the heat is, eliminating any cold or hot spots,” explains Thinh Phan of He also recommends paying attention to the material of the burners. “Stainless steel is better than cast iron because the latter tends to rust quicker.”

Another consideration, he notes, is how a gas grill starts: There are two types of ignition used in gas grills: electronic and piezo.

  1. An electronic igniter uses batteries “so it will go dead after a while,” Phan noted.
  2. The piezo igniter produces a spark when you push or turn the gas buttons. “A good piezo system” is therefore ”more reliable,” he added.

However, if either version is “low-quality” or slow to produce a spark, it can be potentially dangerous. Pushing the button pumps gas into the burners until a spark ignites but the longer this takes, the more gas that’s released. “Once the spark hits, all the gas buildup can explode into a fireball.” This is one reason to consider investing in your new gas grill rather than cut corners.

Although the size of the grill itself should be taken into consideration and how much room it takes up, it’s also important to think about how many people you’d typically be cooking for. Look for the models’ total cooking area in square inches, as well as the serving size, to gauge how much you can cook at once.

“I’d always recommend going one size up, just in case. You might think you only need to cook for a few people, but things will happen,” Phan says. “I also look for any extra removable warming racks, as well, as they provide extra cooking space.” These additional racks will add some extra surface area to a smaller model.

If you cook a lot of steaks, go with cast iron, but if you cook a lot of burgers, brats and seafood, stainless steel is a better choice.

Thinh Phan, Editor,

Grill grates, lids and other materials

The two most common materials used for grates are stainless steel and cast iron. Although stainless steel is rust-resistant (which means the grates are easier to clean), they don’t conduct heat as well as cast iron. “You can sear steak better on a cast iron grate, but one caveat is that you have to spend more time caring for it or else it will rust,” Phan says. “If you cook a lot of steaks, go with cast iron, but if you cook a lot of burgers, brats and seafood, stainless steel is a better choice.”

High-quality gas grills are made from durable stainless steel but not all stainless steel is created equal. Stainless steel is an alloy that comes in different numerical grades, depending on its composition, which impacts its overall strength, heat durability and rust resistance. Among the different grades, Phan says 304 and 430 stainless steel are most common. “Grade 304 is much better than 430 and that comes with a higher price tag,” he says. “That said, if you take care of your 430 grill, it will probably last a bit longer.”

Not all gas grill models come with a lid. Phan emphasizes its importance for backyard cooks, though. “With a lid, you can turn your grill into an oven, meaning that you can cook food with convection heat,” he says. “It will cook your food more evenly than conduction and radiant heat.”

Grill safety and cleaning

There are some safety features grill owners don’t realize they’ll need until it’s too late. Here are a few features to keep in mind during your search

  • Does the grill handle have any heat shield to protect your hand?
  • Can you lock the wheels if you want to, limiting the grill’s potential movement while you cook?
  • How does the ignition system work and can you turn it off easily?

Since there’s no ash to remove from gas grills, as is the case with charcoal grills, cleaning them is much easier. But you still want to look for a grill equipping an efficient system to make your life easier. “Look for things like V-shaped flavorizer bars — they will protect the burners from fat dripping down from the food above,” Phan suggested. “Also, look for a grease tray that collects all of it for a quick cleanup.

Best grills: Bells and whistles

If you’re investing in a higher-end gas grill, Anderson appreciates the added perk of rotisseries, which he says are a must for the best tasting grilled chicken — the rotating grill cage bastes the meat in its own juices. Otherwise, you’ll find options like built-in lights for night cooking, side burners, ceramic infrared burners, warming doors for finished foods, porcelain coating, searing stations, smart connectivity and easy-packing features.

What to avoid

Before buying a new gas grill (or anything, for that matter)research how past users feel about it. Sonny’s BBQ pitmaster Shannon Snell recommends checking for review noting a grill’s structural integrity, and especially over time. “Grills are normally stored outside, and depending on the region of the country you live in, that will alter the condition of your grill,” he says. Pay attention to reviews about metal rusting, paint peeling or controls malfunctioning after only a few uses. This is a big red flag — that the grill may not last very long after purchase.”

But you should also take into consideration the materials, from the cook box to the grates and workmanship throughout the grill. “Look at the wheels: Are they cheap plastic or durable rubber, can they roll smoothly, and are they big enough?” he says. “After that, examine the screws and bolts. Are they going to rust after a few months?” And don’t overlook the importance of reading reviews, especially keeping an eye out for if the screws or bolts rusted after only a few months.

Best gas grills

From your basic backyard gas grill to the high-end models worthy of the pros, these are the best gas grills across different needs that both amateur and experienced pitmasters recommend. We weren’t surprised to find repeated veneration for Weber grills as grilling experts regarded the brand highly when we consulted them about portable grills, too.

