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FBI Probing Vermont State Troopers In Fake Vaccine Card Scheme

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

As the country continues to battle the novel coronavirus, fake vaccine cards are surfacing online. While one would assume they are being sold by those unfamiliar with the consequences, the latest reported incident of selling fake COVID-19 vaccine cards involves state troopers. Three state troopers in Vermont resigned after allegations that they had "varying roles" in creating fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards, which has prompted an investigation by the FBI, authorities said.

Shawn Sommers, Raymond Witkowski, and David Pfindel "are suspected of having varying roles in the creation of fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards, which may be a violation of federal law," Vermont State Police said in a statement Tuesday. "The details surrounding this incident, reported to supervisors by other troopers, were immediately reported to federal law enforcement authorities. The state police referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Burlington."

According to the Vermont State Police, the three officers resigned after colleagues raised questions about their behavior. While Sommers and Witkowski resigned August 10, a day after the concerns surfaced, Pfindel's resignation went into effect Friday. Officials said they were unable to announce the resignations before Tuesday because the FBI is still investigating the matter. Who the cards were made for is still unclear, The Washington Post reported.

The director of the state police noted that he was "embarrassed this situation has occurred" and added that while "it has tarnished the reputation of the Vermont State Police," it does not represent their values.

"The accusations in this case involve an extraordinary level of misconduct — a criminal violation of the law — and I could not be more upset and disappointed," Col. Matthew T. Birmingham, director of the Vermont State Police, said. "If these allegations are proved to be true, it is reprehensible that state troopers would manipulate vaccination cards in the midst of a pandemic, when being vaccinated is one of the most important steps anyone can take to keep their community safe from COVID-19."

While more details on the case have not yet been disclosed, Michael Schirling, the Vermont Public Safety commissioner, said that "as soon as other troopers became aware of this situation, they raised the allegations internally, and commanders took swift and decisive action to hold these individuals accountable and report this matter to federal authorities,"The New York Times reported.

According to officials, Sommers and Witkowski joined the state police in July 2016 and graduated from the academy in January 2017. Pfindel was hired in January 2014.

Although sales of fake vaccine cards have been making news for some time now, this seems to be the first case involving law enforcement.

Multiple incidents have been reported in the last few months in which individuals have sold both authentic and fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, Daily Kos reported. States across the country are now requiring individuals to have proof of vaccination for many indoor activities. As a result, fake vaccine cards are on the rise. In one incident a woman created a fake card and was caught after misspelling the vaccine manufacturer Moderna, as "Maderna."

In a memo last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that it had seized more than 3,000 fake vaccination cards that were passing through Memphis daily. The number is expected to be higher nationwide.

The FBI issued a warning regarding fake vaccination cards earlier this year, noting that not only does it increase the risk of COVID-19 but it is illegal to both buy or sell the fraudulent cards, which could be charged as forgery. Making or buying counterfeit vaccine cards violates federal laws and can result in heavy fines and imprisonment.

Surge Of Ivermectin Misuse Hits Poison Control Centers

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Once again, we've reached the part of the pandemic where people ingest random chemicals to treat COVID-19 at home. The overwhelming majority of such people have decided COVID-19 vaccines are too risky or otherwise dangerous. While it may seem obvious to most of us, this is not a good idea. However, many conservatives seem to think otherwise and are willing to die trying to prove themselves right. Despite warnings from the FDA not to take it, anti-vaxxers nationwide have been taking ivermectin, a livestock dewormer. There is no evidence that this drug works as an effective treatment for COVID-19. Despite this, conservative media outlets, including Fox News, have pushed for it.

As a result, calls to poison control centers nationwide have increased at alarming rates. In some states, data has found over 100 percent increases in calls from last year to this. Sadly, it has come to this. Still, as COVID-19 cases increase among the unvaccinated nationwide, officials are urging individuals who are infected to stay home and isolate and not take these unauthorized medications.

