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Celebrity News
Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams urges film execs not to boycott over ‘heartbeat’ law
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Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams urges film execs not to boycott over ‘heartbeat’ law

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
What You Need To Know: Stacey Abrams

Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams urges film execs not to boycott over ‘heartbeat’ law

The pleasantries were kept to a minimum. The questions were sharp and to the point. And the dozens of Hollywood figures wanted to know why Stacey Abrams wasn’t joining their call to boycott Georgia because of its new abortion restrictions.

>> Read more trending news 

The Georgia Democrat traveled to Los Angeles on Tuesday to meet with this anxious group — and hold quieter conferences with studio leaders — to try to quell growing backlash from film workers furious that Gov. Brian Kemp signed the “heartbeat” bill into law.

She encountered a deeper strain of unrest than expected. Some in the private meeting challenged her to explain why they should stay in a state pushing values they can’t support. Her answer, she said in an interview from the Beverly Hilton, was that ditching Georgia wouldn’t further their cause.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams speaks at the National Action Network's annual convention, April 3, 2019 in New York City.
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Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams urges film execs not to boycott over ‘heartbeat’ law

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams speaks at the National Action Network's annual convention, April 3, 2019 in New York City.

“Not everyone agreed, but there was much more agreement when we left than arrived,” she said. “I don’t disparage boycotts. They have their function. But this is a situation where the political realities are that a boycott won’t have the intended effect.”

The film business, long the toast of Georgia’s economy, is toying with an open rebellion against the state since Kemp signed the “heartbeat” bill, which is set to outlaw most abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy and before many women even know they are pregnant.

>> Related: Backlash over ‘heartbeat’ abortion bill causes Georgia to lose TV, film productions

Some prominent Hollywood figures vowed to no longer work in Georgia, studios have hinted at abandoning projects, and antsy local film executives worry the governor has brought about a “sea change” in the state’s reputation.

Abrams warns the fallout is “just the tip of the spear” that could spread to other industries if not handled right. And she used her visit to contrast with Kemp, her rival in last year’s close race for governor, who postponed his own trip to Los Angeles last month amid talk of protests.

Kemp has tried to calm nerves by repeating his promise to preserve the tax credits. But he’s also mocked the celebrities who are infuriated by his support for the legislation.

The governor told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he is upholding campaign promises to pass the nation’s strictest abortion laws, a stance he said he won’t reverse even if the “other side is going to continue to push it politically.”

“There’s a lot of noise and a lot of chatter, but the people who I’m talking to understand the great business environment we have for film, they know we have the best workforce and it’s only getting better,” he said in an interview.

“I’m not worried about what people from Hollywood are saying. The people on the ground know we have a great environment, and it’s going to continue to stay that way,” he added. “They have to work through the politics of that, but I’ve got to keep governing the state.”

‘Silent prayer’

Tuesday’s visit was a visceral reminder of the fallout. Organized with the help of former CBS Chairwoman Nina Tassler, the audience was dotted with a cross section of the industry: executives, producers and actors, but also lower-level staffers who work behind the scenes.

>> Related: ‘Ozark’ star Jason Bateman says he won’t work in Georgia if ‘heartbeat bill’ survives court challenges

Abrams urged the crowd not to rush to action since a legal battle over the legislation could rage for years. Besides, she told them, next year’s legislative elections and the 2022 race for statewide offices could upend Georgia’s political dynamic.

“We’ve got a timetable for when the bomb is going to explode. People are deciding when they’re going to leave the room,” she said. “Some decided they’re out now, others are waiting it out. My point is we need people to stay as long as possible to defuse it.”

There’s room to maneuver. Several of the major studios that have criticized the legislation added an important caveat: that they will rethink their investments in Georgia if the legislation is enforced.

>> Related: Ron Howard says he will boycott Georgia if abortion law takes effect

The law will face a certain legal challenge before it takes effect in January, and even conservative supporters concede it’s bound to be blocked by a federal judge.

In fact, they hope it will: They want it to get bounced to the U.S. Supreme Court and become the test case that could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

Leaving Georgia, however, is no easy task. The industry has invested in a web of costly studios, soundstages and equipment now firmly rooted in the state.