Best gas grill overall: Weber

1. Weber Genesis II S-435 Gas Grill

This isn’t your typical grill — that’s why many agree it’s the best way to go. With four stainless steel burners along with a side burner and searing station burner, you have room to cook a serious spread of foods. The grill is also compatible with the Weber Connect accessory that syncs to your smart device while monitoring food temperature as it cooks. “With quality, heavy duty construction from one of the most trusted names in grilling, this is a decade-plus quality grill, when cared for appropriately,” says Moore.

Best affordable gas grill: Weber

2. Spirit II E-210 Gas Grill

This compact, two-burner model is great for smaller spaces but offers an impressive 360 square inches of primary grilling area. “Plus, there’s an extra 90 square inches of a warming rack. This is actually perfect for a family of four or even a small barbecue,” says Phan. “Weber also offers a ten-year warranty for everything and their customer service is always around the clock, seven days a week.”

Best basic gas grill: Char-Griller

3. Char-Griller 3001 Grillin’ Pro Gas Grill

This 100-pound grill isn’t just great because it can easily get around during backyard barbecues. With three main burners and a small side burner, you can accomplish your culinary work in multiple heat zones. “This really opens up your cooking options here,” says Phan. “If you don’t use the smaller burner, you can close it down and you instantly have another side table available. However, the body is made from coated steel that will rust over time if you don’t take care or cover it.”

Best portable gas grill: Weber

4. Weber Q2200 Gas Grill

Weighing in at 42.5 pounds and sporting two folding side tables, this small grill is easy to take on camping trips or tailgating adventures (when it’s safe to do so) but still has enough cooking space and power to bang out a delicious meal for four. “It has a heavy-duty cast-aluminum cook box, providing an even convection heat inside it,” says Phan. “The cooking grates are porcelain-coated cast iron, which not only maintains many features of cast iron, such as great searing, but also includes a porcelain outer layer for easy cleaning and rust resistance.”

Best high-end gas grill: Hestan

5. Hestan 42-Inch Propane Gas Grill With Cart

This luxury grill spoils all who get to cook with it, from the motion-activated lighting under the hood to the ceramic infrared sear burner for perfecting thick cuts of meat. “It’s cooler than cool with signature Hestan design and colors,” says Moore. “It’s portable with tons of workspace and halogen lighting to make cooking in the dark fully transparent. And the built-in rotisserie makes this an all-encompassing beauty that never stops working.”

Best all-in-one gas grill: Broil King

6. Broil King Regal S490

From a large cooking space that includes a porcelain coated warming rack to the stainless steel cooking system, Moore appreciates all of the feature enhancements this grill offers. “It’s quite affordable for a four-burner, stainless design with infrared technology and searing side burner,” he says. “Plus, with the rotisserie kit and LED lighting, too — all the hits for nearly one-tenth of the luxury splurge( along with a ten- year warranty).”

Best “smart” gas grill: Lynx

7. Lynx Professional Grill Smart Series SMART30NG

Although this grill isn’t for shoppers working within a budget, it’s a powerhouse for those ready to make a serious investment. For Moore, this model is pricey but worth it because of the “infrared technology, backlit blue controls, voice commands and precise control through the MyChef system that’s supported on the SmartGrill app through Apple and Android.”

More shopping guides and recommendations

Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.

Harris VP pick draws mixed reviews and some anxiety from progressives

2 0 13 Aug 2020

WASHINGTON — While many Democrats have been jubilant that Kamala Harris could be the first-ever Black and Asian-American vice president, progressive activists have been more wary of her expressing mixed feelings about the woman selected by Joe Biden.

Reaction from foot soldiers of the progressive movement ranged from outright disenchantment that Biden didn’t pick one of their own to cautious optimism that she could be pressured to advance their causes.

“The fact that the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party praised Biden’s VP choice is probably not a very good sign for progressives,” said Max Berger, an activist for liberal causes and former aide to Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign.

Berger said a Biden-Harris administration would be “responsive” to progressives. But he doubted that Harris would become a force for the movement as Warren would have, and fretted that she would as vice president become the favorite in the next presidential contest against more left-leaning figures.

“From an electoral perspective, it’s a great pick,” said Berger, who argued that Harris could excite women as well as Black and brown Americans. “From a governing perspective, it’s a wash. From a long term perspective, it’s a disaster.”

Briahna Joy Gray, the press secretary for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, was more blunt, accusing Biden of displaying “contempt for the base” by picking a “top cop” in Harris, referring to her past actions as a California prosecutor that have drawn fire from some criminal justice advocates.

Other liberals said Harris recognizes the power of the movement.