Last week in a public tweet, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued another public warning about taking these medications with a link to an FDA information page titled "Why you should not use Ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19."

"Seriously, y'all. Stop it," the tweet said.

While bottles of the chemical note that it is "not for human consumption," it's for deworming cattle and horses, people seem to still not understand until after they have taken it. According to Texas Public Radio (TPR), people call poison control facilities after experiencing severe symptoms and pain.

"Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. However, you can have further problems, including mental status changes, coma, even seizures. And there have been deaths reported. No, I haven't seen any deaths here in Texas, but these are things that are reported by the manufacturer with people who use large doses," Dr. Shawn Varney, Medical Director of Texas Poison Center, told TPR.

Within a year, Texas reported an increase of 552 percent of cases reported of ivermectin poisoning statewide," ABC News affiliate WFAA reported. Health care professionals believe the number is likely underreported because it's self-reported.

Mississippi faces a similar dilemma. With the highest number of new cases of COVID-19 across the country, Mississippi is also battling a surge in calls to poison control.

"At least 70% of the recent [poison control] calls have been related to ingestion of livestock or animal formulations of ivermectin purchased at livestock supply centers," a letter from the Mississippi Department of Health to the MS Health Alert Network on Friday said. It also warned health professionals of the spike in poisonings from individuals digesting ivermectin in the state.

"Animal drugs are highly concentrated for large animals and can be highly toxic in humans," the letter continued. "Patients should be advised to not take any medications intended to treat animals and should be instructed to only take ivermectin as prescribed by their physician."

But Texas and Mississippi are not alone. According to Illinois state's public health director, Ngozi Ezike, the state's poison control center also received numerous calls for other unsafe self-treatments unrelated to COVID-19. Residents reported using a detergent solution for a sinus rinse, for example, or gargling with bleach as a substitute for mouthwash, NBC News reported.

In Alabama, people are also calling about ivermectin in fear of overdoses. According to the Alabama Poison Information Center at Children's of Alabama, there have been over 24 ivermectin exposure cases this year, 15 of which were connected to COVID-19 prevention and treatment, WTVA reported. Other calls have also been reported seeking information about ivermectin. The number of calls inquiring about the drug has more than doubled since 2019.

According to WTVA, while federal regulators have approved ivermectin to treat people and animals for some parasitic worms, head lice, and skin conditions, it's not an approved COVID-19 treatment. Human and animal formulations of the drug are not the same; thus, self-dosing is beyond dangerous.

Daily Kos reported that calls to poison control facilities nationwide first increased last year following Donald Trump's suggestion that disinfectants be considered a possible treatment for the novel coronavirus. While he later claimed his comment was sarcastic, it wasn't before thousands of people ingested Clorox bleach and other harmful chemicals used for cleaning. In at least five states, poison centers reported they had an increase in calls within 18 hours of Trump's broadcasted stupidity. Imagine if Trump advocated for wearing masks or getting the vaccine; maybe things would be different.

Hillary Chartered Free Flights For Afghan Women While Erik Prince Charged $6500

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

As conditions in Afghanistan worsen daily, reports have indicated that individuals are not only eager to volunteer but are showing overwhelming support to welcome Afghan refugees. Organizations and people alike are coming together in efforts to bring Afghan asylum-seekers safely into the U.S. While some nonprofit organizations are urging people to donate miles and partnering with relocation centers to bring refugees to safety, others are advocating for donations to gather funds to fly refugees out.

But organizations aren't the only ones flying vulnerable refugees out of Afghanistan as people surround Kabul airport. After warning of the "huge consequences" of withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Hillary Clinton has reportedly been chartering flights out of Afghanistan for the country's at-risk women.

According to The New York Times, Clinton and her team have been trying to aid potential Taliban targets in leaving the country by offering seats to Afghan journalists on a flight her team arranged to help women at risk. While the journalists did not take the flight, some women and children did. The effort comes as some individuals are trying to fill the gap by donating money to charter flights as evacuation projects are becoming increasingly difficult.

