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DeSantis Leads Florida Into COVID Hell As Cases Hit New Record

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Two days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order preventing schools from requiring students to wear masks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing the state broke records with 21,683 new cases of the virus in one day. In just two days, the number of new cases spiked from 17,093 to more than 21,000, beating a peak of 19,334 new cases reported on Jan. 7, 2021 in Florida, The Associated Press reported.

"The state has become the new national epicenter for the virus, accounting for around a fifth of all new cases in the U.S. as the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread," Associated Press writer Mike Schneider wrote on Saturday.

The new figures tracked on Friday and released on Saturday follow the governor's outright rejection of expert advice throughout the pandemic. "The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day," DeSantis said in a news release on Friday. "Many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies, and it is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children." DeSantis attributed the recent spoke to "a seasonal increase—more Floridians are indoors because of the hot weather with air conditioning circulating the virus," according to The Associated Press.

DeSantis held a roundtable on Monday at the state Capitol to spread more anti-mask rhetoric, with teachers left out of the conversation, according to an account spokeswoman Taryn Fenske gave the Tallahassee Democrat. "With the recent uptick in discussion around mask mandates in schools this upcoming academic year, and indications that the federal government might advise masking children as young as 3 years old, Governor DeSantis wanted to exchange perspectives on this topic with experts like Dr. (Jay) Bhattacharya and other medical professionals, as well as a concerned parent, student, and school administrator," Fenske said. Bhattacharya, a Stanford University professor, has spoken on numerous roundtable panels addressing the pandemic, including one YouTube removed for "misinformation" in March because the doctor said schools should open "with no restrictions," the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

Bhattacharya said during the recent roundtable: "I don't think the Delta variant changes the calculus or the evidence in any fundamental way. Masks do actually cause some harm to children, developmentally." Mark McDonald, a clinical psychiatrist who spoke during the panel discussion via Zoom, said: "Masking children is child abuse. Children are being harmed by mask mandates. There is no scientific evidence that masks work. "The masks are nothing more than a symbol of fear and anxiety."

The dangerous rhetoric flies in the face of actual expert advice. After earlier releasing guidance that vaccinated people could forego masks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed course on Tuesday, recommending even vaccinated people wear masks indoors. That includes all teachers, staff, students, and school visitors. The agency wrote: "Infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant.

However, preliminary evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people who do become infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to others." Following the new recommendations, Disney World in Orlando and other theme parks in Florida changed their mask policies, again requiring visitors to wear masks indoors and in "enclosed transportation" regardless of vaccination status.

"There is no higher risk area in the United States than we're seeing here," infectious disease expert Aileen Marty, of Florida International University, told CBS Miami. "The numbers that we're seeing are unbelievable, just unbelievably frightening." Florida Rep. Carlos Smith tweeted: "JUST IN: Florida reports worst day ever for new COVID cases since the beginning of the pandemic with 21,683 cases. Exactly ZERO state mitigation efforts exist + @GovRonDeSantis signed a law banning local COVID restrictions. It didn't have to be this way."

Read DeSantis' executive order below:

WHEREAS, a right to normal education is imperative to the growth and development of our children and adolescents; and
WHEREAS, last summer, at my direction, Florida's Department of Education ordered schools to be open for in-person instruction for five days per week to ensure the continued well-being of students and families; and
WHEREAS, schools – including those that did not require students to be masked – did not drive community transmission of COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, despite recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) "guidance," forcing students to wear masks lacks a well-grounded scientific justification; indeed, a Brown University study analyzed COVID-19 data for schools in Florida and found no correlation with mask mandates; and
WHEREAS, masking children may lead to negative health and societal ramifications; and
WHEREAS, studies have shown that children are at a low risk of contracting a serious illness due to COVID-19 and do not play a significant role in the spread of the virus; and
WHEREAS, forcing children to wear masks could inhibit breathing, lead to the collection of dangerous impurities including bacteria, parasites, fungi, and other contaminants, and adversely affect communications in the classroom and student performance; and
WHEREAS, there is no statistically-significant evidence to suggest that counties with mask requirements have fared any better than those without mask requirements during the 2020-2021 school year; and
WHEREAS, on April 29, 2021, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees issued a Public Health Advisory stating that continuing COVID-19 restrictions on individuals, including long-term use of face coverings, pose a risk of adverse and unintended consequences; and
WHEREAS, on June 29, 2021, I signed into law H.B. 241, the Parents' Bill of Rights, which prevents the state, its subdivisions, or any governmental institution, from infringing on the fundamental rights of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, health care, or mental health of a minor child without demonstrating that such action is reasonable and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest and that such action is narrowly tailored and is not otherwise served by less restrictive means; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to Florida law, all parents have the right to make health care decisions for their minor children; and
WHEREAS, many school districts are scheduled to begin classes on August 10, 2021, which is less than two weeks away, and within four weeks virtually all public schools across Florida will be underway; therefore immediate action is needed to protect the fundamental right of parents to make health and educational decisions for their children; and
WHEREAS, Section 1003.22(3), Florida Statutes, mandates the Florida Department of Health to adopt rules, in consultation with the Florida Department of Education, governing the control of preventable communicable diseases, including procedures for exempting children from immunization requirements; and
WHEREAS, Florida's State Board of Education, the chief implementing and coordinating body of public education in Florida, has the authority to adopt rules pursuant to Sections 120.536(1), 120.54, and 1001.02, Florida Statutes, and may delegate its general powers to the Commissioner of Education; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to Section 1008.32(4), Florida Statutes, if the State Board of Education determines that a district school board is unwilling or unable to comply with the law, the State Board shall have the authority to, among other things, withhold the transfer of state funds, discretionary grant funds, discretionary lottery funds, or any other funds specified as eligible for this purpose by the Legislature until the school district complies with the law or state board rule and declare the school district ineligible for competitive grants; and
WHEREAS, given the historical data on COVID-19 and the ongoing debate over whether masks are more harmful than beneficial to children and to school environments in general, we should protect the freedoms and statutory rights of students and parents by resting with the parents the decision whether their children should wear masks in school; and
WHEREAS, we should equally and uniformly protect the freedoms and rights of students and parents across the state.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Ron DeSantis, as Governor of Florida, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article IV, Section 1(a) of the Florida Constitution, and all other applicable laws, promulgate the following Executive Order, to take immediate effect:
Section 1. I hereby direct the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Education, working together, to immediately execute rules pursuant to section 120.54, Florida Statutes, and take any additional agency action necessary, using all legal means available, to ensure safety protocols for controlling the spread of COVID-19 in schools that:
  1. Do not violate Floridians' constitutional freedoms;
  2. Do not violate parents' right under Florida law to make health care decisions for their minor children; and
  3. Protect children with disabilities or health conditions who would be harmed by certain protocols such as face masking requirements.
Section 2. Any action taken pursuant to Section 1 above shall at minimum be in accordance with Florida's "Parents' Bill of Rights" and protect parents' right to make decisions regarding masking of their children in relation to COVID-19.
Section 3. The Florida Commissioner of Education shall pursue all legal means available to ensure school districts adhere to Florida law, including but not limited to withholding state funds from noncompliant school boards violating any rules or agency action taken pursuant to Section 1 above.
Section 4. This does not prohibit the Florida Legislature from exploring legislation to further protect the fundamental rights of students and parents to be free from excessive, harmful regulation in schools.
Section 5. This Executive Order is effective immediately.

Does Lara Trump Belong In Jail? Twitter Says Yes

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Guillermo Garcia, a soccer coach, was fundraising for his daughter's soccer team outside of an El Paso, Texas, Walmart on August 3, 2019 when a white supremacist opened fire, killing him and 22 others in what The New York Times called "the deadliest anti-Latino attack in modern American history." El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen told The Dallas Morning News that Patrick Crusius, who was 21 years old at the time, purchased a 7.62 mm caliber gun and drove some 10 hours west from Allen, Texas, to carry out the massacre.

But when Lara Trump—former President Donald Trump's daughter-in-law and former senior adviser to the regrettable ex-president—described potential violence at the southern border, the victims in El Paso apparently couldn't have been further from her mind. She invoked racist sentiments while describing immigrants in an interview Saturday on Fox News' Justice with Judge Jeanine.

"And I don't know what you tell the people that live at the southern border," Lara Trump said. "I guess they better arm up and get guns and be ready, and maybe they're gonna have to take matters into their own hands.

"It should never happen. These people should never make this dangerous journey here."

Her remarks follow a warning from Vice President Kamala Harris to Guatemalans on her first trip abroad since being elected to the White House. "I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come," she said last Monday. "Do not come." White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki later clarified Harris' message. "What the vice president was simply conveying is that there's more work to be done, that we don't have these systems in place yet," Psaki told reporters last Tuesday. "It's still a dangerous journey, as we've said many times from here and from many forums before, and we need more time to get the work done to ensure that asylum processing is where it should be."