“She may not be the first or even second choice for many people, but there’s no question that she’s someone the progressive movement can work with,” said Charles Chamberlain, the chair of the Democracy For America, an advocacy group that backed Sanders.

Chamberlain said he would have preferred to see Warren or former Georgia lawmaker Stacey Abrams, who have closer ties to the progressive movement, claim the VP nomination. Still, he said, “Kamala Harris is a smart leader who is capable of understanding the winds of change.”

Underlying the hesitation with Harris are her relatively thin record on the national stage and her shifting stances in the Democratic primary. She endorsed the Sanders-led Medicare For All Act in 2017, just months after first becoming a senator, but waffled on the elimination of private insurance under pressure in the 2020 presidential race and eventually backtracked from it.

As a presidential candidate she was quick to embrace transformative causes on the left, but took steps to be viewed as moderate and pragmatic. Sometimes, her actions were difficult to square: She embraced the idea of a Green New Deal to abolish fossil fuels even as she insisted she was not trying to “restructure society.”

The effort to appeal to competing wings of the party at once faltered, and led to Harris’s undoing in the primary. But the attendant difficulty in defining her has now worked to Biden’s benefit, with the Trump campaign’s confusing and self-contradictory initial attacks on Harris as both a determined “radical” and “phony” who was merely pretending to hold those positions.

Chamberlain said that for progressives, it would be “absolutely critical” to exert pressure from the outside to force Biden and Harris to deliver on movement priorities like health care, climate change and more, while adding that “Joe Biden could have done a lot worse” in his running mate selection.

Alexandra Rojas, executive director of the left-wing group Justice Democrats, also cited the importance of “pressure from outside” to push Biden and Harris. She noted that the party’s current platform is more progressive than it was under President Barack Obama or 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton.

“With a growing Squad, the Democrats in Congress in 2021 are much more progressive than who Obama had to deal with in 2009,” said Rojas, whose group supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. “The Biden-Harris team is running on a more progressive platform than Obama and Hillary, so I’m hopeful we can continue to create the pressure to deliver solutions as big as the problems we face.”

Still, while progressive activists said they believed they might be able to achieve some victories in a Biden-Harris administration, some expressed concern that the decision could block the movement from elevating one of their own figures into the presidency for the remainder of the decade.

“The left would have been in a prime position to actually win the nomination in 2024 or 2028. And Kamala Harris will now represent the moderate wing of the party as a Black woman who has served as vice president, and that will be tremendously difficult to dislodge,” Berger said. “There’s an argument to be made that the moderate wing of the party has just secured control for maybe the ‘20s.”

FDA says onions from Trader Joes, salsa products included in salmonella outbreak

2 0 13 Aug 2020

The outbreak of salmonella linked to onions has prompted a recall of Spokane Produce’s salsa products, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The products include 15 oz. jars of Saddlin’ Up Salsa Hot, Medium and Mild, as well as Salsa Verde in 15 oz. and gallon size containers. The best buy dates range from Aug. 16 to Sept. 30.

Earlier this week, the FDA warned about red and yellow onions sold by Progressive Produce, which distributes to Trader Joe’s and Ralph’s grocery stores, mostly on the West Coast. The red onions have a sticker with the brand name, Pacific Gold.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a total of 640 cases of salmonella illnesses in 43 states linked to red, white, yellow and sweet onions distributed by Thomson International. At least 85 have been hospitalized. The people who got sick reported eating onions in freshly prepared foods, including salads, sandwiches, tacos, salsas and dips.

The latest recall is connected to Thomson International, which supplies onions to Progressive.

Some of the brands of onions include: Tender Loving Care; El Competitor; Hartley’s Best; Onions 52; Majestic; Kroger; and Food Lion. Deli foods and vegetable mixes made with the possibly contaminated onions are part of the recalls, including Taylor Farms macaroni and pasta salads and chicken salad croissant sandwiches sold at Kroger.

Salmonella infection can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea and fever. Symptoms can start from six hours to six days after eating the contaminated food and can last up to a week. Most people recover without treatment.

Follow NBC HEALTH on Twitter & Facebook.

House Democrats demand Postal Service chief roll back changes ahead of Election Day

4 0 13 Aug 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and 174 other Democrats in the chamber signed a letter sent Wednesday to the new Postmaster General demanding the agency reverses operational changes they argue would hamper mail-in voting on Nov. 3.

“It is always essential that the Postal Service be able to deliver mail in a timely and effective manner. During the once-in-a-century health and economic crisis of COVID-19, the Postal Service’s smooth functioning is a matter of life-or-death, and is critical for protecting lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The House is seriously concerned that you are implementing policies that accelerate the crisis at the Postal Service, including directing Post Offices to no longer treat all election mail as First Class. If implemented now, as the election approaches, this policy will cause further delays to election mail that will disenfranchise voters and put significant financial pressure on election jurisdictions.”