"Last week, the evacuation options to get women's rights activists out came largely from an informal network of powerful, connected, some very wealthy people, some trying to literally charter private jets to evacuate women thought to be Taliban targets," Marie Clarke, the vice president of global programs at Women for Women International, told The Guardian.

Many Afghan families are struggling to find the funds necessary to fly out, so these chartered planes make a significant impact. But of course, not everyone is like Clinton—some people, like former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince, are attempting to monetize the desperation of the Afghan people by offering flights for $6,500 per person instead of for free, Daily Kos reported.

Clinton's efforts to help Afghan women come as no surprise. While some may see it as her attempting to gain social clout, the reality is that not only was Clinton hush-hush about her efforts, but she has supported women's rights in Afghanistan prior to this current situation.

During a United Nations (UN) meeting last year, which was sponsored by the Group of Friends of Women in Afghanistan and led by the Afghanistan Mission to the UN, Clinton emphasized the role of Afghan women and the importance of "encouraging women's participation," noting that it "is not only the right thing to do; it is the strategic and necessary thing to do for peace, prosperity and security."

She continued: "It is clear that Afghan women are rightly afraid not just for their rights and the Constitution that was written to protect them, but literally afraid that the gains they have made with all of our help will be washed away in a rush to achieve a peace that will not hold anyway. This is not just morally wrong. This is dangerous."

"We must not allow a reign of terror against [Afghan] women and girls. The women of Afghanistan have come too far to be excluded from the negotiation table while their rights are being stripped away. It is also true that we cannot allow that to happen to Afghan women and girls because there is a direct correlation between what will happen in the country, in the region, and indeed the world because of that," Clinton said during her speech at the UN meeting.

According to The Independent, in addition to making efforts to rescue at-risk Afghan women, Clinton also spoke with Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, about the escalating crisis and what he can do to help.

"I also spoke last night with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton," Trudeau said on Tuesday, according to the Washington Examiner, adding that Clinton "shares our concern for Afghan women and girls" and "urged Canada to continue our work."

Clinton had warned what the humanitarian consequences of a withdrawal from Afghanistan would be following the two decades the U.S. spent in the country.

"This is what we call a wicked problem. There are consequences both foreseen and unintended of staying and of leaving," she told CNN in May. Clinton noted that the U.S. was facing "two huge consequences" of withdrawal: the threat from the Taliban and the number of refugees the situation would likely create as a result.

Of course, while we all wish we had access to chartered planes to help those in need, we don't. But there are other ways you can help bring Afghan refugees to safety. For those who are interested, you can donate flight miles and vouchers by following the steps explained here. Additionally, if you are an AirBnB host and are willing to host a refugee family, you can learn more about that process here.

Panicked Boebert Deletes Tweet On Delta Variant, But Too Late

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Despite the number of lives the novel coronavirus has claimed and the amount of time the world has been battling this ongoing pandemic, some Republicans just don't get it. A new variant of COVID-19 is spreading rapidly worldwide, this one highly contagious with scientists believing it may be twice as transmissible as the original coronavirus, The New York Times reported.

But instead of acknowledging the dangers of the Delta variant, GOP representatives nationwide are continuing to downplay the severity of COVID-19, some even taking it to another level by offering unsolicited advice. In a since-deleted social media post mocking the threat of the Delta variant, Rep. Lauren Boebert said "the easiest way to make the Delta variant go away is to turn off CNN." But the tweet doesn't end there, she continued: "and vote Republican."

Clearly Boebert is living in another universe, because Republicans are the ones who have both downplayed the virus and called it a hoax since the start of the pandemic. So given this trend, instead of ending the virus or making it go away, voting Republican would actually have the opposite effect.

