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Tag: ron desantis

Justice Department Opens Civil Rights Probe Of Florida Mask Ban

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Last Friday Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won a victory for bad public health when a three-judge panel in the First District Court of Appeals ruled that the governor could continue trying to punish school districts that enacted mask mandates for their schools. The decision overruled 2nd Judicial Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper's ruling that the governor's ban on mask mandates was unconstitutional.
Lead attorney for the parents who brought the lawsuit against DeSantis, Charles Gallagher, told reporters "We are disappointed by the ruling and will be seeking pass-through jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Florida. With a stay in place, students, parents and teachers are back in harm's way."

Shortly after the 1st District Court of Appeal's decision, the Biden administration announced that the U.S. Department of Education's civil rights division would open up an investigation into whether or not DeSantis's order violates the federal civil rights statutes that protect students with disabilities.

Suzanne Goldberg, acting assistant secretary for civil rights in the Department of Education, sent a letter to Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran stating the intention of the federal government. "OCR's investigation will focus on whether, in light of this policy, students with disabilities who are at heightened risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are prevented from safely returning to in-person education, in violation of Federal law. The remainder of this letter sets out in more detail the basis for this investigation and how the investigation will proceed."

This investigation mirrors the claims made by Florida parents in their lawsuit against Gov. DeSantis and Commissioner Corcoran. Law professor Claire Raj, who specializes in special education law and has written about the current investigations and litigations regarding these conservative bans on mask mandates, writes that while there is "no bright-line rule setting the limits of what modifications" on what would be called "reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities, one need only look at existing accommodations that have been created in schools across the country in order to protect children's civil rights."

For example, in certain instances schools must offer allergen-free spaces such as nut-free classrooms when tasked with educating students with severe or life-threatening allergies to certain foods. Schools may have to take other precautions to ensure safe classrooms for students with severe allergies, such as wiping down tables frequently, installing or changing air filters, or running air-quality tests to ensure that a child with chemical or other allergen sensitivities can safely attend.

The Florida investigation is an extension of the Department of Education's existing civil rights investigations into Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah. The department had previously declined to investigate Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, and Texas because of the existing litigation in those states that were preventing these conservative officials' bans from being enforced. Today's decision leaves those children and those educators unprotected from this truly awful political football of a policy.

Suffer, Little Children: Anti-Vax, Anti-Masking, And The Faces Of Evil

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The origin of evil is an issue that would seem as difficult to fathom as the meaning of life, or the purpose of the universe. It's not. Evil is not simply when something bad happens. Hurricanes aren't evil. Not even a disease is evil. Evil takes understanding. Evil is when someone displays indifference or experiences pleasure in the face of suffering.

The worst sort of evil comes when empathy and consideration are replaced with a perverse joy, one that doesn't just refuse to acknowledge someone else's pain, but takes pride in dismissing the thought that others deserve consideration. And it looks like this.

What's happening in that Tennessee school board meeting is a tiny subset, a pixel in the larger picture, of what's happening on multiple issues across the country. Another part of that greater image can be seen when CNN asked Dr. Anthony Fauci about a statement by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. And in the responses of a school superintendent from Mississippi.

As CNN reports, children too young to be vaccinated now make up 26% of all new cases of COVID-19 cases. That number has grown enormously as schools have reopened for in-person instruction in districts where masks are not mandated and vaccination for staff is not a requirement. In fact, the total number of children infected across the course of the pandemic has grown by 10% in just the last two weeks.

That's because the reopening of schools, especially in areas where school boards have bowed to pressure—or the executive orders of Republican governors—and refused to institute mask mandates or vaccination requirements and are seeing an "explosions of cases." That explosion generated over 14,000 cases among students in Florida within the first week of classes. It resulted in thousands of cases in Texas, where district after district has been forced to suspend classes.

Florida and Texas may have been grabbing the headlines thanks to the deeply twisted statements from Govs. Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, but they're far from alone. In just four days in August, the Clarion Ledgerreports that over 5,700 students tested positive in a single week, putting over 30,000—6.5% of the state's total student population—into quarantine.

In this interview, Mississippi school superintendent John Strycker explains that he doesn't require masks in his school, even after a teacher died. Strycker says, "I'm confident in what we're doing."

Strycker: I wept. Okay? It's very hard on me. But when I'm making my decisions, I need to do the best I can to make non-emotional decisions.
Reporter: But your non-emotional decision is to do nothing.
Strycker: Right.