President Donald Trump’s new head of the Postal Service, Louis DeJoy, recently made a series of changes to the agency that could disrupt mail for millions of Americans, particularly absentee and mail-in ballots ahead of Election Day.

The cost-cutting measures, intended to address the Postal Service’s longtime financial problems, were imposed last month after DeJoy, a Trump donor and Republican fundraiser who owned a North Carolina supply-chain, took over the top job in June. DeJoy, 63, is the first postmaster general in nearly two decades who is not a career postal employee.

DeJoy also eliminated overtime for hundreds of thousands of postal workers and mandates that mail is kept until the next day if distribution centers are running late. He also removed or reassigned nearly two dozen postal leaders, implemented a hiring freeze and requested “early retirement authority” for nonunion employees.

Last week, the U.S. Postal Service announced a third-quarter net loss of $2.2 billion. In a statement, the agency said even Congressional relief funds of $10 billion would “not address the Postal Service’s broken business model.”

Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer also had a closed-door meeting with DeJoy this month that Schumer described as “heated.” House Democrats have demanded measures in any final pandemic spending bill that would roll back the operational changes and give the agency $25 billion in one-time funding.

At Wednesday’s briefing at the White House, Trump railed against the Postal Service’s handling the vast amount of mail-in voting during the pandemic and the funding request.

“The post office has been run poorly for many, many decades,” he said. “Great people in the post office, incredible people but they’ve had very bad leadership for many years.”

He added, “And the bill’s not going to happen because they don’t even want to talk about it because we can’t give them the kind of ridiculous things that they want.”

History shows running mates dont help much. But Kamala Harris could be different.

4 0 13 Aug 2020

WASHINGTON — John Adams, America’s first vice president, famously called the job “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived.” And history shows vice presidential candidates rarely have the impact to match the hype surrounding their selection.

But California Sen. Kamala Harris‘ elevation to be former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate could have a bigger impact in both the short term for the election and the long term for people who look like her and for the future of the Democratic Party.

“It’s great to run for vice president, but really, you gotta understand there’s only three moments when you really matter — unless you screw up,” Joe Lieberman, the former senator from Connecticut who was Al Gore’s Democratic running mate in 2000, said on Fox News on Wednesday. “The three moments are the announcement day, which is today, and the acceptance speech at the convention, and the debate.”

For all anticipation and debate around the “veepstakes,” vice presidential candidates typically fade into the background quickly after their selection.

Can a popular senator deliver their home state? Can a Catholic veep swing Catholic voters? Can a female nominee surge turnout among women? Nope, nope, and nope, at least in every election in the modern era, experts say.

“We put all these things to the test and none of them show up in the data,” said political scientist Christopher Devine, who along with co-author Kyle Kopko, has written two books summarizing their extensive research into whether running mates really matter.

“If there was someone who was really so incredibly well qualified and so incredibly likable that they would blow away the American public, that person probably would have run for president themselves and won,” Devine added.

But Devine and Kopko’s research did find that the selection of a veep can have an indirect impact by influencing the way voters think about the person at the top of the ticket. The selection of a running mate is perhaps the most important — or at least most publicized — decision a presidential nominee will make, so it informs voters’ perceptions of the nominee.

Paul Ryan, for instance, helped 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney not by delivering his home state of Wisconsin — the Romney-Ryan ticket lost Wisconsin to Barack Obama and Biden — but by making conservative voters more confident in Romney, since they lionized Ryan at the time, Devine said his research showed.

In that way, Biden’s choice signals that he is not taking black voters — and especially black women, the most reliable voting demographic for the Democratic Party — for granted, even though they already overwhelmingly support him.

That could be critical since a small drop in black turnout in the major cities in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania was critical to Hillary Clinton’s narrow loss in those states in 2016, so even energizing a relatively modest number of African American voters could make all the difference.

“I’ve believed that it was necessary to have a woman of color to win,” said Aimee Allison, founder and president of the black women’s group She the People. “I believe we now have everything that we need to have historically high turnout and win the White House.”

Democrats hope Harris will not only help drive some people of color to the vote, but convince people who feel unwelcome in the political system to get involved, just as Obama’s election did more than a decade ago.

“It’s taking us from being ‘the help’ and the backbone to being front-and-center leaders,” said Karen Finney, a longtime Democratic strategist. “They’re creating a new chapter in the history of black women in America.”

These voters are probably not choosing between President Donald Trump and Biden, but between Biden and not voting, Finney said, so the chance to make history could pull them back into the political fold and make them more willing to overcome any obstacles to voting.

And if Biden wins, the future of the Democratic Party could belong to Harris.