Of course, Boebert—or someone from her team—realized how stupid the tweet really was and deleted it, but not before a screenshot could be taken and shared. Given the number of cases Colorado has of the Delta variant, especially in Mesa County, which is part of the congressional district represented by Boebert, it's no surprise Boebert received a good amount of backlash. Her comments only fuel the misinformation around the novel coronavirus and contribute to the irresponsible downplaying of it.

"Lauren Boebert proves once again that stupidity has a champion in Colorado," Colorado state lawmaker Steven Woodrow said in response.

Woodrow wasn't the only one who called out Boebert. Others tweeted in response, noting the high rate of infections in Boebert's own district.

The Delta variant is no joke. While those vaccinated should be protected from the variant, data shows that vaccine efficacy seems slightly lower with this variant of COVID-19, CBS News reported. Plus not everyone in the U.S. is vaccinated—specifically in the state of Colorado, the variant is spreading rapidly. Even more so in Mesa County, there has been what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers an outbreak of the Delta variant, making Boebert's mocking of the variant even more inappropriate.

"There's probably one big underlying reason for why we are seeing transmission in Mesa County and why other counties in Colorado might be at risk, and that is we know that the vaccination rates in Mesa County are lower than they are in certain parts of the state," Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado's State Epidemiologist, told CBS News.

Contrary to what Boebert says, the best way to stop this variant is not to stop watching CNN or vote Republican but instead to wash your hands, practice social distancing, and wear a mask. "That's really going to be the best way to stop this variant like all variants of COVID-19," Herlihy said.

After Mocking Judge’s Order, Capitol Rioter ‘Bullhorn Lady’ Facing Jail

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Some people just never learn. After being released pretrial, Rachel Powell, known as "bullhorn lady" for using a megaphone during her participation in the January 6 Capitol riot, has once again gone viral for posting a picture of herself in a Pennsylvania bookstore while wearing a mesh mask. The video, originally posted to Facebook on March 31 and reported by Law & Crime, was deleted by the bookstore but re-uploaded to Twitter by HuffPost's Ryan J. Reilly on April 9.

In response to the video, a federal judge ordered the Pennsylvania woman to show why she should not be jailed pending trial or be held in contempt of court for allegedly violating the requirement that she wear a mask when leaving her home. "The court does not take the defendant's willingness to flout the court's order lightly," U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth wrote. Lamberth added that her noncompliant mask "mocks' her initial agreement to be released.

Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell approved Powell's conditional home release on February 11 pending trial on the conditions that she "wear a mask whenever she leaves her residence." After the video surfaced last week, officials noted that Powell appeared to be mocking the court order. She even posted on social media apparently showing off her "see-through mesh mask" which had big enough holes to make her nose and mouth completely visible.

"Defendant's decision to appear in a video wearing a mask with holes in it mocks compliance with the Court's Order," Lamberth wrote. He also said that no reasonable person would think that such a mask would comply with the condition the court ordered for the defendant and believe that such a mask "would not pose a risk to the health and safety of the community when she left her house."'

Mesh masks are not effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and have often been worn by those refusing to wear masks or trying to find loopholes in state mask mandates.

But this isn't the first video that helped Powell make headlines. A video of her during the Capitol insurrection depicted her with a bullhorn yelling at others. "People should probably coordinate together if you are going to take this building," she said in the video. According to The Washington Post, the FBI had formerly stated that Powell also helped shatter a window with a battering ram and appeared to direct others at the scene. Powell pleaded not guilty to eight counts including felony destruction of federal property and obstruction of a congressional proceeding after allegedly carrying an ice ax and large wooden pole into the Capitol.

Powell clearly knew this and was intentionally wearing such a mask to mock the judge's orders. According to The New Yorker, in December she posted a Facebook post in which she called herself "unashamedly a 'super spreader.'" In an interview with the outlet she also acknowledged herself as the viral "bullhorn lady" but declined to comment on further involvement at the riots. Additionally, she gloated about not intending to take a COVID-19 vaccine.