Strycker then claims that the children in his care are "safe relative to the other schools." In the first three week of school there, 6.4 percent of students have tested positive for COVID-19.

Following this interview, CNN moves to looking at the large Los Angeles unified school district where the superintendent has made very different decisions. At that school, every member of the staff is required to report their vaccination status and everyone—students, teachers, and visitors—is required to wear a mask. Over the same period, the infection rate in Los Angeles schools was 0.5 percent.

What's become clear across the nation is simply this: School districts that do not have a mandatory mask policy are very likely to see a high incidence of COVID-19 cases within a period of a few weeks. Those levels are very likely to lead to that school district being forced to quarantine a substantial subset of its student and staff population, and almost as likely to result in classes being suspended for a period.

The reason is simple enough: As much as anti-mask forces want to make wearing a mask an emblem of personal fear, it's not. The mask is simply societal responsibility. Masks reduce the rate of transmission of COVID-19, as well as other viruses, but they are really only highly effective if nearly everyone is wearing them. One person wearing a masks in a sea of bare faces gains very little, if anything, in the way of personal protection. If everyone is wearing masks, there is a large decrease in the spread of disease.

The same rule applies to vaccines. As NPR reports, DeSantis has repeatedly dismissed the role of vaccines as anything more than personal protection.

"At the end of the day though," said the Florida governor, "it's about your health and whether you want that protection or not. It really doesn't impact me or anyone else."

And as Dr. Anthony Fauci has made clear, DeSantis is "completely incorrect." Vaccines, like masks, do provide some protection to the individual, but their greater role is in breaking the chain of transmission. A high level of vaccination doesn't just protect the vaccinated, it protects everyone. Whether someone has been vaccinated definitely affects those around them.

"When you're dealing with an outbreak of an infectious disease, it isn't only about you," said Fauci. "There's a societal responsibility that we all have."

And there's that phrase again: societal responsibility—the need to take action that protects not just yourself or your family, but everyone in the greater society. What's missing from every insistence that masks or vaccines are a "personal choice" is that these choices have an impact on others. Saying that masks or vaccines don't affect anyone else is like saying that driving drunk doesn't affect anyone else. Or firing a weapon through a loaded room doesn't affect anyone else. These actions may nothave an immediate impact, but there is a recognized societal responsibility that makes them illegal even if they don't result in immediate loss.

What does evil look like? It looks like someone standing in front of a camera and saying that a decision that can cost the lives of thousands is a personal choice. It looks like that.

It also looks like these events at a charter school in Boise as reported by the Idaho Statesman.

At the beginning of the year, the board of the Peace Valley Charter School passed a mask mandate. But they rolled back that mandate after hearing from Dr. Ryan Cole—the same doctor who referred to COVID-19 vaccines as both "fake" and "needle rape." Following that statement, Cole was made a member of Idaho's Central District Health Board.

At a special meeting of the school board, Cole testified that masks didn't work and that there was "not one study" showing that masks could help stop a viral disease. Cole also testified that masks "retain carbon dioxide" and can cause "inflammation in the brain." None of these things has any basis in fact. (For reference, here's a large study showing that masks work and here's a broad review of the topic which confirms that effectiveness).

At that meeting, board members were also given a packet of documents, which included one titled "COVID-19 Masks Are a Crime Against Humanity and Child Abuse." The board reversed its vote, eliminating the mask mandate.

What does evil look like? It looks like a woman snickering at a child talking about his dead grandmother. It looks like a doctor knowingly passing along false information that places children and teacher in danger. Most of all, it looks like a governor denying that individuals have any obligation beyond self preservation, and pretending that societal responsibilities do not exist.

'Completely incorrect': Dr. Fauci pushes back on DeSantis' vaccine claim www.youtube.com

Wednesday, Sep 8, 2021 · 11:59:27 AM EDT · Mark Sumner

And as that Idaho school votes to drop mask mandates in response to disinformation …

Republicans Push Texas-Style Abortion Bans Across Country

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Last week, the U. S. Supreme Court let stand a Texas law that is the most restrictive abortion law in the nation. With that green light, other states are lining up to pass similar laws, and at this time, there isn't much way to stop them.

Anti-choice legislators in four states — Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, and South Dakota — have already stated they will follow Texas's lead. They're planning on introducing bills that will mirror both the restrictive nature of Texas's law — a ban on abortion at six weeks — and the unique enforcement mechanism, which allows any citizen to sue someone who aids or abets an abortion. Several other states, including Nebraska, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Ohio, will likely be considering similar laws.