“The infrastructure in Georgia is not easy to pull out,” said Matt Donnelly, the senior film writer for Variety, the trade publication that tracks Hollywood. “There are lucrative multiyear deals, subleases on soundstages — you can’t just move out of town.”

The industry has thrived thanks to the nation’s most lucrative film tax incentives. Direct film spending in Georgia reached $2.7 billion last year, and the roughly 450 projects shot in the state in the past year supported roughly 92,000 jobs.

>> Related: Alyssa Milano calls for “sex strike” in protest of Georgia’s strict anti-abortion bill

From the studio perspective, Donnelly added, “there’s still a massive silent prayer this issue gets kicked to the courts — and shot down.”

‘Perfect place’

State officials privately grumble that an industry showered with generous incentives — more than $800 million in film tax breaks last year — is trying to dictate Georgia policy. And Republicans used the occasion to needle Abrams for her refusal to concede the race for governor.

“She is not the governor,” Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer said, “but Hollywood is the perfect place for her to pretend to be one.”

Kemp, meanwhile, said the law preserves the sanctity of life and upholds a campaign vow to sign the nation’s “toughest” abortion restrictions. And he told Republican activists in Savannah last month that he would defend the law “even though that makes C-list celebrities squawk.”

>> Related: Georgia Democrats respond to fetal heartbeat bill, propose ‘men’s reproductive health’ bill

He has promised to preserve the tax incentives and said he will fight for “hardworking” film crew members. But he postponed a visit to Los Angeles in May amid threats of protests and no-shows. Instead, he conducted a closed-door tour of the state-financed Georgia Film Academy.

“From my perspective, it doesn’t change the fundamentals that we have in the state,” he said of the blowback. “And it doesn’t change my position, which has been consistent for two years: I support life, and I support the film tax credit. I support the great business environment of the state.”

With a potential 2022 rematch looming, Abrams has pummeled Kemp for not responding to a group of Georgia executives who sought a meeting and said she’s been forced to speak with leaders of every major Hollywood studio because “they are not hearing from anyone” in Kemp’s office.

>> Related: Who is Stacey Abrams, chosen to deliver Democratic response to State of the Union?

“I would prefer it if our elected leader did his job and had these conversations and took the hits if he has to. But the absence of engagement puts all of us at risk,” she said. “Those who are upset that I’m speaking aloud should call the question: Why am I the only voice?”