Powell has also protested pandemic closures and job and business losses along with the owners of the bookshop in which the video was taken, The Sharon Herald reported. The outlet also shared a photo of her from a protest against COVID safety regulations holding a sign that read "The mask is a symbol of our enslavement."

According to the judge's order, Powell has ten days to submit a written response arguing why she should not be put in jail pending trial.

Did Proud Boys Know Their Leader Was Longtime Police Informant?

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

In a weird turn of events, Enrique Tarrio, a chairman for the extremist organization Proud Boys, who organized a massive event in Portland, Oregon, last year, has a past as an informer for federal and local law enforcement, Reuters reported. A federal court proceeding transcript from 2014, obtained by the news service, found that Tarrio had been working undercover for investigators since his arrest in 2012.

During the Miami hearing, a federal prosecutor, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent, and Tarrio's lawyer detailed Tarrio's undercover work and claimed he had helped authorities prosecute at least 13 people in multiple cases involving drugs, gambling, and human smuggling.

However, in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Tarrio denied working undercover and providing information on others. "I don't know any of this," he said, referring to what was shared in the transcript. "I don't recall any of this."

According to the transcript, both the prosecutor and Tarrio's defense attorney requested a reduction in Tarrio's prison statement due to his involvement as an informant. While Tarrio acknowledged the reduction in his sentence from 30 months to 16 months, he insisted it was made because he and his co-defendants cleared up questions about their own case.

In regards to a smuggling case, Jeffrey Feiler, Tarrio's attorney, said that Tarrio, "at his own risk, in an undercover role met and negotiated to pay $11,000 to members of that ring to bring in fictitious family members of his from another country. "

Oddly enough, not only do the court transcripts contradict Tarrio's denial, but so do statements from the federal prosecutor.

"He cooperated with local and federal law enforcement, to aid in the prosecution of those running other, separate criminal enterprises, ranging from running marijuana grow houses in Miami to operating pharmaceutical fraud schemes," prosecutor Vanessa Singh Johannes confirmed to Reuters.

Tarrio gained public attention after becoming the national chairman for the Proud Boys in 2018. The group began gaining further national attention after Donald Trump mentioned the hate group during a presidential debate. Instead of denouncing white supremacy as he was asked to do, Trump gave the group orders: "Proud Boys: Stand back and stand by," he said. "But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left-wing [problem]."

As a violent Trump supporter, Tarrio organized protests and other events and encouraged a "war" after Trump lost the election last year. While he was arrested on Jan. 4, two days before the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, by Washington police, at least five Proud Boys members were charged in the riot. Tarrio was charged with possessing two high-capacity rifle magazines and burning a Black Lives Matter banner during a protest in December. It's interesting how convenient it was that he was arrested before other serious crimes took place. While there is no evidence that he has cooperated with federal authorities since his Miami hearing, the timing of his arrest makes one wonder if he was still working with the FBI.

Additionally, the documents discovered by Reuters shed light on the fact that the leader of the Proud Boys group has repeatedly said in interviews he would never let police know of Proud Boys' plans, but he may have been collaborating with criminal investigators on multiple occasions in the past.

"Well if you're in the Proud Boys, you've gotta be pretty nervous," said Kendall Coffey, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, according to NBC News. "Because if this person was working as a confidential informant, almost like an undercover agent or secret agent, you are wondering, 'What is it that he could be saying about us some day?'"

If he was, there is no doubt that Tarrio has now denied helping law enforcement out of fear of backlash.

In a statement to Reuters, Johannes noted that she was surprised to see that the defendant, who she prosecuted in the past, has been a key contributor to violent political movements. "I knew that he was a fraudster, but had no reason to know that he was also a domestic terrorist," she said.

Officials are still in the process of investigating the role extremist groups like the Proud Boys played in the insurrection of the Capitol. While Tarrio wasn't present during the incident, he did make a trip to Washington, D.C. days prior. Who knows what his plans were then. Even if he did help investigators in the past, that does not dismiss the actions he has carried out or encouraged in these last few years.