The vice presidency has always been seen as the on-deck circle for the top job and for good reason.

One out of 3 vice presidents in American history has gone on to become president, compared to just 1 out of 145 governors and 1 out of 124 senators, according to a tally by political analyst Bill Scher.

And Biden, who at 77 would be the oldest president ever if elected, has called himself a “transitional figure” to a new generation of Democratic leaders, which many viewed as a signal that he may serve only one term.

“If we win this November, come 2024 or 2028, she will almost certainly be our next nominee for president,” Clay Middleton, a South Carolina-based Democrat strategist who has senior roles in Cory Booker and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns, said of Harris.

“She’s still young and vibrant,” Middleton added. “The training, the work, the experience, the accomplishments that she would then have as vice president of the United States would certainly put her in a strong position to run for president. I wouldn’t see why she wouldn’t choose to run.”

TikTok star who gained viral fame for Trump lip-syncs gets Netflix special

5 0 13 Aug 2020

Comedian Sarah Cooper, who gained rapid internet fame on TikTok by lip-syncing President Donald Trump, announced on Wednesday a deal with Netflix to produce a special.

Cooper began creating videos where she mouthed audio from Trump’s news conferences during the coronavirus pandemic, earning millions of views on the app. The comedian confirmed the news of her special on Wednesday, thanking followers for their support.

During an interview with “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in June, Cooper said she got frustrated seeing people act as if Trump was “making sense” during his daily coronavirus briefings early on in the pandemic. “The Tonight Show” airs on NBC, which is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.

“It’s just so frustrating,” Cooper told Fallon. “It reminded me of being in the corporate world. I’d be in a meeting and a business guy would come in and he would throw around some buzzword he learned five minutes ago. And he would just talk and people would be like, ‘Oh, wow, he’s so smart.’”

The short videos feature Cooper in a blazer making exaggerated faces and mimicking Trump over his soundbites, sometimes also playing bewildered onlookers.

Cooper told the Los Angeles Times in June that the president is an “amazing comedy writer without realizing it.” She also told the Times it was “surreal” that the videos have gained her such internet fame and that agents who wouldn’t call her back years ago are suddenly asking to speak.

“I’m feeling so many emotions at once,” she told the Times. “People are having a good laugh when it’s really hard to laugh.”

The comedian signed with William Morris Endeavor in June and is currently working on her second book, a semi-autobiographical take on Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” according to her website.

Representatives for Cooper did not immediately respond to a request to speak to the comedian from NBC News Wednesday.

L.A. officials still cant answer why Andres Guardado was fatally shot in back by deputy

4 0 13 Aug 2020

The family of Andres Guardado is still waiting for answers on the teen was fatally shot by a deputy two months ago, even after a new briefing by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday.

Guardado, 18, was fatally shot by deputies on June 18 after the officers allegedly saw Guardado with a gun and pursued him as he ran away. Both an official county autopsy and an independent autopsy by the family found Guardado was shot in the back five times.

The teenager was speaking to unidentified individuals in a white Lexus sedan, saw deputies approach in a marked vehicle and ran away, according to L.A. Sheriff’s Department Commander Chris Marks.

Andres Guardado.Family photo

Marks told reporters Wednesday that the department was working on a “parallel investigation” regarding the location where Guardado was shot that limited its ability to release information.

“That’s for the district attorney to provide,” Marks said. “We’re trying to gather as many facts as we can, present that to the district attorney, and the district attorney’s office will make that determination.

While a 40-caliber semiautomatic pistol was found at the scene, Marks was unable to answer Wednesday whether Guardado ever aimed the gun at deputies and said there was no evidence he fired the gun at them.

No identifiable fingerprints were found on the gun’s frame, but Guardado’s DNA was found on the gun’s trigger, trigger guard and magazine, Marks said.

“The pistol was photographed and determined to be consistent in design and construction with a 3D printed polymer frame,” Marks said.

The commander also said the frame lacked any serial number markings and a test fire showed it to be functional.

Deputy Miguel Vega alleged in his interview with investigators that Guardado reached for his gun while face down on the ground, his attorney Adam Marangell told the Los Angeles Times last month.

“During this interview he made clear that he did everything possible that night to avoid firing his weapon, including repeated commands to ‘not reach for the gun,’” Marangell said in a statement. “Deputy Vega went to work that day to protect the citizens of the community and, unfortunately, was forced to take action which resulted in a loss of life.”

Attorneys for the Guardado family have previously said that the teenager owning a gun “is contrary to everything that the family and friends and co-workers know,” and that the department has provided no proof it belonged to Guardado.