That's not exactly the message Lara Trump was conveying, and social media users underlined that difference. Russell Foster, who's running for Congress in Texas, tweeted on Tuesday: "This is dangerous. The former president's daughter-in-law is calling for people to shoot immigrants. It's worse after multiple mass shootings over the last few days in Texas & elsewhere. This could lead to an uptick in hate crimes across the country." Author John Pavlovitz called Lara Trump a "violent" extremist "who belongs in prison" in a tweet Monday.

Read more social media responses to Lara Trump's remarks below:

Sen. Rubio Jumps Line For Vaccine Despite History Of Covid Denial

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

In the true spirit of GOP service, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida showed his support for vaccinating the state's most vulnerable residents by scoring one of those vaccinations in short supply himself. "I know I looked away from the needle. And yes, I know I need a tan But I am so confident that the #Covid19 vaccine is safe & effective that I decided to take it myself," he said in a weekend tweet.

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Loeffler Silent After Ossoff-Warnock Campaigner Suffers Violent Attack

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

It should come as no surprise that the same GOP senator who did nothing as President Donald Trump spread a dangerous denial of his election loss to a Georgia crowd remained silent following a violent attack on a man holding a sign for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Sen. Kelly Loeffler didn't dedicate as much as a social media post to condemn violence Sunday morning, and she apparently didn't find responding to Newsweek's request for comment on the incident worthy of her time either. Both Democrats competing to unseat Republicans in the upcoming Senate runoff did.

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Trump Accuses Justice Department Of Conspiring To Fix Election For Biden

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

President Donald Trump isn't even listening to himself these days. He tweeted on Saturday how Fox News daytime is "virtually unwatchable, especially during the weekends." Then, in the spirit of true hypocrisy, he gave Fox News his first televised interview since he lost the election against President-elect Joe Biden 26 days ago on November 3.

In a phone interview on Sunday with host Maria Bartiromo, the soon-to-be-former president used the opportunity to tote his usual baseless allegations of voter fraud. He went from suggesting that the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) are involved in a conspiracy against him to alleging that dead people applied for mail-in ballots and poll watchers were thrown out of counting rooms by "thugs" in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Nevada.

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Trump Lawyers Are ‘National Embarrassment’, Complains Christie

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Just as one did in Georgia, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Saturday launched by President Donald Trump's campaign to bar Pennsylvania state election officials from certifying the state's election results, CBS News reported. U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann wrote in his order that Trump's attorneys employed "strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence. In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state."

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Hillary Clinton Warned In 2016 About What Trump Is Doing Now

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Hillary Clinton called it four years ago when she pointed out then-Republican nominee Donald Trump's propensity to cry system rigging when he happened to face an undesired result. "You know, every time Donald thinks things are not going in his direction, he claims whatever it is is rigged against him," she said during the final presidential debate of 2016. "He lost the Iowa caucus. He lost the Wisconsin primary. He said the Republican primary was rigged against him. Then Trump University gets sued for fraud and racketeering; he claims the court system and the federal judge is rigged against him. There was even a time when he didn't get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged against him. This, this is a mindset. This is how Donald thinks, and it's funny. But it's also really troubling."

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International Observers Invited By Trump Saw No Evidence Of Election Fraud

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

President Donald Trump resumed his usual claims of pending victory Tuesday in an election that has been called for his opponent, Joe Biden, since Saturday. "WE WILL WIN!" the soon-exiting president tweeted optimistically and with little regard for reality. Biden has earned 290 electoral votes to Trump's 214 and secured nearly 77 million votes in total to Trump's 72 million, according to the Associated Press.

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On Crowded GOP Convention Schedule, Many Speakers Named Trump

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

In what has to be a last-ditch attempt to appear prepared for the Republican National Convention, President Donald Trump's campaign released its complete list of more than 70 speakers for the convention Sunday. On it, Trump's relatives and the likes of staffers including Kellyanne Conway are described as "honorable." It's at least nice to know convention organizers aren't disillusioning themselves into thinking the president fits that title.

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Three Men Indicted In Killing Of Ahmaud Arbery

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Three white men linked to the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery were indicted on murder charges Wednesday after allegations of prosecutorial misconduct significantly delayed accountability in the case. Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes, who is the fourth prosecutor assigned to the case, announced online Wednesday that Glynn County's Grand Jury has indicted former Georgia cop Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and the man who filmed parts of the deadly encounter, William Bryan.

Along with the malice murder charge, they face four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. "This is another step forward in seeking justice for Ahmaud," Holmes said.

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