So far, at least 150 people have been charged in association with the crimes committed at the Capitol at the start of this month. Despite what charges the rioters who invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6 face, the conspiracy theories, groups, and ideology they followed still remain. Until those factors are addressed, violence of this nature will continue.

FBI Arrests Woman Accused Of Stealing Pelosi Laptop During Riot

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Joining the increasing number of Trump supporters arrested after storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, a Pennsylvania woman who allegedly took a laptop belonging to Speaker Nancy Pelosi was arrested Monday. The woman, identified as 22-year-old Riley June Williams, is charged with intentionally entering into a restricted building without lawful authority in addition to disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. While Williams has not yet been charged with theft, the FBI is investigating the matter and what her intentions were.

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Neo-Nazi ‘Camp Auschwitz’ Rioter Arrested In Virginia, Then Released

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Authorities have confirmed that the man photographed wearing the Nazi supporting anti-Semitic sweatshirt reading "Camp Auschwitz" during the Capitol riots was arrested on Wednesday in Virginia. Auschwitz is the name of a Nazi concentration camp where more than 1 million people were murdered during the Holocaust. The racist identified as 56-year-old Robert Keith Packer was arrested in his hometown of Newport News. His sweatshirt also sported the phrase "work will make you free," the English translation for the German phrase "Arbeit Macht Frei" found outside of Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz.

Packer was arrested and charged for his "role in the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021," the FBI confirmed to The Hill. According to an arrest warrant signed Tuesday by U.S. Magistrate Robin Meriweather in Washington, D.C., Packer was charged with two federal offenses including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and intentionally and unlawfully entering a restricted building. A Virginia resident who wished to stay anonymous told CNN that Packer was "always extreme and very vocal about his beliefs." Additionally, court records indicate that Packer has a criminal history including at least three convictions for driving under the influence, CNN reported.

Images of Packer's anti-Semitic sweatshirt quickly went viral on social media. His attire follows a trend present at violent Trump-supporting protests nationwide and is one of the numerous anti-Semitic symbols and messages seen during the Capitol riots, according to The Associated Press.

According to a criminal complaint written by FBI Special Agent Paul Fisher, a cooperating witness alerted the FBI that he recognized the individual wearing the sweatshirt in the media coverage of the Capitol riots as Packer, CBS News reported. Packer was allegedly a frequent customer at his store and he was able to provide the FBI a photo of Packer inside his store in which Packer was wearing the same sweatshirt on Dec. 11.

After comparing Packer's driver's license to the riot photos and security footage provided by the witness, the FBI was able to confirm Packer's identity. After his arrest he was held at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail in Suffolk, CBS News affiliate WTKR-TV reported.

He then appeared virtually before a federal magistrate judge Wednesday. According to The Washington Post, a prosecutor during the federal court hearing said the government would not be seeking Parker's detention.

In a clear example of white privilege, while Packer was not asked to enter a plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Miller, Miller said Packer would be released without bail on a personal recognizance bond.

His only conditions were that he stay out of Washington, D.C. for reasons other than to be in court for his case and attend his next court date set for Jan.19.

While he did not identify who would represent him in the case, during the hearing Packer noted that he intended to hire his own attorney.

More than 70 people are facing federal and local charges associated with the Capitol riots that took place on Jan. 6., Acting U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C. Michael Sherwin said in a Tuesday press conference. According to Sherwin, the FBI has opened investigations into at least 170 more individuals. Additionally, Rep. Jason Crow confirmed that law enforcement officials have opened at least 25 domestic terrorism cases. Social media and other footage shared from the riots is enabling investigators to identify suspects across the country for charges of unlawful entry, disorderly conduct, theft, assault, and weapons violations.