Marks went on to discuss previous criminal activity at the auto body shop where Guardado was observed by deputies and an ongoing investigation into a non-fatal shooting in the area on June 7. The commander said that previous activity is not linked to Guardado, but provides a “backdrop” to the “operations” at the location.

Investigators have said there is no video of the shooting, since deputies did not have body cameras due to a program providing the cameras being stalled for years. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced Wednesday that the department had reached a deal and some deputies would be outfitted with the cameras as early as October.

The department was also unable to find video footage of the shooting from businesses, in part due to the June 7 shooting, which occurred while people were allegedly lined up outside the business to illicitly purchase nitrous oxide gas, Marks said.

Investigators had obtained a search warrant for the memory card in the auto body shop’s security cameras and the cards had not been replaced by the time of Guardado’s death 11 days later.

The department was also unable to find video footage of the shooting from surrounding businesses or from the auto body shop’s alarm company, Marks said. There was some footage captured in front of the auto body shop by a business, but only shows Guardado approaching a white sedan and then later running away as deputies approach.

Adam Shea, one of the attorneys representing the Guardado’s family, told NBC News in a statement Wednesday that the sheriff’s office “once again” failed the family.

“The Department’s attempt to convolute and cherry pick the facts to create a narrative that links Andres’ death to previous incidents of crime near the shop is nothing more than an attempt to justify the killing of this young man,” Shea’s statement said.

The family has been repeatedly told over the last two months nothing will be released so as to protect the investigation and had been hoping to learn the truth Wednesday, Shea said.

“We will continue to seek the truth in Andres’ death and we’ll not rest until those responsible are brought to justice,” the statement said.

The FBI said in July that it would review the county’s investigation and look at “all available evidence to determine what federal response is warranted,” according to NBC Los Angeles.

Kamala Harris is Asian and Black. That shouldnt be confusing in 2020 — but it is to some.

4 0 12 Aug 2020

During her 2020 presidential campaign, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., found herself at the center of a controversy about which Americans can claim to be Black, or Black enough — because of both her biracial identity and her immigrant parents.

Born to a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, Harris was subject to a smear campaign insinuating that she was not Black at all — which began anew immediately after presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced she was his pick for the vice presidential nomination. After a July 2019 debate, critics took issue with her for discussing a topic they viewed to be most relevant to American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) — busing to racially integrate schools. Although Harris was bused to a majority white school in California as part of a desegregation campaign, her lineage didn’t include enslaved African Americans, the group such efforts targeted, her detractors argued. (Harris’ father, Donald, wrote in 2018 that his research suggests he and his daughters are descended from Black people enslaved in Jamaica.)

To have her Blackness questioned in this way must’ve been jarring for a woman who graduated from the historically Black Howard University, was born in Oakland, California — hometown of the Black Panther Party — and has likely been viewed as Black by a majority white society.

But the questions about what constitutes Blackness aren’t new.

When he ran for president, Barack Obama also faced questions about his racial identity, having grown up outside the continental United States without his Kenyan father. And when he identified as solely Black on the 2010 census form, some mixed-race activists openly expressed their disappointment with his decision to exclude his white heritage — even though he did not have the option to identify as biracial until a decade before, in the 2000 census, which took place well into his adulthood (and three years after he had begun serving in the Illinois state Senate).

Until 2000, the federal government hadn’t allowed members of the public to identify as two or more races on the census. For most of the 20th century, Americans either had to pick one race or “other,” a shift from even the late 1800s when the census included “racial designations for people with fractions of African ancestry.”

After the 2000 census gave mixed-race people more options, civil rights groups for African Americans and Asian Americans challenged the move, fearing the voting power of people of color would be diluted if the multiracial category reduced their counted populations during the congressional apportionment process. But it was already evident that multiracial people were increasingly choosing not to identify as any one race: Two million Americans selected the “other” category on the 1990 census.

It was for that reason that multiracial activists had spent the next decade campaigning for the government to allow for multiple racial identities on the census form — and succeeded.

The multiracial option isn’t the only way that the census, which also included the term African American for the first time in 2000, will have complicated Black identity. Black people from immigrant backgrounds may now specify their ethnic origins on the 2020 census, which owes a debt to the same campaign two decades ago to differentiate the types of Blackness in America.

The change coincides with the rise of the ADOS movement, which seeks to prioritize the socio-political goals of African Americans whose families have lived in the United States for generations, rather than their counterparts whose families arrived recently and voluntarily. Black immigrants to the United States enjoy higher household incomes and rates of educational attainment than U.S.-born African Americans, a trend that gets overlooked when the Black experience is universalized. (However, some Black immigrants, such as Afro-Latinos, are speaking up about the marginalization they face in society.)