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • The trial of Everett Miller, the ex- U.S. Marine accused of murdering two Kissimmee police officers began Monday. Miller is facing first-degree murder charges in the 2017 shooting deaths of Officer Matthew Baxter and Sgt. Sam Howard.  The judge said he expects it will take a week to a week and a half to seat a jury in the high-profile case.  The court continues to work through the first set of 76 potential jurors who were called in Monday morning, another 76 potential jurors will be called in after that.  Miller was dressed in civilian clothes as he sat in front of potential jurors, after the judge last week denied his request to wear his military uniform at trial.  It will be up to the judge and attorneys on both sides to find 12 jurors and four alternates who will decide Miller's fate.
  • Police were searching for the man they dubbed the “Foul Mouth Bandit.” Detectives in Portland, Oregon, were trying to identify the man responsible for four bank and credit union robberies and the robbery of a bar in April 2017 when the name Tyrone Lamont Allen came across their radar. There was a problem with Allen as the suspect, however. Allen, 50, has multiple elaborate, prominent tattoos on his forehead, cheeks and neck, as seen in April 18, 2017, booking photos shot following his arrest on unrelated warrants. The tattoos include several clearly readable names on his forehead. >> Read more trending news  Only two of the four bank tellers who encountered the robber earlier that month recalled seeing tattoos, court records show. One mentioned tattoos on the man's hands and the other mentioned faded tattoos on the man's neck. None of the four witnesses noted tattoos on the robber's forehead or cheeks, which according to surveillance images of the man, were clearly visible -- and clearly bare of ink. A police forensic criminalist testified last week about how investigators solved the problem. They turned to Photoshop. 'I basically painted over the tattoos,'' Mark Weber testified, according to The Oregonian. 'Almost like applying electronic makeup.' Only then did investigators present Allen's photo to the witnesses in a photo lineup, the newspaper reported. None of the witnesses were told the photos had been altered -- which the newspaper reported is a violation of U.S. Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies' protocols on how to handle photo lineups. According to court records, two of the four witnesses picked Allen out of the array. One said he did not see the robber in the six photos he was shown and another picked a different man's photo. Allen was subsequently charged with three counts of robbery and one count of attempted robbery. Because the targets were banks and credit unions, he is charged with federal crimes. The Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to helping exonerate wrongly convicted inmates, reports that mistaken witness identifications have contributed to about 71 percent of the more than 360 wrongful convictions in the U.S. overturned by post-conviction DNA analysis. Allen’s defense attorney, who last month filed a motion asking a judge to suppress the witness identifications at trial, argued in federal court last week that the police were trying to “rig the outcome” of the lineups by making his client look more like the man who robbed the banks and credit unions, The Oregonian reported. “This is a very, very slippery slope given the advent of technology,’’ attorney Mark Ahlemeyer said. “We don’t know where this may end.” The prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Maloney, defended the actions of police. “The whole idea was to make Mr. Allen blend in so his photo wouldn’t stand out,’’ Maloney argued, according to the newspaper. “These procedures were prudent. They were appropriate.’’ Maloney said the mugshot was altered to make Allen’s photo look like the disguises the robber wore, The Oregonian said. The affidavit of Brett Hawkinson, the Portland Police Bureau detective on the robbery case, states that investigators found several items of clothing in Allen’s 1998 Dodge Intrepid that looked similar to items worn by the robber depicted in surveillance footage from the crime scenes. Nowhere does Hawkinson say authorities found makeup or other tools Allen may have used to cover up his facial tattoos. Hawkinson noted the absence of the tattoos when he first looked at Allen’s booking photos and compared them to the surveillance images, his affidavit says. “The robber and Allen looked like the same person, minus the presence of Allen’s facial tattoos,” Hawkinson wrote. Nevertheless, after meeting with Allen in person at the Multnomah County Jail, Hawkinson wrote that he was certain Allen was his suspect. “After having the chance to see Allen in person and interact with him close up, I have no doubt in my mind that he is the same person depicted in the surveillance images as the robbery suspect from the OnPoint Community Credit Union, Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of the West and Advantis Credit Union robberies as described above,” Hawkinson’s affidavit states. Three days after that meeting, on May 20, Hawkinson released images from the bank robberies to the public in an effort to identify the “Foul Mouth Bandit,” who got the name from the language he used while holding up the tellers. Read Allen's motion to suppress the witness identifications below.  