In Florida, Ron DeSantis, the anti-abortion GOP governor, said his state would "look more significantly" at the Texas law and that he found it "interesting." In South Carolina, Larry Grooms, a GOP state senator, said the state would "move to pass legislation that would mirror what Texas did."

Jason Rapert, a GOP state senator in Arkansas who is mounting a lieutenant governor bid in that state for 2022, immediately posted a model bill from his organization, the National Organization of Christian Lawmakers. Rapert has stated he will file a Texas-style bill in his state immediately.

Rapert's Twitter feed makes clear that some legislators pushing bills that functionally outlaw abortion no longer feel tethered to whether those bills are good law under existing Supreme Court precedent. Instead, Rapert tweets about how the left has an "unrelenting demand for the innocent sacrifices of unborn children" and repeatedly refers to abortion as a "demonic force."

One day after the Texas law took effect, GOP Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota tweeted her office would "immediately review the new TX law and current South Dakota laws to make sure we have the strongest pro-life laws on the books in SD."

Noem's tweet is emblematic of the approach being taken by many abortion-hostile states. There's no discussion of what the voters might want. There's no belief that the existing restrictive laws might be enough — even in a state like South Dakota with only one clinic that offers abortions only twice per month. Rather, there's a rush toward imitating the Texas law simply because it is the most restrictive that has yet succeeded.

The states that have announced their intentions to replicate the law so swiftly may be taken by the notion that since the Texas law offloads enforcement from the state to private citizens, it insulates the state from lawsuits. States likeSouth Carolina and Arkansas just saw courts block their highly restrictive abortion laws. However, if they took those laws and "piggybacked" the Texas enforcement scheme onto them, a court might have to let the law stand, given that the Supreme Court did so in Texas.

There exists a chance that the Texas law will be overturned once it is completely litigated, as what happened at the Supreme Court was only that the court refused to block the law from taking effect. Indeed, some anti-abortion groups have stated they will continue to focus on the Mississippi 15-week pre-viability ban that the Supreme Court is set to hear this term. However, all that really means is that anti-abortion activists have more than one opportunity to utterly undo Roe v. Wade.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Florida Judge Slaps Down DeSantis School Masking Ban, Again

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

A state circuit court judge who not only decimated Gov. Ron DeSantis late last month but his team of advisors and his administration's legal arguments over the Florida Republican's ban on mask mandates is back, and he's doubling down.

Judge John Cooper had ruled from the bench that DeSantis' ban on mask mandates was "arbitrary and capricious," and "without legal authority" – meaning, unlawful. He placed a stay on his ruling knowing that DeSantis would appeal.

On Wednesday afternoon Judge Cooper once again rued against DeSantis, explaining as he did the first time that the law is the law and DeSantis' ban on mask mandates violated a law DeSantis himself signed months earlier, the Parents' Bill of Rights.

"This isn't whether I agree with masking or not," Judge Cooper said Wednesday (video below). "The issue is, have I decided that the governor has to comply with the laws passed by the Florida legislature. I say, everybody has to do that."

"You can't take an action which violates the Florida Parents Bill of Rights," Cooper concluded, handing DeSantis another defeat.

"It's undisputed that the Delta variant is far more infectious than the prior to their prior version of the virus, and that children are more susceptible to the Delta variant than to the form from a year ago," Cooper said, as CNN reports. "In particular for children under 12, they cannot be vaccinated. Therefore, there's really only one or two means to protect them against the virus as either stay at home, or mask."

CNN adds that effective immediately, "the state of Florida must stop their enforcement of a mask ban, which ends sanctions against several school districts who have implemented mask mandates."

At least 13 school districts have implemented mask mandates to fight the coronavirus pandemic, which had been surging through Florida in per-capita numbers greater than any other state.

‘Funerals And Funerals’: Florida Mortuaries Overwhelmed By Delta Variant Dead

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

One of the ways to gauge the severity of a COVID-19 surge in a particular state or city is how busy funeral homes become — and in Florida, according to CBS News, employees of funeral homes are absolutely swamped.

In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that one in five new COVID-19 cases in the United States was occurring in Florida. Ron DeSantis, Florida's far-right Republican governor, has been receiving a great deal of criticism for his response to the COVID-19 surge; DeSantis has opposed social distancing measures, forbidden public schools from having mask mandates, and tried to score cheap political points with his MAGA base by railing against expert immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci.