The ADOS movement includes supporters as wide-ranging as Harvard philosophy professor Cornel West, who has said that it is giving working-class Black people a voice, and white conservative political commentator Ann Coulter. But the movement has many detractors, some of whom view it as divisive at best and xenophobic at worst. Others have argued that it ignores the long history of African Americans with immigrant roots, including black nationalist Marcus Garvey, who was Jamaican, and Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X, whose mother was Grenadian.

Similarly, the idea that multiracial people are distinct from other Black people overlooks the history of mixed-race civil rights activists such as Homer Plessy, Walter Francis White, Adam Clayton Powell and Diane Nash, all of whom could’ve “passed” for white.

Still, 20 years into the movement to allow mixed-race Americans to acknowledge their differentiation from Black Americans, the multiracial demographic is one of the fastest-growing groups in this country. And it’s fair to say that the oldest Gen Zers and the youngest millennials are unfamiliar with a society that deemed someone wholly Black — and nothing else — for having a trace of African ancestry.

Today, it’s not uncommon for young people with two Black parents to view themselves as completely distinct from those with just one — hence, the outcry that the new show “BlackAF” didn’t exclusively star actors with two Black parents, or the recent charges of anti-black racism leveled at the biracial rapper Doja Cat.

And Meghan Markle — born to a black mother and a white father exactly 20 years after Obama — has consistently identified as biracial, reinforcing the generational divide in perceptions of Black identity.

Or take singer-songwriter Kehlani, who has white, black and Native American ancestry: In May, she give fans permission on Twitter to call her “mixed.” For a multiracial woman, that’s not exactly a groundbreaking announcement, but the reasons she gave for doing so reflect a shift in how black identity is viewed today. The 25-year-old R&B star explained the importance of recognizing that she does “not face the same issues as black women w 2 black parents” and that to suggest otherwise perpetuates the erasure of these women.

Generations ago, when the archaic one-drop rule — which declared that a drop of African blood made one Black — still shaped African American identity, these discussions about authentic representations of Blackness weren’t as likely to occur. In 1982, Susie Guillory Phipps, who didn’t realize until adulthood that she was 3/32nds Black under the law, fought the state of Louisiana to have the race listed on her birth certificate changed from “colored” to white. She lost, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

As recently as the 1990s, mixed-race people were typically encouraged to identify — or simply identified in society — as Black, even if they looked racially ambiguous (see: Mariah Carey). And it was considered laughable, if not unthinkable, that a darker-skinned multiracial person would reject the Black category in favor of identifying as multiracial. Golf star Tiger Woods is a case in point: In 1997, he was widely ridiculed for saying that he didn’t consider himself as Black but “cablinasian,” a portmanteau of Caucasian, Black, Indian and Asian, representing the entirety of his racial background.

Just three years later, Woods and other mixed people who didn’t want to be boxed into one racial category would be vindicated by the census. And today, Blasian is an acceptable way for people of mixed Asian and Black heritage to refer to themselves.

Unbound by the one-drop rule or even by the broad term African American, Black people in the United States have more freedom than ever to identify themselves as they choose. For some, that means not describing themselves as solely Black; for others, that means specifying their ethnic origins, embracing the ADOS label or taking none at all. Each choice is potentially controversial — but more important than how any one person identifies is that Blackness in this country has long been nuanced, and always will be.


Phil Collins In the Air Tonight is back on the charts thanks to YouTubers

6 0 12 Aug 2020

Phil Collins’ song “In the Air Tonight” has reentered the music charts nearly 40 years after its release, thanks to a viral YouTube video.

“What is this about? Let’s see,” Tim Williams, a 22-year-old who filmed himself listening to Collins’ 1981 single for the first time alongside his twin brother, Fred, says before playing the song.

The video, titled “FIRST TIME HEARING Phil Collins – In the Air Tonight REACTION,” was released July 27 and had been viewed nearly 5 million times as of Wednesday afternoon.

“He said, I feel like y’all are sleeping on me, let’s wake them up,” Tim says of the beat drop that comes toward the tail-end of the track. “I ain’t gonna lie, Phil, you got me with that one.”

“He dropped a beat three minutes in a song,” said Fred. “That’s unique. I’ve never seen that.”

The twins’ reactions, particularly their surprise at the drum solo, appears to have resonated both with new Collins’ listeners and longtime fans of the artist, so much so that “In the Air Tonight” has landed in second place on iTunes on Tuesday, right behind Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP.” Collins’ song continued charting second through Wednesday.

“I’m not sure why, but watching this brought tears to my eyes,” one person commented. “The innocence and the discovery perhaps.”

Another user recalled in the comments section of the video a favorite memory of her driving with her late brother when “In the Air Tonight” came on the radio.

“When that drum solo kicked in, i pounded it on the dashboard and he thumped it on the steering wheel. I’ll never forget how fun those few minutes were,” she wrote. “I’m so glad you liked this song. Thanks for helping an old rocker chick remember this great memory.”