Tyrone Lamont Allen Motion to Suppress by National Content Desk on Scribd According to the charges against Allen, he is accused of going to OnPoint Credit Union in Portland the afternoon of April 3, 2017, and approaching a teller. The alleged robber handed the teller a $20 and asked for change, a pattern that later emerged in other robberies, as well. As the teller chatted with the man, the man leaned forward and opened a white plastic shopping bag. “Give me your (expletive) money! I have a gun! I will blow your head off,” the man said, according to court documents. The robber got away with about $6,000 that day. Similar robberies, in which the surveillance footage from each appeared to show the same man, took place the following day at a Wells Fargo branch and on April 7, 2017, an attempted robbery at Bank of the West and a successful robbery at Advantis Credit Union. In total, the man walked away with about $14,000 from the four robberies, court records show. According to Hawkinson’s affidavit, the teller in the first incident noticed tattoos on the robber’s hands. The Wells Fargo teller told detectives the man in that case had faded tattoos on his neck. There is no mention of any tattoos on the robber in either the Bank of the West or Advantis Credit Union heist. In none of the bank or credit union robberies did witnesses see a weapon. During the investigation, Hawkinson spoke with another Portland detective who was working a separate series of armed robberies in north Portland. The suspect in that case, a black man with tattoos, went to a Subway, a Papa Murphy's pizza shop, a Walgreens and a 7-Eleven and robbed each using a semi-automatic pistol. The detective, William Winters, was also investigating the robbery of Sting Tavern in Portland. Winters told Hawkinson the video surveillance from the tavern showed the robber wearing a red sweatshirt similar to the one worn by the man who robbed the Advantis Credit Union. The weight, height and build of each robber was also similar. Winters led Hawkinson to an unnamed informant who came forward and told police about a person he suspected in a series of robberies. That person was Allen. The man, identified only as the 'known person' in court records, told investigators that he met Allen through a mutual friend, who showed him Allen's April 18, 2017, mugshot alongside the robbery surveillance images later broadcast on the TV news. He said both he and the mutual friend suspected it was Allen, who they said had a violent past. 'When asked how he knew the surveillance picture on Channel 12 was Allen, the known person stated he did not know, but then he immediately changed his statement and said he knew it was Allen because it looked just like him except for no tattoos.' Hawkinson wrote that the victim in the OnPoint Community Credit Union robbery was shown a photo lineup including Allen’s photo, but said he did not see the man who robbed him. The same day, the Bank of the West victim picked a different photo from the array, but said she was unsure of her selection. The victim from Advantis Credit Union picked Allen’s photo that same day, as did the Wells Fargo victim the following day, May 3. Ahlemeyer’s motion to suppress the identifications of his client argue that none of the police reports document now the lineups were put together. Nowhere does Hawkinson’s affidavit mention that Allen’s mugshot was altered prior to it being shown to the witnesses. “The novel question in this case is whether the government can materially alter a suspect’s photograph in a way that makes him look more like the perpetrator, then secure an eyewitness identification based on that manipulated photo, and ultimately present that positive identification to a jury,” Ahlemeyer’s motion states. “The court should reject this type of fabricated evidence either as a violation of due process or under the court’s inherent supervisory power to ensure the integrity of the judicial process.” The defense attorney also argues that the identifications were “unconstitutionally suggestive” and, therefore, unreliable. “The Fifth Amendment right to due process bars the introduction of identification evidence where it was procured or tainted by unnecessarily suggestive law enforcement procedures that created a substantial likelihood of misidentification,” the motion states. The Oregonian reported that it was Ahlemeyer who first discovered his client’s mugshot had been altered. Though no police reports referenced the change, Ahlemeyer spotted the anomaly in the photo array after it was handed over as part of the discovery process. Testimony in court last week showed the order to remove the tattoos from Allen’s mugshot came from Hawkinson, an 18-year police veteran assigned to the FBI’s task force on bank heists. It was in that role that he was assigned the case. Hawkinson testified that Allen could have worn makeup during the robberies to mask the tattoos. According to The Oregonian, he said he sought to rule Allen in or out as the suspect and to determine if people who contacted investigators with information were credible. Read the criminal complaint against Tyrone Allen below. Warning: The document contains graphic language.  