CBS News' Khristopher J. Brooks explains, "In the last week of August, Florida hospitals averaged 279 deaths per day — up from 52 in July, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The spike in fatalities, although not yet definitively linked to the coronavirus, is strongly suspected to stem from the ongoing surge in cases caused by the Delta variant. Overall, the state has reported a total over 44,000 coronavirus deaths over the course of the pandemic, according to a New York Times tracker. COVID-19 has claimed so many lives in Florida that funeral directors said there aren't enough hours in the day to schedule all the services, a local TV station reported."

The local television station that Brooks is referring to is WFLA Channel 8, the NBC affiliate in Tampa. WFLA's Melanie Mitchell, on August 25, reported that funeral directors in Tampa are "working around the clock, seven days a week."

One of the funeral directors CBS News interviewed was 48-year-old Richard Prindiville, director of the Highland Funeral Home in Apopka, Florida. Prindiville told CBS News, "There's been days I've come home, and I'm exhausted — and I'm talking to my daughter, and I'm falling asleep as I'm talking to her. Every day is funerals and funerals and funerals."

According to Brooks, Prindiville "routinely works 14-hour days booking funerals, meeting with grieving families, transporting bodies and overseeing services." John Ricco, executive director of the Florida Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, told CBS News that in recent weeks, funeral workers in Florida have been as busy as they were during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Some funeral homes in Florida, Brooks reports, are running out of space for bodies of people who have died from COVID-19. And funeral homes have so many burials to arrange that they are having to ask the families of the dead to please be patient.

Prindiville told CBS News, "What makes it difficult for us nowadays is just explaining to family members that we cannot have — and we'll have to hold off having — a funeral. In an hour, I could have six death calls, and I'm back to figuring out how to piece stuff together."

Why GOP-Friendly Politico Is About To Get Worse

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Is Politico jumping out the frying pan and into the fire?

The influential bible for savvy-obsessed Beltway insiders, Politico already has a strong tendency to disappoint by viewing the world through a Republican prism. Eagerly propping up Dems in Disarray storylines, Politico remains committed to portraying Republicans as being forever shrewd, and stands at the ready to amplify whatever phony outrage the GOP is pushing.

It was Politico that that famously detailed "How Ron DeSantis Won the Pandemic" this year, after 30,000 Floridians had already died from the virus. Today, the Sunshine State remains a global epicenter of the raging virus. The "won" coverage was part of Politico's larger, and wildly misguided, DeSantis charm offensive:

• "Covid wars launch DeSantis into GOP 'top tier'

• "Ron DeSantis Is Very Pleased With Himself"

"I consistently remind you that Politico is terrible," journalist Soledad O'Brien recently reminded her Twitter followers.

Politico's hallmark, clickbait failures are likely to become more pronounced because the publication was just sold for $1 billion to an openly conservative media giant based in Germany, Axel Springer. Named after the company's founder who has been referred to as Germany's Rupert Murdoch, all Springer employees must pledge their allegiance to the company's "Essentials":

1. We stand up for freedom, the rule of law, democracy and a united Europe.
2. We support the Jewish people and the right of existence of the State of Israel.
3. We advocate the transatlantic alliance between the United States of America and Europe.
4. We uphold the principles of a free market economy and its social responsibility.
5. We reject political and religious extremism and all forms of racism and sexual discrimination.

Politico employees will not have to sign the pledge, according to the New York Times. Still, they will understand what the clear political leanings of their German owners are and that they demand fealty, which could lead American journalists to pander to their bosses. (News reporters signing any kind of worldview "pledge" is a bad idea.)

In a strange, collective oversight though, virtually none of the mainstream media coverage about the blockbuster, $1 billion deal has mentioned the proud conservative preferences of Politico's new owner. That salient fact regarding the purchase of a powerful political media outlet in Washington, D.C., has been conveniently ignored. Reuters, CNN, CNBC, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal all covered the Politico sale without mentioning the buyer's politics.

If an unabashedly liberal, international publisher that demanded its employees sign an oath supporting socialism had swooped in to buy a mainstay of American political journalism, do you think its partisan DNA would be mentioned in the news coverage? I certainly do. In fact, it would be mentioned in every headline.