“For me, the twins’ videos are bewitching for many reasons: their sweetness and good humor, the way they quickly recontextualize (and thereby reinvigorate) songs that I have heard thousands of times, and—perhaps most important—their curiosity and receptivity,” writes Amanda Petrusich for The New Yorker.

Their YouTube channel TwinsthenewTrend, which mostly features a collection of first-time reaction videos, has existed since 2015, but only started gaining traction in the last few months.

Dolly Parton on Friday tweeted out their reaction video to “Jolene,” which has since been viewed more than 3 million times.

“No point in begging,” she wrote. “Jolene already stole these two.”

Sumner Redstone built a media empire. Now, its future is uncertain.

6 0 12 Aug 2020

Sumner Redstone, the famously ambitious and ruthless media titan who often claimed he would never die, lived long enough to build one of the world’s biggest media conglomerates out of a chain of theaters, spark a power struggle that dominated tabloid headlines for years, and eventually see his daughter consolidate power in the midst of a rapidly changing media landscape.

The future of that company, ViacomCBS, remains in flux. Had Redstone, who died Wednesday at the age of 97, lived a few years longer, he may have witnessed his daughter’s attempt to sell the family empire — something he once swore would never happen.

Shari Redstone, Sumner’s daughter who was estranged from her father for much of his life but reconciled with him in his final years, effectively took over his empire in 2016 after a long, drawn-out legal battle against the backdrop of Sumner’s deteriorating health and revelations about his sexual affairs.

The years since have been tough for ViacomCBS. The media empire, once worth as much as $80 billion, was valued at roughly $30 billion when Redstone merged Viacom and CBS last year. Today, it is worth just $16 billion, and ViacomCBS is drowning under a massive pile of debt: nearly $19 billion as of last year.

In a media landscape dominated by the likes of Disney (with $236 billion in market value), AT&T ($215 billion) and Comcast ($198 billion), not to mention the all-powerful tech giants in Silicon Valley and Seattle, ViacomCBS now appears to be a relative minnow. Its longtime strengths, which include a robust television advertising business, may soon be a liability, as pay TV subscriptions continue to decline.

Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.

A ViacomCBS spokesperson referred an inquiry for comment to representatives for Redstone and National Amusements, the Redstone family holding company. Those representatives declined to comment.

That Shari Redstone will eventually look to sell ViacomCBS has become conventional wisdom among Hollywood executives. Sumner’s death does little to change that. The 80 percent of ViacomCBS owned by National Amusements will now transfer to a seven-person trust that includes Shari and is firmly in lockstep with her ambitions, according to sources familiar with the trust members’ thinking who were not authorized to speak publicly.

In order to position ViacomCBS for a sale, however, Redstone will first need to demonstrate that it is an asset worth buying.

Redstone, ViacomCBS chief executive Bob Bakish and members of the board believe the company’s stock is significantly undervalued, and their stated goal over the next few years is to maximize potential value through investments in streaming and digital, as well as an estimated $800 million in savings brought on by the merger.

Several market analysts share that view.

“We continue to believe the market is assigning immaterial value to VIAC’s streaming and digital business, with upcoming product enhancements and launches potential positive catalysts,” Goldman Sachs said in its guidance this month following the company’s quarterly earnings report.

Streaming has indeed been a bright spot for ViacomCBS. While overall revenue fell 12 percent year-over-year in the last quarter, digital and streaming revenues grew 25 percent. The company’s free streaming platform, Pluto TV, logged growth of 61 percent in its monthly average user base while subscriptions to CBS Access and Showtime grew by 74 percent.

The company also makes money by licensing its content to other services, like “South Park” (to HBO Max) and “Yellowstone” (to NBC’s Peacock).

“We are very focused on maximizing the value of all of our assets,” Shari Redstone said in an interview last year with the media banker Aryeh Bourkoff. “We want to be everywhere where the consumer is. We want to bring our brands to the largest addressable market.”

Still, Redstone may need to do some more buying before she can put ViacomCBS in a position to sell. And as NBC News reported last year, she is pursuing acquisitions to grow the company further.

“I think she is more buyer than seller,” said Rich Greenfield, a media analyst and partner at Light Shed, a technology and media research firm.

And what might she buy? There are any number of smaller businesses that could be on the table, from Discovery and LionsGate to MGM and AMC. None of those acquisitions would give ViacomCBS the heft to compete with the likes of Disney and Comcast, but they might make it a more appealing acquisition target for someone else.

Alternatively, that “someone else” might recognize ViacomCBS’ potential value now, swoop in early and convince Redstone to sell the company for a price that recognizes what she believes is its true value.