Tyrone Lamont Allen Criminal Complaint by National Content Desk on Scribd Hawkinson also testified that the victims were shown the photos in a double-blind lineup -- a lineup in which an officer unaware of who the suspect might be shows the photos to a witness one at a time. The technique is a way to help ensure a lack of suggestibility on the part of investigators. The double-blind lineup is one of a number of reforms the Innocence Project has endorsed to help improve eyewitness accuracy. Oregon is one of 24 states that have implemented those reforms. Finding ways for the suspect to not stand out from the “fillers,” or the people whose photos are shown alongside that the of the suspect, is another. Prosecutor Maloney argued last week that the tattoos were removed from Allen’s photo for that purpose. The Oregonian reported that Justice Department rules adopted in January 2017, just a few months before Allen’s arrest, suggest finding “filler” photos of people with attributes similar to those of the suspect. If the unique attribute cannot be replicated, investigators should black out the attribute and put similar black marks on the filler photos. On cross-examination, Hawkinson admitted that altering a suspect’s photo is not part of the bureau’s protocol, but said it is “standard practice among investigators,” the newspaper reported. “The purpose of any alteration is not to change the physical attributes but to mask things that would stand out,” Hawkinson said. “You don’t consider tattoos to be physical attributes?’’ Ahlemeyer asked. Weber, the forensic criminalist, told the court he did not write a report about the alterations he made to the photo because it wasn’t part of the bureau’s operating procedures. He admitted that he’s changed suspects’ photos in connection with past investigations. “It is hard to fathom any photo array conduct that is more ‘suggestive’ than altering a source photograph for the sole purpose of making the investigation target look more like the perpetrator,” Allen’s attorney told the court. U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez told parties in the case he would issue his written ruling soon, The Oregonian reported.
  • An airport security screener was fired after handing a traveler a note with a rude message scrawled on it. >> Read more trending news  Neal Strassner was going through the Greater Rochester International Airport when the security guard handed him a torn piece of paper with the words “you ugly” written on it. 'I got handed something. I really didn't look at the thing, I kept going,” Strassner told WHAM. 'She called back to me a few times, asked me if I was going to read the note or open it or something. I look at it, look at her and kind of shrug my shoulders ... and she laughed.' The incident took place in late June. Strassner waited more than a month for the video after filing a Freedom of Information request for it, WROC reported.  The employee works for VMD Corp. a security company based in Virginia, contracted through the TSA. VMD did not comment. TSA confirmed the employee was fired, WROC reported.  “TSA holds contractors to the highest ethical standards and has zero tolerance for this type of behavior,” the agency said in a statement. “This instance, which involved a contract employee, was investigated immediately upon receiving the complaint by the traveler. The employee has since been terminated by the contractor.” Strassner was not bothered by the note, but he did notice at the end of the video the woman appears to write another one.  “I’m really curious what the other notes said,” Strassner told WROC. “I travel a lot, and the airport normally is spectacular. This was a totally weird event that they (VMD Corp.) seemed to handle properly. I travel a lot and just want to make sure they get some credit to their organization and don’t let one lady trash their whole reputation.”
  • Police asked for the public's help Tuesday identifying a suspect wanted after a retired administrator was stabbed to death Monday on a college campus in Southern California. >> Read more trending news  Authorities said they found the victim, identified as Steven Shek Keung Chan, 57, with several stab wounds in a parking lot on the California State University, Fullerton, campus just before 8:30 a.m. Monday. Police said he was pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators asked for help locating the suspect, described as an Asian man with black hair in his mid-20s. Police said he wore a black windbreaker and black pants at the time of the attack. Update 12:55 p.m. EDT Aug. 20: Police released a sketch Tuesday of the man suspected of stabbing 57-year-old Steven Shek Keung Chan to death one day earlier in a parking lot at Cal State Fullerton. Authorities said the man was last seen running northbound on Langsdorf Drive and then eastbound on Nutwood Avenue. Police believe he might have been injured in the attack and might have lacerations to one or both of his hands. Police said officers recovered a backpack which they believe belonged to the suspect during their investigation. It was found under Chen's vehicle and contained 'an incendiary device along with numerous items that were consistent with a kidnapping attempt or plot, including zip ties, wigs and other disguise materials,' police said. The bag also contained a knife separate from the one used in Monday's attack, according to authorities. Police believe Chan, who recently returned to the school as a special consultant after retiring as an administrator in 2017, was specifically targeted in the attack, according to authorities and the Los Angeles Times. Police continue to investigate. Original report: Authorities are searching for a suspect after a retired administrator was stabbed and killed Monday on a Southern California college campus. According to the Los Angeles Times, authorities said Steven Shek Keung Chan, 57, of Hacienda Heights, had several stab wounds when police found him in his car, which was parked in a lot on California State University's Fullerton campus, about 8:30 a.m. Monday. Police also discovered an 'incendiary device,' which did not go off, nearby, the newspaper reported. Police believe the assailant specifically targeted Chan, who recently returned as a special consultant after retiring as director of budget and finance and student services for extended education in 2017, the Times reported. In a tweet, university police described the suspect, who reportedly fled the scene and was still on the run late Monday, as an Asian man in his mid-20s with black hair. He was wearing black pants and a black shirt, authorities said. No further information was immediately available. In a letter to students, faculty and staff, university President Framroze Virjee called the attack 'tragic and senseless.' 