The deafening media silence is curious since over the years Axel Springer's rightward lurch has not been a secret. Two years ago, The Guardian profiled the "German company founded in 1945 by the rightwing publisher of the same name." When the founder died back in 1985 the Los Angeles Times was straightforward. "Axel Springer, Conservative W. German Publisher, Dies," read the headline. The Times noted that all of Springer's media properties "served as staunch supporters of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's conservative Christian Democratic Union."

As The Tablet observed recently, "Springer was the closest thing that the Germans had to a Rupert Murdoch. Springer's politics were decidedly conservative: capitalist (though comfortable with the German consensus on a "social market economy"); traditionalist; ferociously anti-communist, and pro-American. And much as Murdoch has come to embody everything that bien pensant liberals loathe, Springer was hated by the West German left."

In 1952, Springer founded Bild, a national tabloid daily that soon became the most-read newspaper in Europe, with a circulation that peaked at 6 million. Der Spiegel once characterized the paper as "serv[ing] up tripe, trash, tits and, almost as an afterthought, a healthy dose of hard news seven days a week." It added that Bild, "has taken on the role of a right-wing populist party, which does not yet exist in Germany."

Over the years "Bild decried long hair on men and the marriage of its top models to foreigners. It genuflected before South African apartheid, Greek dictatorship, Bavarian sedans and American Pershing missiles," The Guardian noted. Today, "Bild'smain attack targets remain Germany's "Gutmenschen" – the do-gooders, vegetarians, Greens and 1968ers who are treated as parasites and irritants to Germany's robust economy and middle class."

Added the Columbia Journalism Review, "Some aspects of Bild's conservatism would be familiar to any weary observer of the US culture wars."

The daily recently launched its own TV station, which the Irish Times dubbed "a milder, German equivalent of Fox News."

That's who now owns Politico, which is only going to get worse.

VIDEO: DeSantis Declares ‘It Really Doesn’t Impact Me’ If People Get Vaccinated

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis continued to push his dangerous anti-vaxx policies and his promotion of expensive treatment versus prevention, announcing that "it really doesn't impact me or anyone else" if someone gets vaccinated, which is false.

"I don't want a biomedical security state," said the GOP governor, whose state now ranks 26th in full-vaccination rate of those 18 or older.

"At the end of the day, the vaccines have helped people ward off severe illness, and you know, we obviously worked very hard to distribute it. At the end of the day though, it is what somebody, it's about your health and whether you want that protection or not, it really doesn't impact me or anyone else because we've seen the data on that."

The coronavirus is transmitted through the air.

A study published in July in The New England Journal of Medicine finds that vaccinated individuals "are likely to be less contagious than unvaccinated people and don't transmit the virus as much to others," WebMD reports.

More vaccinated people mean less infections, more hospital beds, fewer cases of long-term COIVD, fewer deaths, and less chance of new strains or variants cropping up.

Watch:

New Florida Poll Shows DeSantis Approval Tanking

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The net approval of Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis has fallen 14 points in a little less than two months, according to a Morning Consult poll released this week.

DeSantis' approval rating in a survey taken June 22 - July 1 registered at 54 percent, with 40 percent disapproving of his performance. But in the outlet's Aug. 21 - 30 poll, the Florida governor's approval had leveled off considerably, 48 percent to 48 percent.

Apparently, it isn't proving broadly popular for DeSantis to cater to the "individual liberties" crowd while treating the rest of his constituents like collateral damage on his way to winning the 2024 GOP nomination.

The fallout has largely come from independents, where DeSantis suffered a double-digit slip, falling from 50 percent to 40 percent approval in the roughly two-month window. He's now 11 points underwater with independents, 40 percent -- 51 percent.

DeSantis also slipped a few points with Democrats (from 24 percent to 21 percent approval) and with Republicans (from 87 percent to 83 percent approval). Still, a little over four in five Republican voters in the Sunshine State think DeSantis is doing just swell.

Don't expect DeSantis to go changin', though. On Friday, he was back in court to appeal a ruling that undercut his statewide ban on in-school mask mandates. At least 13 of the the state's 67 school districts have implemented masking requirements because children are dying and universal masking is the best way to keep students safe, especially those who aren't eligible to get vaccinated.

DeSantis also offered up some gems Friday on vaccines and public health. Asked about vaccine passport penalties, DeSantis said vaccines are only a personal choice, not a matter of public health.

"It's about your health and whether you want that protection or not, it really doesn't impact me or anyone else," he said. "My philosophy is, as a governor, my job is to protect your individual freedom. My job is not to protect corporate freedom. That is not what I'm here for."