New York GOP’s ‘COVID Conga Line’ Sends Partygoer To Hospital

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Despite a nationwide increase in COVID-19 cases and health professionals urging Americans not to gather, some people are still hosting packed holiday parties. Last week a video of maskless individuals partaking in a conga line during a holiday party at a New York restaurant went viral on social media. Since then at least one party attendee has been hospitalized with COVID-19. Additionally, New York's State Liquor Authority has suspended the restaurant's liquor license, NBC News reported.

The party hosted by the Whitestone Republican Club was held at Il Bacco, an Italian restaurant in Queens, on Dec. 9. Despite claims by the hosting organization that safety precautions were followed, social media posts depicted little to no social distancing with barely any masks in sight. While it is unclear how many people attended the party, at least 50 can be seen dancing on the floor or sitting at a nearby table in the footage shared on social media. Photos of the gathering posted on Facebook also depict at least half a dozen attendees without masks.

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GOP Legislator Who Mocked Covid Now Hospitalized In Grave Condition

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Cases of the novel coronavirus are increasing at a rapid rate across the U.S. Despite this, some individuals are still refusing to wear masks. As a result, many of those who once denied the severity of the virus are now suffering the consequences of doing so after infection. While some have expressed regret and have warned others to not take the virus and safety measures lightly, others—like Donald Trump—are continuing to deny its severity despite multiple hospital visits.

Longtime COVID-19 denier and Tennessee state Rep. David Byrd is yet another Republican who once dismissed the virus as a hoax, only to contract it himself. Byrd, who is currently hospitalized, is at risk of being put on a ventilator, the Tennessean reported. The controversial Republican posted on Facebook Thursday begging friends for prayers and a "miracle" after being hospitalized over the weekend with pneumonia following a positive COVID-19 test.

"I really need a miracle today!!" Byrd wrote Thursday. "My doctor said if my oxygen level doesn't improve then he has no choice but to put me on a ventilator. So please pray that God will breathe His healing spirit into my lungs!!"

Byrd tested positive for the virus less than two weeks after attending a meeting with almost 70 House Republicans in the House chamber on Nov. 24. During the meeting, the 63-year-old representative was seen without a mask on the House floor.

But it doesn't end there: Days before the meeting, Byrd even hosted a dinner with a number of his fellow caucus members at a restaurant to kick off a series of Republican retreat events. According to NBC News affiliate WBIR, one of the events was overnight.

Not only has Byrd been spotted without a mask on multiple occasions, but in June he also voted in support of a House resolution that insisted that "mainstream media has sensationalized the reporting on COVID-19 in the service of political agendas," the Tennessean reported. Byrd is the second Republican Tennessee House member to be hospitalized after contracting the virus. Rep. Mike Carter, who also voted in support of the same legislation, was hospitalized earlier this year with COVID-19.

Byrd, a former teacher and principal, is not only a conservative COVID-19 denier but a sexual predator. The representative was accused by three former students in 2018 of sexual assault committed in the 1980s when he served as a coach for the Wayne County High School girls basketball team.

To date, Byrd has still not denied the allegations and instead when asked about them diverted to a statement regarding not conducting any misconduct as a state legislator. Prior to issuing his statement, Bryd was asked to resign by other members of the Tennessee house following a secretly recorded phone conversation obtained by NBC News affiliate WSMV, during which Byrd apologized to one of his accusers. However, he refused to resign and claimed that he would fight the allegations.

"I wish I had a do-over because I promise you I would have corrected that and that would've never happened," Byrd said in the phone call. "But I hope you believe me when I say that it's one of those things that I think about it all the time, and I always ask forgiveness for it and I hope you forgive me."

From denying sexual assault to denying a deadly virus, who knows what else Byrd has denied in the past. Asking for prayers should be the least of his worries. But unfortunately, Byrd isn't the only Tennessee native with a following who has consistently deemed the virus fake news. Conservative pastor Greg Locke also refuses to wear a mask and has expressed no plans to take a vaccine. "There's no pandemic," he told CNN. "I'm 44-years-old. We've not had one in my lifetime … this is not it."