'As the investigation into Steven’s death is ongoing, we are unable to provide information beyond what the Fullerton Police share publicly,' the letter read. 'What I can do, however, is join all of you in adding to the tremendous outreach of love and support that has already embraced our Titan Family during this tragic and difficult time. That begins with pausing in thought and prayer for Steven, his family, and all Titans who are grieving and grappling with the reality of such an unspeakable act and tragic loss in our community.' >> Read the full letter here Read more here.
  • A North Carolina man is accused of strangling his 15-year-old daughter before slitting her throat during a weekend visit at his home, sheriff’s deputies said. Joshua Lee Burgess, 32, of Monroe, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Zaria Joshalyn Burgess. Zaria was visiting her father when she was slain. Union County Jail records show Burgess is also facing one count each of statutory rape of a person 15 years old or younger, first-degree statutory sexual offense, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. “The details of this murder are indescribable,” Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey told WSOC in Charlotte. “Every officer and detective involved in this case is feeling the effects of what happened to this child. There is no logical answer to explain why this man did what he is accused of doing. Our hearts and prayers are with Zaria’s mom and her family.” Union County Sheriff’s Office officials said in a news release that Burgess walked into the agency’s lobby just before 9:30 a.m. Sunday and told a dispatcher he was there to turn himself in. The dispatcher began searching for warrants in Burgess’ name. “He stopped her. He said, ‘You’re not going to find my name. I just killed someone,’” Tony Underwood, chief communications officer for the Union County Sheriff’s Office, told WSOC. “At that point, the red flags started to go off.” After Burgess gave details of the killing and told them where to find Zaria’s body, deputies went to Burgess’ home at 5102 Hampton Meadows Road, near Wesley Chapel. Inside, they found the slain teen, authorities said. A reporter with WSOC was in the courtroom Monday for Burgess’ first court appearance, where authorities offered gruesome details of the girl’s death, including how her father reportedly killed her. Reporter Tina Terry said there was a “collective gasp” when the details were revealed, according to the news station. “It’s just pure evil,” Underwood said. Cathey on Tuesday told the news station the medical examiner found that Zaria died of a “sharp force injury to the neck.” No motive for the slaying was given. Burgess' Facebook page is filled with photos of his daughter, who he called his “mini-me.” “I love this little angel more than anything. Nothing beats quality time with my daughter,” he wrote on a post from 2015. >> Read more trending news  Zaria’s cousin, Dytaysha Wadsworth, told WSOC the victim was a sweet girl who loved her family. She was about to start her freshman year at Monroe High School. “She was just the type of kid that would come in a room or come in a house and say, ‘Hey everybody’ -- just wanting to make everybody smile,” Wadsworth said. “She was so young, and nobody deserves to leave this world like that, especially by someone they thought was gonna protect them and be there for them.” Burgess is being held without bond in the Union County Jail.

Washington Insider

  • With the Prime Minister of Denmark making it clear that she was not interested in selling Greenland to the United States, labeling the idea 'absurd,' President Donald Trump said Tuesday night that he would cancel his scheduled visit to the NATO ally in early September. 'Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting,' the President tweeted on Tuesday evening. In interviews this week, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen had made clear that Greenland was not for sale, even as she welcomed the idea of closer relations between Denmark and the United States. But that wasn't enough for President Trump. On Sunday, President Trump had downplayed the issue as he returned to the White House. 'It’s not number one on the burner, I can tell you that,' the President told reporters when asked about the idea of buying Greenland. The decision obviously came as a surprise to U.S. diplomats in Denmark, as the U.S. Ambassador had put out a tweet a few hours earlier about the President's scheduled state visit. The President and First Lady had been invited by the Queen of Denmark earlier this summer for a two day state visit. Democrats mocked the President for canceling his stop in Denmark. “Embarrassing,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA). 'What a shame when Greenland could be covered with sand traps, water holes and lots of beautiful putting greens,' said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), referring to the President's golfing.