Who knows what it will take for some conservatives to understand how deadly this pandemic really is and what the consequences of their actions are.

Did Rudy Giuliani Infect 30 People In the Michigan Statehouse?

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Despite the surge in COVID-19 cases across the United States, Donald Trump and his minions seem not to care how many more people are infected. In the latest of Trump infections, Trump's sidekick and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Dec. 6. While allies of Giuliani maintain he tested negative days before meeting state officials in not one but three states last week, some states have reported infections within days after Giuliani's visit.

Nearly 30 staff members and lawmakers at the Michigan House tested positive for COVID-19 this year alone, a spokesperson told NBC News Wednesday. While the timing of the infections is not clear, the report comes just four days after Giuliani, who testified in the state House maskless, tested positive.

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Caroline Giuliani, Daughter Of Rudy, Endorses Biden To ‘End This Nightmare’

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Children of prominent Republicans are breaking generational bigotry and encouraging individuals to end Trump's "reign of terror." First, the daughter of former White House aide Kellyanne Conway, Claudia Conway, made headlines for exposing her mother's COVID-19 diagnosis and depicting her hate for Trump. Now Trump's personal lawyer's daughter is also making headlines for expressing her lack of support in addition to endorsing Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

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Facing Death Threats, Fauci Hires Security For His Family

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

While most agree that being aware of the government's response during a pandemic in addition to being provided accurate information by health officials is really important, some seem to think otherwise. The Trump administration and its supporters have continuously downplayed the severity of this virus alongside discrediting those who provide honest assessments of the novel coronavirus crisis.

Among those rejecting Donald Trump's response to COVID-19 is Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, who has provided assessments and health recommendations since the beginning of the pandemic. Last week, Fauci testified in a House subcommittee hearing on the novel coronavirus; on Wednesday he told CNN that he has received death threats from those who oppose his input resulting in him having to acquire security to protect his family.

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‘Why Would You Be That Selfish?’ Infected Arkansas Anti-Masker Voices Her Regret

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

While some individuals are still dismissing expert recommendations to wear face coverings or masks in public, others are sharing stories of regret. As cases of the novel coronavirus increase in the U.S., anti-maskers nationwide are changing their stances as they experience symptoms of the pandemic. By sharing their stories, individuals who once denied the severity of the virus hope they can emphasize the importance of following safety guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19.

After vocalizing her views against masks, a city official in Arkansas called herself "selfish" and shared that she no longer doubts the use of masks after being diagnosed with COVID-19. "I knew I was going to die, and I knew I was going to do it alone," Sandra Brand told ABC News affiliate News5. Brand has spent over two weeks in the hospital fighting coronavirus alone.

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Stephen Miller’s Uncle Publicly Blames Trump For Mother’s Death From Covid-19

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Thousands of lives have been lost as the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the country, yet our government and its officials still refuse to acknowledge the severity of this pandemic. As of this report, data compiled by The New York Times has found that more than 4 million people in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 and 143,700 have died. Among them have been some who once called the virus a "hoax," the families of these individuals, and others who have experienced the loss of loved ones as a result of COVID-19. They are sharing their stories to shed light on the horrific reality of this pandemic and the importance of following health recommendations.

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Trump Defends Confederate Flag In Fox Interview

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

If you have difficulty getting through interviews with Donald Trump. Brace yourself for his latest. On Fox News Sunday, Trump discussed a variety of topics with host Chris Wallace this morning including his take on the Confederate flag. Not only did he defend his stance against removing Confederate symbols and statutes throughout the country, but he added the flag did not offend him because it serves as a representation of the South—once again failing to acknowledge its racist history.

"When people proudly hang their Confederate flags, they're not talking about racism. They love their flag, it represents the South," Trump said. He even had the audacity to attempt to compare it to movements against racial injustice.

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